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Authors: Erin Kellison

Shadowman

BOOK: Shadowman
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The buzz on Erin Kellison's groundbreaking
Shadow
series:
“The search is over for your next book. If you're looking for a must-read this summer, look no further than
Shadow Bound
. . . it's an absolute original.”—
B & N Book Club
 
“A highly promising debut!”—
Romantic Times
 
“I just love it when I find a debut author who wows me. Erin Kellison has written a mind-blowing first novel, full of fae, death, darkness, wraiths, and, of course, love and romance that triumph over all.”—
The Good, the Bad and the Unread
 
“In a word . . . outstanding . . .
Shadow Bound
is sure to captivate even the most reluctant readers and keep them turning pages into the wee hours of the morning.”—
Romance Reviews Today
 

Shadow Bound
is a shockingly good read.”—
All Things Urban Fantasy
 

Shadow Bound
is Erin Kellison's debut novel, and wow! Just wow. I just did not see this book coming. It's such a wonderful surprise to open a book not really knowing what to expect and end up completely loving it.”—
Fiction Vixen
 
“This book was amazing. . . . I absolutely cannot wait for the author's next book in the series,
Shadow Fall
!”—
My Overstuffed Bookshelf
 
“A rare gift for words.”—
Southern Musings
 

Shadow Bound
is unlike any other reading experience I've had to date. It's a fast-paced, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, nail-biting, awe-inspiring thrill ride that will leave you begging for more and more.”—
Lovin' Me Some Romance
 
“This book had me saying ‘wow' . . . you could almost drink in the words.”—
Parajunkie
 
“Other paranormal romance writers should take note, Erin is the future voice of this genre.”—
Fiction Flurry
 
“Mrs. Kellison's debut novel is a hit, delivering a suspenseful and thrilling book that will keep you up way too late just to see what happens next.”—
Dark Wyrm Reads
 
“Richly imagined, fast-paced, and engrossing.”—
Discriminating Fangirl
 
“From the minute I started reading it I couldn't put it down. This book takes on a different view of the paranormal, one I hadn't read before.
Shadow Bound
is a fantastic combination of romance, urban fantasy, and suspense.”—
The Book Girl
 
“Ms. Kellison has crafted an intense urban fantasy tale with just the right mix of romance and suspense. The fast-paced plot takes readers on an emotional roller coaster, and this eerie and dangerous world won't soon be forgotten.”—
Dark Faerie Tales
 
“I was hooked until the very end.”—
The Books I Read
 
“Fans of dark drama will be captivated by this intense new series.”—
Romantic Times
 
“A fascinating urban romantic fantasy.”—
The Baryon Review
 
“As well as hot romance, Ms. Kellison can deliver scary. . . . A truly terrifying ride of mystery, action, and the supernatural.” —
Tina's Book Reviews
 
“Dark and brilliant.”—
Anna's Book Blog
SHADOWMAN
ERIN KELLISON
ZEBRA BOOKS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
For Matt, again
You know why
Acknowledgments
Thank you so much to everyone at Kensington, especially Alicia Condon, for being the amazing editor that she is. I depend on your insight and magic. And to Jessica Faust, agent extraordinaire, you do so much and are always there. To KC Klein, Nora Needham, and Tes Hilaire, for standing by me, and, oh yeah, excellent critiques. To Brian Anderson, for his expert information on all things tactical and for demonstrating on my husband. Any mistakes are mine. To my bedrock, my friends and family, who buy my books, sometimes in quantity. To Mom, who passed them out to anyone who would take them. And to Celia, Big C, Cornelia, aka Super Beta—hugs and love for everything.
Fate is a three-faced witch named Moira. Maid, mother, and crone, Moira weaves the patterns of humankind's life threads so that each intersection seems prescribed from the first wail of birth. So subtle is she that humankind invokes her name at moments large and small, sad and joyous, as an answer to or explanation of events—
it was fate, destiny, kismet
—when that is not always the case.
 
The irony is that Moira is one of the fae, and therefore has a far more circumscribed existence than any human being. Her scissors may be sharp, but she hasn't yet discovered the power to set them down, as has Shadowman with his scythe.
 
And she is bitter because no matter how tightly she ties her knots, mortal free will can loose them again.
 
