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Starfire

Starfire, April 2011
Demonslayers #3
by Kate Douglas

Kensington Zebra
Featuring: Dawson; Selyn
352 pages
ISBN: 1420110012
EAN: 9781420110012
Kindle: B004IWR3DS
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"Geeky Vet Meets Warrior Woman In Book 3 of the Demonslayers. Fun is Had by All."

Fresh Fiction Review

Starfire
Kate Douglas

Reviewed by Diana Troldahl
Posted March 26, 2011

Paranormal Romance

Selyn has been a liaison between Talon and the other daughters of the forgotten ones, slaving in the mines under the fists of the guards left to keep them prisoner. After meeting the contact who may help lead her and her sisters to freedom, she has been caught in the upper levels, far from her allotted place by one of the worst of the guards. Beaten and left for dead, she is found and brought to Earth and put into the care of the man Dawson who looks at her with an emotion she has never experienced. Her duty lies with helping her sisters to become armed with crystal swords so they can win their freedom and take their rightful places defending Lemuria against the demon incursion.

Dawson Buck is more than happy to help his friends in any way he can. He loves being part of the saving of legendary Lemuria. It's as if he were living in one of his beloved fantasy books. When he sees Selyn, sees what has been done to her, it brings home again that these people are not only fighting for their land against the demons like those he has encountered, they are risking their lives and it is far from fantasy. He knows Selyn has never known a kind touch from a man, the only men she knows are the cruel guards, one of whom did the damage he is doing his best to repair. He fights to keep his feelings in check, knowing Selyn is worth every bit of patience he can muster.

STARFIRE is book three of the Demonslayers series, and I think the best of the three. Although I enjoyed the main characters of the first two books, and was engrossed in the storylines, this one surpasses them in complexity and excitement. The two love interests could not be more different, and the process of them coming together is a wonderful read. The continuing story arc is brought to fever pitch as solutions are found to problems posed in the first two books. I have to say, Selyn is one of my all-time favorite female characters, and I have felt affection for veterinarian Dawson Buck since encountering him in Book 2 where he sucked up the demon mists and froze them into little evil ice cubes. (I tell you Kate Douglas is a great story teller). I was delighted to learn Dawson would have his own love story, and the reality lived up to my hopes.

Learn more about Starfire

SUMMARY

Conquered, the Demon king has been banished to Abyss - but he is far from dead. A greater danger awaits Ginny Jones and hte Demonslayers in this spellbinding, highly sensual paranormal romance...

Stand By Me

The women of Lemuria are still in chains. The daughter of an enslaved warrior, brutally attacked by a vicious guard, Selyn has survived - barely. Beaten and terrified, she must overcome her fear: Dawson Buck, one from Earth who has crossed through the portal, a gifted healer. His skills and knowledge renew her body and strengthen her spirit - and awaken a compelling passion she has never known. But she cannot yield...

Selyn seeks revenge for herself and her mother and all the Forgotten Ones who toil in secret. If Dawson helps her, his own life may be forfeit. And for Selyn, true love does not ask such sacrifices...

