(Bridge & Sword: Awakenings #1)
Publication date: April 22nd 2017
Genres: Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Science Fiction
From USA TODAY bestselling author, a psychic warfare alternative history set in a gritty version of Earth. Contains strong romantic elements – a book in the Bridge & Sword World. Apocalyptic. Psychic Romance.
“You are the Bridge…”
Allie Taylor lives in a world populated by seers, a second race discovered on Earth at the beginning of the 20th Century. Psychic, hyper-sexual and enslaved by governments, corporations and wealthy humans, seers are an exotic fascination to Allie, but one she knows she’ll likely never encounter, given how rich you have to be to get near one.
Then a strange man shows up at her work –– then another –– and pretty soon Allie finds herself on the run from the law, labeled a terrorist and in the middle of a race war she didn’t even know existed. Yanked out of her life by the mysterious and uncommunicative Revik, Allie discovers her blood may not be as “human” as she always thought, and the world of seers might not be quite as distant as she always imagined.
When Revik tells her she’s the Bridge, a mystical being meant to usher in the evolution of humanity––or possibly its extinction––Allie must choose between the race that raised her and the one where she might truly belong.
“Revi’, darling. Did we wake you?”
His answer was low, but his deep voice made me jump, almost cringe.
“It’s fine,” he said.
“Are you hungry?”
I took a breath, turned––and found his eyes locked on me. The look in them was narrow, cold, with a veiled hostility that took me aback.
The hostility was unmistakably aimed at me.
Ullysa didn’t seem to notice. “Of course you are.” She smiled. “And congratulations, Revi’. I am touched. Very touched. Good hunting, friend.”
Seeing that Ullysa was close to tears above her smile, I glanced again at Revik, feeling my nerves turn into actual fear when I saw his face. His skin had darkened; it was clear he knew exactly what Ullysa was talking about and didn’t appreciate the comment at all.
He averted his gaze when it caught mine, folding his arms across his chest.
I couldn’t take my eyes off his face.
Was he blushing?
He bowed slightly to Ullysa. “Thank you.”
Wiping her cheek, the woman smiled, then turned to go.
I found I couldn’t follow her out fast enough. Before I made it through the door, however, Ullysa turned, looking at me in surprise.
“Alyson. Where are you going?”
I froze. “Passport. Eggs. Shower…”
“Why don’t you stay here?” she suggested. “We will bring food for you both. It is too early for passports… and the shower can wait.”
I felt cornered. I glanced at Revik. His eyes were trained out the window, as gray as the sky. I looked back to Ullysa.
“No, actually, it can’t wait. The shower, I mean. Besides, I have to go to the bathroom. And I thought I might talk to you, and maybe some of the others.”
Ullysa’s eyes grew puzzled. “About what? We told you all of the news we knew last night. Nothing has changed since then.”
My jaw tightened. “Well, about the Bridge thing, then. Maybe you can explain what that means to you seers. You know, before I accidentally kill everyone on the planet.”
“I can talk to you about that,” Revik spoke up.
Startled, I glanced at him.
He continued to train his eyes out the window. Mine fell involuntarily to his bare upper body, taking in the leanness of his long frame and the banded muscle of his arms, a pale lattice of scars that crept up over one shoulder. He had an armband tattoo just above one bicep, I noticed, something I’d glimpsed when he started taking off his shirt in that park, without really seeing it. It looked like some kind of writing in black and gold lettering.
I saw the edge of what might have been another tattoo on the shoulder of the same side. He also had the standard barcode tat on his right arm, along with the “H” mark he’d shown me in the car, designating his race-cat.
His body without clothes looked somehow older than the rest of him.
That definitely wasn’t a bad thing, from my perspective.
I saw his fingers tighten on his upper arm, and looked away.
“Stay, if you want.” His voice remained flat, formally polite. “Shower, then come back.”
“No,” I said. “You should rest. I can annoy someone else with my questions for a while.” Seeing him about to answer, I said, “It’s fine, Revik. And I know your friends will want to see you.” I glanced down again. “Especially when you’re not wearing a shirt.”
His eyes seemed to flinch.
