Forever Dusk ONLY
a Mortal Machine novel by Jocelyn Adams
A love for the ages…but will it survive the final test?
Since their last battle, life for the Mortal Machine—the secret-society that protects Earth and its inhabitants from dark outside forces—has become almost…normal. For everyone but Addison. The evil she’s imprisoned in her soul has begun eating away at her sanity, and despite her soul mate Asher’s efforts to hold her together, it’s causing painful and terrifying delusions.
Consequently, nobody believes Addison’s warnings that Marcus, their old enemy, has returned. When Marcus threatens Asher and the Machine, she agrees to find what he seeks—a treasure that, in his hands, could be deadly.
If she relies too much on Asher, she knows he’ll likely imprison her, if only to preserve what’s left of her deteriorating mind. But if she fails this final test, Earth will fall. So Addison is forced to distance herself from her love, to prevent the life she wants with Asher from being over before it truly begins.
Title: Forever Dusk
Series: Mortal Machine, #3
Author: Jocelyn Adams
Genre: New Adult
Length: 350 pages
Release Date: February 2016
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An Excerpt from:
by Jocelyn Adams
Copyright © 2016 by Jocelyn Adams. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Marc-Antony crept along the shadows of a remote mountain village. A mostly full moon winked above trees that surrounded the few rudimentary cabins dotting this section of otherwise desolate road. Giddiness stretched his lips wide. “I knew you would come,” he muttered to himself beneath the star-speckled darkness, his leather armor squeaking lightly, though none would hear it. “I heard some fools calling these dark times, but they are about to get darker still.”
Something moved in the shadows among the wispy pines to the left of the rustic cabin that contained his enemy’s favorite warriors. The prickle of cold against his skin took Marc-Antony’s hand from the blade holstered on his hip. The cycle of death was upon them, and once again, he had arranged his guaranteed escape from it.
He twisted to face Baku, the angry, displaced soul of an alien king, ensconced within the dirty human body he had possessed. Even in the moon shadow of the cabin, Baku appeared wretched.
“The town drunk,” Marc-Antony said with a grin, watching Baku’s ghostly true form rise from the portly fellow, whose face was red with too much drink. Not everyone could see the wraith inside a possessed man, but that was one of Marc-Antony’s gifts. The wraith appeared similar to an oversize garden-variety praying mantis with hooked arms, as well as several sets of shimmering wings lying along his spined back. “Even if he survives your possession of him, not a soul will believe his claims that the dead from an alternate reality walk among us.” Marc-Antony snorted with laughter at the thought of what a spectacle that would be to the ignorant townsfolk. It would be his amusement later, though it would seem pale after watching Adaline meet her demise and Asher weeping over her body for the third lifetime. And it wouldn’t be the last heartache the Mortal Machine’s Architect and her Shepherd would suffer. It was the fate of the secret society’s leader, and Marc-Antony was happy to see to her agony.
“They are all here?” Baku asked, turning only his wraith head toward Marc-Antony, staring with empty eye sockets.
“As promised, my king.” Marc-Antony hid his eye roll with a tip of his head, sending his blond mane forward as a shield. “The Mortal Machine, so our great and powerful founder calls them.”
The Mortal Machine was the name of a group of warriors, or sentinels, who used supernatural abilities to fight off undead alien “wraiths” from an alternate reality. Baku was the wraith king, and he had found a way for his undead people to come from his reality—which had been mostly destroyed—to this one. The wraiths could possess the living in this world and did so on their king’s order. Baku desperately sought a new home and new bodies for his people, and to find a power source great enough to merge all 420 of the alternate realities into one, as they were in the beginning before the founder had separated them—and separated Baku from his wife and children. That was where Adaline and her Mortal Machine had complicated matters.
Marc-Antony had once been a believer in the Machine, but now he’d switched alliances. It was power he craved, not to be a simple cog in a much larger wheel. Even more, he craved revenge for his lot in life. When he helped the wraiths conquer the Machine, he would be like a god to them. But first, he had to dispose of the Mortal Machine’s Architect—Adaline, their de facto leader, whose job it was to help all members find their purpose and place inside the Machine.
Marc-Antony had escaped death through sheer luck during the first Machine lifetime and had now lived for nearly 1,500 years. In that time, he’d watched the Architect be reborn, live an unnaturally long life, try to assemble her pathetic Machine collective, and die trying when Baku arrived and annihilated her—reincarnated three times so far.
