The Nephilim Series, Book 1
A love found at first glance can last for lifetimes…
An innocent, trapped for a millennia in the crossfire between a fallen angel’s curse upon two brothers, Kalyss Underwood has faced nine lives and nine tragic deaths trying to save her warrior husband, Dreux de Vernon, from his stone imprisonment.
Reincarnated for her tenth and final life, Kalyss dreams of a man with chocolate eyes, gentle hands and strong, broad shoulders a woman can depend on without fearing. In the daylight, experience has taught her no such man exists. When she’s attacked by a stranger she somehow knows and is protected by a guardian she shouldn’t remember, Kalyss must use every shred of strength she’s gained to free her husband, and with his help, face the mistakes of all her pasts in order to alter their heartbreaking destiny.
“BETRAYED is a passionate debut by an author of remarkable talent and maturity of style. Lyrical prose spins a tale that is intelligent and unflinching, enthralling and richly imagined. I loved it! It’s a gorgeous, lush, and compelling novel. If you try just one debut this year, make it Jamie Leigh Hansen’s. You will be grateful to have ‘discovered’ her from the first.” — Sylvia Day, #1 New York Times & #1 International Bestselling Author
Read an Excerpt
October 7, 1900—England
“I will die tonight.” Caylus stared through the window of the small cottage into the darkness. Her death was coming again, but even after all these centuries, she still feared it.
Geoffrey’s hand rested on her shoulder, the comfort cold but welcome. He was her guardian, her protector. He risked everything to reunite her with the one man whose touch she yearned for. “Then we will try again.”
And again. And again. Her inescapable destiny.
“Do you ever tire of burying me?” Her heart pounded with the endless roll of the thunder. The storm was coming, as it always did. Wind blew through the open window, cold and crisp. Ominous-yet inviting. There were rewards for braving storms.
“It will be different this time. I will make it so.” He stood tall beside her, his strength her temporary shelter. “I owe your husband a debt that will be repaid.”
“No promises, Geoffrey. The disappointment is worse than this never-ending cycle.” She turned to him and grasped his hands, her voice now hoarse. His eyes softened. “The pain, not just death, but remembering him, yearning for him. Almost saving him, yet never close enough, never hearing his voice…” Her throat closed and she couldn’t speak.
“You must have hope, Caylus.”
“Hope hurts. A little dies with me every time.” He’d taught her hope, her husband. Dreux’s deep whispers in her ear had promised a lifetime together. He’d taught her to dream during their one beautiful night. The future had seemed so certain. They only had to wake with the dawn for it to begin. Now it seemed that she fought in vain for a love that was never meant to be.
Geoffrey’s blue eyes iced over in a pitiless gaze. His voice came harsh and unforgiving. “You are weak, woman. If you retreat so easily, you don’t deserve him.”
She froze for a stunned moment, then her fury burned between them. “Easily? Easily, Geoffrey? It’s been eight hundred years! God clearly does not want us together!”
“God believes in love, Caylus. Why else would we be given so many chances to change fate? It’s for honor and duty and love. God believes in those for us. Be strong. Earn it.”
“What if he’s in a better place? At rest? At peace? What if we’re being selfish and taking more from him than ever?” Desperate fear and doubt warred with righteous certainty. She needed to save her husband, but what if failure was her destiny?
“Do you really believe such a thing?”
She closed her eyes. No. He was right. There was no better place for Dreux de Vernon to be than in her arms. Geoffrey fought longer and harder and suffered every bit as much as she. How could she give up after so many centuries? She had to be strong. She would win; neither despair nor Kai de Lyre would defeat her.
She would free her husband from any lethal trap Kai set. His unpredictability was his strongest asset, but she would have to find a way around it. Her voice trembled, fear holding tight, but she firmed her lips and lifted her chin. “Then may God make me strong, Geoffrey.”
Slowly, he nodded, then looked outside. “It is time.”
With a deep breath, she followed him from the stone cottage into the dark surrounding their island of Sanctuary, the glow of the moon their only guide. But they knew the way well. The path to the water was rough, rocks and grass showing through the tracks. After eight hundred years of use, harsh winds, wild rains, and merciless erosion, that spoke well for the survival instincts of those straight, thin, green blades.
They passed eight unmarked mounds of rich dark earth covered with thick grass. The first was flat, almost indistinct. It belonged to Kynedrithe of Clifhaefen, the source of Caylus Graye. Each grave grew more noticeable until the last, the most recent, sloped softly over the ground. It was only a hundred years old.
Caylus smelled death. Tomorrow there might be nine. Her lives always seemed to bring her to this final resting spot.
She shuddered as thunder rumbled above her, through her. Her heart beat faster and her skin tingled with the rise of the wind, making her feel more alive. The despair she suffered was real, but the energy in the air dared her to shake off her fears and believe. They’d paddle the boat across the sea to the shore of her ancient home. They would enter the tower and this time, they would reach the top.
Finally, she would feel Dreux’s arms around her, his warmth enfolding her. He’d hold her safe, his broad chest protection and comfort at once. Her husband. Her love. He waited for her. How could she possibly give up?
Geoffrey led her to the small dock, where nothing blocked their view of the sky over the water. The moon shined bright, like a brilliant beam of light amidst black velvet clouds, its beauty enhanced by the jagged streaks of lightning that crossed the sky. It would rain soon; the air was heavy with the approaching storm’s perfume.
