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Two Thousand Years

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Two thousand years ago, the Prophecy of Fire and Light foretold the coming of the

Queen Empress who would lead the Empire into a time of peace and tranquility. But

instead of the coming of a prosperous world, a forbidden love for the Empress waged a

war that ravaged the land, creating a chasm between the factions, raising the death toll

of innocent lives until the final, bloody battle. 



Centuries later, Alexandra, a twenty-two-year-old barista living in Boston, is taken to an

unfamiliar realm of mystery and magic where her life is threatened by Reylor, its

banished Lord Steward. She crosses paths with Treyan, the arrogant and seductive

Crown Prince of the Empire, and together they discover how their lives, and their love,

are so intricately intertwined by a Prophecy set in motion so many years ago. 



Alex, now the predestined Queen Empress Alexstrayna, whose arrival was foretold by

the Annals of the Empire, controls the fate of her new home as war rages between the

Crown Prince and Lord Steward. Either choice could tear her world apart as she

attempts to keep the Empire’s torrid history from repeating itself. In a realm where

betrayal and revenge will be as crucial to her survival as love and honor, Alex must

discover whether it is her choice - or her fate - that determines how she survives the

Empire’s rising conflicts.

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Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 11 décembre 2018
Nombre de lectures 12
EAN13 9788828375296
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0007€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

