Authors: Linda Lamberson
Copyright © 2013 by Linda Lamberson
Avenue North, Fifth Floor
Minneapolis, MN 55401
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used, stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact the author at her website:
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead; events; or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my friends—old and new—
Thank you for being there to support,
encourage, and inspire me.
I don’t know what I’d do without you.
And to my IU girls—you know who you are—
We started out as strangers and became best of friends,
creating a lot of great memories along the way.
Looking forward to many, many more years together!
Ann Buechner—thanks for continuing to help me
champion Evie Sanders’s story. I truly appreciate your
editing skills—your comments and questions
definitely helped me fine-tune the story!
Patrick Uranin—what can I say?
You did it again. Amazing artwork!
As always, thanks for all of your creative efforts!
I died over a year ago.
No matter how many times I said or thought those words, they never lost their sting, and their impact was razor sharp at the moment.
At eighteen, I was involved in a fatal car accident and became a Shepherd, an immortal guardian whose mission it was to protect humans from the very same clan of demons that ended my life. I was sent back to Earth to watch over and protect Quinn Harrison, who I’d soon discovered was my “true soul mate.” Our undeniable connection had survived death, amnesia, near-fatal attacks … and now, separation. Two months had passed on Earth since I’d last seen him.
But our forced split from each other was about to come to an end. Despite what the Council Tribunal initially had believed, Quinn wasn’t out of the danger zone, and I was being sent back to protect him. Only this time, the Servants didn’t want to just kill Quinn, they wanted to make him one of their own. They wanted to destroy his soul and convert him into a demon.
Me, however, the Servants just wanted to destroy. I’d taken out one of their own during the attack on Quinn’s life last spring, and now they wanted revenge. They’d left their calling card on my back in the form of some pretty nasty scars, but that wasn’t good enough. Destroying me would get me out of the way, which would benefit the clan.
As true soul mates, Quinn and I were supposed to have a bond, a connection unlike any other, which would give us the strength and will to defeat the Servants in their scheme to take over and rule the Realms. And it was our “destiny” to stop these demons—to stop this war they wanted to wage. The problem was that this bond Quinn and I shared had yet to make either of us any stronger, and there was no instruction manual explaining how to make that happen. But even if we did become more powerful, would it be enough to unhinge the Servants’ plans? Would we even know what to do when the time came to test our newfound strength?
Save Quinn. Save myself. Save the world. I was in way over my head this time around, and I was scared. Thankfully, I was no longer expected to bear the burden of what I had to do only on my shoulders. I wasn’t going to have to face the Servants alone. And it wouldn’t just be me trying to save Quinn from a fate worse than death. I had help.
I had Quinn. The Council had ordered us to work as a team to try to forge this potentially unwavering, virtually indestructible bond between us. But I was going to have to push the limits of my faith and trust in Quinn—and he, in me—if we were to have any chance at developing this bond. The two of us were about to learn just how much we could count on one another, knowing that if either of us failed, we’d lose each other forever.
And I had Dylan, my best friend and fellow Shepherd. He would never miss an opportunity to destroy a few demons. That said, he was about to get way more than he bargained for when he initially offered his help—in more ways than one.
Together, we'd learn what the war between the Realms was really about and how it would be won or lost. We’d discover that everyone was playing for keeps, and the only currency that mattered in this high stakes game was measured in souls.
I blinked again, refocusing my eyes to determine whether they were playing tricks on me—but they weren’t. The name on the folder Peter had handed me was unmistakably clear: Thayer McQuinn Harrison.
“I—I don’t understand. How?” I asked Peter in euphoric disbelief. I felt like my knees might give out at any moment.
“What’s there to understand?”
“‘What’s there to understand?’” I repeated. “According to the slip of paper in this file, I’ve been assigned to Quinn—
.” Could it really be true? In a matter of minutes, would I really see him? My greatest love, my true soul mate? Instantly, my body tingled and my chest inflated with anticipation.