Excerpt

StarFire Book 3 of The DemonSlayers

Chapter 1

The Legend Thousands of years ago, following the disastrous DemonWars, the continent of Lemuria disappeared beneath the sea, much in the manner of the lost continent of Atlantis. To save their civilization, Lemurians relocated their entire society to a sanctuary deep within the dormant volcano known as Mount Shasta in the rugged mountains of northern California. There, the immortal Lemurians have maintained a peaceful and entirely non-violent civilization in a separate dimension within the volcano for thousands of years. Recently though, many among them have begun to recognize the importance of keeping Earth's population safe in order to protect their own society-a society that has kept dark secrets even from its own. Those secrets now threaten the very fabric of all worlds as humans and Lemurians take up arms in the ages old battle against the evil that is demonkind. # The crystal mines beneath Lemuria Selyn pressed her back against the sharp stones lining the cavern wall and attempted to become one with the shadows. She listened intently as Roland's footsteps receded in the distance and faded into silence. Even when the only sound Selyn heard was the ragged whisper of her own breathing, she waited. If the amazing secrets Roland had shared with her were true, they were too close to success to take any chances now. Too close-finally-to tasting the freedom that had forever eluded the forgotten daughters of the exiled women warriors of Lemuria. Anger welled up inside, a harsh and biting pain reminding Selyn once more of her need for revenge, of her soul- numbing hatred for the people who had condemned her mother, her sisters-all of them-to lives of slavery. Such was the reward mighty Lemuria gave its bravest warriors. Slavery until death brought release from toiling in the fetid mines far beneath the bright levels where the free folk lived. Toiling where the air was thick with the pollution of their labors, fouled by the seething anger carried within the hearts and souls of the Forgotten Ones. Selyn clenched her fists and closed her eyes against the simmering pain of resentment. Not now. She could not allow herself the luxury of anger. Roland had cautioned her, and she would listen. He was a good man-the only good man she'd ever known. A true son of Lemuria, not one of the sadistic wardens who kept the women imprisoned in the mines, and definitely not one of those damned aristocrats who thought themselves above the common folk. No, Roland understood honor and integrity. His loyalty was to his world, not to the few who governed so unfairly. He'd become a good friend over the past few days since they'd met-a brave and true friend. Braver than most because he had more to lose-a wife, a child, his position as a respected sergeant of the Lemurian Guard. Selyn risked nothing. She'd long ago accepted the fact that, as a slave, her life had no value. As a free woman- even if she were of the aristocracy-she would have no voice. Gods willing, that was soon to change. She remembered the stories her mother had told, and they gave her hope. There'd been a time when women held positions of honor as members of the Council of Nine, when mothers had fought demons beside their men as respected equals, and gender had neither defined nor limited status or personal autonomy. That time-that honor-would be theirs once again. Finally, Selyn and the other Forgotten Ones sensed freedom. Freedom and change, and a chance for revenge. # Roland of Kronus caught Alton's terse warning the moment he reached the upper levels of Lemuria. Damned telepathy was next to useless between levels and entirely worthless between dimensions, but obviously it was working now. This was a message he'd been dreading ever since the invasion of demonkind into Earth's dimension had begun. Alton's steady voice carried more assurance than Roland felt, but Alton of Artigos had been raised to a life of privilege, destined to one day rule their world. His confidence was inborn, and it appeared he was finally getting his chance. But nine hells, the risk to all of them could not be denied. We're moving against my father tonight, Alton said. Ginny and I are hiding out in Taron's rooms until it's time to act. Artigos must be removed from the Council of Nine as soon as possible. There's no doubt he's possessed by demonkind. It has to happen now-I need a firm grasp on the council before Taron arms the Forgotten Ones. Roland nodded as he answered, considering his next steps even as he updated Alton on the latest contact with Selyn. The Forgotten Ones had to be told of Alton's plans with the council, which meant Roland needed to get back to Selyn without alerting her guards. He should update Taron as well-if he could find him. Roland had a general idea where he'd gone, but it would mean traveling even deeper into the bowels of Lemuria. Taron had been far below and out of touch for days, creating enough crystal swords to arm each of the Forgotten Ones. He should have close to the full one hundred blades by now, each one perfectly attuned to a particular female slave. One hundred crystal blades capable of sentience-alive with the souls of ancient warriors and, so far, the