Sometimes the future is a path set in the hardest of stone and can only be altered by love.
Oneyroi D’Naktmerié is a product of the Northern Installation, designed to be the stuff of nightmares. At fourteen his abilities proved deadly, and he shuts them away terrified of how uncontrollable his power is. He refuses to bond as that could unleash the dangerous abilities constantly roiling inside of him. Taking refuge in the village of Ketewah, Naktmerié’s only pleasure now is spending the night with whatever willing woman catches his eye. Never spending more than one night with each.
Until he meets Shae, the Speyressa of Uanty.
Shae sees the future. All the paths in a person’s life. But there is one vision that has haunted her since she was a child. One that she’s done everything in her power to prevent. Choices make up the paths, and she’s forced to choose between allowing Naktmerié to be kidnapped or the destruction and enslavement of the human race. She chooses to protect the human race and seals her fate as well as his.
Betrayed by the first woman he’s ever opened up to, Naktmerié returns to Ketewah after freeing himself from the Flesh Traders. Months later he discovers the path Shae began all those years ago didn’t end with his kidnapping; instead, it ends with her death and Naktmerié is the only one who can save her. Can he trust her enough to form the mental bond that will save her? Or will a forced bond drive her to madness?
Exhaustion tugged at every particle of Shae’s being. The slow rolling movement of the rhinohorse she adored, lulled her as if she were on a boat coasting over gentle water. The clomp of a horse drawing near, then slowing beside her own made Shae turn.
“I want to thank you again for asking your guard to give up his slider for Slade’s use,” Chase said.
“It isn’t a problem, Chase. Shalon is versatile in his mounts.” She didn’t add that he preferred the slider so he could continuously circle her and their caravan. However, as Kamolien and Slade agreed to swap with him every few hours, Shalon was content to use a horse. “I’m just glad we calmed the situation.”
“I tried to explain to Slade before we left, that Z’er tech would give away their origins on this side of the Chasm. Making them a target,” Nakt stated from her other side. “It’s why I suggested bringing more sliders from Ketewah, but that idea was shot down.”
The few sliders that had passed inspection were all beaten to Hellam and back with more rust than paint, Shae had no clue how the machines still functioned. But they purred like a joniper when each had been started.
Nerves kicked into her. She never expected Nakt to approach her. At least not willingly since he’d done everything he could short of leaving Uanty to avoid her as if she would bond him against his will.
“It wouldn’t have been a problem if Michael had stayed in prison,” Chase grumbled. “We should have expected him to have more resources given his rank in the Brotherhood.”
She kept quiet. It would probably surprise the Z’ers to know how vast the Brotherhood of Uriel’s resources were on this side of the Chasm. Especially, as the sycophants’ home base was in Hellam. In Hellam and Uanty, the cult found a fertile ground to practice their bigotry, taking anyone not pure human and torturing them for names of their family and friends on both sides of the Chasm. Then burning their victims to purify their souls and allow them to pass into the afterlife.
“I see your guard motioning for me,” Chase stated, the hooves of his horse racing ahead.
“I still can’t figure out how you didn’t know Michael would escape.” Nakt’s accusatory tone flowed over her.
And there it was. Chase might be more flexible in the blame area and see things from more than one viewpoint, but not the rest of the Z’ers. Most would be bothered being accused of not doing their job, but as she regularly endured this kind of accusation it rolled off her. It was a double-bladed knife she had long ago learned to juggle.
“I’m not the Creator, Nakt. I can’t see everything, I’m given pieces. Sometimes so fractured I can barely make out the pivotal moment until it’s slamming into me—” In this case, he was justified in his suspicion. She had known, but there wasn’t any way she could warn them of what was coming. If Nakt had bonded her right away, he’d have known and could warn the others. He could’ve been her voice.
“So the blind leading the blind then.”
“Vack you—” No one was allowed to disparage her blindness.
“Sorry, that was uncalled for.” His voice held a sheepish tone as if he hadn’t meant to phrase it like that. “I meant do you think that woman—”
“Shimera.” She pushed the name through gritted teeth.
“Right, do you think she really saw him come this way?”
“Yes. I saw the vision the second I was in her presence.”
The silence grew between them, but wasn’t uncomfortable, more thoughtful if she had to put a name to it. There was something she wanted to suggest but needed to gather her courage, and her thoughts first. Settling on an avenue of reasoning, she felt sure would sway this man the tension eased from her shoulders.
“Nakt, you and I have danced around a subject I would like to address,” she began.
“I’m not taking a bonded,” his growl was guttural.
She held her hand up in his general vicinity. “I’m not asking you to; however, I’d like to propose something.” Her heart pounded. Sweat slicked her palms where they gripped the pommel of her mount. Taking a fortifying breath, she threw caution to the wind and plunged into the deep end. “I’ve no intention of forming a bond with you, but you are the first potential bonded to cross my path. And I’ve heard sex with a potential bonded is hotter than the fires of some of Esperér’s famous lava pools. As I’ve no idea when I’ll meet my next potential, I thought you would be willing to allow me to explore a bit. You’re no stranger to sex based on what Shimera stated…” she trailed off as she tried to think of more to convince him.
Hope stirred within her of having a taste before she died. “None.”
He fell silent as if weighing her. Testing to see if she were telling the truth. Shae kept quiet with a force of will she didn’t know she possessed.
“Only on this journey. When we return to your village, we’re done,” he stated. No emotion in his voice giving her a hint to his thoughts. And as she could not infiltrate his formidable defenses without a fight, she would never see those thoughts.
She had no trust in him as he had never given her the same, but she so wanted a taste. To at least feel that burn of desire she’d heard about. His barriers would prevent her from being constantly bombarded by his thoughts, unlike the few other men she’d been with, whose thoughts broke through her frail barriers. “Deal.”
Her soul already belonged to the devil. It didn’t matter if she grew too attached, in seven days he’d be taken from her never to return. At this moment though, she wanted what so many others had had, the feel of his skin under her hands, the taste of his lips on hers and the sounds he made when he reached satisfaction.