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This series would not have seen the light of day without the alliances I’ve made. Thank you.

Chapter One

Not death, this warm, dark place devoid of pain and memory.

Lissa rested there, resisting the returning that called her.

She could hear her breath and blood, a susurrus murmuring that should have reassured her. Slowly, gently, the layers peeled back: awareness, her bones cradled by rock, her head against another’s flesh, scent of campfire and sweat and blood. She could hear the crackle of flames, the song of crickets, the wind rubbing branches together like fingers worrying at each other.

Memory surfaced, the screams of the dying children, a horrendous cacophony of blood and gunfire, and then Gideon backlit by the light. Oh, God, the terrible killing light pouring out of him, and the bodies of the men, how they dissolved into ash instantly, carried away by the wind, carried away by her pain, by darkness.

And at last, she opened her eyes.

It was night time. Above her the stars blazed their cold anger, forced to watch the devilish doings of this small planet. They chilled the black air and poked at the sky with sharp nails.

Her head lay on Gideon’s lap. He leaned back against a wall of rock, his eyes facing down the fire, smoke and shadows, strange with emptiness. She turned slightly and those eyes swiveled down on her. For a moment they didn’t even seem to register, and then they shifted, comprehended, studied her.

There was relief, but even stronger, she felt something like accusation.

She tried to talk but her throat hurt. “The children?” she whispered harsh and dry.

He shook his head. None of them then, or all of them, depending on how you looked at it.

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