Shards of Hope
Aden woke on a cold, hard floor, his head throbbing. Another man might have hissed out a breath, might have groaned, but Aden’s training was so ingrained that his sole response was to lift his lashes a bare sliver, only fully opening his eyes once he realized he was surrounded by darkness. He wasn’t, however, alone. He could hear breathing—quiet but jagged. As if the other person was trying to maintain silence, was unable to do so for reasons Aden couldn’t yet identify.
Remaining exactly where he was, he scanned outward with his telepathic senses . . . and had to capture a scream before it traveled to his vocal cords. The pain was blinding, the agony leaving his vision white. Controlling his breathing and his body through sheer strength of will, he fisted his hand, gritted his teeth, and made a second attempt, this time to reach the PsyNet, the sprawling psychic network that connected all Psy in the world but for the renegades. A Net connection would give him a viable way to alert the squad about his capture.
The backlash of pain almost led to a blackout.
Quietly lifting his arm when he could function again, white spots burning in his vision, he reached to the back of his head and the center of the starburst of pain. He expected to find blood-matted hair that denoted a cracked skull. What he discovered instead was a raised bump close to the lowest part of his skull, near the area that housed the cerebellum and beyond it, the brain stem. No, it wasn’t a bump but a scar—it shouldn’t have been there and it still felt tender.
That wasn’t the only anomaly. From the dryness in his throat and the stiffness of his limbs, Aden calculated that he must’ve been unconscious for hours. Long enough for the squad to realize he was missing and to locate him. Vasic alone should’ve been able to accomplish that. Except it appeared even the best teleporter in the Net hadn’t been able to lock on to his face, using it as an anchor to get to him.
The only other times Vasic had failed to lock on to people was when those individuals had created complex shields designed specifically to thwart teleporters capable of locking on to people rather than simply places, or if the individual concerned didn’t know his or her own identity—such as those whose minds were broken.
Aden’s mind was whole, but whatever it was that had been done to his brain via the barely healed incision he’d discovered, it had screwed up his psychic wiring. Vasic’s absence told Aden his psychic signature must’ve also been affected on a deep level. He knew of no surgical technique—or technology—that could achieve that aim without a full psychic brainwipe, but he didn’t make the mistake of thinking he knew everything.
He ran a mental checklist of his body and the items on it. All his weapons were gone, as were his belt and his boots. Whoever was behind this had been thorough.
Having maintained an ear on the other person breathing in the room, he crawled silently toward the rasp of sound. His cellmate hadn’t moved the entire time, and there was something in the unsteady rhythm of the breathing that had him certain the individual was hurt. With his eyes having adapted to darkness ameliorated only by a thin edge of light that came in under what must be a door, he could see that his cellmate’s body lay in a corner of the windowless room—as if it had been thrown there. That body was small and with the wrong proportions to be a man. Either a child or a woman.
Close enough now to see the curve of her hip, the fine line of her jaw, he realized it was a woman. A woman who smelled of blood. He moved his hand to her face, brushed away the dark curls that were impossibly soft . . . and found his wrist gripped in a punishing hold. “Move and I’ll rip out your throat.”
“Zaira,” he said in the same low whisper she’d used. “It’s—”
“Aden.” She released his wrist. “I’m injured.”
“I was shot.” Taking his hand, she placed it on the viscous stickiness above her stomach, her thin but should-have-been-bulletproof top soaked with blood and her lightweight body armor missing. “It passed through the left side of my abdomen.”
Aden might not have any equipment or supplies, but he was still a trained field medic. “Do you have any source of light on you?” It was possible their captors had overlooked something.
“Negative. No tools or weapons. They even took my boots.”
He shifted so close to Zaira that, under any normal circumstances, he would’ve been invading her personal space. When he pushed up the long-sleeved black top that hugged her body, she didn’t protest. Her skin was clammy under his touch, and though he felt the edges of a bandage, it had clearly been an inexpert job—blood had soaked through, was continuing to do so. “I need to touch your skull.”
“No need. I’ve been cut, something done to my brain. I’m psychically blind. Any attempt to use those abilities results in extreme pain.” She took a shallow breath. “Since rescue hasn’t arrived, I’m assuming you’re in the same position.”
“Yes.” He checked her head wound to make certain it wasn’t bleeding, too, discovered a roughly sealed incision identical to his own. Their unknown captors had the technology to do brain surgery advanced enough to block psychic abilities, yet they’d left Zaira badly hurt and in pain? “They want you weak.”
