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A Kiss of Ashen Twilight: Ashen Twilight Series, #1
A Kiss of Ashen Twilight: Ashen Twilight Series, #1
A Kiss of Ashen Twilight: Ashen Twilight Series, #1
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A Kiss of Ashen Twilight: Ashen Twilight Series, #1

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From award-winning author Rae Lori: Ariya, an Aziza Faerie, crosses into the mortal realm to escape a vicious and deadly elemental creature. She discovers an underground world of Nightwalkers, Lycans and Shifter Elves hiding beneath human's eyes. When she falls for the Nightwalker Regent Prince Jace Archane, love and loyalties are tested as an age-old rivalry unmasks a new enemy.


Voted Best Paranormal Book of the Month - ManyBooks April 2021

Release dateOct 1, 2015
A Kiss of Ashen Twilight: Ashen Twilight Series, #1
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    A Kiss of Ashen Twilight - Rae Lori

    A RavenFire Books Production

    For information on the cover illustration and design, contact Rachel@Raelori.com

    Cover art by RavenFire Media

    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

    This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

    For centuries, a group of immortals consisting of Nightwalkers, Lycans, and Shifter Elves have lived under mortal eyes. Banding together for safety and survival, they created the Ashen Twilight houses led by a select group of Patriarchs and Regents.

    Outside of the mortal realm, the Aziza fairies dwell in peace as a benevolent race of immortals assisting human hunters on their quests. Much of their knowledge of mortals are gathered from centuries of study. Their knowledge of other immortals? Gained from fiction accounts in fairy tales and mythology.

    Truth will clash with fantasy. History will blur into the present...

    As the world of the mortal realm and the faerie realm collide under the dusky moonlit night.

    From the Night, the Prince Rises


    Highlands, Scotland 1465

    LIAM BLAKEDON STARED AT THE LOCH, watching the thick leather-bound journal disappear under the rippling black water. Years had passed since he started the first entry. The book was a history of his life, especially the time he spent under the service of his laird, Archane. He recorded many hours of training techniques he learned over the years and applied on the battlefield. Some moves he created himself and passed it on to the other soldiers under his Laird Archane’s watch. So many men he had come to know during that time had become like brothers to him. Good memories they were, possibly the best times in his life. But the events washed away like a morning dew dried by the rise of the sun.

    Now he was ready to let the past become a stone in the river of time where it belonged.

    Blakedon brushed a dark strand of hair away from his face. The biting cold air sent his body into a shiver as the heavy armor that clung to his tunic did little to keep him warm.

    He rested his arm on the sword sheathed at his side as he heard the soft exhale of the horse behind him.

    Memories of the past still haunted him like a whisper in the passing wind. He still remembered the way his wife looked in the last days leading up to the birth of their son.

    Beautiful Lady Marie Germaine.

    Her dark gray somber eyes had watched the lake outside the castle as if she were witness to another world beneath the water. In the days she became his, Marie shared barely more than pleasantries with him. She had been carrying Archane’s child in those days, with most of her time spent retreating to the lake to stare wistfully into its watery bed. How close she stood to the edge of that lake made him uneasy. He would watch her closely as she cradled her arm around her swollen stomach, never lifting a gaze until he spoke first. Though he worried, he assured himself she wouldn't do anything to harm herself while she was with child.

    The boy’s day of birth still haunted him. Marie’s blood-curdling screams echoed across the castle walls and outside the large wooden doors as if she were bearing a nightmare while grasping for sweet life.

    Blakedon waited outside, fighting the urge to run into that room and take her in his arms. If he could tear away the pain, he would battle it until its last dying death in exchange for her life.

    Then everything changed when she screamed that name.

    Julian Archane.

    That name.

    Blakedon balled up his fists. Even after Julian Archane's disappearance, she still called for him in her most dire hour. True, he was her first husband and their son’s true father, but none of that mattered anymore. She should have let him go the moment he abandoned both mother and child.

    Blakedon still hated him. He hated the pained expression Marie carried and the tears that fell from her eyes whenever he held her.

    He had been there since the day Julian became laird. As First Guard, it was his duty to train the soldiers and lead them to battle if the English threatened to invade.

    He was even there for Marie’s arrival in the days leading to her wedding to Julian Archane.

    Ever since she arrived from France and he saw her on the hand of her father, Baron Henri Germaine, Blakedon loved her. He loved the way the soft velvet gowns draped over her body, affirming her regal beauty. Pieces of her long dark hair were pulled into intricate braids, framing the crown of her head as the rest of it flowed in waves down her back. He desired her even then, but she wasn’t his to have. She was of noble blood, out of his station, and in Julian’s.

