In this 115K-word contemporary romantasy, an immortal spy struggling to repress dark, reviled power must embrace that power when an enemy threatens her people's survival, risking desertion and damnation by the resentful handler she's falling for.
In the immortal realm of Valëtyria, the Fallen are exiled criminals genetically stripped of their immortality. In Bucharest, the locals use a Romanian word to describe the condemned outcasts: Doruri. Winged creatures, straining for something they can never reach, longing to reclaim what they once possessed.
Kitara Vakrenade—a Valëtyrian spy hiding dark and dangerous inherited power—infiltrates enemy territory to investigate a plot to use the Doruri against Valëtyria. Her success hinges in part on her rookie handler, Storm Avensäel: a man who blames Kitara’s family for a tragedy in his past.
The connection smoldering between them can’t be denied. But when Storm accidentally stumbles upon the details of Kitara’s classified background, it endangers the mission, their hearts, and both their lives. Grappling with the lies that bind them, Kitara and Storm must confront the hidden darkness of their people—and themselves—to illuminate the secrets behind the Doruri and prevent the enemy Felling everyone they love.
Inside an innocuous office park on the outskirts of Spokane, only the faint tinking of a moth beating against a humming fluorescent ceiling light broke the silence of the night.
Below the struggling insect, a woman observed it with the air of one who simply had nothing better to do. Behind her, a pair of golden wings with inky black primary feathers swept the grungy linoleum floor. As she watched the moth, she considered how its plight was not unlike her own.
A winged creature where it didn’t belong, straining for something it would never reach.
Longing. Struggling. Powerless.
Sympathy for a bug was disconcerting.
I have to find a new post; this one’s making me crazy.
A shrill ringtone nearly startled her out of her skin, and she scrambled for the glowing crystalline device on the desk—the alien technology out of place in the dingy, dated space. She accepted the incoming call. “Hello?”
An unfamiliar voice responded. “Kitara Vakrenade, please.”
“Hello Kitara.” A self-conscious laugh. “Remind me what time is it on your side of the world? The sun just set here.”
Kitara nearly dropped the phone.
The sun just set here. An agent was dead.
She scrambled for the correct response. “Um. The full moon is in ascent here.”
A chime sounded on the line as the call-and-response phrase authenticated her identity and confirmed she was in a secure location. The call dropped.
This can’t really be happening.
As she waited for her next instructions, Kitara’s mind spun. Maybe it was an accident. She was never supposed to get “the call,” though she could recite the phrases even while beaten bloody, high as a kite, or under other duress.
The crystalline monitor on her desk lit up, making her turn her attention to the screen. At first, it only displayed the same background as any of the other computers: the golden seal of the Agency of Interrealm Defensive Operations flaunting a griffin triumphant and ringed with stars.
Then a new window opened—a video conference—and a woman appeared.
Kitara recognized her immediately. “Phoebe!”
The dark-haired woman smiled at her. “Hello, mija.”
“It’s so good to see you.”
“You too. I wish it were under better circumstances.”
Behind Phoebe, a floor-to-ceiling window told Kitara she and the High Emissary didn’t inhabit the same dimension.
A luminous moon hung in a shifting pastel sky of rose, lavender, and cerulean; its breadth spanning a quarter of the sky as its equator dipped below the horizon, punctuated by sky-scraping buildings of intricate ivory architecture. Beyond, celestial bodies scattered across a galaxy of velvet indigo.
“Are you in Valëtyria?”
Phoebe glanced over her shoulder at the otherworldly tableau. “Ah. Yes. Given the circumstances, I had to portal in.”
She didn’t offer any additional information immediately, and Kitara scrutinized her through the screen. Death in the Sleeper profession wasn’t uncommon in their line of work. While immortal in lifespan and difficult to kill, Valëtyrians could still die by violent means.
