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  • Home > Sherrilyn Kenyon > Born of Ice     

    PROLOGUE

    “That right there is the meanest son of a bitch ever born.”

    Devyn Kell jerked his head up from his paperwork as he heard that deep, familiar voice coming from across the room.

    No. It couldn’t be…

    He barely bit back his smile as he saw the newcomer instantly through the group of milling soldiers who separated them in the mess hall.

    Adron Quiakides. Braggart. Womanizer. Lunatic…

    And his best friend since birth.

    Only a handful of years older than him, Adron had snow-white hair that fell in a braid down his back. A League assassin, Adron wore the uniform well. So black it absorbed light, it was a stark contrast to his hair and molded itself to every muscle the assassin possessed.

    His eyes were covered by a pair of opaque shades, but even so, Devyn knew their color better than his own. As a kid, he’d saved the right one from blindness after they’d had a race through a briar patch that had all but ripped it out.

    Devyn had won the race. But Adron claimed it was only because he’d almost lost his eye.

    As if that could ever slow one of them down…

    He hadn’t seen Adron in almost six months, a record for their tight friendship. He was definitely glad to see him now.

    “You mean Kell?” Devyn’s commanding officer choked as Adron draped his arm over Quills’s shoulders. “Are you high, Commander? He’s a friggin’ doctor. The only part of me he scares is my tonsils.”

    Adron tsked at Devyn’s CC, who’d done nothing but rag on him for the last two months since Devyn had been reassigned to this unit. The man really was lucky Devyn had learned to control his temper.

    Most days, anyway.

    Adron cuffed the CO on the back so hard, Quills actually staggered from the blow. “Yeah, that’s what he wants you to think. But trust me. I know his skills firsthand. His father was the notorious filch and assassin, C.I. Syn. His mother the legendary Seax, Shahara Dagan.”

    Devyn clamped his jaw tight to keep from drawing his blaster and shooting his best friend for letting out a secret he’d done his damnedest to keep.

    You ass**le.

    Quills gaped at them both. “He… Kell is their son?”

    “Oh, yeah. And I’ll do you one better. He was trained from birth to fight by the best assassin The League ever created.”

    Quills scoffed. “You mean there’s someone out there better than your father?”

    Adron shook his head as he shoved Quills away from him. “No, idiot. My father trained him.” He flashed an evil grin at Quills. “Just FYI, my father is also his godfather. So you want to be real nice to Dev. All of us take it personally when people aren’t.”

    Devyn rose to his feet as Adron closed the distance between them.

    He held his hand out and let his friend pull him into a tight man hug. “It’s good to see you again, aridos. But really… some discretion would have been nice. Out of character for your rotten ass, but nice.”

    Adron laughed good-naturedly as he released him. “C’mon, Dev. You need to let these ass**les know what you can do. Who you really are. They think you weak, they’ll step all over you.”

    A true assassin’s philosophy, but it wasn’t in Devyn’s nature to push people around. He was too easygoing for that.

    Well… again, most days.

    Devyn glanced around the room, noting they were the recipients of way too much attention.

    Yet true to Adron’s words, the soldiers in the room now held a respect for Devyn in their gazes that they’d never had before. “Being an arrogant braggart just doesn’t work for me.”

    Adron took his insult in stride. “You should try it. It really does grow on you, trust me.”

    Devyn laughed at his friend, who was much more like an older brother to him. “So what brings you here?”

    “People needed killing.” Adron’s tone was completely stoic about his brutal trade. “I was actually on my way back to The League and heard your unit had been dropped here. I just wanted to say hi before I left.”

    “Who was your target?”

    Adron leaned in to whisper so that no one else would know who he’d killed. “Emperor Abenbi.”

    Devyn was surprised by the name. “The Probekein leader?” Abenbi had once ordered the rape and death of Adron’s mother. It was a story they all knew well, and it was how Adron’s parents, as well as his own, had met. “Was it personal?”