Geoffrey moved, silently untying the boat and tugging it from the dock. He turned to her and held out his hand.
She gathered her midnight skirts and black cloak in one fist and took his hand with her other. She settled in and he pushed off. The water swished and they were afloat, gliding through the dark silk, hearing the soft lap of water against the sides. The paddle dipped into the water and a low swoosh carried them farther from shore, closer to danger and destiny.
They took the small river-way through the cluster of islands that hid Sanctuary. The hidden opening between the cliffs had protected them from spies her assassin sent, but now it was time to leave and face him. Either Kai would kill her, or she would free Dreux. Tonight would tell.
Geoffrey rowed. The paddles slapped the water and quietly slid beneath the surface, steadily moving them forward. Small swells from the rising wind rocked and rolled the tiny boat. She gripped the sides tensely and kept her eyes moving, looking into shadows for unexpected shapes. She needed to reach Dreux this time. She ached to see him.
They passed through the opening in the cliffs, a gliding charge through the black night. She could see the tower now, standing tall in the distance. Parts had crumbled to ruin over time, but the main tower had been kept in decent repair. Lights shone bright around the base. The guards were ready, monitoring movement around the base of the tower. Kai’s men were always ready.
“Are you sure this will work?” Caylus whispered softly, unable to stop her question.
Geoffrey’s eyes met hers, his lips thin. His expression reproached her for asking such a question. There were no guarantees. Failure was always a possibility.
Her heart beat faster the closer they came to the area Geoffrey had chosen. Guards patrolled along the shore a small distance away. Moisture gathered on her palms as the boat flowed towards the edge of the threatening torchlight. Surely they could make it. Her blood thundered through her veins with more force than the storm.
The boat grounded with a grinding crunch and she froze, not daring to breathe. She waited, her heart beating hard, as if blood was forcing itself in a thick rush through too-thin veins. She watched a small snail, its iridescent shell a beacon in the darkness, crawl up the sloping cliff. Its pace was so slow and the water lapped so high, so swift. How could the snail get away safely? How could it go far enough, fast enough, from the danger that trailed behind so deep and dark?
A hand grasped her shoulder and startled Caylus, stealing her breath and ending her intense focus on the tiny shell. Just another living being facing destruction for the promise of a true life. Some risks were inescapable.
The pressure nearly killed her. She gasped in air, starving for the precious necessity.
Geoffrey’s hand squeezed lightly. His voice was dry. “Breathe quietly.”
She must’ve been close to suffocation, she felt so dizzy. The boat rocked and he slipped into the water with barely a sound. How did he do that? He lifted her and lowered her into the water beside him. The cold depths dragged at her skirts, nearly pulling her under. She grabbed his shirt, his height and bulk, his strength and balance reassuring. He held her securely, one hand at her waist and the other free to grab his dagger, his sword being too bulky in the water.
“Now, quietly, glide with me.” His silver eyes reflected the forked lightning above them.
She closed her eyes and swallowed her pulse. Her husband, brave and handsome, waited for her. Both of them waited for her. Her Champion and her Killer.
And only one could guide and protect her. Her Guardian, Geoffrey. A triad of men who shaped her destiny with every movement, every thought, every emotion. Was she strong enough to face any of them?
They glided, moving ever closer to a dark shadowy entrance in the depths of the cliff. It was the one entrance Kai didn’t know existed, hidden as it was. When they were there, she couldn’t see it, but she could feel a crevice wide enough to admit them. They moved into the cliffs, the opening almost too small for her to fit. How Geoffrey managed, she couldn’t tell.
Step by step, they slid deeper into the crevice, the water receding. The tunnel widened until the walls were at her back. He didn’t light a candle, but strode confidently into the blackness. She held his hand and pressed close, unable to see, trusting him to guide her.
The walls shifted, became smoother and softer, the floor more etched and even. A spark struck and she smelled sulfur as Geoffrey set flame to a candle.
“Finally.” She blew out her breath in relief.
“I couldn’t risk the light leaking out.” The tunnel was just wide enough and tall enough for him to walk.
“Where are we?” She knew it was an entrance, but not much more.
“In the escape tunnels. I spent centuries looking for the outside entrance and only found it by accident when I floated into the cavern.”
“Why were you floating?” She looked at his grim face and away again, wincing at her thoughtless question. While she rested until she was reborn, Geoffrey schemed new ways past Kai’s defenses-a sometimes fatal quest resulting in a painful resurrection.
They came to a fork in the tunnel. The right led up, to the tower, he’d told her. The left led elsewhere. They turned right and climbed the carved, crumbling steps of small stones and hard-packed dirt. Up and up, until her legs ached from the strain and her arms hurt from holding up her sodden skirts. And still they climbed.
Then, at last, they came to a small door. An escape door, built low and easily hidden, but large enough for a grown man to crawl through.
Geoffrey stooped and etched around the wooden square with his finger, dislodging dirt that had settled there, sealing the edges. He opened the door, easing it into the tunnel with the slightest of whispers. A waft of cool air made her shiver.
Solid wood blocked the way. She leaned against the side of the tunnel and waited. Her breath came in great gasps, punctuating Geoffrey’s silence.
She heard a click. Caylus leaned forward, looked over his shoulder as the wood shifted and a dark opening appeared. Geoffrey slid inside, silent as a shadow. Apparently, the opening grew larger since he fit easily.
