Gearing up for the release of the second book in the Elemental Enmity Series, I thought it would be fun to post the prologue of Dark Matter. I will also be posting the first chapter soon, so stay in touch. I hope you enjoy...
Zach, lord of space and void, leaned against the ragged trunk of a palm tree staring at what was supposed to be the forbidding walls of the Order’s secret compound. He squinted, searching for some sign of movement in the darkness. His muscles tensed involuntarily. Where was Luke?
They had agreed to meet back here hours ago. Knowing the fool, he had probably gone and gotten himself caught. Realizing that could even be an option made his gut clench with worry but most of all rage.
The compact was not only broken, the humans were waging a silent war against the fae all the while pretending to be allies. How had it come to this?
His heart sank with a realization he didn’t want to admit. He had grown lax in his duties, thinking mortals could never really pose a threat to a race that had lived millions of years.
He still didn’t believe them capable. He was aware the Order had been running their absurd experiments for the past few decades, but they had been centuries away from discovering the key to creating a male Elemental. From what he sensed here, they were closer than he ever imagined possible. The situation reeked of treason and treachery. But who?
The obvious answer lied in the selfish whims of his sister. He should have listened to his mother and never followed along with Ainessa’s foolish ambitions. He sighed, running a hand through his hair. No matter. His life was set: an unending punishment for one foolhardy decision.
He did not feel Ainessa here, but that didn’t mean much at the moment. Everything about this hellish place was off. The moment he had stepped near the compound his abilities had gushed out of him as if from a severed artery. The elements swirled wildly around him, disordered and volatile reminding him of days he would rather forget.
At least Styx had not made the journey with him. He had been able to open a portal to contact his trusted steed, but he wasn’t sure if the message got through before the connection was severed. He had tried to drift back home with the last vestiges of his strength, but something had tethered him to the island. Zach had already scoured the jungle for any sign of the bloody machine that had stolen his power. This was the last place it could be.
The time for waiting was over. Luke was not coming.
With the stealth of a cougar, he crept toward the walls intent on finding a way over them. He was still stronger than most humans would ever be, but he wasn’t capable of jumping that high at the moment. He glanced around one last time before running his hands over the smooth surface checking for finger holds. He bit back a curse and shifted his attention to finding another option. Nothing but a lizard could scale those walls.
His only chance lay in the angled trunk of a palm tree. He hoisted himself up to the level of the rigid fronds then scanned the compound below.
The Order had indeed been busy. Nondescript buildings stretched nearly to the beach with a large central hub anchoring the rest. The building was four stories tall, but he suspected most of the structure lay within the depths of the earth. He narrowed his eyes, focusing in on his target. Where else would they hide a machine capable of changing the world? One carefully executed jump and he would be on his way to ending this charade.
Silent as a cat he leapt effortlessly onto the wall. In an instant he was crouching behind prickly bushes waiting for the guard to pass. The man didn’t even turn his way. The sickly-sweet stench of cheap alcohol drifted around him. He smirked. So much for security.
He crept between the maze of buildings, his hope growing with every step toward his mark. Thoughts of Rayla refused to stay buried. With the Order handled, he would be able to see her soon. Leaving her in the borderlands with Finn as her only protection was the hardest thing he had ever done.
Sending her to Ignis was a mistake, especially with Finn’s resolve to bond with Cassie and Heath rising in the ranks of underlords. He regretted it the moment he had left her, but he would never be able to focus on winning her until he was sure she was safe. His only chance was if he could swiftly resolve this problem and return to her before any real damage was done.
So much had changed in him since he’d first seen her. Love was a possibility he never thought might be his again. After their first encounter, he’d convinced himself he had to claim her for the greater good of his people. Yet when he had seen her in the woods with that look of horror haunting her stormy eyes, something within him had reviled at the thought of taking her forcefully like he had….
His thoughts spiraled downward to another time and place. An image of raven hair framing a delicate face pushed its way to the surface of his mind. A slight smile turned the edges of his mouth. It was so easy for him to see her still. If only he had done things differently back then. He would have had more time with her — no he couldn’t think about that now. Only one thing happened when he allowed himself to visit the past, and he didn’t have time for despair. Those days were gone. Faine was a distant memory. Rayla was his new reality.
