PROLOGUE

Sweat poured down Áinle’s face, his tunic had long been cast aside and now he wore only a leather apron and gloves to protect his dark skin from the flames he’d called upon from the elements and the molten metals used to cast the third sword of Chosaint ó na Scáthanna Oíche… Protection from Night Shadows.

He’d poured over the ancient text passed down from his great-great-grandmother, Brigid, daughter of Dagda, son of the goddess Danu and Bilé, the god of death. Only one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, People of the Goddess Danu, had the power to fashion such swords, and since fairy blood and the magik of the Druids oozed through his veins, Áinle had the knowledge to craft the new swords needed to fight the Scáthanna Oíche and defeat them. For, so far, only the Magik Sword of Nuada could inflict a mortal blow to an immortal, and it had been long ago hidden from the Order of the Druids.

The one he labored over, a bastard sword, was fashioned to be used in either hand of a Guardian. Bronze, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, along with seven drops of his powerful blood were poured into the mould and had been forged. Áinle now went through the process of annealing the short sword. This process of softening the weapon would take him the rest on the night.

The magiks used to produce the special metals into the basic form were draining Áinle of his strength, yet he could not stop until the weapons were completed. The devils from the dark had few weaknesses, and only a Guardian could defeat those who followed Darkness. It took the magik past down to Áinle by his Druid father and the blood of Dagda to be granted such guardianship, a guardianship he would pass down, Dagda willing.

The small bundle in the corner rolled and a pink face peered out. Áinle smiled, and prayed he’d have the time to teach his daughter the ways of the Caomhnóirí na hOíche.

The Guardians of the Night.

The fate of the world might just depend upon it.

CHAPTER ONE

The darkness held no sign of life. Memphis’s muscles tensed as a cold breeze flew past her.

Her lips twitched in pleasure as tingles of electrical current slithered from the nape of her neck, down her spine, and caught fire at the clawed fist of the griffin, tattooed at her hip. The image had started out as what she believed was a birthmark of an eye, but over the years had spread into the griffin. With each kill, another element of the beast appeared.

Laughter erupted on all sides of her and she braced for battle, her hand on the hilt of the short dagger sheathed on her thigh. Just as the first shadow shifted into a crouch, a strong hand grasped hers and pulled her at top speed out of the dark alley.

She tried dragging her feet, but the body attached to the hand must have been solid muscle and outweighed her by at least fifty pounds.

“Dammit, let go.” She yanked her hand, but only managed to have the hold tightened. She knew you never pulled against the hand but pushed into it, but at the angle she was currently in, she couldn’t do that.

“Don’t be stupid,” the deep, masculine voice said, sending a purely sensual shiver through her system. He stopped long enough to look over his shoulder at her and say, “Little girls shouldn’t play in dark alleys,” and he was tugging her behind him again.

Given in to the knowledge that she couldn’t very well fight with this idiot-turned-hero around, she raced with him up a flight of stairs, through a hall, and back down another flight. Out the door, back into the night and on the street, they ran for a few miles before a click sounded in the silent night air and a car door slung open.

“Get in,” the dark knight yelled.

With a half sigh, half laugh, Memphis slumped into the passenger seat of a very clean, very sleek sports car. He hit speeds over one hundred miles per hour as he made his way through the sleepy streets of Austin. Working on finding some sort of gratitude that might displace her anger, she sank back into the leather seat and studied the man by the console lights. Dark hair, black as pitch, hung loosely over a high forehead and curled at his neck and around his ears. A square jaw, clenched it what seemed to be anger, added masculinity to high, defined cheekbones.

Her heart sputtered in her chest, caught in a frenzy of longing and fear, two feelings she had no use for. A normally brilliant mind blanked. He was beautiful. Not in a pretty, female way, but in a god-fallen-to-the-earth kind of way. And the sense of recognition stunned her. But how? If she’d ever laid eyes on him before, she’d have remembered. There wasn’t a woman alive that wouldn’t have a clear recollection of this strong, manly man.

After what couldn’t have been more than minutes, he slowed and glanced at her. “What the hell where you doing out this time of night?”

She raised a brow at the growl of anger in his voice, and bit back a laugh.

“Have you any idea how dangerous it is to walk around a place like that in the light of day, better yet on a moonless night?”

The “place like that” had her stiffening. Obviously, Rich Boy didn’t think her neighborhood was livable, but she had a good two bedroom apartment that met her needs just fine. If he thought this was bad, he should’ve seen some of the places she’d laid her head over the years.

Well, his slur didn’t deserve a response, so she turned her head and stared out the window.

A low rumble echoed through the car and Memphis could feel the searing heat of his anger as if it were something solid. Her own anger stirred and before she let it spew, she bit her tongue and focused on where she was and where they were heading.

The city had given way to suburbs and the single family homes yielded to the estates of the wealthy. What a shock that the man driving a car that probably cost more than her grandmother’s home lived here. The gated house sat back in what had to be five acres of land and had a real to goodness statue in a fountain in front.

Memphis rolled her eyes. “You’re kidding, right? You live here?”

He shot her a heated glare, but didn’t respond. Instead, he pulled in front, killed the engine, and climbed out. As he skirted the hood, Memphis opened her door and stepped out onto a cobbled stone drive, lit up with solar lights which surrounded the fountain.

Yanking her through a mahogany door, which slammed behind them, he pushed her against a wall, typing a code into a keypad. As she opened her mouth to protest his manhandling, he covered her mouth with his open palm and growled. “Just shut up.”

Well, that did it. Memphis hadn’t said but a few words to the Neanderthal. She’d let him drag her away from a group of Night Shadows she’d trailed for over an hour, one of them who had been stalking her her whole life, and now he was telling her to shut up. Not likely.

Her steal toed boots slammed down on his foot as she jabbed an elbow in his kidney. His hand fell away, but he didn’t crumble, or even bend over for that matter, he gripped her wrist, spun her around and smashed her into the brick wall.

“Oh, hell no,” she yelled, banging the back of her head into his mouth.

His curse was vicious and loud as he swept her legs and plastered her against the hardwood floor. “I. Was. Trying. To. Help. You.” His voice was low as he drawled out the words, a hint of Irish behind the Texan accent.

The room filled with light and the masculine voice that followed was pure Irish. “What the hell is going on here?”