THE SHADOW & THE SUN
by Monica Enderle Pierce
Among the living or the dead, he’s never needed anything from anyone.
Shadow Mage Gethen is a powerful necromancer, keeper of the border between the living and the dead, and brother to the king of Besera. But with his dark powers failing and a vengeful entity attacking, Gethen should be happy when a formidable lady knight appears at his gates. He’s not. The price for her aid is steep—his allegiance in a war against his brother.
In battle or in bed, she’s never met a man she considered her match.
Militess Halina is undaunted by the threat of war between her country and neighboring Besera. She earned her titles by shedding blood and breaking bones. She uses her body to reward soldiers who serve her loyally, and to punish those who don’t. And Halina’s never met a man she couldn’t command or crush.
Passion and power unexpectedly ignite when a blizzard traps Halina at Gethen’s citadel. With the evil entity’s onslaughts rapidly deteriorating Gethen’s sorcery, they have little time to understand their unexpected attraction. But could their passion be the key to defeating an ancient enemy that’s hell-bent on obliterating their world?
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From Chapter Ten of The Shadow & The Sun
The set-up: Gethen is treating wounds that Halina sustained in fighting a wraith the previous night…
The liquid churned as Gethen said more incantations. Vapors rose to fill his nostrils with a harsh, bitter odor. When the concoction finally quieted, he ceased the incantation and stoppered the metheglin bottle. He fetched clean rags from one of his cabinets and a jar of healing unguent then went to the infirmary and offered the dram to the militess.
She took it, sniffed its contents, and grimaced. “Gods, that’s foul.” She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Is this what made me insensible last night?”
“Metheglin, yes, but this is a different variant.” He folded his arms. “Don’t you trust me?”
A small smile curved Halina’s lips. Then she downed the tincture like a soldier drinking soma before a battle. She coughed, shuddered, and held out the empty cup. “Not at all,” she croaked.
Gethen arched a brow at her. She had spirit, and that made her powerful and attractive. He held up the jar of unguent and the rag. “That’s unfortunate, as now I need to come closer, Your Ladyship.”
Halina eyed the shallow dish in his hand. “Wonderful.”
“The wounds on your shoulder require stitches.” He held up the small dish. “Fortunately for you this will numb your skin.” Gethen sat, laid a leather medical roll on the bed, and spread it out.
She said, “I’m disappointed to learn that you’re not nearly as monstrous as you wanted me to believe when I arrived at Ranith.”
Noni stood in the corner, watching them, and Gethen ordered, “Bring me a basin of hot water and another clean rag.” The housekeeper curtsied and left the room. He gestured toward Halina’s gown. “May I?”
She stiffened as if she was holding her breath, then she leaned forward from the pillows and pulled her braid aside. “Of course.” With deft fingers, she unlaced the front of the garment and lowered the fabric off her shoulder to reveal the bandaging and poultice that he’d fashioned earlier.
Gethen moved to get a better view of the wound.
“How do you do this?” she asked.
“Heal wounds and cure illness so well. That’s always puzzled me about you, even before we met.”
“Because I’m a necromancer?” She nodded and he continued as he steeled his nerves against the first touch. “Dark sorcery doesn’t have to be destructive. There are things, invisible to the eye, which thrive on wounds and cause ague. Shadow magic can be directed against such plagues and used for healing.” Both he and Halina reacted as his fingers brushed her skin; a surge of heat flashed through his hand and she gasped. “My apologies, Militess.” He gently removed the bandaging taking care to touch her skin as little as possible.
Her voice sounded breathy as she asked, “Does that always happen when you touch people?”
His mouth was suddenly dry and he swallowed. “No. It’s never happened before.” Gethen peeled back the poultice. The wound wept and bled. Its edges were red, swollen, and crusted with blood and some foul black substance. She shivered and he asked, “Do I make you uneasy?”
He chuckled. “Just a little?”
Her voice was tight. “I suppose you’re the sort of man who makes people a lot uneasy.”
“I suppose I am.” He cleaned the long gouges. “Tell me if I’m hurting you.”
“It’s fine. I’m accustomed to pain.”
Gethen paused at that. No one should be accustomed to suffering. “The beast’s poison lingers.”
Reflexively, Halina turned her head and, suddenly, their faces were mere inches apart. Their gazes met and her lips parted. Gethen held his breath. She did the same. Gods he wanted to taste her mouth. Without thought beyond that overwhelming yearning, Gethen feathered his fingers from her ear to her jaw. He cupped her chin and stroked his thumb across her parted lips. Her breath was warm, her skin so soft.
Then Noni’s shuffling footsteps broke the spell. He straightened, and Halina faced forward, her expression stony and her voice emotionless as she asked, “Will I lose the use of the arm?”
Gethen swallowed that dryness again. “No, Margrave. The unguent will destroy the rest of the poison. But you’ll be my patient for at least another day.”
She looked askance at him. “I’ll strive for obedience, though I’m not known for that quality.”
“We’ve that in common.”
Monica Enderle Pierce and her characters have been kicking the crap out of evil since 2012. Her first novel, Girl Under Glass, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semi-finalist and a multi-category sci-fi bestseller. Of her historical, dark fantasy novel, Famine, reviewers have said, “Jeez. Effing heck. I need more now!” and “Just fantastic… Such a great read!” And Monica’s short stories have been featured in the best-selling Future Chronicles anthologies: The Dragon Chronicles and The Doomsday Chronicles. Her stories are immersive, detailed, and character-driven, full of love, tension, and bad guys getting their just deserts. Monica has an English literature degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and she lives in Seattle, WA, USA with her husband, their daughter, a neurotic dog, two crazy tomcats, and a fish.
You can find Monica and her books via the following links:
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