Shadows and Light

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Book: Shadows and Light by Cari Z. Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cari Z.
Tags: Erotic Romance Fiction
matter-of-fact. “It would have ruined you.”
    “I was ruined anyway.”
    “Yet here you are, mostly whole.” The metal handle tapped his straining chest just below the solar plexus. “Functional. Capable. You’ve taken your ruination quite well.”
    “You know nothing of it.” If he knew how many times Rafael had tried to die, how he had cursed his body every time it had failed him by living, how terribly hard he had made Feysal’s life for the months of his recovery… Gods, poor Feysal. He’d tried for so many years to make Rafael free of his obsession with the High Ones, free of his need to kill them and make them suffer for his rejection. Feysal had given unceasingly of himself, and all he had asked in return was that Rafael try to live a normal life. Rafael had failed his friend badly.
    “Perhaps not,” Xian finally agreed. “I lost interest in most of the Lower City long ago. I go there only when my calling takes me there. I know little of how you’ve lived, whom you’ve killed or in what manner you’ve found solace over the years. I am, however, interested in you. Everyone is interested in you now, pet.”
    “If I’d known all it would take to get your attention again was killing one of your apprentices, I’d have done it years ago,” Rafael snarled, his eyes opening as he turned his head to the side, suddenly wanting Xian to look into him and see the furious honesty of his last statement reflect in his eyes. Despite his conflicted emotions over killing his master’s other apprentice, if he’d known it would bring them back together, he probably would have attempted it early into his exile. His longing for Xian had been so encompassing.
    The rounded knob at the end of the handle traced over the lines of his shoulders, the coldness of the metal a sharp counterpoint to the growing burn there. Xian finally moved to stand before him, and it was all Rafael could do to keep from screaming with the sudden surge of anger, frustration and desire. He looked…like Xian. Like his master. Like he could have stepped out of Rafael’s memories from five years ago without a pause. His long silver hair was held back in a braid, leaving the angular lines of his face clear. Pale skin stretched taut over sharp cheekbones and a sharper nose, and the chilling whiteness of his eyes was near-total, even the pupils dimmed by centuries of magic consumption. He looked like a hawk, a hunter, long and lean and broader across the shoulders than most High Ones. Black trousers, normal cloth instead of the shining shield he’d used so effectively before, hung loosely on his hips. He wore those and tall black boots and nothing else and the sight of him, so bared before Rafael, felt like a knife in his heart. He reached desperately for the protective pain that would keep him from losing the shreds of his self-control. It was a fight, and one he might have lost if the sudden soft chime of someone seeking entrance hadn’t caused Xian to turn from him. Rafael collapsed in his restraints, breathing raggedly and forcing his screaming shoulders to bear more of his weight and distract his mind.
    Moments later a third person joined them in the chamber, without introduction. Rafael felt a brief surge of surprise that the visitor hadn’t waited to be seen in. Privacy was very highly valued among the people of the Upper City, and to intrude upon a master assassin in his own home was unheard of. Then he blearily made out the dark, velvety blood-red robes of the visitor and understood. Simple things like courtesy didn’t apply to members of the council.
    “He doesn’t look so very impressive as you report,” the newcomer announced. Her voice was low for a woman’s, and rich in timbre and tone. “I thought deception was my trade, beloved.”
    “More your way of life,” Xian replied mildly. “And he’s much more dangerous than he looks.”
    The High One smiled enigmatically. “He would have to be.” She stepped closer, the

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