Authors: Alex Lux
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Coming of Age, #Angels, #Demons & Devils, #Psychics, #Werewolves & Shifters, #Witches & Wizards
Copyright © 2013 Alex Lux
Cover Art Copyright © 2015 Dmytry Karpov
Interior by Karpov Kinrade
Proofread by Brittany Carrigan
Edited by Anne Chaconas
eBook License Notes
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.
For all the star-crossed lovers of the world who think it's impossible.
Never give up on love.
Their passion will destroy them.
Only true love can save them.
This is the second book in
The Seduced Saga,
and they are better read in order.
You can find
Seduced by Innocence
(Book 1) on Amazon.
"Hope is a fragile thing, yet strangely enduring. It hides in the crevices of pain, burrowing deep until unseen, for fear that sorrow, in its rage, will devour hope's desperate hold on the heart.
It can live there for years, silent and waiting. Or, it can be slaughtered with a word-- mankind's most powerful weapon.
They say that universes are created with words.
And with words, they are destroyed.
Just as mine has been."
In the sequel to Seduced by Innocence, Derek and Rose face even greater threats to their love as Derek fights to protect the core of his family's power while Rose struggles to control her own dark gift.
New Adult Romance, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Recommended for 17+, contains explicit sexual content
Lord, what fools these mortals be!
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
THE EARTH TREMBLED
under my feet, and bright light pierced my vision, blinding me. Shafts of golden rays warmed the fragile flesh that covered this new body. I studied my hand—strong, callused by hard work—as my eyes adjusted to morning. Flexing it, I wondered what it would feel like caressing a woman's body. Would she enjoy this skin? This unpolished strength?
Hunger stirred in me. It had been many decades since I'd last inhabited a human host, many decades of starving in that prison, unable to feed on the lust of others, but hunger would have to wait. I hadn't been sent here to satiate my unending appetite.
She walked in and, despite the years pulling her skin down, she smelled of desire. I'd seen her through the portal, knew the stink of her soul, and her flesh did not tempt me, but mine would tempt her now.
Stopping short, she caught her breath, showing admirable restraint in my presence. "Blake?"
I shook my head.
An evil smile curled at Rainbow's lips. "It worked, then?"
"Do you have a name?"
None her human tongue could pronounce. "Just call me Blake. Keep it simple."
I worked my own tongue around the words as memories returned to me. Languages and technologies and sciences unique to this plane, knowledge gleaned through spying and living. I flexed my muscles, stretching my limbs as I gauged this new body's physical limits.
A residue of Blake's consciousness lingered in this form, coating my own experiences with his impressions. This was to be expected, but always a nuisance.
"What happens to Blake while you're here?" the coven leader asked.
"Do you really care?" I knew she didn't. This one had a blackened heart, corrupted by greed and the lust for power. Even my kind was loath to partner with her, but she offered us the surest way of accomplishing our own end, and so it was a necessary evil.
"He's been loyal, as few others have been. I'd rather he not suffer for his service." She had already shoved away the initial desire she'd had for me and, though I despised her, I admired her strength of will.
"He's safe, bodiless and contained in a prison of sorts. You call it the demon plane. Do you wish me to undo this and send him back?" I knew her answer, just as she did.
She shrugged. "What must be done, must be done. Let's get to it then, shall we? I need you to keep an eye on my daughter, Rose. She's shown unexpected rebellion recently, and that won't do for our plans. She's instrumental to all of this."
"You'll have to manage the affairs of your family yourself. I didn't just travel from the demon plane to play babysitter to your children."
"You insolent slug." She took a menacing step forward, pointing her finger as one might to a misbehaving child. "How dare you speak to me that way after what I've done to bring you here?"
The rumbling earth that had first awakened me started again, and rock and dirt fused together and reached for me.
I moved with what must have seemed like superhuman speed, though it felt sluggish for me, dodged the unskilled attack, and clutched her arms. Pinning her to the wall, I glared into her eyes. "I am not your lackey. Do not look at this body and mistakenly think of your errand boy. I may not have all of my powers, but I'm still more powerful than you, and we share no love or loyalty. I'm here to serve my own interests. You're a tool toward that end; that is all. If I find that you are no longer useful, I will kill you myself, do you understand?"
The fight didn't leave her blue eyes, but she nodded, and I released her.
"Now that we're clear on who's in charge," I said, "what plans have you for retrieving the rose bush from the Druids?"
She tugged at her jacket and straightened herself to full height. "We failed. My daughter sabotaged us." She spit the next words out with evident distaste. This was not a woman who enjoyed admitting weakness. "We're not strong enough to fight them alone. That's why we need you."
Her daughter sounded intriguing. I made a mental note to get to know her better. Something inside me, something left over from my host, awakened at the mention of this girl.
"I cannot singlehandedly win you this victory. You go up against powers greater, even, than my own. But I might be able to help in other ways."
She crossed her arms over her ample chest. "Such as?"
