Authors: Erin Kellison
REVELER SERIES 6
by Erin Kellison
As the new Darkside Division head, Marshal Harlen Fawkes has a target on his back, and the Oneiros are taking their best shot. To complicate matters, a mercenary has been hired to infiltrate Maze City, jeopardizing the one safe place left in the dreamwaters. Harlen’s allies are divided while covering different fronts, but that means their collective strength is divided, too.
If I die before I wake…
Summoning her courage, Sera must face the harsh Scrape winds to add her strength to Harlen’s fight. But nothing can combat the forces rising in the deep as they finally make their move. Danger comes from all sides at once, leaving Harlen no choice but to use the woman he loves as a proxy to penetrate the black market. And yet doing so leaves them utterly vulnerable, adrift in the sands, as nightmares descend.
is the sixth installment in the Reveler serial, a hot paranormal romance set in a world where shared dreaming is a new pop culture phenomenon that allows people to indulge their wildest fantasies. But there are also unknown dangers Darkside; nightmares are slowly infiltrating not only dreams, but the waking world as well.
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The Reveler Series
The Shadow Series
The Shadow Kissed Series
Copyright © 2015 by Erin Kellison
Cover design by Micro Application Solutions, LLC
Published in the United States of America
First electronic publication: January 2015 by Fire Flower Publishing, LLC
Table of Contents
“Well, thank God he shaved,” Harlen’s sister, Jessica, said.
Sera tore her gaze from Harlen’s televised profile to flash Jess a smile—good-natured ribbing—but she didn’t feel happy. She knew what Harlen was really taking on with his new job, and it made her guts twist like snakes.
Jess stood at the back of the Fawkeses’ family room, a toddler passed out and molded to her shoulder. Eleanor and Gary, Harlen’s mom and dad, sat on the sofa beneath her, their eyes glued to the screen. His brother, Jake, had taken the morning off from his medical practice and now stood watching from the side of the sofa with his arms folded, brow furrowed. This was a Fawkes family event.
handsome,” Eleanor said to Jess.
Sera looked back at the TV. Harlen was by nature a two-day-shadow, jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy. He’d polished up to sit before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Shared Dreaming to help defend a Chimera budget increase for his new Darkside Division. It’d been quite the sudden promotion. Having the new black suit altered in time had been a couple of hours of panic, but he wore it very well. Apparently, he’d been borrowing his dad’s before.
“Pretty big job for a guy who cut class more than a few times during high school,” Jake said.
Eleanor shot him a narrow look.
Jake grinned sheepishly. “I might’ve taught him how to forge your signature, Ma. Your
’s are very loopy.”
Sera felt a real smile flickering on her face in spite of her worry, thanks to Harlen’s family, though they had no idea what he was up against. She’d hoped for a poorly attended senate hearing, a dry and boring proceeding that no one would watch—so that he wouldn’t be made into a recognizable target—but the room was packed with press, and every seat was filled. People even stood along the back wall. Shared dreaming was more than big business; it was a shared passion, a new way of life, and a major cultural paradigm shift.
“Has the media found that college picture of him showing his butt cheeks to the world during a football game?” Jessica asked.
“I have a copy,” Jake said. “Maybe I should send it in.”
Gary chuckled, but Eleanor shot Jake another sharp look.
“Anonymously, of course,” Jake added.
Chimera Director Allison Bright sat to Harlen’s left, the so-called
in his life. She was in her early sixties and had worked in the Agora—where all legal, commercial, and governmental shared dreaming took place—since its inception. Her steely blue gaze had seen right through Harlen’s flirtatious, rule-breaking, mischief-making demeanor to the man underneath. Which was why she was putting such responsibility on his shoulders.
And dammit, he’d accepted the job. All Sera could do was watch and wait for disaster, or maybe go to her restaurant and cook like a demon, terrified that one day he might go Darkside and never wake up.
More and more people these days weren’t waking up.
“That’s my tie,” Gary said of the navy-blue-and-black striped silk around Harlen’s neck. “My tie is on television.”
“It’s as close as you’re going to get to your fifteen minutes of fame, Pop,” Jessica said. “Relish the moment.”
“It’s right where it ought to be.” No one mistook the pride in his voice. “And I am.”
Sera felt her smile fail again as her heart struggled to maintain an even beat. If she thought about the dangers too much, she wouldn’t be able to sit still. His dad
feel proud. Harlen was…being Harlen, a good man and a hero.
