Authors: Cara Lake
This book is a sequel to
Calm Before the Storm
can be read as a standalone.
To realign The Balance and save the universe from
destruction Tanith must form an intimate bond with a dangerous man who is her
Like Tanith, he is a warrior, but the similarity ends there.
She holds the essence of Love and he of Hate. In a world where he has known
only betrayal and violence, he fights to resist his burning attraction to this
woman who offers him comfort. He knows if he surrenders, his heart will only be
broken again, and this time it could cost him his life.
Slaves to destiny, two warriors must battle the dark forces
threatening to consume love and compassion in a galaxy threatened by chaos. If
they want to survive the darkness, they must negotiate the blurred lines
between love and hate—together.
Reader Advisory: This story has graphic sexual language and
scenes—no closed bedroom doors (or other rooms) here!
adult science fiction romance
from Ellora’s Cave
Although a thousand leagues two hearts divide,
That love has joined, the gulf is not so great
As that twixt two, who, dwelling side by side
Behold between, the black abyss of Hate.
—Ellen P. Allerton (1897)
Aura: Field of luminous radiation that surrounds a being and
denotes a particular power or energy. All species with supernatural powers
exude some kind of aura in relation to their specific abilities. Esseni have
auras that manifest in direct relation to the essences they hold. These auras
become stronger and easier to read when Esseni potentials cross paths with
their partner duality. Only trained individuals, usually wiccani or warloki,
are able to read auras.
Auriga: Home planet of the Aurigi. Major cities: Elpida and
The Balance: The universal law that maintains the web of the
universe holding all elements in place. Disturbance of The Balance causes
ruptures that have dire consequences for the myriad galaxies that exist in its
web. All things are interdependent and need to coexist in balance for the
universe to be maintained.
Balauri: Three-headed dragons whose saliva is poisonous and
can create precious stones.
Barghesti: Large black-haired wolf-like dog.
Chaos: Primary god of disorder and instability.
Chemon: Blade made from shell of a chemosh beast. It is the
hardest substance in universe.
Chemosh: Rhino-horned, armor-plated beast. The chemosh’s
shell is used for swords, blades, and armor.
Chthonia: Home planet of the Chthoni. Major city: Fortress
of Choronzon, also known as The Abyss.
Concordia: Guiding council of the Eunomi Alliance based on
Auriga in the city of Magellania. There are twelve Concordia members: Cygnus,
Terra, Tellurus, Stellar, Sollarus, Etanin, Deneba, Rastaban, Arcturus, Al
Ashfar, Albireo, Ursa.
Discordants: Syndicate of species who strive to serve Chaos
and create disorder and instability in order to exploit populations for their
Earth: Home planet of the Earthani. Major cities: New York
Elementals: Like Esseni, they hold essences that unite the
fabric of the universe, but of tangible things rather than actions or abstract
concepts. (For example, Fire and Water, Sky and Earth, Light and Dark).
Eldars: Spiritual leaders of the sanguini people.
Eridanus: Home planet of the Eridani. Major city: Cetus.
Erymanthi: Large boar-like creatures with tusks.
Esseni: Unique individuals who hold the essences of one of
the dualities (yin-yang pairings) that help keep the universe in check. (For
example, War and Peace, Love and Hate). They therefore have the power to
control The Balance, to ensure stability or instability, depending on their
allegiance. Bonded Esseni usually develop great supernatural powers and can
live for thousands of years.
Esseni vessel: A vessel, usually in the form of jewelry,
that holds the essences of bonded pairs.
Eunomi: Alliance of species from all over the galaxy who
strive to maintain The Balance and align with Gaia on the side of order and
stability. Named after Eunomia, a child of Gaia who strove for order and
Gaia: Primary goddess of order and stability.
Lyra: Home planet of the Lyrani. Major cities: Vega and
Ophiuchus: Home planet of the Ophiuchi. Major cities:
Serpens and Arushka.
Portal Travelers: Individuals with the innate ability to
open starportals. The skill can be learned, but true portal travelers can
access territory they have not previously visited, needing only a picture as
Realignment: Every eight hundred years as decreed by Gaia
and Chaos, the essences of all things must be realigned to stabilize The Balance.