TWO THOUSAND YEARS
Book One - The Empire Saga
M. DALTOCopyright © 2018 by M. Dalto
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including
information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use
of brief quotations in a book review.
Edited by Nicole Tone, Taylor Oakley, and Alyssa Barber
Designed by Shayne Leighton
The Parliament House
www.parliamenthousepress.comC O N T E N T S
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
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Chapter 51
Chapter 52
Chapter 53
Acknowledgments
About the Author
Be Part of the Prophecy!
The Parliament House
Also by M. DaltoTo Chris—
I would search every Starbucks in Boston for you, too…Chapter One
he streets were quiet for a Friday night in the city. Alexandra Ross clenched her collar
tighter around her neck as the wind began to pick up, unseasonably cool for so early inT Boston’s September. Her heels clicked along the damp cobblestones of the old sidewalks
as she headed towards her apartment. She had to take extra care while walking in her four-inch heels.
Especially when she knew she was being followed.
The city had been her home for three years now, so the late-night trek home remained familiar,
almost a comfort. In the now twenty-two years of her life, maintaining her independence was as much
of a priority as the switchblade in her jacket pocket was a security. There was a part of her that truly
enjoyed the peaceful solitude these walks could bring, but she wasn’t stupid enough to do it without
protection.
She was aware he remained a short distance behind her ever since she left Faneuil Hall.
This evening was no different, except that she was celebrating her twenty-second birthday, which
also may have involved too much alcohol. Perhaps it was the intoxicated appreciation of her city
within the quiet of the early morning hours that distracted her from her surroundings.
Even the reflections in the familiar storefront windows she passed by reminded her of the fact she
that wasn’t alone.
Either way, her attention was focused anywhere but where it belonged. It wasn’t until her heel
caught in the sidewalk, and a hand grabbed her arm to keep her upright, that she realized she tripped
and started to fall.
And that the one she believed to be a stalker turned out to actually be a rescuer.
His grip remained firm as his other arm wrapped around her waist to steady her on her feet. As
she composed herself, trying to clear her head, her hand went towards the knife in her pocket while
she glanced towards the individual who just saved her from needing a nose job.
The stranger’s hair was dark under the streetlights, side swept and held loosely in a ponytail at the
nape of his neck. He was dressed casually: wearing a dark, button-down shirt over clean denim jeans
and sensible dress shoes as if he, too, had just emerged from the bustling social atmosphere that
brought so many to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
His features were thin with chiseled cheekbones beneath skin too tanned to be local, but then she
looked into his eyes. They were the most piercing blue she had ever seen—almost too blue, especially
without the sunlight’s shining assistance. They radiated with their own luminescence; which was odd
at first, but the color was as though they were refractions off of the ocean’s waves. As she continued
to stare, the more familiar they seemed. Looking up and into his eyes felt as if she had stared into
those eyes before—been lost within them too many times to count.
The feeling was almost nostalgic, though she was certain she’d never met him before. She would
have remembered those eyes, regardless of how many cosmopolitans she may have drank.
By the time she realized she was staring, he had already released her from his grasp.“I—” She blinked, struggling for words as her grip tightened around her knife.
“A simple ‘thank you’ would suffice.” His words purred with a foreign accent—familiar, but she
couldn’t place it. Irish? Scottish? Perhaps Welsh, she thought to herself, though she wasn’t even
certain if it was European at all.
“Oh,” she spoke, clearing her throat. “Thank you.” She moved to smooth out the short, black
dress she wore, awkwardly running her hands over her legs, her ass—anything she could do to avoid
his gaze. “I didn’t even hear you behind me.”
“I know.” He smirked. Again, that sense of nostalgia clenched at her chest, her stomach, lower.
Before she could inquire further, or at least find out where he came from, he had already moved past
her, continuing on his way down the street.
“Happy birthday, Alex.” He waved back to her without another glance.
How did he know?
“Hey, wait!” she called after him, her voice laced with panic, but he disappeared out of sight as
quickly as he arrived.
Deciding she had had enough excitement for one birthday, Alex slowly, and far more cautiously,
finished her walk home. Occasionally, she would chance a glance behind her to ensure she wasn’t
followed again. He was just some creep who must have been too close for comfort while they were
drinking the bar, she convinced herself as she turned the corner onto the street that led to her
apartment. Or merely a lonely someone who overheard her saying her goodbyes to her friends on the
way out and thought he’d get lucky.
She came to the gate that barred the walkway leading to her apartment, the skin on her neck
prickled and the hairs on her arms stood on end. Something was off. The familiarity of home felt
wrong, like a lost memory, just within reach moments ago, now nowhere to be found. Her hand had
been stuffed into her jacket pocket ever since her encounter with the dark-haired stranger, and she
continued to grip the knife tightly as she opened the gate and she headed down the final stretch.
Her apartment was situated in one of the older colonial row houses within Boston’s North End
that later converted into apartments and condominiums as the years went on and the economy grew.
She rented out the bottom floor of the building, with her ground-level entrance beneath the
building’s main stairway barred behind a wrought-iron gate. Taking another look around her
surroundings, she approached her door as her other hand managed to find her keys, but nearly
dropped them as she stopped to survey the scene before her.
The light from a nearby street lamp shone on the damage that had been done. The gate was bent in
a fashion that looked as though a gorilla took a bar in each hand and spread them apart. Through the
warped iron, she could see the lock to her apartment had been destroyed, the surrounding door blown
apart with it, shattered beyond easy repair.
“Fuck,” she whispered, taking a step back to as she glanced to see if there was anyone around, but
