Omega's Destiny First Chapter Sneak Peek: Assassins and Killer Shadows Collide
My new book is almost ready to go on sale. *wipes brow* This one has been tough, but I think it's an end of the year thing. I need a slight break, hence the sort of two week-ish vacay I'm taking now. Sort of, because I'm still working a little. But not totally.
Being an indie writer is hard, FYI. So many things to do and so little time to do it in.
Anyway, here is my Christmas/hanukkah/other holiday gift for you guys: a look at the first chapter of Omega's Destiny. Hold your applause. I know it's awesome. Not as good as fuzzy socks, but it's all I can give you through a computer screen. If you want to read the second chapter, you can join my mailing list here!
The book comes out on December 30, 2014. Just in time for the New Year!
The book comes out on December 30, 2014. Just in time for the New Year!
Also, for some added holiday cheer. Here's the Free! Iwatobi Swim Club boys being sexy. You're welcome.
Pic by Daniimon
The Assassin Meets His Double
The shadows huddled around Sasha. He pulled them tighter, like a cloak, and drank them in. He could sink into them if he wanted and turn into anything.
A knife to slit the throat of the omega assassin who stalked down the hallway toward him.
Sasha held the urge at bay. He pushed back the power that threatened, whenever he used it, to consume him and leave nothing behind. He only needed the shadows for a moment, he told them in their own strange shadow tongue. They bristled with excitement at being addressed, and the same old doubt flickered in his chest.
Should he do this?
Then the magic nibbled at his toes and chewed around the edges of his being. His soul. And, yeah. It was the right decision. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be anything left of him, and Maxim’s kingdom, Moravia, would be royally fucked.
Elijah Kane, the assassin in question, moved closer. He was headed down this corridor on the way to his room. To his mate.
Sasha tried to wrap his head around that idea for the tenth time. It didn’t work. While Sasha knew this assassin (who nearly got Maxim killed) was in Moravia when Sasha arrived, it still didn’t make sense. Even on the other side of the kingdom the shadows whispered to him while he slept. They couldn’t keep something so huge a secret.
Maxim – the alpha with the ability to hold a grudge against his own mate forgave Elijah Kane. Or at least, Maxim agreed to work with Elijah.
And, just a few hours before, the shadows warned that Elijah and his mate – another alpha – would be departing soon.
Sasha’s gut clenched. If he wanted the assassin’s help (not really, but he needed it) he had to act now.
The barrier fizzled. It barely held the magic in place. This shifter kingdom shouldn’t have magic any longer. The barrier would’ve fallen if not for the quick work of the former Old One and Sasha. Then the last Old One died – as she warned Sasha she would – and left this mess in his lap.
However, it presented the perfect opportunity to fix Sasha’s problem. Eaten alive by the power surging through him wasn’t a pleasant way to go. But the only way to correct that involved Maxim, a trip south, and help from an assassin who probably didn’t want to give it.
Yeah, it sounded needlessly complicated the more Sasha thought about it, but it was the only plan he had. So he went with it. Plus, this was one of the few times Elijah’s mate, a hulking alpha who barely resembled Maxim but for the auburn hair and dark eyes, hadn’t been at Elijah’s side.
Elijah slowed as he neared the alcove. His shoes clicked hollowly against the flagstone floor, and the torches on the walls flickered with a draft of air.
Sasha held his breath.
It wasn’t like looking in a mirror, but the resemblance was obvious. Sasha’s hair was dark brown where Elijah’s was nearly black. His eyes were violet while the assassin’s were a pale bluish gray. But they were both delicate – almost pretty – in their good looks. The sharp cut of Elijah’s cheekbones and the sardonic hint in his eyes – yes. Sasha knew what Maxim saw in this wolf.
Well, presently a beard obscured most of Sasha’s face, but that couldn’t be helped. Just thinking about the damn beard made it itch, but if he moved he’d blow his cover.
Elijah wore the typical clothing of this particular shifter territory – leather pants and a long tunic shirt with those ridiculous sleeves that always managed to be right where you didn’t want them. In human territory, Sasha remembered Elijah always wore fitted designer suits. Well, that was one thing they had in common; Sasha didn’t miss those clothes one bit, hence his T-shirt and jeans.
The shadows held him close, but they didn’t disguise Sasha’s scent. There was no power in the world that could hide that.