These essences reside within the Esseni potentials, who must bond for
realignment to occur. Failure to realign causes disorder and imbalance, which
will affect the harmony of the universe.
Saevici: Shapeshifters. Individuals born with the ability to
tame the beast spirits that reside in them at birth. They usually need to be
taught to harness the spirit and go through initiation rituals to enable them
to change at will. There are a few species that are both sanguini and saevici.
Sanguini: Blood drinkers. There are many types. Most are
healers with the ability to purge disease by drinking blood and then giving
their own, which has healing properties. Some species have lost the sense of
using their ability for good and instead use it for their own benefit and to
the detriment of others. (Drakulus is a good example.)
Taijitu: The symbol that represents the concept of opposites
existing in harmony and balance (yin and yang). The Taijitu mark appears on the
skin of an Esseni potential when they meet with their partner duality and are
intimate (i.e., they kiss). The mark appears on the body in the same place but
on opposite sides of a pairing. For example, if it’s above the hip it will be
on the right side for one Esseni and on the left for the other.
Vita Cruor: Name given to the council of sanguini eldars
based on Ophiuchus.
Warloki: Individuals who have the ability to harness great
magickal ability. Warloki powers are derived from the negative energy of the
dark. The majority support the Discordant cause.
Wiccani: Individuals who have the ability to harness great
magickal ability. Wiccani powers are derived from the positive energy of the
light. Most support the Eunomi cause.
His hand skimmed over the valley between her breasts then
palmed one hardened nipple, plucking it softly. Her whole body shook with
pleasure, a fire igniting in her belly at the gentleness of his touch. Rolling
the small pink berry between his index finger and thumb, he pinched harder. Heat
spread through her quivering flesh and she gasped when he moved his other hand
to spread her legs wide. She was already wet for him.
“You are so beautiful, my love,” he murmured huskily,
peppering her throat with kisses. “You are all I’ve ever wanted. You have
exactly what I need.”
His hand moved from her shoulder to her throat, cradling
her neck with calloused fingers. He applied more pressure, the weight of his
palm causing her already rapid heart rate to spike.
“I’m going to take what I need,” he whispered, his voice
no longer gentle but laced with raw darkness. The pressure intensified and she gasped
for breath, her arms flailing wildly, trying to claw back the stranglehold that
was choking the life out of her. “Please!” she begged, tears leaking as she
fought to stay alive. “Don’t do this! You said I was your love!”
“You may be my love,” he said, through gritted teeth, “but
I don’t love you.”
“You need me!” she cried, fighting against the venom of
His laugh was brutal. It ripped her in two before he even
spoke again. “Yes,” he said triumphantly. “I need you to die.”
Tanith Laska woke up sweating. It was the same dream that
had visited her frequently since childhood after she had learned from her
father just who and what she was. She pushed off the heavy covers, her feet
touching the cold ground and immediately her body felt anchored. Safe. The
chilly tiles proof that she was home. Relishing the chill, she walked to the
doors that opened onto a small balcony and throwing them wide, stepped out into
the cool night air.
The view from her room was sublime. Tanith took a moment to
absorb the tranquil calm of her home planet Lyra and the beauty of Vega, the
city of her birth. It seemed a million miles away from the chaos that had been
her last mission—a battle hard fought against a horde of rarog, a faction of
Choronzon’s Discordant army, who had tried to raze a Lyrani village to the
ground and take slaves in the process. The village had been saved but the cost
had been great. It was nothing that Tanith had not come across before—because
Tanith Laska was a warrior. A good one. And as a member of the Eunomi Alliance
she had spent years honing her skills with one purpose in mind. Her duty.
Leaning against the railing, Tanith considered the other
word her father had used the day he spoke to her of her duty. Fate. Such a
beautiful word. So full of promise.
Tanith Laska whispered the word, releasing it to the wind. “Fate”
rhymes with “Hate”. And those were the words that had been a mantra to her
Standing alone on the balcony, Tani savored the biting kiss
of the wind as it whipped her red hair into a frenzy, flying free around her
face. That was the irony. She wasn’t free. She was tied and bound to a duty
that had been persistently drummed into her since birth. The dream that had
woken her, a potent reminder of everything that duty would entail. A reminder
that her predecessor, eight hundred years ago, had barely survived the duty
fate had led her to.