not a soul was in sight. With a shaking hand, she reached for her phone. Did she call the police on the
off-chance her father’s colleagues would report back to him and have to hear another lecture from
her about the horrors of living in the city? Or hell, ensure the potential of seeing any of them the next
morning while she was at work, having them remind her of her over-exaggerations while she served
them their overpriced coffee?
No. No, she did not. So, she rang her best friend instead.
“Hello?” Crystal answered on the third ring.
“Crystal!” Alex whispered harshly into her phone. “Someone’s broken into my apartment!”
“So, call the police,” Crystal reminded her lazily, her tone muddled by the evening’s inebriation.
“You know I can’t do that,” she snapped. “Besides, what if they’re already gone? It would be awaste of time and effort.”
“And your pride?”
“That too.”
“What if they’re not?” Crystal queried. “Your father will be pissed, and your mother—”
“You are no help; do you know that?”
“You’re the one calling me, thinking someone broke into her house!”
Before Alex could continue to interrogate her friend, the slightest sound of movement from the
other side of the door caught her attention, and her knife was out of her pocket and at the ready, her
heart pounding.
“Crystal, I’ve got to go,” she murmured into the phone.
“What? Wait—” Alex hung up before Crystal could finish her sentence.
Reaching the warped gate, she slowly pushed open the ruined door that led into her apartment.
She listened again, waiting for a repeat of movement, and quietly stepped through and into the
mudroom once she decided it was safe to do so. Everything was dark and quiet, just as she left it,
which gave her even more cause for concern. Whoever was there, whether they remained or not, they
weren’t there with robbery as their intention…not that she had much to steal, anyway, beyond an
expansive collection of epic fantasy books and Harlequin romance novels.
Liquid courage—that was stupidity. At least that’s what she convinced herself as she tiptoed
through the kitchen, her ears still perked when she heard a subtle creak of a floorboard and she
tightened her grip on the knife. Peeking around the corner, she noticed a dull light emitted from her
living room, appearing as though a flame flickered in the darkness.
Except Alex’s fireplace was only decoration and never once actually contained a fire.
Despite the nauseating curiosity that gripped her and tightened her stomach into knots, she
approached the living room, lingering just outside the entryway. The flickering light made it difficult
to adjust her eyes to the darkness, but she was certain she could hear bits and pieces of a conversation
within an unknown language between two individuals whose voices she didn’t recognize.
Holding her breath, Alex glanced into the living room. Crouched before the fireplace was a figure
in black with its back turned to her. Male in appearance, he was too focused on an orb floating before
him to notice her. The swirling red flames neither burned nor emanated heat as they hovered over the
ground, and her attention was caught upon their pulsating beat as it communicated with her
apartment’s intruder, like the blood flowing through her veins.
And the foreign language, unfamiliar to her in every possible manner, resounded through her like
a jolt—as though a part of her memory had been previously locked away, and hearing it again was the
key. No different to her mind than English, she could understand every word they were saying as if it
was her native tongue.
“You are certain you’ve secured the perimeter?”
“Yes, my Lord,” the figure spoke into the flame-less conflagration. “There’s been no sign of the
Empress. She will be none the wiser that the Key is in place.”
“You best hope so, for where she will be, the Prince will follow. The Empress must be in my
possession before he can make his next move.”
“Of course, my Lord, but what shall I do in the meantime?”
“Be patient. Be vigilant. And so help me, when the Empress returns, do not allow her to leave
that apartment.”
“And the Key?”
“You will wait until it activates within the next moon cycle. Until then, remember that she will
be your only way home. Do you understand me?”The figure bowed his head. “Understood, my Lord. And should the Prince interfere?”
Alex could almost feel the simmer through whatever allowed such a floating object to exist, and
a shiver trickled down her spin as she watched the dark figure finally stand and turn in her direction.
Red eyes glowed in the darkness, like dying embers fighting to remain lit. Being distracted by the
earlier conversation, she hadn’t noticed how far she stepped into the room. Whatever courage she
may have had before entering her apartment dissipated as those red eyed focused on her. She tried to
take a step back, but hit the wall, jarring her elbow in the process and hissing of pain at the impact.
“Well, it appears my job just became a hell of a lot easier,” he slurred in English, though
drawling with an accent both foreign and familiar.
Not unlike her would-be stalker-savior’s.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she announced as she pushed off from her spot against the wall,
remembering the knife in her hand and willing her fingers to steady themselves as she pointed it at the
head of the intruder. “But I think it’s time you removed yourself from my apartment.”
“The Empress?” The voice from the flames sounded pleased, and the orb’s size and power
intensified as it emitted an almost demonic chuckle.
At the words of whatever master presided on the other side of that communication device, the
intruder rose to his full height as he turned around to face her fully. The amplified light from the orb
finally displayed his features. Other than his eyes, there was nothing extraordinary about him. Pale in
the pulsating red light, with a shock of black hair and thin lips. He wore unremarkable clothing—a
black shirt over black pants that could have come from anywhere—but still it was his eyes that held
her attention, creating an otherworldly presence about him.
He paused his approach, however, when he saw the knife, cocking his head to the side as though
in silent challenge. Instinctively, she sliced it through the air in his general direction, and the
unexpected action seemed to surprise him as much as it had her. Taking a reflexive step back, his legs
hit a side table next to her couch, knocking a lamp to the floor.
The orb ceased its laugher at the commotion.
“It’s a pleasure, Empress Alexstrayna," the voice said while the intruder continued his retreat,
falling into the fireplace as if the orb would give him protection or a quick escape out of the room.