    “It was an assignment…” A tic worked in Adron’s jaw. “And it was personal for what he put my mother through. Too long in coming, in my opinion, but it was legal, so my father should be proud.”

    “He’s always proud of you, Adron.”

    Adron didn’t comment. “How long are you here for?”

    “We’re evacing troops out of a hot zone and have some supplies for the civs. A few days and we’re clear.”

    “Good. I don’t want to be taking your body home to your mother.”

    “Yeah, she’d probably hurt you if you did.”

    “Probably so.” Adron grinned roguishly. “In all the universe, your mother is the only thing that truly scares me, especially where you’re concerned. I don’t ever want to be on her dark side.”

    “Ha ha. And need I remind you my mother wasn’t the one screaming at the pool when you got shoved in.”

    “Yeah, all right, so we both have screwed-up, irrational mothers. Anyway, I’ve got to get out of here. I took a little longer on assignment than I should have and if I don’t make check-in… I don’t want to be hunted and have to take out another assassin dumb enough to come after me.” He gave Devyn another quick hug. “Take care, little brother.”

    “You, too, A. I’ll see you around.”

    Adron inclined his head to him before he made his way back toward the doors.

    As soon as Adron was gone, Quills stepped forward. “Was he full of total shit about your parents?”

    Devyn had to force himself not to roll his eyes. If the man only knew the truth. Lethal venom ran through his blood from both sides of his family. He’d been bred for survival and had cut his teeth on skills this man couldn’t even imagine. “No, sir.”

    “Then if your parents are Syn and Dagan, why is your name Kell?”

    Because he was the grandson of one of the most ruthless criminals ever born and his parents had done everything they could to shield him from people who would judge and discriminate against him based on his ancestry alone. That paternal connection to a madman had ruined his father’s life twice before Devyn’s birth, and it had been hammered into him that he must always keep it a secret.

    And it was none of Commander Quills’s business.

    “Have to ask my father, sir. I didn’t pick my name. He and my mother did.” Gods, how he hated being obsequious to these pricks. Why had he joined the military again?

    To help people…

    Yeah, but it was getting harder and harder to take their crap and thank them for ramming it down his throat.

    His CO narrowed his gaze at him. “Are you being smart with me, Captain?”

    Devyn arched a sardonic brow. How stupid was Quills that he couldn’t tell that was a major affirmative?

    Before he could answer, Quills’s comlink went off. “Commander? There’s an attack on the road twelve miles down. We have orders to move out. Now.”

    Quills took off and left Devyn alone with the lieutenant who’d been sitting close to him. The young man’s face was pale and drawn.

    Devyn frowned. “You all right?”

    “I’ve never been in a battle before.”

    Poor kid, but he’d learn. “Don’t worry, Lieutenant. Your training will kick in and you’ll be fine.”

    “And if not, I’ll have you there to patch me back up. Right, Doc?”

    “Absolutely.”

    Inclining his head, the kid took off.

    Devyn grabbed his pack and weapon. He didn’t like the thought of battle anymore than the rookie, but this was what he’d signed up for…

    This was so not what he’d signed up for.

    Devyn was furious as he knelt on the ground where a boy lay in a bloody mess. No older than ten, his body had been shredded by a mine as the kid and his town had been caught in the crossfire of League troops trying to flush out a group of rebels. One arm was missing and his left leg would never be the same again.

    Provided he didn’t lose that, too.

    “I don’t want to die,” the boy cried. “I want my mommy.”

    Unfortunately, Devyn was pretty sure she lay among the bodies that littered the road and village.

    His hands shook as he tried to slow the boy’s bleeding. “What’s your name, kid?”

    “Omari.”

    “How old are you?”

    “Nine.” Omari sobbed, trying to rub the blood out of his brown eyes. His dark brown skin had been savaged by his multitude of injuries. “My birthday’s next month. I’m not going to die before my birthday, am I? My mom said I could finally have a puppy if I was good, and I’ve been real good so that I could have one. I don’t want to die without my puppy.”