She moved up behind him. He motioned to the candle, nearly gone now, and she inhaled to blow it out. He scowled. Of course, smoke could warn anyone with a keen nose. Caylus licked her fingers and pinched the wick.
Geoffrey pressed against the other side of the space and listened. After a bit, he pushed and she could see through the dark space to low light bathing a room in gray. He exited and she followed. She looked behind her at the nearly invisible hole they’d crawled from, then forward again. At the window, the large shadow of a man blocked the moon’s light, making her gasp.
“Be easy. No harm will come from him.”
Caylus held one hand to the pulse in her throat. In the darkness, she’d mistaken the shadow for her killer, for danger. But it wasn’t her killer. The shadow was her husband, trapped in stone for eight hundred years, and only she could free him.
Her hand shook as she released her throat and held it out, daring to reach through the darkness for him. Her ears strained to hear even the smallest of movements, but all was still and quiet, except the waves crashing on the cliffs below. Then a small click behind her made her jump and turn nervously.
Geoffrey sealed the hidden tunnel entrance and gently covered it. He faced her and read her questions in a single glance. Regret flashed across his face before he whispered, “In case we need this entrance again.”
She jerked her head in a shaky nod and watched him pull his sword and look around the room before facing the door, her only protection in this life. She didn’t even know if they’d have another chance to use the entrance. No one had given them the rules to their strange cycle. They could only struggle along. But one thing she did know without a doubt: she needed to free the man who waited for her.
This was it. Blood began to thunder through her ears in a deafening roar. Time to free her husband. They were so close. At last. Finally. So close. Her fingers tingled. She would finally touch him, see him, hold him.
She turned to the shadow and walked forward. He stood facing a window, built unusually low and wide. Nothing blocked the view or the elements that must’ve torn at him these centuries. Her teeth gripped her bottom lip.
He was larger than in her memories, his broad back growing the closer she came to him. So tall, her warrior. His battle scars marked him, even in stone-thick ridges that crossed his shoulder, down one side, and below the back of his neck.
Dreux had survived so much before coming to her. Now it was her turn to survive, to free him. But, how? What was the key to unlocking him?
She reached for him, touched the cold stone. He didn’t feel too different from when he’d been alive. Strong, a little rough, a little smooth. But he’d been warm then, had teemed with life and limitless energy.
Her hand trailed to his arm, outstretched as if his wrist were being restrained, and she braced for what she’d see on Dreux’s face. She’d only asked Geoffrey once and his silence had told her she’d hate what she’d see. For, frozen on her husband’s strong face would be all he’d felt as he’d watched her first death. Her heart pounded with dread and relief both. So close.
Slowly, she stepped to his side, feeling again the wonder as he towered over her. This strong man had made such gentle love to her lifetimes ago. She wanted more. She wanted forever. She’d dreamed for so long, memories of him. His smile, his frown, his caress. How could she make it real? A look? A touch? A kiss?
The pounding waves beat each passing moment with urgent crashes. Time was sand falling through her fingers. She gazed past the sword propped by the window, gleaming as it did in her dreams, ready to be used once more. Her hand brushed over the muscular stone arm of her husband, tracing the smooth scars there, her mind searching for the key. Time to wake, my love.
Sudden movement sounded behind her, but before she could turn, the cold bite of sharp steel pressed against her throat. She froze, ice trickling down her spine. No, not yet. Please, God, don’t let it be over yet.
“Not so fast, Princess.” Kai’s husky voice sounded in her ear and she heard Geoffrey struggling behind her. “The game’s not over.”
Even as she heard Geoffrey’s yell, the blade sliced across her throat, biting deep and true. Her blood flowed down, warm and sticky. Again. She wailed her denial, her face twisted in a silent scream.
She was shoved forward, to the window, and she turned, hands holding her throat, blood coursing over her fingers. Ropes hung from a ledge built into the darkened ceiling, down which Kai and his men had dropped directly between Caylus and her guardian.
Geoffrey fought wildly, locked in battle with two of Kai’s men. A battle trained and hardened warrior far beyond the experience of the men he fought, Geoffrey dispatched them both, but they’d slowed him down enough that it was still too late.
Caylus was weakening, her heart quickly pumping blood out of her body. Her hands unable to cease the flow. She was so close. Would she ever be this close again?
Staring up, her husband’s stone face wavered then focused above her. Endless grief was engraved in his eyes, his lips. She cried out and reached for him, tears pouring from her eyes, mixing with her blood. Her handprint marred his chest. Then Geoffrey was there. He pulled her close, stepped on the windowsill and jumped to the crashing waves below.
“You will live again,” he half-vowed, half-commanded, holding her tight as they fell.
What if she didn’t live again? What if this was her last chance? Over Geoffrey’s shoulder, Caylus stared at her husband, her gaze trapped by his face, his frozen pain tormenting her. Her husband stood, waiting eternities for her to free him.
Eternities she failed.
The sunrise broke over the horizon, a golden glow against ice blue water. Geoffrey’s determined eyes, for once not cold but full of the pain of centuries, commanded her attention.
“I won’t fail again.”
She tried to nod, wasn’t sure if she did. Wherever she was born next, whoever she became, Caylus could only pray: May God make me strong, Geoffrey.
Her eyes closed as she and Geoffrey crashed over the rocks and into the waiting sea. Cold and dark, death claimed her.
