The End of Darkness
The Offspring, Book 7
Jaime Rush (January 13, 2013)
The dark energy that infects Magnus McLeod’s soul draws him to an Arizona town in crisis—and a woman with a dangerous ability of her own. Erica Evrard isn’t afraid of much, but suddenly she has much to fear. Like Magnus, whose noble heart brings her to life even as his Darkness could kill her. And the group of supernatural humans whose evil plans threaten an entire town.
END OF DARKNESS has been nominated for RT Book Reviews’ Reviewer’s Choice Awards for best Indie-Pubbed PNR!
Read an Excerpt
Magnus McLeod came to with a violent start, sitting up so fast, the room spun. Even so, he instantly knew this wasn’t his bedroom. Or a hospital. Lachlan stood next to his bed with an odd expression, both relieved and like he was about to tell Magnus his legs were missing.
Lachlan leaned forward and held him tight for a few moments. “Thank God.”
Magnus hardly enjoyed the hug, preoccupied with wanting to make sure his body parts were intact. The second Lachlan stepped back, Magnus did a visual check. Legs, aye, and they moved at his command. Arms, fingers, all accounted for.
Lachlan peered into Magnus’s face. “You alright, Maggie?” The childhood nickname Lachlan had given him when Magnus started calling him Locky, a bit of teasing between two brothers.
“Seem to be, other than feeling muzzy, like I was on a bender and slept for twenty-four hours.” He rubbed his hand over his face, feeling several days’ worth of beard. “How long have I been sleeping? Where am I? What happened?” He took in the room with its light brown walls and framed pictures of the Wizard of Oz.
Lachlan said, “You’re in Cheveyo and Petra’s guest room in downtown Annapolis. They’ve been taking care of you while Jessie and I dealt with her uncle. Which felt like it lasted for weeks but was only a few days.”
“Jessie.” Magnus pictured the lass he was keen on, a pixie of a thing with brown hair. “I’ve been stuck in this dream about being at the carnival and some man trying to hurt her. I tried to protect her, and he turned into a black beast.” His hand went to his neck, but the words cut as deeply as the memory of claws slicing his throat.
Bloody hell. Memory, not a dream.
“You were killed,” Lachlan said softly.
“Jessie?” He looked beyond Lachlan, finding no one else in the room. Cold fear washed over him. “Is she alright?”
“Aye, she’s fine now.” Lachlan shook his head. “That’s the kind of guy you are. I tell you that you died, and you’re worried about her.”
“You say it like it’s a bad thing.”
Lachlan’s laugh had no humor. “No, it just shows what a damned good guy you are.”
Again, sounded like a bad thing.
Lachlan leaned against the side of the bed. “She healed you.”
“Healed psychically?” He felt a thrumming energy in his body, an odd heaviness as though his soul had gained a hundred pounds. Which made no sense.
Lachlan’s expression darkened. “You were dying, just like I saw in the vision I warned you about.”
Aye, the vision where Lachlan had seen Magnus dead at the carnival, Jessie standing over him. “You did see the future. I guess you’ll toss me an ‘I told you so’ and deservedly so. Who was the guy that tried to kill me?”
Lachlan leaned against the footboard. “Her uncle. Bastard was hunting her for years. He’s dead now,” he added when Magnus stiffened at the thought of the guy hurting her. “What happened in the days after your attack, why Jessie was on the run, that’s a story for later.”
“He turned into a bloody beast. That wasn’t my imagination, right? Because over and over I’ve been living it, seeing him morph into a black creature.”
“It wasn’t your imagination.” Lachlan released a long breath. “You need to understand that you were dying, and we had to make a choice. Jessie and I.”
The mention of her name had Magnus glancing at the door. “Where is she? I need to see her.”
“You were right when you told me there was something special about her. She’s got enhanced abilities like us, but she’s not an Offspring.”
Magnus digested that for a moment. “So that means what, that she didn’t have a parent in the same secret government program Dad was in?” The program for psychically gifted people who were given the DNA of a bloke from a parallel dimension to enhance their abilities—DNA their offspring inherited.
“Her father is from the other dimension. And she was even more special. She held Darkness. So did the man who turned to beast. In the parallel dimension, they aren’t allowed to express their emotions, so they repress them. All those emotions accumulated into this mass of energy called Darkness. Jessie’s father and uncle tapped into it and drew it into their bodies. They could channel it to change into an animal of sorts. As you saw.”
