Seduced by Darkness

By: Karpov Kinrade

(The Seduced Saga, Book 5)





ONE





Tis Within Ourselves





ROSE





Tis within ourselves that we are thus or thus

—William Shakespeare, Othello





THE PULSE OF power called to me, pulling me into its web of temptations, but my eyes landed on my husband, close to death, fighting the infection from Ryder's claws. How could I leave him?

I fell to my knees, screaming, when another wave of pain shot through my arm as it attempted to shift back to human, attempted to heal the broken bone, only to be locked into the gruesome half-shift of broken bird wing and arm.

Ryder had faced three of us—me, Derek and Bishop Alaric—in an ancient Trial by Strength, and he had won. He had his life. His freedom. Even while Drake fought for his life back home.

I didn't see him as I struggled with my decision to leave or stay, tears streaming down my face, knees bruised from the stone floor.

A hand rested on my shoulder and I looked up at the White Wolf. "Go, child. We will care for him. Go."

He'd said I alone could find the ancient Druid. And he alone could help me survive my powers.

And so I pulled the robe the Lycans had given me to protect my naked flesh around me, and walked through the door that led to the white forest of snow.

Barefoot, in too much pain to feel the cold, I followed the thrum of magic moving in me and around me.

I lost all sense of place and time and found myself before a cave, with icicles covering it like a magic castle, finding warmth in the golden glow that emanated from the space.

The man hunched by the fire looked up, his body a patchwork of different animals. Fur for skin, antlers protruding from his head and wings sprouting from his back. He raised a hand at me—a bear claw, actually—and smiled. "Come," he said. "I've been waiting for you."

I took his gesture as an invitation and shuffled closer to the fire, the heat now searing my skin, burning away the cold that had seeped into my bones. "Who are you?"

"I am Talon."

He offered nothing more and I stared into the fire, fighting my pain and desperation. "Why am I here? The White Wolf told me to come, but why?"

"You have a rare magic in you. It could destroy you. Or it could make you great. I am the last remaining Druid who understands this power and knows how to control it." He looked up at me, fire dancing in his dark eyes. "I can teach you."

I slipped my broken arm out of the cloak. "Can you fix this?"

"No, but you can."

"I've tried," I said, sounding too much like a petulant child. "I can't do it."

"You just don't know how to yet."

"Derek said it's forbidden to shift into forms other than wolf. He said it's dangerous."

Talon's lips twitched. "It is."

"Why should I trust you?" My body shivered again, pain making me dizzy.

"Because you have no other choice, unless you want to spend the rest of your life feeling the way you do right now."

My chin fell to my chest and I choked back a sob, pulling myself together enough to look up with tear-stained eyes. "I'm in. What do I need to do?"



I expected my training to be one of those action packed sequences you see in movies, with intense physical challenges mixed with obstacle courses, a soundtrack creating the emotional tension—but no. I got a lot of meditating.

This wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped, but was about all I could handle, given how much pain radiated through my arm. I could barely walk straight, so I guessed I was lucky that this was all I had to do.

And as it turned out, sitting still for hours on end required a lot of endurance, and wasn't easy with my arm screaming at me.

For many hours nothing happened. I felt cold, tired, in pain, impatient and miserable. I wanted to go see Derek, to make sure he was okay, but I knew if I left I'd lose my chance to ever master my shifting abilities. I'd hurt myself and my husband in the process.

So I stayed. As my knees cramped in the lotus position. As my lips dried. As my ears froze and my nose turned red and runny. As a bug crawled over my bare foot. As the fire dimmed and died and the last breath of warmth fled our little cave. I stayed.

I'd nearly passed out from the pain and exhaustion when something changed. My mind dug deeper than it ever had before. I found a hidden corner of my consciousness that I hadn't known existed. Like a secret door that I'd lost the key to.

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