Skydancer Book 2 – Coming Soon!
When a fallen angel arrives on Oracle Briana Spurrier’s doorstep promising a way to free her true love from his cursed imprisonment, she’s willing to defy both Zyne Law and Cosmic order to strike a bargain with him. But the journey will take her to the far reaches of the globe and into a spellbound forest that is the lair of an ancient and evil enchantress.
Bri will need her Wolfkinde Familiar–Lucas Moncrieffe–by her side if she hopes to survive, even though that means inviting a lover from centuries ago back into her life. As Bri navigates the trickery of the savage immortal world, her power continues to grow and she faces the most frightening question of all: can she embrace what she is without becoming one of the monsters?
- Visit the Zyne Legacy page to learn more about the Zyne universe.
- Get familiar with the characters and settings from the Skydancer series.
- Read an excerpt of the first two chapters below.
- Visit the Veil of Thorns Pinterest board to see my inspiration for the story.
Veil of Thorns Excerpt, Copyright 2018 © Gwen Mitchell
Warning: 17+ for language and sexual situations.
A lone howl spiraled into the humid night.
The birds’ shrill answer fluttered through the leaves and broke to the sky.
Vivianne followed a winding path through the midnight forest. A path she’d never trod before, but knew by heart. The path to her lover. The dewy ground caught faint traces of light and reflected it back in an ethereal wave.
As it should, on such a night. One charged with potent power.
Though she was barefoot, the darkness did not fault her. She knew when to step over roots and ducked on instinct under the low-hanging branches. She could never have spotted them in the inky darkness beneath the canopy, so she relied on her internal compass to guide her in the general direction and her second sight to fill in the rest.
Fairy mounds glowed pink and blue-green in the distance, shielded by misty invisibility wards. Darker things lurked in hollows– greedy eyes watching, waiting. Others cowered and drew back as she passed. Magic licked at her from above and below. She closed her eyes, letting her other senses guide her. A bouquet of rich loam and ripe berries filled her nose. The sound of water grew closer and closer, until she finally stumbled upon an ambling creek.
Her passage along the rocky bank was as smooth and swift as the eddying water, only she was silent. Stealth and her heightened psychic abilities were the only tools she allowed herself as she walked deeper into his realm.
She wasn’t in any physical danger, but each step took her closer to an act she knew would cost her dearly. An act that would certainly cause her pain, eventually. That didn’t matter now. She’d made up her mind.
He is worth it.
The forest was utterly still, but for the faint babbling of the creek. The living things around her remained mute. They understood a hunter was out tonight.
She was willing prey.
She’d worn his favorite rose oil and nothing else under her skirts, and had built up a painful wanting for him over the past few days. He would scent her. She’d left her hair loose, so that it swayed against the cloak she wore.
It was his favorite color, the color of passion and sin. The color of blood.
The wolf would see it from a hundred paces, even in the dark.
She emerged into an eerie clearing, stark and bare of shrubbery but for a solitary oak in the center. Large boulders anchored the four directional corners like stout sentries of a sacred place lost out of time. The full moon poured forth power, drenching the misty circle in a gauze of light. With her first step onto the grass, Vivianne felt the charge of the altar that had been built of the very bones of the earth.
A Prism. A gathering place for the energies of life, constructed by nature itself. No wonder the wolf had chosen this for his lair.
The magic we work here will not fail.
She knew beyond any doubt when the power of the circle washed through her, coating her insides with raw, elemental charge, that she would succeed in what she set out to do this night.
For good or ill.
She blessed the corners, infusing her own magic into that of the Prism, strengthening her connection to the Conduit. Then she sat down to wait.
She didn’t have to wait long.
He stalked out of the shadows as if he owned the night and everything it touched, a predator fixed on delicious quarry. His tawny-copper figure shimmered in the moonlight, but for a mantle of black across his powerful shoulders. Stormy grey eyes flickered golden in the dark, and long white teeth gleamed. He was tall enough at the shoulder to dwarf her as he approached, but she had nothing to fear. She smiled and reclined into the leaves, spreading her cloak beneath her.
The wolf sniffed at her ankles, then nosed up her skirt and licked her knees.
She gazed up through the clearing at the glimmering stars in the velvet night sky, her heart fluttering near her navel. On her next exhale, she had a very warm, very naked, very aroused male pressed against her, nuzzling and kissing her. Growling at her gently.
Her lover. Her wolf.
“Gods above and below, woman, you should not be here.”
Vivianne smiled. He always made some half-hearted protest when they met. He never really meant it. They were both equally helpless against the forces drawing them together. Slaves to the lash of destiny. Their spirits communicated on some baser level, called to each other. Fate always tangled their paths, no matter how hard they tried to stay away—as if the heavens themselves had tied them to one another.