“I saw, all right. But why are you still looking at me like I’ve lost a limb?”
Lachlan’s jaw tensed. “The price of Jessie’s healing was that she had to infuse Darkness into you. I told her to do it. I made the choice.”
Something inside Magnus went numb as Lachlan’s words sank in. “So that…beast is in me?” That had to be the heaviness he felt.
“You can choose what form it takes by focusing on a particular animal. Jessie’s dad will work with you. You have to learn to control Darkness, or it’ll take you over.”
Magnus pulled himself to the side of the bed and tested his weight. His legs were shaky. Lachlan moved closer, hands out to steady him. Magnus used the headboard to stand. “Where is Jessie?” At Lachlan’s ever-darkening expression, his chest tightened. “I need to see her.” That need raged through him, making him want to start tearing furniture apart until someone brought her to him.
Lachlan drove his fingers back through hair much shorter and neater than Magnus had ever seen it. “You can’t. Darkness has other side effects. It can make you volatile when you experience high emotions. And it makes you possessive and madly jealous to the point of being deadly to anyone you see as a rival to the woman you feel is yours.”
“I don’t feel she’s mine.” They hadn’t even kissed, but he did feel…oddly possessive, aye. “It’s just that I’ve spent days of unconsciousness caught in a loop of those last several minutes with her.”
Lachlan shifted from one foot to the other. “She’s at Sanctuary.” Their family compound in the woods.
Magnus knew that nervous shift. He’d seen it whenever Lachlan was about to admit he’d broken something, like the time he’d put a ding on Magnus’s sword when they were lads. “Out with it, Locky. What aren’t you telling me?”
Lachlan bowed his head, pain wracking his features. No, this was worse than anything like that. “I’m the lowest of the low. She and I went through hell together. We fought the pull between us, I swear it. I tried to be an arse—as you know I can be—but she saw something inside me even I didn’t see.” He met Magnus’s gaze. “I love her. I didn’t mean to, but I love her, and all I can do is ask your forgiveness.”
He knew his brother would never do anything to hurt him, and his regret was clear. So was his love for Jessie. So why did the words, “You stole my girl while I was recuperating?” come roaring out of his mouth?
Lachlan hung his head. “She wasn’t your girl yet, but aye, that’s the bottom line. I am pond scum. The scum that lives beneath the pond scum.”
Anger unfurled inside him. Even weak, Magnus was big enough to pound Lachlan but good. He took a deep breath, pulling back all that fury, and made his way to the window to stare out into an alley between the townhouses. “I forgive you.” He meant it, but the words still felt gritty as they left his mouth. “You’re right, she wasn’t my girl.” He turned to Lachlan from a safer distance. “So this Darkness is why I want to smash in your head over it?”
Lachlan’s mouth tightened. “Aye. I deserve it, too, but I’d rather you not. I don’t want to lose you over it, but I could no sooner break it off with her than cut off my hand. Once you’ve met someone else, you’ll move on. Remember what you told me not long ago: the feelings you have for a woman always fizzle out like a soda left out too long.”
Aye, he had said that, and he’d experienced it many a time. But Jessie felt different. Now he knew why.
Lachlan waved his hand dismissively. “You’ll find other women. Hell, you draw them like flies.”
Magnus crossed his arms over his chest. “Thanks for that lovely analogy. Makes me sound like a pile of shite.”
“I was thinking a candy bar or maybe a glob of jelly on the sidewalk.”
It felt like one of many exchanges, but everything was different now. Lachlan was happy and in love, both new for him. Magnus held something otherworldly and dangerous.
He didn’t want another woman. He breathed Jessie, the need for her. The need to posses her. He felt her in his cells, something he’d never experienced before. Nor had he ever felt jealousy. If a woman he was dating wanted to move on, Magnus wished her well with nary a hard feeling. He flexed his fingers. “And if I feel proprietary about a woman, I’ll hurt anyone who flirts with her? Or hurt the woman?” An unfathomable thought.
“Potentially. I’m sorry for what comes with Darkness, but not for making the decision. I wasn’t going to let you die.”
No, he wouldn’t, not after everything they’d already lost. “I would have done the same, brother.” The sight of his sword, leaning against the wall with the tip buried in the carpet, brought comfort. He picked it up, running his fingers down the flat part of the blade. “You took a chance bringing this here.”
“It’s like an old friend. Thought you might like it nearby.”