only effective weapon against the scourge of demonkind. With the thought of those crystal blades in mind, Roland replied to Alton. I'll return to the mines now. Selyn, the Forgotten One I've been in contact with, needs to know of our plans, the fact the timetable has been moved up, so that she can keep the others informed. I'll try and contact Taron as well. I promise to be back before you move against Artigos. Roland also sent a quick message to his beloved wife. Chara was used to the long hours he kept, though she had no idea the danger he faced. There was no point in alarming her with the truth of his actions-that he was involved in a desperate insurgency against Lemuria's current leadership. No point at all. Sighing, Roland turned back along the dark tunnel, quickly retracing his steps, returning to the lower levels where the Forgotten Ones toiled. # The steady drip, drip, drip and the soft hum of overtaxed air purifiers were the only sounds Selyn heard as she cautiously pushed herself away from the cavern wall and moved silently through darkness to the sleeping quarters. With any luck she might be able to catch a couple hours of rest before her shift started, but she'd missed the evening meal and it would be a long time until she had another opportunity to break fast. A hulking shadow suddenly filled the narrow passageway. Light glinted off pale eyes set in a massive frame a full foot and a half taller and three times wider than her own. Nine hells. As usual, her luck sucked. Selyn straightened to her full height, raised her chin and looked the guard in the eye. That alone should be enough to piss him off. If she could make him angry enough, he might even forget to ask why she was wandering along a passage so far from the slaves' quarters. “Ah, Birk. Fancy meeting you here.” She folded her arms across her chest and hoped he couldn't see how she trembled. Showing fear was the same as giving up. Selyn never showed fear. Never would she give up. The huge guard didn't say a word. His fist came out of nowhere. The crushing blow to her cheekbone left her lying dazed and barely conscious on the ground. He planted his hands on his hips and leaned over her. “So, bitch. You want to tell me what you're doing out here?” Blinking back the shooting lights blinding her vision, Selyn slowly shook her head. He grabbed her hair in a meaty fist and jerked her to her feet. “Ouch! Nine hells!” She twisted, but he grabbed her breast through the thin cloth of her robe and squeezed, digging his thick fingers into soft flesh. “Ah!” Excruciating pain blinded her. Frantically, Selyn bucked and writhed, but his fingers only tightened on her breast and in her hair. She lashed out with her bare foot, and connected just below his right knee. Birk cursed. His leg buckled and he lost his grip on her breast. Selyn jerked her head up as he fell and slammed him under the chin, but her long hair was still tangled in his fist and he pulled her down with him. Scrambling beneath his massive weight she broke free, kicked again and caught him soundly between the legs. Birk roared in pain and clutched his balls, but her hair was still trapped in his fist. He jerked her head sharply down and caught her between his thighs. Twisting, turning, Selyn struggled for freedom. Birk flipped her beneath him, clamping down on her head and shoulders with his powerful legs. Enraged, he tore his hand free of her hair and punched her with both fists, landing powerful blows across her chest and along her ribs. She felt one rib crack, and then another. Gasping, unable to move or catch her breath, her vision clouded. She couldn't breathe, couldn't fight, could not give up. Not this close. Not with freedom only days away. Blow after blow slammed into her ribs. Frantically Selyn sucked in a breath of life-giving air and tasted blood. Darkness broken by fitful flashes of sparking lights closed in on all sides as the terrible pounding continued. Then, somehow, she floated free, apart from the hammering fists, as if she hovered in a separate space, beyond pain, beyond fear. Maybe freedom would finally come as her mother's had-in death. Did it really matter anymore? Selyn no longer felt the blows, even as Birk continued to pummel her unresisting body. A beautiful, achingly familiar face swam hauntingly just beyond her reach. With split and bleeding lips Selyn whispered her mother's name. “Elda?” There was no answer, no sign of recognition, but it was okay. She knew her mother had found peace in death. She'd come to Selyn in her dreams and told her daughter she'd been reborn to fight again-reborn in a crystal sword called DemonSlayer. Was that to be Selyn's path out of this hellhole? Through death? No matter. Not anymore. Giving in to the darkness, Selyn gratefully embraced the only freedom she had ever known. At last. Freedom, and darkness, and death. # As soon as he reached Selyn's level in the caverns, Roland cast out his thoughts. Though he'd only known her a few days-since first venturing into the mines in search of proof of the terrible rumors of slave-keeping-the young woman always responded immediately, even if he awakened her from sleep. This time, he heard nothing. A great void where her active mind should be. He