The moon hung half gone, casting a glow throughout the sky and trees. The world was a beautiful black and grey contrast where even the most vibrant colors barely registered. Wind billowed around Silas, gently ruffling his robes, his long brown hair and the soft grey feathers of the wings that rose to an arch above his head and trailed gracefully to the rooftop where he knelt, an elbow on one upraised knee.
Tension filled the air, a harbinger of the storm that was to come. Or, perhaps, it was an echo of the tension that gripped him with steel jaws snapped tight. His kind could afford to make few mistakes and he and Draven had made the biggest of all.
Even in trying to do good, harm can be the result. Never interfere.
That instruction had been drummed into him from the moment of his birth, two thousand years before. But just once, nine hundred twenty nine years ago, he’d been convinced one moment of interference wouldn’t hurt anyone. It would simply save one tragically suffering man, Dreux de Vernon, and his cruelly warped half-brother, Kai de Lyre, from the damning sin of fratricide-a second, even worse, curse upon them both.
But, oh, how they’d been wrong. Draven by his side, the unlikeliest of allies, they’d dispersed the first curse, temporarily saving the two brothers, trapping one safely in unbreakable stone with the other unable to reach him. But, in the process, they’d drawn two innocent souls into a nightmare.
Kynedrithe, in this century Kalyss, who’d been caught in a cycle of death and rebirth, her soul unable to move on, doomed to remember the love promised her and search for ways to free him.
And Geoffrey-what could he say about Geoffrey?
Silas gripped the small ledge in front of him in one hand, clenching the other into a helpless fist. The limit of the curse was up. Tonight was the last chance. The four cursed souls could free themselves–or they could die without a chance to have ever really lived.
Silas and Draven would pay for their interference no matter the outcome of tonight, but how much worse would it be to know their sacrifice was for nothing? That they hadn’t healed the damage they’d caused?
The air stirred beside him, darker and more oppressive than the light breeze that brushed him. Draven had arrived. Wrapped in a cowled black cloak that hid all distinguishing features, Silas knew no more about Draven than he had centuries ago when Draven had come to him, requesting his aid in saving the brothers.
“You’re late,” he said, his expression, his tone, grim.
“You’re a master at deducing the obvious,” Draven’s husky voice whispered with its typical sarcasm from inside the voluminous black cowl. “At least I didn’t miss the rerun.”
Silas held in an irritated sigh. Frustration and disappointment built with each failure. Draven always took it especially hard, chafing more each time at the limits Silas had imposed on them both. Limits like no more interference. Though Draven’s society ignored it, that rule had been ingrained in Silas from birth and the consequences of breaking it once had been tragic.
“Actually, it’s the series finale.”
He heard a quick indrawn breath, a hiss of sound.
“Then you weren’t able to extend the length of the curse?” Over the centuries, Draven’s desire for redemption had suffocated under endless failures, casting the dark figure into ever more intense periods of anger, sarcasm, hopelessness, and finally despair. Now every bit of hope seemed dashed.
“I have examined the curse, searching for a way to lengthen the time it grants. It can’t be done.” There was only one set course that would correct their mistake-for the four to find their own way through it–and it left Draven and him helpless. Silas paused, glancing between them.
Black smoke steamed from Draven’s enveloping cloak, but once it reached the light that glowed from within Silas, the light that pierced darkness, the smoke recoiled. It gathered again, amassing its strength like a ghostly battalion to send volleys of darkness against his shields of light. The light absorbed the blow and struck back in a single stabbing shock.
“We still have time before the thousand years of the curse ends,” Draven insisted.
“This is Kynedrithe’s tenth life. If they fail, if Kalyss dies, it is finished. We will not have atoned for what we did to her–to all four of them.” Silas crossed his arms and nodded to the building across the street. “But much has changed in this century. There is some hope.”
Draven’s head turned towards the words painted on the window below them.
AK Martial Arts.
“She has changed, then.” There was an energized speculation in Draven’s voice.
“Yes, but don’t get too excited. This is still their last chance.” Silas stood, grasped one wrist with his opposite hand and widened his stance.
Draven’s voice was sober, more focused this time. Black-gloved hands clenched the sleeves of the cloak. “Who’s the A?”
“Another unknowing descendent. But powerful.”
Before Draven could speak, a door shut firmly on a black vehicle parked a few yards from the building across the street. Silas looked to the street below.
Geoffrey had arrived. As if sensing the rise in tension, the wind rose, billowing fallen leaves around the man’s feet. Geoffrey stood in front of his black SUV, staring at it, then the keys in his hand. Fixing them in his memory, Silas would guess.
To their right, a dark shadow approached the back of the building. Kai.
It was show time.
October 6, 2004 – Spokane, WA
“Oscar only wants a date with you.” Alex blocked Kalyss’s jab with his left arm and turned to the side to avoid her kick. Sometimes he wished he wore pads for this.
“Then Oscar can waste away from his unfulfilled cravings. I’m not interested.” She followed through with a quick jab-punch series that had him backing away. Quickly.
“Why? That’s what I don’t understand.” Kalyss was a gorgeous woman-clear blue eyes, golden blonde hair, and a curvy, muscular body. And she seemed depressingly determined to be alone forever.
He regained his balance and struck back. Sparring like this always energized him. She was quick, clever and dangerous.
“Oh, please, you know what I’ve been through. You’re the only man I trust.”
“So? Don’t trust him. Use him and leave him. Just open the door–unless you want to spend the rest of forever alone.” A woman had to move past her abusive ex eventually, didn’t she?
