Quinns revenge, p.1
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       Quinn's Revenge, p.1

         Part #3 of Brynn Tor series by Amanda Ashley
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Quinn's Revenge


  Quinn’s Revenge

  Amanda Ashley

  Contents

  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

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Epilogue

  About Amanda Ashley

  Prologue

  Annis paced the floor of the windowless room. Five steps from one end to the other. Back and forth. Back and forth. She had no idea where she was or how long Rajj intended to keep her there. All she remembered was falling into a dark abyss after the baby was born and waking up in this small, windowless chamber that was not a cell with iron bars, but was definitely a prison.

  Thus far, she has been well taken care of. The room, painted a pale green, was furnished with a comfortable bed, a small wooden table, and a rocking chair. A thick sage-green carpet covered the floor. She had books to read and movies to watch. But, save for the witch known as Lanna who brought in meals three times a day, Annis never saw another soul.

  She had begged Lanna to tell her why she was being kept in this place, but to no avail. Gradually, Annis came to believe that Rajj had bespelled her into loving him, that he had never cared for her at all, that their marriage had been nothing but a sham. All he had ever wanted from her was a child.

  In the beginning, she refused to believe that everything that had happened since she met Rajj had been a lie.

  He had told her it didn’t matter that she had no magic.

  A lie.

  He had assured her that he had never been with another woman, that they would learn the intimacies between a husband and wife together.

  Another lie.

  He had vowed that he loved her.

  And that had been the biggest lie of all.

  How could she have been so blind to the evil that resided within? So gullible to his promises and lies?

  She sank down on the bed, her arms aching to hold her daughter. Annis knew Corrie was nearby. Lanna brought her in every few hours so Annis could nurse her, but the witch refused to leave the baby any longer than necessary. Daily, Annis pleaded with Lanna to let her care for Corrie. Babies needed a mother’s love and attention, but the witch only shook her head.

  Annis’ heart skipped a beat when she heard the rasp of the key turning in the lock. A moment later, she held Corrie in her arms. She rocked gently as the baby nursed, her eyes drinking in the sight of her daughter, her fingers lightly stroking the fine gold of Corrie’s hair, her downy cheeks.

  She lived for these few precious moments, knowing, deep in her heart, that when the child was weaned, Rajj and the coven would have no further need for her.

  Chapter 1

  It happened so gradually that, by the time Quinn became aware of it, months had passed and then one morning, as the twin suns rose in the sky, he realized he was no longer subject to the Dark Sleep of his kind. The hunger for blood remained, but the Dark Sleep no longer had any power over him.

  At first, he suspected Seleena had conjured a new spell to allow him to spend more time with their son, a charm similar to the one that allowed him to eat mortal food, but when questioned, she had assured him she had nothing to do with it, leaving him to believe it had to be the black dragon tattoo’s doing.

  Standing in front of the large, oval mirror in the bedroom, Quinn studied the tattoo on his left shoulder. It had grown larger in the last few months. Once the dragon’s body had covered only the top of his shoulder, with the forked tail twining around his bicep. Now, the body covered not only his shoulder, but his upper arm and a portion of his back, as well. The tail trailed past his elbow all the way down to his wrist.

  He turned away from the mirror when Seleena stepped into the room. “Is something wrong?” she asked. “Breakfast has been ready for twenty minutes.”

  He ran his fingertips back and forth over the dragon’s head, heard the creature’s faint growl of pleasure. “It’s getting bigger. What do you think it means?”

  Her gaze moved to the tattoo, a constant reminder of a past she would rather forget, but was now a part of the man she loved more than life itself. “I have no idea.”

  He heard the note of worry in her voice. The tattoo had been conjured by Seleena’s daughter, who had been a powerful witch in her own right. Serepta had infused the tattoo with a part of her dark magic, intending to use it to increase her magical powers. Instead, it had been her undoing. Neither Quinn nor Seleena had spoken of Serepta since the dragon incinerated her, but he knew Seleena wondered, as did he, if all of Serepta’s dark magic had died with her.

