Shadow's Soul by Jami Gray by Jami Gray - Read Online

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Summary

Raine McCord has no problem taking down monsters, so playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, head Magi of the Northwest, should be easy. But the simple task turns into a nightmare. Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead. As she and Gavin unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.
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ISBN: 9781937329488
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Shadow's Soul - Jami Gray

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All she had to do was keep one man safe…

Raine McCord has no problem taking down the monsters of the world, it’s one of the reasons she’s so good at her job. So playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, Head Magi of the Northwest, as he consults with the Southwest Kyn should be an easy assignment. Unfortunately, the simple task turns into a nightmare when Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead by one of the Kyn’s most feared beings, a Soul Stealer.

The Stealer’s attack leaves lasting wounds, undermining Raine’s confidence as a warrior and damaging her unruly magic. Her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand. Compelled to face the emotions raging between them, they must embrace not only their stormy relationship but their evolving magic to escape the twisted threads of murder and betrayal to find Cheveyo.

As Raine and Gavin come together and begin to unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.

KUDOS FOR SHADOW’S SOUL

Shadow’s Soul, The Kyn Kronicles, Book Two is a fine sequel to Book One, Shadow’s Edge. We get to get reacquainted with Raine and Gavin and this time we get to have sex! Well, the characters do, anyway. We pick up the story where Book One left off—with Gavin recovering from whatever the mad scientist did to him and Raine afraid he blames her for him becoming a lab rat…While I really enjoyed the first book in the series and thought the writing in Shadow’s Edge was very good, the writing, character development, and plot are even better in Shadow’s Soul. Gray seems to have learned a lot from writing her first book and has put that knowledge to good use in the second one. If you want a paranormal series that you can really get into, pick up The Kyn Kronicles, especially Book Two, Shadow’s Soul. I guarantee you won’t want to put it down until you’re done, and then you’ll be screaming for more! – Taylor, reviewer

Shadow’s Soul, Book 2 of The Kyn Kronicles by Jami Gray is an absolutely marvelous addition to Book 1. I love series books where I can develop a relationship with characters I can follow from book to book. While the first book in the series was good, especially for a first time author, the second book was noticeably better—as if Gray has finally come into her own. And not just because the characters got to have sex. There were parts of the first book where the writing seemed a little hesitant at times. Not unusual for a first time author. But the second book flowed much more smoothly, the plot was stronger, the story more complex…I was glad to see Raine and Gavin get hot and heavy as I was disappointed they didn’t get closer in Book 1. That said, this would have been a great book even without the sex. Though the sex scenes in Shadow’s Soul are done very well, sex scenes alone ‘do not a story make.’ A great story still needs a strong, unique plot, including a few surprises. Shadow’s Soul has those a plenty. In fact, I was riveted from page one until the very last word. I simply couldn’t put it down. To me, that is what a great story is all about. – Regan, reviewer

SHADOW’S SOUL

The Kyn Kronicles – Book 2

By

JAMI GRAY

A BLACK OPAL BOOKS PUBLICATION

Copyright 2012 by Jami Gray

Cover Art by Kimberly Killion

Copyright 2012 All Rights Reserved

EBOOK ISBN: 978-1-937329-48-8

EXCERPT

Of all the monsters she’d ever tackled, this one was giving her more problems than she’d thought possible…

Barring her teeth, Raine set her feet, gripped her wrist blades, and let the last of the protective flames blink out, leaving her exposed. The Stealer threw back its head, a long triumphant howl emerging from its throat. The sound echoed as the creature watched her with unholy glee.

Bring it on, asshole, she taunted.

It began to stalk her. Instead of the smoke and shadow form from previous encounters, it now sported a massive wolf-like body. The head was still a Dali inspired nightmare of animals who seem to share the need for sharp, pointy teeth. Grateful the chindis had decided to bow out on this one, Raine left her back unprotected so she could keep an eye on the monster in front of her.

Like the opening sequence in a dance, they matched steps. Without warning, the Stealer sprang forward, lashing out with unsheathed claws. Ducking, Raine rolled right, blade extended, aiming for a gut swipe. The monster managed to twist its spine so her first cut only scored its skin. Black ichor oozed from the ragged wound. With lightning speed the Stealer spun, unfazed by the injury. This time its sharp claws dragged bloody furrows along her lower back. Ignoring the tug of pain from the wounds, she stumbled to her feet, waiting for the next opening.