Time to do it all again. Really, it was getting so tiresome. Perhaps this time, with Baku’s help, he could kill her once and for all, along with the one responsible for her rebirth.
Curling his lip with distaste, he gazed into the stars, where the creature whose ancestors had created all life dwelled outside of Earth’s time and space. “Izan. Some call you God, but they are fools. My king Baku will soon have the power to rule all creation.” Or rather, I will. Not that the dead oaf beside him was privy to Marc-Antony’s plan.
Thanks to the king’s gullibility, Marc-Antony had presented himself as an ally to the wraiths during this third Machine cycle, and he’d conned Baku into teaching him methods to manipulate reality and steal power from those living and dead—in exchange for Marc-Antony’s offering up the Mortal Machine on a platter. With Marc-Antony’s new and unique ability to bend reality around himself—unique among the living, anyway—not even Izan could see his treachery.
Through the window of the cabin where the Mortal Machine had gathered to mourn a lost sentinel, movement drew his attention. Asher, the Shepherd, drew up close to Adaline.
For the first time during this incarnation, Asher didn’t back off but pushed forward instead. Slowly, her harsh features softened. She would give in to their attraction soon. Not that they would have the chance to bond and share their hearts and power. Marc-Antony smiled wider. If he failed to bring Izan to his knees this time around, Marc-Antony would at least be free of their so-called romance and have a few decades of peace.
“Izan means to use this Mortal Machine as a weapon to destroy my people?” Baku asked, his ghostly teeth bared as he watched Asher and Adaline’s heated gaze through the window.
“The people of Earth have become dear to him, and they are at risk of annihilation from other, more advanced races that dwell on the other planets, like yours. The veils that separate the realities are thin and easily breached with a little knowledge.” And now all of them were at risk from Marc-Antony.
“Tell me this plan of yours, and I will consider it.”
Of course you will, and think the whole time that it is your own genius. That is my gift. “This cycle is the same as the last two. The Architect and her Shepherd are born again, same souls, different bodies. The rest of the Machine members are new souls each time, but each has another he or she is destined to bond with, allowing them to blend their energies and create a reaction that produces a force beyond what either of them could produce on their own.
“Each lifetime is another attempt by Izan to assemble the Machine and bring it to full power. So far, he has failed: just as the Machine members find their conduits and their love is kindled—or rekindled in the Architect’s case—then comes the pain, suffering, and then death, which I have been all too happy to assist with. But each failed lifetime is part of the ultimate cycle to eventually build an emotional powder keg that will result in the Machine’s coming to full power, so it can destroy all who seek to endanger Earth, including you and your people. Despite Izan’s plans for his pets, though, whoever should control its Architect controls the Machine and its power. We must take measures to ensure that you are in place when they are finally ready, so they will do your bidding.
“When you attack,” Marc-Antony continued, “have your people mark only one of each pair bond. The ones left alive will be lost without their conduits. You must focus your attack on the Architect, Adaline. She is key, wielding a power she has not learned to control yet. Izan has imbued her with founder energy, the same force his ancestors used to create everything and everyone. Through her, your people can be reborn on this plane as flesh and bone, immortal. If Izan should cross you in the future, the army of immortals we will build over the next few cycles will take care of the human infestation, and you will have the tool required to reunite the planets and get back what you have lost. Either way, Izan suffers for what he has done to all of us.”
Marc-Antony had loved once, but it was a curse. During the first cycle, he had bonded with his conduit, only to have her ripped away, her soul cut adrift beyond the veil. Izan could have stopped it if he had the desire to, but the heart of one of his soldiers was of little consequence to such a being. Yes, walking the path of a sentinel had already left scars on Marc-Antony, and through them, a delicious darkness had taken root in him. It would soon be unleashed upon Izan’s playground.
The king smiled, both his wraith and human face bright with it. “Yes.”
“Wait for me to wound her in the soft places her leather armor does not protect,” Marc-Antony said. “Your people will have from then until the last beating of her heart to soak up enough of her life force to be reborn.”
Thrusting his ghostly hooked arms toward the sky, Baku opened his mouth, releasing a column of light that ripped open an even darker patch among the stars. “Come, my children. Let the Mortal Machine’s blood be spilled across the mountainside this night, and I shall be one step closer to being reunited with my queen.”
