Stacey Kennedy is an avid lover of the paranormal romance, urban fantasy and erotic romance genres. If she isn’t plugging away at her next novel, tending to her two little ones, she’s got her nose deep in a good book. She lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband. Be sure to drop her a line at www.staceykennedy.com, she loves to hear from her readers.
Decades old guilt collide with a murder, igniting a battle in a warrior’s soul to choose between love and duty…Murder has brought Talon, Master of Guardians, as well as Zia, his witch and Master of Witches, to Chicago. The manner of death appears to be a suicide, but Talon is far from ready to close the case. To avenge the Guardian linked to his past, he agrees to take on the assignment, and find her killer.
As they dive deeper into the investigation, they find themselves entering a world where BDSM is the norm. A lifestyle that Zia is uncomfortable with and, rattled by this new development, she is more than ready to return to the Otherworld. But their investigation quickly takes an unexpected twist when they discover that they’re not only hunting a killer but also someone who is controlling supernaturals in Chicago.
Their mission not only brings danger, but also forces Talon to deal with decades old guilt that corrodes his soul. Every event that unfolds only deepens his fight and pushes him to face an ultimate choice—what is more important—his duty to the Otherworld or the witch he holds closest to his heart?
Duty. Honor. Morals.
All these things abandoned Talon’s mind as he stood over the dead body on the ground. The woman’s light brown hair draped over her face, but not enough to conceal her identity. She was no stranger to him. Her face held a bluish tinge, the rosy color he remembered she once had on her cheeks now gone. Whitlyn, his son’s mother.
Talon bent down and brushed the hair away from the Guardian’s face and his heart clenched. An arrangement between him and Whitlyn had been forged years ago, and he never expected when he saw her again it would be to find her dead. At the time she lived in the Otherworld, she’d proven herself to be one of the greatest female warriors. But the battles wore on Whitlyn. She wanted a life without death and violence. Knowing the stakes it cost the Otherworld to have her gone, she offered a solution, presented herself to bear Talon’s child.
Now, the woman who gave him such a gift had lost her life.
“Oh, Talon.” Zia’s voice came compassionate above him. She rested her hand on his shoulder in a loving embrace. “I’m sorry.”
Talon couldn’t find the strength to look at his witch. Yes, she belonged to him now and hadn’t condemned his heart with guilt when he made the agreement with Whitlyn, yet he drowned in sorrow over the reality. He hadn’t once regretted his choice. Not only had Kyden proved to be an impeccable Guardian, but a wonderful son. However, seeing Whitlyn in this condition tore at his heart.
“It’s not me to be sorry for.” He’d always suspected Whitlyn’s actions came from the duty she felt she owed to the Otherworld, but he also believed the solution a viable one. It gave back to their forces, while it allowed Whitlyn to live in peace in the Earthworld among the humans and leave her position as part of the Council’s guard. Talon never understood her desires. His duty as Master of Guardians, part of the Council, was now and would always be to the Otherworld. To protect the Earthworld from supernatural beings who wished to cause them harm. His thoughts weren’t of humans at the moment, didn’t stray on his responsibilities as a leader to the Otherworld. His only concern remained on Whitlyn.
Sighing, he glanced at Zade, the Master of Vampires, who stood off to the side of the modest home located in the Near South Side of Chicago. “What happened to her?”
Zade shook his head, sending his coal hair to drape across his forehead, his dark eyes perplexed. “Right now, I know about as much as you do. I sent Finn to this assignment after the Chicago PD contacted us.” Supes were well established in the Earthworld law enforcement for just this reason. It gave them an in on supernatural murders. “When Finn discovered it wasn’t a mortal who died, but a Guardian, he came back to inform us. He found me instead. Thinking I could handle the matter myself, I came here and recognized her immediately.” He glanced down to Whitlyn. Sadness resided on his expression. “You must understand my reasons for coming to find you.” His gaze came back up to meet Talon’s. “Do you want me to go and get Kyden?”
