QSFer Miranda Turner has a new MM urban fantasy out: A Blaze in the Dark.
Bain never thought he’d escape the prison he’d lived in for the last five years. He spent his days chained up like an animal, and his nights…they were better not spoken about. Until one day Antonio came stumbling into his darkness, lighting a fire in his soul and giving him a chance at a new life.
Antonio loved his position as a Bellator, and he loved his brother Luc; it was Luc’s friends he could do without. When he came upon an emaciated and beaten boy at his brother’s best friend David’s house, he knew he had to get him out of there. Risking his place on his team, his relationship with his brother, and even death was something he’d never regret. After all, Bain was Antonio’s sodalis vitae, and soulmates were forever.
The small problem of Bain being a member of the Tenebrix, the Bellators’ mortal enemies, was nothing compared to what could happen if David found out where he was. But Antonio won’t let anything—race, being hunted by his own kind, or Bain’s fears—keep him from finally claiming his mate on Valentine’s Day.
This novella is a standalone in The Bearer of Truth world and takes place three years before Shadowing the Light. Antonio and Bain do appear in The BoT series as side characters, but you do not need to have read those books to read this one or vice versa.
Antonio strode down the hall of David’s ostentatious house feeling nauseous. He hated that his brother, Luc, cared so much about David. He was blind to the guy’s faults, of which there were many. David had been Luc’s best friend since they were kids and had stood by him through the loss of their parents when they were younger. For that alone, Luc had granted him his unquestioning loyalty. Luc was an idiot. Antonio could see who David really was, and he couldn’t stand the way Luc acted around him. Like a cocky jerk who thought his shit didn’t stink. He wished Michael, their guardian and boss, would slap some sense into him.
How the hell could David afford this house anyway? He had always been terrible with money, spending it like water. It didn’t add up, but a lot of things about David were suspicious. Antonio just couldn’t like the guy. He’d always felt there was something off about him, even as a small child. He was a snake oil salesman, and Luc had bought the act: hook, line, and sinker. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Antonio started looking for somewhere to escape for some quiet time before rejoining the overgrown frat boys. There had to be at least one peaceful room in this disgusting monstrosity of a house.
Every door he opened seemed to house another obscene display of wealth instead of anything he’d consider a room to be comfortable in. Coming to the last door in the hall, Antonio found it locked. Curious. Looking around the hall to see if anyone was there, Antonio used a charm he’d been given by his mage friend to unlock the door. When it worked, he grinned; Nico always made the coolest shit then gave it to him to try out. Perks of a mage best friend.
Pushing the door open, he stepped into hell.
Antonio’s eyes couldn’t pick a place to land, they were scanning rapidly over the room—dungeon?—taking in the horrific details. There was blood splatter on the walls, large dark stains in the middle of the room where chains hung from the ceiling seeming to suggest there had once been a lot of fresh blood loss there. The things filling the room were just as horrific. It was set up like a medieval torture chamber. There was a rack, a pillory, a Judas Cradle, and an iron chair. What the hell was going on in here?
The odor rolling out of the room was enough to make Antonio gag. A mixture of rotten flesh, feces, urine, and sweat filled his nostrils and took over his senses. He could almost taste the foul air. Pulling his shirt up over his mouth and nose, he stepped farther into the room to get a better look around. He caught sight of something lying along the furthest wall, piled in the corner, and carefully moved closer, trying to see in the dark room. Once he got within a few feet, he could see it was a body. Oh Creator. Even with the meager light the shuttered windows let into the room, Antonio could clearly see the boy’s huddled body was covered in cuts, bruises, blood, and filth. He had been attached to the wall with chains threaded through heavy manacles fastened at his wrists and ankles, the only clothing on his body a threadbare pair of very short boxer briefs.
Antonio’s heart broke at the sight of the poor kid protecting himself even in slumber. He couldn’t imagine what had happened to the boy in this horror chamber. He slid his foot carefully toward the kid’s body and prodded him to see if he was still alive. As soon as the toe of his shoe touched him, the boy began to shake and moan “no” repeatedly, pulling himself in an even tighter circle.
Antonio quickly dropped to his knees beside the boy. “I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. What the hell is going on in here?” he whispered urgently.
At his words, the boy lifted his head, and he saw one light eye peek out from the dark tangle of hair that was covering his face before he ducked his head again quickly and covered it with one of his arms. Antonio had just caught sight of the manacle around the boy’s neck when his scent finally teased out from under all the blood and filth that had overtaken Antonio’s senses, and he realized two things. The boy was a Tenebris, and he was Antonio’s sodalis vitae.
Falling back on his butt in shock, Antonio frantically tried to decide what to do. Looking at him, Antonio had trouble believing he’d done anything worthy of such punishment. Especially since, no matter what he’d done, no one deserved the atrocities perpetuated on this boy. They weren’t supposed to torture their enemy combatants. If they were injured or killed in the course of battle, then it was acceptable. It was war, but this…this was completely wrong. And how old was this kid anyway? He didn’t look any older than fourteen or fifteen, but their kind aged slowly, and who knew how long he’d been here. There was nothing for it—Antonio was taking the boy home.
“I know you don’t know me from Adam, but if you could just cooperate with me for a minute, I think I can get you out of here.”