Still, someone in the Sleeper network—typically a trainee—handled “the call:” the message activating the next Sleeper following an untimely demise. Not the High Emissary and de facto second-in-command of Valëtyria’s High Council.
“It must be serious. What happened?”
“The Sleeper wasn’t just killed. He was butchered, then left outside AIDO headquarters for us to find.”
Kitara sat up straight. “What?”
Dumping a double-agent’s corpse in such a blatant place sent an explicit message: headquarters’ location—successfully hidden from humans and immortals alike for a millennium—was no longer a secret.
“Yes. And your name was put forward to be his replacement.”
“Blessed stars…” Kitara whispered, falling back in her chair with a hand to her forehead. “Devika just transferred there. We thought it would be years before we saw each other in person again.”
“I know how fond you are of each other,” Phoebe acknowledged. “And I’m sure it can be arranged for you to see her. But you wouldn’t live at headquarters: we’d secure a place for you in the city.”
“Sure,” Kitara replied. “I would expect nothing less.”
But the possibility…
For two decades, Kitara had been relegated to this dead-end outpost to languish in useless obscurity. She hadn’t recognized the assignment for what it was in the beginning—exile—but by the time she figured it out, she’d found her surrogate sister, and was instead content.
Except several months prior, Devika Lyven received her own job offer of a lifetime as headquarters’ newest Historian: responsible for researching and cataloging the Valëtyrians’ extensive history. Kitara insisted she accept it.
And now, an opportunity to be reunited…
“The job is yours if you want it,” Phoebe said, interrupting Kitara’s thoughts. “But there are some…caveats.”
Refocused on the more pressing subject, Kitara rolled her eyes. “Color me surprised.”
The other woman snorted. “Cornelius insisted you have a new handler.”
“Let me guess. One of his choosing?” Sleepers had partners in the form of handlers: someone who remained inside the AIDO and served as a point of contact for intel or in case of trouble. Kitara wouldn’t put it past Cornelius to choose someone totally wrong for the job simply to ensure she failed.
“I see you haven’t forgotten his…management style.”
“Hardly. Who did he suggest?”
Phoebe cleared her throat and laced her fingers together on her desk. “Before I tell you, I want you to know…the Council voted on this too. I’d like you to keep an open mind.”
“Okay…” Kitara leaned forward, shifting her weight in her seat uneasily.
“He put forward his son, Storm.”
Kitara stiffened, tension radiating down her spine. “You can’t be serious.”
The High Emissary regarded her with a steady gaze. “I am, mija.”
Suddenly, Phoebe handling this call personally made a lot more sense.
“This was the concession we made to appease Cornelius,” the High Emissary continued. “That’s the offer. Accept the role of top Sleeper at headquarters and Storm as your handler…or stay in Spokane.”
Kitara almost surrendered then. Gave in. Threw up a white flag to the High Councilor. Cornelius had chosen his weapon well. A double-edged sword, as it were.
A snide tone leaked into Kitara’s words despite herself. “Was Storm given the job because of what he is, or because of who his dad is?”
For a moment, Phoebe seemed taken aback by her bluntness. “Neither,” she answered. “He is a Major—Academy-trained—first in his class with additional commendations in advanced swordsmanship and war tactics. His mother, Ilythia, is a Myragnar and a warrior in her own right. Storm…takes after her a great deal.”
Kitara took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Just because Storm is…who he is doesn’t mean this won’t be a problem. Given how things are between me and his father…”
“He is close friends with my own son, so I know him better than most. His father may have hoped that his…status would be a factor in his favor—and it likely didn’t hurt—but make no mistake, this was Storm’s own achievement. He is a good man and a promising leader—you could do much worse for your handler.”
With such auspicious beginnings—not to mention his connection to the most powerful man in their world—Storm’s success was guaranteed even if he never lifted a finger himself.
Therein lay the irony, and the whole reason behind Cornelius’ strategy: he wanted to flaunt his son’s prestige and celebrity in Kitara’s face, knowing full well Kitara’s own birthright resulted in a dead family, an assignation to an isolated outpost, and decades of skepticism.