“Back off,” she snapped.
He laughed at her threatening tone. “Think you can intimidate me? Please, Minnie Mouse, don’t hurt me.”
Her jab to the stomach caught him off guard. He doubled over, struggling to breathe.
“You know I’m not interested in a relationship with anyone.” Her ponytail held tight, no tendrils falling free to block him from her piercing gaze.
“Not interested or scared to try?” he gasped.
“Ugh.” Her hands punctuated the air and she turned away from him. “Why are you pushing this? I didn’t even think you liked him.”
“I don’t.” He straightened behind her. “He’s slick, too slick. Selling himself, almost.”
She faced him again, hurt plainly visible in her face. “And you want me to go out with him? Gee, thanks.”
He walked towards her and framed her face with both hands. Sometimes he felt so tall next to her. Other times, he felt dwarfed by her sheer personality. “Which is why I say use him and dump him. The point is, move on.”
“When I’m ready. Not before.” Her eyes beseeched him to understand.
The difficult thing was, he did. “I doubt you’ll live until the next millennium.”
She flashed a grin at his humor. “It won’t take that long. Just a little longer.”
“I worry about you. Just think like a guy for a while. Be in it for the moment, the date, the thrill. Worry about commitment later.”
She laughed, her face close to his. Her eyes softened. “We could do this the easy way. You. Me. No danger.”
For a moment, he thought about it. He and Kalyss. His childhood friend. His confidante. His partner. It would be easy-but not good enough. He would always have the never-quite-forgotten memory of sunshine hair and blazing blue eyes standing between them. Beth Ann Raines. Kalyss may look enough like her for them to be sisters, but it still wouldn’t be the same. Some things weren’t meant to be easy and being in love was one of them.
He grinned crookedly. “Where’s the fun in that? Besides, we deserve more.”
“Then go get what you deserve and leave me in peace.” She grinned, her knowing gaze proving he had no secrets from her.
The front door of the dojo jingled. “Saved by the bell,” he grumbled.
“It’s always been fairly reliable.” She smirked, but her eyes had darkened with sadness.
He sighed and walked away. He reached the door and looked back. She didn’t see it: what she could have, what she could miss. She was too busy fighting a nightmare that needed to be forgotten.
Kalyss held her hands behind her head and stretched back. Why didn’t he understand? Alex was her best friend. He’d driven her away from that hospital, that life, barely alive and not at all thankful for it. There were just certain things she couldn’t have; she’d learned that lesson.
She bent forward, touching her toes and stretching her back. She’d spent too many years of fear, self-loathing, and weakness with Sam. The memories wouldn’t just fade away. They’d be with her forever. But now that she knew how to fight, how to defend herself, it wouldn’t happen again. She knew that with every cell in her body. She’d never repeat her mistakes. Distancing from Alex, isolating herself, cowering before a threat. Knowing that, maybe he was right. A date. Here and there. No pressure. No commitment. Easy does it.
God, she wanted to vomit.
She could still feel Sam’s warm, threatening presence against her back. His grip in her hair. Bruises forming along her arms. No, dating could wait. She wasn’t ready yet. Maybe in a month or more-when she’d had more time to think about it. For now, she was a strong businesswoman who’d built her life and her body from death and pain. That’s all she needed to know–she was in control.
Again she felt a presence at her back, but the breath on the nape of her neck, in her ear, wasn’t Sam’s. It wasn’t a memory. Her heart stopped. Sweat broke out. It was real.
Kalyss ducked and rolled, then landed on her feet and faced where she’d stood. A red-haired man lifted a brow over one glittering emerald-colored eye.
“Well, that was new.” He smiled, apparently delighted with her.
Normally, she would’ve returned the smile, he seemed that charming–but the knife in his hand killed the impulse. Kalyss crouched, her eyebrows twisting.
“Who are you? What are you doing? Where’s Alex?” Ice trickled down her spine as questions crowded her mind. He was big, not just tall, but solid, imposing–and between her and the door.
“You only get one question, Kalyss. We don’t have much time.” He was laughing at her. Her eyes narrowed.
“What the hell are you doing?” If this was some joke…
“Killing you, of course.” He struck, his deadly knife slicing straight for her.
Killing her? She knocked aside the blow and pivoted, her left foot kicking his knee. He stumbled and laughed. Chills trickled down her spine. “Why?”
“It’s the game, love.” He jabbed. She blocked and kicked, but he deflected skillfully.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
He shrugged. “Don’t tell me you weren’t expecting something.”
A dark looming danger. Rain-filled clouds and gray-black skies. Tension and fear choking her screams. Kalyss whispered, “No, I definitely wasn’t expecting you.”
He struck again and the battle was on. She defended and struck back when she could, but he fought hard, stronger than she was, much more skilled than she was. He really was going to kill her and she didn’t even know why. At least with Sam it had been about control. This guy…who knew? She’d never even seen him before.
“We don’t really have time for this, fun as it is. Your precious guardian will be along any moment.”
“What does Alex have to do with this?” She dared a quick glance to the doorway.
Surprise flashed through his eyes. “Alex?”
“Who are you?” How did he seem to know her, not just with his words, but with his eyes, and not know Alex? Apparently this guy hadn’t come through the front door.
“Where is he?” His tone changed, became dangerously serious.