Magnus swung it around, holding the blade a foot away from Lachlan. “Were you not afraid I’d cleave off your head when I found out about Jessie?”
Lachlan remained still, no fear on his face. “You’ve got a much deadlier weapon inside you now. If you’re of a mind to kill me, I’m going to go one way or another.”
Magnus held the sword up, studying the ornate hilt. He wouldn’t need his sword anymore? How much more would he lose?
A knock sounded on the door, and Cheveyo opened it and peered inside. “Everything all right?” His Hopi heritage was clear in his coloring and dark hair. That he’d once spent his days hunting down supernatural vermin showed in his warrior bearing. Especially when he saw the sword in Magnus’s hand and stepped inside, ready to contain him.
Magnus let him know that wouldn’t be necessary by setting the sword down. He reached over and shook Cheveyo’s hand. “Thanks for everything.”
He’d only met Cheveyo once, Petra a few more times, so it was damned nice of them to take care of him. Made him feel odd though, being passed out at their house.
“You’ll be okay,” Cheveyo said. “I don’t know how similar Darkness is to my ability, but when I get worked up, I feel my cat want to take over. You need to practice, get comfortable with Darkness, because control is everything. I’ve got a place out near Flagstaff, Arizona. Why don’t you spend some time in new surroundings?” Away from Jessie, he didn’t say. “Take as long as you want. We’re staying here, waiting for Amy to have her baby. I couldn’t pry Petra away now. Stay for the shower and then head out.”
Magnus had planned on attending the baby shower, since the guys in their group of Offspring were invited too. That was before he’d been infected. The heavy feeling was like the blackest part of the night inside him. “I’m not in the mood for the party, but I’ve got gifts for the baby.” He pinned Lachlan with a look. “You’ll take them, right?” Make him go to a baby shower, small retribution for stealing his lass.
“Anything for you,” Lachlan said, clearly meaning it. But Magnus saw his upper lip twitch at the thought.
Anything but give up Jessie.
He turned to Cheveyo. “Your place sounds like exactly what I need.” Especially if Lachlan and Jessie were staying at Sanctuary.
Lachlan walked closer. “Spend some time with Jessie’s dad. He’ll tell you what you need to know.” He put his hand on Magnus’s arm. “Take a week or so, work through it. But keep in touch. My brother once told me that we had to stick together because we were all we have.”
But that was before one of them became a beast…and the other fell in love.
Erica Evrard trolled through her Google Alerts, just like she did every night. Only the computer screen lit up the small bedroom, splashing pale light over a desk covered in notes and maps, and a bed she shared with no one.
First post: a new serial killer novel coming out from Erica Fleming. Not a well-known author, just a woman trying to make a small living from writing novels based on the wretchedness she read about in all those newspaper stories. The evil she faced down in dark places. She deleted that one.
The second entry detailed a possible serial killer in Strasford, Arizona, a sick son of a bitch who ripped out people’s hearts while they were still alive. The authorities were baffled, not completely ruling out a wild animal, given the claw marks left behind. That the bodies were left intact made it seem more like a sick human act. The three victims were female visitors to the small desert town not far from Las Vegas.
The serial killer wasn’t the locals’ only concern. They’d been experiencing tremors, despite the fact that no fault line existed beneath their town. People were on edge, prone to violent attacks and fits of rage. A seismologist was investigating the tremors, but they had no leads as far as the so-called Heart Ripper was concerned.
She stared at the lines that crisscrossed the backs of her hands and arms. Every time she used the ability she’d dubbed Lightning, because of how the lines looked, the scars moved farther up her arms. Closer to her heart.
She mapped the route to Strasford and shut down her computer. Time to pack and hunt down a killer.
Praise & Reviews
“The End of Darkness was everything I needed to complete the Offspring series. It was action packed, intense, passionate and included a subplot involving my favorite emotionally challenged Callorian. Yes the ending was bittersweet; it made me cry but it was a good cry.” —Mel Thomas, Smashattackreads.com
“Longtime fans of Rush’s Offspring series will be pleased to learn that Rush is self-publishing the thrilling conclusion to her suspenseful series that featured intriguing elements of the paranormal and extraterrestrial. This finale addresses not only the romantic relationship of Magnus McLeod, but also Pope, the mysterious alien featured throughout the series. Kudos to Rush for creating and delivering an exceptional romantic suspense series!” —Jill M. Smith, RT Book Reviews