Authors: Marta Szemik
Tags: #urban life, #fantasy, #adventure, #collection, #teen, #paranormal romance, #young adult, #magic, #box set, #series, #shapeshifters, #ghosts, #vampires, #witch, #omnibus, #love, #witchcraft, #demons
Two Halves Series
Box Set includes:
Marked: A Two Halves Novella
Evil-Bent: A Two Equals Novella
by Marta Szemik
Two Halves Series © Marta Szemik 2012
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher and author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be constructed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
To my family
Book 1: Marked: A Two Halves Novella
Shapeshifter Xander will be stuck in oblivion between good and evil until he is marked
either with the sphere that will identify him as a servant of the underworld, or with the water mark, working for the keepers of humans, vampires, and warlocks.
One decision will mark him and his twin sister Mira equally. She is in love with a man bearing the water mark and wants Xander to follow the path of the good. But Xander loves a black witch, a minion of the underworld. All he has to do to join her forever is kill.
After all, there’s something good about being bad.
Book 2: Two Halves
Sarah killed her human mother shortly after she was born to quench her thirst. She hates her vampire father who she never met and blames him for her mother’s death.
Now twenty-one, Sarah blends into a quiet town. Injected serums suppress her dark side until a nightmare stirs her traits. Beckoned underworld creatures hunt for the half-breed vampire forcing her to flee. On the run, Sarah learns the secrets hidden from her, for a good reason. Had she known her destiny, she may have continued with the serums that kept her safe in the human world.
After all, there’s nothing good about being bad.
Book 3: Two Equals
Half-breed vampire Sarah has married her other half, William, and is now the mother of three-year-old twins with power that defies explanation. Aseret, the demon lord of the underworld, views the twins as a threat to his taking over the world. Sarah, William, and their shapeshifter friends must train the supernatural kids to prepare them for an inevitable encounter against Aseret. For Sarah, training isn’t enough and she relinquishes her body to a witch
—the one who stole it before. Roaming the underworld as a ghost, Sarah searches hoping to find Aseret’s accomplice before Aseret kidnaps, or worse, kills her children.
But reconnecting to her body may be more difficult than Sarah expected. After all, there’s only space for one soul in a body, and they’re one body short.
Book 4: Evil-Bent: A Two Equals Novella
Eric is an evil-bender punished by his superiors for defying them. He followed his instinct and removed a mark off a cursed witch without consulting them. With his days numbered, Eric struggles to follow his last task: an order to kill the last three demons, so that his abilities and memories can be stripped. The life as he knows it, including his love, will be taken away from him.
But an offer from the last standing warlock sways his loyalty. If Eric tries to kill him, all power will be transferred to the warlock instead. If he doesn’t, death will be Eric’s only option. What choice do you have when any choice you make is not your own?
After all, a deal with a warlock is as true as the best lie.
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Table of Contents
Marked: A Two Halves Novella
Table of Contents
* * *
One more inch, and his neck would snap.
The glow of his orange eyes had faded—he was close to death. My hold tightened on the demon. He had to pay for what he’d done. At sunrise, the walls of a cave like this one would glisten with moisture, lightened by the sun from an opening suitable for a groundhog. But now, even the moon couldn’t breathe through the hole my sister crawled into, following a demon that had killed humans for the fun of it. I told her trying to catch him wouldn’t be a good idea but did she listen to me? Of course not, and now she was trapped.
Death scattered across the floor with bones and unrecognizable flesh remains. I tasted the stench of decay and lessened the frequency of my breaths.
The mark of the sphere on my left wrist glowed as it began to appear, and I felt my mouth curve up in a smirk. The orange sparks of the imprint faded and brightened like flickering ends of fire. The heat burned. I’d been waiting for this moment for a long time. Finally, we’d know which side we would serve, and there was something good about being bad.
My sister, Mira, disagreed. “Xander, you’re making a life decision for both of us. Look.” She turned her head to the left. The magic light-ropes binding her to the back wall of the cave reddened the skin of her hands and feet, but I saw the glow of the sphere imprinting on her wrist, as well.
“It’s better than living in a void.” I clenched my jaw, determined. Ever since Ma found us as babes lying side by side on the forest floor, staring into the dense crisscross of tree branches overhead, we’d been floating between the realms of good and evil for more than twenty years.
“You know I’ll follow you wherever you go, but I don’t think the underworld is the answer.” Mira’s coo soothed me. “We have a choice, Xander.”
“And this is it.”
Once I killed this demon, the sphere would define us forever. There’d be no doubt where our alliance lay: with the underworld, instead of serving the keepers who protected humans, vampires, and warlocks.
I flexed to constrict the demon’s air flow. The burning of the oval on my wrist spread, and the heat transferred to my chest, as if imprinting on my heart. I greatly preferred being marked with the sphere than lying motionless in the woods, waiting for something to happen. If it weren’t for Ma, we’d still be there, stuck in oblivion, unable to learn how to grow. Now the obscurity that challenged us was emotional, not physical, and I’d had enough.