The first alarmed cry carried through the village, echoing off distant hills. Doors opened and Mortal Machine sentinels flooded into the night. Caine, Adaline’s most trusted sentinel aside from Asher, shouted orders in preparation for their Architect’s emergence. Cold rushed over Marc-Antony’s back as the wraiths poured out of the rift in the veil, ruffling his long blond hair against the collar of his coat. “Come out, Adaline,” he sang when the wind rustled the canopy of the surrounding forest. “Your death will take but a moment or thirty, I promise. Asher’s agony will last the ages, though; I will see to it. When you are reborn, you will not remember what I have done. And when I have my immortal army, perhaps I can finally be rid of you and your tedious Shepherd.”
Dropping his gaze to the cabin across the road, Marc-Antony sighed as wraith souls swirled above, his senses finely tuned to their pain. He delighted in it now, but it had not always been so. “Feel the Fallen coming, as I do, Adaline love. The founder will feel my wrath soon enough, but you, first, and then your sentinel Caine.”
There she was, as wild and fearless as always. Adaline took over from Caine and led the charge, her dark hair woven into plaits down the back of her battle-worn leather armor that bore the mark of the Machine, an M tooled into the breastplate. Asher hovered near with a sword in each hand, his always-vigilant gaze pointed skyward. None of them could see the dead as Marc-Antony could, now that the wraith king had taught him a few tricks. It was a gift Adaline would need eventually, but it seemed Izan was keen to withhold it from her for the time being.
“So cruel is this timing,” Marc-Antony said, creeping toward them, wrapped in his own tiny slip of space beyond their sight. “She was just about to stop resisting your charms, Asher, you poor shit. But you will not know the taste of her lips again for some time. At least not without the tang of blood upon them.”
Mortal Machine energy filled the air as the sentinels scattered. If they knew the power of two conduits could crush a wraith, they might have had a chance. If Adaline actually managed to unite all of the pair bonds and the emotional bomb they could create, they could have been unstoppable. Another tidbit of knowledge Izan had withheld thus far. And so would Marc-Antony.
Screams tore open the air as sentinels fell to the wraiths pouring from the sky. Such sweet music. Soaking in their fear and anger, drunk on the power of it, he crept ever closer to Adaline’s back. Pity that she ordered her lover to rush off in aid of others across the field, though Asher had not gone without protest. In the end, though, he had left her. As she would soon leave him.
Her hands extended into the air as she attempted to wield her founder-given power without guidance, and without the aid of the united Machine. Close enough to smell the sweet odor of a female warrior too long from a bath and a decent meal, Marc-Antony withdrew his blade, his gaze fixed on the king, who hovered above her, waiting.
Marc-Antony dropped his cloaking as he drew around in front of her. “I wish I could say it has been a pleasure serving you, dear Adaline, but that would be a lie. I so look forward to our next meeting, though, when we will do this dance again until I have all I need to relieve the Earth of its human infestation, along with those who created it.” Say good-night to your lover boy.
“What are you doing, Sentinel?” she shouted, not bothering to lower her gaze from the sky. “Have you been into the drink again? Shut your lips and help the others!”
Ignoring her, he glanced toward Asher, who slashed madly at the sky toward enemies invisible to his eyes that no blade could touch. “Ah, he watches you instead of the battle. So sad for him to witness this from so far away without an idea of how you have fallen.”
Her arms lowered, and her steely gaze settled on him. “What treachery is this, Marc-Antony? Speak, before I run you through.”
“Our parting will be such sweet bliss. For me. Good night, little rabbit.” Slipping back into his private reality, Marc-Antony watched her searching the night for him, her blades swishing this way and that, confusion twisting her face into dark angles.
Planting his foot, he moved in and drove his blade on an upward angle, his self-made reality bent around the sword as it found the soft spot beneath Adaline’s ribs.
She gasped, her own blade falling from her hand. “Asher,” she said between short breaths.
The Shepherd’s roar drowned out all sound, as if he had felt the blade’s sharp bite along with her. Bearded jaw wide with his efforts, he sped across the sentinel-littered road, skidding to a stop when wraiths poured in through Adaline’s wound and became visible as they consumed her life force and were reborn as physical beings.
As Baku had taught him, Marc-Antony drew in what succulent energy remained in Adaline’s body, roaring victory into his tiny reality. He drank in her fear, her rage, both ripened to a fine ale with lifetimes of sorrow staining her soul. So much power, it surged through his veins like a drug that made him imagine that he could raze the world to the ground. Finally, she toppled forward, and Asher rushed to her side.
“And so it begins,” Marc-Antony said, grinning as Asher held his love tight to his chest and rocked her, the light leaving her eyes as she stared up at him. “Until next time.”