“Yes.” Her next words were so quiet he heard them only because he was close enough to feel the soft warmth of her exhale. “I didn’t know it was you, but now that I do, I think our captors plan to use me to break you. One entered the room earlier, said, ‘He’ll talk or we hurt her,’ to another individual.”
“Arrows aren’t so easy to break.”
“And you aren’t fully Silent, Aden. You never have been.” Another strained breath. “Everyone in the squad knows that—now someone outside the squad has figured it out.”
Aden decided he would correct her about his Silence later. “Conserve your strength. I need to be able to count on you when we escape.” There was no “if.” They would escape.
“If you can get me a weapon,” Zaira said, “I’ll cover you as you go. I’m weak, will slow you down. You’ll do better on your own.” She said that as if it was a simple fact, as if she wasn’t talking about the end of her own life.
Leaning in until their noses almost touched, until she could see his eyes as he could see the jet-black darkness of hers, he said, “I don’t leave my people behind.” He knew what it was to be left behind, and though it had been done for the best of reasons it had marked him on a primal level. “We’ll go together.”
“You’re being irrational.”
It was a complaint he’d heard multiple times from her. And not because her own Silence was flawless.
The truth was that Zaira had never needed Silence. What had been done to her in childhood had caused her to retreat deep into her psyche, shoving her emotions into a dark hole in a bid to survive. In their place had grown an iron will and a harshly practical mind. Silence had only ever been a tool she used to create a civilized shell.
Without it, she was close to feral but no less ruthless, her brain having learned long ago to put survival above all else.
It made her the perfect soldier.
Some would say it also made her a psychopath, but they didn’t understand—unlike a psychopath, Zaira had the capacity to feel the full range of emotions. That capacity was in permanent cold storage, but it gave her a conscience regardless. It also gave her the capacity for unflinching loyalty: because Zaira’s violent survival instincts didn’t always equal her own survival. She’d already walked into the path of a hail of bullets aimed at him during an operation three years before, had barely survived her injuries. He wasn’t about to allow her to sacrifice herself for him again.
“You should’ve toppled me from the leadership years ago,” he said as he moved to lift up the bandage, see what he could make out of the wound. “My irrationality where my people are concerned is apt to continue.”
“I thought about it, but I don’t have the patience for politics.”
He knew that despite her icy words, Zaira would take down anyone who challenged his right to lead the squad. For him to lose her loyalty, he’d have to do something so horrific, he couldn’t even imagine what it might be. “How were you shot?” he asked, wiping away the memories of how close to death she’d come the last time. “How many hits?”
“One,” Zaira replied. “They came for me while I was some distance from the Venice compound. Five men. I blasted a telepathic request for assistance but no one made it to me in time.”
“How many did you kill?”
“Three. Fourth injured. Fifth would be dead, too, if he hadn’t made the shot.”
Five men against a very small woman and she’d nearly defeated them. Deadly and smart, she was one of Aden’s top people for a reason. Now her breathing grew harsher as he checked the edges of her wound by touch. “Must be a new bullet designed to penetrate our armor,” she said through what sounded like gritted teeth.
“Is this top made of the new material developed by Krychek’s company?” The thin and fabriclike innovation was meant to be as effective as much heavier body armor.
“No. I put myself low on the priority list—others on the frontline needed it more.”
Pressing the pads of his fingers on different parts of her abdomen, he asked her to tell him what hurt and what didn’t, and stumbled upon an unbandaged wound on her side. “I’m fairly certain the abdomen wound is the exit site,” he said after investigating it as carefully as he could, “but there are signs the bullet ricocheted inside you before it left your body.” Causing internal damage he couldn’t determine without a scanner. “Are you coughing up blood?”
“That’s good.” Her abdomen was also not swollen or tense. “If there is internal bleeding, it’s not severe yet.” Pressing the bandage back into place, he pulled down her top, then shrugged off the leather jacket he was still wearing and got her into it. It was too big on her, and he rolled up the sleeves before she could ask him—Zaira would not want her hands hindered in case of a fight.
That done, he stripped off his T-shirt and, tearing it using brute force, managed to make wadding for the entry wound on her side. If he’d been wearing his uniform top, this would’ve been impossible, that material designed not to tear. It was as well he’d been in civilian dress except for his combat pants. Knotting together strips of fabric, he got it around her waist and tied the wadding into place. It’d provide some pressure at least, help stem the bleeding. “Too tight?”
