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A Battle of Blood and Stone (Paperback)

A Battle of Blood and Stone (Paperback)

An epic romantasy saga

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Another day, another step closer to Hell on Earth being unleashed.

With every piece that falls into place for the queen of the Underworld, Kymaris gains strength and power that will make it more difficult to defeat her when the time comes.

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It feels as if we’re in a desperate race to get just one step ahead of her, but my demise feels closer than it ever has before with still so much to do.

The first order of business is to unlock the angelic powers with which I was gifted at birth, and Carrick insists on getting help from my archnemesis to do so. Yes, I have to save the world, but my priority has now become rescuing my sister from the Underworld. While there are many questions still to be answered about my long-lost twin, I know I will not win this battle without her by my side.

In the midst of all the doom and gloom, Carrick has become my beacon of shining light. Our connection unimaginable, my heart recognizes his as the other half of its whole. Inexplicable and deeper than one could ever imagine, the love I hold for him is forged by destiny, however ill-fated it may turn out to be.

And those are the feelings I must hold close…to keep me going. Because a painful lesson is on the horizon—betrayal never comes from your enemies.

A Battle of Blood and Stone is book four of the Chronicles of the Stone Veil series and is best enjoyed if read in series order.

Read Chapter One

Finley

The wraith is easily ten feet tall but given the fact it flies through the air to hunt down its quarry, it’s twenty feet above me as it hovers.

Ten minutes ago, I didn’t know what a wraith was.
Still not exactly sure since I haven’t had time to ask Maddox or Zaid about it. That’s because the minute it flew out of the coffin we had just opened—in a dank mausoleum in a spooky cemetery on the outskirts of Pest in Hungary—I’d been fighting the creature off.
It’s creepy as hell with skeletal-looking hands and feet showing under tattered, moth-eaten robes. Not an actual skeleton but rather thin, pale skin stretched directly over its bones, so it looks horrendously emaciated. The hood is pulled low over its head, which I imagine resembles the rest of its body, but I can’t see any details. It’s pitch-black where the wraith’s face should be.
Honestly, I’m thankful all I can see are the hands and feet.

I send my whip cracking at it, but it’s too far out of reach. All I’m succeeding in doing is letting it know if it comes closer, I’ll get some good licks in.

Maddox, Zaid, and I are in Hungary searching for a relic Zaid had gotten a lead on from one of his darker contacts—namely Boral, his father. It supposedly acts as a compass of sorts—leads people to and helps them enter alternate realms. The information was sparse, and we have no clue how we can use it or if we can even locate the realm where Micah lives so we can try to steal the chalice and Blood Stone, but it’s the best we’ve come up with so far in the last two weeks since Carrick disappeared…

Right after he told me that I was the reincarnated love of his life.

I was still reeling from that information when Rune—god of death and simply the biggest asshole I’ve ever met—grabbed Carrick and disappeared with him.

“Try to get it to come closer to you,” Maddox yells from beside a large headstone.

When the wraith shot out at us, we’d fled the mausoleum, knowing we’d be able to fight better out in the open.

Zaid had yelled, “Wraith.”

And that’s, of course, how I knew it was a wraith.
Maddox yelled, “Run,” from which I gleaned it was dangerous.

For the past five minutes, Maddox and I have been keeping the damn thing occupied while Zaid went back into the mausoleum to search for the relic.

“You want it to come closer to me?” I yell, flicking my whip in its direction. When it had dropped closer, I managed to rip a piece of the fabric from the bottom of its robe. Emitting an ear-piercing shriek of fury, it shot back up a little higher.

“Yes, be bait,” Maddox urges.

I can’t help but grin at that. While Carrick was overly cautious and protective, barely letting me out of his sight because of all the scary dangers in the world, Maddox hasn’t held me back once in the past two weeks. But that’s the difference between the two demi-god brothers. Carrick is cautious and wise, while Maddox is impetuous and shortsighted.

Regardless, I’m just glad to be doing something because sitting around waiting for Carrick to decide to show back up is driving me batshit crazy.

I’m told he’ll come back. Maddox, having the ability to contact the gods, found out Rune is using Carrick for a project but that he is alive and unhurt. He’s just currently indisposed.

It pisses me off, quite frankly.

He’s a demi-god for Pete’s sake. He could have come back by now. I’m sure of it, and when he does, he’ll get a piece of my mind for all the worry he’s put me through.
Except right now, I’ve got a bigger worry.

“Put your whip away,” Maddox calls. “That will draw it in closer.”

I take the briefest of moments to shoot him an incredulous look. He just grins back at me.

