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Authors: Erin Kellison

The Sandman

BOOK: The Sandman
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THE SANDMAN

 

REVELER SERIES 7

 

by Erin Kellison

 

 

 

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The world Darkside is in turmoil when Chimera Marshal Steve Coll, bloody and beaten, makes it back to Maze City and into Maisie’s arms. He bears a terrible message—The Sandman, the god of the world of dreams, is rising, and he’s bringing devastation to the waking world. Steve must embrace his dual nature to save those he’s sworn to protect. And yet, how can he fight a being who destroys everything in his path?

 

Even awake, no one is safe.

 

After the fall of the black market, Maisie Lane’s city is overrun with criminals who want her dreamscape for their own. She’s always envisioned Maze City populated, but not with people like these. Nevertheless, she must relinquish some of her control not only to save the man she loves, but to protect and defend her precious city. While friends and family face danger and betrayal, another enemy is lurking in the shadows.

 

As time runs out, Maisie and Steve must fight with everything they have, or lose it all, including each other. And even if they somehow prevail, nothing will ever be the same.

 

The Sandman
is the seventh installment in the Reveler serial, a hot paranormal romance set in a world where shared dreaming is a new pop culture phenomenon that allows people to indulge their wildest fantasies. But there are also unknown dangers Darkside; nightmares are slowly infiltrating not only dreams, but the waking world as well.
Revel with me.

 

***

 

The Reveler Series

Start with
Darkness Falls
– FREE

 

The Shadow Series

Start with
Shadow Bound

 

The Shadow Kissed Series

Start with
Fire Kissed

 

Table of Contents

Title Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Note from the Author

Other Books by Erin Kellison

About the Author

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

“Maisie.” Rook leaned down to touch her shoulder.

The pink-haired wild child sat on a dark street in Maze City, hunched over Steve Coll, his head in her lap, the rest of his naked, battered body twitching. Harlen Fawkes—who was also a beat-up, bloody mess—stood a few paces away, forcing the surrounding crowd back to give Coll breathing room. Sera, splattered with black blood, flanked Harlen.

Hundreds of reveler survivors from the fall of the black market stood in the shadows of the tall, gray brick buildings. Some shuddered silently. Some whimpered about what they’d endured. And still others bitterly murmured about the nightmare freak who had collapsed in their midst.

Yeah, the irises of Coll’s eyes were too big and his pupils too gray to be human. Thank God he’d closed his eyes again. His body used to look normal—though Rook had never seen him out of his trademark suit, so he didn’t really know—but now he was bald all over and his ears and the tips of his elbows were…worn away by Scrape wind?
Damn.

“Maisie,” Rook said again, looking up at the press of people, his gaze flicking from angry face to angry face in the crowd—revelers who’d marched across the Scrape, beset by attacks from nightmares on all sides. They’d have no pity for a human-nightmare hybrid like Coll.

Rook cut a glance to Harlen. As the head of the new Darkside Division, aka the Dream Police, he was another target of violence. Fawkes’s features were now pulled back in a snarl. He already had a warning hand up and was holding off some wannabe troublemakers intent on getting to Coll.

“Kill it! Why don’t you kill it?!” The scumbag—Roy something—ran a memory scam inside the black market, or at least he had a couple of hours ago. He was out of business now.

Rook had handled worse than him before, but not hundreds of fear-loaded people at once. The crowd was already agitated from what they’d endured in the Scrape. It wouldn’t take much for them to become violent.

Rook leaned down to Maisie’s ear again. “We’ve got to get Steve out of here.”

She drew her arms even tighter around Coll. “This is
my
dreamscape. They can suck it.”

Maisie thought she was invincible, and he’d hate for her to learn the hard way that she was wrong. So he tried logic. “Coll—
Steve
—needs to wake up so he can start recovering.”

They had put his sleeping body in a private reveler care center to get the fluids and treatment he needed to survive Darkside for extended periods of time. Wanted for the attempted murder of Didier Lambert, Maisie had had to leave him behind and hope for the best. Too long in the waters and a person—even a hybrid like Coll—could get very sick. He looked like shit already with his broken nose and bloody, black chin. Rook hoped he was faring better in the waking world.

Maisie nodded but didn’t look up. “Then I’m going to wake, too, and get to him as fast as I can.”

For chrissake.
“You know you can’t,” Rook told her. If she woke, she’d take her dreamscape with her, and everyone in the city would be cast out into the Scrape again, easy prey for the nightmares that were most likely gathering at its borders by now. He’d have to think of a way to get all these black market refugees back to their own dreamscapes so they could wake. But that could wait for the moment.

The murmurs in the crowd were now punctuated by harsh shouts. “Why don’t you just kill it?”

Maisie didn’t seem to hear them. “Well, he can’t wake alone. Not if he’s totally vulnerable like this. He won’t be able to protect himself. And he has information we need.”

The Sandman is rising.

It’d been the only thing Coll had said before delirium had taken him again.

The Sandman. Rising.

Rook’s heart ticked a little faster as he thought of Jordan. On the one hand, he was glad she hadn’t come with them to the black market; on the other, he was crazy worried that the Agora had fallen, too. If anything happened to her… Well, if anything happened to her, then fuck it. Fuck everything.

“String the bugger up!” The shout came from the other side of the street.

“Pop its balls!”

“Bleed it,” came a more studied rumble of a voice.