The Stealer lunged straight for her, knocking her down. Her skin shredded under its lethal nails as they ripped along her ribs and hips. Above her the monster snarled and snapped. Busy trying to keep the vicious jaws from her jugular with her left arm, she used the blade in her right hand to stab wherever she could. Her world narrowed down to pure survival.

Damn it, Gavin, where are you?’

DEDICATION

So many to thank, so little space—

This one goes to Donna Jo, because you understand how hard it is to believe in the light after a long dark journey!

As always, much love and gratitude to my knight in slightly muddy armor and the Prankster Duo—thanks for keeping that lantern lit and making sure there wasn’t a train attached!

And because none of this would be possible without them—huge thanks to the 7 Evil Dwarves and my wonderfully intelligent editor, Lauri—I wouldn’t have made it through this one without you guys!

For my readers—huge hugs and thanks for all your encouragement and comments! It verifies that someone out there is really reading this!

Finally—for all those survivors who fight to make it past the nightmares—your strength paves the way for those who follow you—thank you for never giving up!

CHAPTER 1

Blood dripped into her eyes. Raine McCord raised a hand to brush it away, smearing the warm wetness across her face. The world shimmered feverishly around her, sunlight glinting off the snow draped forest. She stumbled over a fallen log. Pain screamed through tattered nerve endings and down her right leg before the overload caused it to go limp. Collapsing to her side, she tried to protect her right shoulder, which was singing its own chorus of agonies. With a groan, she used her left hand to push herself up to her knees.

She knelt, head down, eyes closed, trying to breathe through the never-ending dizziness. She had to keep moving. Struggling to lift her heavy head, she forced her eyes open so she could focus on the ground ahead of her. You’re dead if you don’t move, Raine! her mind screamed. Faint whimpers and the sound of ragged breathing filled her ears as she dug her bloodied hands into the wet, cold dirt. Dead leaves and fallen twigs scraped against her tender palms. The chill from the patches of snow still clinging to the forest floor under the white barked trees barely made a dint in the pain.

Inadvertent sounds fell like whispers on the icy air as she pulled her battered body along the ground. Somewhere a branch cracked, jerking her attention behind her. Only drag marks denoted her path, looking as if they’d been made with scarlet paint. Forcing her attention forward, she blinked. Her vision wavered between gray and bright white. She aimed for the large, dark shape looming just out of reach.

Inch by agonizing inch, she made her way forward. The indistinct shape came into focus. It was the remains of a large tree, large enough to hide behind. Reaching the dubious protection, she managed to crawl behind it before her arms and knees gave out, sending her face first into the cold, wet earth. The winter forest was strangely silent. Each slow movement torture, she pulled her knees to her chest and curled into a ball.

Quiet. She had to be quiet. Stuffing her fist against her bruised lips, she muted the soft pain-filled noises coming from her abused throat. The rattling shivers from earlier had been replaced by a bone deep weariness. She might freeze to death, but she couldn’t find the strength to care. Closing her eyes, she let the swirling darkness and cold drag her under.

***

Her dreams included strangely soothing chants and curiously subdued drumming. It was a new experience. Generally, her nightmares involved cages, mad scientists, and monsters. At least the forest motif remained familiar. Rough edges dug into her spine. Trying not to be obvious, Raine reached behind her and found—tree bark? Slitting her eyes open, she was met with a curtain of dark, matted hair. Hazy light filtered through the strands. She rolled over. Her hair slid away to reveal a lattice work of branches above her with leaves dancing in the soft green light. Something was off. Something besides the fact that she was lying at the foot of a freaking huge tree. The towering branches swayed hypnotically. There was no wind. How did leaves dance without wind?

Gingerly she sat up, brushing her hair out of her face and snagged her hand on a twig. Pulling the tangled mass forward, she found crushed sticks and leaves snared in the inky strands. Flowing white sleeves fell back from her arms as she pushed the mess back.

White? Flowing? What the hell? She didn’t own a white, flowing anything. Jeans, leather, and steel, that’s what she was comfortable in.

The crackling of dried leaves heralded the arrival of a new player. All thoughts of the weird clothing disappeared as she instinctively moved into a crouch, reaching for her weapons. A streak of panic hit when she found nothing.

All she could do was wait. It didn’t take long before a wolf emerged from the shifting shadows. Its amber gaze was strangely calm as it padded forward then sat, like a dog. Not once did its attention waver. No dog she knew had fur blending from white to gray to black. She slowly eased back until the great oak pressed against her spine, not once breaking eye contact with the waiting animal.

