Coming Winter 2021
Shadowman Shadow Series 3
They haunt the halls of the Segue Institute, terrifying the living, refusing to cross over. But one soul is driven by a very different force.
It survives even death. And Kathleen O'Brien swore she would return to those she was forced to leave too soon.
He broke every rule to have her in life; now he will defy the angels to find her in death.
Forging it is his single hope of being reunited with his beloved, but through it an abomination enters the world. Leaving a trail of blood and violence, the devil hunts her too. Pursued through realms of bright fantasy and dark reality, Kathleen is about to be taken...
Coming Winter 2021
Previous Covers for Shadowman
Shadowman was released in Germany under the title Zwielichtlande. Schattenmann in August 2012.
- Release Date: 9/2011
- ISBN 10: 142011896X
- ISBN 13: 978-1420118964
- Kensington Books
Excerpt from Shadowman
Shadow throbbed, twisting and irregular, in the corners of the hospital room. Seething with welcome, the ribbons of darkness crept past the cluster of too-cheerful sunflowers on the far table, through the quietly humming machines, toward the bed where Kathleen lay.
Not long now. Shadow had always been close, but soon the dark stuff would claim her.
Beyond the filmy layers, on the Other side, the knotted and craggy boughs of Twilight trees swayed. Fae whispers rose in an inarticulate hiss and tick as they drew near to the thin veil between the Shadowlands and the mortal world, looking on. Waiting in heightening anticipation.
Not long at all.
Kathleen squeezed her sister's hand, urgency giving her the strength to make the squeeze hard. She drew deep on the oxygen at her nose, and said, "Don't let them kick you out of the room."
Maggie's lips went tight. Her O'Brien red had gone frizzy and she had more make-up under her eyes than on top. Her sister reached above the hospital bed with her free hand and switched the light off.
Shadow coursed into the void, but Maggie, as ever, was oblivious to the churn around her. "We've been over this," she said. "You need to get some sleep now."
In fact, Kathleen could barely keep her eyes open. With Shadow so close, so intent, she needed to be rested and ready for when the time came, but getting Maggie's cooperation was too important; it was part of being ready, like the intensive care neonatal room, prepared for delivery, the on-call doctors, and the machines to warn the nurses if she declined rapidly. All the rest meant nothing without Maggie's agreement. "You need to be there to make sure that the baby comes first."
"I hate it when you talk like that." Maggie looked away.
Lately Maggie couldn't meet her gaze, which was why Kathleen needed this last assurance. Just in case. "You know it's what I want."
The baby's heartbeat shush-shush-shushed rapidly over the monitor. Kathleen focused on the sound and used its promise to draw another difficult breath.
She could see Maggie's profile: her sister's jaw clenched, her throat working silently.
When Maggs finally spoke, her voice was rough. "And what about you, huh? You can't think that...that...I'll just let you...You're my sister." Maggie braced her free hand on her knee and worked for breath as well, lowering herself into the chair.
"I'll be okay." He'll be waiting for me.
Maggie turned back, words tumbling in a sob-clogged accusation. "You could fight. You could try to get through this. At least you could try."
Kathleen inhaled through the tightness in her chest to speak. "I am fighting. I am trying." She was giving everything she had to see her daughter safely into the world. She had no illusions about what would come after. How could she with the room darkening, the Shadows reaching farther with each passing moment? But she had no fears. Not with him near. Her gaze flicked to Shadow, searching for him in the glossy layers. When she didn't find him, she returned her attention to her sister.
Maggie frowned hard, shaking her head. Eyes blazing. "Not for yourself you're not."
Kathleen heaved for air again. "Maggs, you know this is for me, too. This is better than I could have ever hoped. I'm happy. Please let me be happy."
How could she possibly make her sister understand when it was so hard to speak? When the dark stuff filled her lungs and choked her breath? Her own heart monitor started jumping, its beeps closer together. Likewise, the baby's shush-shush increased, the digital number climbing.
Instantly, Maggie was on her feet. "Kathy, I'm so sorry. Honey, just breathe. In and out. In and out." She exaggerated the action on her behalf.
Likewise, Kathleen concentrated on the flow at her nostrils, willing the good air to feed her blood, move her heart, and keep her baby growing for just a little while longer. Twenty-five weeks was the golden number, but every day gave her baby girl a better chance to survive. Every day was another three percent, that's what the doctor said.
Maggie visibly swallowed, her face reddening as she nodded and blinked back tears. "Okay. Don't worry about it. The baby first, like we agreed." She swiped at her cheek. "I swear I'll be here. I won't let them budge me from your side."
"The baby's side," Kathleen corrected and managed a smile, her eyes fluttering closed. With Maggie's promise, her hold on wakefulness weakened and sleep sucked her down.
"But I'm going to hope for you, too," Maggs said, her voice following Kathleen into slumber, the firm grip on her hand never loosening.
Flying. Her favorite kind of dream.
Kathleen skimmed the top-most branches of the trees—higher!—then burst out over the eastward cliff of Sugarloaf Mountain to careen into a turn above a storybook patchwork landscape. The air smelled sharp and summer sweet as she rushed, headlong into the dazzling blue. She filled her eyes with the color until her heart could hardly bear more.