Now she would make it official.
She rolled them over and straddled his lap. Broad hands slid from her waist to her hips and gripped her possessively, seeping heat into her skin through her clothes. The almost painful need in his expression reminded her of the first time he’d taken her, in the rough hay of the stables amidst her husband’s prized horses. They’d been crazed with desire, beyond reason or judgment. Beyond right or wrong.
His chest rumbled in approval as she slid against his hardness, and he helped hike her skirt up her thighs. The visage of the wolf still rode him in her Second Sight. The markings of the Khaos realm across his back and shoulders never went away, but his features were still cast over by those of the beast, severe and lupine. His eyes were disks of amber flame with barely a pinprick of black in the center. Black claws gently scraped her skin, and she whimpered when their bodies sealed together–a sound of sharp relief.
He rubbed his face into her bodice, licking, kissing, and lightly nipping. Vivianne quivered in his arms as he drove into her, deep and satisfying. And then came his slow, languorous torture. He glided against her with aching precision that made her belly coil tight, her breath catch. Slow, steady, controlled. Concentrated not just on her pleasure, but on drawing it out as long as possible.
Until she begged for completion.
Her wolf asked for one thing in return.
“Be mine forever.” He drew back to look into her eyes. The burn of hunger in his gaze told her he wanted her as much as she did him. Wildness crept just beneath the surface. Desperation. But he’d told her to stay away until she could accept his wolf, his magic, and his soul. Nothing less.
“You’ve come to tell me you’ve changed your mind?” When she didn’t answer, but only smoldered at him, he teased against her until she cried out, a prisoner to his exquisite knowledge of her body.
There had been nothing that required changing except for her futile efforts to walk the higher path, to be unselfish. She’d failed. Or she’d surrendered.
Did it matter anymore?
“Ana?” he asked through clenched teeth.
Vivianne didn’t fear the wolf. And she no longer cared of the consequences. She needed him. One life would never be enough.
“Yes,” she said with heavy breath on his ear. Then she moaned as the heat of him touched so deep she broke out in a sweat.
He rolled her over and laid her back, on their forbidden marriage bed of crimson velvet, rich earth, and fallen leaves. Already buried within her, he pulled her legs tighter around him and ground against her in a luscious, sinewy movement of pure, supple muscle. His rough stubble abraded her neck and chest as he devoured her. He trailed his tongue to the tops of her breasts, biting harder, marking the giving flesh with crescent rings of teeth marks.
“Our souls are one. For all time, I will love only you.” He claimed her mouth, this time holding nothing back. He drowned her in the tempest of his own ancient power, that of an immortal. The charge of the extra magic took her breath away.
There was no turning back from here. They were committed. Tonight, they re-forged destiny… Tonight, she would veer from the path she’d sworn herself to with a blood oath. Follow her heart. Forsaking one of the sacred Threefold Laws.
Her body cried for release.
Power hummed over her skin, seeped into the ground below, and vibrated back in a hot rush.
Vivianne unsheathed her athame.
Her lover released her mouth, grunted with excitement and quickened the pace of his fervent thrusts. She rolled them over, rode him to the ground, and pinned his shoulders until he calmed. His chest heaved. Claws dug into her thighs. She dragged the blade across her palm until blood beaded, then did the same over his left breast, whispering the incantation again and again until it coiled around her bones. The intricate weaving of ancient and forbidden magic glowed behind her eyelids.
As she breathed the words that would bind them together eternally, the sky seemed to bear down on their circle. The energy inside roiled and bubbled. With all the power she could channel, under the full moon, in a sacred Prism, Vivianne placed her hand over her immortal lover’s heart, and willed them to become one.
Their heartbeats crashed together like lightning bolts meeting in the sky. They both cried out, backs bowing. Still joined and dangling on the precipice of release, they clung to each other as the spell sizzled in the air. Power seeped from the ground in whorls of hazy mist, sparkling in the moonlight. It flowed into them, between them, out of them. Their bodies tensed, and then melded together, their consciousness intertwined as sure as their lips were locked.
“I love you, Ana,” he said, before plunging them over the edge of fulfillment. He stared at her face, his eyes swirling like clouds in a fierce thunderstorm.
“I love you.” She clung to him in the desperate throes of desire, free-falling through bliss, with the eternal mate of her soul. “Lucas.”
San Juan Islands, Washington
How does one begin a letter to a werewolf lover from a past life? There was no correct answer to that question. Emily Post herself would be stumped. Dear was too endearing. Hi was too familiar. To was too…something. Bri tapped her pen on the table and stared through the rain-slicked glass of the kitchen nook’s beveled windows. The lilies at the edge of the yard swayed in the mid-morning breeze. If she took much longer, she would miss the ferry.