  “It seems odd that she would saddle me with the thing and then encase me in stone, don’t you think?”

  Seleena nodded. “I never thought about it, but now that you mention it, it does seem peculiar. But then, she often made rash decisions without thinking them through. And I’m sure...” She took a deep breath. “I’m sure she expected to be able to retrieve the dragon’s power at some time in the future.”

  A future her daughter had never had. Guilt knifed through Quinn. The dragon had incinerated Serepta, but Quinn felt responsible, since the dragon had acted to save his life.

  Seleena moved into Quinn’s embrace, her hands locking behind his neck. Rising on her tiptoes, she kissed him. “Worrying doesn’t help. Neither does dredging up the past.”

  His arm tightened around her waist. Although they had been together over a year, he still couldn’t believe she was his. Or that the child born of their love slept in the next room. Now three months old, Steffon appeared to be a normal, happy baby and yet Quinn couldn’t help wondering if some hint of darkness lurked in his son, born of the mating of a witch -- even a white witch -- and a vampire. He had voiced his concern when Seleena first told him she was pregnant. She had assured him that their son would be healthy and normal and yet, in spite of her repeated assurances, doubts lingered in the back of his mind.

  Stepping back, Seleena tugged on his hand. “Come on. Your breakfast is cold.”

  He let her lead him into the kitchen, sat at the table while she reheated their meal.

  With Serepta’s death, their life had settled into a comfortable routine. Seleena continued to use her magic to help the villagers - healing their sick, blessing their cattle and crops, listening to their problems. She was a remarkable woman, beautiful, patient, kind, always busy with their son, eager to be of help to others, whether they were Queen or peasant.

  Quinn knew he should have been content, but the truth was, except for the hours he spent with his son, he had little to occupy his time. Though he hated to admit it, he was rapidly growing bored with life in the village. He needed to be busy. Needed to feel he was contributing to the household. A man needed a job, a sense of purpose. Sadly, he had little qualifications for employment. There wasn’t much call for assassins in their small village and that was the only thing he was good at. Occasionally, he went deer hunting, but with only himself and Seleena to feed, a haunch of venison lasted a good long time.

  “You look troubled,” Seleena remarked. “Is it the tattoo?”

  “Yes. And no.”

  She put breakfast on the table, then slid into the chair across from his. “What does that mean?”

  His gaze met hers. “The truth?”

  “Of course.”

  “I’m feeling restless. There’s nothing for me to do here, you know? Don’t get me wrong. I love being with y
ou and Steffon. But I need a job. Something to keep me busy.”

  Seleena nodded. Hadn’t she secretly feared this very thing might happen? Her village was small, with little excitement. The men raised crops and cattle, the women sold produce in the marketplace. Unlike the big cities of Fenton, Bosquetown and Tarnn, life here was quiet and uneventful.

  Keeping her voice steady, she said, “I’ve known for some time that you’re not happy here.”

  “I’m not unhappy.” Reaching across the table, he took her hand in his and kissed her palm. “Don’t think that, Red. Don’t ever think that.”

  Worry shadowed her eyes. “Do you want to leave?”

  “Only if you go with me.”

  Her relief was a palpable thing. “Where would we go?”

  “I don’t know. I haven’t really given it any thought.” He leaned back in his chair, arms crossed. “You wouldn’t be happy anywhere else, would you?” How could he even think of asking her to leave? She was a part of this place, as much at home here as the trees and the grass.

  “I’ve lived here a long time. My neighbors accept me. Most other towns don’t trust witches, or want them around. And big cities…” She shook her head. “I’m not comfortable there.”

  “I don’t reckon vampires are welcome anywhere.” He snorted softly. “We make a hell of a pair, don’t we?”

  “This is my home,” she said quietly. “I won’t keep you here if you want to go.”