—
T
ALIA
K
ATHLEEN
T
HORNE
The Shadowlands Treatise
Prologue
Shadow throbbed, twisting and irregular, in the corners of the hospital room. Seething with welcome, the ribbons of darkness crept past the cluster of too cheerful sunflowers on the far table, through the quietly humming machines, toward the bed where Kathleen lay.
Not long now. Shadow had always been close, but soon the dark stuff would claim her.
Beyond the filmy layers, on the Other side, the knotted and craggy boughs of Twilight trees swayed. Fae whispers rose in an inarticulate
hiss
and
tick
as they drew near to the thin veil between the Shadowlands and the mortal world, looking on. Waiting in heightening anticipation.
Not long at all.
Kathleen squeezed her sister's hand, urgency giving her the strength to make the squeeze hard. She drew deep on the oxygen at her nose and said, “Don't let them kick you out of the room.”
Maggie's lips went tight. Her O'Brien red hair had gone frizzy and she had more makeup under her eyes than on top. Her sister reached above the hospital bed with her free hand and switched the light off.
Shadow coursed into the void, but Maggie, as ever, was oblivious to the churn around her. “We've been over this,” she said. “You need to get some sleep now.”
In fact, Kathleen could barely keep her eyes open. With Shadow so close, so intent, she needed to be rested and ready for when the time came, but getting Maggie's cooperation was too important; it was part of being ready, like the intensive care neonatal room, prepared for delivery, the on-call doctors, and the machines to warn the nurses if she declined rapidly. All the rest meant nothing without Maggie's agreement. “You need to be there to make sure that the baby comes first.”
“I hate it when you talk like that.” Maggie looked away.
Lately Maggie couldn't meet her gaze, which was why Kathleen needed this last assurance. Just in case. “You know it's what I want.”
The baby's heartbeat
shush-shush-shushed
rapidly over the monitor. Kathleen focused on the sound and used its promise to draw another difficult breath.
She could see Maggie's profile: her sister's jaw clenched, her throat working silently.
When Maggs finally spoke, her voice was rough. “And what about you, huh? You can't think that . . . that . . . I'll just let you . . . You're my
sister.
” Maggie braced her free hand on her knee and worked for breath as well, lowering herself into the chair.
“I'll be okay.”
He'll be waiting for me.
Maggie turned back, words tumbling in a sob-clogged accusation. “You could
fight.
You could
try
to get through this. At least you could try.”
Kathleen inhaled through the tightness in her chest to speak. “I
am
fighting. I
am
trying.” She was giving everything she had to see her daughter safely into the world. She had no illusions about what would come after. How could she with the room darkening, the Shadows reaching farther with each passing moment? But she had no fears. Not with
him
near. Her gaze flicked to Shadow, searching for him in the glossy layers. When she didn't find him, she returned her attention to her sister.
Maggie frowned hard, shaking her head. Eyes blazing. “Not for yourself, you're not.”
Kathleen heaved for air again. “Maggs, you know this is for me, too. This is better than I could have ever hoped. I'm happy. Please let me be happy.”
How could she possibly make her sister understand when it was so hard to speak? When the dark stuff filled her lungs and choked her breath? Her own heart monitor started jumping, its beeps closer together. Likewise, the baby's
shush-shush
increased, the digital number climbing.
Instantly, Maggie was on her feet. “Kathy, I'm so sorry. Honey, just breathe. In and out. In and out.” She exaggerated the action on her behalf.
Kathleen concentrated on the flow at her nostrils, willing the good air to feed her blood, move her heart, and keep her baby growing for just a little while longer. Twenty-five weeks was the golden number, but every day gave her baby girl a better chance to survive. Every day was another 3 percent, that's what the doctor said.
Maggie visibly swallowed, her face reddening as she nodded and blinked back tears. “Okay. Don't worry about it. The baby first, like we agreed.” She swiped at her cheek. “I swear I'll be here. I won't let them budge me from your side.”
“The baby's side,” Kathleen corrected and managed a smile, her eyes fluttering closed. With Maggie's promise, her hold on wakefulness weakened and sleep sucked her down.
“But I'm going to hope for you, too,” Maggs said, her voice following Kathleen into slumber, the firm grip on her hand never loosening.
 