Alex rolled her eyes at the intruder’s pathetic attempts to escape through a brick wall, though her
attention was caught at the greeting from the orb. It wasn’t her name, but it was close, and she didn’t
want to know how or why. Before she could inquire, the voice behind the floating ball of flame
seemed to realize he was losing his local support, and the fire erupted once again. “Where the hell do
you think you’re going? The Prince is following her. Find him before he finds you first! Do not let
the Empress out of your sight!”
The flaming orb allowed his threat to linger as its flames continued to rant and rave, all while the
intruder composed himself and again began to approach her. The orb’s light now reflected off of
claw-like talons extending from each finger on both hands of the intruder, and his teeth grew into a
predator’s fangs. Every bit of his deadly intention was focused solely on her.
Alex felt the sweat form on her brow as her heart beat with a terrified fury. Even as she held the
knife up to defend herself, it shook between her fingers. The intruder merely gave her a knowing
smirk before he reared back on his legs and leaped into the air with feline grace, lunging across the
room with his claws extended, aiming directly for her over-exposed chest.
Frozen in the spot where she stood, Alex’s eyes were wide as she watched death approach. She
remained where she was even as a sudden bolt of cold, blue flame shot over her shoulder, knocking
the attacker hard against the wall next to the fireplace. The plaster splintered on impact, causing the
intruder to crumple to the floor, unmoving once he hit the ground.Alex thought her heart was going to pound through her ribcage; she made herself take one deep
breath, and then another before she looked over her shoulder toward the direction of the flash. In the
lingering blue glow stood the stranger who helped her in the street. Those same cold flames appeared
to grow from his right hand as he was poised in a battle-ready position, preparing for another strike
as his attention focused deeper within the room.
Following his glance, she saw that the intruder remained still and motionless, remnants of the
blast that sent him there the only movement coming from his body. She wanted to say something—
perhaps she should thank him? Too many questions began to cross her mind as she shifted towards
him, needing to know more, that same pull of nostalgia almost drawing her in. No sooner had she
opened her mouth than did the red orb cease its ranting to greet the new arrival.
“I was wondering when you were going to show your face, Treyan. Unfortunately, you’re too
late. My Key is in place, and come the next moon cycle, the Empress will rightfully be mine.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Reylor, but my Key has been in place for years.” Treyan walked
forward, outstretched his right hand where again blue flames sprung from it, this time engulfing the
red orb. Not a moment later, it was extinguished. Without delay, he turned towards her and began to
approach her. “I am sorry about all of this, Alex—”
“You!” She raised her knife between them, the point hitting his chest before he could move
another inch. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Sighing, he brought his hand to the blade, his blue flames warming the metal to the point of
nearly burning Alex’s hand, forcing her to drop the knife. She moved to run, but he grabbed hold of
her forearm and he pulled her face to him.
Alex caught herself getting lost in his blue eyes again and he watched her with an enthusiasm that
was unwarranted given their sudden meeting. It was a feeling of intense warmth throughout her body,
akin to the comfort of a lover’s embrace. A feeling she had met him before but knew their paths had
never crossed before in her life. And yet, some part of her knew him, or knew of him, and that
terrified her.
Who are you?
Unfortunately, the question never left her. Before she could break his intense stare and begin to
protest further, he brought a hand to her face, gently cupping her cheek, and after a few murmured
words, Alex’s world fell to darkness.Chapter Two
lex’s head hurt.
A lot. A She felt as though an entire troupe of Irish step dancers were performing behind her
eyelids and she couldn’t close them tight enough to make the throbbing stop.
A light appeared above her, but whether it was natural or artificial—she couldn’t say. She tried to
open her eyes, but discovered the light was too harsh for their precarious state and let them close
again.
Her head was the heaviest it had felt, and worse than any hangover she could remember. Her body
ached with more than a week’s worth of effort at the gym. As Alex attempted to push herself up into
a sitting position and lift her head, a blinding pain came crashing through her skull all over her again
and she fell back onto the bed she was lying on, clenching her eyes shut and praying this torture
would go away.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, helping her steady herself back onto the bed, and a comforting lilt
cut through the raging migraine behind her.
“Easy there. Traveling via Keys can be difficult for newcomers. You’ll get used to it as time goes
on.”
Keys?
The memory of the confrontation within her living room flooded back to her and slowly Alex
opened her eyes in the direction of the voice. As her vision adjusted, she remembered why. The same
stranger from earlier stood before her. Or was it yesterday? She had lost track of time. He was
standing over her, a candleholder in his hand. He looked down at her as she lay on the pillow, his blue
eyes reflecting concern, pity and perhaps even amusement.
His eyes.
Then she remembered how she got into her current situation in the first place.
She wasn’t sure how long it had been since he abducted her, but before she could ask him, even at
the thought of moving to sit up, the pain within her increased even at the slightest movement.
He hushed softly. “You are only going to make it worse. Just try to sleep it off, and we will talk
when you wake…”
She stopped listening when the pounding behind her eyes and overall exhaustion overcame her
and she let her eyes fall.
he room was dark when Alex woke, illuminated now only by low-lit candles in sconces along
the walls. She stared at the ceiling for a moment to collect her bearings before painfullyT
swinging her legs over the edge of the bed, the muscles of her body still aching with the motion, nobetter than the remnants of the pounding in her head.
However, she could not tell how long she had been in her current situation. She remembered
little since the confrontation at her apartment, where that familiar stranger kidnapped her, brought her
