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Seven Dark Treasures

Seven Dark Treasures

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Seven Dark Treasures

Length:
229 pages
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 29, 2020
ISBN:
9781005994440
Format:
Book

Description

As a male siren, Aven is rendered mute above the waves. A deal with a sea witch for a human voice sends him on an adventure with a woman desperate to break her own curse. Will the dark forces that surround them tear them apart? Or will they give into the tidal force of love?

Publisher:
Released:
Sep 29, 2020
ISBN:
9781005994440
Format:
Book

About the author

Britt DeLaney lives and writes near Philadelphia. In her spare time she watches too much Netflix, eats too many Pop-Tarts, and is currently writing her ass off.


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Seven Dark Treasures - Britt DeLaney

SEVEN DARK TREASURES

Britt DeLaney

Digital Edition

Copyright 2020 Britt DeLaney

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

About the Author

Other Books by Britt DeLaney

Novellas by Britt DeLaney

Acknowledgments

This one’s for Chell – thanks for falling in love with Aven. It’s been a long time coming and through plot twists I could have never predicted, but it’s time Aven had a voice, and a story of his own.

Chapter 1

Meriel was going to die.

All her bravado and determination were not enough to power her exhausted body. The wind howled around her, tearing her hair from its braid and whipping it into her face. The wet strands stung her cheeks and threw even more salt spray into her burning eyes. She was trembling with both the cold and fatigue, the jagged edges of the rocks cut into her fingers and her knees, as she hauled herself up.

She decided to risk tipping her head back to get a better look at the climb. The castle atop the cliff wall seemed to be even further away than when she’d started her ascent, impossible as that would seem. She lowered her head and rested her forehead against the cold stone in front of her, exhausted. Tears leaked from her eyes and she didn’t bother dashing them away.

This was futile. And yes, it was entirely possible that the castle was further away. The most powerful sea witch in the realm would almost certainly have equally powerful enchantments protecting her abode. Meriel was a fool for not considering every possible one of them.

She had approached the castle from the cliffs, knowing full well that the gently sloping hillside on the other side of it was guarded by all manner of ugly magical surprises. The corpses scattered on the hill in varying states of decapitation, dismemberment and decay made that abundantly clear. The cliffs were treacherous, and the breakers below them were large and rough. No one in their right mind would try to approach the castle from that side.

Meriel wasn’t in her right mind. She was overconfident in her need for vengeance, sure that her anger would fuel her straight up the rocky cliff. She’d climbed cliffs before, many times. She was known for her dancer–like balance and reflexes. She was nimble, she was silent, and she was fast.

Today, she was stupid. This had been stupid. If she could just rest for a few moments . . .

But there was no rest from the slamming surf as it threw her into the rocks, from the cold wind trying to rip her off of them, from her aching, shaking body, her bruises, her bloody cuts and scrapes.

Snap out of it, Meriel. You didn’t come this far to let that bitch dance over your corpse.

She patted the blade at her side, the dagger a cold comfort. Why hadn’t she thought to bring a rope? At the very least she could have anchored herself from rock to rock as she climbed. It might’ve slowed her down, but it would’ve been smarter.

She took in three deep breaths, counting them as she tried to will some more vigor into her shaking arms and cramped legs. Reaching up to the next rock, she dug her fingers in, feeling the last of her nails breaking as she searched for a good grip. She bent her knees slightly so that she could give an extra push with her legs. Just as she lunged, the slope beneath her broke away, sending her tumbling, banging against the cliffs as she slipped and slid, flesh tearing open. The wind swallowed her scream until a final outcropping of rock slammed into her head, leaving her limp as she splashed down into the water below. A giant wave washed over the spot where she landed.

Meriel did not come back up.

Chapter 2

The girl was limp in his arms, her head torn open just above her left eye. Seaweed wrapped around her neck and face and Aven pushed it out of the way as he surveyed the worst of her injuries.

Along with her head, her foot dangled limply from a badly broken ankle. She had bruises and gouges--some of them deep--all over her body. There was a good deal of water in her lungs, and though her heart had stopped beating, it had only been moments. There was still time.

