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Storm & Strike (Lost Realm #3)

Storm & Strike (Lost Realm #3)

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Storm & Strike (Lost Realm #3)

4.5/5 (2 ratings)
270 pages
4 hours
Jun 30, 2013


War has arrived...

Exiled from the Realm, Ash seeks refuge among the vampires in the world. Encouraged by the witch Alyssia and driven by an idealistic desire to unite his home in harmony for the first time in his lifetime, he begins to build an army.

When ideology isn’t enough, Ash knows he’s going to have to lead his troops into war. Witch, fae and vampire clash in an epic battle that threatens to destroy the very fabric of the Realm itself, and none will escape unscathed.

WARNING: Not suited to minors.

Jun 30, 2013

About the author

Born in Liverpool, Kate Aaron is a bestselling author of the #1 LGBT romances What He Wants, Ace, The Slave, and other works.She holds a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, and an MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, and is an outspoken advocate for equal rights.Kate swapped the North West for the Midwest in October 2015 and married award-winning author AJ Rose. Together they plan to take over the world.

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At twenty-two years old, World No.6 and England's No.1, Brian Scagill has the tennis world at his feet. Last year's semifinalist, this year Brian enters England's biggest tournament determined to win. A Grand Slam on home turf is calling to him and he's not going to let anything stand in the way of victory - certainly not a cute Croatian who doesn't even play in the same league.

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The Dead Past

Puddledown, England, 1948. Hugo Wainwright is hiding from the world, knowing his desires for other men will ruin him if he acts on them. Tommy Granger is also hiding: running from a shameful past. When Hugo stumbles over a body not far from Tommy’s cabin, both men’s lives change forever. There’s a killer in the woods, and the townsfolk are sure Tommy is the culprit. Can Hugo clear the name of the man he’s falling for, or is the evidence mounting against Tommy more than circumstantial?

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About the Author

Kate Aaron lives in Cheshire, England, with two dogs, a parrot, and a bearded dragon named Elvis.

She has the best of friends, the worst of enemies, and a mischievous muse with a passion for storytelling that doesn't know the difference between fact and fiction.

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Book Three in the Lost Realm Series

Kate Aaron

Copyright 2013 Kate Aaron

Croft House


A full moon hung low in the sky, close to setting behind the rolling waves of the horizon as Azrael approached the motionless figure of a man. Hearing him, the man turned, long chestnut hair rippling across his shoulders as he moved.

I hoped it’d be you, Fenton said, turning away and once again contemplating the distant horizon, behind which the sun would shortly rise.

Azrael stood beside him, his eyes fixed in the distance. Did you do it? he asked quietly.

Fenton’s head bowed.


Does it matter? I loved him and I killed him. That’s all anyone needs to know.

His brother deserves the truth, Azrael snarled. You owe him that, at least.

Does he hate me? Fenton’s voice wavered as he asked the question.

What do you think?

Tell him I’m sorry. Truly, I never meant… He trailed off, choked.

Azrael’s gaze slid over the man beside him, watching his shoulders shake. What happened? he asked, softer.

He said he loved me. He said he’d always be mine. Bitterness curdled Fenton’s voice.

He betrayed you?

"With her." He spat the word.

So you killed him?

Fenton made an anguished noise. I was so angry…

Were you lovers? Azrael asked curiously.

Fenton nodded. As much as we could be. You know I don’t, I can’t… He choked again, recomposed himself. I tried. He turned to Azrael, blue eyes wide. I knew what he wanted, I offered, I… His shoulders slumped. He knew I didn’t want it for myself so he wouldn’t let me touch him. I hurt him so much…

Did she trick him?

Fenton shrugged. I don’t know. I didn’t stop to ask.

You lost control. It wasn’t a question.

Fenton nodded sadly.

I lost control once, Azrael admitted.

I’ve heard the rumours. That’s why I hoped it would be you who found me. You understand, you know what this is like.

Do I?

How did you live with it? Fenton asked. The guilt…

It wasn’t easy, Azrael said. I didn’t trust myself with another mortal for a long, long time.

But you do now?

As much as I ever will.

How can you? Knowing what you did—

I was a fledgling, Azrael snapped. I couldn’t control myself.

I’m not a fledgling, Fenton whispered.

No, you’re not. The inference hung between them.

What happened to him? Fenton asked. Skye, I mean. Is he, has he…

Faded? Azrael met the other vampire’s eyes. Fenton nodded warily. Alyssia returned his body to the Realm the day you killed him. He faded that night.

Fenton gasped.

Ash and I were away from the palace. He never got to say goodbye.

I’m sorry.

For Skye fading? Don’t be. It was a kindness to him.

What do you think it means?

Azrael pondered the question. They both knew the fae didn’t fade into the OtherLand until they’d accepted their deaths. Looking at the broken man beside him, he felt a small tug of compassion. I think it means he forgave you, he answered softly.

Fenton made a small, pained sound. Azrael averted his eyes, staring sightlessly over the black ocean, the silvery trail of the moon shining across its surface.

What do you think happens to us when we die? Fenton asked, his voice wavering.

I don’t know, Azrael admitted.

