Stone and Ice

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Description

Ryder, commander of the Levarian legion of gargoyles, has a problem. He keeps dreaming on duty…and falling…neither of which gargoyles ever do. Every dream is of the same woman, and every time, it brings on red-hot, searing pain in the crescent-shaped scar on his palm. Driven to find the woman and the reason for his bizarre dreams, he lets himself fall… …right through to a place he never knew existed…to the woman of his dreams. Labeled a misfit, Tempest was snatched away as a child and imprisoned in the hidden realm of Misfit Mountain. Locked up by Fedor, the ruler of the kingdom, who intends to take her as his bride, she has no choice but to brave the dangerous snow and ice of the Mountain to escape. Despairing, faced with the impossible choices of Fedor or death, love is the last thing on her mind, until Ryder snatches her from the air and into a whole new realm of feeling. Can Ryder find the key to freeing her and save them both?

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Publié par
Date de parution 01 août 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781771456159
Langue English

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The Guardians, Book 1
Stone and Ice
By
Lawna Mackie
DIGITAL ISBN’s
EPUB 9781771456159
KINDLE 9781771456166
WEB 9781771456173

Copyright by Lawna Mackie 2015
Cover art by Michelle Lee 2015

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise)
without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.
Acknowledgments
Of course this book couldn’t have been written without the amazing support of my wonderful
husband who has always stood by my side while I spent endless hours writing.Chapter One

Sorrow-filled whimpers escaped quietly from the faceless figure as the swirling snow
danced to the howl of the bitter wind. In the darkness, a blanket of large white flakes
covered the helpless creature. A desperate plea for salvation chattered from the
trembling form. “Please…help me.”
The haunting words refused to cease. Over and over, he heard the voice followed by a
familiar sensation of weightlessness and freefalling.
Ryder’s eyes flew open in alarm as he plummeted through the night sky. “Shit!”
His large black wings unfolded from his back moments before making contact with the
earth.
A string of vulgar words left his mouth as he looked up at the turret from which he’d
just fallen…again. He bent down on one knee and hung his head, trying to calm his
adrenaline-filled body. He remembered the sting of the harsh cold and a small shiver
snaked through his limbs. Each time, the dream became more lifelike.
I’ve had enough of this crap. Gargoyles do not just fall off the top of towers.
High above, Ryder’s guardsman chuckled.
“Hey, boss, you all right down there?” Ashton snickered.
Ryder looked way up with his one good eye and gave him the paw. “Everyone’s a
fucking comedian!”
“You gotta admit it’s kind of funny, boss. Gargoyles don’t fall off towers dreaming. You
might actually break your neck one of these times,” Ashton yelled, staring over the edge
of the battlement.
Ryder stood to his full height, shouting back up toward his friend. “Next time you laugh
at me, I’m gonna break your neck. How does that sound?”
Dead silence followed. He’d made his point. This was serious. Something was
interrupting his mind and body…but what and why?
“Ashton, get down here,” Ryder commanded.
A large whoosh broke the silence as the gargoyle took to flight, landing softly beside
him. His heart rate slowed and returned to a normal beat, but once again the feeling of
being burned by a branding iron stopped his breath. He knew what he’d see. Slowly, he
unclenched his paw and flexed his talons.
“Son of a bitch!” He swore staring down at the ember-red crescent-moon shape that
had formed. The burn appeared after each episode whenever he fell off a turret.
What is that?
“You bellowed.”
Ryder closed his large claws over his burning pad and faced the guardsman. “I want
you to check with all the gargoyles to see if they’ve been having any…urr…
strange...dreams.”
The corners of Ashton’s lips curled upwards as if he might consider laughing.
Ryder growled, and Ashton lost his happy face.“Perhaps you’ve had too many late nights down at the Transportbar. You haven’t been
getting enough sleep, with the…you know…falling thing, and the ladies must be a
constant distraction…of sorts.”
Ryder sighed as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. Attacks on the
once-peaceful world seemed to grow in number each day. He’d been created to protect
Levare, but up until recently, that duty seemed nonexistent.
What changed? Why are these other species now trying to take over Levare?
On top of it all, the wicked nightly dreams were becoming more intense. He’d hoped
hanging out at the Transportbar would dull his senses.
So much for that theory.
“My personal life has nothing to do with this. Just speak to the other gargoyles,” Ryder
responded curtly.
“I’ll find out, Captain. Is there anything else you require?”
He knew he was being a jerk to his first-in-command. He hadn’t meant to be so
snarky. He formed a half-cocked smile, but continued with seriousness. “Ashton, are
there any snow-covered mountains here on Levare that I might not be aware of? I mean
like…freeze-your-balls-to-the-wall cold?”
The other gargoyle smirked. “I’m not sure. I’m only aware of the Belham mountain
range. I could speak to Astral, but I’m not sure how successful I’ll be. You know how
uncooperative the witch is.”
“Good. You do that. Let me know if she gives you any grief.” If anyone would know
anything, it would be her. Ryder turned away and adjusted the patch that covered his
disfigured eye.
“Yes, sir.”
“One more thing.”
His first-in-command stood waiting for instructions.
“Don’t ever let me hit the ground asleep.”
The quirky comment had the desired effect. Ashton howled with laughter. They both
knew it was impossible for a gargoyle to hit the ground asleep.
“Go before I end up truly grumpy, and tell those goons up there if they ever mock me
again, I’m going to shred their wings.”
With one mighty flap of his powerful wings, Ashton launched into the air returning to
his post. In the shadows of the pale night moon, Ryder slowly opened his paw, hoping
the mark had disappeared. The crescent-shaped red scar continued to glow dimly.
Why the hell do I have all the ill luck?
Stretching his arms wide, he flexed his tense muscles. In gargoyle form, his
fifteenfoot-tall frame towered over most others on the planet, and his webbed wings spanned
twice his body size.
Darkness embraced and comforted him like a blanket. In the light of day, the
inhabitants of Levare stared at his sandstone-colored granite, lifeless skin. If he chose
to remain in stone form, he was still aware of each movement and comment they made.
When he took to a more human form, they still stared because his muscles stretched
and bulged far beyond normal size.His eyes were black. “Soulless,” he’d been told. Well, now he only had one eye, and a
patch covered the empty socket. Ryder tucked a long piece of sandy blonde hair behind
his pointed ear. His hair was the only part of his Levarian form that remained when he
transformed into gargoyle stature.
He crouched low, and then thrust upward with his thighs. The rhythm of his wings
broke into a symphony of thumps singing throughout the night sky. The sensation was
the same every time he took to air—exhilarating and breathtaking, a release from the
everyday pressures of his world.
He shot upward faster, ever farther away from the land. At a height impossible to
imagine, he quickly and forcefully wrapped his large wings tightly around his body. The
movement thrust him up in a violent spiral motion, and he became a blur of swirling
blackness. Ryder closed his eyes, savoring the rush of adrenaline flowing through his
limbs.
But still, the faceless form pleading for salvation in the snowstorm refused to
disappear.