glanced along the shadowed tunnel and prayed to the gods he'd not be discovered. He had no business at this level. None at all, but Selyn should have answered by now. He grasped his crystal sword and walked purposefully down the dark passageway. Calling silently for Selyn, he rounded a slight curve and stopped dead. A body lay in the middle of the corridor. A woman's body. From the long tangled mass of her coal black hair and the coppery color of her skin, it could only be Selyn. Roland glanced both ways, saw no one, and raced to her side. Her eyes were closed, her face battered and swollen, her slave's robe badly torn. Bloody saliva foaming at the corner of her lips was the only sign the girl still lived. Roland couldn't risk a call for help. The only ones strong enough to have hurt Selyn this badly were the wardens who guarded the Forgotten Ones. Selyn's latest trip to meet him at the upper level must have been discovered, but how could anyone have done such a horrible thing? Gently, he pressed his fingertips to the big artery in her throat and felt for her pulse. Erratic, unsteady, it fluttered beneath his fingertips. He glanced about, saw and heard nothing but his own harsh breathing, and accepted his duty. He had to get her out of here, and hope like the nine hells she lived long enough for him to find a healer. Carefully, Roland slipped his hands beneath her slim body and lifted her as gently as he could. He cradled the broken young woman against his chest and carried her down the dark tunnel, passing through portals and eventually reaching the first set of steps without anyone spotting him. Then he began the long climb to the surface. But where could he take her? Not to anyone in Lemuria. Members of the aristocracy claimed ignorance of slavery's existence. Roland hadn't wanted to believe Lemuria had slave labor, but fear the rumors were true had driven his search. What he'd found was worse than anything he could possibly have imagined. No, he'd not find help for Selyn in Lemuria. It would have to be someone in Earth's dimension. She was still alive, but barely, when Roland finally reached the upper levels and made contact with Alton. The young aristocrat didn't hesitate. He set his earlier plans for tonight's coup aside and told Roland where they could safely meet. Less than an hour later, Roland passed through the Lemurian portal that led directly into the energy vortex in Bell Rock, a large formation outside of Sedona, Arizona. Alton waited in the dark chamber with his woman, Ginny Jones, close beside him. The Lemurian heir to the council took one look at the battered woman in Roland's arms and cursed, shaking his head in dismay. “Ah, Roland, my friend. How could this be?” Roland was shocked to see Alton's eyes sparkling with compassionate tears-tears that reaffirmed Roland's decision to follow the young aristocrat no matter where he might lead. This was not a man interested in power. No- Alton's only goal was a strong and vital Lemuria, and equality for all its citizens. Ginny gasped and stepped close. “Oh, my god.” She lightly touched the pulse point on Selyn's throat and looked up at Roland. “She's still alive, but her pulse is so weak. Who did this to her?” Roland shook his head. Anger, frustration and his fear for the girl's life had him blurting out, “One of the gods-be- damned guards, I imagine. I hear they treat the women most cruelly, but I've never seen anyone so viciously beaten.” “Will she live?” Alton's soft question calmed him. He sighed. “I don't know. I'm sure she's got broken ribs, internal injuries. She's a tough one, though. At least she's still breathing.” Alton wrapped his arm protectively around Ginny. “I had no idea when you contacted me that she was so badly injured.” He glanced at Ginny. “Do you think Dawson can help her? He's a veterinarian, after all, not a doctor for humans.” Ginny stared at Selyn so intently, Roland felt as if she were trying to force the injured woman to heal by the strength of her will alone. “He's going to have to,” she said. “Alton, we have to see if Dax and Eddy can bring BumperWillow. Willow might be able to help, but we need to hurry. Roland? Can you come with us?” He'd not spent much time in Earth's dimension, and never here in Sedona. It was forbidden, after all, but a young woman's life was, literally, in his hands. “Yes,” he said, gazing at the battered girl he held as gently as he could. “I can.” Alton led the way through another, smaller portal. They stepped out into a cavern almost identical to the first. “We just moved from one side of Sedona to the other,” he said. He pointed to a shimmering gateway on one wall. “That's a secret portal we've discovered that leads directly to the chambers of the Council of Nine. I don't have time to explain it now, but do not use it to return. It's too dangerous. We'll go this way.” He nodded toward another glowing portal. “We're meeting a friend of ours here who should be able to help the girl.” Lightly he touched Roland's shoulder. “I can take her if you're getting tired. He'll have his vehicle waiting nearby.” Roland nodded. “I'm okay. Let's hurry.” Even though his arms ached from carrying her, Roland didn't want to risk further injury to Selyn by shifting her