"There are objects of power that can aid us. I just need to locate one and negotiate the right deal to retrieve it. In the meantime, you need to prepare your coven for the solstice ceremony. Without every piece in place, this will all be for naught."
A gleam brightened her eyes. "I'll do my part, Demon. Just be ready to do yours. You'll have what you need for the transference of power. I've waited too long, toiled for this for too many years, to lose it all now. David O'Conner and his family will fall, and upon their ashes I will be raised up into the power I've always deserved."
Oh why rebuke you him that loves you so?
Lay breath so bitter on your bitter foe.
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Visions of soulless eyes haunt me while I sleep. Memories of the same haunt me while awake. I cannot escape the evil I have done, albeit unintentional. Whether intended or not, the results are the same; I've destroyed the lives of others, and in so doing destroyed my one chance at love.
If a heart can fall in love, what does it fall into when that love is lost? Does it fall into grief, or something darker, perhaps? I fear I'll never climb out of this pit in which my heart now lives.
The simple comfort of hope has been denied me, and I weep for the days yet to come.
OCEAN PULLED OFF
my blankets, and cold air assaulted my underdressed body. "Go away."
I drew my pillow over my head and scrambled to find a corner of the blanket to reclaim, but she'd removed it from my bed entirely.
"I will not go away. You need to get your ass out of bed and take a proper shower before I bring a bucket of cold water and bathe you in your sheets."
I peeked around my pillow.
My best friend stood with arms crossed, her wild red hair tumbling around her shoulders and down her back like half-awake snakes, her green eyes squinted in determination. She raised an eyebrow. "I'm serious, Rose. You can't keep this up. We have work to do."
In the last several weeks I'd fallen in love, only to discover that Derek's family was our coven's sworn enemy, and I'd inadvertently destroyed his brother's soul with my dark gift. I'd lost my best furry friend, Sandy, to a fire. Her puppies had been slaughtered in the most gruesome way, and I'd discovered them. My coven now hated me, and Mother and Jasmine weren't speaking to me. I'd used power borrowed from Derek to defeat Mother and trap her in her own magical prison—which hadn't won me any points with anyone here but Ocean.
After that battle, Derek's power had lingered in me, like a lover's scent on a pillow. When it had faded, I'd been left empty, alone and without hope.
I really didn't see the value in getting out of bed. Ever.
Obviously, Ocean had different ideas.
She left my bedroom and came back with a large glass of water so cold it had already frosted the glass. "Get up, Rose. Last warning. You smell, you look like shit, and if you stand any chance of getting Derek back, then we have a few mysteries to solve."
I stood no chance of getting Derek back. I wouldn't forgive me if I were him, but she was right. We did have some mysteries to solve. Like what was Derek's brother, Dean, doing at our house the night I'd used my power on him, and what was Mother's relationship to their father, and what else was Mother hiding?
With a sigh, I swung my legs over the side of the bed and held my hands up in surrender. "Fine. Fine. Just back away with the water. I'd prefer my shower warm and not in my bed."
With a gloating smile plastered on her beautiful face, Ocean sauntered out of the room.
As tempted as I was to flop back into my warm cocoon, I knew she'd be back with the water if I didn't emerge from my room soon.
Even the simple act of taking a shower broke off more slivers of my already damaged heart. The warm water brought back memories of Derek's eyes on me as I'd pleasured myself in the hot tub while he'd stroked himself. I rubbed my body down with soap, craving his touch, his arms, his body against mine, and the pain of losing him rushed in to fill the empty spaces of my soul.
The shower washed my tears down the drain, and I dried my eyes, put on clean clothes, and did my best to face the world as I joined Ocean.
She shoved a sandwich at me as soon as I stepped foot in our small kitchen. "You need to eat. You've lost too much weight while nursing your depression."
"It's only been a few days," I argued. "I hardly think this warrants an intervention." But I picked up the sandwich and took a bite, and with that one act my appetite resurfaced with a vengeance.
"A few days of you texting and calling Derek every fifteen seconds, while sobbing into your pillow. Yeah, that gets old fast. Now it's time to take action."
Between mouthfuls of turkey and cheese I asked, "What kind of action?"
She smiled in that way that always got us in trouble as kids. "The kind that gets us answers. We need to break into your mom's closet and ferret out her secrets." She watched my expression. "Right now."
I choked on my food and sipped some tea to dislodge the blockage in my throat. "Why now?" Mother's space was sacred. She had magical wards up and would kill us if she caught us anywhere near her closet. She pretended that nothing had happened after our duel, that I was just in dark place and needed to collect myself, but I knew she'd snap if I crossed her again. And if I had to go up against Mother without Derek's powers as backup, I'd either lose in a very bad way, or be forced to use my dark gift against her. Neither scenario pleased me.
"Because your parents are in Seattle for the day and won't be back until late tonight. Most of the other coven members are running errands or at work. It's our chance to sneak in unnoticed."
