Excerpt: Born in Shadow – Chapter 1

The scent of gardenias filled the room. Thorne, god of Shadow and ruler of the Shadow Walkers, rolled over and threw an arm across his face to block the wheat-colored sunlight streaming through the windows. The linen sheets tangled around his hips while a gentle breeze blew across his naked skin like a lover’s caress. The breeze kissed a path down the center of his chest, stirring the iridescent blue tattoos, which morphed into scenes of a moonlit balcony and long-forgotten gardens.

born2SM

Chapter One

 

Present Day

In the realm of Shadow

 

The scent of gardenias filled the room. Thorne, god of Shadow and ruler of the Shadow Walkers, rolled over and threw an arm across his face to block the wheat-colored sunlight streaming through the windows. The linen sheets tangled around his hips while a gentle breeze blew across his naked skin like a lover’s caress. The breeze kissed a path down the center of his chest, stirring the iridescent blue tattoos, which morphed into scenes of a moonlit balcony and long-forgotten gardens.

Was he with her again or was it another tortured dream? Did it matter? Far preferring to stay with his beloved as long as possible, Thorne surrendered to the memories.

* * *

Three Thousand Years Ago

In the realm of Arcadium

 

Today would be the day life as he knew it would forever change. Thorne didn’t know why this day of all days would be the day, only that he knew deep in his soul that his destiny would be revealed this day.

The square was crowded, throngs of people dressed in brightly colored silks going about their day-to-day lives. Golden sunlight glinted off water rippling outward as if trying to escape the confines of the elaborate marble fountain. From the steps of the fountain in the center of the city, one could see all the way to the sea. The ships coming and going, the sounds of men moving cargo onto the docks as gulls and other brightly colored birds darted in and out, snatching small fish from the day’s catch.

Where had Dayne wandered off to now? At fifteen, his brother was always chasing after some girl or getting into trouble with his friends. They needed to be back home soon and mustn’t be late—Terya, their mother, couldn’t abide lateness.

Thorne waited, shifting from foot to foot, counting the minutes. A cloud passed in front of the sun, turning the sky to twilight. As he turned to leave, a small movement seen from the corner of his eye, like the delicate fluttering of the wings of a luna moth, made him stop and peer through the mist rising off the fountain. The dancing water obscured his view. Thorne squinted and caught sight of six men carrying an ornate litter. Dressed as high-ranking slaves with heavily muscled bodies bare from the waist up, the slave men wore heavy gold collars around their necks bearing the emblem of the house they belonged to. In Arcadium most slaves were well cared for and treated as favored pets. There weren’t any beggars on the streets. The poor were cared for until they passed from this world into the next.

Arcadium was the wealthiest of all the realms and owed its prosperity to his mother, the supreme goddess. She chose to make her home here and live among the people. Well, to a point. They lived in an enormous white stone fortress at the highest point in the city, looking down on all the inhabitants. Even after ten years, Thorne still hadn’t explored all the rooms. It didn’t help the rooms changed size and number of their own accord, with gardens appearing where there was only grass and new corridors suddenly leading to rooms that weren’t there the day before.

The sea air ruffled his hair, the breeze lifting the gauzy curtains of the ornate litter, allowing him to gaze upon the occupant inside. The sounds of the square fell away, his knees buckled and Thorne braced a palm against the smooth edge of the ornate fountain. Mesmerized, he stood stock-still, uncaring of the water spattering the fine silk toga.

The female inside reclined on her side. Forged of fire and starlight. Long ringlets of golden hair lifted in the wind as if the air itself was enchanted by her beauty. A small heart-shaped golden face with full pink lips and the clearest blue eyes he’d ever seen gazed out the gap in the gauzy curtains. She smiled and he was lost…utterly ensnared by this vision of perfection.

Someone shoved him and the commotion around him finally registered. The purple silk toga he wore was plastered to his body. What the seven hells?

Laughter filled the air. “Look what I have, brother!” Dayne ran up to him, brandishing the bejeweled scepter from the fountain.

Thorne’s mouth fell open. “Mother will kill you on the spot for defacing her favorite statue of father. Put it back!”

The scepter touched him on the right then left shoulder. “I rename thee Sebastian, protector of the realm.” Dayne laughed and twirled the silver and gold scepter so fast the jewels cast rainbows across the fountain, his body and the square.

Trumpets sounded and Thorne cringed. Their mother was coming. If she saw the desecration to her beloved sculpture, Dayne would find himself locked in his rooms for at least a month. They’d miss the party tomorrow night to celebrate the spring solstice, and it was rumored to be the best of the season.

With a scowl on his face and narrowed eyes, Thorne grabbed the object and pointed up the road. “Mother’s almost here. Go, I’ll take care of it.”

His brother’s face paled, and with a worried look thrown over his shoulder, he ran as fast as his legs could carry him. There were only minutes until she arrived. Jumping into the fountain, Thorne climbed up into his father’s lap and reached out. The scepter wobbled. The horses’ hooves pounded on the cobblestones. Sweat dripped down his brow as the piece tipped—for an instant he thought it would topple into the water, but with a clang, it fell into place. He jumped out of the water, manifested dry clothing, and sat on the edge of the fountain as if he didn’t have a care in the world. What an idiot! Why didn’t he manifest the damn thing back in place? His mother had that effect on he and his brother. They forgot their burgeoning powers and became children again, afraid of incurring her displeasure.

Where was she? His eyes darted back and forth in time to the thundering of the carriage as Thorne desperately searched for the litter carrying his heart. In all the commotion he’d lost track of his destiny and now she was gone.

He wouldn’t rest until he found her. Claimed her for his own. For today, as he knew it would, his life had forever changed.

 

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Enjoyed this taste of the Shadow Walker world? You can currently find the book at Amazon. The first of November it will be available everywhere ebooks are sold.

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