I trust Maddox. He wants the damn thing closer to the ground, so he can attack it. Otherwise, we’ll continue this horror show dance whereby the wraith screams death at us and dive bombs, only to shoot back up into the air, hovering and waiting for another chance to attack.

Quickly, I coil my whip and settle it over me crossbody style. I’m not about to toss it away, but maybe this will appear less threatening to the creature.

It rides the air above me, slowly bobbing up and down. I can’t see its face, but I can tell it’s considering something by the way it lazily hovers without making a sound.

“Come to mama,” I murmur as I stare up at it with defiance.

I expect it to fly at me at the same speed by which it has been doing all of its attacks. Quickly, but with enough time to react.

I’m not prepared for the way it shoots at me like a bullet, traveling so fast I don’t think Maddox can reach me in time even though demi-gods are pretty damn fast themselves. I’ve seen Carrick move at a speed that renders him nothing more than a blur.

I have less than two seconds to react, which isn’t enough time to get my whip off and uncoil it for an attack. Instead, I crouch low, put my hands up as if to ward the thing off, and call on my inner light power to protect me.

As expected, a filmy half-dome of a shield covers me and the wraith hits it so hard, the ground shakes. But then Maddox is there, a huge medieval looking sledgehammer in his hand. He swings it in a wide arc, aiming where the wraith’s head would be under the dark hood. With a sickening thwack, the wraith falls to the ground in a pile of dusty rags. That hit alone would not kill the creature though. Maddox wastes no time dropping the sledgehammer and conjuring a spear from thin air—such is the magic of demi-gods—and thrusts it down hard through what would likely be the abdomen of the wraith. This also would not kill it but instead pins the monster to the ground, which is a good thing because it starts to thrash.

It’s horrific watching as it squirms against the spear. To finish it off, Maddox has to penetrate the heart or the brain with iron. As of now, there’s no way to tell where either are under the tattered robes.

It was smart of Maddox to pin it to the ground. Smoke seeps up around the area where the spear went in, indicating the tip was made of iron. While iron in the abdomen wouldn’t kill the wraith, it would hurt and weaken the creature.

I release the dome shield over me—the only thing I’ve been able to learn how to do so far with my special angel powers—and stand straight. Maddox bends over the creature, then rips the robe’s material from the creature’s neck area and down the sternum. I still can’t see the head inside the hood, but Maddox easily exposes the torso, which is hard to look at. The spear is through the stomach center, which is gaunt and so severely hollowed out I can see part of the spine pressing against the skin. The ribs are protruding, and I see the spot just between the fourth and fifth rib where I was taught to stab a fae so that the heart would be pierced. I don’t have the strength to penetrate the sternum.

Maddox doesn’t have that problem. He conjures an iron sword, raises it high so the tip points at the wraith’s chest, and then drives it down hard. There’s a crunch of bone as the sternum shatters, a hair-raising scream from the wraith, and then it falls abruptly silent the second the iron breaches the heart muscle.

Swinging his head to look at me, Maddox grins. “You make good bait.”

“That was a little too close for comfort,” I say with a shake of my head. I had barely gotten my shield up in time. “What would have happened if the wraith had gotten to me?”

“He would have sucked your soul out of your nose,” Maddox replies calmly as he pulls the sword out of the creature. Rather than cleaning the black blood from the blade, he merely makes the weapon disappear.

“My nose?” I ask dubiously.

“Or mouth,” he replies mischievously. “Can’t quite remember which.”

We’re silent as the dark fae’s body turns dark and then starts to smoke. As the ashy tendrils drift upward, the wraith slowly disappears into the night sky.

“What exactly is a wraith?” I ask as we turn toward the mausoleum to check on Zaid. Now that we have a few moments where we’re not fighting for our lives, I’m curious.

Well, my life.

The wraith couldn’t have hurt Maddox. Dark Fae aren’t anywhere near as powerful as demi-gods, which was why the creature was focused on me.

“They’re one of those Dark Fae that were summoned out of the Underworld by old priests or witches, virtually powerless until they were bestowed a little soul-sucking power from stone wielders. They evolved, and their powers were refined.”

“So, they just hang out in cemeteries?” I press.
Maddox frowns as we approach the door of the mausoleum before shaking his head. “Actually, no. They’re most often employed to hunt someone down to kill them.”

I freeze in my tracks. “And what are the chances we just happened to stumble upon one, and it turned its attention to me?”

Maddox’s frown deepens with concern. “It would be too much of a coincidence it just happened to be here.”
“Shit,” I mutter, the realization hitting me. “You think Kymaris ordered this?”

Kymaris—Queen of the Underworld and my nemesis. The one who ordered my twin sister to be stolen and held captive in the Underworld and forced her to be a conduit to channel great power into her. Now Kymaris intends to doom the world when she obliterates the veil between her realm and earth, letting all her evil minions swarm and subjugate humans.