A shake of her head.
“I’m going to try to stop the bleeding.” He had minor M abilities that meant he could seal some wounds, though he had no capacity to see inside a body to gauge injury.
“No,” Zaira said when he would’ve touched his hands to her skin. “That sucks energy. Save it. We’ll need it to get out of here.”
He didn’t like leaving her hurting and in pain, but she was right: he was a trained field surgeon and medic because his ability was so limited. It was useful when he had healthy backup, but it became a liability in a combat situation. Far better for him to rely on his skills. “Warn me if you’re about to lose consciousness,” he said before he realized a grim truth. “I need to test if my M abilities even work.” No matter if it was about healing the body, not the mind, it still required a psychic energy burn.
Pain was a hot poker down his spine, his vision blurred for over a half minute.
“No?” Zaira said softly.
“No,” he confirmed. All their psychic abilities were out of reach.
Tugging her top back down again over the makeshift bandage he’d created, he put his lips right against her ear, one of her curls brushing his nose. “How long will you last?” He was well aware that though her injury was bad, she wasn’t as frail as she’d made herself appear.
“Seven minutes at full capacity, but that capacity has been halved by the wound and the shock from the blood loss.”
That still made her a hundred times deadlier than most people on the planet. “We wait for a chance. My signal.”
“Agreed,” she said, just as there was a rattling sound.
Leaving Zaira on the floor in her guise of a small, weak, wounded creature, he rose to his feet. The light that poured into the room was dim, but it told him multiple things.
This room had no other exits and was created of hard plascrete.
There was a corridor outside, but no sounds of machinery—even the hum of background technology or traffic—invaded the room.
Either they were far from civilization or the plascrete was well insulated.
The heavily muscled man in the doorway was dressed in camouflage pants, a jacket of the same mottled shade, and black combat boots. He stood like a special ops soldier . . . stood like an Arrow.
Aden ignored the male’s masked face and took in his height, his body weight, his musculature, ran it against his mental database of Arrows. No match. He and Zaira hadn’t been betrayed from the inside, but this man was a high-level soldier. Black ops most likely.
He carried a weapon.
That was his weakness. He thought the weapon made him invulnerable.
Pointing that weapon at Aden, the male said, “Sit.”
Aden had noted the dented metal chair in the center of the cell at the same time that he noted the plascrete; he’d also weighed up its value as a weapon. Still calculating his options, he walked to the chair, took the seat. “If you’re intending to interrogate me,” he said, confirming the presence of another guard outside when that guard’s shadow hit the opposite wall, “you should know Arrows are trained to die rather than break.”
“Oh, you’ll talk. I have plenty of time and everyone has a breaking point.” Cold words. “From what I hear, Arrows are nothing if not loyal. This one—she means something to you.” Having walked into the room, he kicked Zaira’s body.
She moaned, but Aden knew it was for effect. That didn’t mean the kick hadn’t hurt. It only meant that Zaira would never permit anyone to hear her in pain unless it was to her advantage.
Aden memorized the location of the kick, made a mental note to check Zaira for further injuries after they were free and the man who’d kicked her was dead. The latter was a certainty. “All my Arrows mean something to me.”
Their captor continued to stand by Zaira. “But this one you go to see every week.”
Zaira needed the oversight, not because she wasn’t a good Arrow, but because of her psychological makeup. She was independent and strong and she had a conscience, but she was also damaged in a way that might cause her to make certain decisions that could not be unmade. So Aden ensured he was available for her to use as a sounding board.
That was what he told himself, what he’d always told himself.
“Do you intend to torture her to break me?” Aden asked, his eye on the guard outside—who had stepped partially into the doorway now. Well trained, like this one, and careful never to take his attention off Aden. Not well trained enough, then, because Aden wasn’t the only threat in the room.
“Yes,” the guard answered. “Tell me—are Arrows trained not to break under sexual torture?”
Aden felt his muscles lock. Relaxing them with conscious effort of will, he watched the guard by the door while pretending he hadn’t even seen him. “Pain is pain,” he said. “We’ve had more body parts broken, burned, crushed, and otherwise injured during our childhoods than you can imagine. During anti-interrogation training, I once had my fingernails pulled out one at a time before a hot poker took out my eye.”
