I’ve been working on my Forbidden Knights series for years and am so excited to bring you this prelude to the first book! Niall shows up briefly in book one. I want readers to have a chance to get to know him a little better before… Well, you’ll see. For your reading pleasure, please know that Niall speaks with a lovely Irish brogue <3
I’m hard at work on the second book in the series and the first is with various editors getting all polished up and shiny for you. And I have to say, I’m planning to be all-in with this series for a while. I hope you love it as much as I do!
And now, I introduce you to this new world with…
(FORBIDDEN KNIGHTS, a prelude)
by Cassandra Chandler
Copyright © 2017
All rights reserved
Another moment in that house and Niall would have gone mad. He needed fresh air, stars burning bright overhead, and soft grass beneath his feet. The smell of overturned earth filled his lungs as he took a deep breath, heading deeper into the woods around their mansion.
The moon was too close to full. He shouldn’t be out alone when he was at the edge of his self-control and near the height of his strength. There was safety in numbers—for himself, and the humans he was sworn to protect.
But he couldn’t bring himself to go back. He needed to be alone. He had even left his phone behind. He couldn’t stay there and watch the man who’d been his best friend for hundreds of years walk down a path that would surely lead to heartbreak and despair.
Shade was falling in love. He was in complete denial about it, but his feelings were obvious. His eyes became unfocused and he smiled whenever he spoke of his new “business acquaintance”—and he spoke of her almost constantly. The garden she had originally been contracted to create had tripled in size, giving Shade an excuse to spend more time with her.
But Eden was human. Frailer than most. Niall hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell Shade that his little landscaper friend was dying. Niall could smell it in her blood. He was surprised Shade hadn’t picked up on it himself. At least that meant Shade hadn’t bitten her. Yet.
This was the precise reason that the Knights were forbidden from falling in love. Humans were too fragile to handle the strength of their passions. Niall was much too aware of that. A sharp pain radiated through his chest as memories threatened to rise—memories that would snap his tenuous grasp on his self control.
His joints popped as his body begged him to change. To smash the forest around him to splinters and kindling. Instead, he shook his head brutally and shoved the memory away.
Love was a distraction that could cost the Knights their lives, as well as those they cared for. They needed to remain focused on ridding the world of the dangers that only they were prepared to fight. Fairies and monsters and—
His thought was cut short as something huge and heavy landed on his back. Niall toppled forward. Apparently, Shade’s distraction was contagious.
Niall hunched up his shoulders right before the beast tried to snap its jaws around the back of his neck. It only caught a mouthful of air.
He rolled beneath the creature, cracking it in the side of its head with his elbow. The blow wasn’t meant to cause damage. He just needed a little space to move. The thing’s weight lessened enough that he could bend his leg, then strike with a strong kick to its underbelly. It yelped, and the weight pressing him to the ground vanished.
Niall didn’t waste a moment. He leapt to his feet, taking in his surroundings. Dark trees made a tight circle around him—but not as tight as the six fell beasts. A full hunting party.
Their fur was pale gray and swayed as if blown by a breeze that didn’t exist. They held their muzzles low to the ground as they circled him, growling. A quick glance would make them look like enormous wolves. A longer scrutiny showed they weren’t.
Wolves didn’t glow with a soft, silver light. Their eyes didn’t gleam green—and they didn’t have six of them.
“Och, I hate being right,” Niall said. “I should’ve brought my damned phone.”
He tore off his shirt. The moonlight touched his skin like a caress. She was the only lover he needed.
He felt the moon pulling on him, so close to full. Urging him to shift.
He stopped resisting.
The change started deep in his muscles. It wasn’t painful like in so many stories. It was like breathing—a deep exhale, letting go of the small human form that contained his other nature.
Tawny fur spread over his skin. He stretched his fingers as his claws emerged, then used them to tear away his pants. He kicked off his shoes, the transformation complete in a matter of seconds.
Niall threw his head back and howled.
The hounds came at him all at once, a whirlwind of fur and teeth and claws. The combat training he’d received under Antares kicked in, sharpening Niall’s reflexes and instincts even further. He gave himself over to the battle.
Niall backhanded one of the hounds out of the air while diving forward to meet the largest head-on. He grabbed its throat with his free hand, his claws sinking into its flesh. Two of the hounds scored his back with their claws and a third latched onto his arm. Pain arced through his body. The scent of blood thickened the air.
He lifted the leader from the ground and twisted his wrist sharply. A loud snap echoed through the forest and the thing went still. He used its body as a shield, slamming it into the nearest hounds, then pulled his other arm close to his chest. Another hound hung from his forearm, teeth buried deep in Niall’s flesh.
He would heal. The fairy hound wouldn’t.
Putting his free arm on the thing’s shoulders, he pushed as hard as he could with the arm still gripped in its jaws, breaking its neck. He swung his arm like a flail, hitting a hound on the muzzle as it went for his hamstring. The impact knocked it loose, and it landed on its fellow, pinning it for a moment. Niall pressed his advantage, stepping on the hound’s skull and crushing it.
