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This fabulous read is the first in a series of three books. The fallen angels series revolves around the life of Kai of Darkmide – a former slave, now a feared warrior. AMAZON BUY LINK
Read a snippet here…
Summer reached its peak and in the early mornings, a breeze brought fresh, cool air. Although by mid-morning, once the sun woke from slumber, the heat returned. Struggling crops thirsted for water and waited for the rains that would end their torment. Tempers flared, and every day brought another matter causing unease. It posed an issue for Kai of Darkmide, leader of the people in Blackhill.
Kai rose from his seat, leaving the comfort and shade under the terrace to step out into the courtyard. Folding his arms across his muscular chest, he assumed a menacing stance. People gathered and raised their fists in temper. His eyes, under furrowed brows, studied the crowd, looking for the cause of the disturbance. Instances of unrest had doubled recently, and this morning promised to be no different. With his head raised to the breeze, he closed his eyes and drew in a long breath.
Standing six feet seven, Kai was a wall of muscle, covered in tanned skin that glowed beneath the morning sun. He was a rare breed. Handsome despite the scars across his chin and brow, his features were stunning. The mesmerizing stare from his deep green eyes pierced through to the soul. Dark blonde hair fell past his shoulders and a few small sections were braided and fastened by leather threads. It was highlighted with silver and gold strands that, when caught by the gathering breeze, shimmered in the sun’s rays like a sea of gems. On his massive arms, Kai wore large, ornately decorated bands of gold, fashioned especially for him by the smiths of Darkmide.
Described as commanding and majestic, Kai stood out in a crowd. Anyone who’d ever met him could see that mere words failed to capture the true effect of his presence. His breathtaking appearance made women sigh with flushed cheeks, but his frosty manner deterred their advances.
The crowd parted, making way for his friend and right-hand man, Sabe. Shorter than Kai by a few inches, Sabe was black haired with deep brown eyes. Handsome and full of wit, he made a stark contrast to Kai.
Watching Sabe move forward, Kai remembered his first meeting with his most trusted companion and his sister, Kiera.
Four years ago, after escaping the fighting pits of Darkmide and the slavers who ruled there, Kai and a few other rebelling slaves attacked a prison camp. Placed just outside the city, the camp housed the slaves for the gold mines. Kai went there to try to find a comrade slave who had killed a brutal master. Immediate death should have followed, but wanting to take advantage of the slave’s strength and stamina, the slavers spared his life. His punishment was to do the dangerous, backbreaking work of harvesting gold. Kai’s dreams of freeing him turned to dust when he found his brave friend, Lorne, had perished in a mineshaft collapse just days earlier. Disheartened he’d arrived too late, he moved swiftly to leave, but he was halted by a cry for help beneath his feet as he trampled over a covered pit. Something about the desperate plea made Kai stop and listen. He looked at the grate, and greeted with slender fingers, curiosity overcame him and he crouched to look into the pit. Piercing brown eyes stared up before the woman moved away to allow her brother to speak. The man begged Kai to free him and his sister. In a silver-tongued manner that Kai would become familiar with, Sabe promised their loyalty in exchange for Kai’s help. In addition, he promised the loyalty of a group of skilled fighters to aid his cause. Though at the time it had felt like a moment of ill-advised weakness, Kai never since regretted his decision to rescue Kiera and Sabe. They had proven their dedication many times over in later battles, and Kai knew they would follow him to the ends of the earth; gladly laying down their lives to save his.
“Make way, coming through!” Sabe called, dragging two men behind him by a lead rope.
He gave a final tug when he reached the center of the yard and they stumbled forward. Bound hands broke their fall, and they scrambled to their knees with lowered heads. Sabe untied the lead rope and cast it aside before facing the crowd.
“Gather round friends, move in closer.”
Hesitantly, the crowd conformed; they preferred to keep their distance in matters of discipline. Mischief lurked in Sabe’s eyes. He knew how this event would end, and having the crowd involved excited him.
With a grin, he turned to face Kai and whispered close. He looked at the prisoners before gazing to the crowd. Sabe filled Kai’s ears with the details, and then slapped his hand on his large shoulder when he moved forward.
The crowd hushed when Kai’s hands moved to rest on the fighting knives sheathed on his hips. They were his favored weapons of choice, forged for him personally. The cool touch of metal caused his fingers to squeeze and tighten. Inquisitive eyes stared at his poised form. Pausing before he took a few more paces, he searched the crowd.