And now it was Tanith’s turn to carry the torch, her own
fate and that of the galaxy intertwined, balanced on a fragile scale that would
rise or fall depending on the outcome of her next mission. The mission to seek
out Hate. To find the man who held the essence of Hate and try to persuade him
to her side. The man she was fated to be with.
He was her destiny.
For Tanith held the essence of Love. Love and Hate.
Two extremes. Meant to be one.
Two days later…
“Love! Love! Love! All you need is…”
Tanith Laska sucked in a deep breath trying in vain to block
out the sound of the all-too-familiar music. It was too ironic, too sensitive,
touching a raw nerve that had once seemed a distant possibility, but was now a
close probability, if the recent intel her superiors had received was correct.
Desperate to forget what was to come, she had tried to soak
up the relatively calm atmosphere of Earth after the recent conflicts on her
home planet of Lyra. She had needed a few days to relax prior to her upcoming
mission, but it seemed that everywhere she turned there were reminders. Every
song she heard was a love song, every movie poster a romance, every pair that
passed by a couple. All of which was shocking really, considering the current
climate of intolerance and hatred that pervaded the entire solar system.
Fate was determined to have a laugh at her expense. Goading
her. Taunting her with the promise of something she had come to believe was
forever out of reach. Something that even in these dark times filled with
uncertainty and chaos, primitive Earthani had managed to hold on to. Of all the
planets in the galaxy, they seemed to be the ones most focused on love. Even
though the people of Earth were struggling with territorial and economic
conflicts that fueled hatred toward others, Tani knew that many Earthani still
held faith in love. Love and romance still existed here despite everything.
She found it odd that Earthani culture had a massive
industry dedicated to churning out mushy idealistic romances in the form of
novels, songs and movies. Having been dragged to a few so-called “rom coms” by
her friend Irina, she had been irritated by the happy-ever-after expectations
that seemed to prevail. Love conquers all. Well, not in her experience. If her
life as a Eunomi warrior had taught her anything, it was that love in all its
forms was an elusive proposition. As elusive as the fate that destiny had in
store for her. Fate and love were the bane of her existence. A noose of
inevitability around her neck.
For Tanith was Love, pure and simple. That is to say, she
was the vessel, the Esseni potential who happened to carry the essence of Love.
She didn’t really know what love was, having never been
love. Oh, she
loved her family, her friends, and many of the warriors she trained with were
more than just mere partners-in-arms. But love, real love—she’d never allowed
herself to feel it because she was only meant to feel it for one other person.
Her other half. The yang to her yin. Hate.
Who he was and where he was, she didn’t know. He could be
anywhere in the galaxy on any one of the several inhabited planets linked by
the intricate starportal vortex that connected this quadrant of the solar
system. He could even be here on Earth. Right here, right now. In New York.
Maybe only a block away. In a passing cab or subway train beneath her feet. But
she knew in reality that was unlikely because the intel they’d received placed
him on the planet Ophiuchus about a million light-years from Earth. And wasn’t
that a real pain in her ass. Ophiuchus was not a place she would choose to go
willingly or ever again for that matter. Unfortunately, duty demanded that her
next port of call was that planet. Sighing, Tani took a sip of her cappuccino
and tried to remember all the important reasons she needed to undertake her
“Hey, Tani!” A hand touched her shoulder, breaking her out
of her reverie and allowing the latest love song to intrude. “Love is in the …”
She winced but looked up, smiling at the sight of cerulean-blue eyes gazing at
her in sympathy. Luc Whitaker understood her predicament. At least—he did now.
Kissing her cheek, he sat down next to her and ordered a latte from the
hovering waitress who had appeared rather quickly. Less to do with efficient
service and more to do with the fact that Luc was a six-foot-two-inch blond
hunk who seemed to attract female attention with ease. He was the kind of guy
who radiated a glow that drew people in and it wasn’t just because of his own
unique Esseni aura. There was just something about Luc that was special and even
Tani’s armored heart wasn’t immune to his charm.