Any second now, she was going to crack and start jabbering about nightmares and the Sandman, and Harlen out there in the Scrape. She should’ve never come to his family’s home this morning. She should’ve said she needed to take care of business for the opening of her second restaurant. Anything but be here. Except…they loved him, too. If she couldn’t be with Harlen in Washington, DC, this was the place to be.
Sera’s mobile screen lit, and she glanced down to find a text from him:
I have to pee.
Her faltering smile warmed through her worry; the broadcast was live.
, she typed back.
The chairman of the subcommittee began with some opening remarks about the new Chimera task force, thanking Director Bright and Marshal Harlen Fawkes for their presence and their continued hard work. Sera knew all this, so her restlessness got the better of her. As the family leaned in to listen, she soundlessly slipped out of her chair, past Eleanor’s jewelry business workshop in the dining room, and headed to the kitchen, her safe place.
She got a glass from the cupboard, ran the tap to fill it, and took a long drink. Then she decided she needed
stronger stuff, which she couldn’t have in a dry house—Harlen’s dad was nine years sober—nor could she take the edge off her fear at home later. Alcohol could impact dream control, and there was no way she wasn’t meeting Harlen when she slept that night, or any night when he wasn’t officially working.
When she turned, she found Eleanor blocking the archway.
Sera brightened. “Is he speaking now?”
She made to move forward as if excited, not on the verge of tears. But Eleanor held up a hand. “This new task force Harlen is going to head up…”
Sera lifted her brows. “Yes?”
“Is shared dreaming safe?” his mom asked.
Easy question, easy dodge. “That’s what they say.”
Shared dreaming had been around commercially for more than ten years. All sorts of studies had been done. And Harlen had worked in the field for a total of nine years, first in the sleep study at UCSD, then for the Army, and finally for Chimera. His mom had to be aware of the basics by now.
“Is shared dreaming
safe?” his mother asked again, her question toned to cut through bullshit and elicit a straight answer.
Sera felt the brightness in her eyes dim at the harshness in Eleanor’s voice. Whatever warmth Harlen’s mom might’ve felt for her years ago had cooled after the breakup, even though Sera and Harlen had gotten back together, this time for good.
She had no idea how to answer. With Didier Lambert dying in some reveler care center, Rêve
a bit safer. Of course, the confirmation of the existence of the Sandman far outweighed any threat Lambert could’ve presented. Harlen’s new task force, the Darkside Division, had been formed to combat the nightmares that were sneaking into both natural and artificial dreams, as well as, alarmingly, the waking world. None of that was public information, however.
Sera did not subscribe to the
Ignorance is bliss
philosophy where family was concerned. She wouldn’t lie to his mother, but she couldn’t reveal anything concrete, either.
“Harlen had to leave too quickly to come by and tell you about it,” Sera said. He could pick and choose what to tell his mom later. “But he will, just as soon as he gets back.”
The iron that ran through Eleanor Fawkes glinted in her eyes as she processed this.
“He’s got a good team,” Sera said, to give her something. It’s what she told herself when she got worried. “And he was chosen because he’s the best.”
But, yeah, dangerous.
Eleanor cocked her head slightly back toward the sound of the television. “And this?”
Sera shrugged. “Politics.”
Eleanor looked down. Sera could see that her jaw was set, even though her chest rose in a telltale, too-deep breath of a mother struggling with sudden, deep concern for her child.
Sera wanted to hug her. Well, actually, Sera wanted a hug.
“He’ll be okay,” she said. “He’s still based out of San Diego. We’ll see him when he’s awake.” Which would be less frequent.
Eleanor’s gaze lifted. “Is it very bad?”
Sera saw herself reflected in Eleanor’s eyes. She tried to assure them both. “He’s going to make it better.”
“One last question for Marshal Fawkes,” said the senator from Delaware.
The seriousness of the venue meant Harlen didn’t have to smile, didn’t have to be
, the one to whom everything came easy, most of all a good time.
One last question before he could make a beeline for the bathroom, though that was the least of his discomforts. He hated the slippery partial truths with which he and Director Bright were forced to answer the mighty senators in the semicircle before him, though credibility and speed demanded it.
It wasn’t like he could tell them that a terrible god lived out on the Scrape.
“Certainly,” Harlen said.
The formation of the Darkside Division would extend Chimera’s powers outside the Agora and beyond tracking criminals who preyed within the dreamwaters. Harlen’s new team represented everything the public feared from Chimera—the dream police, a Big Brother that could legally infiltrate any dream. If not for the nightmares threatening revelers Darkside and in the waking world, Harlen would
be accepting its leadership.