“Kitara, mija, I do not expect you to trust him blindly,” Phoebe said gently. “Relationships between Sleeper and handler require mutual respect and understanding to work properly; you both have to learn from each other in order to make this arrangement successful. But I believe that the two of you can find common ground if you try. You have my full support, whatever you decide.”
Kitara swallowed hard, her heart aching for what should have been—for what she’d lost to circumstance. She already had one family torn from her, disappearing as if it had never existed in the first place.
Here was a chance to reclaim the other and make it whole once more. Dev had been gone for months now, and the hole in Kitara’s heart only seemed to grow deeper with each passing day.
The aching reminder of missing her sister made up Kitara’s mind for her.
“I’ll do it.”
Phoebe exhaled a sigh of relief. “Great. I’ll send off the transfer to your Commander then. I think you’re already familiar with headquarters’ Commander…?”
Kenric Kasama, another adopted sibling. “Yes, of course.”
“Good. We have to arrange transportation for you: not just anyone can portal in and out of headquarters. Protocol, you understand. We should have you here within the next…three to four days, I would think.”
Phoebe’s eyes softened. “Congratulations, Kitara. I know your mother would be proud of you.”
Kitara swallowed past a sudden lump in her throat. “Thanks.”
“Take care, mija.”
The video conference disconnected, again displaying the AIDO’s crest on the screen.
Kitara felt disconnected too, like she watched it all happen to someone else: a true out-of-body experience.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. After all, she personified “the sins of the father don’t extend to the child;” maybe Storm Avensäel would too.
While not required, handlers and Sleepers often grew close—sometimes more intimate than lovers. Holding the life of someone else in one’s hands would do that.
But could she trust her life to the celebrity son of the High Councilor who’d rather she didn’t exist at all? She’d seen firsthand what expectations stemming from one’s parentage could mean: both good and bad.
A movement in her peripheral made her turn her head. The tenacious moth had been bested. It twitched on the floor, attempting one last feeble flutter, then its legs curled, and it went still.
Hopefully that’s not an omen.
Three days later, Kitara’s rigorous training kept her from broadcasting her restlessness as she sat in the backseat of a dark sedan. She stilled the urge to bounce her knee, though adrenaline coursed through her in anticipation.
After a twenty-hour flight followed by an hour-long drive, her new post appeared, marked by twelve-foot fences at the border of the property—AIDO headquarters…outside Bucharest, Romania.
A millennium prior, out of necessity, Valëtyria established the covert agency on Earth. But their immortal citizens had feathered wings and various extraordinary abilities—like healing, psionic defense, or the manipulation of technology or electricity. To avoid panicking the human population with their obvious alienage, the AIDO kept their numerous bases hidden from humankind.
The differences between this facility and the outpost in Spokane struck hard. Kitara shifted in her seat to get a better look. Soldiers in black body armor framed by feathered wings of every shade between gray and white patrolled the property: both on the ground and in the air.
Two angels waved the sedan forward through an automatic gate. The fence served as nothing more than a simple landmark drawing boundaries, but the near-invisible tech stretching into the air above it made Kitara’s eyes widen. She craned her neck to study the twilight sky through the car window.
Her driver chuckled from the front seat. “First time at HQ?”
“It’s something, isn’t it?”
It was. Enclosing the AIDO’s property, a faint iridescent shimmer distorted the air: the technological pride of headquarters. Almost like a soap bubble, the field protected the facility from unregistered immortals—who could not portal through or otherwise cross the supernatural shield—and monitored registered immortal signatures within its borders.
Which, as Phoebe mentioned, was why Kitara couldn’t simply portal from Spokane to Romania.
They pulled up to the next guard station where a wall of burly black armor waited. The driver lowered the window.
The driver handed over his phone, his ID and transfer orders displayed on the screen.