    He trusted his laird to care for her.

    But he failed.

    As much as his heart belonged to her and as much as he gave her, she never looked at him like she did Julian Archane. Even when he took her as a wife after Julian’s disappearance, her warm eyes never sparkled with passion, nor did her touch feel as warm. Her heart still belonged to him.

    After everything he had done to pick up the pieces of what Julian Archane had left behind, Blakedon had received but a piece of her heart. More than anything, he deserved it all.

    Again, he remembered then how haunting her screams were, reaching across the castle walls like a dark foreshadow of impending death. Blakedon had rushed in, hoping to find her in time before it was too late.

    But the spark of life was slowly draining from her eyes.

    ‘Julian,’ she had said as soon as he entered the room. ‘I wish you could have seen our son.’

    Even as she died in childbirth, she still uttered that vile name.

    Blakedon scooped her up into his arms and held her close to him. Chest to chest. Heart to heart. He sensed the life slip from her. Her heartbeat had slowed to a quiet rhythm before it died to everlasting silence.

    Then she was gone.

    Behind him, Marie's chambermaids whispered and cried softly among themselves.

    ‘She died of a broken heart, she did,’ one had said.

    ‘The poor dear,’ another exclaimed through fresh tears.     

    Blakedon dared them to say those words to his face. He had ordered them out, pushing each one out the door before slamming it in their faces. Then he held her again, holding her as he fought his own tears that welled up inside of him.

    He regretted not taking her for himself the moment he saw her. She would still be alive today, and they would be together until their last dying breath. For even as she lay dying, she still thought of the selfish husband that had left her.

    But it was in the past now.

    A forgotten page in the history book of time.

    The gentle rustle of tall grass mixed with the soft blow of horse somewhere behind him, growing louder as the rider drew near. Blakedon welcomed the interruption from his memories. It was long past time he moved on to the future and leave the dark thoughts buried.

    The horse exhumed a whinny as it came to a halt. The thump of leather boots to the ground alerted him that one of his men was approaching.

    "We are ready, mo fathair."

    Blakedon turned and met the gaze of his son, Avery. He was young, about mid-twenties, with dark, wavy hair and bright blue eyes. He looked so much like Marie. And, as much as he hated to admit it, his true father. A man he would never know. Blakedon would make sure of it.

    The boy leaned on his sword with one arm and looked ahead. I shall miss this river, he murmured. We had many good memories. Many nights I looked o’er the water and dream’t of mother. How proud she must be.

    An’ she shall be proud of ye, my boy, he said, patting his son’s shoulder. I promise that. She watches over us now from above. I can feel her.

    His son looked at the ground, shuffling his feet as he thought his words over before speaking. What will become of me? The man hasn’t returned since... since what happened at the inn.

    I know. Liam Blakedon thought about the stranger they met nights before. The man—no, the thing—that changed his boy into a creature more than human. Alexandru Drago, he thought someone had called him, but he couldn’t be sure.

    The stranger had also given him more strength and a promise of a longer life in exchange for assistance in combating a larger threat. Immortals, he had called them. Soon a prince would rise, and he would use these immortals to give them a life without death.

    Blakedon had already seen the effects of the change on his son the night after. The boy seemed to die one night before waking the next eve thirsting for blood. There was no heartbeat, and his skin was as cold as a winter storm.

    Yet he still lived, just as the stranger said he would.

    And he would remain with that thirst for blood as the moon rose and fell each night. Avery told him he felt alive whenever he fed. Alive and human once again.

    Perhaps this was for the best. Blakedon needed to become immortal to bring down his former laird. Julian Archane was out there somewhere. His presence persisted like a black cloud over the lands.

    One day soon... death will finally claim ye, Archane. By my hands.

    Blakedon turned away from the river and led his son back to the group of guards waiting by their horses. They had until morning before leaving Inverness and their past behind. Soon his son would need to sleep when the sun rose again.

    In the light of the sunlit day, Avery's body was stone cold dead with no movement or sign of life until nightfall. The stranger had warned them this would happen. As long as the boy kept to the shadows, he would be well.

    Blakedon climbed onto his horse and clicked his heels against the saddle. He settled in for the long journey ahead as he led the men back onto the dirt road. His mind raced, plotting how he would bring about his dark laird’s demise. He would revel in seeing Julian and all his men fall to their knees.