Sighing, she bent back over the paper.
Okay. She could do this. She’d put it off for long enough. For months she’d meant to sit down and write something, anything. Just an answer to his letter would have been simple. Could he call on her–yes, or no? She couldn’t even write either of those words, because both would mean so much more. But whatever unresolved feelings she had for the immortal half-demon who called himself Lucas Moncrieffe, they weren’t lessening with his absence.
Her regressions hadn’t stopped. And the dreams of late had become very… frustrating. The next logical choice was to face him and hopefully train herself into seeing him as something else through exposure therapy.
She was not his long lost love Vivianne. No matter how much Lucas wished it to be so. She didn’t love him. She didn’t even know him.
Pretty cut and dried.
But, he had risked his life to save hers, and she had treated him unfairly. What happened to Kean wasn’t Lucas’s fault. It had taken her a couple of months to finally accept that. They would all be dead now, if not for Lucas. She owed him her thanks, at the very least. Nodding to herself, she scribbled the next line.
We should talk.
Was that the same as saying he could call on her? Or would he take it too literally, being gods-knew how old? She had to be careful not to extend an inadvertent invitation. She didn’t want him just showing up. This confrontation was going to take preparation, planning. And lots of pep talks from Astrid. No, he definitely couldn’t call on her. But…
You may call me on the telephone. If you can’t use a telephone, please write back and we’ll make other arrangements.
She signed her full name, wrote down her home and cell numbers, and sealed it in an envelope she’d addressed and stamped over a month ago. She tucked the letter in her purse, and made sure Max and Maggie had food and water before she left.
The tourist season on the island was picking up again, thanks to a recent blast of clearer weather. Making your intended ferry back from the mainland had become a rarity, and she had lots of errands, plus the extra stop for Astrid. She would try to keep that short, but with the Fitzgerald clan, you never knew. It might be nightfall before she returned. Her body hummed with excitement, as it always did when she knew she would see Kean soon.
Despite the sun-breaks, winter’s chill hadn’t released its hold on the islands yet, and the heater in Kean’s clunky old pickup had stopped working. Again. Bri pulled on her forest green pea coat made of thick wool and the knitted mittens and scarf Astrid had given her for Yule.
Two German shepherd sentinels stood at attention by the truck as she walked down the back steps to the driveway. Bri shook her head. “Not this time, guys. Just guard duty today.”
Max stretched, yawned, and walked up to Bri with his tail wagging. They exchanged licks for scratches, and he took his post on the back porch. Maggie sniffed Bri’s hand as she walked by, but otherwise didn’t move. Bri climbed into the truck and then heard a skitter of claws and a thump behind her.
She checked the rearview mirror to see a brown and black lump of fur trying very hard to blend in with the rusty truck bed. Bri chuckled. “Maggie. Out!”
Maggie reluctantly complied and watched with a forlorn curl of her expressive brows as Bri backed down the drive. Once on the road, Bri laughed to herself about the antics Kean’s dogs—just his dogs—put her through on a daily basis. Her life was infinitely more complicated than before. Imagine what the flesh and blood man would do to her, if they ever had the chance to settle into a life together.
No…bad idea. She wasn’t supposed to imagine that. It made things too difficult, and so much more unfair. Later, she would see Kean. He would see her. They could talk and be in each other’s presence—a blessing she thanked the stars for every night. But they couldn’t touch each other. They couldn’t feel each other. It was maddening. Like some sort of sensory deprivation torture. Adding anything remotely sexual into it had just served to frustrate the hell out of them both and result in them being at each other’s throats when they needed to be working together to figure out a way to free him.
Kean’s body was still in the mortal plane, encased in stone and under a powerful curse. But thanks to a protection spell on a blessed amulet and Kean’s own stubborn will, his spirit was somehow still bound to this plane. To her grandmother’s house, actually.
Kean had given up one of his lives to hang on to this one, and so he existed in a grey place where souls between lives sometimes lingered. The Zyne word for it was Lumere. Within the magical and physical barriers of the house, he could take a form, though not a corporeal one, and only when Bri could summon enough power to see into that grey place.
It was never enough. Which was why she’d spent the last three months driving his junky truck, even though she could afford a new car. She liked the idea that Kean was with her, even when she left the house. She shared her bed with his two obnoxious dogs because their body warmth and soft snores reminded her she wasn’t alone, that soon Kean would be there to hold her again.
