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Authors: D. B. Reynolds

The Stone Warriors: Damian

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It was a time when gods walked the earth, when armies fought not for bits of land, but for the very existence of humanity. On such a battlefield, five formidable warriors stood against an evil greater than any the earth had ever seen. But evil is not an honorable foe. Betrayed by someone they trusted, the warriors were cursed, one by one, tossed into the maelstrom of time, imprisoned in stone, their freedom resting on nearly impossible conditions. Alone of the five, their leader, the sorcerer Nicodemus, was left free. His curse? To know that his fellow warriors remained trapped forever out of his reach, condemned to an eternity of searching for their stone prisons and the keys to their
freedom
.

DAMIAN

Damian Stephanos, warrior and lover, who bedded the Amazon queen but refused to take the battlefield by her side . . . you shall remain locked in stone until a woman warrior shall sacrifice her own blood, calling you forth to fight for her cause.

Look what people are saying about D. B. Reynolds’s latest
Vampires in America
. . . .

“This series is at the top of my list for fabulous Paranormal Romance with plenty of action, thrills and hot sexy Vampires. No sparkles here but plenty of charisma.”

—La Deetda Reads

“I am loving the direction that Reynolds is taking with the series and it’s absolutely one of my favorites and one that I highly recommend to vampire romance lovers.”

—The BookChick Blog

“Captivating and brimming with brilliance, Christian is yet another defining addition to the ever-evolving world of Vampires in America created by D. B. Reynolds.”

—K T Book Reviews on CHRISTIAN

“Did I mention that the sizzling sex factor in this book is reaching the combustible stage? It is a wonder my Kindle didn’t burn up.”

—La Deetda Reads on DECEPTION

“It’s the brilliance of her characters and the staying power of the world she has created that always keeps me coming back for more.”

—KT Book Reviews on DECEPTION

D. B. Reynolds
Vampires in America

Raphael

Jabril

Rajmund

Sophia

Duncan

Lucas

Aden

Vincent

Vampires in America: The Vampire Wars

Deception

Christian

The Cyn and Raphael Novellas

Betrayed

Hunted

Unforgiven

Compelled

The Stone Warriors

The Stone Warriors: Damian

Damian

The Stone Warriors
Book 1

by

D. B. Reynolds

ImaJinn Books

Copyright

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

ImaJinn Books
PO BOX 300921
Memphis, TN 38130
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-722-9
Print ISBN: 978-1-61194-703-8

ImaJinn Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2016 by D. B. Reynolds

Published in the United States of America.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

ImaJinn Books was founded by Linda Kichline.

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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Cover design: Debra Dixon
Interior design: Hank Smith
Photo/Art credits:
Man (manipulated) © Pawelsierakowski | Dreamstime.com
Background (manipulated) © Susan McKivergan
Baroque illustration (manipulated) © Rainbowchaser | Dreamstime.com

:Mdsf:01:

Dedication

For Roman, the heart and soul of every hero I’ve ever written.

Love you forever.

Chapter One

Somewhere in the American Midwest, Present Day

CASSANDRA LEWIS raced down the deserted street, her booted feet slapping on the wet pavement. Gripping her right arm hard, to hold back the dripping blood, she dared a glance over her shoulder. There was no one in sight, but all she could hear were the echoing howls of the hounds on her tail. She swerved to the building on her right, stumbling over the short step up to the sidewalk as she went directly to the big plate glass window. Wincing, she lifted her gun and fired a single shot. A crystal snowflake of cracks spread outward from the small hole. Stepping back, she aimed a hard kick at the weakened pane and broke it inward, before leaving a bloody handprint on the shattered glass, hoping to mislead the hounds and give her an extra few minutes. It wasn’t much, but it was all she could do.