It’s this whole prophecy thing.

Maddox reaches out, clamping a hand on my shoulder. “It could be Kymaris. But it could be anyone who decided they didn’t like you sticking your nose into fae business.”

“That’s actually a list that’s adding up,” I mutter as I think about it. There’s Stan, the Light Fae noble, and Deandra, the Light Fae princess from Faere. Come to think about it, just about any fae would hate me and want to kill me. Humans are looked down upon, so it’s entirely possible we stumbled upon this creature and it locked onto me as being non-fae.

“Are you going to sequester me to the condo the way Carrick would at the hint I’m in further danger?” I ask him.

Maddox snorts. “I’m nothing like my brother. And besides that, I’m not madly in love with you the way he is. He has better reasons than I do to keep you alive.”
I know he’s teasing, but the pain of those words hits deep. Carrick is in love with me—has been for centuries. We’ve loved each other over and over again through my every reincarnation.

Of course, I don’t remember any of this, but the pain on Carrick’s face made it clear he wasn’t exaggerating about how hard this has been on him. He even asked the gods to release him from existence because it was too awful finding me over and over again, only to lose me to some quick and unpredictable death.

“He’ll be back soon,” Maddox says softly, apparently reading my expression.

Shrugging his hand off, I mutter. “I don’t care when he comes back. We’re doing fine without him.”

“Keep telling yourself that, hot stuff,” Maddox retorts with a laugh. “You might actually start to believe it.”

Before I can come back with a pithy response, Maddox pivots and heads into the mausoleum. Zaid is going through a stone coffin and by the cement tops moved off the others, it looks like he’s already searched four and is on the last one.

“Anything?” Maddox asks.

Zaid glances up, the flashlight he’s holding causing a glow to hit him under the chin. It makes his gaunt face look almost as skeletal as the wraith’s, and he shakes his head in dismay.

“A wild goose chase?” I ponder aloud.

“If the wraith was here to attack you, then I’d say you were set up,” Maddox concludes, pinning his gaze on Zaid.

Zaid had gotten the tip from his father, and his face turns paler than normal. “Fucking Boral,” he snarls.

Zaid’s father is an evil, awful, hateful Dark Fae whose sole joy is murdering and pillaging. Lately, he’s been trying to get back in his son’s good graces, but Zaid hasn’t wanted anything to do with him for centuries upon centuries.

Boral is persistent, though. He has embedded himself in with some of the original fallen Dark Fae recruited by Kymaris and who will be a part of the confractus muros, which is the ritual that will bring down the veil between the Underworld and the Earth realm. Boral has been passing information to us from various Dark Fae contacts, including this relic that would supposedly help point us to the Blood Stone.

“I don’t think he set me up,” I rush to defend his dad. “Yes, he passed on the information, but I don’t think he knew a wraith would be sent after me. Maybe Kymaris knows he’s a double agent of sorts.”

Zaid looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. “He’s evil, Finley. When are you going to get it through your head?”
“He has no reason to harm me.” I huff with frustration because Boral, despite his many faults, is our best source of information on Kymaris.

Our only source, really.

“Because it will hurt Carrick is reason enough,” Maddox points out. “Boral hates Carrick. If he can hurt Carrick, he’ll take the opportunity to do it.”

I shake my head. I don’t believe it. Over the past two weeks, I’ve had some conversations with Boral—disconcerting in the extreme—but I think he truly is trying to help us because he wants a relationship with his son again. And killing me would only ensure his son would never have anything to do with him again.

“I think it’s more likely that someone else wants me dead,” I say to my friends. And yes, they have become good friends, especially over the last couple weeks since Carrick disappeared. “Sending an assassin wraith is far too easy for Kymaris, and she would have done something like that already.”

“Maybe,” Maddox points out. “But it could just as easily be Boral. The relic wasn’t here, which is definitely a red flag. I don’t think we can trust him.”

“I never trusted him,” Zaid mutters.

“Then let’s test him,” I suggest.

Both men—well, dark daemon and demi-god—regard me with interest. “Let’s give him some false information to see if it reaches Kymaris. We can tell Boral we found the location of the Blood Stone, name a place, and then wait to see if she or her minions show up for it.”

“Kymaris would never fall for that,” Zaid scoffs.

“Well, do you have a better idea?” I snap. “Because having your father on the inside is critical so we know exactly what Kymaris is and isn’t doing. I know you don’t like him—”

“I hate him with all my being,” Zaid corrects.

“Yes, I know,” I reply softly. “And you have every right to feel that way. But you don’t have to like him to use him.”
It falls silent until Maddox says, “Let’s get out of here and head back to the condo. I’m starving. We can talk about it more over food.”

