"An action-packed tale of a brooding warrior's fateful journey to the future."
Reviewed by Mandy Burns
Posted October 18, 2010
Fantasy Urban | Romance Paranormal
Nika is determined to prove that her sister, Tory, is still
alive and in need of being rescued. Nika must dig up the
bones buried in Tory's grave, since everyone believes Nika
is crazy and unable to separate reality within the remains
of her once-broken mind. Most of Nika's childhood was spent
in an insane asylum pumped full of drugs. Though her
recovery is a blessing, it means she could be a compatible
match for any of the Sentinel Warriors who need her to
continue fighting for their souls. To learn which Warrior
she is meant for, Nika must endure each of their touches.
Nika suffers agonizing pain from every touch except the
Warrior Madoc, who refuses to be in her presence except
when demanded by their leader.
Madoc is in his own misery. His quest to slay every
creature with Nika's blood to free her from her nightmares
is dangerous, but he is technically already dead since his
tree of life tattoo is bare of all of its leaves. Madoc's
time is limited among his fellow Warriors with no hope of
finding his mate, but he has sworn to himself before he
leaves this world, he will make Nika's life better by
slaying her personal demons. Nika is the only woman who
inspires any feeling in Madoc's dark soul, but knowing his
own future, he stays away from her. Yet Nika has other
plans for Madoc. She has a way of causing trouble that only
he seems to be able to save her from, so once again, she
finds herself in need of rescue. Only this time, everything
LIVING NIGHTMARE is the 4th book in the Sentinel Wars
series, telling an action-packed story of the brooding and
angry warrior Madoc and his journey to the future. This
They are the Sentinels. Three races descended from
ancient guardians of mankind, each possessing unique
abilities in their battle to protect humanity against their
eternal foes: the Synestryn. Now one Sentinel's burning
loyalty and love may prove to be her greatest weapons.
For nine years Nika has had one goal: to save her younger
sister from the Synestryn, who hold her captive. Now the
psychic bond Nika forged with her sibling is fading, and
time is running out. But the one man who can unlock the
power insider her left and never returned, leaving Nika
alone to rescue a sister everyone else believes is dead.
Madoc swore to himself that he would never enter Dabyyr
again. For his soul is nearly dead, and he fears what he
might do to those he's sworn to protect--especially Nika. If
he accompanies her into the Synestryn realm, his forbidden
desire for her may unleash the savage monster within him.
But Nika's need to rescue her sister soon becomes
intertwined with her passion for Madoc, while a key to
victory in the war may be within her reach...
Omaha, Nebraska, March 3
Nika wasn't crazy, and the only way to prove it was to
dig up the bones lying inside her sister's frozen grave.
The shovel bit into her palms, rubbing them raw. A cold
gust of wind threatened to rip down the hood of her heavy
coat and suck the precious heat from her skin. She turned
her back to the wind and kept digging. There wasn't time to
crawl into the car she'd stolen and warm up. She had to
finish this before the Sentinels found her and took her back
Nika was now much stronger than she had been a few months
ago when she'd barely been clinging to life, but with each
pitiful half shovelful of dirt, she realized she wasn't yet
strong enough to be doing this. Not alone, and certainly not
in the dead of night -- the only time no one would be around
to see her desecrating a grave.
It was dangerous to be here in the dark. She knew that,
but she had no choice. No one would listen to the crazy girl
without proof, and the bones lying six feet down were the
only tangible proof she could find that Tori was still alive.
Tori was out there. Nika could feel her baby sister's
presence inside her splintered mind, amidst all the other
sinister, alien beings who shared the space. Tori wasn't
like she used to be -- she wasn't the sweet, innocent child
the Synestryn had taken -- but she was still Nika's sister.
She was still loved. She deserved the chance for freedom, no
matter the cost to Nika.
Besides, if Nika could bring her home and stop the
torture Tori endured, both their lives would be better. They
were connected -- though not as strongly as they'd once been
-- and Nika wondered sometimes how her sister had survived
The night the Synestryn stole Tori, Nika had promised her
she'd never leave her alone. Now, almost nine years later,
she'd kept that promise despite the fact that it had nearly
killed her more than once.
Tori was slipping away, and Nika had the feeling that her
sister was doing it by choice, that she was pushing them
apart for a reason Nika couldn't understand.
