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Archers of Avalon, Book Three
Scarlet had her memories back, which meant two things.
She knew where the Fountain of Youth was.
And she was mad at Tristan.
Still clutching a bloodstained knife in her hand, she marched through the graveyard and glanced over her shoulder at the green-eyed boy she’d loved for centuries. “By the way, you suck.”
“Wow,” he said.
“I can’t believe you tried to kill yourself.”
“I was trying to keep you alive.”
“Agh. Spare me your sacrificial agenda.” Another memory hit her and she turned to face him, her blood boiling. “And you let me wander around with amnesia for two years before meeting me?”
He opened his mouth, but Scarlet cut him off. “And then you let me date Gabriel? What the hell, Tristan?”
A muscle flexed in his jaw. “First of all, I was supposed to die. So I didn’t think intervening in your love life was any of my business. Gabriel made you feel happy and safe and I wasn’t about to screw that up for you. And second,” he raised his voice over the protest on Scarlet’s lips, “the reason I didn’t ‘meet’ you for two years was because I didn’t think I’d be able to follow through with killing myself if you and I were, you know…pals.” His eyes glinted.
She scowled. “Well that was selfish of you.” Turning, she resumed her walk through the dark cemetery.
“You think I was selfish?” Scarlet could almost hear his jaw drop as he followed behind her. “You’re the one who shut everyone out. You’re the one who kept secrets and stole stuff and ran away—“
“I had to run away,” she snapped.
His voice rumbled in anger. “Did you have to die too?”
Spinning around to face him—again—Scarlet met his hard eyes in the darkness. “I wasn’t trying to die.”
“But you did,” he said coldly.
They stared at each other for a moment, heartbreak colliding in the space between them. Because of her connection to him, Scarlet could feel the hurt and fear pulsing through his veins as his eyes traced over her in the moonlight.
But she could also feel the love heating his core as he took her in. And it was the love—that undying fire that blazed in him and burned through her—that stole her words away as she looked at him.
He was so beautiful. Even standing in a graveyard, covered in dirt and blood, he was striking. His dark hair fell wild around his face and his green eyes shone in the moonlight.
A shiver of desire ran through him--or was it her?--and Scarlet clenched the knife in her hand so she wouldn't do something stupid. Like crush her mouth to his and claw at his clothes until there was nothing between them but heat and skin. But that would, of course, lead to death.
Everything always led to death.
Tristan softened his voice as he scanned her face. “What happened in your last life, Scar? What are you hiding?”
Scarlet's chest tightened at his question.
Millions of Avalon stars winked from above and reminded her of a time when she and Tristan spent their days in the trees and everything was fair; everything was simple.
Nothing was simple anymore.
He tilted his head and repeated,"What are you hiding, Scar?"
She could feel his heartbeat echoing inside her soul; powerful and constant, as his emotions swam into her.
Patience... Love... Worry...
Could she tell him the truth about the fountain? The whole truth?
The truth that would undo any hope they had of a happy ending?
She opened her mouth—
“Holy crap! Did you guys see that?” Nate jogged up to them with a knife in his hand, a grin on his face, and a trickle of blood running down his neck. “I totally kicked Ashman ass over there! I was all like hi-ya and you wanna piece of me? I was a super slayer! Buffy’s got nothing on me.”
Scarlet shut her mouth and shifted away from Tristan’s searching eyes as Nate continued.
“It was life and death out there, guys. Life and death. They just kept coming at me and I just kept putting them down.” Nate took a moment to catch his breath. “I mean, sure, I screamed like a girl a few times and accidently stabbed myself at the beginning, but still. I feel amazing! For the first time in five hundred years I feel alive.”
Moving his gaze away from Scarlet, Tristan eyed Nate's neck. “You’re bleeding.”
Nate touched his wound and drew back bloody fingers. “I’m bleeding. Haha! I have a battle wound. Oh, this is so awesome.” Tucking his knife into his waistband with a smile, he looked around. “Where’s everyone else?”
Scarlet’s stomach churned as reality whooshed in and slapped her in the face. “Raven kidnapped Heather.” Saying it out loud had emotion crawling up her throat.
Nate’s face fell. “What?”
With a deep breath, Scarlet summed up the evening’s events. “Raven is actually Clare—Heather’s boss at the coffee shop—not Laura. Laura was working for Raven, but Raven killed her and dumped her body in a grave—”
Ohmygoodness. Laura was really dead.
My guardian is dead.
More emotion wiggled up her throat and she quickly swallowed, trying to keep her focus on the things at hand.
Scarlet cleared her throat. “Then Raven had an Ashman kick the crap out of me so she could kidnap Heather and hold her ransom for the map to the fountain. And the lifeforce between Tristan and I shifted. So I can still feel his emotions, but he can’t feel mine anymore.”
If Tristan were still able to sense her, he’d know she was freaking out. Not just about Heather or Laura. But about the fountain and what finding it would mean.
A sick feeling swirled inside her gut.
“And because the lifeforce shifted, Scarlet now has her memories back,” Tristan added, sliding his eyes to her.
Nate blinked. “What? I go slaying for ten minutes and I miss everything—wait.” His eyes shot to Scarlet. “Does that mean you know where the fountain is?”
It was decision time.
No truth? The whole truth? A vague truth?
“Yes,” she said, going with vague. It was always safer to start vague. “But we need to rescue Heather before we do anything else.”
Her heart started to hammer at the thought of her happy friend being held hostage by a vengeful witch with a drug problem. So many things could go wrong.
So many things already had.
Nate nodded. “Did you see which direction Raven took her?”