to Alton's grasp. She hadn't stirred, but she drew soft, shallow breaths, proof she still lived. Thank the gods she was unconscious and, hopefully, unaware of her pain. They stepped out into a star-filled night. Roland had seen stars once before, when he'd fought demons a few days earlier on the flanks of Mount Shasta, but he knew he'd never get the chance to see them enough. Damn it all, but his people had lost too much when their continent sank beneath the sea. They had survived these many millennia, but at what cost? Life without stars, without the warmth of the sun. Anger gave Roland strength for the short hike down the dark path. He was still grumbling to himself when they rounded a curve in the trail. Alton flashed his handheld light at a large vehicle waiting in the shadows. A dark-haired man- tall for a human-climbed out and quickly opened the back door. Roland nodded without speaking and carefully slid into the wide seat with Selyn still in his arms. Ginny took the seat just ahead. Alton got in beside the driver in the front. The two men conversed softly, but Roland couldn't hear what they said. Ginny remained quiet, though she'd turned and was watching Selyn. After a short drive, they pulled into a well-lit yard with a low, sprawling building that appeared to be made of smooth stone. Holding Selyn as gently as possible, Roland quietly followed the other three as they led him inside the structure. They walked down a long hallway into a brightly lit room behind a heavy set of double doors, where he finally laid his bruised and bleeding burden down on a narrow bed. # Finishing up after a long day at the clinic, Dawson Buck had been prepared for another quiet night at home when his cell phone rang. He'd certainly never expected to hear Alton's voice. When he'd recently offered to help his new friends in their battle against a demon invasion, Dawson honestly hadn't thought anyone would actually call. He was, after all, merely human. What good could a mortal do among creatures who were not only immortal but capable of things he'd only read of in his favorite science fiction novels? But when Alton told him that one of their kind was badly injured and needed medical attention, Dawson hadn't hesitated. He'd quickly finished up the nightly feeding of his canine and feline patients, locked the doors to his clinic, and raced to the parking lot at Red Rock Crossing near the energy vortex at Cathedral Rock. And there he'd waited. He'd had plenty of time to think about the changes in his life since that morning a little over a week ago when he'd arrived a bit late at his veterinary clinic and discovered the place was already filled with dozens of animal patients-all exhibiting the same unbelievable behavior. He knew his staff thought he was slightly nuts when he'd suggested the pets were all possessed by demons. Of course, he was well aware that his capable young assistant as well as the women who worked for him figured his off- beat diagnosis was part of his charm. They loved to tease him about his easy acceptance of the mystical stories about the land around Sedona and the energy vortexes that most folks thought of as nothing more than fodder for the tourist trade. His Aunt Fiona had been the only one who truly understood him. When he was little and talked to his imaginary friends, she'd called him fey. As he'd grown older and lost himself in books with tales of the unusual and unexplained, she'd merely nodded and said he was learning to understand things that a lot of his real-life friends would never be able to see. The imaginary friends had eventually faded away, cast out by a teen-aged boy's need to act like everyone else, but Aunt Fiona had understood. She'd told him that when he was ready, they'd come back. Now, as he led this most amazing group of supposedly mythical creatures into the small emergency clinic he kept at his home, Dawson sent a silent thank you to his long departed aunt. He could almost swear he heard her chuckling laughter and the soft, Gaelic lilt to her voice whispering, “I told you so, me boyo. I told you so.” # Dawson glanced at his wristwatch. It was almost five A.M.- the time when he normally crawled out of bed to start his day-but he'd stayed with Selyn through the night. By now, he figured Alton and Roland, the big Lemurian guard, were probably sacked out on the couches in the main quarters of his house. He checked his patient's pulse. It was steady now, and she was breathing easier. He'd worried about carrying her from the clinic to the spare room, but he knew she'd be more comfortable here in a regular bed, rather than on the hard examining table where he'd worked on her bruised and battered body. He hoped Ginny had gotten some sleep. She'd assisted him for hours, playing the unaccustomed role of nurse. By the time he'd finished all of his stitching and doctoring, Ginny'd looked exhausted and a little bit numb from all the blood. Daws had sent her off a couple of hours ago while he finished cleaning up and bandaging the worst of the young woman's injuries. They'd been extensive and well beyond his training. He'd suctioned blood out of chest cavities for dogs and cats that'd been hit by cars, but he'd never done it for a woman with a