* * *

“Please,” Tempest begged shivering beneath the fresh blanket of snow. “I’d rather
die.”
She’d managed to escape…again, wishing this would be the last time. How she
prayed the swirling snow devils would suck her up and away from this horrid hellhole of
a world. Death would be welcome, if it kept her from going back to that place…back to
him.
She’d been on the run for hours, wearing nothing more than a thin black cloak and an
old pair of large, well-worn leather shoes she’d managed to steal from the guard. The
knee-deep snow made her efforts to get away seem impossible. Countless times she
fell, only to push herself back up to her feet and plunge forward. As futile as the
situation appeared, Tempest refused to give up. No longer could she feel her feet and
hands; they’d gone numb long ago.
If only I could rest for a few minutes.
No! Her mind screamed . If you stop, they will find you.
Her breath came in gulps; her lungs burned demanding more oxygen and a reprieve
from the bitter cold air. The blinding snow went on forever. She had no idea which
direction she headed, only hoping it led far away from her captors.
She lifted her arm to shield her snow-bitten eyes from the brutal onslaught of the
blizzard, but couldn’t see anything except for the deceiving flat white drifts. Her pace
slowed, tired and hungry, she had become disoriented.
With her next step, she dropped through the air and her stomach fell out from
underneath her. She screamed in terror. In a poof, she landed, buried in a soft tomb of
snow.
The fall had knocked the wind from her lungs. She opened her mouth, gasping like a
fish out of water. Finally, her airways filled with snow-mixed air. Coughing andsputtering she uttered another weak plea for help, knowing no one would hear her. In
the silence, her eyelids fluttered closed, and she drifted into the welcoming arms of
darkness.