People averted their stares and looked at their neighbors or the ground, anything other than Kai; his scowl proving too intimidating to confront.
He studied the men at his feet, and they shook and trembled in fear with their heads lowered as he sneered in disgust. He detested cowardice.
Kai addressed everyone. “Do your bellies ache with hunger?”
His voice, loud and deep, filled the courtyard. Mumbling started until eventually the crowd found their voices. Shouts echoed from the rear before others joined in gaining volume every second.
“Do you have shelter and clothing?”
Kai listened, cocking his head to the side, letting words fill his ears as they voiced their reply.
Circling the men slowly, Kai paused behind one of them and slammed his foot against his back. The man lurched and landed face first into the dirt. His open mouth filled with dust, and he coughed and spluttered before words broke loose.
“We were going to share the money!” A shaky voice mumbled against the ground.
Kai had a menacing glint in his eye; disgusted by the pathetic wreck at his feet, he sneered. Hissing, he drew in a breath before his foot slammed flat onto the figure and pinned him to the floor. The man could barely move and gasped for air.
Sabe stepped forward and tossed a purse to Kai. Quickly snatching it from the air, Kai showed the evidence to the crowd while he gave the second man a sideways glance and smirked.
A worried look spread over the thief’s face as he peeked over to his ally. He began to cry.
“Get up!” Kai snapped after he’d released him from the weight of his boot on his back.
He didn’t move.
After a swift warning kick, he scrambled to his feet, squeezing his eyes shut in fear of another blow.
Irritated by the other man kneeling at his feet, Kai crouched in front of him and emptied the purse. Coins fell to the ground.
“They sold our grain for their own profit!” Kai’s voice thundered across the courtyard.
The crowd gasped, and then, “Bastards! Kill them!” Voices called from all directions. Aggressively punching the air, they demanded justice.
Sabe watched as Kai circled the thieves. He noted the wildness in his eyes and stepped back, retreating to join the other warriors who gathered under the shade of the terrace. The rabid expression Kai possessed unnerved Sabe. He’d seen it before and it would be unwise to stand between Kai and his prey.
Keeping law and order had been no easy task, especially for Kai. Having spent more years as a slave than a free man, he could only use his experience to guide him. Trying to find a balance, he made many people happy, giving them stability. But, as with everything in life, there were exceptions.
Kai marched toward Saul and Maika, two trusted warriors who stood by Sabe’s side under the terrace.
“Your swords, give them to me.”
Surrendering their weapons, the warriors watched as Kai held them high and turned to show the crowd. He let out a roar and then stepped toward the thieves. Cutting their bonds, he presented the weapons.
“Take them!” His patience ran low when they hesitated. “I’m giving you a chance to defend yourself. TAKE THEM!”
Gingerly, one hand took a sword. Kai smirked. The other man whined and pleaded for mercy, but his hands remained by his sides. Blaming his partner for the plan, he whimpered like a wounded dog.
Kai shook his head in disbelief and he leaned in close.
“Ask your people! They are the ones you cheated!” He pointed to the crowd, “Ask them to forgive you!”
Fear clouded the man’s face when Kai’s blood-red eyes and razor sharp teeth grew nearer. The man screwed his eyes tightly shut in and cowered.
Out of the corner of his eye, Kai saw the armed man take up a fighting stance. Reeling backwards, he drew his long knives and, snarling like a wild dog, he stared down his opposition.
Crouching low, Kai’s flexed muscles looked impressive, and he appeared as a savage animal baring his teeth in a predatory grin. Gasps erupted from the courtyard when a guttural growl bellowed from deep in Kai’s chest.
The armed thief took on a determined posture, ready to go out fighting. Kai accepted this; he never enjoyed killing in cold blood, preferring a fight rather than a massacre. The tension grew when Kai’s opponent raised his blade and thrust. Deflecting it easily, Kai laughed at the weak attempt.
“You’ll have to do better than that!”
His arms relaxed, giving his foe an opening to strike at his body.
Seeing an advantage, his opponent struck again. This time, Kai swung his arm around the side and caught his opponent across the shoulder. Blood seeped from the injury.
Stumbling to his knees assuming a more severe wound, the man whined. Kai grunted and relaxed his arms by his sides; upset his opponent hadn’t lasted longer, he turned to Sabe, scowling disappointedly.
“It’s not my fault!” Sabe rolled his eyes before his expression suddenly changed to one of concern. “Look out!”
