An immortal Dyad is dead. The females gointo heat as the need to replace their loss overwhelms them. Damien’s bloodruns molten. The drive to reproduce threatens his sanity. But Damien is farfrom the Dyad home city. As he stands on the brink of madness, a female, ahuman, offers herself to him. It is forbidden. He must resist…
Emma watches the immortal she secretly lovesfall apart. She knows what Damien needs…a female. She is female. Why shouldn’tshe save the man she loves? But during their joining, Damien marks Emma as hismate. An action so profoundly un-Dyad the Elders haven’t made a rule againstit—yet.
With the future of both races at stake, willDamien and Emma find a way to resist the passion burning between them or riskeverything in a desperate attempt to stay together?
Excerpt: He strode into the room like sin on a stick, causing the newly awakened nerves in Emma’s legs to go weak. Damien Steward didn’t enter a room, he conquered it. Emma had seen him in public a few times when she’d still been confined to Mildred, her wheelchair. The unique view from her height of people’s backsides always made his entrance an event. Buns tightened, hips cocked at fetching angles, and in some cases, knees parted. It was as if the entire room came to attention, ready for anything, or did a full body sigh, longing for something out of their reach. Women, men, young, old, it didn’t matter. Everyone reacted to his inhuman beauty and aura of raw sex, and now that Emma could feel what happened beneath her waist, she was no different.
“Emma, I did not expect to find you up so late. How is the categorizing going?’
His voice floated towards her and even though they were on opposite ends of the vast library, it sounded as if he were standing next to her. How did he do that, she wondered?
Refusing to appear as just another fawning female, Emma took a deep breath and tried to quiet her racing heart. She realized suddenly this was the first time she’d ever been alone with Damien. In the past, he’d always been in the company of his brother, David, or Jacob, his human partner. “Oh. Hi.” Even to her own ears her tone sounded forced. “Couldn’t sleep. And since you have more books than most public libraries, I’m not even a quarter of the way through.” She picked up a dusty volume. “Why exactly do you need five copies of Moby Dick?”
He closed the distance between them, moving with the fluid grace of his kind. It always reminded Emma of professional surfers. Those few who made it look as if the waves did their bidding, not the other way around. When he stopped next to her and took the book from her hand, Emma struggled to hold on to her casual air. Parts of her body started to ping and tingle. Other, more intimate parts, melted into a slow throbbing heat.
For the thousandth time, Emma wondered if Damien could somehow sense what happened to her every time he was near. The embarrassment potential was too great to contemplate, so she told herself once again it was impossible. Yup, she thought. Impossible. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Damien opened the book with long tapered fingers and fanned the pages, creating a gentle breeze that ruffled his shoulder length blue-black hair. He inhaled deeply, licked his lips, and let out a deep sigh. “Each copy is a treasure to me. Not only for the epoch between its pages, but also for the story of the book itself.” He snapped the book shut and ran his index finger down the cover. “This one belonged to many people. My favorite was a German immigrant who settled in central Minnesota. Whenever he could spare the time away from his crops and animals, he would tuck himself away in a corner and read by candlelight. In his youth he had dreamed of a life at sea and for those few moments spent within these pages, he was young again with his life before him.”
Emma took a step away from him. “Can you tell the entire history of everything you touch? I mean, public restrooms must be a challenge for you. It gives a whole new meaning to the soap dispenser.”
The expression on Damien’s face changed from confusion to surprise and then he threw his head back and laughed. Emma loved being one of the few people who could make Damien laugh. He was always so serious and contained, never letting on what happened behind those dark blue eyes. She knew the Dyads had a great solemn duty to perform, saving the world, but a person ought to be able to have a little fun now and then.
Damien wiped at his eyes. “Soap dispenser. I will have to tell David. In answer to your question, no, we cannot pull history from all objects. Only those that have been in close continuous contact with a human. The person leaves a fraction of his or her self and experiences behind for those of us who choose to read it.”
“So, I can stop worrying about my dinner fork telling my life story to you guys?”
His face sobered. “David and I would never invade your privacy in such a manner. It is not our way. Reading the faint memory on a book from long ago is harmless history. Toying with the living is quite another matter.”
Now she’d done it. When would she stop bumping up against the almighty Dyad integrity? Reading human minds was a piece of cake for them but one of their big rules was they couldn’t do it without permission. It was a matter of honor to them. With her thoughtless remark, she’d just labeled him pond scum.
“I’m sorry, Damien. I know you and David would never invade my mind.” She searched the room. “Where is David by the way? This is the first time I’ve seen one of you without the other.”
“He and Aiden went to the Diarchy to visit Jude. Aiden has been too long without her and our quartet feels his need.”
