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Authors: Denise Grover Swank

Tags: #Romance, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Romantic, #Psychics

Sacrifice

BOOK: Sacrifice
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SACRIFICE

 

 

Denise Grover Swank

 

 

Books by Denise Grover Swank:

 

Rose Gardner Mysteries

(Humorous southern mysteries)

TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES

TWENTY-NINE AND A HALF REASONS (June 2012)

 

The Chosen Series

(Paranormal thriller/romance/urban fantasy)

CHOSEN (The Chosen #1)

HUNTED (The Chosen #2)

SACRIFICE(The Chosen#3)

UNTITLED (The Chosen #4) (January 2013)

 

On the Otherside Series

(Young adult science fiction/romance)

HERE

THERE (November 2012)

 

 

Kindle Edition

Copyright 2012 by Denise Grover Swank

 

Cover art and design by Laura Morrigan

EBook formatting by Lucinda Campbell

 

All rights reserved.

 

This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used factiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

 

 

To my readers,

you make all the hard work worth it

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

She was dead.

No. She only wished she was. Her body lived, though she felt as if her heart had been ripped from her chest. The organ mocked her with each beat, spreading her grief to every cell of her body.

“Emma, we need to go,” Raphael’s voice called through her haze.

She lifted her face from the damp forest ground and stared into his impatient face. Her anguish turned to rage. Will, the only man she had ever loved, the only person who had loved her in spite of herself, was gone. His memories of her—the love he felt for her, his urge to protect her at all costs,
everything
—had been stolen from him before he was beaten, thrown into a van, and carted away.

All while Raphael had used his hypnotic charm to keep Emma from saving him.

She stood, the tears drying on her face as the cold wind whipped her bloody nightgown around her legs. “You did this.”

Raphael’s dark eyes widened. “
I
did this? How is this my fault? I just saved your life by hiding you.”

The power inside her began to build, scorching her chest as though she were burning from the inside out.

His voice softened. “Emma. You need me.”

“Need you?
Need you
?” Her hands shook at her sides. Sparks flew from her fingers, illuminating the dark forest around them. “Because of you, I’ve lost Will. I’ve lost Jake. I lost my baby. I’ve lost everyone I
love
.” She choked on the last word, tears burning her eyes. She pushed her pain into the energy, feeling it swell. A golden light surrounded her.

He released a throaty laugh, reaching for her. “Don’t do anything hasty, Emmanuella.”

She gritted her teeth. “Don’t touch me.”

His hand dropped to his side. “Emma, I didn’t have anything to do with Jake or the baby. That was Alex. And Aiden, your father. They’re to blame.” He lowered his face, his eyes level with hers. “Together we can get even.”

She sucked in a breath, and pain shot through her side. Earlier in the evening, she’d been kicked by one of the men sent by a political group intent on harnessing her power and using her baby. A baby prophesied to have great power and to rule the world. Will’s baby. Only she’d miscarried the child just minutes ago, a result of the beating she’d incurred during her fight to escape.

A small smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “You need to focus your revenge on Aiden. You can save Jake, but you need me to do it.”

Her five-year-old son was a pawn, held by her father as incentive for Emma to fight in the contest of elemental immortals to gain control of the world. But something else needed her immediate attention. She lifted her chin. “What about Will?”

Raphael’s shoulders relaxed. “Emma, I’m sorry, but Will is dead. We both saw them throw his body in the back of that van.”

“You let them kill him!” Rage overtook her and she thrust her hands forward, shooting her energy toward him. The golden light flashed in an arc, creating an eerie glow as it lit the dark forest. A green light met hers, shooting flashes in all directions.

She jumped in surprise, her energy fading as the green light edged closer.

Raphael beamed and he lifted an eyebrow, an evil glint in his eye. “You’re going to get yourself killed, Emmanuella. You’ve just proven how much you need me.”

Her light shortened as his filled the space, stopping inches from her outstretched hands.

She flung her hands to her sides, sending energy flying into the trees, leaves igniting from the sparks. “Do it then! Kill me!” Grief overwhelmed her and sobs rose in her throat. The sudden exertion of power sapped what little energy she had left and her knees buckled as her vision faded.

The green light disappeared and Raphael moved to her, pressing his chest to hers. He held her up before she fell. “I don’t want to kill you, Emma. On the contrary, I want to rule with you.” His hand snaked around her back, pulling her closer.

Her strength returned with Raphael’s touch.

The trees smoldered, and gray smoke wisped into the sky. Vaguely aware of an acrid odor filling her nose, she stared into his dark eyes, lured by the hypnotic pull he aroused, drowning in her body’s physical need for him. “Will,” she whispered.

His mouth hovered over hers and he whispered, “Will is gone.”

The words penetrated the fog in her head.
Will
. She shoved his chest, breaking contact. The mist burned off as she shook her head. “Don’t you touch me or I’ll—”

He laughed. “Or you’ll what? Kill me? Empty threats, Emma. Look how well your last attempt went.” Raphael took a step backward, a cocky smile covering his face.

She shook with rage and frustration. “We both know there are plenty of other ways to kill you.”