* * *

Vigorous scratching, dull and muffled, aroused Tempest from her slumber.
Am I dreaming? Oh gods, are the Vemlers trying to get in?
Relentless and deadly, the filthy, vile creatures could claw their way through anything
in search of a meal. She fought them off on a regular basis. Alone in her cell, she was a
sitting duck, with only a stick as her means of protection.
She tried to lift her head, but ended up with another mouthful of snow. As she gulped
for air, the memory of her escape came flooding back.
No, this wasn’t supposed to happen.
It was worse than a dream. They must have found her, and she remained buried
under the snow with no way to flee.
The scratching continued in the snow above, bringing her demise closer by the
second. She refused to go down without a fight, and she’d end her life before Fedor
ever laid his grotesque hands on her again. In all probability, his touch would kill her
anyway.
She held her breath, trying to cease her shivers, knowing she must lie perfectly still
and wait…wait for the exact moment before they broke through the small barrier of
snow that encased her frigid body—a body that could not and would not freeze to death.
She braced her hands down at her sides, readying to push straight up.
Please let the snow beneath me hold my weight.
Her thigh muscles ached with tension as she contemplated the thought of moving.
Count to three.
They’d expect her to be in a slumber.
One…
Her feet and calves tightened ready for action.
Two…
Her fists clenched into tight balls, prepared to strike. Her stomach rolled, threatening
to hurl, but she knew it was empty, and had been for some time.
This is it. Three!
Tempest unleashed whatever strength she had left in her tired, battered body, bursting
through the thin barrier of snow.
Two paws hit her square in the chest, and a pair of large glowing red eyes met her
stare. Startled and off balance, Tempest stumbled backward. Her feet slid out from
underneath her.
Rogue had found her, not the Vemlers or Fedor. She slid downward on her stomach,
her arms desperately grasping at anything to stop her fall.
“Rogue!”The beast pounced through the snow down the hill after her, trying to grasp a piece of
her with his large fangs.
It was too late; her body flew through the air. She reached out and snagged a tree
branch, to swing in the forsaken snowstorm at the mercy of a small twig protruding from
a tiny ledge. Looking down into a vast crevasse with no bottom in sight, she thought
maybe she’d get what she wished for, after all.
“No, I take it back, I don’t want to die. Creators, help me, please. Why do you hate me
so?” Tempest squeaked, looking up into the sky, which continued to dump endless
amounts of snow. Her hands, next to frozen, would not support her weight for long.
Above, Rogue perched on the small ledge preparing to jump after her. “Rogue, no!
Stay!” she pleaded. A single tear rolled down her cheek, symbolizing her desperation
and fear. The crazy beast would die with her; she knew that. If she fell, he would jump
after her.
Rogue howled a mournful cry. His large grey-and-tan-spotted body crouched low.
Tempest knew he was angry; his pointed ears lay flat against his large square head.
She felt his frustration through his piercing red eyes. She swallowed a shriek as her
hands slipped slightly.
Rogue moved even closer to the edge, causing chunks of snow to fall in her direction.
“Rogue, listen to me. Don’t do this. You don’t need to end your life because of me.”
Even as those words tumbled out of her mouth, Tempest knew the poor beast had no
life worth living on the miserable mountain. They were both misfits not suitable to live
with the regular folk on Levare. And there was no way to escape this miserable rock
covered with ice and snow.
Tempest closed her eyes, wishing she had the power or ability to remove them from
this horrid situation. It was impossible, of course, because she had no gifts—only
misfortune. Poor Rogue also shared in the bad luck. He was a Gargdog, half gargoyle
and half dog. His problem was his wings. A spell gone wrong, they were barely large
enough for a pixie to fly with—useless wings on a grand creature. That’s what misfits
were—rejects from Levare, banished from the world as though they never existed.
Her body trembled with the last bit of strength oozing from her limbs.
“Rogue goes with Tempest! I will not stay here without you,” the Gargdog growled in
the form of words. She smiled up at him, proud of his speech. “I see you’ve been
practicing since they separated us.” It was her attempt to lighten the mood.
“I’m sorry, Rogue,” Tempest squeaked as she slipped another half-finger length.
“Rogue loves Tempest. Not want Tempest to die without him.” Rogue hung his head.
She felt his sadness.
“Rogue, I don’t have much strength left,” Tempest said weakly. “I’m not afraid of
death. You know I could never be Fedor’s bride. His touch would kill me, anyway. This
way is better. I won’t feel a thing,” she lied, trying to sound brave.
“We will go together. Neither will I live under his control any longer.”
Her arms now shook uncontrollably. Her hands had no feeling, but her brain forced the
signal to her fingers to grasp as tightly as she could. She closed her eyes and said a
quick, silent prayer for all the other misfits who suffered like her and Rogue.We’ve endured so much pain in our lives. Please, Creators, let us have a painless
death. With her silent prayers complete, Tempest opened her eyes, looked up, and
whispered, “I love you, Rogue,” and let go.