Emma was still trying to figure out the quartet thing. A Dyad was a group of two. They each had a human partner, so two Dyads with their human partners functioned as a quartet. As long as a human partner stayed with his Dyad, he didn’t age. Some of these quartets had been together for centuries. Damien’s partner, Jacob, was a Civil War veteran and David’s partner, Aiden, had grown up in Henry VIII’s England. After so long together, the humans could feel the emotions of the others unless they shielded their minds. From what she’d already learned, unless you shielded, you could quickly lose track of which emotions were your own.
“I didn’t think you ever separated.”
Damien put down the copy of Moby Dick. “Usually not. When apart, David and I are… unbalanced. We are experimenting with prolonged separation to strengthen our long-distance connections. With our human partners to draw strength from, the time apart is becoming easier.” He leaned his perfect backside against the table and studied her. “What of you, Emma? It has been months since you came here. Do you find your life with us to your liking?”
What could she say? No matter how many times she’d tried to put into words her gratitude for what the Dyads had done for her, she couldn’t seem to express what was in her heart. After a lifetime in Mildred, they’d given her the ability to walk. To be a normal, fully functional member of society. She didn’t have to look at the world from waist high anymore. How do you thank someone for that?
“Emma.” Damien touched her shoulder. “You do not have to stay with us much longer.”
She tried to turn away but his hand on her shoulder stopped her. “Have we made you unhappy, little Emma? Keeping you away from your family and friends?”
She let the ‘Little Emma’ comment pass. “No, Damien. I’ve understood from the beginning why I needed to be here. How could I explain what happened? The tabloids would have been all over me. ‘Lifetime paraplegic stands up and walks’. I’d have been on the same page as the monkey-boy and the latest abduction by nymphomaniac aliens. I get that. It’s just…”
“Just what?” He took her chin in his hand.
The feel of Damien’s cool fingertips on her skin sent a tingle all the way to her center. She wanted to tell him so many things but fear got in the way. She wanted to tell him what his nearness did to her. How she spent the day hoping she’d run into him. The conversations she planned in advance to show him how intelligent and witty she was. The endless hours she’d spent in the gym, getting her wobbly legs into condition, so she wouldn’t seem as clumsy and awkward as she felt. And perhaps most importantly, how she alone out of everyone could tell him apart from his brother.
Unless you were one of the human partners, it was supposed to be impossible to distinguish between Dyad brothers, but she always knew when Damien hit her radar. Although he and his brother were exactly the same physically, down to the last strand of hair, Damien evoked feelings in Emma that David didn’t. It had to mean something, didn’t it? She also knew he didn’t feel the same way about her and that’s where her fear came from. If she told him what was in her heart what would she see on his face? Embarrassment, surprise, or worst of all, pity.
His finger stroked across her chin. “Emma, what is it?”
She dug deep and tried to put something, anything into words. “I don’t want to leave,” she choked out. “Not ever.”
“Why do you say that? You have a life waiting for you.”
She pulled her chin out of his grasp. “I don’t know. Everyone I know is going to freak. And my job? I was an effective counselor to the newly paralyzed because I was in the same boat with them. They saw me as an example of what life could be like, even if they were stuck in a chair. Now, I’ll be just another non-disabled jerk, who has no idea what they’re going through.”
Damien shook his head. “I have no doubt you will still be able to help them, but even if you find you cannot, there are more choices available to you now. Why would you continue to stay among, what did you call us, dual downers?”
“I was kidding about the downers thing. But you got to admit, you and David can be pretty grim at times.”
“All the more reason to leave when you can.”
Leave. One small word but the implications caused a knot to form in her stomach. “How can you expect me to go back to the normal human world? This—you—are the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. I mean, you’re fighting the bad guys. You and the others saved the world from global devastation just two months ago, and in my own little way I’ve felt a part of it all. How can I go back to my little life in Minneapolis after all this?”
Damien let go of her shoulder. “Now is not the time for innocents among us. We are hunted.”
“What do you mean, hunted? What’s happened?”
“Nothing yet. But Dyads from all over the world are reporting suspicious events. We have the feeling of being watched. Something is building against us. You must be gone before anything happens.”
“Why? Wouldn’t I be safer here surrounded by all of you? How many Dyad pairs are here now? Six? Seven? What could stand against all of you?”
He smiled sadly and shook his head. “We are so few. Only one thousand of us. One thousand against billions of humans. The math is not in our favor.”
Here was another Dyad rule Emma didn’t fully understand. There could only be five hundred Dyad pairs or one thousand individuals alive at one time. Their females became fertile only when a Dyad died and needed to be replaced. Talk about Planned Parenthood.
“All the more reason to gather as many supporters as possible. We’re not all power- hungry maniacs you know. There must be something I can do to help.”
Damien pulled a chair out from the table and made her sit. He set another in front of her and took a seat, his knees touching hers. “There is no question of you staying. You must go, and soon.” He raised a hand at her groan of protest. “It is useless to argue. I will not have you used as a pawn in the war that is coming. If you were ever taken by our enemies they would use your knowledge of our world against us.”
