Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : G.W. Calloway
Word Count :50585
Publication Date :2016-04-01
Series : Zendara#1
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-0488-8
In a time where magic and swords meet, collisions will occur, and sparks will fly.
Orphaned at a young age, Jess learns to survive as best she can. The world is a rough place, and a grandmother’s love can only do so much. She’s watched over by long-time friend Gedeaddon. Although he has a rough exterior, Jess sees his heart better than others—except when it comes to herself.
Ripped from her world due to a slowly encroaching war by an unknown adversary, she joins forces with Gedeaddon and escapes one threat only to land in the path of an even greater one. Changes are happening she cannot understand, both in Gedeaddon and herself, as she becomes a woman and he becomes something not entirely human. On their journey, they meet new friends with similar ambitions, and Jess discovers magic and fantasy are just as real as life and death—and that animal lords truly do exist.
Jess never had liked being alone in the dark. The night noises made her uneasy. She quietly pulled the battle mace. “Gedeaddon?” The bushes to her right rustled. Spinning, she faced the sound. “This isn’t funny. Stop it.”
Two glowing eyes stared from within the bush.
“You’re not him,” she breathed, her voice a mere whisper. “Are you?”
The eyes blinked.
Backing into a tree, she spun, her battle mace ready, her target a wooden trunk. She spun back toward the eyes. Gone! She searched the surrounding area until something touched her shoulder. She spun, and the battle mace collided solidly with flesh and jaw in a horrifying thud. Terror filled her as she stared in disbelief. Never had he failed to block her. Never!
Dropping the battle mace and falling to her knees, she struggled to roll him over, fear devouring her very being. She was devastated. What have I done? Don’t die. Please, don’t die, Gedeaddon! From nowhere, two pair of hands reached around her and rolled Gedeaddon onto his back. She stared as a robed man knelt to check the wounds and a younger boy smiled kindly.
Experienced hands quickly examined Gedeaddon. With short black hair and emerald green eyes, the healer had a stocky build. He wore a white robe tied with a brown cord sash and soft leather shoes. “We can fix this.” A pack dropped beside him, and he pulled out a bottle of liquid and some herbs, rested his hand over the shattered jaw, and mumbled a few words.
Not recognizing the words, Jess watched in awe as the hideously deformed jawbone reshaped to become completely normal. The blood ceased oozing from the wounds as the flesh grew whole. Her gaze locked on the perfectly formed masculine jaw as she lightly traced his square jaw line. His skin was whole, not pockmarked. No longer did deep holes have bone chips poking through to draw one’s eye to the unsightly imperfections. No more did any of the deep scars direct one’s eye along abundant revolting paths gouged in his bronzed skin. His jaw now had the same basic shape of most men, but was strong, set with determination... and handsome.
The healer nodded approvingly. “I can’t do anything for his natural appearance, but he’ll be all right in a few hours. That jaw’s going to hurt from reshaping.” He held out his hand. “My name’s Turqqal.”
“Thank you,” Jess whispered, her voice filled with gratitude. “I never meant to hurt him.” She watched the man carefully pour a liquid down her guardian’s throat.
Getting up, Turqqal picked up the headless rabbits and handed them to the young boy. “I think these were meant to be cooked.” Setting his pack nearby, he kept a watchful eye on the injured man.
The lad stood five-feet-two with a thin, wiry build. Sandy blond hair hung to just above his shoulders, and his eyes were as blue as the sky on a clear day. He wore a faded green jerkin, brown pants, a short dark gray cloak, and brown knee-high soft leather boots. Setting his pack near the healer, he retrieved the blanket from the bedroll. “I’m Reneggo.” He covered the unconscious man, and quickly cleaned and began cooking both rabbits.
Another man Jess hadn’t noticed earlier stood behind Turqqal. His age unclear, but obviously a wielder of magic, at five-feet-ten he had a lean, muscular build. His white-blond hair just reached his shoulders. His eyes were the strangest solid black with amber specks, and his skin was pale. He wore a dark blue cloak with a deep hood, a dark green shirt, dark purple pants, and black knee-high soft leather boots. “I’m Arravis Zen. If Turqqal says he’s all right, he is.” Sitting with his back to a tree, he leaned his staff against his pack, pulled out a book, and started to read.
* * * *
Arravis momentarily opened a telepathic link, Glad you were in the area, thanks, Bonham. It was your action that spared her life from the pack.
Think nothing of it, my friend. I didn’t want to see her punished for his foolish mistake. I was the only wolf lord nearby who could stop the wolves anyway. Even if it was my fault.
Arravis watched as the gray wolf dashed into the forest. He turned his attention to the girl who, obviously anxious, sat beside the unconscious man, her hand on his chest, her eyes focused on his breathing.
* * * *
Drawing a deep breath and slowly releasing it, Gedeaddon opened his eyes and carefully flexed his jaw. Jess started to speak, but he cut her off. “Don’t.” He caught her hand and, carefully standing, pulled her to follow.