“Who? Alex? The nuthouse must be worried about you. Why don’t you call and check in?” If he didn’t know where Alex was, she was so not going to tell him.
He laughed. “Funny. You know, I’ve never had the time to get to know you before. It’s kind of nice.”
“Huh?” She tried to edge to the door, but he blocked her.
He took pity on her ignorance. “I’m talking about a game without end. I kill you, you come back. I kill you again. It’s usually quite fast and painless.”
“You’re insane,” she whispered.
His grin cracked. “If only.”
She tried to scream, but he struck out and it was all she could do to focus on holding him back. He maneuvered again, striking out as he had at first. Only, this time he anticipated her kick and grabbed her ankle. She twisted her upper body until her hands braced on the wood floor as she kicked with her right leg. She was free.
When she came up, he was behind her somehow. He pulled her back against him.
“Where is the statue, Kalyss?” His knife rested against her throat, the sharp edge cautioning her to remain motionless, but he was likely about to kill her anyway.
“The what?” She grabbed his arm, kicked back, and connected with his knee.
He stumbled, pulling her with him. They grappled, fighting for control. Kalyss barely avoided the knife. They twisted. He punched. She blocked and kicked. This was familiar territory. She didn’t know the who or the why, but everything else was the same. She was on her own against a man determined to hurt her. Kill her.
Kalyss was agile and fast, but she’d also had a long day and adrenaline was all she had left. Adrenaline and fear. Her attacker, though, was taller, weighed more, and seemed more experienced.
A door slammed in the front of the building. Alex. Where had he been? One moment’s distraction was all the stranger needed. He grabbed her, twisting her back against him, and held the sharp edge of his dagger to her throat.
“Alas, no more time to play. This was getting fun.” He sounded winded. And surprised. At least she wasn’t alone in that.
Her heart pounded so hard, she was sure he could feel it with the hand that clasped her just under her right breast. She tried to breathe, but the effort was shaky and scraped her throat against the blade.
She searched the room with a panicked gaze. Alex? Still at the front door. Her friend. Her protector. She’d be dead before a sound left her mouth and he’d come in the room to find his worst nightmare. Her dead body. Why wasn’t there a weapon in here? Swords, poles? Anything?
“It’s a shame. These moments together are so fleeting. I wish we had more time together.”
What? Doesn’t matter. Keep him talking. Oh, God, what to say? Was he enjoying this? “Then don’t make it quick. Let’s just…” She inhaled shaky and shallow. “Let’s just calm down and talk awhile.”
He laughed again, his voice oddly pleasant. Terrifyingly attractive. Oh, God, a mass murderer. “Nice try, but your protector is too close. With no statue, the game ends here.”
What statue? She felt him shift. Looking towards the door? Yes. She slammed one elbow back, grabbing his weapon wrist at the same time. He grunted and the towering body behind her slumped forward just enough. She took advantage and flipped him forward. The tip of the blade scraped her throat, shallow but painful.
He landed and rolled in front of her, easily regaining his feet, tucking the blade in his belt sheath. They squared off. He laughed again and she shivered. Her throat burned and breathing was difficult. When he rushed her, she moved too slowly to stop him. He slammed her back against the wall, his hand against her throat, lifting her to the tips of her toes, and pinning her. Her head snapped back, nearly exploding with pain.
Her breath was gone. Her head pounded dizzily. She mustered what remained of her strength and struck out at him, but he only grinned and secured her hands on either side of her head, against the wall. He leaned forward, his face an inch from hers. His green eyes shined bright as he looked deep into hers and smiled again. Who was he?
“Look at you, fighting so hard. Do you remember yet, what you’re fighting for? Have you dreamt of him, when you’re lying in your bed alone and lonely? What do you miss most? His embrace? His kiss?”
Her brow twisted and she demanded hoarsely, “What are you talking about?”
“You’ll remember soon enough. If I give you time.” Kai suddenly stared at her, his brows twisting and his head tilting, his expression strangely puzzled, considering. Abruptly, he shook it off and checked the doorway, then smiled at her, handsome and horrible. “Why not? Let’s make this interesting. Bring me the statue, Kalyss.”
He kissed her, hard and fast, deep and promising, lips and teeth. A kiss of death. Then he was gone.
She trembled. Her head spun until she leaned against the wall. The trembles became bone-deep shakes.
The kiss hadn’t been gentle or seductive. Nor had it been controlling, bruising or sexual. It was a challenge.
She watched the doorway as another strange man appeared in it. She couldn’t speak out, warning him. Her legs melted beneath her and she slowly slid down the wall.
He rushed to her, speaking words she couldn’t hear above the fast pump of blood past her ears. The room darkened. She understood nothing. Felt only fear. She’d been here before, felt this, but this game was new and she didn’t know the rules.
October 7, 1075—England
Her wedding day. Her wedding night. Kynedrithe of Clifhaefen stared out the small window to the wild sea below, measuring, weighing. The wind howled and she could almost feel the stone tower sway before its fury. Dark clouds roiled across the sky and distant booms of thunder prickled her flesh.
The ceremony and feast had passed too quickly and soon, her husband would come and claim her with all the brutality his people had shown hers during these nightmarish years.
She would bleed and her people would cheer. Her blood, her vows, all for the safety of her people. It was what she’d been trained to do–but not with the thought of a bloodthirsty Norman as her new husband. William The Bastard’s baron, sent to quell the rebellions of her people.