“That is the assignment you have been given, yes,” Peter replied, his expression completely devoid of emotion.
“And that doesn’t strike you as a little strange?” I challenged. “I mean, I thought Hell would have to freeze over before the Council would let me even
Quinn again, let alone protect him.”
“Well, it seems he is still in need of protection.”
“But why me? Doesn’t Quinn have a Watcher?” My head reeled as I tried to figure out what twist of fate was bringing us together once more.
“Watchers do not protect humans from Servants. It is neither their purpose nor their responsibility to do so. It’s ours.”
“But I thought we never were assigned the same case twice.”
“We rarely ever are.”
As the reality of what I’d just learned began to sink in, my mind was overrun with thoughts of jumping into Quinn’s arms, kissing him, touching him …
I cleared my throat to stop the grin hell-bent on making an appearance on my face and reinforced the shield blocking others from invading my mind.
“So, what, the Council reassigned me to Quinn out of the kindness of their hearts?” I asked dubiously.
“The Council’s ‘kindness’ had nothing to do with your reassignment,” Peter replied flatly. “They had no choice in the matter. A very persistent Auger convinced the Order of the Realms Mr. Harrison and you should be permitted to see your destinies through
“Ronald,” I noted without thinking.
“Yes,” Peter confirmed with narrowed eyes and pursed lips. His mask of impassivity was slipping. I tried to read his thoughts, but his mind was locked down tight. The look on his face, however, said it all. I knew he was unhappy with my reassignment, which didn’t surprise me in the least. It wasn’t that long ago Peter had admitted he loved me. I knew he wanted me for himself. I was fully aware just how hurt he’d felt the moment he learned Quinn and I were true soul mates—I’d felt his pain surge through my chest. It was also no secret he’d pushed for the Council Tribunal to prematurely terminate my initial assignment to watch over Quinn and suspend all contact between us, and I knew he’d been counting the days for my assignment to end, with me never able to see Quinn again.
Of course Quinn wasn’t the only barrier to Peter’s plan to win me over—I wasn’t in love with Peter, plain and simple. I’d be forever grateful he’d sacrificed a piece of his soul to save me last spring, but gratitude was the extent of my affection towards Peter, especially since I’d recently lost my trust and faith in him. He’d broken the cardinal rule of our kind, one so fundamental to who and what we were it wasn’t even written down:
Shepherds didn’t lie
. In fact, we were physically incapable of
lying—well, all of us except Peter, who’d found a clever little loophole to our honesty rule. He’d told Quinn it was Quinn’s fault that I died and that my life was sacrificed in order to spare Quinn his own, despite the fact that Council Member Tara told Peter and me it was just the toss of the coin that the Servants had targeted me first. In fact, as Quinn’s true soul mate, my death and transformation to immortality seemed to do nothing but make Quinn an even bigger target.
How did Peter manage to lie? And more importantly, why? What was Peter hiding?
“Council Member Tara would like to speak with you before you leave,” Peter announced, interrupting my train of thought.
“Of course she would.” I rolled my eyes.
“Eve, despite your ill-conceived notions about her, she is actually on your side.”
“She has a funny way of showing it.”
“Yes, well, she is not the one who continually breaks the Rules,” Peter replied. “But each time
do, she’s put in the most unfortunate position of having to defend your actions to the Council Tribunal and convince them to give you yet another chance.”
“Oh.” I blushed. “I guess I never really thought about it that way before.”
Peter sighed. “Eve, we all realize you did the best you could in an unusual and difficult situation. And, ultimately, you did what was expected of you. You prevailed. You saved the life of your charge. But there’s no denying your assignment was … messy, or that you had a hand in making it so.”
“If everyone thinks I made such a ‘mess’ of things the first time around, why reassign me to Quinn?”
“Because he landed back on our radar.”
“So, what, the Order is convinced
the only one who
can save him again?”
