"I—I can't…"

Knowing what she needed, Aidan took over, releasing her hands to hold her hips as he pumped upward in steady drives. It was perfect, the way he moved, the variations in the depths of his thrusts, the circling of his hips. She could barely breathe, barely think, her body helplessly lost to his skill.

Leaning forward on all fours, she let him have his way, let him kill her with feeling and sensation, let him take her where he would. The sound of his luscious voice, husky with lust and purring heated sex words, made her cunt flutter along his cock, then clutch tightly in orgasm.

"Ah god…!" The cry that left her throat was not her own. She didn't know where it came from; it poured up from the same place as her pleasure, from deep within.

"Sweet Lyssa," he growled, his mouth to her ear as her arms collapsed, leaving her hips suspended by his strength alone. Now he took what he needed, using her body to satisfy his own, his face buried between her breasts, wallowing in her scent, as he drove upward into her spasming depths with long, deep plunges.

His entire frame convulsed when he came, the words he groaned were in some ancient language she couldn't understand. Except for her name. She heard it, heard the possessiveness in it, and she held him, rocked him, soothed him as he emptied himself inside her in hot, pulsing streams. Giving her all that he was. All that she wanted to keep.

But would be forced to lose when the night was over.

* * *

Aidan held Lyssa's damp body tightly to his, hearing the rasping of his own labored breathing, feeling her raging heartbeat against his chest.

Around them, the soft summer breeze blew, cooling their burning skin. How long had it been since sex had truly satisfied him? He couldn't remember. He knew only that it had never left him feeling like this.

"Aidan," she breathed in her soft, innocent voice, a sound filled with wonder and satiety.


She sighed and attempted to move off him. Unwilling to be separated, he turned carefully, keeping his cock buried deep inside her. Side by side they faced each other. He lifted a hand to brush the damp hair from her face, then pressed a kiss to her forehead. One of gratitude and joy.

This morning, death had been almost welcome. Exhausted and disheartened, the flow of shadows from the Gateway endless, he'd wondered why he should keep fighting. What good did it do?

Now it seemed so simple. His battle kept Lyssa safe, kept her alive and well. That was enough reason to go on.

It was then that the rustling sounds of papers in her drawing pad caught his attention. He reached over her, his intent to tuck it beneath the blanket, when a soft gust of wind flipped the page. His heart stopped at what he saw, his chest tightening in the viselike grip of pure fear. Everything faded away, even Lyssa, as he stared at her drawings with horror such as he'd never known.

Nightmares, the Gateway, endless years of death and war… None had struck terror in him like the sight of his own face staring back at him.

"Lyssa." His voice was low and gravelly, forcing him to clear his throat before he could go on. "Have you shown these to anyone else?"

"What?" She nuzzled into his throat, her lips brushing against his skin. Golden hair flowed across the arm he used to hold her close, hair that smelled of flowers and hard sex, a potent combination that stirred him deep inside.

"These pictures, have you shared them with other Guardians?"

"No." She pulled back, her dark eyes capped with a frown. "Why?"

"We must destroy them." His hands shook. What can I do?

"Why?" She lifted her head to look at the image with a soft, adoring smile. "I told you the lighting was bad. I couldn't make out your eye color in the candlelight. Your irises are such a deep blue, they looked dark. And your hair. The silver is so faint." She glanced it him. "But I like it. In fact, it turns me on."

He inhaled sharply. All this time it had been his appearance she enjoyed so much. Even as masculine satisfaction spread warmth through his veins, the ramifications of her unique cognizance spread goose bumps across his skin.

She winced. "Am I that far off from how you really look? I'm sorry. We'll tear them up and throw them away."

Everything he knew, all the work of his friends and the Elders, all his training… For one thing…

To kill the Key. A prophecy whose traits Lyssa displayed in abundance—she controlled the dream, she called him by name, she could see him. It was the last that was the most damning. That she could see into the Twilight. It was rare enough to find those Dreamers who recognized that they were dreaming and took control of the events. Never had they found a Dreamer who could see clearly into their world and comprehended that they were interacting with a real being. If the Elders learned of her abilities, they would kill her. Aidan himself didn't know what to make of the revelation.