The castle had run red with the dead and dying. Wounds gaped open, displaying to the world parts of a man never meant to be seen. The violence, the smell of sweat and blood, the clash of swords and shields, the whisper of arrows freshly released from their bows. The shrieks of pain, harshly yelled orders, the panicked prayers, and the heartbreaking last words of brave men she’d dined beside. He’d brought that here. They’d all brought that here. The rebels, the lords, and the Normans.
She’d lived here the entire eighteen years of her life. Had worked and slept and cared with people now gone forever. Land planted and harvested, now razed. The sick she’d visited, now dead in huts burned to the ground.
The older ones shrugged, heads down, backs bent. All the horror around her was just a taste of what one group of men could do to another for land and power. It wasn’t new to them, but she felt she’d never get used to it. She’d hoped for a bit of peace, of restoration, until the Normans had come further North to quell the rebellions.
Tension stiffened every muscle until she wondered if the next wild gust of wind would break her. The next wild gust, or the stranger she’d been forced to marry?
Her hands gripped the casement ‘til her fingers were bloodless. After witnessing him in battle, the calm with which he brought death, the firm stance, his confidence and strength, she feared him for good reason.
And that was just in the bailey. She could only imagine him in the midst of battle. He would be the eye of the storm, the only hut not torn to the ground. Instead, he’d fell all those around him, all who opposed him.
Chaos reigned around him until he brought order. Such had been his actions for the fortnight he’d been lord. The keep cleaned, the land cleared, any provisions they’d saved carefully counted and stored. The defenses rebuilt. Who could stand against him? What could stop him? He decided he wanted something and he got it, through battle or control, through sheer strength and determination.
But there were still the rumors of women he’d killed, women who’d died violent, bloody deaths in their beds with only twisted sheets to cover parts of them. Would that be her fate come the morning? Or would his wife’s fate be different, left alive until she provided an heir?
She couldn’t do this. She wouldn’t survive. What if he killed her? What if he hurt her? She would live based only upon his good will. She was too weak to even try. The shaking in her limbs told her that, even if the pounding of her heart didn’t.
Glancing down and twisting to the left, she could see the torch lit ground, far from where she stood at the top of the tower, the top of the new castle. These Normans with their stone homes and their forbidding presences, they overtook everything.
Then she saw him, her husband, by the stables. He dismounted and stalked toward the keep. He was coming. For her. For her blood to consecrate their vows and seal the fate of Clifhaefen’s village. She was the sacrifice and he was the cleansing fire. The flames moved closer to the tower and her knees weakened. Her heart nearly beat through her chest.
His boots pounded on the hard packed dirt even above the thunder. No, they were the thunder. Her stomach twisted in knots; she was thankful it was empty.
After the dinner, which she couldn’t eat, she’d been brought here to bathe and wait as the sun had set into the sea below her window. If she jumped from this point, would she hit the cliffs or fall away from the tower to crash into the sea? Some said what would happen tonight was worse than death. Bedded by a Norman.
She twisted to the side again. She couldn’t see him. Did she want to see him? No. Most assuredly not. Except, she did. She needed to know. Was that last bit of thunder him? Was he pounding up the stairs even now?
Kynedrithe ran to the second window. Not far from the first, but with a view of the ground and the stables, and most importantly, the entrance to the hall. He stood with his back to her, torches casting a demonic glow about him, and faced his best knight-the one with the blue eyes. His had been the only smiling face at the wedding, as if he’d tried to reassure her that all would be well. Geoffrey. Geoffrey was young and naïve. Nothing could be well when you married a murderer. Only vows, blood, and death.
Her husband turned and strode toward the door to the keep. She remembered his warm, amber eyes with their coal-black rims. They were deep, mysterious, and she could see nothing beneath that smoldering gaze. It terrified her. The thunder boomed again. Then she heard another boom, this one from below and behind her, climbing higher and higher. She ran to the cliff window again and stared at the sea. Dared she? Did she have the courage?
Nightmare images flashed through her mind. To be at his mercy, in his power, his blood-covered hands on her body.
She swung up on the window edge, rested her bottom on the frame, and dangled her legs inside the round room. She drew on her courage to swing them over as she stared down at the waves crashing against the jagged rocks below.
She imagined falling down, down to the jagged rocks. They’d pound and slice her body until she reached the freezing depths of the sea. Would she die right away? Or feel the pain of each gouge as her body crashed along?
The sky spun and her stomach heaved again. She couldn’t do it. Kynedrithe quickly pulled herself inside and crawled to a large chest, where she knelt, shaking and gasping. The steps behind the closed wooden door pounded closer. She would have to face him. She could survive anything for one night, couldn’t she?
The booted steps paused outside the door and she held her breath.
Order the Book
“BETRAYED is a passionate debut by an author of remarkable talent and maturity of style. Lyrical prose spins a tale that is intelligent and unflinching, enthralling and richly imagined. I loved it! It’s a gorgeous, lush, and compelling novel. If you try just one debut this year, make it Jamie Leigh Hansen’s. You will be grateful to have ‘discovered’ her from the first.”
— Sylvia Day, #1 New York Times & #1 International Bestselling Author
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“BETRAYED is an exciting escape into a fascinating worldCover) of fallen angels and an intense and timeless love story. Jamie Hansen is a fresh new voice in paranormal romance.”
— Christine Feehan, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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“Enter a world of magic, chance and love everlasting!”