Skye said we go on. He said death was a state we pass through and emerge from: that life continues. Do you think that’s true?

I do, for the fae. For us… I don’t know. We’re already dead. What you’re asking is if our afterlife has an afterlife. I don’t know the answer to that.

Do you believe in Hell?

I believe we do a good enough job of making our own Hells—and Heavens too, sometimes. If you believe you deserve it, you’ll create it. You don’t need a god to do that.

Do you believe in redemption?

Azrael turned and looked hard at the other vampire. Do you believe you deserve to be redeemed?

No. Fenton’s shoulders slumped. Not after the things I’ve done. Centuries of bloodshed, death upon death… What god would forgive the sins I’ve committed? And yet… He eyed his old friend nervously, Aren’t we all guilty of those crimes? Our natures demand that we kill again and again. We can’t fight that, any more than the lion or the wolf can fight their natures. We are what we were made. Does that make us wicked?

I don’t believe so, no. I have seen ‘wicked’ redefined too many times in my long life to set much store by it. I was wicked for loving men, wicked for being Turned, I was wicked for taking lives. Yet these days homosexuality is embraced as often as it is punished and I have seen men die on a global scale—as have you. No soldier is wicked who guns down his nation’s enemy. God himself is not wicked when a tsunami or an earthquake strikes. Why should our actions count any differently?

I was born here. Fenton indicated the field in which they stood.

I know. That’s how I found you.

We had a croft… His eyes scanned the gently rolling earth. Some of these stones may once have been its walls. If I dig deep enough, in the right place, perhaps I’ll find the blackened stain of the hearth where my mother lay when she birthed me. He turned, his gaze sweeping over the endless ocean. I was a sailor, once. I had a companion, a man who loved me. We ran away together. He laughed bitterly. He betrayed me, too.

Some part of Azrael’s heart opened and wept a little for the man beside him, misunderstood his entire life. It would have been more merciful to kill him than to Turn him; to make him go on enduring his terrible isolation, an endless quest for something that did not exist.

I always knew I’d die here, Fenton mused. I never thought it would take so long.

How do you want it to happen?

Fenton looked back at the ocean. It looks like a road, doesn’t it? He indicated the silvery pathway flowing across the surface to the low-hanging moon. Do you think, if I followed it, it would lead me somewhere?

Just keep swimming, you mean?


You wouldn’t rather be here, where you were born?

Fenton shook his head. I never belonged here. I’d rather be leaving again—starting over. A new adventure. His fingers moved to his buttons, unfastening his shirt. Perhaps this one will have a happier ending?

Azrael pulled him into a tight embrace. I hope so, he whispered fervently, releasing him and stepping back.

Fenton finished stripping in a series of fluid movements, his white body glowing palely in the last light of the dying moon. In the east, the first glimmer of sunlight began to trace the horizon. I’d settle for peace, he admitted, balling his clothes in his fists. To never think or feel again, to let go of all the guilt and the regret, to stop hurting all the time… His hands trembled as his knuckles whitened around the scraps of material. Tell Ash I’m sorry, he said, head bowed. I know I don’t deserve it but I hope, one day, he’ll forgive me for what I’ve done.

He will, Azrael said. One day he will see his brother again.

Fenton sighed, a single bloody tear leaking from closed eyes. I wish I could say the same.

Azrael smiled tightly, his lips pressed into thin lines. He took the bundle of clothes that Fenton offered and watched as he picked his way down the steep cliff path to the rocky beach below. As Fenton dived into the waves and made his slow way up the silver highway towards the dying moon, Azrael turned and began digging himself a shallow grave to pass the day.

His fingers closed around a large rock several inches below the surface of the field. Prising it free, he gasped to see the blackened earth of an old firepit. Smiling to himself, he rose to tell Fenton what he’d found. A nerve twitched in his jaw as he spotted his old friend’s dark head well out to sea, making his way along the silvery path towards the moon. He placed Fenton’s clothes above the burnt earth and laid the hearthstone reverentially back on top, before moving away to find another place to hide himself from the approaching light of dawn.


Ash nodded politely to Kali and Jack as they entered the room, before reverting his attention back to his book. The vampires unsettled him. He wished Azrael had taken him with him to track down Fenton. He wanted to be there when Azrael killed him, he wanted to strike the blow himself against the man who had murdered his elder brother. His hands trembled around the book as a fresh wave of rage rolled through him, still so raw. He lifted his eyes curiously as Kali settled on a low stool at the head of his divan. The vampire usually ignored him, only speaking to reprove Jack when he pushed Ash too far.

It is done, Kali said solemnly.

You’re sure? Ash’s heart pounded in his chest.

I felt it as soon as I woke. Fenton is dead.

Good, Ash spat.

Kali winced. I know you are angry, but he was mine, he growled.

He killed my brother.

I do not condone that.

Then don’t mourn him in my presence.

They glared at each other.

Does this mean Azrael will be returning? Jack asked to break the silence.

I expect so. Kali rose and moved towards his lover.

So what will you do next? Jack asked Ash.

I don’t know, he admitted. Since they’d fled from the Realm, all he’d thought about was ensuring his brother’s killer paid for his crime. He hadn’t considered what was to come after.