    Devyn’s throat tightened at the boy’s panic and fear. He had to get him calmed down. “You go to school, Omari?”

    He shook his head. “The League blew it up. I was home sick that day. All my friends were killed.” He broke off into fierce sobs again as he continued to call for his mother at the top of his lungs. Baleful shrieks that were drowned out by the sounds of lasers, blasters and bombs exploding around them.

    Devyn had to bite back a curse. He’d joined The League to protect people. To keep predators from doing what their own soldiers had done to these people.

    Anger burned through him so raw and fetid that he could taste it.

    “Kell? What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

    He looked up at his CO as he reached for another bandage. “Trying to save a life.” He had to force himself to finish the sentence. “Sir.” But there was no way to keep the venom and disgust he felt out of his tone.

    Quills kicked dirt at them. “He’s nothing to us. We have soldiers bleeding. Get your ass moving and tend to them.”

    Devyn glanced at the men who were hurt, but nowhere near as badly as the kid in front of him. If he didn’t stop the bleeding, the kid didn’t stand a chance. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

    “You will do as you are told, soldier. Now move!”

    Devyn refused to budge. “In a minute.”

    Then Quills made the worst mistake of his life.

    He pointed his blaster at him. “Move or die.”

    Devyn scoffed bitterly as he heard his mother’s favorite phrase run through his head. He narrowed his gaze at his CO. “Never give someone a choice that doesn’t leave them with any way out except to hurt you.”

    “What?”

    “You want me to move?” Devyn shot to his feet and had the blaster out of Quills’s hands faster than he could blink. “How’s this?”

    “Arrest him!”

    League soldiers came at him from all directions. But Devyn didn’t care. The only thing that mattered to him was the kid at his feet.

    Omari.

    He hadn’t donned this uniform to slaughter civilians. To cut off town supplies and punish miners who were protesting The League’s cruelty to them. This was wrong, and he refused to be a part of a system this corrupt.

    He slammed the butt of the blaster into the first man to reach him. Another shot at him. He dodged the blast that cut down two other men before he took down the man aiming for his head. He pulled out his knives and went for the next one who tried to kill him.

    Turning around, he caught another attacker in the chest, and the next in his arm and throat.

    One by one, using the skills his parents and uncles had taught him, he brought down every soldier dumb enough to attack him until he stood alone.

    His conviction solid steel, he moved back to his commander, who lay sniveling on the ground. “You should have listened to Adron. I am the meanest son of a bitch ever born. And you …” He blasted his commander into unconsciousness. “Are a worthless piece of shit.”

    And Quills was lucky Devyn had enough of his Aunt Tessa in him to have mercy right now when he really wanted to kill the SOB. Either one of his parents would have cut his throat where he lay. But he wouldn’t be so cold…

    Tonight.

    Devyn paused as he looked over the men he’d wounded. Those who weren’t dead, anyway. They lay holding their wounds, but made no more moves to attack him.

    He’d made his point. Just because he was a doctor didn’t mean he was a wimp.

    They’d learned a valuable lesson tonight about attacking people they didn’t consider a threat.

    But as he stood there, reality hit him. By what he’d done, he’d declared war on The League. There would be no going back. They would hunt him like an animal and come for him, night and day.

    So be it.

    After all, he was a Wade through and through. And if Wades were anything, they were staunch survivors.

    May the gods have mercy on anyone dumb enough to come at him, because he wouldn’t.

    Turning around, he picked Omari up from the ground. “Don’t worry, kid. I’ll protect you. No one’s ever going to hurt you again.”

    Because he would kill anyone who ever threatened this kid.

    CHAPTER 1

    Nine years later

    Devyn Kell is the devil himself. He will not take mercy on you, and he will kill you if he finds out who you are and why you’re there. Trust me. I’ve buried every agent we’ve sent in after him—male, female and everything in between. Since he can spot an operative three seconds after he meets one, maybe a civ can bust his ass wide open.

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