to this place, knocked her out.
Knocked out—she made it sound as though she was assaulted, and by the way she was feeling,
perhaps she was. And far worse than any morning after she’d experienced in the past. No, this was
something else entirely. If she didn’t know any better, she would assume there was some sort of drug
involved, but Alex’s experience with the same were non-existent. She was only certain she had passed
out.
Once Alex could gather enough strength, she braced her arms alongside her body and attempted
to push herself out of bed again. She felt woozy and unbalanced once standing, but she managed to
steady her feet underneath her as she used the edge of the bed to regain her balance.
The floor beneath her was unnaturally warm, grey and smooth, like marble but still comfortable
against the bottoms of her feet. Peering through the room’s dim candlelight, the furniture around her
left much to be desired. From what she could see, the room appeared to be more of an infirmary than
sleeping quarters. There was the simple bed she was in with a plain bedside table next to it. In one
corner rested an empty armchair, and in another there stood a three-paneled changing screen. The
walls were bare other than a shelf of medical implements— jars of ointments, stacks of bandages—
and the only way out of the drab room was a slightly opened door.
Taking this as a subtle cue, she approached the door quietly, uncertain about what waited for her.
She tried familiarizing herself with her new surroundings before venturing out further, but from the
crack through the door all she could see was a dimly-lit hallway, much like her room. Taking a deep
breath, Alex slowly pushed the door open, praying that it didn't make any noise. Lucky for her, the
door swung open quietly and without resistance, allowing her to step out into the dark hallway.
Her heart banged against her ribcage as she slowly made her way down the unknown corridor,
and she rubbed her palms against the skirt of her wrinkled, stained dress. A shiver ran down her spine
as she drew her gaze towards the smooth, stone walls that matched the warm floor of which she
walked upon, and nothing seemed to want to give away where the hell she was.
The only remarkable thing she could defer was, on either side of the hallway, were closed doors,
similar to hers, with no inkling of what awaited behind them. She would have assumed she was the
only one within their proximity, until Alex swore she heard hushed voices coming from the end of
the hallway. Hoping to find answers as to where she was, why she was there, and how she could get
home, she crept towards the whispers, finding them in the last door on her left-hand side. Stilling her
approach against the wall, the warmth now pressing against her back, she angled her head just enough
to peer towards the room’s slightly-opened door. A dim blue light streamed into the hallway, and she
was close enough to confirm she wasn’t hearing things— there were people talking, and she was no
longer alone.
“Reylor was overseeing the attack. I would know his presence anywhere.” She recognized that
voice as the savior yet also the kidnapper from before, though now he was speaking in that same odd
language, and still she found that she knew every word being spoken.
“Do we know how did he was able to do so? He couldn’t have had a Key in place.” The second
voice sounded older, and distant.
“He wasn’t there. He communicated via orb only. As for the Key, apparently his mage had just
placed it, or so he said. I assumed it was somewhere in her apartment. I tried to find it after he broke
into the residence, but she was too close to home. If I didn’t take Alexstrayna when I did, she’d be
recuperating in the Borderlands rather than here.”“What does she know, Treyan?”
Treyan. She had heard him called so back at her apartment. Alex locked that bit of information
away for later as she continued to listen.
“Nothing—yet... Perhaps that’s for the better at the moment, until she has time to get her
bearings.”
“You’ll need to work on that, my Prince, and the sooner all the better. As for now, we must focus
on the Empress, and getting her acclimated to the Empire.”
At that, the voices quieted. Alex crept closer in an attempt to hear more of what was said, but the
door opened before she could hear anymore, and she was face to face with the same man from her
apartment, as if he was waiting for her.
“We have got to stop meeting like this,” the man from the street said with the same accented
intonation as before. His blue eyes glimmered in the candlelight as he watched her, his familiar smile
quickly becoming more of a psychological annoyance than a curiosity. Without further delay, she
took a step away from him, finding a wall to hug, uncertain as to what she should say or do with this
unknown man who always seemed to be there.
She stared at him, remembering that she knew nothing about him, and that sudden recollection
led to her the much-needed realization about her whereabouts. She still didn’t know where she was
—was she even in Massachusetts anymore? There was no way anyone in the city could, let alone the
suburbs, had an underground labyrinth of candle-lit hallways beneath their homes. As the panic of the
unknown began to take root, her breathing became short and her head began to spin, the migraine
from earlier beginning to resurface. How long had I been asleep? Alex thought to herself. She didn’t
feel physically assaulted other than the pounding headache, but then again, she didn’t remember how,
exactly, she passed out in the first place, and—
“Alexstrayna? Are you alright?”
Hearing that variation of her name, she looked up to him. Gathering herself together, she took
another step away from him, around him, and into the new room, hoping to situate herself anywhere
but close to him while she regained her thoughts.
She remembered the voices from not moments ago, but as she looked around now, there was no
one.
She made herself stop her panic to observe her surroundings. The room was similar to the one
she just left—simple, oddly warm, with candles in sconces along the bare walls. There was a bed, a
bedside table, an empty chair in the corner and a wall lined with shelves and cabinets. Nothing out of
the ordinary, as rooms go, and nothing to give her any idea as to where the hell she was.
She turned to her captor, anger and anxiety swelling simultaneously within her chest. “Where am
I?” she breathed.
“You’re safe,” he offered calmly, and she felt a flicker of rage grow within her at the very
nonspecific answer.
“Who were you talking to?” she pressed. “Where did he go? If you’re not going to give me the
answers I need, maybe he will.”