“Your reassignment has as much to do with
as it does him.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are many who believe it is your fate to take a stand against the Servants. Whether or not you will succeed in this endeavor does not change popular belief. And if that is not reason enough for the Servants to eliminate you, they also won’t soon forget how you destroyed one of their brethren.”
“They want retribution for Cy.” I frowned and sighed heavily as the events of Quinn’s last Incident ran through my mind: I’d destroyed Cy, one of two Servants sent to attack us. Cy’s partner Rex escaped, taking Quinn’s brother, Brady, with it on its way back to the Underworld.
“And here I thought you would have been thoroughly elated to learn of your reassignment,” Tara noted as she materialized next to Peter. Her demeanor was calm, and her tone was light.
“Hello, Council Member Tara,” I greeted her somewhat anxiously. Each of my previous encounters with Tara involved her scolding me for the mistakes I’d made.
“Hello, Eve.” Standing next to Peter, Tara looked absolutely regal. Her shimmering olive skin and dark eyes stood out against her white robe and silver flowing hair. “You are not questioning your ability to protect Mr. Harr—Quinn, are you?” I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard an almost playful tone in her voice.
“No, not at all,” I said, trying to sound confident. “Peter was just telling me the Servants are on some sort of revenge kick, and I’m high up on their target list.”
“Always such a way with words.” Tara flashed Peter a look, making it clear that his remarks weren’t appreciated. “Eve,” she continued as she turned back towards me. “Let’s take a walk.”
“Yes, come with me—please,” she added, taking my hand. I was instantly teleported to a part of the grounds I’d never seen before, a well-manicured Japanese garden. She led me over a small wooden bridge to a bench tucked in the farthest corner next to a small pond stocked with orange and white koi.
“Where are we?”
“We’re in one of the Council’s private gardens.”
“Hmm.” She nodded in agreement. “Safety precautions mandate that Council members remain on the Archives grounds with rare exceptions, so we created these spaces to allow us to experience some semblance of the peace and serenity found in nature. This has become our means of stepping outside for some fresh air, so to speak.”
“That sucks,” I blurted out before biting my lip. I had felt so confined and suffocated the last few days I’d been locked up here. To remain a prisoner in the Archives, rarely ever able to leave, would drive me insane.
“Yes, I suppose some might see it that way,” Tara replied with a subtle smirk.
I wondered what Tara and the other Council Members would do if they knew about the hidden portals in the sky—about the Falls. Maybe they already did. I dreaded the thought, suddenly understanding just how protective Peter felt about his own secret snow-covered mountaintop he’d taken me to once before.
“Eve,” Tara called out, stopping me from making my way towards a beautiful red Japanese maple. “As much as I would enjoy giving you a tour of the garden, you are expected to begin your assignment, and I still have much to tell you.” She paused for a moment as if to organize her thoughts. “Did Peter give you the details of why you were reassigned to Quinn?”
“If you mean him telling me Quinn’s in danger again, and the Servants want payback for me annihilating one of them then, yes, he gave me the details.”
Tara sighed and shook her head slightly. I couldn’t tell if her reaction was due to what little information Peter had given me or the flippant manner in which I’d reported it.
“Eve, to say it is unusual for a Shepherd to be assigned to protect the same mortal twice would be an incredible understatement. Of the handful of occasions when such an action has been deemed necessary, it has been a direct result of one of the Three Sisters of Fate having misinterpreted a purely coincidental event as one orchestrated by the Servants—erroneously counting it as one of the three Incidents when, in fact, it was not.”
“Is that what happened with Quinn? Did the Sisters misread one of his Incidents?”
“Based on the information we have gathered thus far, and the number of parties interested in the outcome of this case, I do not believe the explanation underlying your reassignment is quite that simple. There are those who believe Quinn and you are the only hope for our future—the future of
Realms—although I cannot speak to the truth of such a prophecy. I also do not know the extent to which this alleged prophecy has traveled beyond our Realm, but we believe the Servants have been aware of it for some time. And, at some point after Quinn’s second Incident, the Servants altered their original plan. Apparently, they no longer intend to merely kill him. They have a new purpose for him.”