The boy’s arm slowly moved, and he once again raised his head, this time moving his hair out of his face so Antonio could see the cuts and scars marring the skin there. Struggling to sit, the boy recoiled when Antonio reached out a hand to help him. Antonio quickly snatched his hand back and put them both up in the air by his head to reassure the boy he was no threat and wouldn’t touch him without permission.
The boy’s tongue came out and swiped across his dry, cracked lips. “Why?” he rasped out.
“Because,” Antonio exclaimed. “I don’t care what you’ve done, no one deserves whatever has gone on here.”
“Did nothing,” the boy stated insistently, his voice still garbled but emphatic. He probably had some sort of damage to his neck or vocal cords by the sound of him.
“Even more reason then,” Antonio replied.
The boy huffed out an unamused laugh. “Why…do you…care? No one…else has.”
Antonio couldn’t help but growl in response to that bit of truth, causing the boy’s eyes to widen. Antonio needed to calm down before he scared the boy. Along with all his other injuries, it looked like his nose was broken, so he most likely couldn’t scent Antonio, and he honestly wasn’t sure if knowing Antonio was his mate would comfort the boy. It might just scare the shit out of him. With his experiences, he might believe Antonio would force a mating on him, and while nothing could be further from the truth, Antonio could understand why he’d think in such a way.
“What’s your name?” Antonio asked him.
Looking at him warily, the boy replied, “Bain.”
“Okay, Bain, I’m Antonio. What’ll it be? Can you trust me enough to get you out of here?”
Bain shook his head and shrugged. “Can’t be worse.”
Another stabbing pain struck Antonio’s heart; what had his mate been through? “Good enough, let me get these shackles off you.” Using the same charm he’d used on the door and slow, careful movements that wouldn’t startle the boy, Antonio unlocked the cuffs on Bain’s ankles and wrists, along with the one around his neck. Sick bastards. “Let’s blow this popsicle stand.”
Bain snorted then began struggling to his feet. Antonio really wanted to help him, but he didn’t want to cause him to cower away from him again. After a few minutes, Bain collapsed back onto the floor. Tears were rolling silently down his face.
“Hey, shhh, it’s okay. I know you don’t want me to touch you, and I completely understand why, but do you think maybe you could tolerate me carrying you just long enough to get to my car?”
“No choice,” Bain said bitterly. “Fucking useless. Should be dead.”
“Don’t say that,” Antonio exclaimed. “I don’t want to hurt you, but I have to get you out of here before someone comes looking for me.”
Bain closed his eyes and grit his teeth before gripping his hands together in front of him so tightly his knuckles were white with strain. “Okay,” he whispered in a shaking voice. “Okay.”
Leaning down, Antonio scooped him up in his arms, noting the boy was way lighter than he should be, and he flinched and stiffened when Antonio picked him up. He’d need some fattening up, he must be small for his age. Trying to distract him, Antonio asked, “How old are you?”
Bain gave another of those rolling shrugs that conveyed he didn’t have a clue.
Antonio hummed under his breath. “Do you know when you were captured?”
“March. Two thousand ten. I was…fourteen.”
Antonio swore viciously. Bain had been here for five fucking years? Not only that, but most immortals don’t even have their powers yet at fourteen. “You’re nineteen; you’ve been here for five years.”
“Feels like a thousand,” Bain tried to joke with a half-hearted smile, but Antonio could hear the panicked breaths he was trying hard to mask.
Antonio let out a small, sad chuckle to play along then looked down at Bain. “I can do this one of two ways: I can carry you just like this, or I can throw you over my shoulder so I can move faster. The issue is lying over my shoulder will probably hurt you because I don’t see one place on your body that’s not covered with either a bruise or a cut.”
“Hurts anyway. Do it fast,” Bain panted out. He shifted and groaned then added, “Trying not to panic.”
“Okay, hold on.” Antonio lifted Bain to hang over his shoulder and quickly moved to the door. Cracking the door and glancing down the hallway, he saw the coast was clear. He stepped into the hallway and used his charm to relock the door, so if someone walked by and tested it, it wouldn’t raise any alarms. “Do you happen to know where anything is in this disgusting display of bad taste? Like a way out?” Antonio whispered to Bain. “A back entrance maybe? I’ve only been here twice. I know there’s a front door and way through the kitchens, but they’ll probably be full of staff.”
Bain, gasping in pain, groaned and answered him, “Master bedroom. It’s in the other wing. At the end.”
Debating which would be the higher risk, sneaking past the rest of the group in the game room to the front door or going into David’s bedroom, Antonio cautiously headed down the hall. When he got to the fork, he made a split-second decision and headed for the master after hearing how rowdy the guys were sounding in the game room. Picking up the pace, he got to the end of the hall and pulled out his charm once again. It didn’t work. Fuck. He tried again.
“Shit,” Antonio hissed out.
Bain made a questioning noise.
“The charm isn’t working to unlock this door; he must have his room warded. It honestly shocks me he’d work with a mage.”
Bain snorted then groaned. “Wards were pay for time with me.”
The more Antonio heard about the things that happened to Bain here, the angrier he got. What the fuck had this asshole been doing to his mate?
Miranda Turner is a single mom of eight living outside a small, hippie town in the middle of Ohio. She’s surrounded by children, chickens, and one temperamental editor kitty who is silently judging her on a daily basis. She is a voracious reader and an editor who decided she had different stories to tell. She firmly believes a happily ever after is there for everyone, but she likes to make her characters earn it.
You can find Miranda here:
Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authormturner