Falling Light (Game of Shadows #2)

Falling Light (Game of Shadows #2)
Thea Harrison

Chapter One

WHEN MICHAEL KILLED the two unconscious men that lay sprawled in the overgrown grass, he did so with quick, efficient slashes across their carotid arteries.

Their spirits were already gone, destroyed by the most dangerous entity on earth. They had become drones that only looked like men, soulless vessels that enacted the Deceiver’s wishes.

Understanding what had happened to the men hadn’t stopped Mary’s expression from filling with pain when she had examined them. She had still held out hope that there was something she could do for them. Michael had watched her gaze turn dull when she realized the men were beyond her help. She cared about everyone. That fact lay at the essence of her healing.

Michael didn’t care for total strangers the way Mary did. All he felt was tiredness and a grim sense of relief as he straightened to watch the bodies bleed out. When he was certain that they were, in fact, finally dead, he limped over to the area where Mary had said that she had dropped her gun. He found the nine-millimeter, then turned to take one last look around at the area surrounding the small, rustic cabin.

More bodies littered the clearing. More casualties of the millennia-old war that he and the others had fought.

In this latest confrontation, the Deceiver had come much too close to capturing both Michael and Mary. He had shot Mary, and he and his drones had wounded Michael several times. Only by the sheerest luck and an insane gamble had they managed to survive and send their old enemy scrambling in retreat.

The strong morning light fell into Michael’s eyes, blinding him. The bright yellow haze filled his mind, and his head swam. For a moment, he felt disconnected from his body, half in another realm, sensing as if from a distance how his physical wounds throbbed.

The knife wound in his upper thigh was the worst. It ached like a son of a bitch. The knife had scraped bone. He was lucky it hadn’t severed an artery. When Mary had bandaged them in the cabin, she had stitched and bound the knife wound tightly. It stanched the worst of the bleeding, but he could feel that the bandages had already grown heavy and wet.

He had other wounds that were not physical but spiritual in nature, claw marks from the swarm of dark spirits that had attacked him, and from when the Deceiver had almost destroyed him.

He didn’t remember what had happened, only what Mary told him. He had been unconscious at the time, but he could sense the damage running through him like a series of dark fault lines. He felt as if he took the right kind of blow, a blow filled with power and not mere physical strength, his spirit might shatter.

He needed to get off his feet and give the leg wound a chance to stop bleeding. They needed to leave this place before the Deceiver could regroup and try to come after them again. Michael suspected that the Deceiver would pull back, gather reinforcements and regain his strength rather than go after them again right away, but they couldn’t take any chances. At the moment, they were too vulnerable to fight off another concentrated attack.

This cabin was isolated, a few miles away from Wolf Lake, deep in the Michigan National Forest. Once, it had been a useful hideaway, but now that its location was known, its usefulness as a safe house was gone. When they left, they wouldn’t be returning.

He turned to limp toward Mary who leaned against the passenger door of his car, a nondescript, battered blue Ford with a transplanted BMW engine that he maintained meticulously.

While she waited for him to finish his grim task, she tilted her face up, eyes closed, to the bright morning sunlight.

The sight of her struck him powerfully, almost like another physical blow. She was small and slender-boned, just five-foot-two, with bright, aquamarine blue eyes, honey-colored skin and thick, layered tawny hair that curled crazily if left to its own devices.

She was gorgeous and almost a stranger. He had only known her for a few days in this life. They had been lovers for a single night, but they had been soul mates for millennia.

As he approached, she opened her eyes to look at him. She looked as exhausted as he felt, her lovely eyes circled with shadows and her soft, full mouth bracketed with lines of pain. Her jeans were streaked with dirt, and she wore one of his flannel shirts. It was massive on her, and the tails came down almost to her knees.

The Deceiver had shot her in the shoulder. Michael had bound her arm in a sling. Then he helped her to roll up one sleeve past her slender wrist, while the other sleeve remained empty.

When he reached her side, he tucked the weapons in his black canvas bag in the backseat. Then he couldn’t resist touching her. He leaned over to kiss her. She cupped the back of his head, stroking his short hair as she kissed him back.

He took her free hand. “Listen to me. We’re both hurt, and Astra’s strength is depleted.”

Astra, his old childhood mentor.

Astra was also the leader of the original group of seven that had left their world six thousand years ago to pursue the Deceiver when he had escaped their prison and fled to Earth.

In order to follow him, the group had needed to die as the Deceiver had died, in an arcane ritual filled with alchemy and power. The ritual transmuted their souls. As they died, they left their world and joined the Earth’s natural cycle of death and rebirth, where they lived and died as humans did, over and over again.

Astra had come to help Michael and Mary in astral form when they fought their latest battle with the Deceiver, but astral projection took a lot of power. Fighting in astral form took even more power, and they couldn’t expect any more help from her anytime soon.

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