Unsure of where she was, she dropped the mental barrier she held for protection between herself and the everyday world. Her senses flared to life. Thanks to her Fey heritage she could feel the presence of the natural magic in the fauna around her, a steady ebb and flow of life. If she really wanted, she could dig a little deeper and paint that energy with a visible palette of colors. A recently discovered talent which had nothing to do with her bloodlines and everything to do with her time spent as a lab rat.

She reached for her magic, only to have it slip through her psychic fingers like mist. Startled, she tried again while the strange wolf continued to watch her. The result was frustratingly the same. What the hell? she muttered.

Feeling behind her she dug her physical fingers into the rough edges of the tree bark. That was definitely real. She eyed the wolf, possible options cascading through her mind. Escape or confront?

As if reading her mind, the wolf gave her a canine grin full of very pointed teeth. The taunt was clear.

She snorted. Yeah right, Mr. Big Bad Wolf. Do I look like I’m wearing a little red hood? She was surprised at how hoarse her voice was. Only one thing had ever made her throat this raw. Problem was she couldn’t remember anything requiring that much screaming.

Red would not be your color, Raine, a female voice mocked. Raine jerked her head up so fast everything did a slow, stomach-churning spin. Once her vision settled, she was able to refocus on her surroundings. Other than the wolf and the tree behind her, everything else was shrouded in shadows and mists.

You need to come back. A woman stepped out of the shadows. Moving to stand beside the wolf, she scratched behind one gray ear. The woman was tall, taller than Raine’s own five-foot-five frame by a good couple of inches. Various shades of blonde were drawn into a simple braid. Deep brown eyes sparkled with some inner amusement. You can’t stay here.

I don’t know where here is.

The blonde tilted her head in a strange bird-like manner. Here is where you go to heal, to get away from the rest of the world. Think of it as your own personal garden of Eden.

Raine couldn’t stop the snort of disbelief or the bitter twist of her mouth.

This is the first time my Eden doesn’t look like hell, so I’m not so sure this is all my doing.

Impatience passed over the strong-boned face. Regardless, you need to go back now.

The snappy tone didn’t sit well with Raine. Rising from her crouch, she hid the shakiness of her legs with a sneer. How am I supposed to get back?

This place set her teeth on edge and getting out of here was priority number one.

Frustration tightened the woman’s lips. Don’t you know how to do this? Her voice was sharp, impatient. It’s your spirit you’ve trapped here. You have to make the decision to come back to yourself. If you don’t, you’re going to die. Her braid slid over her shoulder when she crossed her arms. A flash of comprehension passed over her face. Ah. Perhaps that’s what you want then?

Raine found her hands clenching into fists at her sides. Her instincts were screaming that danger was barreling toward her. If this is my Eden, who the hell are you?

Tala Whiteriver, and you, Raine McCord, are dying. Tala’s voice was melodic, yet there was something in the undertones which sent shivers down Raine’s spine.

The woman turned, her voice floating back to Raine. Follow then, if you have the courage.

The last was a challenge. Rising to its feet, the wolf stood, its tongue lolling out in obvious canine laughter. Tala’s figure disappeared into the thick surrounding shadows. The wolf began to follow his mistress into the haze.

Not one to ever back down, Raine stepped away from the sheltering tree. As she moved near the gray shifting shadows, the drums and chanting came back. At the edges of the glade, they became insistent, driving. A few more steps and she was in the mist of dark shadows.

They wrapped around her like ghosts, pulling her forward. A strange fear spiked deep in her bones. The flash of a tail up ahead was her only clue she was on the same path as Tala and the wolf. She tried to push the phantom mists away, but they held on, tighter than before. Obviously whatever this was, it didn’t want her to leave. She stopped her struggles and noticed the ghostly bindings began to fade as she moved forward.

Try to keep up. Tala’s voice drifted back to her. There’s no woodcutter coming to save you.

Raine’s teeth snapped together. She really disliked this woman.

Any sense of direction was compromised by the dense gray soup. Flashes of fur were Raine’s only clue she was facing forward. Time passed—she wasn’t sure how much. The fog grew lighter and the disturbing shadows dissipated. When the wolf disappeared between one blink and the next, she stepped up her pace and broke free of the shadows abruptly.

Light blinded her, while the chanting and drumbeats took up a resonant pulse in her bones.

Show me how strong you are, warrior girl. Tala’s whispered taunt cut through the chaos of noise and blinding glare of light.