punctured lung-at least, not until last night. Dawson gazed down at the young woman now resting as comfortably as could be expected, and hoped he'd done the right thing. He was a veterinarian, for crying out loud! He dealt with dogs and cats, birds, rabbits and the occasional hamster or guinea pig-not young, beautiful women barely clinging to life. What if he'd screwed up? What if she died? What choice did he have? None at all, according to Alton. They couldn't take Selyn to a human doctor, and they couldn't take her to one of their own healers. It had been Dawson Buck or no one. Her lung had been the most serious injury, along with bruising to her spleen and liver. Her cracked and broken ribs would hurt like hell for awhile, but they'd heal. He'd stitched a couple of spots on her side where heavy blows had actually split her skin, but most of her injuries were bloody scrapes, bruises, and contusions. The darkly defined fingerprints on her right breast sickened him. More than once during the long night he'd thought of killing the one who had done this to her. That was so unlike him. Dawson had never been the violent sort. He abhorred conflict of any kind, which was why he'd chosen animals as his patients. Dogs and cats were more the what you see is what you get kinds of patients. They rarely came with baggage, and they didn't hold grudges. Even now, he wasn't sure what he'd expected when Alton had called him, but it certainly hadn't been a beautiful young woman who'd been beaten nearly to death. He rested his fingers on her shoulder, one of the few spots without the mottled black and blue and red from bruises. Though he wasn't a religious man, his prayer was heartfelt. Dear God. Let her live. Please, let her live. Taking a deep breath, Dawson tried to ignore the rapid pounding of his heart. For a brief moment, he thought of all the laws he'd broken by treating a female victim of an obvious assault. Any other medical doctor would have followed the law and reported this to the police. Another veterinarian would have made sure she was treated properly, in a hospital for humans. Then he bit back a nervous laugh. Who was he trying to kid? She wasn't human. Maybe he hadn't broken any laws after all, but after he'd looked at all her injuries and realized how terribly she'd been hurt, Dawson had known there was no question at all as to whether or not he'd do whatever he could for her. Now he could only hope his efforts had helped and not harmed her. He gently touched a dark bruise on her cheek. Thank goodness the facial bone was merely bruised, not broken. Her bruises would fade, the ribs heal. But what of her state of mind? A beating this horrific had to leave more than bruises on the body. He'd learned that these Lemurians healed much faster than humans. They were obviously a lot tougher, too. Her injuries would have killed a human woman. But injuries such as these would definitely leave emotional scars with a human. He had no idea how a Lemurian might react to such terrible treatment. Alton said she was a slave. Then he'd really confused the issue when he told Dawson that Lemurians were a free society, that they didn't believe in slavery. He, Alton of Artigos, the son of Lemuria's Chancellor, had not even known of the slaves' existence. Not until Roland, the sergeant of the Lemurian Guard had taken it upon himself to follow up on rumors and search for the women who called themselves the Forgotten Ones. Roland had met Selyn and learned of their terrible history. He'd offered Alton's promise to help the women, and in turn, Selyn had agreed they would help Alton with his plot to overthrow his father. She'd been willing to risk everything for freedom. Now, this. Dawson sighed. He wished she were awake and could tell him she would be okay, wished he knew for sure he'd done the right thing by not taking her to a hospital. What a mess. Obviously, there were things going on in Lemuria that were every bit as convoluted as human politics. And this young woman was unquestionably a hero. A breathtakingly beautiful hero. Dawson carefully pushed her tangled hair away from her face and tucked the soft blanket around her badly beaten body. He couldn't bear to look at her, to see such perfection so terribly disfigured by someone's cruelty, and it wasn't just the fact that her injuries made him so angry. No, it was even more unsettling. Her beauty and bravery affected him on a most unexpected-and unprofessional-level. He'd done all he could as a doctor with the detachment his position required. Now that he'd finished, he realized he saw her as any man would see a beautiful woman. Those dark bruises and bloody contusions were a travesty, a horrible insult to such perfection. He'd never seen anyone as perfect as Selyn. Even battered and bruised, she was lovely. Lovely and very brave-and right now, Dawson Buck was a terribly conflicted doctor. Never once in his life had he lusted after a patient. Shaking his head with the convoluted stupidity of his thoughts, Dawson quickly turned away from her bed. He left the room, mumbling under his breath. “Of course you've never lusted after a patient, you idiot. All the others have four legs.”


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