Looking around the cemetery, Scarlet shook her head and let out a groan of frustration as guilt swamped her soul. “This is all my fault. I should have stayed by Heather’s side. I should have protected her.”
Tristan scanned the premises. His coat was sliced open in several places and dark splotches of blood slowly seeped through the shredded fabric of the black T-shirt he wore beneath.
His immortal body wasn’t healing like it should, which meant his wounds had been inflicted with Bluestone weapons.
“Dude.” Nate caught sight of Tristan’s injuries. “Are you okay?”
Tristan looked down at his stained clothes and shrugged as if the slashes in his skin were more of a nuisance than anything else. “I’m fine. The cuts are shallow. Where’s Gabriel?”
Scarlet furrowed her brow. “He came with me to the coffee shop, but he was gone when I came out. He wasn’t with you guys?”
They shook their heads and worry crept through Scarlet’s veins.
“I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.” Tristan looked calm as he glanced around, but Scarlet could feel concern coiling inside his chest. “Why don’t you two go look for him at The Millhouse and I’ll search the rest of the graveyard.”
Split up. Find Gabriel. Rescue Heather.
And stay away from the fountain.
Okay, that last part might be difficult since Amnesia Scarlet spilled the beans about the freaking map, but whatever. She could still throw them off. She could lie.
She’d been lying for years.
As Scarlet and Nate headed out of the cemetery, Tristan walked deeper into its shadowy depths. Distant music from the ongoing Avalon carnival drifted through the night air, making the wind sound eerily happy as it wrapped around headstones and swept through Scarlet’s hair.
Putting her knife away, she rubbed her head where it still throbbed from the blow Raven had dealt her with the business end of a crossbow.
One more reason to hate the crazy witch.
Everything was so screwed up—
A sharp pain darted up Scarlet’s body and twisted around her insides with liquid fire until she doubled over. Sinking to the ground, Scarlet clutched her chest and stomach, afraid her skin might split open and empty her insides all over the grass. She tried to suck in air, but her lungs wouldn’t work.
Nate dropped down beside her with terror in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
The fire turned to ice and wrapped around her organs and bones, squeezing without mercy. Scarlet couldn’t help but cry out loud.
“Tristan!” Nate called, checking her pulse before pulling at the skin beneath her eyes to check their color.
Usually when Scarlet felt pain of any sort it was because her heart was failing. And when her heart started to fail, her eyes would glow and her nose would bleed. But this didn’t feel like heart failure.
This felt like something else entirely.
She squeezed her eyes shut and grimaced until the agony started to subside. Her muscles loosened, her lungs started to expand, and soon Scarlet wasn’t hurting anymore.
Out of pain, but still very confused, she opened her eyes to find Tristan crouched beside her.
His green eyes were glowing into the night as panic oozed from his pores. “What just happened?” He searched her face.
Scarlet rubbed her chest to make sure all her insides were where they were supposed to be. Yep. Still in one piece.
“She just collapsed in pain.” Nate turned his eyes from Scarlet to Tristan. “Dude. You need to calm down. Your eyes are super green.”
Tristan rubbed a hand over his mouth, still looking at Scarlet. “It must be the transition. Maybe when the curse shifted we switched places, putting Scarlet in pain without me, just like I used to be in pain when I was without her.”
That would suck.
“I guess that would make sense.” Nate scratched the back of his head. “Especially since her pain went away when you walked back over to us.”
Scarlet stood from the ground and brushed the cemetery grass off her pants as Tristan and Nate rose to stand beside her.
A surge of guilt rolled through Tristan and Scarlet hurried to reassure him. “I’m fine now—”
“You’re not fine,” he snapped. “You fell to the ground in pain when I was only thirty feet away from you.”
That was weird.
Nate pressed a finger to his lips. “If the lifeforce reversed your roles—”
“Oh no.” Scarlet’s eyes widened as the possibility sank in. “If our roles have been reversed, does that mean my touch can make Tristan sick? My touch can kill him?”
She took a step away from Tristan and felt his pounding heartbeat soften. Stepping back up to him, the pounding resumed. “Oh no. No, no—”
“Okay. Don’t freak out.” Nate held a hand up.
“His heart responds to my nearness.” Scarlet shook her head as her chest tightened in despair. “No, no, no.”
This couldn’t be happening.
“So it appears the curse has shifted,” Nate said calmly. “We can handle this.” He held up a calm hand to match his calm face and calm eyes as he looked at her. “All we need to do is make sure you two stay within close range of one another so you don’t writhe in pain, but far enough away so Tristan doesn’t, you know, die.” He shrugged. “Easy. We’ll just reenact the ten-foot rule between you guys.”
Nate stared at them. Waiting.
“What?” Tristan said.
Nate rolled his eyes and thrust his hands in between Scarlet and Tristan, pushing their bodies away from one another. “Ten feet. There you go. Now let’s go find Gabriel so we can get our Heather rescue on. Then we can finally find the Fountain of Youth and cure everyone of this God-forsaken and completely obnoxious curse.” Turning, he headed down the street toward the Millhouse.
Scarlet and Tristan slowly followed after him in stunned silence.
She was killing Tristan with her very presence.
Glancing at him under the yellow glow of the streetlamps, Scarlet ran her eyes along his profile as he stared forward with a clenched jaw. He was fierce. He was patient. He was everything she loved.
And he was dying.
Divulging the truth about the Fountain of Youth was no longer an option. Tristan’s life was at stake.
To hell with happily ever after.
Available December 11th!
Grab the first two books in the Archers of Avalon series!