A strong shove sent Raine stumbling forward. She was falling blind. Panic caused a metallic taste to coat her mouth. Blood rushed through her veins in time to the drumbeats. Colors became a dizzying kaleidoscope, while sonorous chanting infiltrated her mind like a thousand voices. As she drew a breath to scream, blinding pain hit. Every bone in her body shattered at once while acid replaced the blood in her veins. The chanting swelled until it swallowed her agonized screams, following her into the terrifying abyss.

CHAPTER 2

Something was holding Raine down. No matter how much she fought, she couldn’t get free. She couldn’t be tied down, not again. Raking out, she felt her nails score someone’s skin, but her movements were weak and uncoordinated. Every muscle felt insubstantial. And she hurt. Oh gods. The last time she had hurt like this, she had woken to find herself strapped to a lab table, changed in ways she still didn’t understand. The scientist couldn’t have gotten her again. He was dead.

She heard a whimper from somewhere.

Raine, you have to stop.

She knew that voice. The low pitched tone arrowed to her soul, spreading comfort wherever it lodged. She stilled. It couldn’t be him, her rational mind argued. She was too far from home and he wanted nothing to do with her. A hallucination then? She dragged air into her lungs, feeling her body quiver like a trapped animal. The scent of cool wind cutting through leaves and green things deep in the forest curled its way inside her. She pried her heavy lids open, wondering how broken her mind must be for her hallucinations to be so real.

Gavin? His name was a mere whisper of sound.

Hey. His jade green eyes were dark with concern. Not cold, not angry, but worried. That wasn’t right. Maybe she was still dreaming? You need to lie still, okay?

She tried to nod, only to stop when a sharp pain etched its way through her skull. There was no holding back the harsh sound that escaped her dry lips.

Since moving her head was out of the equation, she let her gaze travel around—slowly, so she wouldn’t pass out from the reeling images. The drums and chanting were gone, replaced by the snap, crackle of flames. Somewhere nearby a fire provided the only source of light in the darkened room.

The touch of a cool cloth drew her attention back to the man next to her. She studied him, some unacknowledged part of her hungering for the sight of him. His auburn hair was pulled back, leaving his high cheekbones and strong jaw line exposed. She hadn’t seen him in three months, a deliberate move on her part. Her guilt over what had happened to him was a handy tool in avoiding contact. So, why was he here now? And where exactly was here?

He gently trailed the cloth over her brows, along her burning cheeks, only to stop when he reached her chin. Little rivulets of water trickled down her neck. She said nothing, not wanting to break this strange spell. Besides, with her luck, anything she said would have his concern icing over to anger. For now, she’d enjoy what she could. She found dark circles under his eyes and his face seemed a bit thinner. He hadn’t been taking care of himself.

He moved the cloth down her neck, gently running it over the collar-like scar on her neck. You remember anything? The question was soft.

She closed her eyes, shutting his distracting presence out and pulled her memories together. She recalled being summoned into her boss’s office at Taliesin Security in Portland, Oregon, and that Mulcahy had given her a new assignment, bodyguard. And she wouldn’t be guarding some high profile human. Oh no, instead she was protecting an even higher profile Kyn—Cheveyo.

Head of the Magi House, Cheveyo was responsible for all the witches, shamans, and wizards residing in the Northwest. He had been asked by the head of the Southwest Magi House to come to Arizona and assist her on an existing problem.

Four hours later, Raine had boarded a private plane with the most powerful witch in the Northwest, who just also happened to be her current mentor and pain in the ass. With no security to run through, she was able to keep her weapons. A definite perk of private air travel. They left Portland’s slushy snow and freezing temperatures and landed in Phoenix’s balmy sixty-seven degrees with clear skies.

She had followed Cheveyo to the waiting rental car and proceeded to check the vehicle for any hidden threats, magical or practical. Only then did she let him put their bags in the trunk. Once on the road, she took exception to the GPS’s assurance that taking a right wouldn’t send them careening off the overpass. After her rather loud disagreement with the stupid computer, Cheveyo took over and directed her out of Phoenix and toward Flagstaff. At one point, they had stopped for gas while he rechecked his directions.

As they got out of the car, she’d have had to been blind to miss the bevy of feminine attention he garnered. His Native American heritage was apparent in his straight black collar length hair, which framed a strong face. Being taller than most men only added to his quiet, compelling presence.