Nika refused to give up on her. With or without help, she
was going to find Tori and free her from her captors. Or die
trying. That was definitely another alternative -- perhaps
the more likely one, given the way her muscles were already
burning with fatigue.
If she couldn't finish the simple job of digging a hole,
how could she possibly execute a rescue mission?
After an hour of digging, she'd barely made a dent in the
frozen soil. At this rate, she'd still be here come
daybreak, when the authorities could see her and drag her to
the closest hospital's mental ward. She couldn't go back
there. Eight years of being restrained and questioned and
tortured by doctors with their fake smiles and dead eyes was
more than she could stand. If she had to go back to that
life, she really would be crazy.
And even if that was not where she ended up -- if she
went back to Dabyr -- the chances of escaping the watchful
eyes of the Sentinels again were slim. She was going to have
only one shot at this -- one shot to prove that Tori was
still alive and needed to be rescued.
Time to dig faster.
The shovel slipped in her weak grip, scraping off a layer
of skin. She should have brought gloves, but hadn't thought
that far ahead. Remembering a shovel had been foremost in
her mind, consuming the small space she had left for
She'd also forgotten money and food. She had no idea how
she'd get back home -- the gas tank was nearly empty. She
had left her cell phone at home so they couldn't use it to
track her and find her before she was done. Anything that
happened after she'd collected the stranger's bones seemed
distant and unimportant.
A tugging kind of pressure pulled at her mind. Nika froze
instantly, fighting it. The shovel fell from her frozen
fingers. She clutched her head, knowing it would do no good.
She didn't want to go there tonight. She didn't want to
be pulled into the mind of a monster to hunt and kill and
feed. She had too much work to do.
An eerie howl vibrated the base of her skull, and it was
all she could do not to lift her chin and howl along with
the creature. Her own vision winked out and was replaced by
Tall, frozen grass parted along her muzzle as she hunted
for her prey. The warmth of food glowed bright in the
darkness ahead. Hunger roared inside Nika's mind. The
remembered taste of blood made her mouth water.
She struggled to pull from the sgath's mind before
witnessing its kill, but this one was strong. It liked
having her with it. It liked knowing she didn't want to be
here, that she suffered.
Nika gritted her teeth and stopped trying to fight its
pull. Instead, she focused on the feel of its limbs, the
cold earth against the pads of its paws. Wind ruffled its
fur, but it was warm, even in the cold.
Not for long.
She took the chill of her own body, the weakness of her
own limbs, and forced those feelings into the sgath. The
beast stopped moving and a low growl reverberated through it
as it fought her. It didn't like what she was doing to it.
It didn't like the cold.
A throbbing filled her skull as she fought the sgath. She
whispered to it that it was too tired to hunt. Too cold. It
needed to sleep.
The sgath roared into the darkness and thrust Nika from
its mind, shutting her out.
She landed on her butt, hitting the pitiful mound of
frozen dirt she'd managed to scratch from Tori's false
grave. Fatigue kept her glued to the spot as she tried to
catch her breath. Her chest burned as the cold air filled
her lungs over and over again, coming out in silvery plumes.
Her body trembled with cold and weariness.
How could she keep going? How was she going to dig all
the way down and open the casket lying below? Why had she
thought she could do this alone?
Why had Madoc abandoned her? She hadn't seen him in seven
Her older sister, Andra, said the distance was for the
best -- that he was too angry and dangerous for her to be
around him. Everyone seemed to be blind to the truth: He was
in pain and he needed her to make it stop. It was so
glaringly obvious to her, but no one else seemed to see it.
And that, in a nutshell, was the story of her life. She
saw things no one else did, and no one believed her.
All that was going to change as soon as she had the
bones. The Sanguinar would be able to tell they weren't
Tori's, and if they couldn't, DNA tests would. One way or
another, she was going to make the people around her listen.
If she lived through the night.
Already she could feel more sgath clawing for her
attention, trying to suck her into their minds. They sensed
her weakness. Even though there were fewer of them than
there had ever been before -- thanks to Madoc's quest to
make them extinct -- those that were left were stronger and
smarter than the rest. They'd evaded Madoc's blade, hidden
from him, learned from the mistakes of the others.
Most nights Nika could resist their pull, but she was
weaker tonight, outside the magically enhanced walls of
Dabyr, which had apparently helped protect her. Her escape
from Dabyr had been nerve-racking. The drive here had been
terrifying. All that combined with the effort of physical
labor was too much for her.