Kai spun on his heels and leaned backwards. His arms opened wide as he avoided the sword thrust at him from his supposedly disabled opponent. The crowd gasped.
“Coward!” Kai spat.
He stepped forward slowly, angling his head from side to side, he focused on his prey. Then he attacked. Pivoting, arms outstretched, his knives sliced through the air like a propeller across flesh and bone. Blood sprayed everywhere. The man stumbled and sank to his knees. Calls from the crowd for Kai to finish him rang through the yard.
Wounded hands reached to hold the gaping wound in his throat, but a knife arrived first. The people cheered louder when his head spun through the air before finally landing next to his fallen corpse.
Raising his blood-soaked knives into the air, Kai saluted the roaring crowd, but his moment of victory diminished when the remaining thief tried to run. He managed only a few yards before one of Kai’s knives hindered his escape. It spun and sliced across the runaway’s thighs, cutting the arteries on both legs, showering the crowd with blood. He fell to the floor and screamed, but all calls for mercy faded into the cheering crowd, unheard.
“You should have run faster!” Kai laughed.
Blood soaked into the dry soil around the crying man, rapidly changing the color as it thirstily absorbed the moisture. Some covered their mouths in shock, while others laughed. The ones nearest the front regretted the charming words from Sabe when they’d first arrived; next time they’d stay at the rear. There was a brief silence as they watched Kai stride forward and drag the man up by his hair. He ignored the screams for mercy and rested his knife across his victim’s throat, while looking to his audience for his next move.
A voice called out, then another. “Finish him! Kill the pig!”
Those nearest caught the initial shower of blood when the knife-edge sliced through his throat. Quickly and without hesitation, Kai ran it down his chest and stomach, opening him up. Some managed to turn away; the grisly finale was too much for their weak stomachs. The most squeamish vomited. Kai pushed the body forward, letting it fall to the earth. Placing his long knife to the bloody corpse, he lectured the crowd.
“This here…” pointing with his knife, “… Is what happens to thieves.”
Kai spat over the body then shouted to Sabe. “Hang the bodies on the wall by the gate.”
He recovered his other knife from the floor before giving the crowd one last salute. Quickly sidestepping the bloody bodies, Kai felt nothing but loathing and contempt.
Kai joined Sabe and the other warriors, and handed his swords to a young boy who was waiting to take them for cleaning. He grinned when the boy gasped at the blood covering the steely blades.
Sabe followed Kai to shelter beneath the terrace. Fresh water in a large bowl waited on a nearby table. Reaching behind his neck, Kai tugged at the back of his shirt and pulling it over his head, cast it to the side.
Sabe stared at the scars that covered Kai’s back and winced. No matter how many times he saw them, he cringed, and wondered what else Kai had endured at the hands of the slavers. The scars spread from the top of Kai’s muscular shoulders to below his waist; red and swollen in some places where the whip cut deep. He couldn’t imagine what pain he’d lived through; they reminded him of how thankful he was to Kai for freeing him and his sister.
Wetting a cloth in the basin, Kai wiped away the blood and sweat. After grabbing a fresh, dry cloth, he turned and watched Sabe, who had made himself comfortable at the table.
“Not a good start to the day, but eventful at least.” Sabe chuckled as he casually rested his boots on a stool and, crossing one foot over the other, poured wine from a pitcher on the table. “And there I was, thinking it would be a quiet morning.”
Swapping the drying cloth for a clean shirt handed to him by the craggy hands of the house worker, Kai kicked the nearest chair out from under the table and sat heavily with a grunt. He blew out a long sigh while he searched for the opening of his clean shirt.
“I hope this isn’t going to be a regular morning event.” He threaded his arms through the shirt and pulled it over his head.
“I thought you liked excitement,” Sabe chuckled. “Anyway, I’m sure it won’t happen again. Well, not for a week at least,” he said, laughing.
“We need rain. The heat is turning everyone mad.”
Kai guzzled the wine then slammed the goblet on the table. “It’s too hot for this work. I think we’ll just hang them up next time, let them bake in the sun on the outside wall.”
Cautiously, Sabe smiled. Right now Kai was joking, but in the future, that would be another matter.
“How did you catch them?” Kai asked.
“They were stupid as well as cowardly. I overheard them bragging in the tavern last night.”