The medics had fixed the eye, the other injuries, but they’d left him in brutal pain and half-blind for days, the next round of training based on exposing psychological weaknesses. Aden hadn’t splintered. He’d been ten years old at the time.
The guard kicked Zaira again. “You might think it’s all the same, but we’ll see. First I’ll make you watch as she’s sexually tortured by my human compatriots, then I’ll ask them to do the same to you. In the end, you’ll give us everything.”
Aden needed to know the why behind this captivity, but he’d already made the determination that both these men had to die. It was the most efficient way to secure an escape. “Only two guards for two Arrows? A mistake.”
“There’s nowhere for you to go—and we have the guns, while your minds are chained by those implants the docs put in.” A vicious telepathic blow that made Aden’s head ring.
It also gave him an accurate gauge of the male’s psychic ability.
“Low and hard,” he said in Arabic, the language Zaira had spoken with the parents she’d ended up beating to death with a rusty metal pipe. “He isn’t strong enough to kill with his mind.”
Though her breathing had gone shallow, she moved like lightning, her legs scissoring to take out those of the stupid, stupid man who’d stood so close to her. As he slammed to the ground with bone-cracking force, Aden was already moving, picking up the chair and throwing it at the second guard, who’d come in, bullets firing. The chair hit the other man in the chest hard enough to make him stumble back and nearly drop his gun.
He grabbed the gun Zaira shoved across the floor, having taken it from the guard she was choking to death using her thighs. Lifting and firing it in a single smooth motion, he hit the second guard dead center in the forehead.
“Cris would be proud,” Zaira said, then sucked in a pained breath.
Aden shot the guard on the floor, guessing the male had attacked Zaira on the psychic plane. What he didn’t realize until he hauled Zaira to her feet and felt the wetness on her side, the scent of iron suddenly bright, was that the man had also jabbed his hand into her wound, doing further damage. “I’m fine,” she said, though her shivers indicated otherwise.
Conscious they didn’t have much time, Aden left her for a second—she swayed but stayed upright—and ripped the ski masks off the two men. No one he recognized, but he had faces now.
“He’s human,” Zaira rasped, eyes on the second guard. “Has to be, given the lack of a psychic component to his attack and the other guard’s boast about his human compatriots.”
“Agreed.” Aden stripped the blood-flecked camouflage jacket off the second guard, pulled it on, then took the male’s knives and guns to strap them on himself and Zaira. Their one advantage was that any other guards wouldn’t have heard the altercation—all the weapons were silenced and Aden and Zaira had kept their voices low throughout.
Zaira pushed him away when he went to wrap his arm around her waist to steady her as she walked. “No. We’ll only succeed if you have both arms free. I’ll be behind you.”
He knew that wasn’t what she planned, but he allowed her to believe he did. “Let’s go.” Reaching the door, he scanned for surveillance feeds, found nothing. Low-tech—but low-tech could be a defense against discovery: if nothing was hooked into a network, then no one could hack in.
He didn’t like exiting into the corridor not knowing what awaited around the corner, but there was no other option. He and Zaira were all but silent, each movement careful, but a guard saw him as he looked around the corner. Aden fired to silence the guard’s shout of alarm. The guard fell without making a sound, but he had his hand on the trigger as he died; the gun spit fire, the bullets hitting a small steel grille that covered an air vent.
The hard, pinging noise echoed against the plascrete.
Aden heard a door bang open the next second, more footsteps heading toward them. Checking to make sure Zaira remained with him, he covered the distance to the dead guard and, hauling up the body, used it as a shield against the bullets and laser shots that peppered the area. Ice-cold wind swept down the corridor as more guards came in from what had to be the outside of this building.
The door was slammed shut seconds later.
Zaira didn’t try to come around him; she knew as well as he did that he needed her alive. Not wasting his ammunition, Aden took one shot at a time, eliminating two of the guards before they got smart and started trying to target him in turn—except Zaira was laying down fire that meant the men couldn’t poke their heads out from the side corridor where they’d taken shelter.
The psychic attack that accompanied the weapons fire was haphazard and not as powerful as it should’ve been for the number of men he’d seen. Despite the inexplicability of such an alliance, it again indicated that some of these guards had to be human. “The door,” he said to Zaira, pointing out their escape route.
It lay in almost a straight line from their current position.