Before the tension could snap the demon’s neck, the cave filled with a purplish mist. I inhaled and smelled lilac and lavender. The new trespasser couldn’t be a demon from the underworld—those creatures stank like rotten eggs and dirty socks.
A man appeared between Mira and me. He stood tall with feet apart, arms at his sides. A blue glow swirled around his palms before condensing into round balls of power. Holding my gaze with his purple eyes, he lifted his chin. “The sphere is not your calling, Xander,” he whispered. “Let the demon go.”
I hesitated, focusing on my hold. The demon would be dead in less than a minute.
“Let him go,”
his hushed voice said in my mind. My grip loosened immediately, as if my arm listened to his request, instead of my mind. His words seemed to penetrate my brain and analyze my thoughts.
“What’s it to you?” I said, playing the skeptic, though my usual tone sounded less harsh.
“I know what you’re struggling with. I’ve been there.”
“And you are . . . ?” I prompted.
“I’m Eric. They call me the evil-bender.” He bent his arms up so the blue spheres of light rested on his palms. Their electricity sizzled, and sparks from one connected to the other. The flickers zipped outward as far as two feet when his fingers twirled the lights. The sleeves of his turtleneck slipped back, revealing three wavy lines on his left wrist. The water mark: the sign of the keepers.
“Mind your own business, evil-bender,” I blurted.
I sensed Mira studying Eric. Her eyes glistened with lust. The emitted estrogen from her body danced through the room. She hadn’t said a word, but I knew what she was thinking. I could feel my twin’s pain, share her happiness, and dwell on her sorrows. Our inability to control our emotions was because we weren’t marked.
Now, her mellow eyes, accelerated pulse, and bitten lower lip made me want to puke. She may as well have said, “Here I am. Have your way with me.”
I rolled my eyes. She’d been swayed by his charm and style the minute he appeared. And if I killed this demon now, she didn’t have a chance with the evil-bender. She’d be welcomed to the dark side, while Eric was one of the good guys. They couldn’t be together. That’s what I saw in her eyes when the evil-bender showed up: she finally had a chance to be with someone like her.
In my heart, I knew Mira did not belong to the underworld, and I wasn’t ready to force her that way. Yes, the decision was quick, but I couldn’t overlook the immediate connection they’d obviously felt. A connection I yearned for. Eric’s testosterone blended with Mira’s hormones and the cave was rapidly becoming a pheromone heaven.
I loved my sister too much to bind her to the dark side. A decision that affected us equally had to be made in unison. Mira wanted to join the keepers. The choice had always been clear to her, not to me.
“How do you know who we are?” Mira asked. The question sounded so automated I narrowed my brows and cocked my head to the side.
The evil-bender kept his eyes on me—as he should, because I wouldn’t let him cross me. “Because I was unmarked once,” he answered. “Your place is with the keepers, not in the underworld.”
Fury flowed through my body. Who was he to say where we belonged? It was
decision. I tightened my grip on the demon’s neck until he passed out, then let his body thump to the rocky ground; it would take hours before he woke. The sphere vanished from my wrist, unable to imprint.
My gaze flew to our newcomer. I spread my legs, flexed my knees for a better launch, and hunched forward, baring my fangs.
Eric’s palms lost their glow, and his shoulders drooped.
“What? You afraid?” I goaded.
“No, but I have priorities.” He turned to face Mira. “Hey, sugar.”
I rolled my eyes again, surprised she could speak at all. Her gooey grin would have suited her better if she had shifted to a teenager hitting puberty—something she’d experienced five to ten years back.
“Let’s get you out of these.” He pointed to the magical light-cuffs.
“I already tried. They’ll burn you,” I warned.
“That’s why I’m here, you nitwit,” Eric murmured, his eyes on Mira.
The remark boiled the blood in my veins. I was certain I turned green, the way I always did when rage consumed me. The evil-bender pushed me in ways only Mira and a handful of people knew how to.
“Xander, don’t,” Mira pleaded, sensing my anger.
But it was too late. The evil-bender would get what he had coming. First he interrupted our marking, and now he was throwing punches at the most powerful shape-shifters in the world. I hadn’t met anyone else like us, so I guessed that statistic might be inaccurate, but still, we weren’t the usual demons trailing an acidic stench and burning with their claws. We didn’t know exactly what our calling was, but it would take only one kill for us to begin our work in the underworld.
What work would there be for us otherwise? Trying to stop the demons from ruining the world without killing them? How exactly were we supposed to gain the alternate—the water mark? We’d tried and tried, and nothing worked. The only reasonable solution was to give in to the first kill. I wondered how the evil-bender got his, but the fury inside me boiled and I imagined it steam through my ears, evaporating logical thoughts.
I launched myself toward the evil-bender—only to be stopped in my tracks. Stunned, I looked down to my feet, now embedded in blue-glowing soil. Momentum carried my body forward until my nose almost touched the ground, then I sprang back to stand tall, sputtering, “What the hell?”