“What purpose? What do they want with him?”
“The Servants sent to carry out the Third Incident were supposed to bring Quinn back
they had eliminated you.”
I thought back to the recent attack by Cy and Rex and shook my head in confusion. “Well, I’m not so sure those orders were passed along to the Servants who attacked us in April. They did a pretty bang-up job of trying to get rid of both Quinn and me. We barely made it.”
“But you did make it—intact, I might add.”
“Yeah, well, I might have to disagree with your definition of ‘intact,’” I muttered under my breath, thinking of my scarred back.
“Perhaps. But the important thing is that Quinn and you are still with us today, which is more than can be said for Cy. And it’s certainly more than can be said for the countless others who found themselves in similar positions in the past.”
“Maybe so,” I conceded. Tara was right—for whatever reason, Quinn and I had survived what others hadn’t. “But you still haven’t told me what the Servants want from Quinn.”
Tara sighed again, and I got the sinking feeling I really wasn’t going to like what I was about to hear. “We were given the power to make you immortal, and now the Servants have the power to make Quinn immortal.”
“What do you mean?” I choked out.
“They have the power to make him one of them.”
“What?” I gasped in alarm.
But these three words never managed to escape my mouth; they were trapped by my fear. I pictured Quinn with the fire of Hell and hate raging in his eyes and squeezed my eyes shut to try to force the image from my mind, but it was no use. This was way worse than I’d imagined—correction, this went beyond the realm of what I thought was even possible. My head began to spin; the nausea I felt was nearly blinding. I needed some answers. I had to learn how to stop this madness from happening. “How?” I forced out of my parched throat.
“His blood,” Tara replied.
“So, that’s why they took his blood?” I spat, glaring angrily at her. “So they could turn Quinn into one of them?” I could feel my face heating up. I’d tried to warn Tara there was a reason the Servants had taken his blood, but she didn’t want to listen.
“Eve, I know this must be difficult for you to hear,” Tara offered sympathetically. “But I need you to focus. Quinn will be converted into a Servant unless we figure out a way to stop it.”
I did my best to strangle a bitter laugh. “I’m the one who told you something was up after the last attack—that Quinn was still in trouble. I told you I felt it in my gut, but you just blew me off. You did nothing. In fact, it seems like all you’ve done for the better part of the last year is make it as difficult as possible for me to protect him.”
“We cannot afford to jump to conclusions and act impetuously each and every time we suspect the Servants of changing the course of their actions. We would fall prey to their constant tomfoolery as they baited us with one red herring after another, resulting in many lives lost.”
“But you knew Quinn and I were marked from the beginning, that we were different—that we were true soul mates. Surely, any ‘suspect’ behavior on the part of the Servants when it came to either of us had to raise
“And so it did.”
“But it took you two months!” I was on the verge of a complete meltdown. “Quinn could’ve been hurt or killed by now—or made a
“Two months have passed
—not up here,” Tara reminded me, remaining as poised and calm as ever. “Since you and I last spoke a couple of
ago, we have been diligently investigating the matter.”
I sighed in frustration, acknowledging her point. Up here in the Archives, it’d been only a matter of hours—fifty-six to be exact—since the last attack on Quinn, which admittedly didn’t leave much time to analyze the Servants’ actions, but it still left plenty of time for the demons to strike on Earth.
“I still don’t understand why the Servants changed their plans,” I continued. “You told me the Servants’ objective had always been to eliminate one of us, and they did—me. But when I became a Shepherd, they realized they hadn’t solved their dilemma of how to keep Quinn and I apart, so they targeted him. So what’s changed? What makes you think they want to try to convert him now instead of kill him?”