Excerpted from MARKED
Release Date: May 2010
The air chilled, and the hair on the back of Theron’s neck stood up before he could question the child in-depth. Destiny forgotten, he edged toward the opening of the loft that looked down over the burned village. Then cursed long and low.
“Marissa,” Acacia said in a forceful voice, “Did Theron put you up to this?”
Theron moved as quickly and quietly as he could across the floor and grasped Acacia by the arm, pulling her up to his side. “We have a problem,” he said quietly into her ear.
She looked over with irritated eyes. “What now?”
“Three daemons. They look to be on patrol.” Acacia’s face went ashen. “My guess is they watch this area for stragglers in the hopes they may lead them to the colony.”
“Oh, shit,” she whispered.
“Acacia,” he said brusquely as he she trembled against him. “Stay with me.” Wide violet eyes met his, but there was fear there—lots of it—as she obviously remembered their last run in with Atalanta’s henchmen.
Dammit, this was what he’d been afraid of the moment she’d set out on this stupid quest. “I can handle the daemons. But you have to get Marissa to safety.”
She glanced right and left. “All three? You can’t…back at the store—”
“I can,” he said quickly. “At the store I was worried about you. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. But only if we work together.”
“Oh, God.” When she sagged against him, he knew he was losing her.
He tightened his arm around her waist, while listening intently to what was happening outside. The daemons were moving closer. He was running out of time. “You have to pull it together right now because I want to hear all the other reasons you’re not really attracted to me.”
She looked up, swallowed hard. And as their eyes met the connection they’d shared from the first flared deep in his soul. He knew she felt it too. Just as he knew if something happened to her here, he would never be the same.
She nodded once, twice, and pulled her courage up like a suit of armor. “I…I’m not attracted to you.” But she gripped his shirt at the chest and didn’t make any move to let go.
“Liar,” he whispered, just before dipping his head and taking her mouth.
The kiss was fast, and not nearly as deep as he wanted. But they didn’t have time for anything more.
He pulled the spiked dagger knife from his ankle, unsnapped the holster and attached it to her calf. Then he opened the weapon that was shaped like a bowie knife with menacing spikes sticking out of the underside of the handle. “Take this. Hold it here.” He positioned her fingers. “If any get past me, this won’t do you any good unless they get close. Swing like this. Away from your body.” He moved her arm to show her what he meant. “The spikes tear up the flesh and the blade does the rest. It won’t kill a daemon, but a good solid hit will incapacitate one long enough for you to get away.”
“We don’t have time.” He shoved a penlight into her pocket, then grabbed Marissa and pushed her toward Casey. “Wait until you see me out front, then take the back ladder and head for the mountain across the stream. Try to find a cave or shelter to hide in. I’ll find you after.”
Shaking, Acacia slid the knife into its holster, lifted a frightened Marissa into her arms and cradled the child against her chest. “But how will you know where we are?”
He crossed the floor and stopped at the edge of the shadows, just out of sight of the daemons below, and took one last look at her. “I’ll always find you, Acacia. That is a promise.”
He didn’t wait for her response. Instead he stepped off that second floor and landed against the cold earth one story down. All three daemons turned his direction with surprised, glowing green eyes.
“Hello, boys,” he said, reaching for his parazonium strapped to the small of his back. “You look a little lost. Let me direct you back to hell.”
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