That’s what Sasha counted on – Elijah Kane’s senses and instincts.
True to form, Elijah sniffed the air and stopped. Then he turned and peered into the alcove, as if he expected to find something beyond darkness.
Sasha smirked at his own ingenuity and slid forward. The shadows moved with him, and he shook them off. Or he tried to shake them off, but they stuck to him like a piece of discarded gum on his shoe.
Elijah Kane stared at him, lips parted, and looked as if he were ready to call for a guard.
He didn’t. But he did pull a knife from a holster and moved forward as Sasha finally talked the shadows in to leaving him alone.
“You!” Elijah growled and the knife dug into Sasha’s neck.
Sasha rolled his eyes. It’d be too easy to get the advantage, so he gave Elijah a charming grin and held up his hands. The shadows danced around his fingers, twisting and turning like a snake held in a trance.
Did he control the shadows or did the shadows control him? Sasha wasn’t sure anymore.
The omega inside didn’t help matters. It whined and scratched, like usual, because it sensed the hold this place used to have over it. No more. Sasha broke free of those chains a long time ago. He would’ve told it to shut up if that wouldn’t have made him look crazy.
“Elijah Kane! I haven’t seen you since Alexandria, right? Long time.” Part of his brain, the vindictive part, couldn't believe he was going to do this. Let this assassin who hurt Maxim – live. For the second (or was it the third?) time. Not only live but help. No – that wasn’t really him. It was this power. This urge. That’s why he needed Elijah and Maxim.
To fix this.
However, it’s not like Elijah was the only one. Sasha hurt Maxim. Maxim hurt Sasha. The melodrama of their lives might make an interesting television show, if humans enjoyed shows about shifters. Sasha doubted it.
Elijah narrowed his eyes. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“To see you. Well, partially. Mostly, I’m here for Maxim and myself. I’m the first version of you, in Maxim’s point of view, anyway. Didn’t I tell you that? Or did I forget? Oh, are you going to move the knife, or am I going to have to get creative?”
To Sasha’s surprise, Elijah stepped back and grimaced. He kept the knife in his hands. “The first version of me? Your vendetta against me involved Maxim this entire time?”
He was trying to be clever, and Elijah Kane didn’t get it.
Sasha scratched his cheek. Took a breath. “Right! This confuses things. I need to shave, but I don’t have time for that right now. You remember what I look like without the beard, right? Similar.”
Elijah raised an eyebrow. “I’m better looking. You look like a homeless junkie.”
Sasha chuckled. The shadows urged him to release them. Let them rip and tear and – no! He really shouldn’t kill Elijah. He’d held back before, barely, he could do it again. “Ouch! Fair assessment. I feel like a homeless junkie. Listen. I need your help, as much as it pains me to ask. Now, I could threaten you. Or kill you, and believe me, I’d really like to kill you after what you did to Max. But I won’t. I’m reasonable. Only I’m not too great at keeping this power under control. And if these shadows leap out of my hands and strangle you when I’m not paying attention, well, you can imagine. Not good for you. Deal?”
Elijah gripped the knife tighter. His knuckles whitened, and he smirked. It didn’t match the pounding of his heart. “Whatever I did to Maxie, I already made up for it. I helped save Maxim’s kingdom, and I’m not about to have some crazy asshole try to off me in a hallway.”
“Me! Crazy? Pot, I’m the kettle. Nice to meet you,” Sasha said, and restrained the urge to hold out his hand because that could be disastrous. For Elijah. Not for him. If the shadows cut off Elijah’s hand, Elijah probably wouldn’t want to help. “The kingdom isn’t saved. The barrier is held in place by the frailest of threads. If it falls, you know what happens next.”
Elijah stared at him and took a breath. “Humans, hunters and death. But you know what I do and fixing magical barriers isn’t it.”
The shadows yanked on their reins, and Sasha gritted his teeth to hold them back. Not killing someone hadn’t taken this much effort in a long time. “But you can do other things. Come on. We both know you’re a man of many talents.”
A hinge squeaked down the hall. A footstep. A leather boot on stone.
Elijah tensed, just enough for Sasha to notice, but he didn’t turn his head.
“Elijah?” the low grumble of an alpha’s voice echoed toward them. The alpha. Elijah’s mate.