Talon pondered. Zia and Talon had been resting when Zade had come to their residence. Being odd that Zade asked them to assist on an assignment instead of letting one of the guard deal with the matter as they usually did, Talon knew something had gone terribly wrong. It wasn’t often the Masters needed to intervene. Their guard held strong, protected the Earthworld on most cases without their assistance in person.
It was true his son Kyden was part of their guard—both him and his mate, Nexi, were elite warriors within the Otherworld, but Talon hesitated involving him in this. The secret of his birth hadn’t been kept a secret from Kyden, but he never discussed it with anyone. Talon doubted even Nexi knew of his mother. He always equated it to the fact that she didn’t exist in Kyden’s eyes—to disown one’s duty to the Otherworld was the gravest of all betrayals. Talon never harbored ill feelings toward Whitlyn for her choices. The battles could be trying at times, and she sought refuge from all the death—he’d never judge her for those wishes.
Talon’s pause was more centered on the uncertainty about how Kyden would respond to the sight of his dead mother. So many unresolved emotions surrounded Whitlyn. Too many in Talon’s own soul to even make sense of now. Determined he only had one choice, he shook his head. “No, leave him out of it.”
“Talon,” Zia exclaimed.
Her curt tone forced his gaze to hers and he encountered an unhappy expression on his witch’s face. Even with her grimace, though, she still exuded beauty. Long strawberry blonde hair flowed around her flawless skin and her stunning blue eyes that he’d never grow tired of admiring. Yet, he had a point to make and he would make it clear. “All Kyden knows of his mother is that she wanted a life away from danger and those are the reasons she gave birth to him and left, never to return. Kyden and Nexi were bonded mere weeks ago. I won’t ruin their joy with this news. Besides, they’re away on their travels enjoying some peace they both deserve.”
Exactly why Whitlyn wanted out. Danger never stopped, and his son had had his share of it lately. Nexi, being a mixed being of Guardian, Witch, and Fae—her magic had blossomed, making her stronger than any supernatural being known in the Otherworld. With those gifts came a world of trying times. His son choosing her as his love brought evil to take center stage in their lives. Luckily, his son lived through the dangerous events, as did Nexi. Peace wasn’t given to them; they earned it, and Talon didn’t want to bring strain to their lives. He didn’t have the heart to darken his son’s happy moment. “We’ll handle the assignment, find out what happened to Whitlyn, and I’ll tell him when they return.” After Talon sorted out how he felt on the matter and had all the answers to explain it all to his son.
“You will tell him though, yes?” Zia probed.
“I will, but I don’t want him to see her like this.” Talon’s heart ached, for Whitlyn and Kyden. He sympathized with why Whitlyn had left the Otherworld. He’d seen it before in Guardians and supernaturals who chose to work for the Council. The hard times wore on them. Yet, he’d never felt as she did. He belonged in his role.
Even though he had no relationship with Whitlyn and there had never been love between them when they spent a month together producing Kyden, he respected her. The time they’d shared was a wonderful memory. He hated to see her life stolen from her. It left an empty gap in his heart and he wondered how in the world he would tell Kyden his mother had died.
“The vamp who met Finn here had no knowledge of what had taken place,” Zade said, “and if he would have told us sooner that it was Whitlyn who lost her life, I would have acted faster.”
Time was always a key factor. The longer it took them to locate the killer, the more distance he or she could put between them. But Talon didn’t worry about that so much. His only focus right now centered on what took place here. “Zia, do your magic and show us what happened here.”
“Of course.” Zia raised her hands, and the wind picked up in the room as her magic called to replay the moment Whitlyn’s life ended. Her talents, gifted from being a Spirit Witch and Master of Witches, gave her enough power in that beautiful body of hers to astound Talon more than once.
Within only moments of the first call on her magic, the scene shimmered into view. Talon placed his hands firmly on the floor to steady himself. Whitlyn stood before him, pale; her eyes shone with terror as her body trembled in fear. However, nothing stood there to give reason for her fright; no one around her caused her panic. Talon scanned the simple living room a few times over, yet still nothing. No murderer.