She ran across the street, stepped up to the security keypad on the Kalman building, and entered the code she’d paid the daytime guard for just a few days ago. The lock buzzed and she opened the door, entering quickly and closing it behind her. The Kalman was an institution of sorts, a five-story building that had once been the center of the financial district. The big banks had all moved to the new high rises downtown, taking most of the smaller businesses with them. But, as with all of the other buildings in this part of town, the Kalman had been repurposed. Some had been converted to light industry, others now housed a growing number of the city’s burgeoning wholesale fabric suppliers, while the Kalman itself had been divided into separate office suites which were leased mostly by lawyers and other young professionals who couldn’t yet afford the high rents that went along with high-rise buildings downtown.

For Casey’s purposes tonight, the Kalman was perfect. The building’s occupants had all gone home long ago, it had an elevator that went all the way to the roof, and it was close enough to its neighbors that she might be able to make her escape over the rooftops, high above the pursuing hounds.

She ran into the elevator and punched the button for the roof, leaning wearily against the back wall, scowling at her reflection in the polished doors. She was dressed all in black—combat boots and fatigues, her T-shirt torn and bloodied over her wounded shoulder, exposing the gory proof that she’d been shot. She swallowed hard at the sight. She’d seen injuries before, had even seen bullet wounds. But never on herself. She forced herself to stop staring, to take stock of her situation. She popped the magazine on her 9mm Glock. Five rounds left and one in the pipe. Not nearly enough, especially not shooting with her left—off—hand.

She reached automatically for the spare mag in the right-hand pocket of her black fatigues and closed her eyes in pain as the movement jarred her injured shoulder.
Christ, that hurt!
She’d never been shot before, and now she was pretty sure she’d been shot twice. After the first bullet, it had been simply all pain, all the time. She couldn’t really tell if that second shot had actually hit her or just skimmed by.

As the fourth floor lit up on the indicator, she dropped the nearly empty magazine into her left pocket and inserted the new one with a hard slap that made her breath catch in her throat. That gave her thirty-four rounds, and it still wasn’t going to be enough. Not against what was chasing her. Hellhounds. She hadn’t expected that. Fuck, she hadn’t expected any real resistance tonight, much less a magical defense worthy of a full-on sorcerer. It took serious power to call up a pair of hellhounds, and it made her wonder if her enemy tonight was more than some random magic user.

The Talisman—the thing in her backpack that had started all of this—could be a powerful weapon, one that a sorcerer like . . . she hesitated even to think his name. But damn, Sotiris would love to get his hands on the Talisman. Was that what was happening here? Had their ultimate enemy been behind this all along? Sotiris was possibly the most powerful sorcerer left on earth, and unfortunately, he was just as evil as he was powerful. Keeping artifacts like the Talisman away from
him
was a big part of why her boss, Nick Katsaros, and the rest of the FBI had her hunting them down in the first place.

The elevator doors opened on the roof to a slap of cold, damp air and the baying of the hounds. Did they sound closer? Shit.

Ducking outside, she made a dash for the big air-conditioning unit and hunkered down in its shadow until she was sure the roof was empty. This was her last chance. She had to make it work.

With the Glock in her left hand, she slung her backpack over her right shoulder, ignoring the stab of pain. It might have made more sense to dump the heavy pack, but it was the Talisman that made all of this mess worthwhile. She’d abandon her gun before she’d leave behind that damn pack.

She rushed across the roof and peered over the front edge of the building, bracing her bloody hand on the Kalman Guardian, a statue of a half-naked warrior standing guard with a knife at his hip and a huge sword gripped before him. The statue was a landmark, reputed to be a few centuries old. The warrior it depicted was supposedly life-sized, assuming the man was about six and a half feet tall and built like a fucking god.

Leaning forward to scan the street back the way she’d come, she gripped the statue’s thick arm. Grit slid beneath her fingers to mix with her blood. “Looks like it’s you and me, big guy,” she muttered. “How about breaking that big-ass sword of yours loose and giving me a hand?”

