By: Denise Grover Swank

To my readers,

you make all the hard work worth it

Chapter One

She was dead.

No. She only wished she was. Her body lived, though she felt as if her heart had been ripped from her chest. The organ mocked her with each beat, spreading her grief to every cell of her body.

“Emma, we need to go,” Raphael’s voice called through her haze.

She lifted her face from the damp forest ground and stared into his impatient face. Her anguish turned to rage. Will, the only man she had ever loved, the only person who had loved her in spite of herself, was gone. His memories of her—the love he felt for her, his urge to protect her at all costs, everything—had been stolen from him before he was beaten, thrown into a van, and carted away.

All while Raphael had used his hypnotic charm to keep Emma from saving him.

She stood, the tears drying on her face as the cold wind whipped her bloody nightgown around her legs. “You did this.”

Raphael’s dark eyes widened. “I did this? How is this my fault? I just saved your life by hiding you.”

The power inside her began to build, scorching her chest as though she were burning from the inside out.

His voice softened. “Emma. You need me.”

“Need you? Need you?” Her hands shook at her sides. Sparks flew from her fingers, illuminating the dark forest around them. “Because of you, I’ve lost Will. I’ve lost Jake. I lost my baby. I’ve lost everyone I love.” She choked on the last word, tears burning her eyes. She pushed her pain into the energy, feeling it swell. A golden light surrounded her.

He released a throaty laugh, reaching for her. “Don’t do anything hasty, Emmanuella.”

She gritted her teeth. “Don’t touch me.”

His hand dropped to his side. “Emma, I didn’t have anything to do with Jake or the baby. That was Alex. And Aiden, your father. They’re to blame.” He lowered his face, his eyes level with hers. “Together we can get even.”

She sucked in a breath, and pain shot through her side. Earlier in the evening, she’d been kicked by one of the men sent by a political group intent on harnessing her power and using her baby. A baby prophesied to have great power and to rule the world. Will’s baby. Only she’d miscarried the child just minutes ago, a result of the beating she’d incurred during her fight to escape.

A small smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “You need to focus your revenge on Aiden. You can save Jake, but you need me to do it.”

Her five-year-old son was a pawn, held by her father as incentive for Emma to fight in the contest of elemental immortals to gain control of the world. But something else needed her immediate attention. She lifted her chin. “What about Will?”

Raphael’s shoulders relaxed. “Emma, I’m sorry, but Will is dead. We both saw them throw his body in the back of that van.”

“You let them kill him!” Rage overtook her and she thrust her hands forward, shooting her energy toward him. The golden light flashed in an arc, creating an eerie glow as it lit the dark forest. A green light met hers, shooting flashes in all directions.

She jumped in surprise, her energy fading as the green light edged closer.

Raphael beamed and he lifted an eyebrow, an evil glint in his eye. “You’re going to get yourself killed, Emmanuella. You’ve just proven how much you need me.”

Her light shortened as his filled the space, stopping inches from her outstretched hands.

She flung her hands to her sides, sending energy flying into the trees, leaves igniting from the sparks. “Do it then! Kill me!” Grief overwhelmed her and sobs rose in her throat. The sudden exertion of power sapped what little energy she had left and her knees buckled as her vision faded.

The green light disappeared and Raphael moved to her, pressing his chest to hers. He held her up before she fell. “I don’t want to kill you, Emma. On the contrary, I want to rule with you.” His hand snaked around her back, pulling her closer.

Her strength returned with Raphael’s touch.

The trees smoldered, and gray smoke wisped into the sky. Vaguely aware of an acrid odor filling her nose, she stared into his dark eyes, lured by the hypnotic pull he aroused, drowning in her body’s physical need for him. “Will,” she whispered.