“This is Kitara Vakrenade with me here.”
The angel—a Guardian, probably—flicked his gaze from the driver’s phone to his crystalline tablet to the backseat. Kitara glimpsed her face appear in reverse through the crystalline screen. No doubt the Guardian had noted her ancestry, though her personnel file didn’t reveal the most interesting—and dangerous—parts.
After a beat, the angel at the window relented. “You’re good to go.” He signaled somewhere ahead of them.
“Thanks,” the driver said, rolling up the window again. The car crunched over gravel as they pulled forward then nosed down into a subterranean entrance. At first glance, it appeared to be nothing more than a deep, dark shaft through which one might tumble into the belly of the earth. Until a breathtaking collection of gleaming white buildings appeared.
Headquarters’ secret location remained so because it lay nestled in a vast underground cavern. Illuminated with stadium lights and surrounded by parking lots brimming with cars, the AIDO’s hundred square acres of subterranean structures represented the crown jewel of Valëtyria’s alien outposts: an ironic homage to the realm of flying, celestial immortals where it originated.
The driver parked outside the grandest building where gold striping on the pavement marked “official” arrivals. At the top, the words “THE AGENCY OF INTERREALM DEFENSIVE OPERATIONS” blazed over the golden griffin seal. “Okay, I believe your friend is waiting for you inside the lobby, just there.” He gestured.
“Thanks,” Kitara said, eager to escape the confines of the car and stretch her legs.
Expecting Kenric as she crossed the parking lot, she only had a moment to register a set of slate gray feathers and a head of dark curly hair before she was seized in a hug. “Kitara!”
“Dev!” Kitara said with a laugh, giving her shorter friend a quick spin. “I didn’t know you were meeting me!”
The tall chunky soles of Devika’s black combat boots helped offset the height discrepancy as she stood back to observe her friend. “After you told me you were coming, I insisted that Kenric let me meet you.”
Kitara smiled at the mention of the Commander. While responsible for headquarters’ facility now, Kenric also had humbler origins, though more than a decade had passed since he, Devika, and Kitara had been stationed together.
“I’ll admit, Bucharest was not where I expected this place to be.”
“I know, right? I wished so much I could tell you—”
Kitara laughed. “I’m well-aware of the clearance issues.”
Devika hugged her again. “Oh my god, I just can’t believe you’re here!”
“Now you can stop worrying so much and focus on your job,” Kitara teased.
“Sorry, it was just…such a change, you know? I hated leaving you behind.” Devika gestured for her to walk with her. “I’m supposed to take you to Kenric’s office immediately, but…we can take the long way, right?”
Kitara chuckled. “Sure.” She followed her friend through a pair of sliding glass doors and into an impressive foyer.
The grand circular entrance split off into a dozen hallways, punctuated with columns of white marble. Dozens of other immortals came and went through the various doorways. The same griffin crest on the exterior of the building hung on the second story wall of the foyer above the mezzanine balcony ringing the room. Spectacular crystal chandeliers and lights in the crown molding made up for the lack of windows in the space.
For the briefest of moments, Kitara allowed herself a stab of envy at the thought of working full-time in a place like this. This was a far cry from the particle board furniture and flickering fluorescent lights of Spokane.
Devika’s expression sobered as they left the more populated areas behind. “What will you be doing?”
Considering their close relationship, Devika was one of few immortals authorized to know Kitara was a Sleeper.
“I’m not sure yet,” Kitara admitted. “But evidently it’s not urgent enough to make a portal clearance exception.”
Devika scoffed. “I met the head Engineer. Alasdair. He insisted on it when Kenric agreed I could be here when you arrived. It’s ridiculous that we have to come in a plane and then take a car to get here. I told him so.”
Kitara laughed outright. Engineers managed technological defense and most other systems, which meant her friend had admonished the highest-ranked security officer in the AIDO. “Of course you did. What did he say?”