Well, damn. Sasha didn’t want to do this with another wolf present because alphas got all alpha-y about things.
Elijah’s jaw tensed. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
Too late. Footfalls came toward them, steady and persistent.
The shadows whispered in Sasha’s ear about the alpha and the things (oh, the things) they wanted to do to him. That just made them harder to control. However if Sasha banished them completely – if they let him – he’d be unarmed in front of an assassin and an alpha.
The torchlight caught on the alpha’s hair as he came around the corner. His brow furrowed when he noticed the two of them in a standoff.
Elijah glowered at his mate. “I told you I’d be there in a minute.”
Sasha wiggled his fingers in mockery of a wave. The shadows moved with them. “Hello. You should’ve waited in the room. This was supposed to be between the two of us. Now the balance of power has shifted. Not good.”
“For who?” the alpha asked and stood next to Elijah. He was taller than his mate by a good five or six inches. Broad shoulders. His muscular build was perfect for those clothes.
“Both of you! Look. I need his help!”
Elijah’s eyes blazed. “The last time I met you, you tried to kill me for no reason. Now you’re saying it has something to do with Maxim?”
Sasha smiled. “Oh. Alexandria. That was fun. And I didn’t try very hard, or you’d be dead.” The shadows tried to nibble at the alpha – they just wanted a taste – but Sasha reined them in. Planted his legs and looked back and forth between the two wolves in front of him. The alpha’s fingers twitched. He probably wanted to reach for a weapon of his own. “It won’t do any good against me. Neither will that knife, Elijah. You know that.”
“Someone needs to explain what the hell is going on,” the alpha said and, sure enough, the wolf bristled just under the surface.
Sasha could smell it. The animal paced inside. Ready to jump out and claw at Sasha to protect its mate.
Sasha’s omega had the same urges once, only that connection had been cut a long time ago.
Sasha nodded at Elijah, for politeness’s sake. “Tell him.”
Elijah took a breath. “I don’t know who he is.”
Oh. Right. He’d never given Elijah a name? No wonder the assassin was confused. “Sasha Volkov.”
“My name is Sasha Volkov. I didn’t realize I’d never properly introduced myself. Go on.”
“I’m Rowan,” the alpha said. He didn’t give a last name.
Rude, but Sasha didn’t bring it up.
Elijah glared. “Fine. The first time I met Sasha was in Amsterdam. He stopped me on the street and tried to kill me with a ball of fire. That turned into a city-wide police and hunter search when I was only trying to complete a job.”
“Did you?” Sasha asked. His memories of that first time were vague. Amsterdam was too human for his tastes, but the tinge of magic in the ground – the magic only shifters like him could feel – called him to that place. He found something in Rembrandt’s letters and that painting of the Night Watch.
Running into Elijah was pure coincidence. Trying to kill Elijah wasn’t.
“Yes. I finished the job. No thanks to you,” Elijah ground out. “Then I ran into him in Alexandria. Another job, but this time, I found him in the great library with a group of eviscerated shifters. You know me. I only kill people who really deserve it, most of the time.”
Rowan glanced between them, and Sasha felt the alpha’s darkening gaze. Judging him. Just like an alpha. “Did you do it?”
Sasha sighed. “Yes. That was a mistake. Spell gone wrong. I was still learning at that point. My bad. But I’m not sure what this has to do with anything. He got away both times. Annoyingly. I’m sure I did that on purpose.”
Rowan nodded. “And what do you need now?”
“Finally! Your help. Well, his help.”
“Why should we help you?” Elijah asked. His shoulders bunched.
If the shadows attacked, would he fight or run?
Sasha didn’t test him.
“Because you owe it to Maxim to finish saving his kingdom,” Sasha said.
Rowan took a deep breath through his nose and eyed the shadows. “Okay. What do you need?”
Progress! “A passport. One Maxim can use to get across the borders in human territory. A little bit of money wouldn’t hurt. Not a lot, just enough for a trip south. As an assassin I’m sure you know where to find items like that.”
Elijah blinked. “How the hell is a passport going to help Maxim’s kingdom?”
“So many questions! It’s hard enough to keep from gutting you, and you want me to explain everything? Right now?”
“No,” Rowan said and put a hand on Elijah’s shoulder. “Why passports?”
The evident tension in Elijah’s shoulders eased under the contact, but he said nothing.