No time for bullshit.
Rook reached down past Maisie and lifted Coll by his shoulders. “We can argue later. Let’s just get him off the street.”

Maisie swatted at Rook. “
I
can carry him.”

In the dreamwaters, Maisie probably could, but Rook didn’t feel good about that last voice. “
You
can cover us until we get to the safe house.”

Rook braced one of Coll’s arms over his shoulder and straightened up. Coll’s head bobbed forward, black, oily blood dripping from his face onto the street. His chest and belly were likewise blackened with gore. His skin had broken open over a couple of ribs, and gold sand stuck to the blood like toxic glitter.

“You should let us finish the job,” that low, smooth voice said. “See what it’s made of.”

Rook scanned the nearest group of revelers for the source, but it seemed Maisie had found him first. A dark flash and a
crack
, and the man was sprawled on his back, her foot on his neck. “You piss me off again, and I swear I will personally deliver you to the storm.”

Rook looked over at Fawkes again. His teeth were still clenched, his mouth set in a deep frown. Fawkes had been proxying Sera—literally using her as a vehicle to hide within so that he could infiltrate the black market and see for himself how the nightmares had been congregating. The proxy alone had left him weakened, but then the black market had fallen and he’d had to fight to survive, all while protecting the revelers cast out into the Scrape.

“I’m fine,” Fawkes said, preempting any observations about his state.

It wasn’t quite a lie, didn’t feel like it in the dreamwaters, at least. It was more an expression of willpower.

“We’ll be back in a minute,” Rook told him. They had to deliver Coll to the safe house, and then they could figure out what to do. Rook wanted to check on Jordan first, but shit, no, he couldn’t just leave the other survivors out in the Scrape like that. As a tracker, he had the best shot to find them. Thousands stranded, attacked by nightmares to feed their hunger.

“Don’t stop for coffee, eh?” Sera said to him, half smiling in spite of the black claw marks striping her right cheek. Her hands were blackened from fighting, and yet, at the moment, she was the only one in any kind of shape to force cooperation out of the most volatile survivors.

“Need something stronger than coffee.” Rook winked and won a weary bob of a laugh from her.

“Come on,” Maisie said, backing away from the crowd.

Rook tightened his grip—Coll’s weight was no problem, but Rook’s hold was unbalanced, and Coll’s skin was slick with blood—and turned to follow her. The heat of many gazes burned his back as he started down the street after Maisie. She took an early turn, deviating from the pattern and number of blocks necessary to lead them to the room with the big chairs and sofas where they’d been meeting for the past few weeks. In Maze City, it was the journey—the way a reveler traveled to a location—not the address itself that mattered.

A new place, then. He’d been meaning to explore the city to see if his tracker senses could overcome the maze underlying its construction.

He memorized the blocks and turns as they progressed up a concrete staircase to a small empty apartment with a balcony. The place was shrouded in grays as if inside a black-and-white television. They arrived at another street through a closet door—getting Coll around the hanging clothing was a pain in the ass. It was a quiet avenue, haunted by silence, the buildings elegantly aged. Maisie turned into the third building on the right. They crossed the foyer, all silvered marble and brass, and Maisie punched a button for the elevator.

The elevator dinged, and Rook shuffled inside with Coll, sighing. He had a feeling that he’d missed an important part of the route. And with this elevator? No, he didn’t think he could find his way back without help. Even his tracker senses were confounded. For now, at least.

When the elevator doors opened, he hesitated before stepping out, mostly because there was no floor. A star-and-nebula-filled universe comprised the space. Colors burst into plumes of indigo and violet, pure creation on a background of hot diamonds. The vibrancy shocked him after the relentless chiaroscuro of the rest of Maisie’s dreamscape. There were a couple of Planetarium Rêves in the Agora that were awe-inspiring, but the sense of vastness here rivaled only the Scrape. Maisie’s talent Darkside was formidable, and she did like to show it off.

Maisie stepped out and moved as if there were gravity. “Are you coming or what?”

Rook nodded and hefted Steve with him. “You should consider counseling.”

“For what?”

“Your God complex.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re just echoing Sera. If I were God, even just here in my dreamscape, I could make my own people for my city. But my people won’t think or talk or move without me puppetting them.”

She’s making
people
now?
“Seriously. Get counseling.” He paused a beat. “Where do you want Coll?”

“Just let him go. He’ll float.”

So there were different physical laws for different nebula visitors. Okay…

Rook released him slowly, and sure enough, Coll levitated. One of his eyelids cracked, and Rook felt his gratitude. No words necessary.

“No problem, man,” Rook returned.

There was nothing more to do for him, not even clean him up. Coll needed to wake as soon as possible. Injuries didn’t necessarily translate to the waking world, but they did manifest. The way Coll had been worn away by the wind Darkside didn’t bode well. They needed him, needed what he knew, and they needed his talents if they had any chance of surviving the rise of the Sandman.

“Do you know when or how the Sandman is coming?” Rook had to ask.

Coll shook his head slightly, pain and exhaustion coloring the dreamwaters around him, and his mouth made the shape of a word. No sound escaped his lips, but Rook heard him say, “
Soon,
” in his head. Seemed Steve was telepathic, too.

Apparently, they’d have to be ready for anything.

Maisie’s chin puckered with resentment. “So are
you
going to wake up to go be with him, then?”

BOOK: The Sandman
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