A gasp brought Talon’s focus back to Whitlyn. She now rested on her knees close to him. Her breath strained as her chest rose and fell in heavy movements. Confusion stole his thoughts. “Am I missing something?” His attention remained on the dying Whitlyn.
“No. Why is she dying?” Zia gasped.
Whitlyn fell down on her side, her breathing rapid and forced. As much as Talon wished he could intervene, he held no power to do so. The vision was a moment from the past. Whitlyn had already died.
Within a few short minutes, the vision settled on the same one Talon came upon when he entered the small, humble home. Whitlyn lying dead. He tried to make sense out of what he saw, but couldn’t. Nothing appeared to have killed her. She hadn’t appeared to be stabbed nor had any visible wounds, although he suspected someone had caused her death. Not an empty room. Feeling beside himself, he glanced at Zia. “Did you make sense of any of that?”
“Not at all.” Zia shook her head, her eyes wide, baffled. “Do you think she did this to herself?”
The thought, too horrible to even imagine, was one Talon didn’t think possible. Whitlyn had always been a strong warrior. Her actions proved she wasn’t selfish. When she left the Otherworld, she could have just walked out, but she provided her body, her impeccable genes from a long line of warriors, to give back to her world. Whitlyn had never been a woman who acted with such selfishness. “I cannot fathom it. She doesn’t seem the type.”
“But you haven’t seen her in well over twenty-nine years,” Zade countered.
How time flew. It felt like only yesterday when Whitlyn gave birth to Kyden, kissed him goodbye, and left. In just a year, he’d reach his immortality and no longer age. It might have made Talon sentimental if the current situation didn’t take precedence. “That’s true. It has been many years since I’ve seen her last. It’s quite possible she could have become another woman.” Talon hummed. “Still, to take her own life? Why would Whitlyn choose such a fate for herself?” He placed his hand on Whitlyn’s forehead and her cold skin chilled his palm. His heart bled for her. “If you have done this to yourself, I’m sorry you didn’t trust in us to come home and get you the help you needed. If someone has hurt you, it’s my promise to you that I’ll find out who and deliver their punishment on your behalf.”
Silence filled the room and Talon appreciated it. His mind ran rapid with thoughts of whats and whys. Finally, after a long moment, Zade cleared his throat, bringing Talon’s attention to him. “I note a strange scent around her, but I cannot place it.”
As Guardian, Talon didn’t have the enhanced scent capabilities Zade possessed as a vampire; only impeccable warrior skills had been granted to him. He couldn’t smell anything unusual here. Inhaling deeply for good measure, he sighed, unable to catch a trace of it. “I’d suspect whatever you are scenting is what caused her death.”
“A very strange occurrence,” Zia offered.
Talon agreed. Clearly whatever Whitlyn had either taken—or been given—claimed her life. However, the question remained, what was it? Never in all his years had he ever seen a death in this manner. The fact this was so personal made urgency flare to life, but brought something else with it too.
After a little squeeze of his hand on Whitlyn’s frigid flesh, he closed his eyes and felt an entire world of guilt rest upon his shoulders. He’d find out what happened because he owed Whitlyn that and so much more. She’d given his life meaning in giving him a son. Gave him something he never thought he’d have as a Master. An oath he’d taken long ago to always put the Otherworld first. A personal life wasn’t in the hopes and dreams of a Master. Their role, their nightly-life centered on keeping the Earthworld protected.
Zia was his heart, no doubt about it. What they were now, merely lovers, is what they’d always be. Being bound as his son was to Nexi would never been in his future with Zia. He’d long ago accepted that fate. And now, to the mother of his son, he made a silent promise of justice for all she’d given him.
Talon whispered his final goodbyes to Whitlyn, stood, and looked at Zia. “Let’s take her to someone who might be able to identify this unknown killer.” He reached down and gathered the lifeless Whitlyn in his arms. Talon might have only given her a passing thought over the years, but he mourned her death now.
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