He lifted his chin, studying her. “You’re much more impetuous than I expected. Watching you with Jake made me think you were more clearheaded. Still, it’s a trait we can use to our advantage.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” But she knew. Raphael and Alex were the elements earth and air. Her father, Aiden, the fire element, had tricked them into handing over most of their power in a millenniums-long game. The prize was Aiden’s daughter, and whomever she chose regained his power along with his realm. The other would be cast into the shadow world. They lived mortal lives, reincarnated time and time again, locked in an eternal fight for Aiden’s previous daughter Emmanuella. While Emma shared her name and image, nothing else about her was the same.

“You know who I am. Even if you’ve changed, we have centuries of history. You are meant to be mine. Not Will’s. We can defeat Aiden’s new game together.”

Aiden
. The chilly wind cooled her temper, defeat following in its wake. If she couldn’t kill Raphael, how could she beat the more powerful Aiden?

She wanted to wake up from this nightmare. The winner would rule the shadow world alongside Aiden. She didn’t want to rule anything. She wanted Jake and she wanted Will, but he was gone.

No
. Will couldn’t be dead. How could she go on without him? Closing her eyes, she lifted her head toward the sky. “I need him.”

“You only needed Will to grow your powers, and now they’re fully developed. You no longer need the pendant to use them. Now you just need to learn how to channel your energy. You no longer need Will.”

That wasn’t what she meant. Not that she expected Raphael to understand. She reached out with her mind. “
Will
!
Are you hurt
?
Tell me where you are
!”

Silence hovered in her consciousness, but also something more foreboding. Before, she could at least sense him, even if they couldn’t talk. Now there was absolutely nothing. “I can’t feel him.”

“Who?”

“Will! I can’t feel Will. I could sense him before, but now it’s gone. Why can’t I feel him?” Her hysteria rose at the implication.

Raphael sighed, his voice softening. “Because he’s dead, Emma. You have to let him go. Unless you develop the power of resurrection, there’s nothing you can do.”

She gasped. “Can I do that? Develop the power of resurrection?”

Raphael shook his head, pity drawing his mouth into a thin line. “No. If any of us could, it would be me. I possess power of the earth. From ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” His eyes softened. “But even I have no control over death, Emma. Especially in this weakened state. Death is final.”

“Just because I can’t feel Will doesn’t mean he’s dead. But without his mark, the Vinco Potentia have no reason to keep him alive. I have to go save him.”
The mark
. The mark Jake had branded on Will’s arm to mark him as Emma’s protector. Hope bobbed to the surface and she clung tight. “I can’t feel him because his mark is gone! And I think mine are gone too. I felt a burning on my back when Will’s mark went away.”

Raphael spun her around, pulling down her nightgown to reveal her shoulder blade. “I can’t make out the trident.” He angled her back toward the moon. “All that’s left is fire.”

“So Will’s mark and the water mark are gone.”

“What water mark?” He grabbed her shoulders and turned her to face him.

“Why would I still have fire but lose the other two?”


What
water mark?” His fingers pinched her shoulder and she faded again, the longing for him returning. He dropped his hands, cursing. “I know about the mark of fire and Will’s mark, but you’ve never had water before. When did it appear?”

“I don’t know. Sometime after I met Will, his mark and water appeared.”

Raphael’s jaw dropped before he twisted his lips. Fury replaced the shock in his eyes.

“That’s not important.” She brushed past Raphael and started toward the road.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he called after her, irritation bleeding through his words.

Moonlight lit her path as she picked her way through the undergrowth. “Will drove here and I have his keys. I’m going to find his car and go get him.”

“Even if Will was alive, you don’t know where they took him.”

“I have a pretty good idea.”
South Dakota
. It was so obvious, but then Will had never been Kramer’s true prize. Emma was, and Kramer knew Emma would come looking for Will.

Raphael moved beside her, matching her strides. “Emma, this is suicide. For all you know he’ll be dead by the time you find him.”

She stopped and spun to face him. “He’ll be dead for sure if I don’t.”

“I won’t let you do this.”

Clenching her fists at her sides, she glared. “Here’s a surprise for you—you can’t stop me.”

His fingers dug into her bicep, and liquid warmth flowed through her arm and heated her chest. Raphael smiled at her reaction. “See, Emma? That’s where you’re wrong.” His fingers swept the hair off her cheek and tucked it behind her ear. “I can stop you if I need to, for your own safety.” His mouth lowered to her exposed ear. “You’re not thinking sensibly, my love.”

She relaxed into him, needing to be closer.

His hand caressed her cheek, lightly tracing the swelling where she had been hit. “That’s my Em. Let me help you see reason. Will is no longer necessary and the sooner you accept this, the easier it will be.”

The mention of Will’s name wiggled in her mind, pushing against Raphael’s magnetic pull as his mouth found hers. Sanity scrambled for a foothold. “No,” she mumbled against his lips.

His kiss deepened and her consciousness struggled for control. Her fingers splayed against his chest and she pushed him away. “No!”

His grip around her back tightened.

Will
. The image of his prostrate body in the woods filled her mind, and her connection to reality strengthened.

BOOK: Sacrifice
2.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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