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Sworn enemies are plunged into a steamy, forbidden romance in the first book of a new series that explore the darker side of the richly imagined world of Nightshade
Twenty-five-year-old Tristan Doran is a direct descendant of the Keepers—witches who have embraced dark magic. Deferring only to his overlord, Lord Bosque Mar, Tristan enjoys incredible power and privilege. For most of his life, he has been kept largely out of the centuries-old Witches War. But then Sarah, a beautiful young human Searcher, is captured and imprisoned in his castle. Blinded by their passion, captive and captor give in to their desires—only to learn that their love is at the heart of a prophecy predicting the downfall of the Keepers’ ages-old reign.
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A. D. Robertson is the pseudonym of New York Times bestselling author Andrea Cremer. She lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Tristan didn’t Know how long he’d been staring at the frescoed ceiling of his bedroom, but he was fairly certain the sleep he hoped for would continue to elude him. He rolled out of bed, not minding the cold of the floor on his feet. Neither did he bother with a robe before he left his room.
Seamus caught up with him halfway down the hall. Though currently in his human form, Seamus still moved with the cautious grace of the predator whose shape he preferred.
Does the old wolf never sleep?
“Restless night, eh?” Seamus asked with genuine concern.
Tristan shrugged. he hadn’t taken the time to check a clock before he left his bedroom, but the wolf’s presence informed Tristan that he’d been tossing and turning for at least a few hours—long enough for Seamus to have enjoyed and returned from his nightly run across the island.
“Where are you headed now?” Seamus asked.
“I thought a bath might help,” Tristan replied.
Seamus nodded and slowed as Tristan’s destination made it clear he was in the mood neither for company nor conversation.
When he reached the stairs, Tristan glanced over his shoulder. “Get some rest, you mangy beast,” he said, offering Seamus an apologetic smile.
Seamus laughed and the sound deepened Tristan’s melancholy.
The wolf was as close as Tristan had to a friend, but Seamus was a servant—here on orders like all the others. Tristan didn’t doubt Seamus’s loyalty; he even believed the Guardian held some affection for him. But their respective stations threw up an obstacle to true comradeship.
His sour mood worsening, Tristan made his way from the uppermost floor of the castle to the subterranean space that was home to the baths. a hot bath was actually Tristan’s second objective. his first was to tire the hell out of himself with a long swim.
The castle’s pool was narrow, but long and deep—ideal for laps. The natatorium itself wasn’t particularly to Tristan’s liking. Clad in ebony, the chamber featured sleek columns around which twisted giant tentacles that were far too lifelike. He’d learned to ignore the creeping sense that a great slumbering beast rested beneath the turquoise and jade mosaic of the pool floor.
Tristan pulled off his cotton pajama bottoms and dove into the pool. The cold water snatched his breath, but he welcomed the shock. It was the most alive he’d felt all day and it was the reason he ordered that the pool be maintained at such a low temperature.
He swam hard, stopping only when the burning in his shoulders, chest, and legs was unbearable. Hauling himself out of the pool, Tristan dripped water as he left the natatorium and went into the adjoining chamber.
Steam from the baths swirled around him, so thick Tristan could barely see. While the pool had been laid in severe, sharp lines, the baths were designed for soaking. Tristan waded into one of the sunken bowls, following its sloping floor until he was waist deep in the hot water. Then he slid onto the submerged shelf that ringed half of the bath. He let his head tip back and his eyes close as the heat sapped tension from his spent limbs.
When exhaustion had sufficiently cleared Tristan’s mind to the point where he thought sleep inevitable, he lazily climbed out of the bath. He toweled himself off and slipped his pajama bottoms on. As he slowly made his way back to his bedroom, Tristan was pleased to find himself genuinely drowsy. Perhaps he’d even pass the night without troubling dreams.
At that late hour Castle Tierney was quiet, but Tristan knew better than to believe he moved through its halls without notice. There was never a time when all the creatures within the castle walls slept. It was a place of wariness and watching.
Tristan stepped into his room and welcomed the long yawn that signaled how soon he’d be asleep. He was halfway across the room when he froze. His bed wasn’t empty.
The woman was on her stomach. She wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing, but a single black calla lily rested on the small of her back.
Chains at her wrists and ankles bound her spread-eagle to the bedposts. The sound of Tristan’s footsteps caused her to lift her head from the pillow, and Tristan saw that she’d been gagged. Her dark hair spilled across the pale skin of her shoulders. Her eyes widened when she saw him, but she didn’t make a sound.
Who was she?
That she was tied down and gagged made it clear that the woman wasn’t there by choice.
Tristan pivoted on his heel and went right back out of the room. He found Seamus on the other side of his bedroom door. And the bloody wolf was grinning.
“Seamus,” Tristan said, keeping his voice level, “There is a woman tied to my bed.”
“Yes, sir.” Seamus had the decency to tamp down his grin and nod solemnly.
“I assumed so, sir,” Seamus replied. “Given her being tied to the bed and all.”
Tristan let that pass. “Do you happen to know how she got there?”
“It was Lana’s idea.” Seamus’s mouth turned downward enough for Tristan to know the old wolf disapproved.
The woman on his bed had been chained facedown. The black calla lily lay upon her like some dark offering. Of course Lana was the architect of this scheme.
“Where is she?” Tristan asked Seamus.
Seamus lifted his grizzled face and sniffed the air. “She headed toward your study.”
As Tristan turned away, Seamus asked, “What do you want me to do about this one?”
“For the moment, nothing,” Tristan answered. “Just guard the room. No one goes in. I’ll be back soon enough.”
However ready for sleep Tristan had felt a few minutes earlier, he was now wide-awake. And furious.