Staring at his long countenance, I found myself briefly lost there.
His eyes were still angry on the surface, but I could almost see the openness beneath, a vulnerability so much the opposite of his usual expression that I couldn’t help but stare. Remembering him pulling on me moments before, the softness of his face as he held me in sleep, I blinked at the two images superimposed over one another.
I tried to reconcile them, couldn’t.
My eyes shifted first, meeting Ullysa’s in my attempt to escape his.
Her returning smile held amusement. She folded her thin arms, quirking a pencil-darkened eyebrow at Revik.
Turning, I walked wordlessly out the door. I saw Ullysa’s eyes widen in surprise, just before she moved out of my way.
I didn’t stop walking. I didn’t even slow down enough to realize I didn’t know where I was going until I’d passed another three doors. Then I stopped dead, standing in the darkened corridor. By then, I was having trouble breathing.
Anxiety clenched my chest.
I held the wall, tried to turn it into anger, like he had.
The pull to go back to him was nearly physical in its intensity.
My mind fought to sift through details of the night before.
We definitely hadn’t had sex. Anyway, hadn’t those other seers said Revik was a prostitute? So was Ullysa, for that matter––so were all of the seers here. Sex wouldn’t faze them; it certainly wouldn’t have elicited such glee from Ullysa. Remembering what Kat said about Revik in that regard, what she’d shown me with her light, I fought with a hot flood of… God, something… that briefly took over my mind.
It grew intense enough to scare me, past any semblance of rational thought.
A memory flashed inside my mind––of seeing Jaden in that bar, of finding myself suddenly holding a bottle decorated with a strange woman’s blood.
Christ. Was it jealousy?
The stories I’d grown up hearing about seers started to come back, every feed broadcast I’d ever seen or heard about them and their sexuality. Yet most of those made no sense to me now. According to everything I’d heard, seers were incapable of relationships. They were sexually insatiable, and they didn’t discriminate. Remembering those flashes of Revik and his wife, Elise, I found myself thinking those stories couldn’t possibly be less compatible with what I’d seen.
In those memories, Revik felt intense love for his wife. He’d loved her to the point of insanity; he’d nearly killed himself over her.
The feeds also claimed seers were predatory with sex.
They said seers seduced humans by hooking into their victims’ fantasies and delusions until they lost themselves entirely inside the seer’s mind. Those stories always made it sound deliberate, though, and whatever happened between me and Revik the night before, it didn’t feel like Revik had done it intentionally.
In fact, he seemed to blame me for whatever occurred.
As the thought sunk in, I remember more about the night before.
I remembered asking him for something.
I remembered a promise.
It was vague, though. I remembered a lot of light, Revik crying.
Was he angry at me for that? Had I broken some kind of seer etiquette, asking him for something he didn’t want to give, something he didn’t feel he could refuse, because of who I was? He hadn’t seemed angry, though. Not last night.
He’d kissed me, hadn’t he? Or had I imagined that, too?
It definitely didn’t feel like we’d had sex. No matter how battered my body was, I was still like 98% certain I would have noticed. Besides, I wanted sex. I could tell Revik did, too. Even in his anger, I could feel that wanting on him. I might even have been waiting for him to wake up for that very reason.
The admission made me feel a little queasy.
Images rose from the night before, confusing me more.
Whatever that had been, it hadn’t felt like a dream. My attempts to convince myself I’d imagined it rang hollow, too. No, they were definitely memories. He’d been a Nazi… a married Nazi with a death sentence for murdering his commanding officer for screwing his wife.
That guy Terian had been there.
The pain in my stomach worsened. I knew some of it was that seer pain I’d felt before, but now it was mixing with the stress of not knowing how to process any of this.
I stared at a nearby ajar door breaking the dark walls of the corridor.
For a long moment, I only stared, without really seeing it––then my eyes clicked back into focus. I realized I was looking at a pink tile wall.
It was a bathroom.
Pushing off the wall, I made my way over to it, limping as my body’s battered state grew more noticeable. I closed the door behind me, only to stand there indecisively, my back pressed to the wood. Finally, I turned around and sat on the toilet.