“We’re going on a trip. I might need your help with another few aspects of this plan. Just believe me. It’s the only way to fix the barrier. Or did you want that little fight with the Butcher to be pointless?”
“Where were you during that fight?” Elijah growled and took a step forward.
Oh, the shadows didn’t like that. They fought to leap out and cut – maybe stab – and Sasha almost let them.
“I was trying to build a temporary barrier so everything didn’t go to shit when the last Old One died. Is that good enough for you?”
“Fine. Is that all?” Rowan said and squeezed his mate’s shoulder.
The shadows crept forward, and Sasha pulled them back. Sunk into them. It was easier to control them if he was inside. “No. Elijah can also convince Maxim to forgive me.”
“What did you do to him?” Elijah asked and held up his chin.
The last bit of shadow passed over Sasha’s face. “I’m his mate,” he whispered and slipped away.
Sasha left them to work out the details on their own.
He moved through the shadows until he was far enough away the mixture of power and the instinct to avenge his mate (or ex-mate) didn’t overwhelm him any longer.
When the shadows finally released him, he fell onto his knees and gasped. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and Maxim’s scent invaded his nose.
Musk, ink and parchment.
Of course the shadows led him to this room.
Even with the bond broken, the magic knew what he wanted.
What he needed.
In the darkness, Sasha made out the singular shape in the bed.
Maxim sat up suddenly and peered toward him. A knife glistened in his hand. The blade caught the moonlight. A pale slit of it slipped through the curtains and fell over the floor all silvery white.
Sasha balled his hands into fists and his throat clogged like someone had shoved cotton balls down it.
The barrier fluttered.
He hadn’t completed the grid that would hold it in place yet, but he needed to catch Elijah before he left and slipped out of reach. Now that Sasha had done that he had no reason to stay.
But his feet didn’t want to move. The whole castle might fall down on his head, and he’d stand here and let it. Covered in rubble and dust, it’d all be worth it because he got to see Maxim again. In truth, he never thought he’d get the chance.
Maybe this kingdom really was his fate. Strange how Yue, the shifter’s moon goddess, worked.
Sasha smiled in the darkness. “I’m here, Max. Come and find me.”
Maxim rustled in the bed, but Sasha slipped away. Moved with the shadows in the night and disappeared to finish the job he started.
To save Maxim’s kingdom.
And maybe (hopefully) save himself as well.
* * *
Ten Years Ago
Sasha crossed the barrier with blood stained paws. The magic buzzed over his fur as he stumbled inside, heart pounding. The coppery tang filled his mouth.
But he had to do it, break through that line of hunters and get inside. Or, more accurately, the last spell he’d learned (the one in Wallachia) urged the magic that invaded his body to do it. To rip those hunters throats out. Tear their flesh. It infused him with strength enough to make it here.
Though, in truth, he didn’t remember much about breaking through. That was probably for the best. The last time the power took control of him it wasn’t pretty. It happened when those bears came for him and his mother because they heard what Sasha could do. An omega with limitless power? That was too dangerous for any shifter to accept.
No matter how his mother, her face sharp and tired in his mind, tried to protect him, she’d failed. She couldn’t even protect herself.
During his fight with the hunters something scraped him, the bright sting of silver, but it no longer hurt. The healing saw to that. That magic was almost as innate as shifter magic itself. He barely noticed it anymore, though he healed faster than normal shifters. Much faster.
Too bad he couldn’t have put it to better use on his mother while she bled out at the hands of those shifters who saw him as a threat. Six hulking bears scared of a twelve-year-old omega with multiple types of magic.
Sasha swallowed, blinked and moved forward.
That’s why he kept his magic under wraps. Never let anyone know what he could do. And, it didn’t hurt that the drive to learn more pushed him forward.
The power here called to him. Knew his name. It churned and danced over the nerves in his body. Filled him with the need to trudge deeper. Even the primordial fear of the Old Ones didn’t encroach on him. And it should. They ruled here, in whoever’s territory that currently was.
A wolf – Sasha knew that much.
King Olo Reznik.
Moravia was rumored to have a library with several one of a kind manuscripts – books on magic that pulled Sasha toward them. He’d do what he always did. Get a lowly position at the castle. Sneak in the library and gather all the spells he could find and move on.