* * *

The snow glittered like diamonds falling from the sky. But concealed behind the white
beauty was death. This time, the dream revealed the mysterious form. Long, disheveled
blonde hair hung framing her tiny face. A pair of jade-green eyes stared up into the sky,
glimmering with unshed tears. Her little pointed ears suggested she might be an elf. It
was as though she was staring right at him.
He felt her sorrow and despair as if it was his own.
Damn this eye.
She’s hanging onto something, but what and why? If I had the sight of two eyes, I’d be
able to see the whole picture.
He turned his head to the side, trying to put the small pieces of the vision together.
Tiny hands held onto a small branch when a screech tore from the girl’s mouth. Her
hands slipped.
His heart stopped.
Now, tears fell freely from her misty cat-shaped eyes.
Ryder turned his head in the opposite direction. Air left his lungs.
He stared, paralyzed with fear, looking down into the vast crevasse as her feet
dangled in the air. She would surely fall to her death.
Don’t open your eyes. Dream, my ass.
Every bone in his body told him this was real. Somewhere, somehow, this girl would
die if he didn’t do something. The stinging burn on his paw would be bright-red. The hurt
was excruciating, but pain was a familiar friend.
Ryder knew he sat perched on the highest structure in all of Levare; he’d built the
tower from the center of his home. The top of the structure contained his bedchamber.
Outside the large glass doors, he sat on his chunk of crystal. It was a place where he
spent endless amounts of time. Tonight, he’d decided to spend the night outside in
gargoyle form, instead of inside in male form. Now he knew why.
Intuitively, he knew that in order to save the girl, he had to fall from the tower, and
believed he had to hit the ground—a feat thought impossible for a gargoyle.
What will happen if I let myself hit the ground?
It didn’t matter; he had to try. Instinct said he should.
He took a deep breath and relaxed his muscles, hoping the girl would hold on just for
a few more seconds. As his limbs relaxed, he leaned forward. His large, clawed feet
were the last part of his body to leave the ledge. Unaccustomed to fear, he struggled to
keep his eyes closed. His heart beat a furious tempo as the seconds brought him closer
to the ground.
He focused on the girl’s tear-stricken face. He had to get to her…no matter what it
took. Any second, now, he’d hit the ground. The large wings on his back were aching forrelease. In one quick motion, he spread them wide, only to wrap them around his body
in a giant hug. He plummeted to the ground even faster. The wind whistled in his ears,
but he heard her speak. “I love you, Rogue.”
The silence following crippled him. She was falling, just like he was.
The impact of his crash on the ground was deafening, the crunch of bones sickening.
Grit laced the inside of his mouth as he sputtered and spit. He didn’t have time for pain,
and knew his body had already begun healing. He opened his eyes to see a mist of
swirling purple-colored sparkles showering him.
What the fuck? Are they pixies?
They grew in numbers, lifting his body from the ground, and the pain subsided as he
floated higher in the air. His speed increased until he shot across the sky like a star. He
searched for a vision of the girl in his mind and found her.
She continued to fall.
“I need to save her!” he shouted.
Like cool kisses, something moist touched his face. The white flakes disappeared on
contact. He opened his eyes to see not one, but two black forms falling through the sky
below him. He didn’t know how, but he’d found her.
The millions of shining purple sparks had disappeared. He smiled and unleashed his
confined wings. With a couple of powerful flaps, he tucked the giant forms to his sides
and dove headfirst toward the falling figures.
What the hell is that?
The tumbling ball of a creature resembled nothing he’d ever seen before, although
Levare was now host to many unusual creatures. It tumbled through the air slightly
above the cloaked female. The creature had wings barely larger than two hands.
Reach the girl first. Then, save the other.
He pulled his wings in closer to his body, and the motion caused the intended velocity.
After just surpassing her falling form, he slowed his speed and spread his arms wide,
catching her limp body in his arms. With an outstretched foot equipped with large
talons, Ryder snagged the second falling creature by the leather attached to its neck. A
growl sounded deep in the creature’s throat, and red eyes stared up at him.
The bundle in his arms weighed next to nothing. The vicious wind tore mercilessly at
the black cloak she wore, ripping it away from her face. A soft moan escaped from her
berry-red lips, followed by the flutter of long, dark lashes.