He worked swiftly, summoning the power within him. The water around them began to vibrate as he opened his mouth, and brought the song forth. Her wounds began to knit together, swelling began to soften, bruises lightening until they were gone. Her skull was not broken--thank all the gods for that--but her ankle took a bit of focus. As soon it was healed, he gave a mighty kick, and shot them both toward the surface.

He navigated the breakers on pure instinct, avoiding the worst of them. He didn’t come this far with her only to get dashed against the rocks again. He aimed for a spit of gravel between two large boulders--not big enough to be called a beach, but at least the boulders would provide a natural break against the surging tide.

Aven laid her gently on the ground, turning her head to the side as he bent her legs up against her chest, pushing hard. A small trickle of water emerged from her lips, but still no breath. He muttered a curse and scrambled up next to her, bending over to place his lips on hers so that he could breathe for them both.

Though he knew it was completely in vain, he still struggled to produce a healing sound, to draw the water from her lungs. The cords in his neck stood out in sharp relief as he strained with everything he had to try and summon it. As always, there was nothing. So he kept on breathing, puffing air into her lungs while pushing gently on her stomach and lower chest.

Aven was about to drag her under the water again to see if he could make that work, when her whole body bucked. He reared back, pulling her to her side as she coughed and retched the seawater from her lungs. She lay there, eyes closed, sucking in great draughts of air between coughing spells.

The woman trembled violently, and Aven reached out to give her arms a brisk rub. Her eyes snapped open, and she scrambled back on hands and legs, like some large crab.

Like some large, beautiful crab.

He knew the thought was absurd, but he’d been so busy trying to save her life he hadn’t really noticed her face.

Delicately arched brows over eyes of warm mahogany, a gently sloping nose, high cheekbones, and full lips that were still entirely too pale at the moment sat beneath that glorious length of hair--brown, from the looks of it, though it was hard to tell when it was wet. Those brows drew together and thunderclouds sat in her eyes as she spat out:

Who are you?

He pointed to his throat, shook his head. She only glared at him and repeated her question. He repeated the gesture, as he’d done a thousand times before.

Her glare melted into wariness.

You--can’t speak? She rasped out, her voice still hoarse.

Aven shook his head. Then he held up one finger and with slow deliberation, stuck it down into the rocky soil, and carefully spelled out his name, upside-down so she could read it.

Aven? She looked up from his finger to his face. Your name is Aven?

He nodded, then pointed at her.

She hesitated. Then she turned her head and looked out to the water. You saved me.

It wasn’t a question. Aven nodded again. Then he pointed at her once more.

Another slight hesitation, as if she still wasn’t sure if she could trust him, and then decided that she could since he had, after all, saved her life.

Meriel, she answered. What are you doing here? Do you work for Sedna?

He shook his head vigorously. Then he gestured up at the rocks and back down at her as if to say, "What are you doing here?"

She pushed herself slowly to her feet, clapping her hands against her wet trousers to release the sand and rocks that clung to them. She stared for a moment at her palms, clearly remembering that they had been torn and bruised. Her fingers moved to her head.

How--?

She did not get a chance to finish her question. The two large boulders suddenly started to move, closing in on Aven and Meriel as if they were being herded. The ground beneath their feet started shifting and sliding, and Meriel fell to her knees. Aven moved to stand and help her to her feet, but his hands and knees were locked into the sliding ground, as were hers.

It appeared for a moment that they were going to be dashed against the rock wall of the cliff, when it suddenly split open, revealing a doorway. They were sucked inside, and a scream tore from Meriel’s throat as the rock walls slammed closed behind them, leaving them in utter darkness.

Mercifully, the ground stopped moving. Aven could see nothing. The darkness they were entombed in was impenetrable. He heard his own harsh breathing, echoing against the cave walls along with Meriel’s equally ragged breaths.

He pushed cautiously to his feet, feeling with his hands out in front of him and taking slow, careful steps. He felt his leg bump into something, and took an involuntary step back as Meriel shrieked and grabbed his knee.

Sorry, she mumbled.

He reached down and patted her shoulder, then slid his hand down to grasp hers--an offer to help her stand. She took it.

Still holding her hand, he walked slowly forward, leading with his other hand out in front as he strained in the darkness to hear anything other than the scuffle of their own feet, and their own ragged breaths.