Devika rolled her eyes as they paused outside a locked door. “Something about multi-dimensional auratic compatibility between locations without a direct uplink to Valëtyria, like Spokane.” She pressed her palm to a scanner on the wall. A light blinked green, and the lock disengaged.
Earth overlapped many other realms, including Valëtyria, serving as a thoroughfare between them. The Valëtyrians built AIDO facilities where its realm intersected with the terrestrial one to protect their world and access their technology.
“Sounds reasonable to me.” Kitara’s voice carried a note of sarcasm as they walked down another hallway of soaring ceilings, ornamental scrollwork, and arched entryways.
“Because your baseline for ‘reasonable’ is skewed,” Devika said, casting a sidelong look at her friend. “Are you still going to work with him?”
Kitara didn’t need to ask who she meant: she’d told her friend everything Phoebe said. “It was that or turn down the offer.”
Whatever Devika’s thoughts on the matter, she kept them to herself, but a crease marred her forehead. For a moment, Kitara worried she shouldn’t have shared that detail of her new assignment with her friend.
The Historian slowed to a stop at the end of the next hall. “Kenric’s office is there.” She gestured to a door. “I can’t actually go in with you, though. Protocol, and all.”
The tiny hairs on the back of Kitara’s neck rose as a whisper of something she couldn’t identify brushed over her skin. “Right.” She extended her arms for a hug. “I’m sorry we don’t have more time.”
“I’m just happy I got to see you at all,” Devika asserted, returning the embrace. “Be careful,” she murmured into Kitara’s shirt. “You’ll video-chat with me? When you’re settled?”
“Whenever you want, promise.”
“Let me know if you need help researching anything, okay?” Devika squeezed her tighter.
“I will. I love you, Dev.”
“Love you too, Kitara.” The Historian stepped back, swiped at her suspiciously bright eyes, then disappeared back down the hall.
Kitara turned and took a deep, steadying breath. Her pulse hammered in her ears as anxiety and anticipation put every nerve on high alert. Moment of truth.
Bracing herself, she knocked. A muffled voice bade her enter, and she pushed the door open. Two immortals looked up from their grim conversation, slowly rising to their feet as she walked in.
The first Kitara recognized on sight. Commander Kenric Kasama’s crisp white and black uniform gilded with gold accents identified his rank, everything pressed and polished to perfection, except for the uncharacteristic stubble dusting his normally clean-shaven jaw. He offered her a half-smile as she walked in. It didn’t quite reach his eyes, which reflected un-immortal-like weariness—their redness accentuating his heterochromatic blue and green irises.
Despite his familiarity, Kenric might have been one of the ornamental chairs in his office for all he compared to the second.
Kitara swallowed hard.
He cut a striking figure, exuding the air of a man who knew he commanded the attention of anyone occupying the same room. His inky black hair appeared even darker compared to the pristine white of his uniform, which did nothing to hide the hard muscles of his chest and arms. His clean-shaven jaw lent him an almost regal appearance and drew attention to his perfect bow-shaped mouth.
That all faded into insignificance when he lifted his eyes to hers. His silver irises boldly proclaimed his mother’s silver-featured heritage, flaunted his prominence. Like frozen mercury, they were cold as ice and brilliant as the sun, mesmerizing, breathtaking…and dangerous.
An invisible arc of awareness passed between them, and Kitara’s stomach dropped. He sucked all the air out of the space, until nothing and no one existed except him. She couldn’t look away.
Silverblooded son of the High Councilor.
Her new handler.
And if those eyes could kill, she’d be bleeding to death on the white marble floor.
KITARA VAKRENADE is a Sleeper agent for the Agency of Interrealm Defensive Operations (the “AIDO”) of Valëtyria—an interdimensional realm of technologically advanced angels. Following another agent’s murder, Kitara accepts an assignment in Bucharest to find the suspected perpetrator: a pseudonymous immortal called “THE MAKER.”