“Please, Alexstrayna, calm down,” he said smoothly, as though in an attempt to calm her nerves,
but her anger was steadily growing as she began walking towards him, her hands clenching into fists
as her frustration grew.
“You’ll tell me now, or the next call I make will be to the authorities.”
He put his hands up before him defensively, but there was a look in his eyes seemed almost
challenging, as if he dared her to make that call. She didn’t want to mention that she didn’t even know
where her phone was, but she’d find one if needed. “You’re only making yourself upset. You justneed to listen—”
“Upset?”
She let out a sarcastic chuckle.
“Of course, I’m upset. I don't even know where I am!” She motioned to her surroundings in a
great sweeping motion. “You're in here, talking to someone that doesn't even exist. I don't even know
who you are when you know way too much about me. Random guys with red eyes are breaking into
my apartment and talking to floating things in my fireplace! Not to mention, I can understand a
talking floating ball of fire.” She took a heaving breath. “And now I'm somewhere I never asked to
be. You took me against my will. My head is pounding, I need a shower, and yet, I’m not allowed to
be upset?”
Her hands itched with uncontained destructiveness that made her want to grab the closest thing
and break it. Her attention turned toward the bed, and she approached it with determination as the
tore the bedclothes off, throwing them behind her, which in turn knocked the candleholder from the
bedside table to the stone floor. She paused only to assess the damage she caused, and she realized
didn’t care who they may have belonged to so long as she had at least something within the moment
that she could control. This destructiveness was something that she could claim to be her own, even
if it was a destructive energy that wanted to escape. It was hers to claim, hers to cherish. Hers at that
moment, and no one else’s. As a final exclamation to her efforts, she picked up a water pitcher and
threw it, full-force, against the wall just above the stranger’s shoulder.
“Are you done now?” he inquired looking at the mess, unamused and unflinching with his arms
across his chest while he watched her.
“No!” she screamed. To emphasize her point, she moved towards the closest wall as if to kick it
as hard as she could, but her rampage ended when sudden but inevitable pain erupted from her foot.
Looking down, she saw the blood first before she realized she stepped upon the shattered bits of the
pitcher she threw only moments ago. She knew she should care more, but instead allowed the agony
to overtake her—the pain, the helplessness, the confusion; her legs gave way from underneath her and
she crumpled to the floor.
Only then, when she gave into everything—her surroundings, her emotions—did the burning of
tears sting her eyes, their warmth running down her cheeks as the harsh sobs escaped, shaking her
entire body. She lowered her head to her knees in an attempt to center herself, to hold herself together
in a way. She forced herself to take a deep breath, followed by another before she was able to turn her
head up toward the bleak ceiling, as if some unknown answer would come to her.
No answer came to Alex as she sat there, tears still streaking their way down her cheeks. No
divine intervention. Just a blank, white stone ceiling staring back down at her, akin to how she felt at
that moment. Empty. Maybe it was because of that loneliness but once the rage began to dissipate,
she felt the only thing she could control now were her tears, so she cried until she was able to cry no
longer.
Soon she felt very cold, though her skin began to heat with sweat. Her body shook uncontrollably
as though ice flowed through her veins, but every gasping breath she took seared her lungs like a
white-hot raging fire. The walls of the room began to close in on her, even though she clenched her
eyes tight. Alex whimpered through her sobs, because he was next to her then as he always seemed to
be.
The stranger draped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her close, his body’s warmth a
comfort, soothing her inner fire and warming her icy blood. She knew she needed to calm herself
down, knew that she’d be no good to herself in trying to figure a way out if she couldn’t regain
control. So instead of fighting or pushing him away, she leaned into him, using him for support notonly of her body, but of her mentality as well. She closed her eyes and willed her breaths to slow and
used the pounding of his heart within his chest to even out the beating of her own.
Leaning against him still, she allowed herself a moment to close her eyes and consider who this
individual was since he seemed to know her so well. Where did he come from, and why had he been
so willing to help her back at her apartment? She didn't even know him, despite how well he seemed
to know of her. She tried to place him—had he come into the coffee shop recently? Had their paths
crossed somewhere before in the city? Or maybe she knew him from before, when she lived with her
parents. A distant friend of a friend who felt the need to reconnect after all this time? But it didn’t
explain any of this—where she was, what she saw… This was like a dream, and the harder she tried
to consider, the further from an answer she seemed to drift, and the more frustrated she got with
herself. For the moment, she decided she would stop trying. If she allowed him the opportunity to
explain, answers would come…eventually anyway. She’d only have to bide her time while remaining
on her guard, and until then perhaps the way out would reveal itself if she stopped trying to look for
it.
She lost track of how long they remained like that, with her eyes clenched tight, and her head
burying deeper into his shoulder. Eventually, she found her voice, but all she could get out was a
weak whisper. “Why?”
“Shh,” he murmured as he pet her hair. “It will be okay. This will all make sense soon enough.”
She looked up at him then, and he was already watching her. The look he gave her was not one a
stranger would give. As though he knew her better than he wanted to admit, that she should know
him as well. She felt almost guilty, a tugging in her gut pulling her towards him in this unknown
familiarity. That, for some reason, her instincts wanted her to remain with him rather than run away.
That with him, she would be safe. That even if they had never met before, there was a reason they
knew each other now. A truth in it, a purpose. Something more.
Still, Alex tried to find him in her memory, daring to look over his features, trying her best not to
stare but unable to help herself. Nothing surfaced, and yet, she felt safe with him. She felt as if the