"And the wards?"
"I have a plan. Just get ready."
I wanted to argue, but really what more did I have to lose? And I needed to know how this whole mess came to be. This did seem to be our best bet.
Ocean winked and pulled out black outfits.
I groaned. "Seriously?"
She tossed me mine. "They're our spy gear. Come on, have a sense of fun, will ya?"
Thirty minutes later found us stomping through the woods, in the middle of the afternoon, dressed like wannabe ninjas straight out of a Bruce Lee movie. I felt ridiculous.
Ocean, on the other hand, was loving this. She twirled around, hair splashing out like waves. "I wonder what we're going to find. Something epic, no doubt."
I laughed for the first time since Derek shifted from wolf to man in front of me, confirming my darkest fears.
My laughter died when we neared the kennel. Memories of mutilated puppies and my last moments with Derek before he shifted and disappeared from my life lay heavy on my heart.
I refused to look at the empty space where the puppies had once been. Refused to think of Sandy, my beautiful Husky who had been a faithful companion for several years, before her untimely death trying to save Derek's life. Refused to think of Derek, standing naked and glorious in this kennel, wounded eyes accusing me of unspeakable crimes.
Not surprisingly, the door to Mother's private dwelling was locked. Ocean pulled a bobby pin out of her hair and wriggled it around in the lock.
"Do you actually know what you're doing, or are you just trying to imitate the movies?"
The lock clicked, and she pushed the door open. "Both!"
Unbelievable. Ocean never ceased to amaze me.
We secured the door behind us and navigated through Mother's living room and into her bedroom. I shivered as statues and paintings of goddesses stared down at me, eyes judging. When we reached her closet, we both stopped.
"Okay, this is going to be a bit trickier." Ocean pulled the bobby pin out again. "I need you to feed me some of your magic while I work on the physical and magical lock."
Doing that required skin-to-skin contact and unleashing my dark gift. No freaking way.
She huffed in annoyance. "Rose, trust me, okay? I know what I'm doing."
"What if I hurt you?"
"You won't. I promise. And if it gets too much, I'll pull away." She held up two fingers. "Scout’s honor."
"You were never a Scout."
My turn to huff. "Fine, but I'm pulling away if I feel even the slightest hint that things are getting dangerous."
I laid my hand on her bare arm while she went to work on the lock. My dark gift blossomed like a flower that only reveals itself at night. A deadly flower, full of poison.
I'd given magic in coven circles before. In fact, I'd given Blake strength to defeat the Druids, before I'd known who they were. But the power of so many witches together at once had protected any single person from being harmed. With just Ocean and me, the risks were much greater.
Thinking back to that last fight, I wished I'd held my powers back. Feeding Blake energy had never felt right. He'd always given me the creeps, and more so lately. When he fought the black wolf, I'd hesitated, lost focus without knowing why.
Later, when that wolf proved to be Derek, I'd understood, even as more mysteries presented themselves to me.
Hopefully, our cloak-and-dagger mission would put at least a few of those mysteries to rest.
I struggled to keep a wall against the bulk of my dark gift but, since the recent attacks, it fought its way through with renewed tenacity. It had lain dormant for years, but lately had been ready to leak through my defenses at the slightest provocation. It grew hungry for souls, and that terrified me.
Ocean's skin grew cold and clammy under my palm, and my heart rate escalated. "Hurry. I can't keep it back much longer."
"Almost there." Her voice sounded thin, worn out. Whatever she was doing had tapped her energies.
Pain shot through my bones as I continued to fight the force growing inside me. My control waned, the blood lust of the power in me getting stronger.
Her voice came out in a rasp. "Nearly there. Just one more second."
I counted to three and then couldn't hold it in any longer. Pulling back, I collapsed to the floor.
Ocean reached for me, her face pale, dark circles under her eyes. "I did it. Come on."
I found a second wind at the promise of seeing what Mother hid in her closet. No one had ever been in here before, that I knew of.
At first, the revelation was anticlimactic. A huge walk-in closet full of clothes, most of which still had tags on them, wasn't exactly the big secret we were looking for.
As impressive as her clothing selection was, her wall of shoes held Ocean in awe. She picked up a pair of Jimmy Choos and nearly wept. "I so want these. Do you think she'd notice if I took them?"
I pulled them from her hands and put them back. "Yeah, pretty sure she'd notice if a pair of $800 shoes went missing. We need to focus. Being here sets my skin on fire."
She rolled her eyes. "You're such a worry-wart."
We searched through every inch of the closet, but found nothing more remarkable than handbags, jewelry, scarves and an alarming selection of lingerie that I really didn't want to think about.
I slumped onto the ground. "There's nothing here. It's a waste of time."
Ocean paced the spacious room, finger on chin. "Not so fast. Why have such high security for clothes and shoes?"
"I'm sure you'd do the same if you had this collection."
She looked at the coveted shoes. "True. I would. But still, there's got to be something."