He wouldn’t make the same mistakes with her. It had to be her choice or not at all. Her heart was still attached to Luke. No matter how flimsy the connection, he would not live that way again. Even love wasn’t worth that price.
He slipped through the side-door, quickly disarming the security system. He wouldn’t even know how to do this sort of thing if it hadn’t been for his prolonged stay among humans. The fae had no need for mechanical devices which was probably the reason they fascinated him so much. He had tired of the drudgery of court long ago and fled to the human realm, finding more than just solace and entertainment among the mortals.
They were an odd race, full of mischief, capable of causing horrendous atrocities, but all in all the people reminded him of how goodness can conquer the most miserable of circumstances. He had taken to downright studying them after the end of World War II. Under such dire and hopeless odds, they had come together and managed to overthrow the worst tyrant the world had ever seen. Unfortunately, humanity didn’t know about Nigel Lambert.
Zach had found the Order unsavory from the start. They were nothing more than a greedy vat of oiled pigs as far as he was concerned, but this man knew no bounds.
He had campaigned against bringing men into the Elemental equation the moment the idea was introduced, but he had been outvoted. The council had called him biased in the worst way and ordered him to step down as their leader. What would they think of their decision now?
He descended the first flight of stairs. A search of the entire floor revealed nothing out of place, just an oversized furnace room and some odds and ends of computer parts. The second through fourth floors failed to yield anything more substantial.
When he opened the door to the fifth level, his body surged from the pulse of immense power nearby. Something felt wrong, but he couldn’t name it.
The hallway stretched deep into the earth. Why did these people insist on building subterranean labyrinths? They still held the misconception that iron limited fae powers. It had been a necessary lie to cover a plan gone extremely wrong. And this place had been built entirely of the metal. What exactly were they trying to hide down here?
Halfway through the maze, he sensed the presence of an ancient force. One he hadn’t felt in a very long time.
He shook his head. It could not be, yet he could not deny his feelings. How had she managed to obtain such a thing or, worse yet, to bring it here? He cursed through gritted teeth. The headstrong twit just might have done it this time. The Creator could not possibly overlook an attempt as deliberate as this.
The farther he walked the more fear sank into him. His entire race would be homeless again if he didn’t stop Ainessa. He would use mortal means to leave this place if he had to. He didn’t want to abandon Luke to face this alone, but he now realized it was necessary. With his decision made, he hastened to retreat, only to stop short.
Ainessa stood before him with an angelic expression on her face. Two large men flanked her. Something about them seemed familiar, but he was unsure of exactly what.
She curtsied in greeting. “How good of you to come Ammon. We’ve been hoping you would.” She lifted her hand daintily toward her chin exposing a silver ring on her middle finger. It was goblin made. There was no doubt about that. Intricate filigree laced up the sides and around an enormous blue stone. A pinprick of light pulsated at the center like a heartbeat.
Funny that something so small could house the power of creation. Entranced he stared for what seemed an eternity. He felt the pull but fought the heady sensation. As enticing as it was, one such as he could not ignite the germ. “How many times do I have to tell you to call me Zach? I am no longer that person.”
“You will always be Ammon to me, little brother, no matter how many attempts you make to change your name.”
He ignored the sentimental cadence to her voice. It was just a manipulation tactic. Ainessa was beyond feeling. He pointed at her ring. “I can’t fathom where you got that, but you must return it. We cannot risk—”
“Not to worry,” she said brightly. “I have a plan.”
He sighed. Didn’t she always?
She passed her hand over the ring and it surged to life lighting the entire corridor. He gaped at his sister. He had underestimated her again. For her to have that much power could only mean one thing.
“Where is Luke?” he cried, reaching out with his mind to locate his friend. “What have you done to him?”
“He wore out faster than I expected.” She shook her head dismally. “And to think he is a lord.” She cocked her head to the side. “However did he become one?”
Zach winced. His show of favoritism had harmed the only person who had really ever helped him.
She lowered a pale finger toward the stone. Smoky tendrils snaked around him like demons freshly released from hell’s gates the moment she touched it. He ran but it was no use. The darkness swirled closer to him, tasting his strength before it attached to his skin.
He screamed his pain, but no one was left to hear him as he collapsed to the dirt floor. He’d fallen for her trap. His last thought before unconsciousness claimed him was simply…Rayla.