Intensity Read online





  Sherrilyn Kenyon's

  Dark-Hunter World Series:

  (in reading order)

  Fantasy Lover Night Pleasures Night Embrace Dance with the Devil Kiss of the Night Night Play

  Seize the Night Sins of the Night Unleash the Night Dark Side of the Moon The Dream-Hunter Devil May Cry Upon the Midnight Clear Dream Chaser Acheron

  One Silent Night Dream Warrior Bad Moon Rising No Mercy

  Retribution

  The Guardian Time Untime

  Styxx

  Dark Bites

  Son of No One Dragonbane

  Dragonmark

  Dragonsworn

  Deadmen's Cross:

  Dark-Hunter World

  Deadmen Walking The Dark-Hunter Companion Also by Sherrilyn Kenyon:

  League Series

  Born of Night Born of Fire Born of Ice

  Born of Shadows Born of Silence Born of Fury Born of Defiance Born of Betrayal Born of Legend Born of Vengeance The Belador Code

  Blood Trinity Alterant

  The Curse

  The Rise of the Gryphon Chronicles of Nick

  Infinity

  Invincible

  Infamous

  Inferno

  Illusion

  Instinct

  Invision

  Intensity

  By Sherrilyn Kenyon writing

  as Kinley MacGregor:

  Lords of Avalon Series

  Sword of Darkness Knight of Darkness

  ATOM

  First published in the US in 2017 by Nemesis Publications First published in Great Britain in 2017 by Atom Copyright (c) 2017 by Sherrilyn Kenyon The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  A CIP catalogue record for this book

  is available from the British Library.

  ISBN 978-0-349-40667-1

  Atom

  An imprint of

  Little, Brown Book Group

  Carmelite House

  50 Victoria Embankment

  London EC4Y 0DZ

  An Hachette UK Company

  www.hachette.co.uk

  www.atombooks.co.uk

  CONTENTS

  THE MEANING OF TIME

  PROLOGUE

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  EPILOGUE

  THE MEANING OF TIME

  When the world was new and time was young, there were no guardians for the gates. In the beginning, there was no need. Being fluid and flexible, time for many creatures wasn't a linear experience at all. Rather sentient beings moved forward and back at their whims and leisure. They could be born in the future and yet die in the past.

  To them, the ability to move back and forth, forward and back, was the same as breathing. They thought nothing of it.

  For mankind who was born without such privilege, the concept was always a hard one to grasp.

  To those who can bend time, the idea of a rigid linear lifetime without such freedom was just as inconceivable. These creatures didn't understand man's obsession with measuring and preserving what to them was an infinity of interwoven circles that bent back upon themselves with fluid ease.

  But as with all things, abusers were born. Rather than being grateful for the abilities they had, they chose to prey on those who lacked them. They stole time from those who could least afford to lose it and used it as currency. Held it over the heads of those who needed it.

  More than that, the abusers shifted history for their own gain, and created paradoxes and changes that ill-affected the entire world.

  The entire universe.

  It impacted everyone.

  Even the gods.

  The ancient writers claimed the original zeitjager was born, not of a mother, but from just such calculated cruelty. When a demon abused time to hunt and kill his first victim for purely selfish reasons. That blood spilled in the name of hatred and violence hit the innocent ground of mother earth and mixed with her fertile soil to create a blood-red mud that made that firstborn golem. With no other emotion to nurture it than such malignancy, the golem became an insatiable nightmare that preyed on anything with a beating heart.

  It became a conscienceless monster with an insatiable hunger for blood and bone.

  Until the gods stepped in and gave the monster a soul. Worse, they gave masters to those monsters and assigned them a purpose. Enslaved them for their own needs, and made time a linear requirement for almost all creatures, everywhere.

  One with rules and laws.

  One with dire consequences for any who dared to tamper with its new rigid sequence.

  Now tampering with it was something that not even the gods could do with impunity.

  Tread not with time, for it slays us all in its own due course ...

  PROLOGUE

  The end will begin. It always does. On the wind and with stinging pain. Faster than you can see and always when least expected. Enemies will come and they will go-- forever seeking to bring you low. But stand you must, and in even fewer trust. Thyself alone, thy heart of stone. One faith. One truth.

  One war.

  And so it was long ago, and centuries in our future. One Malachai son who began his race. Whose true love and devotion to his precious Rubati caused them all to be cursed forever. So it began.

  So it will end.

  One Malachai son cursed to destroy the world because of the love of one woman. Or to save it because through her faithful heart he learned of salvation and forgiveness.

  His choice.

  To defy his destiny.

  Or embrace his fate.

  To build or destroy. The same decision that all humanity faces from the moment of birth. A road wide open to all that narrows with every decision made until we make the final one that ends our days with the last exhale we take to extinguish the candle on our lives forevermore.

  Pawn or master. Choose wisely or perish from the foolishness of that last poor decision.

  The immovable rock or the unstoppable force.

  In truth, we are both. Situations have dictated and will dictate which we must be in order to survive. Today we are bitten, yet yesterday, we bit someone else. Tomorrow has yet to tell us which role will be ours, for it is in flux and could fall to either side.

  Biter or bitten.

  Life is ever a complicated symphony of catastrophes. Ever seeking to lay us low and lift us higher.

  And no one has ever understood this better than the Ambrose Malachai. Born Nicholas Ambrosius Aloysius Gautier. Many things to many people. Son. Friend. Boyfriend. Squire. Brother. Dark-Hunter. Malachai. Demon. Husband. Father.

  Betrayer.

  Destroyer of the world.

  Our could-be savior.

  Nick stared at the stark words that condemned him. As harsh as they were, they were made twice as bad by the fact that they'd been written in his own handwriting.

  In blood.

  And they struck him