 
Flying. Her favorite kind of dream.
Kathleen skimmed the topmost branches of the trees—
higher!
—then burst out over the eastward cliff of Sugar-loaf Mountain to careen into a turn above a storybook patchwork landscape. The air smelled sharp and summer sweet as she rushed headlong into the dazzling blue. She filled her eyes with the color until her heart could hardly bear more.
Dizzy, she cast her gaze downward, to the rocks she'd picnicked at with her family when she was little. The scene was recalled in wondrous detail from the murk of her memory. Lush trees, dark green. Screaming bugs. Grassy patches, with large, white boulders. Rocky, rooty trails leading off in a couple directions.
Mom was laying out their lunches, waving away interested bees, while Dad dumped excess water from their cooler. Her sister, Maggie, inched closer and closer to the steep drop, yelling toward the woods, “Kathleen! I can see our house!”
The dream suddenly morphed, and Kathleen was seven years old, headed on foot into the tall red and white oaks on the mountain. Old, dusty leaves crumbled underfoot. The fragrant, humid air cooled as she moved deeper into the forest. Her heart skittered in her chest and stars pricked into her vision, but she didn't care. The trees were sparkling and sighing and swaying. Like magic.
“Stay away from the edge, Maggie,” Dad called from somewhere behind her.
Kathleen quickened her pace, picking her way over the jut and hump of tree roots. If Mom or Dad saw her, they'd make her go back. Sit down. Rest.
She was sick of rest. Of new treatments for her heart. Ever since she was born, something had been wrong with it, a
condition
named with big words she never wanted to learn. But she knew what they meant: She might never grow up.
It was much better to explore the woods than sit bored. She'd have all the time in the world to sit bored at home. Later. This was her chance. How deep could she go before they'd come after her?
Excitement made her breath short, her heart
glub-glub
before settling again. An adventure at last!
The air around her shimmered. The shadows shifted from patchy grays and blacks to purples and blues. The colors of a fairy tale. Beckoning. Drawing her into a story.
I'm a princess, lost in a magical forest.
She stumbled on a loop of root. Her heart
glubbed
again. Once, hard. She had to check her breath, but she wasn't going back. Not yet.
Silvery, tinkling music, like from her jewelry box, filtered through the trunks. It was that Disney song she loved that her mom said was really Tchaikovsky.
Coming from . . . that way . . .
She veered off the trail onto the leafy, trippy ground. At the edge of her sight, strange forms darted among the trees. Breathing became easier, the air sweeter. Made her head buzz.
She lifted the skirt of her gold, bejeweled dress. Because that's what she'd be wearing. Gold and jewels and a tiara with diamonds sparkling bright.
Deeper, deeper into the pretty purple. Her heart was strong here. This was where she'd meet her prince.
Within the darkening trees, the shadows unfolded like shiny black crows'wings, and there he stood. He had long, silky black hair. He was tall and had way more muscles than her dad. His eyes were black-black in a sharp and serious face, but he didn't scare her. He could never scare her. He'd been there all her life, guarding her dreams.
Her Shadowman.
“Kathleen, love, go back,” he said, voice urgent.
“But I feel so good. I want to play!”
The shadows behind him started to turn slowly, bruising with stormy eruptions. His dark cloak trembled and snapped on the surface. Tendrils of darkness curled around his legs and arms. One inky strand circled his neck.
“Kathleen, you must turn back now,” he said. “I can't hold Twilight from you long.”
“But it's so pretty here.”
The trees shivered in the gathering storm. Chattering whispers filled the air. And at the edges of her vision, swift, glittering movement among the trunks. Faeries, everywhere.
“It's a lie to trick and take you before it is time,” he said. “Wake up!” The shadows surged, and Shadowman flung out his arms to hold them back. One of his hands gripped a long staff, topped by a curved blade that glinted in the colored light. A scythe.
Death.
Oh, God! The baby!
Kathleen whipped around, looking for the mountain, the rocks, her parents. But she was in her hospital gown, her bare feet shuffling in the velvet earth.
Trees surrounded her, dark trunks thickening, branches stretching into a tight, dense canopy, its scent intoxicating, muddling her mind.
Where to go?
“Run!” Shadowman shouted, his voice tight with strain.
Kathleen bolted, the frigid darkness licking at her heels and chilling her bare legs. But there were only trees and trees and more trees, pressing in to block her path.
Too soon!
She had to get back. Had to deliver her baby before Shadow could take her. She had to find a way back to life, if only for a few moments.
“Maggie!” she screamed.
 
 
“I'm right here,” Maggie said. “I won't leave the baby. I'll keep my promise.”
Pressure crushed Kathleen's chest. She gulped for air but was drowning anyway. Her heart clamored wildly. No amount of forced calm would stop it.
The hospital room was a chaos of movement. Nurses, doctors, blurring around her. Maggie was a flash of red hair to her upper right. The young doctor, Cotter, was there, a green mask over his face, gloved hands lifted, waiting. A new machine was wheeled into position next to her and a strange man tugged on her IV.
“. . . acute pulmonary edema . . .”
She was lying flat, where before she had been at a slight incline. Something pricked, burned. “The baby,” she said, but her voice was a rasp.
The baby!
“. . . congestive heart failure . . .”
“There was no way this baby was ever going to make it to term,” a nurse was saying. “Someone with her condition never should have gotten pregnant.”
“Shut up,” Maggie bit back. “You don't know anything.”
Kathleen's vision sharpened as the forest grew around her. Twilight had followed her into wakefulness as her crossing neared. Trees speared the hospital room, floor to ceiling, invisible to all but her. A woodsy scent filled her nose and soft fae voices whispered excitedly. It was a place of magic and dreams, of fantasy and nightmare. There was no escaping its Shadows, not for anyone. No eluding it for long, even with Shadowman holding the darkness back. Everyone eventually had to travel the dark tunnel formed by its trees.
She'd been at its brink all her life.
“Kathleen,” Shadowman said, a murmur at her ear. Of course he would be near.
“Not yet,” Kathleen begged soundlessly. Heart failing, her lungs filled with fluid. “Please.”
Maggie leaned in, face blotchy and white. “Honey, it's time. The baby needs to come out now. Stay with me, okay? I need you, sis.”
She veered out of view as the doctor brushed something across the mound of Kathleen's stomach. The world blurred as the colors of Twilight became more distinct—deep vermillion, raging magenta, violent indigo. Static roared in her ears. Her heart clutched. Sensation both numbed and heightened in a frightening electric fission. A change.
Not pinned to a table. Not drowning. Not gasping for air.
BOOK: Shadowman
9.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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