essence of their souls knew each other intimately, but nothing else about her did.
It wasn’t until she noticed his grin that she realized how long she had been staring at him. She
broke their gaze quickly as a blush heated her cheeks and forced her attention to take in the rest of the
man who held her in his arms. He truly was flawless. He wore a loose-fitting shirt over jeans, his feet
bare like hers, and his long hair now fell beyond his shoulders, dark strands sweeping across his
forehead and tucked behind his ears. She was drawn back to his eyes again, those eyes that she
couldn’t drag herself away from and his gaze still hadn’t strayed from hers.
The words came out as a whisper as she finally turned away.
“I don't know you. I shouldn't know you. I don't want to know you.” The doubt wouldn't escape
her stubborn heart, insisting she did know him.
And that she wanted to know him.Chapter Three
lex’s words hung in the air between them, and suddenly being so close to the stranger made
her uneasy, uncertain, and incredibly uncomfortable.A As the haze of her panic subsided, her defenses kicked back into high-gear. This was the
same man who kidnapped her, took her from her home, and wasn’t telling her why. Regardless of
what her heart may believe, despite how safe he may make her feel, she wanted to be as far away from
him as possible.
She gathered herself up off the floor and out of his arms, but forgot the searing pain within her
injured foot, and managed to hobble herself away before collapsing on the edge of the bed. She
looked down at her bare foot, where the blood began to pool and the skin bruise and swell, and she
cringed as she tried to move her toes.
“You really should let me look at it. You may still have pieces of ceramic in there.”
She knew he was right, and soon he was kneeling in front of her at the bed.
“May I?” He motioned to her injured foot. She nodded and gently lifted it out for him, resting her
heel on his extended knee.
His hands were soft as he gingerly handled her foot. She let out a sharp yelp here and there as his
fingers tested pried at various spots along her sole and toes, and when he seemed satisfied with his
examination, he gently placed the appendage back on the ground and stood up, walking over to the
wall of cabinets and drawers across from the bed.
Taking a breath to calm her nerves, she decided now was as good a time as any to open up a line
of communication. “Okay...” she struggled to remember his name.
“Treyan.”
“What?”
“My name is Treyan,” he reminded her from over his shoulder.
“Treyan,” she sighed. “Please, tell me. I need to know what's going on.”
He continued to rummage through the high cabinets along the wall. For a moment she wasn't
sure if he had heard her on not.
“Okay, never mind. You can just bring me back to my apartment now and we can pretend this
whole encounter never happened. We can both go along our merry little ways and continue on with
our mundane lives.”
He turned back to her then, a small tweezer-like tool in one hand, a roll of gauze and bandages in
the other, and he knelt back in front of her, gently lifting her foot to his knee again.
“I can’t do that,” Treyan finally said softly, his focus wholly on her foot.
She winced as he began to work, pulling the broken pieces of the pitcher from her foot. “Oh, yes,
I think you can.”
He shook his head and sighed, his eyes focused on her foot. “If you haven’t figured it out by now,
Alex, I know you. Doesn’t that give you reason enough to want to remain and figure out why?”Alex bit her lip as she watched him. “Yes. Yes, it does. Of course, it does,” she said quickly. “So,
tell me, and then I can go home.”
“Do you truly think if you returned home, you could forget any of this ever happened?"”
She peered at him. “Denial is a powerful force.”
He snorted and continued. “The denial you mention would undoubtedly drive you insane. Of
course, you could try to figure it all out on your own, but eventually you’d make yourself crazy
because no matter how hard you tried, you would never be able to place my face.”
He glanced up and her wide eyes met his careful gaze. There was no humor in those blue eyes.
Not even as he spoke, “It would destroy your last bit of sanity to the point where you would begin to
claw the skin away from your fingers while you worked at the bricks of that fireplace in your
apartment, just hoping for the glimmer of a chance that I would again appear.”
She stared at him, blinking, still trying to determine if he was joking or not. But he continued to
work away on her foot, wrapping the bandage tightly to help quell the bleeding, not once looking up
at her as he went on.
“I would think you would have started with the easier question first. Where am I, Treyan? That
would have been what I would have asked. I have brought you to a location totally unfamiliar to you.
Do you not want to know where you are?”
“I do.”
He looked up to her then, his expression blank.
“You say this, yet these are not the first questions out of your mouth.”
“Technically, I didn't ask any questions.”
He smirked as he returned to wrapping her bandaged foot. "Your logic is an excellent trait for an
Empress."
"Why do you keep calling me that?"
"Because you, Alex, are the Queen Empress, especially if I have anything to say about it.”
Her frustration at him avoiding to give answers began to rise, but the pain in her foot was a
lesson she didn't need to be taught again. Cringing at the memory, she tried her best to remain calm,
willing herself to take another deep breath in as she carefully tried to word what was to come next.
“You’re in the Empire,” Treyan finally said before she could admonish him again.
“What does that even mean? Which Empire?”
“The Empire, and you are its Empress. The Queen Empress. One from a long line of those
chosen from the Otherrealm thanks to the Prophecy.”
Once again, Alex was almost at a loss for words. Treyan sighed. “You are Queen Empress
Alexstrayna, the daughter of Fire and Light.”
Alex swallowed. “That’s not my name,” she challenged, looking for something, anything she
could say to reel in the conversation.
“It is,” Treyan insisted. “You may have been Alexandra Ross within the Otherrealm, but within
the Empire, you are Alexstrayna.” He smirked slightly. “Though I suppose either way, Alex still
works.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“You may not, not for a long while. Just know that the Prophecy of the Fire and the Light
determined your destiny long ago, Alex, even before you were born.”
“So...?”
“‘So’ what, Empress?” He smiled at her as he stood up, now finished with tending to her wound.
Her foot still throbbed, but the tight bandage would help any swelling go down. He sat in the chair