Jess met his gaze, her eyes going wide. She cowered beneath his glare.
His blood boiled and his anger grew. I’d throttle her if I wouldn’t kill her. Touching his jaw, he was mildly surprised at all the straightened bones, even the ones his stepfather had broken. “It is nice to know you can defend yourself,” he stated icily.
“I’d have never swung if I’d known who it was. There was some noise, then a pair of eyes in the bushes, and then the eyes were gone and there was some more noise, and then someone touched—I told you to stop sneaking up on me,” she whispered, a tear slipping down her cheek.
The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. His long sword drawn in an instant, he spun, her body kept behind him as he assessed the threats. One was sitting by a tree with a book. He’s an odd one, but not much danger there. One was smaller than his sprite. No problem there. And then there was the one standing close to the point of the sword. “Who are you, and why are you in my camp?”
“They helped me after—” Jess began.
“You tried to kill me.”
“I didn’t try to kill you.”
Gedeaddon shifted to gaze at her. “What were you doing then?”
“Protecting myself,” Jess insisted.
“About damn time.” He dropped her hand, sheathed his sword, and folded his arms over his chest, then scrutinized his closest intruder.
She introduced them. “This is Gedeaddon.” She pointed to the young blond. “That’s Reneggo.”
Gedeaddon swiftly evaluated the boy. “Don’t mess with my stuff.”
The lad returned to cooking. “Meany.”
Jess pointed to the man seated at the tree. “That’s Arravis Zen.”
Gedeaddon sighed. “Oh great. Another magic user.”
“Yes.” The smirking mage continued to read.
Jess pointed to the healer. “And this is Turqqal. If it weren’t for him, you’d have died.”
“You mean you’d have been wanted for murdering me,” Gedeaddon corrected.
“Next time speak before you touch,” Jess snapped, spinning to retrieve the battle mace, still lying where it had dropped.
He turned sideways, his watchful eye on her, “You fixed my jaw?”
“I did,” Turqqal answered. “It appeared there was a previous break, and when she hit you, it broke the old one, so now your jaw is back to what it should’ve been before either incident.”
Touching his jaw and flexing it, Gedeaddon had to admit that, although it was sore, the painful catch wasn’t there, and neither was the odd-shaped cheekbone. “You did well.”
“That’s his version of thank you.” Jess wiped off the battle mace and offered it.
He dropped his hand. “Why do I want that anywhere near me?”
“So I don’t use it again. Especially on you.”
Gedeaddon frowned. “Put it back on your side. At least I know you can defend yourself.”
“I don’t like it.”
He narrowed his eyes. She didn’t say that. He leaned closer. “What?”
“Nothing. I’ll take first watch.”
“I have first watch.”
“Fine. I’ll sleep.”
“You’ll eat first.” Going to the fire and lifting the spit, Gedeaddon ripped off two pieces of meat, then returned the rod to allow the food to continue cooking. He walked back to her. “Follow me.” He turned toward the woods, holding out a piece of meat.
Jess took the offer and joined him. “Lead on.”
“I want you to listen to something without saying anything until I’m finished. Agreed?”
Nodding, she tore off a small piece of meat and chewed.
He hastily finished his meal, licked his fingers, and wiped them on his cloak. “The man married to my mother was not my real father. My father died in an accident, and the man took us in. It was pretty good for a year or so, and then he hit the drink, but that wasn’t all he hit. He was a cruel man. He started on my mother and then on me. One of his pleasures was knocking me across the room. On one particular night he was real drunk and broke my jaw in so many pieces I was lucky I didn’t starve. Ever since I healed with the help of an old woman who could set the bones, I’ve had a catch that causes a good deal of pain when I talk or eat. That was the first night he picked up a weapon to hit me with, and I met that particular weapon on several occasions. I hate that weapon above all others, and it’s the only one I actually dread.” He met her gaze. “That weapon was a battle mace.”
She was horrified. “I am so—”
He put a finger over her lips. “Hush, there’s a good ending.” He dropped his hand. “You and that battle mace are responsible for breaking my jaw in all the right places so that healer could fix the bones to normal. There’s no painful catch in my jaw.”
“I nearly killed you!”
“You might have broken my jaw, but you actually fixed it. Besides, I should’ve let you know I was there.”
Stepping forward, Jess rested her forehead against his chest. “If Turqqal hadn’t come along, I can’t promise I’d have been able to help you.”
The lure of caressing her hair was strong. Gedeaddon held up his hand, but hesitated. “If you hadn’t knocked me out, they might have been killed.” Her hair now beneath his touch, he slowly trailed his hand down the silky tresses to her waist and inhaled her scent. “I was coming to you. I sensed someone too close for comfort.” A different scent assailed his nose. “We have company,” he whispered, his unrelenting hand holding her in place. “What do you want?”