She wanted to be stronger than this. She wanted to be
healthy. She wanted to be normal.
Wishing wasn't going to get her or Tori anywhere, so she
pushed herself to her feet, brushed the dirt from her hands,
and picked up the shovel. It was time to get back to work.
Nika let the cold have her. She let the wind drag her
hood from her head, stripped out of her puffy coat, and put
the thought of her chilled fingers and aching legs in the
front of her mind. Any sgath who wanted to have her along
for the ride tonight was going to end up freezing its furry
* * *
"What the fuck do you mean, Nika's gone?" Madoc growled
into the cell phone.
Rage was always close to the surface, spurred on by his
constant pain, bubbling, waiting to be let loose. His soul
was nearly dead, and hiding that fact was getting a lot
harder as each day passed. He needed to finish killing all
the fuckers that had taken Nika's blood before it was too
late and he no longer cared whether or not they ate the
crazy chick's mind.
Joseph sounded tired. "She stole one of the cars in the
garage and left."
Something suspiciously close to fear wriggled inside of
him, making the pounding pain in his chest swell. He needed
some relief. Now. All those fucking hours of meditation he'd
just finished hadn't done jack shit.
"Where the hell was her sister?" he demanded.
"Andra and Paul are up north searching for a lost kid. I
tried to call her, but couldn't get through. They're
probably deep in the bowels of some cave, out of cell phone
"If she was gone, then who was supposed to be watching
Nika?" He was going to have to find the person responsible
and beat the hell out of them. No help for it.
"No one. I keep trying to tell you that she's better now.
Stronger. She's an adult and doesn't need a keeper."
"Obviously you were wrong," snarled Madoc. "You should
have had someone babysitting her."
"You can have the job anytime you like," said Joseph.
"Not interested." If he got near her he'd hurt her. He
knew he would. He didn't normally go for scrawny chicks, but
there was something about her that turned him on and made
him feel violent all at the same time. Not a healthy
combination -- especially not for Nika.
"So you've said. Too bad you're the closest to her -- or
at least to where her car stopped. Nicholas tracked the car
to Omaha, and since you're nearby, you're volunteering to go
check it and see if she's still in it."
"Send someone else. I shouldn't be anywhere near her."
"Why? 'Cause she seems to have a thing for you? Wish I
had such problems."
"She doesn't have a thing for me. She's crazy. That's why
she refuses to stay away. Chick's got issues."
"Don't we all. Listen, just go find her, okay? Nicholas
will text you the info so you can find the car. If she's not
in it, you'll have to track her down. And hurry the hell up.
I don't like having her out there alone at night. Who knows
what could happen."
Joseph hung up, leaving Madoc writhing in frustration and
fear. For her. The last place on the planet he wanted to be
was near Nika, and yet the thought of her alone in the dark,
weak and helpless, was more than he could stand.
"Fuck." He flung the curse out into the night, sheathed
his sword, and stomped back to his truck. The nest he had
been ready to cut into would have to wait. Nika couldn't.
* * *
Nika's plan had worked. The sgath hated the cold, and
every time they brushed up against her mind, they flinched
back in anger.
Of course, the flip side of her brilliant plan was that
she was freezing to death. Her body shivered, and she could
no longer feel her fingers or toes. The shovel kept
slipping, but at least she couldn't feel the blisters
forming on her palms anymore.
She worked for another hour without interruption and was
smugly pleased with herself. Until she heard the first
hungry cry of a sgath hunting nearby. This time, the sound
wasn't inside her mind; it was in her ears. It was real, and
it was close.
They'd found her.
Panic gripped her by the neck and choked the air from her
How had they found her? She'd been so careful to drive
only during the day, when they were all asleep and couldn't
read her thoughts. And tonight none of them had tried to pry
from her where she'd gone when she left the safety of Dabyr.
They couldn't know where she was.
Tentatively, Nika sent her mind out, searching for any
nearby Synestryn. Their alien thoughts and uncontrolled
hunger would be easy to find among the humans nearby. Their
thoughts were bleak, festering spots of darkness among the
bright, clear human thought patterns.
If there was only one Synestryn and it wasn't too strong,
she could probably control its mind long enough to kill it
with the shovel. If she was lucky.