  Pushing away from the table, Quinn pulled her into his arms. “Unless you send me away, I’m not going anywhere,” he said, his voice a growl.

  And then he kissed her, long and slow and deep. She melted against him, her flowery scent familiar and enticing, her breasts warm against his bare chest. She looked up at him, her dove-gray eyes shining with love and desire.

  Murmuring her name, he swept her into his arms and carried her swiftly to bed.

  At a word from Seleena’s lips, their clothing fell away. Her gaze moved over him, filled with longing and admiration as her hands slid across his chest and down his arms, reveling in the strength she felt there. Her fingers delved into the thick dark hair at his nape, then skated down his back, her nails lightly raking his skin. He groaned softly as she writhed beneath him, hips lifting to receive him.

  Their coming together was as explosive as the colliding of two stars - full of sparks and fury.

  Quinn whispered her name as she shuddered beneath him, then let out a sigh of deep contentment. She was the best part of him, the other half of his soul. The anchor that kept him grounded, kept his infernal hunger at bay.

  If he died of boredom in this little backwater town without a name, so be it.

  But he was never leaving her side.

  Chapter 2

  Seleena frowned as she read Gryff’s letter a second time.

  Seleena ~

  Marri has not yet recovered from the birth of our second child and knows nothing of what I am about to tell you. Last month, Amerris went to Caynn to visit Annis and the baby. When she arrived, she was told that her daughter and granddaughter were ‘unavailable’ at that time. When Amerris said she would wait, she was told, in no uncertain terms, that she was not welcome to do so.

  A week later, she sent a letter to Annis. It was returned, unopened. The next day, she returned to Caynn and a detail of the Queen’s Guard to find the citadel apparently abandoned. On her return to the castle, Nardik invoked a spell to locate Annis, but to no avail.

  With Marri in ill-health and our newborn fighting for her life, I cannot leave Brynn Castle. Which brings me to the reason for this letter. I’m hoping that Quinn will accompany Nardik to Caynn to find out what’s going on.

  She blew out a sigh of resignation. If Gryff required their help, then, for the sake of their friendship, they must give it to him.

  Life had just settled into a quiet routine, she thought, and now trouble again loomed on the horizon, demanding their attention. Feeling a twinge of guilt at entertaining such an uncharitable thought, she quickly shook it away. She had much to be thankful for. Her son slept peacefully in the nursery. She was married to a wonderful man who loved her. She was respected by her neighbors.

  She looked up from her chair when Quinn entered the room, her heart lifting at the mere sight of him.

  He jerked his chin at the letter in her hand. “Bad news?”

  “I’m afraid so.” Offering him the letter, she said, “It’s from Gryff. Annis and her daughter seem to have gone missing.”

  Quinn read the note quickly, then folded it in half and dropped it on the side table. Sitting on the sofa, he stretched his legs out in front of him. “What do you think happened to her?”

  “I have no idea, but it seems very suspicious to me. I suspected there was something not quite right when Annis fell in love so quickly, but Nardik told me that when he visited her before the wedding, he didn’t detect any hint of coercion, or any kind of enchantment that would have compelled her to fall in love with Rajj.”

  Quinn nodded. Nardik was Queen Marri’s chief advisor. He was rumored to be the most powerful wizard on Brynn Tor, but that didn’t mean he was infallible. “Maybe he was mistaken. Or maybe the witches of Caynn are more powerful than he is.”

  “I suppose it is possible,” she said, though she looked doubtful.

  “Have you tried to locate Annis?”

  “Yes, while you were out.” Seleena shook her head. “But if Nardik couldn’t find her…” Her voice trailed off. “Are you going to go with him?”

  “Not if you don’t want me to. But what’s the point, if the place has been abandoned?”

  “Wyrick could easily have tricked Amerris into thinking that the place was deserted. She has no magic to detect any kind of magic.”

  Quinn considered that for a moment. “Will you be all right while I’m gone?”