Sabe leaned over and reaching for a plate, he drew it closer to pick up a piece of salted pork. “They’d already stolen the grain; they were going to meet with the buyer from Longmeadow later that night.” His fingers poised at his mouth. “I let them make the sale before having them dragged to the cells.”
Eating the pork overwhelmed his senses and he lost his train of thought briefly. A glare from Kai, awaiting the details, made him swallow. Taking a quick sip of wine to wash it down, he continued.
“I sent a couple of men to take care of the buyer from Longmeadow. He won’t be continuing with nightly purchases in the future.”
“Put a couple of men to watch the grain store, in case anyone else has the same idea,” Kai said dryly.
Still chewing, unable to speak, Sabe carried his reply with a nod. Across the table, he spied a large fruitcake, and stabbed it with his knife to drag it nearer.
The gruesome events of the morning had not affected their appetites. They gorged themselves heartily, enjoying the buffet laid out before them.
I have to say though, Kai…” His elbow leaned on the table swirling his knife. “I’m excited about meeting your future bride.” Taking a bite of cake, he eyed Kai with a smirk.
Kai scowled. “Are you sure I agreed to this? Was I drunk?”
“Probably.” Sabe snorted.
Kai shook his head slowly. “This is going to be a disaster, and if she resembles a cow’s arse in any way, I swear I’ll pay your sister to slice off your balls.”
“Whose balls am I slicing off?”
Kiera appeared from the courtyard wearing tight doeskin trousers and a white tunic. Kai’s eyes raked over her body. Shuffling in his seat, his pants suddenly became uncomfortable. Once aware of the snug fitting fabric around her breasts, a man would need to be blind not to stare. Although he admired her physical attributes, Kai kept his thoughts to himself. He didn’t want to create any complications by bedding the sister of his friend.
Kiera pulled out a chair and joined them at the table. Silken black hair cut to her shoulders and her intense dark eyes made all men fall to their knees; sometimes clutching their crotch screaming in agony while she stood with their testicles skewered on her sword. Untouched, Kiera intended to stay this way. There was only one man she would consider taking to her bed, but he’d never asked.
“Kai was just commenting on how much he’s looking forward to meeting his betrothed.”
Kiera tried to hide a grin and lowered her head.
Growling under his breath and throwing his knife down, Kai slammed his hands on the table.
“I’m glad you two find this amusing.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll adore her.” Sabe chuckled. “The envoy assured me she’s a rare beauty.”
Kiera giggled as Sabe cast a sarcastic glance. Lowering her head, she tried to suppress her fit of giggles.
Kai shook his head and growled under his breath. Cradling his face, he rested his elbows on the table.
“You don’t have to marry her. You can say no.” Kiera grimaced and sat back in her chair. She gave Kai a hopeful smile when his hands fell to the table. Hating the idea of Kai marrying, Kiera would be the first to celebrate if the kings’ daughter did indeed look like the back end of a cow.
“Remind me again why I’m doing this?” Kai asked.
Sabe grinned. “You need a good woman to make an honest man of you and you need a son… and because their excess food will be sent to us by order of King Garlan.” He looked to the ceiling while he thought further, “And they’ll supply more weapons…”
“Okay, I get it.” Kai interrupted with a raised hand then wiped the sides of his mouth with his thumb and finger. “Let’s get this over with.” Rising from the table, he addressed Kiera. “I want to be at Littlewood early. We’ll leave mid-morning tomorrow, rest for the night a short distance away before continuing the following morning.” His eyes locked with hers as she frowned.
“Why so early?” Kiera shrugged her shoulders. “The journey will take only a day.”
“I don’t trust Garlan.”
Sabe sat up in his chair, pulled his shirt straight, and thought for a moment.
“I doubt he’d be stupid enough to try anything. The envoy said he’s keen to join forces with us. It seems he’s got some trouble brewing.” His tone was serious. “He’s afraid of losing his throne. Someone from Stonegarth in the Highlands is gathering forces and has eyes on his crown.” Sabe started picking at his fingernails with his knife. “Garlan thinks he’ll look elsewhere when he discovers his only daughter is married to the leader of the most feared army throughout Middenland and Wild Plains.” He completed his manicure and raised his brow with a grin. “And of course he’d be right.”
“He’s not well liked by his subjects. They see him as a sniveling coward, marrying his daughter off to a barbaric… to someone without royal blood, just to join forces with a stronger force.” Sabe recovered his words quickly, and raised his hand to gesture an apology.
“My thoughts exactly, and no offense taken. I know what I’m not.”