— Gena Showalter, New York Times Bestselling Author
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“With intense emotion and thrilling action, Hansen grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the very end… and even then you want more!”
— Caridad Piñeiro, New York Times Bestselling Author
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“Undying love and the need for redemption fuel the characters’ fire in this star-crossed-lovers drama. The story moves between past events that led to this tragic scenario and the present. In this gripping novel, true love may be eternal, but it might take supernatural interference to get to a satisfactory conclusion.”
— 4 Stars, Jill M. Smith, Reviewer for Romantic Times Book Reviews
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“Jamie Leigh Hansen is a bright new star in the world of paranormal romance!”
— Audrey Sharpe, Reviewer for FreshFiction.com
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“Newcomer Jamie Leigh Hansen tackles a complex and intriguing story in her first published novel, BETRAYED, proving she has the mettle for a career in the writing arena. Ably crafting a fascinating tale that spanning a full millennium, the author never loses the reader, even with numerous flashbacks interjected throughout the story. Indeed, the way these flashbacks are strategically placed keeps the suspense high as the story unfolds… Jamie Leigh Hansen should be proud of her first book. BETRAYED is a story of love, forgiveness, and loyalty that will be certain to have her readers eagerly awaiting her next release!”
— Jennifer, CK’s Kwips and Kritiques
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“What a superb first novel by Jamie Leigh Hansen, as the turning of every page only heightens the anticipation of learning additional information about the characters and their fascinating lives. And as each disclosure is revealed, these dynamic characters become more and more real…
Though this is the debut book from Jamie Leigh Hansen, this gifted author has created an exceptionally noteworthy story. From the first attention-grabbing sentence to the last compelling scene, BETRAYED never disappoints and continuously captivates with exceptional storytelling. ..
Stunning in detail from all perspectives, BETRAYED elicits emotions while capturing the full attention of its readers.”
— Amelia Richard, Single Titles
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“BETRAYED by Jamie Leigh Hansen is the first book in a new series of good versus evil. There are dark and light angels at work in this book, both seeking redemption. There is pure love and forgiveness, as well as revenge, all vying for supremacy in BETRAYED…
The action is intense. The emotions are raw. The use of flashbacks is excellent. They serve a purpose and are strategically placed to avoid confusion. The flashbacks are even explained as a piece of one of the characters.
I enjoyed this book and will be looking for the next installment from Ms. Hansen. Her writing style and plot lines are extremely engaging and I want more of them. There are many characters deserving of their own books and I’m sure that Ms. Hansen has the perfect stories line up.”
— Stacy Cooper, Paranormal Romance Writers
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“I just finished reading this book, and I must say that Jamie did an amazing job! This book sucked me in from the very beginning and even with the shifting back and forth in time to learn what was going on and through the building of her world rules I was never confused! Her characters had amazing depth and a connection that I strive for every time I sit at the computer with my own characters. She tackled the heroine’s dark past with tenderness, and gave the story villain an element of humanity that made us root for him even while he was doing evil deeds.”
— Nikki Duncan
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“BETRAYED is an imaginative paranormal romance and a fabulous debut. For Dreux and Kalyss a betrayal caused a curse to last for more than nine centuries and is coming to an end. This is their final chance at the lifetime of love they’ve been repeatedly denied, and they’ll fight to their last breath to win. With a well plotted blend of past and present, Ms. Hansen pens an original and entertaining story. Intense action and emotional situations draw the reader in, and the passionate love of centuries will keep them engaged through the final battle.”
— Kimberly Swan, Reader to Reader Reviews
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“My reading year has definitely gotten off to a good start. I’ve read satisfying historicals and now I get to review the best paranormal I’ve come across in ages. In BETRAYED, Jamie Leigh Hansen combines intense romance with vivid and unusual (that’s right, no vampires or shapeshifters!) world-building to create a book that makes quite an impact.”
— Lyn Spencer, All About Romance Reviews
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“Jamie Leigh Hansen has beautifully written BETRAYED. The back and forth between time periods is a great twist, enveloping history, as well our present time, never once losing the reader. The love that Caylus (Kalyss) has for her husband is real, and the reader can only root for her to succeed, in what is her final attempt at freeing her husband, and thus, everyone else, from their curse. You’ll be begging for more from Jamie Leigh Hansen after reading BETRAYED!”
— Denise Kivett, Rogues and Romance
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“Though this is a very different, unusual read, be advised that like all reincarnation themed novels, there is much jumping around in time as past and present shift abruptly. Nonetheless, this is an ambitious, imaginative debut and hopefully, readers can look forward to more from this author. She certainly redefines character growth.”
— Amanda, TEN Review
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“This was a spectacular book. I loved every page of it. The whole statue business is an original—at least to me —idea and I love reincarnation stories and they’re hard to find. You suffer along with Kalyss as her world is broken apart and destroyed. You feel Dreux’s longing for the wife he had a thousand years ago. You know Geoffrey’s pain, though not why till close to the end. And then there’s Alex, who can heal himself and others. He’s been Kalyss’s staunchest friend, suffering through her almost dying from an abusive husband. So you know why Kalyss doesn’t trust this man who suddenly appeared in her life. You understand why she can’t give up her independence and be that woman of a thousand years ago again. But you also know that one way or another, these two will be together. Though this master of plot makes you think it’s impossible and the black moment is heart-stopping. All in all, it’s a great read and I highly recommend it.”
— Jordan, Moon Eclipse