It wasn’t until I’d relieved myself that it occurred to me that through that whole exchange with Ullysa and Revik, I hadn’t been wearing pants.
Clasping my hands between my bare knees, I let out a strangled laugh.
I sat there for what felt like a long time. My body was unbelievably sore. Not sex sore—just run of the mill falling down a hill after being handcuffed to a car then driving off a bridge and smacking my skull sore.
The nausea worsened as soon as my bladder wasn’t full enough to distract me. I gripped the edge of the pedestal sink, afraid I’d throw up if I tried to stand. It felt like some part of me had been broken and smashed, then reassembled with pieces missing––or maybe with new ones woven in with the old.
I still sat there, paralyzed, when Ullysa knocked.
After the second knock, she tried the handle. Opening the door cautiously, she handed through clean clothes and a basket with soap and shampoo. I felt her concern, and once she’d placed everything on the tile, I felt her hesitate, about to speak. Preempting whatever attempt she might make to communicate, I reached over with one foot to push the door shut.
Even through the door and intervening corridor, I could feel him.
His anger was still there, pulsing at me, but so was the other, unmistakable now, until the two wove together, impossible to separate as distinct feelings.
He wanted me to come back, I realized with a dim sort of confusion.
He was having the same reaction I was, and on more than one level.
For a moment I doubted what I felt, then a sliver of his pain hit me, weaving into some part of me I couldn’t see. My body’s reaction was immediate, and violent. My stomach hurt, but it wasn’t just that. I felt my face flush, my chest and thighs warm. I felt myself start to respond, to reach back in his direction, and I panicked, pulling that part of me back.
His pain worsened, turning liquid.
It was unmistakably sexual.
I was still sitting there when he dropped the pretense, asking me openly to return to the room. When I didn’t respond, he pulled on me harder, letting me feel the want behind it, until I clutched the edge of the sink.
Stop, I thought at him, gasping. Please, stop.
After the barest pause, his presence receded.
Somehow I remained lost in his light. My skin flushed as I realized the flavor of his thoughts. He was having trouble not fantasizing. He wanted me to come back. He wanted it so badly he wasn’t thinking rationally anymore. He wanted to fuck. The word hit at me; the desire behind it stole my breath, making me clutch the sink harder.
On the surface, he asked me again. Politely, that time.
When I let out a short laugh, his mind retreated. But not entirely.
I felt him thinking again. Then he started to open his light. I felt emotion expand off him; that vulnerability I’d glimpsed in the room mixed with his desire, enveloping me. It grew stronger as it intensified his pain, as it slid deeper into my light––
I panicked, pushing him back.
That time, he withdrew until I barely felt him.
Still flushed, I staggered to my feet, buying myself time by examining the bruises that ran all along my legs and arms. Limping to the tub, I bent to twist the porcelain shower knobs all the way to hot. I tugged the shirt over my head, dropping it on the floor. As water heated in the ancient pipes, I stood in the basin, shivering.
I tried to ignore the waiting I felt behind his silence.
Allie, he sent softly. …please.
The pull behind it cut my breath.
Gaos… please. Please…
Pain flickered around the spaces between us, and for an instant, I hesitated, staring at that void, feeling it with him. The lost feeling worsened.
Then I stepped under the hot water.
I let my mind go blank as the smell of steaming hot lake water rose off my hair, sliding off my body like a second skin. I lowered my head as the water beat at it, sending brown, brackish water down the sides of the tub and into the drain.
I felt him watch me as I continued to stand there.
His light flickered around mine, silent, waiting.
For a long time, it didn’t move away.
JC Andrijeski is a USA TODAY bestselling author who writes paranormal mysteries and apocalyptic fiction, often with a sexy, romantic and metaphysical bent. JC has a background in journalism, history and politics, and loves martial arts, yoga, meditation, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, painting… and of course reading and writing. She grew up in the Bay Area of California, but travels extensively and has lived abroad in Europe, Australia and Asia, and from coast to coast in the continental United States. She currently lives and writes full-time in Bangkok, Thailand.
To learn more about JC and her writing, please visit jcandrijeski.com.
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