His fingers brushed cold hard stone, and when he stopped, she bumped into him.

Sorry, she mumbled again. Then she reached her other hand past him, placing her fingers on the rock as well.

I’ll go left, you go right, she suggested. If you find a way out, or--something bad, she made a huffing sound. I was going to tell you to give a shout, but I suppose you can’t do that. She squatted down, feeling the ground around her and came up with a stone the size of a fist, which she pressed into Aven’s hand.

Just hit the wall with this a few times, she said. I’ll come to you.

He gave her hand a squeeze to let her know he understood. Then they began to move, inch by painstaking inch. The walls weren’t smooth, but they also didn’t have enough texture to permit any sort of climbing. He could feel no ledges, no outcroppings. A tilt of his head trained his eyes on the ceiling, but it was still far too black to tell if it were an arm’s length or an hour’s climb above them. In either case, it would be a waste of time. It was still daylight outside and no light made its way into their prison.

In a matter of moments, they had circled the cave and met up again.

Nothing, she said with a sound of disgust. No passageways, no steps, nothing. What about you?

Aven merely repeated the same disgusted sound that she had made. Then he got down on his hands and knees and began a slow and painful traverse of the floor, following the wall and then moving one step to the side and starting again, making a grid. Meriel must’ve understood what he was doing--he heard the sound of her crawling, and the occasional curse as a rock bit into her knee or cut her hand.

Once again they met, this time in the middle.

Nothing, she sighed again, and the sigh turned into a curse and then a sound of fury as her fist slammed down into the stone floor, again and again. Aven knew she had to be hurting herself. He reached out through the darkness, and found her arm mid-motion, stopping it.

She snarled, yanking herself out of his grip.

Leave me alone, she bit out. You should’ve let me drown. It would’ve been more merciful than this.

He had nothing to say to that, even if he could have said something.

Chapter 3

I still don’t think you need to go, Rina said, tucking the collar of his shirt down properly. It had curled up on one side from the strap on his satchel as he’d carried it up on deck.

Aven looked at his twin sister with affectionate exasperation. They had replayed this conversation no less than six times in the last two days. If he hadn’t changed his mind by now, surely she had to realize that he was determined.

This shirt is far too tight on you now, she continued. You’ve grown and filled out so much. You can hardly go off without proper clothes.

She was right—in these past few years of freedom, fresh air and open seas, Aven had flourished. His shoulders and chest had broadened, his arms and legs filled out with muscle, and he now towered over his sister.

And look at your hair, she clucked, pushing an errant lock of his sandy-blonde hair off his forehead. You should at least wait a while and let me trim it for you.

She’d likely get around to that tomorrow. Or next week. Next month. She’d stretch out the wait as long as she could, Aven knew.

Rina, love, give it a rest, called a voice from behind her.

Rina turned to glare at her husband over her shoulder. I would expect you to talk some sense into him, she said, pointing a finger at Aven. Seeking out a sea witch is both reckless and ridiculous. There isn’t a person on the ship, or a person we’ve done business with who doesn’t like Aven just as he is.

Zephyr handed the wheel off to his first mate and made his way down the steps from the upper deck. He clapped a hand on his brother-in-law’s shoulder.

Indulge her, Aven, she’s been a mother hen to you since the moment you were born. She can’t very well stop now, especially in her condition.

Aven rolled his eyes as Rina flounced off—she wasn’t quite waddling yet, being only four months gone with her third child. She headed to the stern to search out another weapon for her Don’t-Go-Aven arsenal.

Zephyr watched her backside sway with an appreciative eye before he turned to Aven again.

She’s not wrong, you know. Sedna is not to be trifled with. She’s the most powerful witch in the realm now since old Mellazette finally shuffled off her nearly-immortal coil a decade ago. You’re going into danger.

Aven leveled a look to remind Zephyr plainly that danger was nothing new to either of them.

I know, I know, Zephyr said, holding up a hand. I’m only saying . . . don’t die. Be careful. Don’t leave me with your grieving sister. And for what it’s worth—I don’t give a damn if you can speak. You have never had a problem communicating.

Papa! Uncle Aven! Two voices squealed it in unison, as Rina led them by the hand—her final weapon.

What are you two little rogues up to? Zephyr asked.

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