Walking beside him, Raine felt those same glances land on her then quickly shy away. Unlike her companion, she would never be mistaken for anything other than what she was—lethal. She looked young, most Kyn did, but her eyes held too much for others to be comfortable around her. She hadn’t even flashed any of her scars. The long sleeves of her jacket and her turtleneck tucked into faded jeans hid them all. Her jacket wasn’t for the cold, but to help hide the various blades lying at her wrists and back.

As Cheveyo had chatted with the clerk, Raine kept her face professionally blank, while scanning their surroundings. The key skill when guarding someone was to be inconspicuous, but to miss nothing.

Directions in hand, they continued into the mountains. Turning off the highway, they had driven through winding roads seemingly leading to nowhere. Here winter was in full display. Snow dusted the tall trees and covered the ground in a white blanket.

Cheveyo had her turn onto a dirt road. They bumped along, long enough for dusk to fall. As sunlight began to fade, she caught movement from her left and stomped on the brakes. A deer turned panicked eyes toward her before bounding away. A shiver of fear worked its way down her spine the moment her gaze met the deer’s, but nothing else came out of the woods.

She turned to warn Cheveyo that something felt wrong, when her blood turned to ice. The air seemed to grow heavy, thick. Malice rode through the deepening shadows like an insidious mist. She scrambled out of the car, trying to locate what was heading their way. Unreasoning fear blossomed when she couldn’t find what she was supposed to fight. The fear grew, until it choked her.

Standing with her back to Cheveyo’s, they had begun to put up a protective circle when darkness slammed into them. Then her memories twisted into nightmares.

She was flying through the air, her body’s path abruptly halted by a tree. The cracking of her ribs was lost in the impact. Then she fell, barely able to get her feet under her when she landed. Still there was no actual form to fight. She couldn’t see Cheveyo, but could hear his voice, thunderous and commanding, calling in a language she didn’t recognize. The darkness was so complete she couldn’t make out her own hands.

She realized the threat was this overwhelming darkness and whatever hid inside its shadows. Normally her eyesight was such she could see even in the deepest night. Like infrared vision, she would register heat in various shades of orange and red. There, in that unnatural darkness, was nothing. No flares of color, not even the heat from her own body.

Her highly honed instincts told her the thing was focused on Cheveyo, so she inched into a crouch, ignoring the screaming protests of her ribs, until her fingers brushed the hilts of her boot blades. Drawing them out, she whispered the command to trigger the protection spells on her weapons. The devouring darkness paused as the magic flared to life and her blades were outlined in blue-white flames. Without warning, the living darkness rushed her. She felt it, like thousands of fingers poking through skin and bone. The attack was so unexpected she couldn’t draw in a breath to scream as it began to rip pieces of her magic from the bones of her soul.

Her blades fell into the opaque stew. Their light flickered out like fading stars as she frantically pulled her magic back. Instinct had her trying to raise the shields Cheveyo had been teaching her. The clawing fingers kept plucking on tendons and sinew, finding old scars, tearing through layers and digging deep. She managed to get her inner barriers up, reinforcing them with cobbled pieces of her magic.

Claws closed over her right thigh, on top of a recently acquired burn scar, and snapped the bone in half. She stupidly thought, That didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would, before the flash fire ripped through her leg, driving her to the ground. Those destructive hands changed their grip to her shoulder and slammed her into an unyielding surface. The agony of her bones shattering barely made a dent to her battered body.

That inhuman grasp released her, letting her torn body fall to the forest floor. She wasn’t sure how long she lay there, unmoving. When she could finally raise her head, the darkness was seeping away through the trees. Her vision faded in and out, but she could swear there was someone standing just on the edge of the clearing.

Cheveyo? Her voice had been weak and unsteady. There was no answer, except a chilling laugh following her into unconsciousness.

As the memories slowed, Raine opened her eyes. I woke up and began crawling. She was unable to meet Gavin’s eyes and swallowed hard. She couldn’t admit how fear had made her want to hide. How her vow to protect Cheveyo had fractured under the strain. It didn’t matter if she was one of the most feared warriors in the Kyn society. That darkness had been so fast, so destructive it had terrified her. It had reduced her to the same child who’d been chained to a lab table at fifteen. The realization had her turning her head away, trying to hide the shame choking her.

Pull yourself together. The words were sharp, verging on cruel. Fingers grasped her chin none too gently. She snapped her eyes open, only to be caught by the merciless demand of his gaze. You can’t fall apart. We need to find Cheveyo and figure out what the hell is going on here.

His attitude brought a small snarl to her mouth before she could fight it down. He had no right to judge her. He hadn’t been there. Something she didn’t understand flashed across his grim face and was quickly hidden as she jerked her chin out of his hand. The abrupt movement sent blades of pain flaring through her head. How did you get here? she hissed.