She pulled onto the ferry, killed the engine, and slid out of her mittens to wrap her fingers over the worn prints on the steering wheel. Maybe her rituals and shrines for Kean were getting a little ridiculous. But the way she saw it, she wasn’t hurting anybody. She was making progress. At least she’d started wearing her own clothes again. She was fit to go out in public…just a little bit out of practice.
She’d spent every waking minute of the last four months studying Zyne texts and researching Kean’s curse. After the events of her father’s death and a disturbing and very public revelation about her, the Synod had required Bri to take on a Zyne tutor. It was a thinly-veiled attempt to keep a close eye on her, but they could have done worse, so she didn’t complain. She met with Councilor Amin every week, studied her assigned texts, practiced her assigned spells, and peppered him with questions to guide her separate research into Kean’s curse, most of which he avoided answering in one way or another.
On every trip back to the Arcanum, after her lessons, she would lay down beside Kean’s stone figure and cover his clasped hands in hers, trace the lines of his face with her fingertips. The enchanted roses that grew over him would coil around her wrists and whisper against her skin. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine it was Kean touching her back. She’d meditated in that hall with a notepad for hours, writing down every detail she could remember from those few moments that had since dominated her life. Any clue about what type of curse it had been.
She never ran into Lucas on any of her visits, despite the fact that he was a bound servant of the Synod. His scarcity gave the impression he was waiting for permission to approach her. But then, he didn’t seem like the type to do anything solely for someone else’s good. He was far too practiced at having his way. He’d already held her hostage wanting a proclamation of love, and he’d stolen a kiss she never would have given freely. He was most likely just waiting for the opportune moment to pounce, so she slinked through the maze of Arcanum hallways constantly on edge.
Thankfully, today she was far away from all of that. She came up on a patch the two-lane highway with no traffic and pushed the old truck to go faster. She rolled down her window and let the wind swirl through the cabin. She gulped in deep draughts of crisp mountain air. She thrust her hand out and savored the invigorating rush.
She’d been cloistered up all winter, in her house, in her tiny Vancouver recording studio, in the Arcanum library, or otherwise stuck on a small island full of too many memories. But now she was on the open road, driving fast, free and alive. Through the wild.
When she crested the hill, the truck bucked, coughed out a puff of black exhaust, and stalled.
“Shit.” Bri shifted to neutral and coasted down the hill. She had just enough momentum to drive the vehicle over the small embankment of the shoulder and park out of the way. “Shit-shit-shit.”
She pulled her purse into her lap and fished through it for her cell phone. Of course, today of all days, she’d left it sitting on the charger. “Dammit!”
There were no maps in Kean’s truck. No handy GPS. No phone. She didn’t even know where she was exactly—somewhere east of Hamilton? Which was a good ten miles back, at least.
Bri got out of the truck and slammed the door. She stared at the matching rows of pines stretching as far as she could see in either direction. She hadn’t packed for Woman vs. Wilderness. This never would have happened if she’d stuck to the Interstate. But no, Astrid had to have her wine from the Fitzgerald vineyard hand-delivered, and insisted it would be good for Bri to see Kean’s family.
She hadn’t wanted to go. Maybe this was Fate’s backhanded answer to her prayers. She puffed out an irritated breath. “Be careful what you ask for.”
An engine roared in the distance, and she spied a motorcycle coming down the highway like one of the hounds of hell. Definitely not AAA. She got back in the truck and tried to look like she was there on purpose. The black-clad biker flew right by. She sighed in relief, but then she saw his brake lights in her rearview mirror.
The rider slowed, signaled, and turned around.
Bri locked her door and prepared to wave him off. She could wait for a nice, friendly-looking family in a Subaru, on their way to Okanogan for a Girl Scout retreat.
The rider stopped just behind her on the shoulder and dismounted. Briana watched in the side mirror, which really only gave her a view from the waist down. It was a nice view. Thick, well-muscled thighs in tight black jeans, an extremely squeezable ass.
She laughed abruptly. Kean’s predicament had done nothing to quell her libido, it had only built it into an embarrassing frenzy. She’d sunk as low as to check out a man who would probably rob her and leave her in the woods for bear food.
Gravel crunched under his heavy boots as he walked along the side of the truck. Bri leaned over and searched through the glove box, just to make it look like she wasn’t sitting there like a complete idiot, waiting to get knife-jacked.
He rapped on the window with gloved knuckles. Even though she’d been expecting it, she flinched.
“I’m okay, thanks. I called a tow truck. They should be here soon.” She turned with a hunky-dory smile pasted on her face and had to bite her tongue to keep from screaming at the pure injustice of life.
Lucas Moncrieffe stood on the other side of her window, grinning like the wolf he was.
“You seem to be in need of rescue, my lady.”