Continuing to move toward that door under a covering hail of gunfire, the dead guard’s body absorbing the hits, Aden waited until he was almost at the corridor junction, then shoved the corpse onto the dead man’s former comrades. They weren’t expecting that, had underestimated Aden’s strength, as people often did, and were momentarily stunned.
That was all he needed.
As he’d expected, Zaira stayed behind, continuing to lay down fire so he could get out. When he slammed through the door, it was into a sullen darkness, the sky above starless and heavy with clouds that threatened to crash open at any moment. Lightning flashed in the distance but that was the only—fleeting—source of light.
No sound of vehicles.
No sign of a road.
Nothing but trees in every direction . . . and gunfire behind him.
Zaira saw Aden make the door, felt a sense of satisfaction that wasn’t strictly Silent. He was important, Aden; he was the future of every Arrow in the squad and those to come. She was a senior commander, experienced and useful, but she was also disposable in this circumstance. Compared to Aden’s, her life had little value—its value lay only in protecting his.
She’d done that. She’d served her purpose.
Side burning and head thumping, she continued to fire even as she slid to the floor, but her bullets eventually ran out. She dropped the weapons to show her captors she had nothing, was no threat. If they came close enough, she could get at least one with a knife.
Regrettably, the guards appeared to have learned their lesson. Though they emerged from their corner, they kept their guns trained on her and maintained their distance. “Go after the male,” a bearded man commanded two others. “He won’t get far in this terrain. We need him alive.”
Two of the camo-gear-clad men ran out, leaving two in the room.
“If you need me alive,” Zaira pointed out, “you should get a medic.” Death didn’t worry her, had never worried her. But she would’ve liked to have seen the future into which Aden would lead the squad. She was a murderer who’d never felt an ounce of remorse for her crime. She could never shrug off the coat of Silence without becoming that pitiless killer again, but she’d thought maybe she could take part on the shadowed periphery.
Vasic and Ivy Jane’s wedding had made her see that there was hope for many of her squadmates, hope for a life beyond the regimented existence of an Arrow. Those like Zaira could stand sentinel against the darkness so others could be free to grab at life. It was no sacrifice, not when the end result was that some of that life spilled over onto Zaira and her brethren.
She’d been invited to Vasic and Ivy’s home more than once since the wedding, had thrown a stick for their inquisitive dog, had even helped Ivy repair a trellis the other woman used for climbing berries of some kind. Normal things that had, for a short window of time, made Zaira feel normal, too.
And Aden . . . she would’ve liked to see him make it.
“Get the medkit,” the bearded guard said without taking his eyes off her. “And call in an update, tell the team in the chopper that we have the situ—”
A bloody flower bloomed on his forehead, his body thumping to the ground a split second before the other guard’s.
Zaira looked up to see Aden in the doorway. “You came back.” No one had ever come back for her for no logical reason. No one but Aden. Because this wasn’t the first time he’d done it. “Foolish.”
“Not from where I’m standing,” he answered, striding into the room to check her wound. “You need medical attention.”
“They said there’s a kit here.” Taking the gun he put in her hand, she tried to stay conscious as he disappeared, to return with a small metal box four minutes later.
“This installation is compact—I’ve cleared the entire area,” he told her before opening the kit and quickly cataloguing the items within. “Communications system is voice code protected.”
Which meant it was out of their reach; voice code locks could be broken, but it took time and a very specific set of tech skills. “I think there’s a backup team on the way in a chopper.”
Aden gave a short nod to acknowledge her intel, but didn’t stop what he was doing. “The kit’s not advanced enough to fully take care of the gunshot injury, but I should be able to stop the major bleeding at least.” He took out a handheld scanner, tried to switch it on. “Dead. Water damage.” Throwing it aside, he picked up a disposable laser.
Biting down on a leather belt Aden pulled from one of the dead guards, she tried to contain her pain as all Psy were taught to do, but her mind wouldn’t cooperate. Aden looked up at her flinch. “Whatever is in our heads is interfering?”
She nodded, but told him to continue with her eyes.
He did, his jaw a brutal line. Why did he persist in believing himself Silent? He cared. Aden had always cared. It was the biggest open secret in the squad. It was why they all fought so furiously for him and with him. Because Aden came back for his people. He’d come back for her.
No one else might mourn or care for an Arrow, but Aden would. Aden did.