Three down. Three remaining.
Niall’s wounds were already knitting themselves back together. The last hounds had pulled back and were nervously licking their teeth.
A new energy brushed against his awareness—something he’d been expecting. The hounds lowered their heads, slinking toward the source.
A lyrical voice said, “That wasn’t as entertaining as I expected.”
Niall growled as he pulled himself up to his full height, ignoring the lingering pain from his wounds. He couldn’t show any weakness.
Where there were fairy hounds there were fairies. In this case, there were three of them. They had blond hair and green eyes and an unearthly beauty that made something deep in Niall want to just stare at them forever.
Niall shook off their charm. He really should have brought his phone to let his partner know what was going on, not that he was overly concerned for himself. One werewolf versus three elves was nearly an even fight—especially since they weren’t armed or wearing armor. They must have no idea they were facing a Knight of Antares.
Shade’s presence would have been helpful, but was ultimately unnecessary. What was necessary was keeping these fairies away from Eden. It would be all too easy for her to be injured or killed during a fight, not to mention the awkward conversation that would come afterwards.
Orders were clear in cases like this. Lead the fairies away from any nearby humans, then dispatch them. The easiest way to make them give chase was to offend them—elves being the pompous pricks that they were.
“You brought fae hounds to a werewolf fight,” Niall said. “Next time, try something challenging.”
The elves only laughed. That wasn’t a good sign.
“What makes you think we’re hosting this party?” one said.
A gossamer filament passed across Niall’s vision, like the strand of a spider’s web catching the moonlight. Before he could react, it pulled tight around his neck.
Niall tried to grab at it, but his arms wouldn’t work. He fell backward, staring up at the starry sky. He heard the elves approach and couldn’t do a damn thing about it. He was paralyzed. Their faces came into view above him.
“I must get one of those,” one said.
“This item is unique.” A fourth voice responded, too strong to be an elf. “It was once used to bind Fenrir.”
The stranger stepped into view. He was much taller than the elves and looked…human. Absolutely, ordinary.
He had a lean build and narrow face. His nose was long and his lips thin. Close-cut brown curls hugged his scalp. He reminded Niall of the Greek statues at the city’s museum. The man’s eyes were blue-green and utterly cold. It was enough to make Niall shiver, if he could have moved.
The stranger cocked his head to the side so he could look at Niall right-side up. Then he smiled. “Hello, my friend.”
Niall tried to say something back, but his mouth wouldn’t work. All he could do was move his eyes and breathe.
The stranger pulled a coin out of his pocket, then squatted at Niall’s side. He stared at Niall for a moment before speaking.
“Do you remember when humans used to use coins to make calls?” the man said. “The message I need to send is too important to leave to mortal technology. It’s too personal. And you’re going to deliver it for me.”
He held up the coin between two fingers. It glittered in the moonlight.
“Actions speak louder than words.” He held the coin above Niall’s abdomen, so close the silver made him itch. Then he pressed it—edge first—into Niall’s flesh. Slowly.
Agony ripped through Niall’s body, the pain compounded by the metal. Niall fought the urge to cry out, even though the binding would prevent him from doing so regardless. He could feel the coin sliding through his flesh, digging itself deeper even after the man had released it.
“This coin has been enchanted,” the stranger said. “It will burrow its way through your body until it reaches your heart, at which time, you will die.” He chuckled. “That is, if you haven’t already died from silver poisoning by then. You have one chance to survive. Get to Antares.”
He lifted the binding from Niall’s neck. The pain intensified. Niall pushed it from his mind, lashing out with all his strength.
The man caught Niall’s fist in his hand and held it still. He didn’t strain, didn’t even flinch.
“What are you?” Niall choked out.
The stranger smiled. “An old friend.”
He stood and then stepped back, releasing Niall’s hand. He dusted off his suit as if this was the kind of thing he did every day and not worth his extended attention.
Niall staggered to his feet. His body was fighting to heal the damage done by the coin, but the burns the silver left slowed him. While the silver was in his body, he was trapped in his wolfen form.
How was he to get through town to Antares without being seen? Without hurting anyone? He had to get to Shade instead, even if it meant Niall’s death. The others needed to know about this new threat.
The stranger gestured to the fairies standing behind him. “To make sure you don’t get lost, my elf friends and their little pets will be tracking you. If you deviate from your course, they’ll let me know, and I’ll go to your home-sweet-home and kill your vampire friend.”
Niall didn’t know he could feel more pain until he heard those words, but the threat against Shade flooded Niall’s system with a dread that was palpable. And if this man—this thing—went after Shade, it would kill Eden, too.
The “old friend” chuckled again. “Honestly, I’d rather spread things out a little. But if you’d rather I kill two of Antares’s Knights right at the get-go, I can oblige you.”
Niall took a step backwards. Away from his home. Toward his leader’s.
“Excellent choice,” the stranger said. “Now off you go.”
The first Forbidden Knights paranormal romance novel is coming out in late October. Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss it! 😀