He must return to the Realm, Kali said. Stop this madness.

Ash scowled. Go back to the Realm—the place where he’d grown up, where his relationship with Azrael would condemn him to death, where his brother’s ghost would haunt his every waking moment? The Realm held nothing for him but bitterness and bad memories. Why would I ever do that?

You are heir to the throne, Kali reminded him. You have a duty to return to your people. And you must stop the mad General from waging war before the vampires retaliate. Azrael and I can only hold them back for so long.

In the months since Skye’s death, the stories of fae battalions attacking and killing vampires had been coming thick and fast. With the king on his deathbed, Oak, General in the army, had seized control and sworn vengeance for the prince’s death. Ash knew Oak wouldn’t stop until he killed every last vampire in the world. He’d hated them badly enough even before Fenton had turned on Skye and murdered him. But how in the Realm was Ash supposed to stop him?

The portals are closed, Ash reminded the vampires. Oak only opens them when there’s a raid on. Storming them as the warriors come through isn’t an option.

The portals can be breached, Kali said. There are those who know the magic to do it.

You want me to use the witches to attack the Realm? Ash asked incredulously. That’s what started this war. If the witches had never threatened us then Skye would never have left the Realm—he’d still be alive. And I would never have met Azrael. He shoved that thought quickly aside.

If, if, if, Kali sneered. If I had not Turned Fenton. If Azrael had not introduced him to Skye. If Alyssia did not covet the Realm. It is too easy to hide behind ‘if’. You are prince, you will be king. Accept your responsibilities; do what is right.

Like you did, you mean? Ash bit back.

Kali drew himself up, dark eyes blazing. I have allowed Azrael to hunt down and kill my own blood for your sake. I did not try to stop him. I did not warn Fenton. Why? Because even though your own brother forgave him, you could not. My fledgling’s blood is on your hands and yet I am protecting you, I am letting you live in my home. I have kept the vampires from retaliating while your warriors run amok killing my kind. I am doing these things because they are right, even though they bring me great distress. And you? You live in my house and eat my food and whine like a child when I say you can stop this madness, end this bloodshed, and bring peace to our world.

Ash cowered.

Your brother is dead. So is Fenton. Let it end there. Kali rose and stepped stiffly to the door. With a reproachful look at Ash, Jack followed his maker out of the room.

Ash slumped on the divan, the book long forgotten. Was Kali right? Could he stop this, could he return to the Realm and bring peace? He didn’t see how. Oak would never bow to his authority—he’d railed enough against Skye—and High Law was still High Law: his relationship with Azrael was still forbidden. There was no way he was forsaking his lover to return to his old life.

The night crept by as Ash fretted over what he should do. He’d long since accustomed himself to keeping the vampires’ hours, waking in his windowless room at sunset and retiring to his empty bed to sleep through the day. It made him feel closer to Azrael, even though logically he knew his lover could be anywhere in the world by now: he could be many, many time zones away. Ash wondered how long it would take him to return.

A pang of loneliness swept through him. They’d been apart for months, this was their first real separation and Ash hadn’t realised how accustomed he’d become to the vampire’s presence. Curling up alone in that big bed made him feel very, very small. Azrael had left some weeks after Skye’s death and vowed not to return until he’d tracked down Fenton and seen him die. If Ash had known then it would take so long to see that through, he would have railed harder against being left behind.

He recalled his birthday. He’d been so sure Azrael would be back by then, that he wouldn’t miss the day Ash turned eighteen, not after the vampires told him what a landmark that age was considered in the world. It seemed odd to Ash that the humans staggered their celebrations: in the Realm children matured on their sixteenth birthday and were treated from then on as adults, but knowing things were different in the world had made that age seem special when it never had before. Instead he’d spent the day lonely and miserable, with nothing but Kali’s silence and Jack’s taunting congratulations to keep him company.

The sound of footsteps in the marble hall pulled him from his thoughts, his heart hammering in time with the even tread, hardly daring to hope. He turned to face the doorway as Azrael stepped through it. The moment they saw each other both their faces lit up and Azrael flew across the room to embrace him, kissing him as though he’d die if he stopped.

Ash surrendered willingly, sinking into Azrael’s embrace, fingers raking through the shoulder-length strands of his lover’s copper and mahogany-tinted hair, pulling him deeper into the kiss. He had forgotten how good it felt simply being this close to Azrael: touching him, his scent and taste and weight at once secure in their familiarity and thrillingly fresh and new.

Azrael looked good. Not that he ever changed but as Ash held him close and opened his eyes to stare deep into warm honey-brown, he fell in love all over again. His lover had always been an attractive man; tall and leanly-muscled, a hint of colour still tingeing his skin even after a thousand years of night. To others he was handsome—in his own time he must have been breathtaking—but to Ash, as always, he was simply the most beautiful creature in the world.

I didn’t expect you back yet, Ash gasped as they finally drew apart.

He’d gone back to where he was born. It’s not so very far.

Kali said he felt him die.

Azrael’s face clouded. I feared he would.

How did you do it?

The vampire pulled back

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