across the corner, crossing his legs and folding his hands across his lap while he sat back, looking herover as if he was about to hold court.
“So, who are you?” She adjusted herself on the bed, situating herself on the edge of the bed as she
prepared herself for a long, uneasy conversation.
“I am Treyan, Crown Prince of the Empire. It is my sworn responsibility to oversee my lands, and
more importantly, acclimate you to them.” He leaned back in the chair, strong arms folding over his
solid chest. “Go ahead, ask another.”
“Fine,” she grumbled as she sighed, bracing her arms on the bed. “Other than your Prophecy, why
am I really here?”
“You are here because I made the decision to bring you here—a split-second decision, mind you,
that probably saved your life.”
“From who? That guy who broke into my apartment?”
Treyan nodded.
“But you knew him.” She meant it as a question, but she was more focused on maintaining her
breath.
“Knew of him, yes. I did not catch his name, but he was an underling like all of the others. Not
truly the real threat, but close.”
“Underling?”
“To Reylor.”
Another name she assumed she was supposed to know. “And who is Reylor?”
He smirked. “Now we're getting somewhere.”
Treyan ran his hands through his hair as he leaned forward in the chair, his elbows rest on his
knees, looking at her as he prepared himself. She sat on the edge of the bed and waited, ready to listen
intently and hoping for answers to her questions.
“Who is Reylor?” He repeated the question more to himself. “To answer your question, Reylor is
my brother. My twin brother, if you want to get technical. Also, now, my estranged twin brother, but
some things couldn’t be avoided, I suppose. I chose my path, and he chose his, and here we are.” He
shrugged.
“It was your brother who was behind that ball of fire? The one in my apartment—he knew where
I lived. And knew who I was. Does he know about me and this Prophecy too?”
Treyan held her stare, and she wasn’t sure if she had asked too much or not enough. She
swallowed, glancing down at the mattress where she sat, suddenly uncertain if she wanted to know
any more answers. Maybe Treyan didn’t want to talk any more either, considering the silence that fell
between them.
When he stood from the chair a few moments later, she allowed herself to watch him as his
moved towards the wall of cabinets and shelves, his hands moving over the various items and
supplies resting there.
“Reylor knows more about you than even I wish,” he said quietly, distracted.
“Is he a threat?” she asked carefully.
He glanced over his shoulder as he said, “Consider everything you once knew about the life
you’ve lived until this very moment, and then ball it up and throw it out that door. That same world
will now forever be changed because of who you are and what you were meant to be. And when you
finally walk into that new world, you’ll discover it now possesses so much more meaning than the
one I took you away from.” He turned to face her fully. “Once you realize what you are woven into,
Alex, you will find that small apartment in Boston is nothing compared to this.”
She sat there, staring at him, allowing herself to process everything she was hearing. Other than
the intense dramatics, she felt like things were about to get much deeper than she expected. Yet, shewanted to know more.
His blue eyes darkened as he watched her, and she settled herself back down and continued to
listen, making herself remain patience until he was done.
He let out a breath as though he could sense her unease, or the way his tone affected her. “When
the suns rise tomorrow, you’ll see how things truly are here, Alex. Unfortunately, so will Reylor.
From tomorrow forward, your life will become a bloody battlefield that will determine the outcome
of existence... for all of us.”
“How? How do I come into all of this? As far as I can tell, from what you’re saying, this seems
like nothing more than you and your brother needing to learn how to play nice.”
“You come into this because you have to, Alex,” he informed her, almost desperately. “Right
now, the more I tell you the more I know you’ll try to figure it out, and it will do nothing but confuse
you further. You just need to trust me—”
“I don’t even know you!”
“Trust that time will explain everything so long as you allow it.” He spoke calmly, slowly
beginning to put the rest of the bandages away.
“How much time do you think I have?” she blurted, standing from the bed. “I don’t have time to
be in the middle of these games. I have to go home—I have a job, friends, rent to pay—a life there!
Did I mention my father’s a cop? He’s going to be looking for me, and trust me, you do not want to
be on the other end of that search.”
“I’m not telling you this to upset you, but you have to know that whatever life you had before no
longer means anything.”
“What are you talking about?” she challenged. “Of course, it means something. And right now, it
means a hell of a lot more than your damn Prophecy."
His eyes lingered on her for a moment, studying her.
“Alex, you are finally home. Don’t you understand? There’s nowhere else you need be because
this is where you belong.”
“That makes no sense!”
“Yes, it does, you just need to trust me. Believe when I tell you that Boston was nothing more
than a myth. A cover, a protection from the future that awaited you until the time was right. That
time is now. This—right here, right now—is where you are meant to be.”
“You keep saying that, but I don't even know where ‘here’ is! Maybe I don't want to walk out that
door or wake up in the morning to see whatever it is you want me to see!” She was getting irritable,
tired and extremely angry. “Maybe you should take me back to Boston, real or not, and leave me in
peace!”
He rolled his eyes and walked back towards her, this time with his arm extended to take her hand
in his. “Would you rather spend another night in a recovery room?”
She looked at him, then at his hand, then back up to him again. “What?” Was he threatening me
now? She wondered, swallowing hard and trying not to show her fear.
“It's getting late, and tomorrow will be another long day.”
“I already told you, I'm not walking out that door.” She planted her feet on the floor for emphasis,
despite the pain that coursed through her in doing so.
He looked at her like a parent waiting for their rebellious child to learn that arguing was going to
get them nowhere and sooner or later they were going to need to give in. Still, she refused to take his
hand, so he took it for her and pulled her up.
She stumbled as she tried to avoid putting weight on her injured foot, which in turn landed her
exactly where she didn't want to be—in Treyan's supportive, welcoming arms. He was about a head