    For in the hall of Avery’s legacy, there will only be one left standing. As he looked at the boy riding tall beside him, Liam Blakedon was sure of it. The fates were sealed, and a new prince shall rise...


    Light and Shadow

    Chapter 1

    Ariya awoke with a sharp gasp on her lips. She was safe in her bed, but the images of the dream still echoed in her mind. The same dream happened every night, and tonight it continued without fail.

    Blood covered the lands, darkening the bright green blades of grass to angry shades of red. Swords clashed upon swords, filling the air with the sharp cling of metal. Ear-piercing screams of battle followed thereafter. The sky blackened to near-empty darkness. On the grounds below, severed heads sat impaled upon stakes erected from the ground. The soldiers wore folded plaids draped around their armor. Some knelt to drink blood from the fallen while others raised their weapons in victory.

    This wasn’t just a dream. It felt more like a memory from a time long ago. Where and when she wasn’t sure.

    One man always stood out among the carnage, untouched and unscathed. His handsome, chiseled features were accented by the flow of his long, wavy dark hair. Body carved to perfection. Taut, angular curves revealed the hard lines of muscle beneath the skin.

    This was the third dream in a row these past two nights.

    Calm yourself, Ariya. You’re home now. You’re safe.

    Staring ahead, she focused on the architecture that made up her home. The smooth, white marble glistened milky white under the watchful rays of the moonlight. Crystal windows offset the dark antique Aziza statues of Mawu-Lisa and her Aziza Fae kin. The familiar regal purple satin draping and light blue curtains offered no comfort to her unsettled mind this night.

    Months had passed since her sisters’ deaths, and still, she felt their absence.

    Shya. Rhea.

    Ariya wished for their calm words and sisterly squabbles, especially now.

    For months, the land had been whispering of another attack. Ariya felt something looming on the horizon. Whenever she found her parents speaking in hushed tones, they stopped the moment she entered the room.

    What were they not telling her?

    With a sigh on her lips, Ariya swung her legs over the bed and set her feet on the ground. Quiet stillness settled in the atmosphere. Heat emanated from outside, creeping through the walls. Something wasn’t right.


    Ariya turned toward her door. Was somebody there? Her heart pounded loudly, echoing in her ears.

    Gently, she slipped her feet into the soft, warm slippers next to her bed and slowly started toward the door. It could be one of the Aziza guards on their a nightly patrol, or maybe it was Cidra. Ariya exhaled softly and opened her senses. The velvety sensation was a comfort against her skin. She welcomed the sweet distraction. Fragments of the nightmare pierced her thoughts like the prickle of a needle breaking through skin.

    She opened the door.

    Shadows covered the darkened hall, but no one was around.

    A black shadow danced on the wall, mirroring the tree outside the window. Its branches and leaves cracked against the glass in reaction to the brush of the wild wind.

    Why did this feel like a dream? Her mind grew hazy. She could almost see herself walking through the dark hall with her silky white nightdress glowing brightly against her bronze skin. The glimmer of the moonlight surrounded her in a soft blue haze.


    She shook her head. This was not a dream. She had to focus!

    The palace spread out around her, a glistening white marble structure, complete with matching triptychs depicting her family. Wide arched door frames and dome-shaped ceilings added a touch of elegance. From what she had read in her texts, the architecture surpassed that of the great monuments in the mortal world. Stone walls lined the interior hallways with dark crimson velvet curtains to soften the harsh bright colors, and family portraits filled the walls alongside the gold-trimmed staircase. Silence filled the hall with only the sharp crack of branches outside the windows to break it.

    Too silent for this time of night.

    Ariya turned toward the hall terrace, where the doors sat wide open. A soft brush of wind swayed the curtains every which way. Those doors were closed before... Did someone open them recently? But why during a windstorm?

    A chill ran through her.

    It was here.

    Nanà. Daa.

    She had to find them before it was too late!

    No, Ariya!

    Her mother’s voice rang clear within her mind.

    It’s too late for us! Go now!

    A loud screech echoed from below the stairs, accompanied by the slam of a door. Ariya turned and ran to her room. She closed the door just as a streak of pain nearly crippled her. Something constricted her heart, stifling her breathing. She fell to her knees, hearing the echo of her father’s cry throughout the palace. A horde of footsteps padded across the sleek floor as guards yelled commands into the night.

    She had to do something!