Chapter Two

Tempest blinked, trying to focus. The hood of the cloak whipped at her face, obscuring
her vision. A coal-black eye held her gaze. She hadn’t died. She would live, and she
couldn’t help but allow a small smile. Quickly, she spun her head in all directions, but
large wings blocked half of her view. They were not falling, they were gliding. In
seconds, she had gone from utter despair, facing death, to feeling the greatest
sensation she had ever known—hope.
A whining, gurgling sound broke her happy thought, and she followed the distressed
cry. Rogue dangled from his leather neck bindings, which were skewered by a sharp,
extremely long claw.
“Rogue!” Tempest shouted placing a hand over her mouth in fear.
She had to make this winged creature land, or Rogue would strangle to death. Thank
goodness the cloak hadn’t been ripped from her body. The long sleeves covered
Tempest’s bare skin, but just to be sure, she clutched the cuffs into the palms of her
hands and pounded on the heavily muscled chest. She couldn’t risk any part of her skin
touching him.
“Please, take us to the ground,” she yelled, pointing to Rogue. “He can’t breathe;
you’re strangling him.”
They tilted heavily down and to the right. Tempest’s stomach somersaulted, leaving
her breathless as their speed increased. The snow-covered peaks grew closer. She
thought perhaps she’d smiled too quickly a moment ago.
He flew effortlessly.
What is he?
Strong features were an understatement. He resembled the statue she’d seen as a
young girl.
A gargoyle, carved from granite.
She remembered standing at the base of the magnificent creature’s feet, looking up at
the sculpted face. Tempest rarely touched anything, but as a child, she couldn’t resist
the impulse. She’d reached out her tiny hand to touch his massive leg.
Abruptly, she snapped her hand away. The only thing that didn’t fit the picture now
was this guy’s body and hair color. He was golden-brown like the sand she used to play
in as a child. His long locks fell past his shoulders in wild, unkempt waves. He was
beautiful…even with large fangs.
Well, he’s the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen on this blasted mountain. No, Misfit
Mountain holds no beauty; he couldn’t be from this place. Could it be the statue from so
long ago? If so, how did he get here?
They soared to the right, the jagged peaks looking as though they could reach out and
snag them. Meters below, Tempest spotted the small ledge and concealed entrance to
what must be some type of cave. Tremors clawed at her insides. She had overheard
Fedor comment that the caves within the mountains were endless.It hadn’t been a pleasant thought for him. The control freak hated the idea that there
may be places he didn’t know about. Misfit Mountain was his to control as he deemed
fit.
The large, muscled arms holding her squeezed tighter. Tempest held her breath,
knowing he could snap her in two like a twig. The massive webbed black wings
stretched and spread wider, if that were possible, and the movement slowed their
descent until they hovered just above the snow-packed ledge.
She watched Rogue squirm for freedom, his feet paddling in the air, waiting to touch
the snow-covered rock. When Rogue’s big webbed feet touched the ground, the giant
winged creature flexed his large toe, retracting the talon holding the gargdog. Rogue ran
in circles for a moment before stopping to look up.
When they touched down, they sank an easy three feet into the snow. His chest and
arm muscles tightened as the massive wings fluttered to hold them upright.
Tempest clutched with desperation at the sleeves of the cloak, praying her skin would
not contact his. She guessed his legs must weight a ton. Tree stumps would be a good
comparison.
Now what?
Rogue approached them head-on. The growl told Tempest her old friend had returned;
anger had replaced playfulness. He’d always been her protector.
A deep, low voice boomed from above her head.
“Back-off ankle-biter. I just saved your spotted bald ass, and this is the way you show
thanks?”
“Put her down.” Rogue spoke through gritted teeth.
Suddenly, Tempest found herself falling to the ground, to be once again buried in
snow. She came up sputtering and shocked.
“Jerk!” she cursed. It never ceased to amaze her; males—of any species—had no
manners. She shook her head sending snow flying. Manners, Tempest…You’re lucky to
be alive. Besides, you’ve never known anyone with manners.
Rogue’s footfalls crunched in the snow behind her, signaling his approach, and she
felt her body being pulled backward. Her hands flung to her throat, yanking on the
neckline of the cloak that was choking her. “Rogue, stop it… I can’t breathe.”
Rogue refused to listen until she was at least twenty feet away from their savior. Only
then did he let go.
She took a deep gulp of air rubbing at her neck, and turned her grumpy stare on the
gargdog who glared up at the creature before them. Slowly, her gaze followed Rogue’s.
She stared, speechless. Her stomach did a flutter, and she swallowed the lump in her
throat. There he stood. For the second time in her life, Tempest wanted to touch
something.
Not something–him.
His voice broke her stunned silence. “What the hell is this place?”
“I’d believe you weren’t from this hellish mountain, but you can’t expect me to believe
you don’t know where you are,” Tempest huffed.