But he'd think about it later. Right now he needed to find a way to keep Lyssa safe. Every time she fell asleep, she was in danger. Time was running out. If the Elders didn't know what she was capable of yet, they soon would.

"When the Guardians come to you, do they ask you to describe them? To draw them? Anything like that?"

"Yes. Weirdos." She wrinkled her nose. "I told them this isn't a dog show. I'm not jumping hoops."

Aidan hugged her tightly to him. He couldn't do a damn thing for her in the Twilight. By the time sleep brought her here, she was vulnerable. He had to protect her before she arrived. Before she fell asleep.

What the hell am I going to do?

If only there were more Guardians who harbored the same doubts he did, he could ask for their help. If enough of them approached the Elders as one voice, perhaps they would be heard. But if there were others like him, they guarded their thoughts as zealously as he had. As far as he knew, he was the only one to question the wisdom of the Elders.

She could lock herself in again…

But who knew how long it would take him to build support. She had been on the verge of losing her mind when he found her, a recollection that led him to a darker thought.

Perhaps she hadn't been hiding from the Nightmares. Perhaps all this time she had been hiding from him. From his kind. She'd been a child when she first erected the door. With her ability to see into the Twilight, she might have been frightened of the Guardians who came to see her.

What the fuck was he going to do? He couldn't take on both the Guardians and the Nightmares alone. If he couldn't alter the Elders' reasoning, there would be only one recourse.

He would have to leave the Twilight. He would have to protect Lyssa from the Outside.

There had to be a way to journey into her world. The Elders had created the fissure in abbreviated space that led them to this conduit. Surely they could do it again.

He was about to find out.

Despite the certainty he felt in his decision, he was aware of the ramifications. In addition to all the inherent risks, it would be only a temporary measure, a desperate, tactic to buy Lyssa some time until he could figure out what to do. Figure out a way to convince the Elders of their grave error.

"You're thinking so hard, I can hear your brain ticking," she said dryly, nipping at his jaw with her teeth. "Are you really upset about my pictures? I'm sorry. I—"

"Lyssa, no." He cupped the back of her head and pressed a hard kiss to her forehead. "Don't be sorry. The drawings are wonderful. I'm flattered."

"Then what's wrong?"

"Everything, except you." He met her frown with earnest intensity. "When I leave, you're going to lock the door behind me, and you're not going to let anyone in. Not even me."


His tone lowered, became more urgent. Even now, his skin crawled with the realization that Guardians were out there, hunting her with precision. "They'll come. They'll try to trick you into thinking it's me at the door, but it won't be."

"Aidan, you're scaring me." Her embrace tightened, saying without words that she trusted him to protect her.

He would die trying. For him, the legend of the Key was in doubt, but it was woven into the very tapestry of their lives. Guardians risked their lives in pursuit of the Key. There was no alternative to them or the Elders. The Key must be destroyed. No questions asked. By joining with Lyssa, he, too, would be hunted.

"Promise me you won't open the door to anyone."

"Ml right, I promise." She chewed her lower lip, her eyes shiny with unspent tears. "You're telling me I won't see you again, aren't you?"

"You'll see me again, Hot Stuff." He caught her face in his hands and kissed her with all the hunger she aroused in him. "But you won't know who I am."

* * *

Chapter 5

For an age now, the simulated lightening of the sky had filled Aidan with relief. It meant his shift was over. Another day had passed. He could travel up the hill to his home and try to forget that the endless days before him would be just like the last.

But today the incremental passing of time set his heart pumping in unsteady measure. He paced his covered porch like a caged animal.

Tick tock, tick tock. Like the clocks he had seen in the remembrances of Dreamers. In a matter of hours, Lyssa would fall asleep again, and someone would be sent to her. When she denied them entry, it would force the collective hand of the Elders and they would go after her en masse.

He had to find a portal between his world and Lyssa's, and he had to find it now.

The possible risks were no deterrent. Aidan was decided. There were no options, no choices. If he didn't go, Lyssa would die.

Where to begin? Aidan's curiosity had led to months of researching data in the Hall of Knowledge, and he'd found only vague references to fissure creation in a few of them.

Aidan didn't have months.

"You've got that look on your face," muttered a voice behind him.

Glancing aside, Aidan found Connor ascending the short steps to the porch. "I think I've found what some might consider to be the Key."