    No, Ariya! Listen to me. Just escape! It’s too late.

    What about daa? Where is he?

    Gone. He is gone, Ariya.

    Memories of when she was a child sneaking quiet moments in the study raced back to her. Many nights, her father would find her curled up in a chair with an open book in her lap. He would pick her up and tuck her in her own bed, leaving her with a parting kiss on her forehead. He couldn’t be gone. He couldn’t.

    Thick, icy darkness penetrated the air. Ariya inhaled softly and then exhaled, hoping and praying that she didn't choke before reaching the window. She bolted forward and dove over the terrace rails as her wings came to life, softening her landing.

    Don’t stop, Ariya! Run! Go to the mortal realm immediately!

    Her parents warned her about crossing into the mortal realm, but she couldn’t wait. The creature had come back for her, and despite her wish to save her parents, no Aziza would live if she were to fall. Her mother had given strict orders to escape if it ever returned. Ariya gave her word, and as an Aziza Fae, she was honored to keep it.

    "Go, Ariya! Just go!"

    With all the energy she could muster, she ran, embracing the comfort of the still night. Seconds later, she heard a loud blast and looked over her shoulder. The bright crystal and marble magnificence of the palace exploded with crumbled marble, stone, and glass amid tall, blazing ethereal flames.

    The rush of adrenaline pushed her on, forcing her toward the edge of the forest. More screams drew her attention back to the destruction. A rippling form flowed around the flaming palace like a bird in flight. In its grasp, she saw her parent’s dark forms slowly disappear into the entity. Words escaped her as she finally laid eyes on the creature.

    It was like the wind itself. No form, just a slight ripple of movement in the air. It wasn’t like anything she had seen before, but she felt it. Male, ancient, and powerful. Why was it so familiar?

    Whatever it was, it wasn’t an Asiman creature.

    My lady.

    Ariya almost didn’t hear her maiden guard behind her.

    You must escape before it is too late, Cidra said.

    My parents— Ariya turned back to what was once her home and sanctuary.

    "They are distracting the creature while you escape. It seeks you. Cidra grabbed her arm and forced their gazes to meet. There is no time. We will stage a diversion to help you escape, but you must go! Now!"

    Cidra waved her away from the scene as the sounds of destruction spread across the lands surrounding the palace. As she ran across the wide bed of grass, Ariya looked back. There, under the swirling cloud of air, Cidra led the band of female Aziza Amazon guards into battle. One by one, they went down as the creature blocked and ricocheted their powers back to them. Some were drained of their life-force, yet unlike her sisters, their blood remained. It was as if the creature sensed their powers and homed in to fuel itself from their life-force. Ariya forced herself to look away. She ran, cursing herself every step of the way. No matter if her father ordered her to leave, she felt like a coward for abandoning her guardians.

    As she ran, Ariya tried with all her might to bore the images of death out of her mind’s eye.

    Mawu-Lisa, please usher my people into a peaceful passage...

    From this world into the next.


    Jace Archane dug his fingernails into the pillow beneath the woman under him. He braced his body to slam violently from the oncoming orgasm rising from his feet before claiming every fiber of his body. The girl moaned with excitement and writhed under his hard form. He reveled in the feel of her around him. Slowly, his teeth dug deeper into her neck, mouth opening wider to receive the warm liquid trickling into his throat. She was young, nubile, and glowing with the vigor of desire for him that reached her hungry eyes. Tonight, he wanted to drink until he passed out with contentment. His Uncle Julian had called him in earlier, but he couldn’t deal with business just yet. The old man would blow his top if he missed the meeting tonight.

    But Jace didn’t care.

    No matter what the bloodlines said, he wasn’t ready to be Patriarch of the House of Blood. After all, he was just settling into centuries worth of Regent duties. Time was on his side. He was still a young, virile man at nearly six hundred years old. This was the perfect time for their kind to roam freely under mortal eyes. Representations of vampires served as entertainment for the mortals, especially hot, heaving women with a weakness for bad boys. They weren’t hunted down and tortured like in the old days of the witch hunt; now, they were revered and worshiped in mortal books, television, movies, and radio. If it ever got out that immortals lived among them, it’d be chaos right in their very own backyard. It was better to leave these creatures with their imaginations rather than force them to face the truth.

    Jace cleared his mind and focused. Tonight was the perfect setting for a satisfying meal.