At that moment, her pursuers came into view. A dozen or more guards, spreading out below, with a pair of hounds. That was actually the good news . . . that there were only two hounds. The bad news was that they’d caught her scent and were baying the message, letting everyone know about it. She still hoped her trick with the broken window across the street would misdirect their hunt for at least a little while, but in the long run, they’d find her as long as she remained on foot. She needed a vehicle, something to cut off her scent trail and quickly get her the hell out of Dodge.

Stepping away from the edge of the roof, she paced from side to side, eyeing the distance between the Kalman building and its neighbors. She’d miscalculated. Down on the ground, the roofs had seemed so close together, but up here, with the pavement yawning more than five stories below . . . she couldn’t make that leap. Maybe if she’d been in top form, if she hadn’t been leaking blood and running for her life for the last couple of hours, she could have done it. But not tonight.

She was going to need a new plan. Going back to the front of the building, she knelt once more next to the Kalman Guardian where she could keep an eye on her enemy. She dropped her backpack to the roof and zipped it open. Gently pushing aside the silk-wrapped bundle of the artifact she’d stolen, she pulled out a coil of rope and eyed it, mentally calculating whether it would be enough. Looking over the edge as she prepared the rope, she muttered to herself while working out her escape. She’d wait until the hounds had followed her fake trail across the street. Once they were in the other building, she’d run to the back of the Kalman, rappel off the roof, and make a run for it.

For the first time, she wished this part of town was more populated at night. It would make it much easier to steal a car if there actually
were
some on the street below. But she might as well wish for the big statue to come to life. This time of night in this part of town, no one was here, except for the occasional security patrol. And since she’d timed her little burglary to avoid those patrols, they weren’t going to do her much good.

It was ironic really, because she’d run this way on purpose, wanting to avoid civilian casualties, or even too many eyes seeing things they shouldn’t. Those hounds, for example. They weren’t anything like ordinary dogs. One look at their red eyes and three-inch canines would have had sensible people running for their lives. But there was another reason to choose this isolated part of town, and that was to avoid the dreaded oddball with a phone camera. The last thing Casey or anyone else wanted was for her hunt to end up on CNN.

Crossing to the rear of the building, she tied her rope to a heavy piece of equipment that seemed to be securely bolted to the roof, then fed the rope over the edge and watched it fall down the side.

“Fuck,” she muttered. It was going to be hell itself getting down with her bum shoulder and the heavy pack, but to make matters worse, the rope wasn’t long enough. She peered over the edge, trying to judge the distance. It was difficult to tell in the dark, and she didn’t dare use a light, but she guessed there was a good twelve feet of free fall waiting for her.

She studied the ground behind the building again and noted some construction debris from the next building over, with a big dumpster filled with old drywall and other materials sitting right at the corner of the Kalman. It wasn’t ideal, but it had to be better than hitting the hard pavement from twelve feet up. She just hoped there weren’t a lot of nails or whatever in all of that debris.

Securing her gun in her shoulder rig, she untied the rope, moved it to a point closer to the target dumpster, and then pulled on her gloves and waited. The hounds were on her street now, their baying loud enough to send fear skating over her skin, making her shiver. That was part of their effectiveness—their howls alone were enough to bring some people to their knees. She was made of sterner stuff, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t affected. It only meant she could talk her brain out of a visceral reaction. But she sure wished they’d shut the fuck up. It was giving her the creeps, making her look over her shoulder, as if one of the great beasts could somehow vault to the roof and materialize right behind her to rip her apart.

She shook herself slightly. That wasn’t going to happen. The howls changed to excited yips as the hounds picked up her fresh blood scent. Casey waited. Would they take the bait? The yips rolled back into howls and the sound of their hunt grew slowly muffled. Her ploy had worked. All that was left was for her to slide down the rope, free-fall the last few feet into a dumpster of dubious safety, then climb out, and steal a car. And all with only one good arm. Piece of cake.