Sitting across from Luc, she couldn’t help but think how
lucky he was, or had been up until this point. For the first years of his life
he had no notion of what he was, how unique or how sought after. Now he did
know but he still hadn’t quite come to terms with his Esseni status. She felt a
wave of compassion build in her chest for the man sitting opposite. In the
short time she had known Luc he had grown to be a good and loyal friend and for
a brief moment she almost wished he was the one she was searching for.
Unfortunately he wasn’t. No one was quite sure yet what essence he was
carrying. They had their suspicions but it certainly wasn’t Hate. She thought
again how lucky he was that because he had come to learn of his uniqueness only
recently, his childhood had been very different from hers.
In contrast, Tani had always known what she was. From the
moment of her birth, her Lyrani parents had identified her as an Esseni. Their
knowledge of wiccani light magick and involvement with the Eunomi Alliance
meant that they immediately read her aura, the shimmering halo of color and
light that signified her as being as a potential Esseni. And Tani’s aura had
been strong, pulsing with vibrancy unusual for an infant so newly born. Violet
pink and soft magenta hues proclaimed to all who could read the aura that she
was Love. Tender, affectionate, intuitive, artistic, magickal. And so from the
very beginning of her life she had been bound to her destiny, trained with one
aim in mind. That she would do her duty to The Balance. Her path was set in
stone. No deviation. No choice. She was destined for Hate.
“I’ve seen that look before.” Luc’s words woke her from her
reverie. She smiled back at him half-heartedly. “Really?”
“It’s what I see when I look in the mirror every morning.
Doubt. Confusion. Who am I? What am I?”
Tani laughed. Luc had hit the nail on the head. “You’re
right, but I ought to be over it by now. After all, I am a hundred and two
“And you don’t look a day over twenty. Do I get brownie
points for saying that?” He winked suggestively at her.
Grinning, she took a sip of her chocolate. “Are you flirting
with me, Mr. Whitaker?”
He laughed and sat back in his chair. “Would it make any
difference if I was?” he asked. But they both knew the answer. They couldn’t go
“I wish…” she began but then let her words trail off as Luc
caught her hand then in a gesture of solidarity. “I know,” he said, leaning
closer. “It would be so much easier.”
“If life was meant to be easy, Luc, you’d be surrounded by a
harem of women salivating over your every need.” Raising their heads in unison
at the person whose voice had broken into their moment, Luc and Tani both smiled.
Tani couldn’t help rolling her eyes at the blonde standing before them who was wearing
a smirk on her perfectly made-up face.
Cassiopeia Shedir was one of her best friends and had been
for most of Tani’s life, even though Cassi herself was older. Much, much older.
Nearly three thousand years older in fact. To the Earthani, however, Cassi
appeared to be a smartly dressed, corporate twentysomething. Beautiful but cold
as ice. Look but not touch beautiful. The reality was that Cassi, like Tani,
was also a skilled warrior of the Eunomi Alliance. Like Tani, she had spent her
life fighting against the forces of Chaos, the Discordants whose sole aim was
to cause disorder to The Balance of the universe and shockingly, like Luc, she
too had only recently discovered she was an Esseni.
Hugs over, Cassi took a seat and reminded them of why they
were here and the job at hand. She had big news for Luc. “It’s confirmed,” she
said. “You are officially the Esseni of Light. Your aura matched the previous
vessel who was killed by the Discordants exactly twenty-nine years ago, the
year you were born.” A reminder that being an Esseni was very dangerous.
“So, my duality partner is Dark?”
“Yep. But I won’t make jokes about the dark side, Luc. I
know your dad was Earthani and not Darth Vader.”
Tani smiled sympathetically at Luc. “You know, at least we
know who to look for now. And Dark—it’s not as bad as…” Her voice trailed off
as Tani remembered what was to come. Cassi knew what she was feeling and let
her know it with a squeeze of the hand. “Tani, this Hate, whoever he is,
whatever he is, the Eunomi will protect you.” Tani knew that was true. She had
faith in her Eunomi kin. It was more that when it came to fate and destiny,
Tani wasn’t sure she would be able to protect herself.