He’d followed the same path since his mother died. Sasha traveled from place to place, devouring knowledge and spells like a starving man while he tried to find out how to control this strange and terrible power. Because if he couldn’t control it—Sasha squeezed his eyes shut—it would eat him alive.
The forest bristled around him. Moved. Or, more accurately, something moved within it.
His ears perked. He peered into the dappled sunlight that fell through the branches of evergreens towering above them. The leaves and needles crunched under his paws.
Two wolves emerged between the trees.
One white. One brown.
Female and male.
Sasha squared his shoulders and sat back on his haunches. The sting of their magic tickled his nose, and he licked it.
That was fast.
Some Old Ones didn’t bother. Others were more proactive. Sort of like shifters themselves. What else were Old Ones but shifters? Improved upon shifters but shifters nonetheless.
They slipped next to each other like fish in a pond, their paws crackled against the detritus on the forest floor. The white one, her eyes a pale icy blue, circled Sasha, while the male, his eyes the bright green of the first growth in spring, watched.
Bulbs poked through the thin layer of snow and leaves that carpeted the forest floor, and they somehow avoided stepping on any of them.
Finally, the female’s wolf shape peeled away. A woman with long silvery blond hair and a white fur cloak stood before him. The cloak was tattered at the hem.
Sasha stared. Took a sharp breath. No Old One ever transformed into a human before him. Hell – he didn’t even know they could turn human.
“You bear Ashina’s Curse, child,” she said and her voice sounded as distant as Yue herself.
Sasha blinked and let his wolf form fall away. He’d never talked to an Old One before. And if this was his only chance, he’d take it. He’d be a fool not to.
The Old Ones watched him.
Sasha sat on the cold, not quite frozen ground. He didn’t stand since that might be rude. Pissing off an Old One wasn’t the best plan of action.
“Ashina’s Curse? What’s that? Is that why I’m like this? What am I supposed to do?” Sasha asked and wiped at the blood staining his mouth. It flaked off like bits of rust.
The Old One’s exchanged a glance that may have taken a moment. Or a year. Hard to tell.
The woman spoke. “You follow where it leads. It led you here to procure more magic for it. When the time comes, you must make a decision about what to do with the power you’ve gathered. Welcome to your destiny, omega.”
It didn’t sound particularly ominous, but a shiver shot up Sasha’s spine all the same. “What destiny? This curse is my destiny? What does that even mean?”
The Old One didn’t answer. She smiled an elusive smile, and they both faded back into the forest.
Sasha’s heart throbbed. He stared at the spot they’d been. Held his breath and waited, but they didn’t return.
Ashina’s curse? Ashina was the father of all wolf shifters, the wolf who transformed into a man to win Yue’s heart. At least Sasha knew what he had, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Finally, Sasha turned and headed toward the heart of this territory.
It took him a week to reach the castle on foot and two days to convince the cat shifter in charge of the kitchen that they needed to hire an omega. However, the Old One’s words stuck in Sasha’s mind the entire time. He mulled them over. Chewed on them. Felt them crowd his gut with something thick and unpleasant.
Welcome to his destiny? What the fuck did that mean? And what kind of decision would he have to make one day?
Old Ones! They could be a little less mystical and vague if they really wanted to help.
Then, on a day that started as normal as any other, the castle bell rang three haunting chimes. Sasha ignored it at first, but the servants around him froze and exchanged worried glances.
Sasha frowned at his mop. If this put a damper on his plans to get into the damn library–
“The King’s dead,” the cat shifter announced. His usually ruddy complexion paled. “Get back to work.”
That could do it.
Sasha glowered as he pulled his bucket into the hallway. The library was so close, and he stepped into the middle of a kingdom with a newly dead king and who knew what kind of civil unrest until they declared a new alpha to rule and . . . and all of those thoughts flitted out of Sasha’s mind like a flock of sparrows.
Because as he dunked his mop in the bucket, he spied a well-dressed young man (around his age) rush out of the library with a book pressed to his chest. Auburn hair framed the wolf’s face, and his inky eyes were wide with worry. He stood several inches taller than Sasha, lithe and graceful. Definitely an alpha.
Sasha sensed the wolf within that young man as it paced and clawed to get free.
“Prince Maxim! This way,” another wolf called and the prince turned and went.
Sasha stared after him.
Welcome to his destiny, indeed.