  Amusement twinkled in her eyes. “Of course.”

  Quinn grunted softly. Sometimes he forgot she was a powerful witch in her own right.

  “So? Are you going?”

  “I reckon so.” He wasn’t looking forward to spending time with Nardik. Seleena and the wizard had a long history together. Years ago, they had been lovers. Serepta had been the result. They had loved the child, worried when she turned toward dark magic, shared their grief when she had to be destroyed. Though Nardik had wed Amerris, Quinn knew the wizard still harbored tender feelings for Seleena.

  “I’ll send word to Nardik and let him know you’ll go with him and that you’ll be ready tomorrow,” she said. “You will be careful, won’t you?”

  Tugging her out of her chair and into his arms, he asked. “What do you think?”

  “I think I’ll worry the whole time you’re gone.”

  “I don’t know why.” He pushed a lock of hair behind her ear. “You have the ability to know what I’m doing every minute I’m away.”

  She nodded. Quinn had tasted her blood. It had formed an unbreakable link between them, which allowed them to communicate mentally over long distances. If she wanted to know where or how he was, all she had to do was open that link. Or use her own magic.

  At the sound of their son’s cry, she kissed Quinn’s cheek then hurried into the nursery. “Here, now, my sweet baby boy,” she crooned, lifting Steffon into her arms. “There’s no need to fret.”

  She hugged him close as she carried him into the living room. Taking a seat in her favorite rocker, she felt a wave of love sweep over her as he nuzzled her breast. Was there anything stronger or more enduring than the love of a mother for her child? The pain of losing Serepta was a constant ache in her heart, a soul-deep sorrow that could never be healed or forgotten.

  She rocked gently as the baby nursed, her gaze drinking in the sight of him. He looked so like his father. The same dark brown hair and tawny skin. His eyes were dark blue, like Quinn’s, and she knew somehow that they would not change color as Steffon grew older, as a baby’s eyes often did.

  His eyes. When he looked up at her, as he was
now, she sometimes felt as if he was reading her mind, probing the innermost feelings of her heart. But, of course, that was impossible.

  She glanced up at Quinn and smiled. Not so long ago, her life had been empty, but now her arms and her heart were overflowing with love.

  * * *

  In answer to Seleena’s letter, Nardik arrived at their door the following day just after sunset. The wizard was tall and thin but solidly built. Long gray hair framed a narrow face with flat cheeks, an aquiline nose, and eyes the color of honey. Quinn had rarely seen the man smile, never heard him laugh. In spite of the color of the man’s hair, it was difficult to judge his age.

  Jealousy tightened Quinn’s gut when the wizard took Seleena’s hands in his, then bent to kiss her cheek.

  Nardik held her hands longer than was necessary before turning his attention to Quinn. “Amerris extends her gratitude,” he said. “Gryff, too, sends his appreciation for your willingness to help.”

  Resisting the urge to slug the wizard, Quinn nodded.

  Seleena laid her hand on Quinn’s shoulder. “Be careful. Both of you.”

  “Don’t worry about us.” Knowing it would irritate the wizard, Quinn drew Seleena into his arms and kissed her soundly. “I love you, Red.”

  “I love you, too.”

  Nardik cleared his throat impatiently. “Shall we go?”

  Quinn grabbed his jacket, kissed Seleena one more time, and followed the wizard out the door. The sky was overcast, the east wind blustery. “So, where is this place?”

  “It is on a neighboring planet. We will need an Airship to take us there. It is only a short hop. I have a pilot waiting nearby.”

  * * *

  The pilot, Dixx, turned out to be a big bear of a man, with a shock of unruly red hair and a full beard. He shook Quinn’s hand when Nardik introduced them, waved his two passengers aboard before settling into the cockpit.

  The trip to Caynn passed uneventfully. Nardik didn’t seem inclined to talk and that suited Quinn just fine. There was little love lost between them, and no good memories.

 
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