I roll my eyes because Maddox is constantly eating. He’s a big dude, though, so I guess he needs it. As he and Zaid move the cement coffin covers back in place, I lean back against the cold stone wall to wait for them.

Except when I do, I feel something depress inward by my shoulder blade. I jump away from the wall, then turn to look at it. There are words written in the Hungarian language carved into the stone, and a small part of the wall is recessed inward where I’d been standing. It’s a square about six-inches-by-six-inches, and I reach toward it to see if it will push in farther.

But Maddox is there, grabbing me by my wrist and pulling me completely away from the wall. When I look at him questioningly, he says, “I don’t feel like dealing with you if that’s a trap that cuts your hand off.”

“Oh,” I reply, taking a few more steps back.

Zaid moves past me, then sidles up next to Maddox. The two men study the wall for a long moment. Then, Maddox pushes on it again. To all of our surprise, scraping noises of stone against stone fills the interior of the mausoleum. We all turn to the source, and it’s coming from one of the coffins Zaid had been looking inside.

Except it’s not the stone top moving, but rather the entire coffin is moving backward along the floor. It goes no more than a foot before it stops, revealing a rectangular cavity under it.

“Holy shit,” I murmur as I step toward it. “It’s like Indiana Jones.”

Maddox is once again pulling me back. “And remember, there were tons of booby traps in that movie.”

Alas, there are none as Maddox reaches into the dark hole and pulls out a leather pouch that is so old, it shreds to pieces under his touch. He pulls bits of the frayed material away, revealing an oval disc made of what looks like bronze. There are symbols etched around the perimeter.

Maddox holds it up. “Looks like Boral’s information was good.”

“Doesn’t make it any less likely he sent the wraith after her,” Zaid points out.

“But he’s no more a suspect than any other fae out there,” I reiterate.

“Food,” Maddox barks. “Let’s get back to the condo, and we can get the Scooby Gang to research this some more.”

My Scooby Gang. I loved it when Maddox referred to Rainey and Myles by that moniker because it wasn’t just cute, but it meant he saw them as a true part of our team.

“All together now,” Maddox says, lining up shoulder to shoulder with Zaid and me.

Normally, humans can’t bend distance, but I’m apparently the exception because of the light powers Sarvel the Custodia angel gave me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried tapping into my light powers to use them as a weapon with little success. As evidenced tonight, I can manage a fairly good bubble shield but past that, I haven’t even been able to get my fingertips to spark.

I have, however, gotten very proficient with bending distance. I could jump across small spaces before, but now I can move between continents. During those times when I’d miss Carrick the most, I’d envision a place and bend distance to go there. I’d never stay more than a few minutes because I know it’s not the safest for me to be on my own, and then I’d head right back to my bed.
I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower at night.

The northern lights in Fairbanks.

The Great Pyramid of Giza that once covered the magical meteor.

Brief visits, just to hone my skills and let me have a few moments of wonder to distract me.

I stand close to Maddox, prepared to pull Seattle to me, but I don’t need his help.

For that matter, neither does Zaid.

As a daemon, Zaid doesn’t ordinarily have the power to bend distance on his own, but the trip alone won’t kill him since he’s immortal. He could easily have held on to Maddox or me, and we could have pulled him along. As it happens, though, it helps to have friends in high places. Given that he and Carrick are as tight as two friends can be, Carrick bestowed certain magical benefits on him. One was to bend distance, but it had nothing to do with allowing Zaid to travel freely. Rather, Carrick gave Zaid the ability purely as an escape mechanism for when his father found him, as Boral was forever trying to get Zaid to return to the fold.

Zaid’s history with his father is brutal and so savage, I hate to even think about it. Zaid and his years of murdering and maiming alongside his father, Boral, eventually weighed too heavily upon him. The empathic power inherited from his Light Fae mother caused him to become so despondent over his actions, he left his father and attempted to punish himself by crucifying his body to a tree with iron.

Luckily, Carrick found Zaid and changed his life for the better.

These days, he reluctantly gives his father small bits of his time as long as Boral is on his best behavior. Of course, Zaid and Maddox don’t think Boral is capable of being good, which feeds their inherent mistrust of him.
“I’m thinking pastrami sandwiches when we get back,” Maddox says, glancing past me to Zaid.

“You’ll have to run to the deli,” Zaid returns.

I just smile.

Here we are in a spooky cemetery in Hungary, having just battled a wraith to the death, and in possession of an ancient magical relic, yet these two are talking about pastrami.

It’s things like this that actually help to keep me balanced through the craziness.

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Product Release Date: April 13, 2021

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