Dizzy, she cast her gaze downward, to the rocks she'd picnicked at with her family when she was little. The scene was recalled in wondrous detail from the murk of her memory. Lush trees, dark green. Screaming bugs. Grassy patches, with large, white boulders. Rocky, rooty trails leading off in a couple directions.
Mom was laying out their lunches, waving away interested bees, while Dad dumped excess water from their cooler. Her sister Maggie inched closer and closer to the steep drop, yelling toward the woods, "Kathleen! I can see our house!"
The dream suddenly morphed, and Kathleen was seven years old, headed on foot into the tall red and white oaks on the mountain. Old, dusty leaves crumbled underfoot. The fragrant, humid air cooled as she moved deeper into the forest. Her heart skittered in her chest and stars pricked into her vision, but she didn't care. The trees were sparkling and sighing and swaying. Like magic.
"Stay away from the edge, Maggie," Dad called from somewhere behind her.
Kathleen quickened her pace, picking her way over the jut and hump of tree roots. If Mom or Dad saw her, they'd make her come back. Sit down. Rest.
She was sick of rest. Of new treatments for her heart. Ever since she was born, something had been wrong with it, a condition named with big words she never wanted to learn. But she knew what they meant: She might never grow up.
It was much better to explore the woods than sit bored. She'd have all the time in the world to sit bored at home. Later. This was her chance. How deep could she go before they came after her?
Excitement made her breath short, her heart glub glub before settling again. An adventure at last!
The air around her shimmered. The shadows shifted from patchy greys and blacks to purples and blues. The colors of a fairy tale. Beckoning. Drawing her into a story.
I'm a princess, lost in a magical forest.
She stumbled on a loop of root. Her heart glubbed again. Once, hard. She had to check her breath, but she wasn't going back. Not yet.
Silvery, tinkling music, like from her jewelry box, filtered through the trunks. It was that Disney song she loved that her mom said was really Tchaikovsky.
I know you. I've walked with you...
Coming from...that way...
She veered off the trail onto the leafy, trippy ground. At the edge of her sight, strange forms darted among the trees. Breathing became easier, the air sweeter. Made her head buzz.
She lifted the skirt of her gold, bejeweled dress. Because that's what she'd be wearing. Gold and jewels and a tiara with diamonds sparkling bright.
Deeper, deeper into the pretty purple. Her heart was strong here. This was where she'd meet her prince.
Within the darkening trees, the shadows unfolded like shiny black crows' wings, and there he stood. He had long, silky black hair. He was tall and had way more muscles than her dad. His eyes were black-black in a sharp and serious face, but he didn't scare her. He could never scare her. He'd been there all her life, guarding her dreams.
"Kathleen, love, go back," he said, voice urgent.
"But I feel so good. I want to play!"
The shadows behind him started to turn slowly, bruising with stormy eruptions. His dark cloak trembled and snapped on the surface. Tendrils of darkness curled around his legs and arms. One inky strand circled his neck.
"Kathleen, you must turn back now," he said. "I can't hold Twilight from you long."
"But it's so pretty here."
The trees shivered in the gathering storm. Chattering whispers filled the air. And at the edges of her vision, swift, glittering movement among the trunks. Faeries, everywhere.
"It's a lie to trick and take you before it is time," he said. "Wake up!" The shadows surged, and Shadowman flung out his arms to hold them back. One of his hands gripped a long staff, topped by a curved blade that glinted in the colored light. A scythe.
Oh God! The baby!
Kathleen whipped around, looking for the mountain, the rocks, her parents. But she was in her hospital gown, her bare feet shuffling in the velvet earth.
Trees surrounded her, dark trunks thickening, branches stretching into a tight, dense canopy, its scent intoxicating, muddling her mind. Where to go?
"Run!" Shadowman shouted, his voice tight with strain.
Kathleen bolted, the frigid darkness licking at her heels and chilling her bare legs. But there were only trees and trees and more trees, pressing in to block her path.
Too soon! She had to get back. Had to deliver her baby before Shadow could take her. She had to find a way back to life, if only for a few moments.
"Maggie!" she screamed.
"I'm right here," Maggie said. "I won't leave the baby. I'll keep my promise."
Pressure crushed Kathleen's chest. She gulped for air, but was drowning anyway. Her heart clamored wildly. No amount of forced calm would stop it.
The hospital room was a chaos of movement. Nurses, doctors, blurring around her. Maggie was a flash of red hair to her upper right. The young doctor, Cotter, was there, a green mask over his face, gloved hands lifted, waiting. A new machine was wheeled into position next to her and a strange man tugged on her IV.
"...acute pulmonary edema…"
She was lying flat, where before she had been at a slight incline. Something pricked, burned. "The baby," she said, but her voice was a rasp. The baby!
"…congestive heart failure…"
"There was no way this baby was ever going to make it to term," a nurse was saying. "Someone with her condition should have never gotten pregnant."
"Shut-up," Maggie bit back. "You don't know anything."
