Blackwing Dragon (Harper's Mountains Book 5)

By: T. S. Joyce

Prologue




He couldn’t do this. Kane did an about-face on the cracked sidewalk of Jeremy Jacob’s house and made his way back to his car. He didn’t even know why Jeremy had invited him to this party. They didn’t run in the same circles at school, and the football quarterback was a black bear shifter. It would be best to stay far away from Jeremy so his heightened senses didn’t pick up the monster inside of Kane.

When a heartbroken sound drifted to him on the wind, he froze, legs locked against the concrete. It was unseasonably cold in the mountains of Wyoming, and the tree branches in the surrounding woods were creaking their unease in the breeze. Maybe he’d imagined the sound.

Kane looked back over his shoulder and narrowed his eyes at the shadow that passed in front of the window. There was just one. Where was everybody? He scanned the street, but other than Jeremy’s black Mustang, his car was the only one here.

He’s fucking with you, The Darkness inside of him said. You should punish him.

Kane took an unintentional step toward Jeremy’s house, clenched his hands, and forced his body to stop. The push was still there—the one that sometimes made him do things he didn’t want to do. Eighteen years sharing a body with The Darkness, and he still fought for control. This was why he was a loner, why he couldn’t connect with other people. Other humans. The Darkness had too much control, and Kane could never, ever let anyone know who he was. The Last Immortal Dragon would kill him if he found out about Kane’s lineage.

Another soft sniffle reached him on the wind. So, he hadn’t been mistaken. Jeremy forgotten, Kane strode for the woods.

There were a hundred cons to the animal inside of him, but on the only bright side, his senses were heightened. He had to fight to keep in his own skin, but he could hear, see, and smell better than humans.

When he inhaled deeply, he could smell her—the reason he’d come here in the first place. Sarah Newman had been nice to him in the classes they shared. He was a senior in high school, and she was a couple grades below. Sarah was sweet. Much too sweet for The Darkness, but Kane couldn’t help being drawn to a person with so much light inside of them.

Sarah sat deep in the woods between two ferns with her back to him, her knees drawn up to her chest. Her bare skin glowed white and pale in the half-moon light. Her shoulders were shaking, and she didn’t smell right. There was no scent of vanilla body spray here in the dark woods. She smelled like salty tears and pennies instead.

Something awful had happened to her.

“Sarah?” Kane asked gently.

She startled hard and skittered away from him like a frightened crab. Kane stopped, knelt down a few yards in front of her.

“Kane?” she asked in a pitiful, tear-stained voice. Her long blond hair hung limply in front of her face, but what he could see of her eyes, they looked wrong. He forced himself not to look at her naked body. She was trying to cover herself up.

“What happened,” he asked, standing and pulling his T-shirt over his head.

“Don’t get too close,” she whispered, averting her eyes. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

The Darkness inside of him practically laughed. Sarah was a buck-ten max, with the dominance of a field mouse. But as he stepped closer, Kane could feel it—something heavy lingered in the air around her. A soft snarl rattled her chest, followed by a long, keening sob.

“Look at me,” he demanded, dread dumping into his system.

“Kane, it’s too late to do anything.”

“Look at me!”

She jerked her startled gaze to his, and the proof was there. Her eyes glowed an icy, inhuman blue.

“Fuck,” he said, chest heaving.

Kill him.

“Who did this?” Kane whispered, already knowing the answer. He couldn’t sic The Darkness on an innocent, though. He had to make sure.

“You know who.” Sarah sounded disgusted. “Jeremy told me there was going to be a party, but when I showed up, it was just him, and his parents weren’t home. He’s been asking me out, but I like you,” she sobbed. “I wanted you to ask me out so I kept putting him off, waiting for you to ask me. He said you would be here tonight, and I bought a new dress.” Her voice hitched, tears streaming down her face as she tumbled on. “I was going to be brave tonight and ask you if you want to go out with me, but Jeremy turned me into this…this…monster.”

“Did he—”

“No,” she said, the answer coming out in a rush. “He kissed me and pulled my hair, and before I knew what was happening, he bit me.” She covered her face with her hands and fell apart. Streams of crimson shone in the moonlight, trickling down her arm. “I was a bear. My body ripped apart, and I was a bear. He left me out here, and I didn’t know what to do or if I could turn back into…into…me!” When she dropped her hands from her face, her eyes were almost white with panic. “What am I going to tell my parents? They’re anti-shifter, Kane! They will hate me. I can feel it inside of me waiting to tear out of me again.” She was panting now, sucking breath desperately. “I’ll have to leave school, and my friends won’t want anything to do with me, and for what? I don’t understand why he did this!”

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