    The thought sent him over the edge once again, as he arched his torso with the shockwaves of pleasure igniting beneath his skin. His hips slammed into her with one last thrust. A deep primal groan emitted from the back of his throat into the quiet candlelit bedroom. He closed his eyes, allowing the calmer waves of pleasure to wash over him.

    Then he remembered the silence.

    Jace looked at his lover and saw her once deep blue eyes now icily staring into darkness forever. He waited too long once again. Her thin, pale body already grew cold as he gently closed her eyes. Stringy, blond tresses splayed across his five thousand-count Egyptian cotton pillows. Fresh dark red blood stood out like a taunting cry against his designer white cotton sheets. The stain was a reminder of the eternal curse that led to this deadly feed. With a gentle kiss on her cheek, he reached for the cordless phone and dialed a number.

    This was second nature to him. Although he was like other Nightwalkers in needing blood to survive, he had been the only one to kill when he did. The guilt was too heavy to carry, and he drowned it out any way he could.

    Jace let out a deep sigh, rubbing his hand over his face as he waited for his party to pick up. Like always, his body descended from the high while warming from the feed. He already missed the bliss of the high, even though more pressing matters waited for him than his unquenchable thirst.

    Polidori here.

    Hey, Angel. It’s Jace.

    Well, well, well, your highness. What could I do for you, your grace?

    Jace chuckled. I’m far from high royalty – just an heir moonlighting as a foot soldier for Julian.

    Not just any heir, handsome, she said. Julian would have your head if you forgot how important you really are.

    He doesn’t give me enough time to forget. That’s not why I called, though. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. I got another accidental necro on my hands.

    The feed again?

    Jace looked over his shoulder at the motionless girl next to him. Apparently so.

    Well, Angel sighed. Hang tight, and I’ll be over in ten. Your problem will disappear under an hour.

    I can’t stay. Jace pushed off the bed, heading for the large wall-length closet across the room. A line of crisp suits, pants, and dressy tees hung from fancy gold hangers. Beneath the clothes, the floor was lined with expensive designer shoes perched against the wall. Got an emergency meeting tonight with Julian. Okay if I leave her near the door?

    Angel scoffed, and though he couldn’t see her, he knew she was shaking her head. It’s all right if you want to risk nosy human neighbors sniffing around.

    I’ll risk it.

    After a quick rest stop, Jace stepped out onto the street. The cold night air brushed against his equally cold skin. Even if he were alive, the chill wouldn’t affect him. Centuries of ancient Scottish and Viking blood ran through his veins; the colder the weather, the better. In fact, he preferred it to the heat, and especially the sun. It reminded him of home in the Highland mountains so long ago.

    Jace loved the sounds of the surrounding city. Of all the places he visited, downtown Phoenix was the calmest and low-key of them all. Everyone stayed in their own worlds and paid no mind to strangers passing by. Just how he liked it.

    Now, summer was near in the city. The temperature flirted with the cold one day and teased with a warm caress of heat the next. City nightlife burst with vitality from the car horns, bright lights, and unsuspecting humans walking the streets.

    He breathed in deeply, sensing the flurry of people and their thoughts and emotions as plain as the expressions on their faces. Even though his body was full from the recent feed, his nostrils tickled with the smell of blood nearby. The city dwellers smiled, laughed, and conversed among themselves. So blissfully unaware they were. Not knowing the world that lived under their radar for so many centuries.

    Jace tightened the loose leather jacket around his body. He had to go; Angel would be here soon, but he couldn’t wait for her any longer. Julian would be calling any moment now. The old man was probably bursting a vein waiting for his arrival.

    Jace stifled a smile as he imagined Julian trying to calm himself despite his bulging eyes and stiffened ears saying otherwise. Sometimes it was the little things that made this life worthwhile. His driver opened the back door to the waiting limo, and Jace climbed in.

    The Ashen Twilight House was located downtown, at the heart of the Phoenix art culture. A massive green lawn and large foliage obscured the structure, hiding it from the patrons who walked by. The ancient gothic European architecture was a stark contrast from the typical southwestern ranch style homes in the area. Although it scared the crap out of the town’s older residents, it was a scream for the young and young at heart during Halloween.

