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Authors: Sandy Williams

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The Shadow Reader

BOOK: The Shadow Reader
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
 

The Shadow Reader
is a fresh take on the fae, packed with suspense, surprises, and real moral dilemmas. Sexy and fun, this is a must for anyone who likes their fae modern, their stakes high, and their property damage extensive.”
—Seanan McGuire, national bestselling author of the October Daye novels
 
Choosing Sides
 
“I’ve bought you an extension on life,” Aren says, leaning against the porch column. His casualness and the intensity in his silver eyes make an odd combination. I don’t like the way he’s observing me. I like even less the way the moonlight glows behind him, making him seem mysterious, almost debonair.
“Do you want me to thank you?”
“You’ll help us eventually.” He sounds so certain.
I shake my head. “No. My allegiance is to Ky—King Atroth.”
He smiles a little. “I’ll earn your trust.”
“I’ll doubt everything you say.”
He chuckles, pushes away from the column, and crosses the porch to stand in front of me. He takes my right hand in his. As he pulls me to my feet, I make the mistake of looking into his eyes. This close, I can become lost in them, especially with the heat of his
edarratae
traveling up my arm. He dips his head, staring down at me with mirth on his lips.
“You will be an interesting challenge . . .”
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
THE SHADOW READER
 
An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Ace mass-market edition / November 2011
 
Copyright © 2011 by Sandy Williams.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
ISBN : 978-1-101-54528-7
 
ACE
Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
ACE and the “A” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

For Trey. Thank you for putting up with me . . .
even when I’m “too much.”
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 
My writing would have forever remained buried on my computer if it weren’t for the support of some amazing people. First and foremost, my husband, Trey, who believed in me before I believed in myself. I couldn’t have done this without you. And to my friends and family: thank you for not thinking I’m crazy when I spontaneously drop everything to run and grab my notebook.
A special thank-you goes out to my beta readers, David Bridger, Tina Everitt, Katee Robert, Shelli Richard, and especially Reneé Sweet, who has been this book’s number one fan from the very beginning. I’d also like to thank two people who made this story the best it could be: my agent, Joanna Volpe, for being awesome from the very beginning, and my editor, Kat Sherbo, whose wisdom and editing prowess have truly amazed me.
ONE
 
M
Y SKIN TINGLES a moment before a slash of white light flashes at the front of the lecture hall. I grit my teeth and keep my eyes locked on my scantron, refusing to acknowledge the fae entering my world through that fissure. I don’t give a damn if it’s the king himself; I will pass this test tonight.
I darken in
C
on my answer sheet and then read the next question.
“McKenzie.”
It’s Kyol. Of course the Court would send
him
.
“McKenzie,” he says. “We must go.” No one else can hear or see him even though he towers over my professor, who stands less than two feet to his left. All the other students remain bowed over their desks, completely focused on their final exams. I grip my pencil and bubble in another circle.
The fae climbs the steps to my fifth-row seat. Still not meeting his eyes, I shake my head. I told him—I told all of them—not to call on me this week, but none of the fae understand why I need this degree, not when the Court takes care of all my needs. I tried to explain I’m human. I have human dreams and need a human life, and it shouldn’t take anyone eight years to earn a bachelor of arts in English. They hadn’t listened. At least, Kyol hadn’t.
Not now!
I want to scream, but even the softest whisper will disturb the quiet in the lecture hall. I stare down at my exam, letting my long hair brush the top of my desk. It forms a brown curtain, cutting off my view of Kyol as I reread question ten. The Court’s war can wait until I finish.
Kyol lays a hand on my shoulder, and a pleasant warmth expands beneath the thin strap of my purple cami. If we were alone, I’d lean into his touch, soak in his heat, his scent—soak in
him
—but not here, not now, in the middle of a test I
have
to pass. I shift, trying to get away. When his hand remains, I slam my fist down on my desk.
My classmates turn their heads to stare and Dr. Embry frowns. Fantastic.
“Number ten,” I say with a nervous laugh. “It’s a doozy.” It isn’t. It’s on the works of C. S. Lewis. Easy. I bubble in
A
.
Kyol pulls on my shoulder and I squirm again. There’s no way in hell I’m flunking this course a third time. I need it to graduate, and I don’t care if Kyol drops his invisibility in front of all my classmates; my ass isn’t budging until I finish my test and triple-check my answers.
“We’ve no time to waste,” Kyol says. “The rebels have found you.”
I suck in a frigid breath, hold it as I close my eyes for one brief, fragile moment, then I exhale, stuff my pencil into my backpack, and stand.
“I’m sorry,” I say to my surprised professor. “I have to go.”
By the time I turn to hurry up the steps, Kyol’s already waiting by the exit. I brace for the surge of emotion I know is coming and finally meet his silver eyes. Most people don’t see past his hard, unyielding scowl, but I do. I’ve seen his eyes soften and sparkle in the moonlight. I’ve seen a smile crack those lips, heard a laugh ring from that broad chest. And yet, even in those few, untroubled moments, there’s always a certain gravitas to him, like he could stand in the middle of a battle and part the enemy’s line with one cool glare.
He reaches for the door. I lock down my feelings and cut him off, not wanting my classmates to see it swing open seemingly on its own. He glances down at me, and a bolt of blue lightning skitters from his jaw to his temple before disappearing into his dark hair. Another bolt zigzags across the hand he rests on his sword’s hilt. They’re chaos lusters, visual reminders that the fae don’t belong in this world, and they’re beautiful, mesmerizing. With his quiet, strong confidence,
he’s
mesmerizing.
BOOK: The Shadow Reader
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