You didn’t check in. He absently traced the inked Celtic markings circling her left shoulder. Mulcahy ordered Xander and me down here to find out what was going on. He frowned as her lips curled in a snarl. He gave you three days before he sent us in.

So Xander found me, she said. Xander was the best tracker in the Northwest.

No. He shook his head. We got a call en-route that Tala Whiteriver had found you.

Her eyes widened. Blonde? Tall? Has a pet wolf?

Tension tightened his jaw. You met her?

In a manner of speaking. She went to raise her right hand to rub her aching head only to find she couldn’t. Looking down, she saw it was wrapped tightly with a splint. She was in my dream. Sneaking a look under her lashes at Gavin, she caught a shadow rising behind him. Her body was moving before her mind clicked in. She was half way out of the bed before he stopped her.

Firelight flared and illuminated the tall blonde in question. Sorry to startle you. The mocking tone undermined the apology. I’m glad to see you made it.

Not like you gave me much of a choice, Raine muttered trying not to groan as Gavin helped her lay back down.

The tinkling of Tala’s laughter floated through the air. That laugh was dangerous. It rang around Raine, pressing her to drop her guard and relax her defenses. The false sense of security had her refocusing and trying to bring her mental shields into full play. The woman must have some Fey running through her blood to pull off such glamour against another Kyn. Especially one with Fey blood. Tricksy, very tricksy.

Tala moved to Gavin’s side, laying her hand across Raine’s sweat beaded brow. Good try, warrior, but you need the rest.

Warmth seeped into her bones, leaching the pain from them, allowing her muscles to relax. She could feel her eyes growing heavy. No, don’t want to sleep, she said, her voice slurred.

Shh. Tala’s voice was soft. You need it.

Gavin’s fingers stroked down her arm, and Raine clenched his hand tightly.

He squeezed back. I’ll be right here.

She let her eyes flutter closed. There was a faint brush of warmth on her forehead, but it was so faint maybe she imagined it. Regardless, it made her feel safe. Holding his hand, she fell into the waiting darkness.

CHAPTER 3

When Raine opened her eyes, sunlight was drifting across her face. A spicy scent of burning wood layered the air. She lay in a comfortable bed, her fingers drifting over the soft earth toned patchwork. She realized it no longer hurt to breathe. Moving her head slowly, she released a small sigh of relief when nothing complained.

She let her attention roam around the silent room. There was a simple wooden dresser with a mirror, sitting on the same wall as a partially opened door. This was not the same place of drums and firelight. Rolling to her side to sit up, she stopped short remembering the splint on her right arm. She looked down to find her arm bare, no splint in sight. That was weird. Although Kyn could heal much faster than humans, it would still take time to heal all the damage she had sustained. She tested her arm, using it to prop herself up. It was sore, but working. Same with her shoulder.

She drew the quilt off her legs, needing to assess the damage to her thigh. She was clad in an oversized T-shirt and little else. A lingering scent teased the edges of her mind, but it was buried under the memory of her bone snapping in half. Ghostly echoes of pain crawled over her body. Fighting to get her breathing under control, she ran a shaky hand over her thigh. Besides the weird hand-shaped scars, it looked normal. She pushed herself up on to her legs and when they began to shake, she used the dresser to hobble to the door.

Passing the mirror her reflection brought her to a stop. Long, dark hair lay in a tangled mess around her abnormally pale skin. Sunken gray eyes and sharp cheekbones had her giving the Grim Reaper a run for his money. She must have been out of it for a while. The T-shirt hung on her, the hem barely covering the scar on her thigh. The other scars on her wrists and neck were plainly visible, but the colorful artwork ringing her upper arms was hidden under the short sleeves. She was grateful to see no new scars in her existing collection.

Turning away from her image, she reached out and pulled the door open. The sound of voices drew her down the short carpeted hallway to an open room where three people sat. She stopped in the entry way to lean against the wall.

Exhaustion etched new lines in Gavin’s face. His long frame was slumped into a big easy chair, his booted feet stretched toward the fireplace with its merrily snapping flames. She fought the urge to offer comfort. She knew damn well he’d push her away. He didn’t appear to be listening to the conversation between the room’s other two occupants.

Tala sat forward on a small couch, elbows resting on jean clad knees. Her face was somber and one hand was absently combing between the ears of the black and gray wolf whose head rested on her knee. "There were no clues left around