    Thankfully, the streets were bare this evening, and they arrived about half an hour later in front of the large house illuminated by the dim lights delicately placed around the front lawn. The limo rounded the circular driveway and stopped. As Jace stepped out, he spotted the three prominent sports cars parked out front. The black Lincoln town car belonged to his Uncle Julian, Patriarch over the House of Blood. The hunter-green 1956 Jaguar Roadster belonged to Michael Hammond, Patriarch over the House of Lycans. Finally, the dark green Corvette was Daoine Oberon’s, Patriarch over the House of Shifter Elves. Julian planned to pass down the Lincoln when Jace’s time came. As much as Jace admired the beauty of that car, he wasn’t ready to take the House of Blood’s throne or give up his BMW Volga Roadster. Sooner or later, his uncle would have to understand that. His life belonged to him to do with as he pleased. He was a Nightwalker, not a politician.

    Jace ran up the steps to the front doors and waited until they opened. A small gathering conversed in the foyer. He immediately recognized Brenden, the tall, bald vampire in black sunglasses serving as head of security. How the man sustained a slight tan in his undead status was beyond Jace’s understand, but the man wore it well. Plus, it helped him blend in a little more with the mortals.

    Gael Almadovar spoke to Brenden in small gestures and a hushed voice. Jace smiled once he caught his best friend’s attention.

    Gael took his office as Regent in the House of Shifter Elves seriously. On the outside, he was calm, rarely showing any sign of impatience. One wouldn’t know he had been a fierce warrior in his time, leading thousands of troops outside the steps of Alhambra and her neighbors in the mid-fifteenth century. Gael’s warm, dark tawny complexion, piercing green eyes, and the visible dimples on his cheeks combined with his groomed goatee and striking Moorish features garnered him attention from all the ladies.

    Not at the Torch tonight, Gael? I thought we were meeting there with Rich.

    We are. A hint of the Andalusian accent still lingered on his tongue after all these centuries. I had to see Daoine beforehand, but he’s in some big meeting with the other Patriarchs. I’d proceed cautiously if I were you.

    Jace scoffed. Big surprise there. See you in a few hours.

    Gael gave him a small salute. See you.

    The soft, muffled voices filtered to the East Wing of the hall. To any mortal, it would sound like a low hum, indecipherable, and barely recognizable as voices. Jace heard them, yet still, he couldn’t make out what they were talking about. Usually, he tried not to interfere in the surrounding conversations.

    He exhaled heavily. Here we go.

    When he opened the double doors and stepped in, the three house patriarchs looked in his direction. Jace straightened his posture and held his head high. Into the fire.

    My dear Uncle. Jace held his arms out, smiling. I came as soon as you called.

    Julian stood around six feet with the looks of a smooth, handsome man in his late thirties. Baby blue eyes complemented a mane of wavy brown hair tied back in a low ponytail. The designer suits he wore made him look like a businessman always ready to close the deal. Jace could pass as his son, and since losing his father so long ago, he considered the old man his surrogate. The truth wasn’t too far off, considering their lineage within the House of Blood. Jace would be next in line for the Patriarch if anything happened to Julian, barring him stepping down. The chances of that happening were akin to Jace joining the priesthood.

    The older Nightwalker stepped out from behind his desk to join Michael and Daoine in the middle of the room. He kept his gaze on Jace as he placed his hands on his friends’ shoulders and spoke.

    Gentleman, I do believe this meeting is adjourned. Julian’s voice was tight, intensifying the gaze he threw Jace’s way.

    Did I miss something? Jace smirked as he peered at each of the Patriarchs.

    Elder business—we were just finishing up. Julian’s voice was overly chipper and polite.

    Oh, this was heavy. No worries. Jace knew how to play to his uncle’s wishes. It was nothing he couldn’t handle.

    Until next time, Julian, Michael’s gruff voice was deep, spreading throughout the room. His tall stature, stern gaze, and intimidating disposition would alert any mortal of the beast beneath the human facade. His long, blonde wavy mane and ruggedly handsome good looks meshed with his strong muscular build. He looked like a wrestler and could probably take on the best of them even outside of his wolf form. A sly smile crossed the Lycan’s lips as he nodded on his way out. Jace.

    Daoine was another story. Tall, lithe, and mystical, he was enchanting. Thin, angular features and pronounced cheekbones accented his regal look. Any human in the vicinity would be enraptured by his presence alone. No one knew his exact age. From the moment he became a Shifter Elf, his youthful appearance would be his one eternal companion.

    Jace, Daoine said in a voice reminiscent of soft choir bells.

    Gentleman. Jace waited until their footsteps quelled to silence before closing the doors behind him. He turned to face his uncle with a broad smile on his lips.

    Uncle Julian, I can’t say how happy—

    Julian’s hand whipped across Jace’s face like lightning, backhanding him

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