The scream lodged in Marcail's throat as the floor slanted under her feet. She was falling. Into the Pit.
Stay strong. Focus. Think!
Her body hit the stone with a loud smack, and she scrambled to hold on to the sloping rock. She ignored the pain throughout her body and concentrated on not falling. Her fingers kept slipping on the smooth stone, the darkness rising up to meet her faster and faster with the lowering of the door.
Then, thank the saints, she found a handhold. She held on for dear life, her fingers aching with the effort. She wanted just a moment to get her bearings before she clawed her way back out.
But she should have known better.
She had forgotten the Warriors and wyrran surrounding her. Too late she saw the Warrior come at her out of the corner of her eye. His foot connected with her ribs, the pain sharp and terrible.
Her fingers released the hold at the same time her brain screamed at her not to let go.
And then she was falling.
She hit the ground on her side with a thud that left her dazed and her head spinning. She didn't move, afraid of the aches she would find. Seconds ticked by as the crowd above her shouted and roared their excitement. What did they know that she did not?
Then she heard it.
She wasn’t alone in the darkness.
Marcail pushed past the hurt of her body and rose up on an elbow to peer into the shadows. Who was there? Or rather...what? She could feel them watching her. And waiting.
The hairs on the back of her neck lifted as she heard the first growl. Her stomach flipped then fell to her feet as fear took hold of her with a cold hand. She knew then what surrounded her. Warriors.
Her entire body hurt, and she feared her ribs might be cracked. There wasn’t time to think about that, though, not when certain death faced her.
The first Warrior stepped out of the shadows at her feet. His skin was bright green like the color of the first buds of spring. He crouched before her, his lips pulled back to bare his large fangs. His hair was matted and of indistinguishable color with all the filth in it as it hung in his face hiding everything but the blazing green eyes.
He was going to pounce on her and rip her flesh with his long, green claws. She had used all her courage with Deirdre. Now, all that was left was the terror that settled around her like a heavy cloak, preventing her from moving or even breathing.
Get up. You’re a Druid. Act like it.
But she had no weapons, nothing to defend herself with other than some magic that would do no good against these Warriors. She wanted to curl in a ball and let the tears come.
What would Grandmother think?
Another Warrior joined the first. This one had skin the color of her favorite gray mare. The Warrior tilted his head to the side and licked his lips.
A Warrior of white stepped out of the shadows and regarded her with his pool of milky white eyes. He seemed almost uninterested in her, as if he cared more about what the other Warriors were doing.
A deep, feral growl filled with menace and death sounded to her left that made all the other Warriors look in that direction. A cold sweat broke out over Marcail's skin as dread overtook her.
It happened so fast. One moment the Warriors were looking in the darkness, the next the growling began in earnest. It grew and grew until her ears rang with it.
And then something large and black leapt out of the shadows to land on top of her.
Marcail swallowed a scream and braced herself for the pain she knew was coming. Only there was nothing.
Something grabbed her about the waist and tossed her into the shadows as if she weighed nothing more than a leaf. Marcail's already injured body shook with renewed pain as she landed against the stone walls. Her head banged against something hard.
She tried to focus her eyes, but all she saw was a mass of colored bodies flaying each other alive.
And then the darkness took her.
* * * *
Quinn waited until the other Warriors realized he would battle them forever if he had to. One by one, they drifted back to their caves. It wasn't until he was the only one left standing that he moved back into the shadows. It had taken him days to fight each one of the Warriors in the Pit to stamp his dominance on them after he'd first arrived.
They continued to test him, though. After all, they were Highlanders.
However, there were a few who sided with him and watched his back. Not that he fully trusted anyone in this Hell.
Quinn sighed and turned to where he had tossed the female. He had smelled her before Deirdre had thrown her into the Pit. Her scent was of sunshine and rain. He had known what Deirdre wanted of the Warriors as soon as the Druid had been brought to the trap door, and he'd given them a warning to stay away from the Druid.
He wasn't surprised when the other Warriors had gone toward her. Not that he blamed them. The woman was just what any man would want after being in the dark for so long, especially with the cravings, both physically and mentally, the Warriors dealt with constantly.
But Quinn knew he couldn't give in to the urges of Apodatoo, the god of revenge, that was inside him. Not now, not before his brothers came for him.
The gods had risen from the scavenges of Hell all those centuries ago to take over the bodies of the strongest Celtic warriors to battle Rome and her great army.
The Druids hadn't realized what they had done when they released the gods, not that they’d had a choice. Rome had been destroying Britain bit by bit. The Celts did what they had to do to make sure the land stayed theirs.
Yet, when the Romans had been defeated, the Druids hadn’t been able to coax the gods to leave the men. The Celts had become Warriors, men with immortality and powers beyond their imaging. As powerful as the Druids were with their magic, they were no match for the Warriors.
The Druids, split into sects of good and evil, joined forces to bind the gods inside the men as a last resort. It worked, but none of them could have realized the gods would travel from generation to generation through the blood in the hopes of being loosened once more.
And then it had happened. Starting with Quinn and his brothers.
Quinn squeezed his eyes closed as he thought of that fateful day and the death and blood that had coated the land he loved. His life had been irrevocably altered in a split second, and there was nothing he could do to change it other than fight the god inside him. And hold onto the last shred of hope he possessed.
In order to keep his god from taking control, Quinn did what he knew his brothers would have done – save the woman.
He flexed his fingers, his long deadly claws clicking together, and winced at the wounds on his side and back. They would heal, but not fast enough, not if the other Warriors attacked again. And they would. They wanted the woman.
But so did he.
He walked into his cave where he had tossed her and stopped in front of her. He had sensed her magic as soon as she landed in the Pit. Just what was Deirdre doing tossing a Druid down here with Warriors? And more importantly, why wasn’t the Druid moving?
Had he thrown her so hard that he knocked her unconscious? Or worse? Had he killed her? Quinn had tried to pull back his strength, but he forgot sometimes just how strong his god made him.
Quinn knelt beside the female and put his finger beneath her nose. Her breath washed warm and steady over his black skin, and he let out a sigh of relief.
"Is she hurt?"
Quinn looked over his shoulder to find Arran watching him. The white Warrior had recognized Quinn's name and had aligned with him just days after Quinn was thrown in the Pit.
"She breathes, but I fear I might have thrown her too hard," Quinn answered.
Arran walked toward him slowly, his gaze seeking the shadows where other Warriors waited and watched. In the Pit, none of the Warriors could afford to change out of their god form and risk being killed.
Quinn glanced at the woman. She had screamed when the stones had moved underneath her, but she hadn’t made a sound since. Not even when one of Deirdre's Warriors kicked her, and he knew that had hurt by her wince.
"She fell hard," Arran said. "Many break bones on that plunge."
Quinn nodded. He would know since he had broken his arm and some ribs on his fall. If she had broken something he needed to discover where so he could see to it, but he prayed she hadn't. She was mortal and couldn't heal as they did.
"Shall I check?" Arran asked.
Quinn wanted to refuse Arran's aid since he didn't want anyone touching the female. He had claimed her when he saved her. She was his to watch over. Quinn shook his head and realized he was acting as Lucan had done when his brother had brought Cara into their castle. It was ridiculous for Quinn to want the Druid only for himself. Even knowing that didn't lesson his hunger for her though.
A hunger that had begun the moment he saw her bravery, her beauty.
~Pre Order Book