She knew that Marjorie Kai, the woman from whom Aden had inherited the Korean part of his heritage, would consider his capacity to care a black mark against him. Marjorie was an Arrow of old, one who’d helped set the rebellion in place—and who had given up her son to it when he was just a boy.
His Navajo-Japanese father, too, would say the same: Strength is control. Control is power.
Zaira had heard Naoshi Ayze say that at least a hundred times during the past five, going on six, years. Marjorie and Naoshi had settled in Venice after their “deaths” in an explosion at sea two decades past, and the compound there wouldn’t have existed without them. But while the squad owed them a great debt, Zaira had come to realize the two Arrows no longer understood the son they had created and shaped to be an avatar of rebellion.
Aden was stronger, better than both of them, and he followed his own path.
Throwing aside the laser when it burned out, he picked up another one from the kit, worked on her. There was pain, but it was the burn of the laser, the deep ache of being gutshot fading slightly.
“I think I’ve cauterized the major bleeds,” Aden told her, rebandaging both the entry and exit wounds using sterile gauze packs before making her drink two small bottles of a high-nutrient compound in the kit. Soon as she’d done that, he thrust a solid energy bar at her. “It’ll increase your energy levels, stave off unconsciousness.”
While she forced down the tasteless bar, he went looking for their boots. “Got them,” he said a couple of minutes later. “Socks were on the floor but they’re dry.”
He’d also unearthed a green camo canvas daypack and, once he’d pulled on his socks and boots, started filling the pack with any food he could find, the remaining medical supplies, and technical equipment they might be able to jerry-rig. “We’re in mountainous and heavily forested terrain, low visibility because of thick cloud cover and the fact it’s full night,” he told her. “A storm seems imminent. Strip the guards, put on as many extra warm layers as you can; ditch my jacket and find a rainproof one.”
Already moving, though she was sluggish compared to her normal speed, Zaira went to the guard who’d taken a bullet in the skull and fallen forward on his face, leaving his clothing mostly unbloodied.
“Here.” Aden threw her an olive green sweater from a small metal trunk he’d dragged over from around the corner. “Looks like their spare supplies.” Shrugging off the lightweight jacket he was wearing, he pulled on an identical sweater over bare skin, though what was baggy and loose on her sat easily across his broad shoulders. “It’s empty aside from a few more energy bars.”
Having unzipped and shrugged off the leather jacket, she put it back on over the woolen sweater. She could easily fit a heavier waterproof jacket over it. “Do they have sleeping bags?”
“No. I found pallets in a small room down that corridor.” He paused. “I think I saw a jacket that might not swamp you.”
Zaira made her way to that room while Aden stuffed the daypack with the last supplies and extra ammunition. The heavy hooded jacket she found hanging on a hook on the wall must’ve belonged to the short, slight guard who’d run outside after Aden. It was still large on her, but not so large as to be unmanageable. Seeing another thick, weatherproof jacket crumpled in the corner, she picked it up and shook it out, then scanned the room until she located a pair of gloves.
Aden had just finished packing the supplies when she got back. Nodding thanks for the jacket and gloves, he snapped closed the clasps on the daypack and began to get into the jacket. Her senses prickled fifteen seconds later, while he was zipping it up. “Let’s go. I hear a chopper.”
Aden didn’t argue, both of them aware her hearing was more acute than his—a simple genetic quirk that often gave her a slight advantage in stealth operations. Her father had once credited a long-ago changeling ancestor for that familial genetic trait. Zaira didn’t know if that was a true assertion or not, but she appreciated the usefulness of it.
Slinging on the daypack, Aden led the way out. The bodies of the guards sent to find him lay on the ground outside, their eyes staring at the sullen night sky and their skin leached of color. Ignoring them, Zaira and Aden made straight for the cover of the dark green firs that spread out in every direction around them, birch trees with lighter green leaves scattered in among them. Right now, intel wasn’t as important as survival.
“Singh’s Psy-Changeling series remains among the best of the paranormal romance subgenre. Her alpha heroes and the women who claim them are sweepingly romantic and sizzlingly sensual, while the social and political tapestries she weaves are sophisticated, elaborate, and compelling.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“It’s a given that when readers open up a Singh book they will be transported to a unique world filled with genuinely unforgettable characters. That those stories are also complex, action-packed and romantic in the extreme is why Singh’s novels never disappoint! Fabulous!”
– Romantic Times (Top Pick)
“Shards of Hope is a brilliantly executed book – it has that perfect blend of engaging plot and great romance that makes Nalini Singh one of the authors you can always count on to deliver.”
