Down the hallway, in the room that once belonged to Tristan’s brother, Sam had scarcely closed her eyes when she sensed a presence by her bed. “Go away. I’m sleeping.”
“You’ll dream if you sleep,” said Braeden. Her lids cracked open. He was a shadowy form in the dark of the room, half his face lit by a pale moonbeam. “I can promise you a nightmare."
“What do you mean?”
Braeden shivered visibly. “Can you not feel them?”
“Stop being cryptic. D’you mean demons?”
Braeden sat on the edge of the four-poster bed, the mattress squeaking under his weight. “Aye. They’re coming, and soon. They’ll want you.”'
So it was to be a repeat of the battle in the Elurra Mountains; she would again have a target on her back. “How do you know?” she had to ask.
“I think,” said Braeden, barely above a hush, “because my demon wants you, too.”
Only now did Sam notice the tightness of his jaw, the strain in his wild eyes. His fingers dug into his hands so hard as to draw blood. “Braeden!” she exclaimed, and took his hands in hers. Gently, she uncurled his fists and soothed the crescent nail marks.
He trembled under her fingers. “You shouldn’t touch me.”
She dropped his hands, hurt. “Sorry.”
“I meant not when I’m like--” he cut off, bristling. “They’re here.” He rose to his feet, daggers sprouting between his knuckles.
Sam pushed off her covers and lit the unused candle at her bedside, and almost wished she hadn’t. A demon loomed in the doorway, a monstrous blend of horse and man. Equine from its hooves until the withers, it had a human torso and head, with a second horse’s head growing out of its back.
“It’s mine,” she and Braeden said in unison.
Sam said thoughtfully, “It has two heads, you know. Shall we share?”
Braeden’s lips curved into an unholy grin. “Gladly,” he said, and then his knives were in its human throat. Sam grabbed the sword Tristan had lent her and ran around to the demon’s back. The horse head screamed as her blade hacked through its neck from its vertebrae. Over the demon’s headless body, she and Braeden smiled grimly.
The centaur was not the last of the demons—far from it. Outside the bedroom, the hallway teemed with them, a sea of mismatched parts and clashing color. The floor beneath them quaked at the heavy tread of their feet. Braeden squeezed her shoulder, and together they walked into bedlam.
If the demons hunted her more than they did Braeden, it was impossible to say. He was at her back at all times, and their attackers had to contend with them both. Sam and Braeden whipped around each other in a deadly tornado of steel, slaying anything within their orbit.
Sam was beginning to think she wasn’t right in the head. Though she knew their lives were in peril, she felt, for whatever reason, safe. Perhaps she had improved her fighting skills, or perhaps it was the perfect synchronization of her sword with Braeden’s dagger. Or maybe, a snide voice whispered, it was simply having Braeden in close contact. She silenced the voice and let her weapon flow with his.
They gradually advanced down the long hallway, slowed by the furious onslaught of demons. At the midway point, Sam could see that that the door to Tristan’s bedroom was in shambles. A piece of door fell down, and a man walked out.
Cold fear raced through her veins. Sander’s wrists were unbound, and in his hand he clutched a knife. The blade was crimson from tip to heel. Oh gods. Tristan.
YOU ARE READING
Sam is the most promising swordsman among this year’s crop of Paladin trainees...and knows it. Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam is the kingdom of Thule’s best hope against the violence wrought by demons. The only problem...