Her body fell away as she went seeking into the night,
searching for the source of that eerie cry of hunger. She
found one Synestryn slinking through the darkness less than
a quarter mile away. It was small -- the size of a large dog
-- and it was weak with hunger. That hunger gave her the edge.
She could take it.
Nika had just begun to whisper into its mind to come her
way when she felt another Synestryn nearby. Then another.
There were three, then four, then seven. They were closing
in. They smelled blood. Her blood.
Before they could trap her within them, Nika pulled back
into her own mind and scanned her body for signs of blood.
There was a smear on the leg of her jeans, muddy, but
She looked at her hands. Sure enough, the shovel had
scraped off several layers of skin until she bled. The
Synestryn smelled it and were moving in to feast.
The car was parked outside the metal fence several
hundred yards away. As cold and weak as her legs were, she
wasn't sure she was going to make it to the car before they
made it to her, but she had to try. She couldn't let them
get her blood. Thanks to Madoc's recent killing spree, she
was just now regaining the pieces of herself that had been
taken the night her family was attacked. She'd spent almost
nine years living inside a nightmare, unable to tell what
was real and what wasn't, and she refused to go back to that
She'd rather die than let them have her mind again.
Nika grabbed the shovel, knowing it was the only weapon
she had to hold them at bay, and sprinted for the fence.
Behind her a loud chorus of rasping howls rose up into
the night as the Synestryn closed in.
* * *
Madoc found the stolen Volkswagen Bug outside a cemetery,
but Nika was not inside the car as he'd hoped. Intense
pressure rolled through him in a painful wave, growing until
he was sure it would tear him apart. He sucked in huge gulps
of frigid air, but it did little good.
He needed to be killing or fucking -- bleeding away some
of the pressure -- not chasing after a girl who was too
crazy not to go running off alone in the dark.
Clearly, what he wanted had no bearing on reality.
Madoc fought the pain back with a snarl, slammed his
truck to a stop, rammed the gearshift into park, and left
the engine running.
One way or another, this wasn't going to take long. If
she wasn't nearby, then he'd call Joseph and tell him to
send someone else to search for her. If she was, he was
going to shove her in the Bug and follow her ass all the way
back to Dabyr, where she belonged. No more joyrides. No more
scaring the shit out of him. She was grounded.
But first he had to find her.
He leaped the fence and landed with a thud as his heavy
boots hit the frozen ground. The wind had picked up, tugging
the front of his leather jacket open.
If Nika was out here in this wind, she was going to be
freezing her bony ass off. Not that he cared. Served her
right for leaving home, where she was safe and warm.
They want to touch me. I don't like it, Madoc. It hurts
when other men touch me.
She'd begged him to take her with him last time he was
home, to get her away from the male Theronai who came from
the four corners of the world to see if she could channel
their power and save their lives. That had been seven months
ago, when he'd gone home in a moment of weakness, needing to
see her again. Unfortunately, watching her flinch away from
those men -- seeing pain pinch her features -- was more than
Madoc could stand. He'd hit the road and hadn't been back since.
Best decision he'd ever made. Being on his own was safest
for everyone. Besides, he had plenty of hookers to keep him
company. That and a pile of nasties to kill was all he needed.
A high-pitched, feminine cry ripped through the cold
night air. Fear shimmered inside the noise, and with it came
instant recognition. That was Nika's voice. He'd heard her
cry out in fear too many times not to recognize it.
Madoc spun around toward the sound, releasing his sword
from its sheath with an almost inaudible hiss of steel on
steel. He raced over the ground, letting free the rage that
was bubbling barely below the surface.
Whatever or whoever had made her afraid was going to die.
He cleared the top of a rise, saw Nika, and nearly came
to a dead stop. Half a dozen sgath surrounded her. Her back
was against a thick tree. Moonlight shone off her stark
white hair, and she wielded a shovel like some kind of war
club, batting at the Synestryn that dared to inch closer.
Her blue eyes were wide with fear -- a familiar sight -- but
the snarl of rage twisting her mouth was new and completely
She swung the shovel, hitting one of the sgath in the
head. There wasn't enough force behind the blow to do any
good, and it bounced off, shaking her entire body. She
looked unhurt, but that wasn't going to last for long if he
didn't step up and take over.
Madoc closed the distance, lifted his blade, and let out
a battle cry.
Immediately, six pairs of glowing green eyes turned
toward him. A slow smile stretched his mouth. Playtime had
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