Slinging the pack over her bad shoulder, she grabbed the rope with her other gloved hand, then swung herself carefully over the side . . . and let herself go.

This was going to hurt.

IF DAMIAN HAD had working lungs, he’d have been holding his breath. The grip of the woman’s hand had seared like a brand into his flesh, her blood soaking into the aged stone of his arm, the once-hard surface now made soft and porous after centuries of exposure to every kind of weather imaginable. The woman’s plea had followed hard on her touch, heating the trail of her blood as it sank into the walls of his confinement.

A wisp of long-forgotten warmth bathed his bones as his blood began to flow, joining with the woman’s until every second that ticked past brought a fresh agony of invigorated muscle and flesh. He welcomed the pain as he would an old friend. After centuries of feeling nothing, of being forced to watch the world go by without so much as the sun’s heat penetrating his stone prison, this agony was as joyous as the light of Elysium.

His lungs expanded with the first breath of oxygen he’d drawn since that long-ago moment on an ancient battlefield. So unexpected was the feeling that it shocked him at first, terrified him. It felt as if he was being ripped apart, his body unable to cope with the awakening of his flesh after all this time.

And then came the pounding of his heart, so loud that he strained to turn around, to see what enormous beast was coming upon him from behind.

Fingers which had long rested around his sword now gripped it properly, the ridges and grooves as familiar to him as if they were part of his own hand. He lowered his gaze . . . and his eyes opened to the world around him. Not the inhuman, unblinking eyes of stone, which were all the world had seen of him for centuries untold, the eyes with which he’d been forced to watch as time went by around him. These were his true eyes, and he wanted to weep.

But there was no time for womanly emotion. He was a warrior, and he’d been called to battle by the female, who was enough of a warrior herself that her blood had broken the curse. Wounded, but still fighting, courageous and strong. She’d freed him from this endless prison. He was honor-bound to help her.

He tried to turn, to search the roof for her. But his muscles were still sluggish and awkward. It infuriated him. He’d been the greatest fighter of his time, his prowess on the battlefield unlike any other. And now that he was needed again, he creaked like an old woman. He forced himself to move, feeling fresh warmth seeping into his muscle and sinew, fresh awareness flooding his mind. He was nearly overwhelmed with sensory input, everything so much more vivid than during his long imprisonment, trapped in stone. The damp air that stank of the filth that humans took for granted as the price of civilization, the distant sound of sirens, the roar of a plane overhead and—he frowned—the baying of hellhounds? He’d not heard that sound in thousands of years, not since before he’d been cursed.

He stepped down from the pedestal that had been his home, turning just in time to see the woman drop over the back of the building. He took two steps in her direction and heard her cry of pain, a sound even louder to his ears than the thumping of his own heart. He ran to the edge of the roof, shedding stone with every step, leaning over to peer downward just in time to hear her defiant snarl. He’d seen her break the glass across the street, seen her leave a smear of her blood. But her ploy had failed. The hellhounds raced to the Kalman, creeping in shadow along the side of the building, waiting for her as she climbed out of the big metal bin. The two beasts crouched, one on either side of her, their gruesome mouths dripping saliva while their eyes gleamed with the fire of hell itself. She drew her weapon, but he could see the pain it cost her.

He didn’t know what cause she fought for so determinedly, but she was going to die if he didn’t help her. He lifted his blade, exulting in the weight of it after so long. Anticipation raced through his bloodstream, energizing his muscles, shattering the last of the stone that surrounded him. Leaning over, he grabbed the rope she’d left behind and leapt off the roof after her.

CASEY BIT BACK her cry as knives of agony stabbed through her wounded shoulder, seeming to travel in waves down her arm and over her back, tightening her muscles into spasms that only added to her pain. She struggled to breathe through the dust and dirt that filled the air of the overflowing dumpster after her fall, waiting for the throbbing to ease up enough for her to think. But the nightmare that had become her life tonight wasn’t going to grant her even that.

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