When he slammed through the study door, Tristan found Lana curled up on a sofa with a snifter of brandy.
“Hello, Tristan .”
“What the fuck, Lana?” Tristan glared at her. “What you do?”
“I left you a gift,” Lana purred. “I hope you don’t mind that I unwrapped it for you.”
“Hardly necessary,” Tristan replied curtly. “And by that I mean both the gift and its unwrapping. Who is she?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Lana rose so she was kneeling on the sofa and spread her wings in a way that was almost menacing. “She’s a searcher. Most likely an assassin. Owen caught her climbing the seawall. Nimble little thing.”
“Assassin?” Tristan rested his elbows on the back of the divan. “You think the Searchers sent someone to kill me? I thought no one knew i was here.”
“Perhaps someone found out,” Lana replied, folding her wings once more as she settled back onto the cushions. “And perhaps you should be asking her these questions. That is why I left her for you.”
“You captured a searcher and you want me to interrogate her while she’s naked on my bed?”
“That was the idea.”
“Ithought that’s what we had wraiths for.”
“This way is a bit more creative.” Lana smiled. “And of course more hands-on for you. And more delicious for all the loyal servants of your household.”
Tristan grimaced. “How very thoughtful.” He didn’t want to consider how delighted the succubi and incubi of the castle would be at the prospect of gobbling up the captive’s distress and torment. No doubt Lana had made quite a meal out of stripping and binding the Searcher.
Degradation was something Lana craved, but Tristan had no taste for violation. He desired only a woman in his bed who wanted to be there, who was as hungry for his touch as he was to caress her skin. Explaining that to Lana would be pointless, of course, so Tristan simply said, “I’ll deal with the Searcher.” he reached out his hand. “Give me the key.”
“Shall I inform Lord Mar that she’s here?” Lana twirled one of her glossy curls around a long red fingernail before dipping her hand into her bodice and drawing out a large iron key.
Tristan hesitated. If he said no, Lana was sure to run straight to Bosque and tell him that Tristan was trying to hide the woman’s capture. If he said yes . . . Tristan wasn’t sure he wanted to deal with Bosque until he’d decided how to handle the prisoner himself.
“Whatever pleases you, Lana.” Tristan smiled, taking the key, and then leaned in to kiss the succubus on the cheek before he left the room.
That would confuse the hell out of her. And it would likely buy Tristan some time.
Tristan returned to the hall outside his bedroom and found Seamus standing watch.
“Do you know where her clothes are?” Tristan asked.
Seamus shrugged. “I can track them down.”
“Do that quickly,” Tristan told him. “Then come back here. I’ll wait for you.”
“Shall I summon any other Guardians?” Seamus lifted a bushy eyebrow.
It was a prudent question, but Tristan wished it wasn’t. He had no idea what he would do with his captive, but he did know he wanted to handle it himself, and quietly.
Reluctantly, Tristan nodded. “Just make sure it’s someone who can hold his tongue.”
“Understood.” a moment later, a wolf trotted down the hall and Tristan was alone.
He looked at the door, half tempted to enter.
He couldn’t, though, not until Seamus returned. Prisoner or not, Tristan had no desire to humiliate this woman. He wouldn’t ogle her while she was chained up. It wasn’t as though the sight of her hadn’t been seared onto his mind’s eye.
Even the brief glimpse of the searcher had been arresting. Whoever she was, she was beautiful. It was too easy to recall the slope of her back and the lovely curves of her bare ass. The sight had been far too sudden and startling to be forgotten. If he’d been another sort of man—the sort Lana wanted him to be—he might have been grateful to come upon that scene.
As it was, however, Tristan was uneasy that the memory of the naked searcher made his cock twitch with lust. A life that granted his every wish had made Tristan wary of sinking into hedonism. He acknowledged the fact that Bosque would encourage such a lifestyle was likely the reason he resisted it—but the truth remained that he did resist it.
Turning a prisoner of war—if that was who this Searcher was: a soldier from the enemy lines—into a sex slave was neither a fantasy of his nor did he want it to become a reality. If she belonged in Tristan’s dungeon, so be it. But she had no place in his bed.
Tristan paced in front of his bedroom door. His choices left him unsettled. As much as Lana had gotten under his skin that night, Tristan couldn’t help but wonder if summoning Bosque was the best course of action. After all, a searcher had breached the castle, his hiding place. If nothing else, that fact alone signaled that Tristan’s enemies had somehow learned of his whereabouts. What if this woman was only the first of an impending attack?
That’s why I’ll have to interrogate her.
Though he knew he had no way around it, Tristan didn’t savor the idea of torturing the woman to uncover her intentions.
But there was no other way, was there?
The sound of toenails clacking on the stone floor drew Tristan’s attention. Seamus’s brown and gray was accompanied by a younger, russet-hued member of the pack.
Tristan addressed the red wolf. “Good evening, Joseph.”
The wolves shifted into their human forms, and Tristan took the folded clothes Seamus offered while Joseph dipped into a bow.
“This is what she was wearing,” Seamus told Tristan . “Owen also recovered a pack full of climbing gear and a dry suit. She swam here.”
Tristan raised an eyebrow when he noted the leather harness lined with gleaming silver knives.
Definitely an assassin. Maybe I’m a fool to even consider keeping her alive.
Tristan grimaced, accepting that he’d kill the woman if he had to, but he wouldn’t do so before he knew who she was and how she’d found him.
“Be as wolves and stay close to me,” Tristan ordered. “Don’t attack unless she makes the first move.”
Joseph cast a nervous glance at Seamus, but the older wolf nodded. Without further prompting the Guardians shifted forms.
Still not entirely certain of what he was about to do, Tristan gritted his teeth and opened the bedroom door.
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