– Lege @Goodreads
“Zaira in my opinion, is one of the most finely crafted, layered female leads of this series… Aden Kai is truly a force to behold, and everything a reader could hope for, in a hero of a story.”
– The Reading Cafe
“…I had a hard time putting this book down. I loved the interactions between all of the characters and loved that no one was perfect. This is definitely a must read for anyone who reads this series!”
– Night Owl Reviews
“Psy-Changeling fans, this is the novel you have been waiting for. If you thought Kiss of Snow, Heart of Obsidian or Shield of Winter were game changers, Shards of Hope firmly solidifies itself as a series stunner.”
– Smexy Books
“The plot advances the overarching story while still maintaining a strong sense of intimacy and connection with the characters. The tension of an epic psychological thriller provides the framework for an unparalleled romantic adventure.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Ultimately, I flat out love Shards of Hope. It provides a sexy, intense adventure that takes you right along for the ride.”
– Tome Tender
“Nalini Singh is unsurpassed in her story telling and the unique world she has created is one of a kind…This spellbinding book will capture your heart and leave you counting down the days until the next one!”
– Girly Girl Book Reviews
“[Shards of Hope] was an amazing book with intensively captivating characters, an intriguing storyline and one hell of a ride!”
– The Blogger Girls
“I loved the way the H/h complimented each other, strong in different ways but equally Alpha. Their story is heart-breakingly beautiful and is well placed within the series.”
– Scorching Book Reviews
“Nalini Singh knocks another one outta the park with Shards of Hope. With two genuinely heroic characters you just can’t help but root for, this paranormal romance captured my attention and my heart from page one.”
– Sara @Harlequin Junkie
For the Complete Chronological Reading Order, click here.
1. Slave to Sensation
1.5a “The Cannibal Princess” – free short story
1.5b “The Shower” – deleted scene
2. Visions of Heat
3. Caressed By Ice
3.5 “Miss Leozandra’s” – deleted scene
4. Mine to Possess
4.5 “A Conversation” – free short story
5. Hostage to Pleasure
5.5a “A Gift for Kit” ~ free short story
5.5b “Movie Night” – free short story
6. Branded By Fire
7. Blaze of Memory
7.5. “Christmas in the Kitchen” – free short story
8. Bonds of Justice
9. Play of Passion
9.5a “Wolf School” – deleted scene
9.5b “Clean and Dirty” – free short story
10. Kiss of Snow
10.5 “Stalking Hawke” – free short story
11. Tangle of Need
12. Heart of Obsidian
13. Shield of Winter
14. Shards of Hope
15. Allegiance of Honor
16. The Psy/Changeling Trinity series (2017)
1. “Beat of Temptation” in An Enchanted Season
2. “Stroke of Enticement” in The Magical Christmas Cat
3. “Whisper of Sin” in Burning Up
4. Wild Invitation (featuring Beat of Temptation, Stroke of Enticement, Declaration of Courtship, and Texture of Intimacy)
5. “Secrets At Midnight” in Night Shift
6. Wild Embrace
Book 14: the Psy/Changeling series
The “smoldering heat, epic romance, and awesome action”* of Nalini Singh’s New York Times bestselling series continues as two Arrows find themselves caught in a chilling conspiracy that spans all three races…
Awakening wounded in a darkened cell, their psychic abilities blocked, Aden and Zaira know they must escape. But when the lethal soldiers break free from their mysterious prison, they find themselves in a harsh, inhospitable landscape far from civilization. Their only hope for survival is to make it to the hidden home of a predatory changeling pack that doesn’t welcome outsiders.
And they must survive. A shadowy enemy has put a target on the back of the Arrow squad, an enemy that cannot be permitted to succeed in its deadly campaign. Aden will cross any line to keep his people safe for this new future, where even an assassin might have hope of a life beyond blood and death and pain. Zaira has no such hope. She knows she’s too damaged to return from the abyss. Her driving goal is to protect Aden, protect the only person who has ever come back for her no matter what.
This time, even Aden’s passionate determination may not be enough—because the emotionless chill of Silence existed for a reason. For the violent, and the insane, and the irreparably broken…like Zaira.
*Jaci Burton, New York Times bestselling author
If you’d like to discuss Shards of Hope, follow this link to the spoiler zone.
The Psy/Changeling series