Kathleen's vision sharpened as the forest grew around her. Twilight had followed her into wakefulness as her crossing neared. Trees speared the hospital room, floor to ceiling, invisible to all but her. A woodsy scent filled her nose and soft fae voices whispered excitedly. It was a place of magic and dreams, of fantasy and nightmare. There was no escaping its Shadows, not for anyone. No eluding it for long, even with Shadowman holding the darkness back. Everyone eventually had to travel the dark tunnel formed by its trees.
She'd been at its brink all her life.
"Kathleen," Shadowman said, a murmur at her ear. Of course he would be near.
"Not yet," Kathleen begged soundlessly. Heart failing, her lungs filled with fluid. "Please."
Maggie leaned in, face blotchy and white. "Honey, it's time. The baby needs to come out now. Stay with me, okay? I need you, sis."
She veered out of view as the doctor brushed something across the mound of Kathleen's stomach. The world blurred as the colors of Twilight became more distinct—deep vermillion, raging magenta, violent indigo. Static roared in her ears. Her heart clutched. Sensation both numbed and heightened in a frightening electric fission. A change.
Not pinned to a table. Not drowning. Not gasping for air.
Shadowman's arms tightened around her. Touching her for the second time in her life. His skin brushed hers. His hair tangled on her shoulder. His breath was warm at her neck.
Their first union had led to this moment, when he had crossed to her world, disregarding fae laws so they could be together, to touch just once. They'd stolen time, defied Fate, and created new life. She had never regretted it. Not even now.
With the Twilight forest behind her, Kathleen looked on the world through a thickening veil. Her mortal body lay collapsed on the operating table, eyes glassy, unfocused. A doctor worked at her belly. His hand disappeared into her skin.
"...she's in asystole…"
The doctor eased a small form out of her womb. The baby filled his palm, her skin tinged slightly blue and smudged with a whitish paste. Her face was scrunched, beautiful, while her pink tongue touched air.
Her baby. Her little love. Talia.
A wail rose in Kathleen's throat like gorge. She reached out her arms, straining toward her child. So small! Kathleen's fingertips grazed the mortal world.
But Shadowman held her tight against the wall of his chest. Into her ear, he said, "Forgive me."
"Please let me hold her." The separation from her child was a vacuum of pain in her chest. Every nerve screamed in protest. Her marrow burned while her skin went frigid. There was no heart pain like this scoring need, no injury or disease more vicious than tearing her from her child.
His lips moved against her cheek. "You know I cannot."
How could he be so cruel? Did his cold fae blood spare him this pain? The child was his, too.
Kathleen turned to face Death, bitter recriminations on her tongue. Shadowman looked down on her, gaze filled with sadness.
"She'll live," he said. "Even so small, her lifeline is strong."
"I want her. She's mine. Don't take me now." But Death had walked by her side since she was born, holding back the Shadows. She'd always known that one day she'd have to cross. She'd known that bearing her child would part the veil. She'd fought for this very moment.
Kathleen whirled back to view the receding world. Maggie was standing sentry next to the nurse, watching her siphon mucous out of the baby's nose. Prick for blood. Enclose her in a preemie unit. Her sister looked back once toward the action at the operating table, face grey, eyes aged, but she followed the child out of the room.
"The babe is strong," Shadowman said. "Like her mother."
Kathleen would have crumpled to the ground without his firm hold. "I want to know her. I want to be with her. It's not fair!"
She trembled uncontrollably, gripping his arms for support.
Shadowman was quiet too long, and a new horror bloomed in Kathleen's mind. She went very still. "Is she like you? Or like me?"
The fae were bound to the Between world, the twilight Shadowlands. They couldn't exist on Earth, or cross Beyond like humankind, to the Afterlife.
"She's both. A half-breed. Our daughter has a foot in each world," he said. "No one knows what she will become."
"So I may have lost her completely?"
"I don't know."
"And when I cross, I'll lose you, too?"
His silence answered her.
Pain turned to rage. Strength surged within her. "Nuh-uh. No way. I'll have you both."
"I warned you before." His face was in her hair, and she knew he was memorizing her. Taking everything he could before he passed her on to the Hereafter. The trees around them were already stretching into a dark tunnel to oblivion. They had only moments left.
"Yeah, well, I'm not going to accept it."
She felt a sad chuckle against her body. "Your spirit has always awed me."
"I'm not letting this happen."
"It has already happened." He took her face in his hands, traced her lips with his thumb. "It is the way of the three worlds."
Kathleen shook her head. "I was supposed to die when I was a kid, and I lived to bear my own," she said, "so I think I can handle this. What we need is a plan."
"How I love you." His gaze searched her face, fierce longing tugging at his black eyes.
The most important thing first: "You look after our girl. Keep her safe."
Just uttering those words sent fresh pain roaring through her.
He put a hand to her chest, as if to stop the hurt. "Shhh. Yes. How could I not?"
Faery whispers rose on all sides. The air thickened with magic. Kathleen felt Shadowman shift, drawing his cloak around her. They turned together to face the dark canopy, the tunnel to forever. A bright spark glimmered in the distance. The Afterlife.
Kathleen steeled her nerve. "And I'll find a way back to you both."