“I would never—”
“You would have no choice. They would do …things to you, Emma. Terrible things. I will not allow that to happen.”
Emma took in the resolution on his face. How long had he and David been planning this talk? The good-bye, Emma, have a nice life, talk? You’d think with all his telepathic abilities, Damien would know what leaving him would cost her. Why didn’t he just rip out her heart and start juggling it with her self esteem and confidence?
Anger rippled through her. When had she become this weak, needy excuse of a woman? She’d had more control over her life sitting in a wheel chair than sitting here next to her heart’s desire. The fairy tales never said what to do if your handsome prince didn’t want you.
Life in Mildred had hardened her. Childhood taunts from playground bullies—“Come on four wheels, get up and run,”—to overheard adolescent rejections—“What’s the point of banging Emma? She can’t feel it.”—to adult prejudice—“I’m afraid you’re just not right for the position.”—had thickened her skin to rawhide.
A finely tuned sense of humor made sure people laughed with her, not at her. Her life had been hers to control. Why now, when she’d been given the one thing she wanted had she lost the one thing she’d had?
All right, she thought. They wanted her to leave, fine. But she’d be damned if she slunk away without telling Damien how she felt about him. The old Emma would have gathered her courage and blurted it out. Looking into his eyes as she searched for the right words, the new Emma was so terrified she could feel her heartbeat pulse in her earlobes.
“Will you miss me, Damien?”
“Yes, David and I will feel your loss.”
If he thought he was getting off that easy, he was nuts. “That’s not what I asked. What about you, Damien? Just you.”
His brows lifted. “There is no just me. Surely you know by now David and I…”
Damien sat bolt upright and gasped, “No.”
Emma watched the color drain from his face. His eyes got the far away look all Dyads’ did when they communicated without speech. His grip on her hand tightened to the point of pain.
“What is it? What’s the matter,” she asked?
He let go of her and doubled over. Emma sprang out of the chair, alarmed. Hesitantly, she touched his shoulder. “Damien…”
With a scream, he leapt out of the chair. “Caleb, no. Connor, no. Not alone.” Damien’s body arched backwards, his spine curving at an impossible angle. His hands tightened into fists at his sides, his eyes squeezed shut. A thunderous scream tore from his throat so full of agony and loss, Emma jumped away from him.
Unable to bear his pain, she put her hands over her ears and tried to understand what was happening. She pulled him upright and shook him. The scream abruptly cut off but echoes of it danced around the library. When he opened his eyes and looked at her, Emma felt the bottom fall out of her stomach. The beautiful blue eyes had gone completely black. He lowered his chin and stared up at her from under dark brows, like a lion marking its prey. Somewhere deep in his chest a snarl started.
She shook him again. “Damien. Stop.”
For a moment, hesitation flooded his eyes, and then his fists came up and pushed her away. “Run,” he snarled at her.
Emma had no intention of leaving him in this condition. “Please, let me help you.” Despite his actions, this was Damien. He would never hurt her.
He spun away and grasped the back of a chair, struggling for control. “Run, Emma. Get away from me. Without David or Jacob I cannot control…cannot channel…”
“I’m not going anywhere.” She started toward him.
“You do not understand. A Dyad has died. We are all in flux…unbalanced. I am without the other half of my Dyad or my human partner.”
“I do understand. You need to draw power to counteract whatever is happening to you.”
Emma hesitated, remembering what it had felt like when Damien and David had repaired her spine. The power had flowed through her body bringing with it a pain so intense she’d almost passed out. It’d burned its way through her nervous system shooting fire up and down her legs and back until she didn’t care if she ever walked, she just wanted the pain to stop. She had no wish to repeat the experience.
In front of her Damien panted and sweat dotted his brow. He clung to the back of the chair as if it was the only thing grounding him.
Despite her fear, Emma knew she must help him. She couldn’t bear to see Damien like this. Pain was a small price to pay. “I’ve watched you draw power from Jacob. I know I can do it. Here.” She offered her hand to him.
“No.” The wooden chair split into pieces beneath his hands. He stared at the pieces for a moment as if he didn’t believe what he had done. “Stay back. You are female—human. The Dyads are incomplete…we must increase our number…we must.” He fell against the table, toppling the towers of books.
What had he said? A Dyad is dead. She searched her limited knowledge of Dyads for anything that might help. Once, she’d asked Jacob about female Dyads. Actually, she’d been trying to find out if Damien had a wife or girlfriend. He’d told her about the one thousand rule, how the females became fertile only when a Dyad died and needed to be replaced. She felt herself blush as realization of what Damien needed hit her. A Dyad was dead. The females were fertile. Damien needed … a female. She was a female.