STORM AVENSÄEL, son of Valëtyria’s High Councilor, becomes Kitara’s new handler, despite believing Kitara’s family responsible for his mother’s decades-long coma.
Kitara goes undercover as a Fallen: a Valëtyrian genetically stripped of their immortality via a Valëtyrian-formulated compound. The locals call them Doruri: a word describing their longing for restoration. But Kitara hides a darker secret, one that manifests occasionally via an inherited destructive power she struggles to control.
Kitara meets BAYLEN, who works for the Maker. While she tries to use him to identify the mysterious immortal, Baylen reveals knowing of Kitara’s dark parentage and more: her father’s twin, SHYAMAL, assassinated her family. Insisting he is not her enemy, Baylen speculates Ostragarn’s current leader, ITZAL, plans to use the Doruri against Valëtyria.
Storm’s opinion of Kitara warms after learning his mother tried to rescue Kitara’s family from the assassins, and they find themselves drawn closer together. Most Valëtyrian information about the Doruri is locked in Myragos, the realm of Storm’s mother’s people: the Myragnar. Storm portals there to learn more and discovers the Fallen formula originally derived from the genetics of Ninthëvels: a powerful yet reviled race of now-extinct angels.
Created to incapacitate the Ninthëvels after Shyamal provoked them into rebelling against Valëtyria, the compound backfired and instead Felled many Myragnar led by Storm’s mother, who survived. The Ninthëvels were eradicated. Storm theorizes Itzal plans to use the Fallen formula to recreate them, then discovers a file revealing Kitara’s father is a Ninthëvel.
Storm confronts Kitara about her parentage. Baylen reveals he knows so much about Kitara because the Maker led Shyamal’s assassins to her family. Itzal’s people ambush Kitara after overhearing Storm name her as a Ninthëvel. Kitara uses her father’s destructive power and kills the ambush ringleader, after which Storm arrives to take her back to the AIDO. Kitara explains her heritage to Storm, including how his father swore her to secrecy upon her initiation into the AIDO. Their relationship turns romantic.
Itzal incapacitates a large number of AIDO facilities and steals the Fallen formula before brutally severing the wings of Valëtyria’s angels. Headquarters’ Commander is among those mutilated. Baylen unintentionally discloses he is the Maker and did kill the AIDO’s former Sleeper, who was in fact an Ostragonian mole. Baylen reveals he is Shyamal’s son, and he has searched for Kitara, his cousin, ever since his unwitting role in her family’s assassination. Kitara tells him she needs time.
Itzal, revealed to be a Fallen Myragnar, attacks headquarters and abducts Storm. Seizing the opportunity to make amends, Baylen agrees to help Kitara rescue him, then claims he can restore Valëtyria’s angels, demonstrating on the Commander. Kitara’s power is the antithesis of Baylen’s, and she unmakes the sedative in the Commander’s veins after Baylen makes his new wings.
Baylen and Kitara portal to Ostragarn where Itzal is torturing Storm. As revenge against Ilythia, whom he blames for his Falling, Itzal Fells Storm, explaining the Fallen formula will allow him to control Valëtyria while he recreates the Ninthëvels. Kitara finally kills Itzal, and Baylen portals them back to the AIDO. Kitara desperately attempts to “unFell” Storm, ultimately succeeding.
In the days that follow, Ostragarn falls into chaos following Itzal’s death, while a “coincidental” explosion destroyed what remained of his operation. After successfully unFelling another angel, Kitara learns her father helped Valëtyria develop the Fallen formula, after which Shyamal impersonated him to sabotage it. Kitara vows to restore all the Doruri, thus righting the long-lasting wrongs of the Ninthëvels’ rebellion. Finally, Kitara “unmakes” Ilythia’s coma, restoring Storm’s family and establishing Kitara’s rightful place among the Valëtyrians…and with Storm.