the skin along her neck. Maddie shivered. The odd sense of familiarity grew. And then she felt her thoughts blur, lulled by that slow, masterful touch. “Forget all this. Forget me,” he ordered. “I will seal the gate and release you. Once I am gone, none will follow. Nor shall we ever meet again.” The words left her with an impossible sense of emptiness. Suddenly he breathed a raw oath. He muttered low words in a fluid, foreign tongue as his fingers traced the skin above Maddie’s ear. “You wear the petal here on your neck. There is no mistake. You are the one I felt, the one I came to find.” His hands opened to cup her head gently. “Through the long nights I heard the whisper of your blood, calling to mine. A rose returned,” he whispered. “Given as in prophecy.” Maddie’s eyes fluttered. Sleep and memories seemed to engulf her as she was caught by the power of his voice. He shook her lightly. “This changes all. You must remember. You are needed here.” As he spoke, the fragments of sleep fell away and what might have been her own past poured over Maddie. She struggled to understand, caught by a sharp sense of belonging and purpose. What had he meant about the rosemark he had felt? She had always known there was a sensitive ridge of skin behind her ear, but it was just a simple birthmark, nothing more. She had to think. She had to stop dreaming and be logical. She was in a crypt, for heaven’s sake. Suddenly from the corner of her eye she saw an arc of cold light. The air began to hum, as if from a fallen power line. She heard what might have been angry voices echoing down a tunnel. Metal clanged against metal. His arms locked around her. “They come,” he whispered. “Make no noise. They must not know you wear the rose. It would cause you gravest danger.” His voice tightened. “Do you understand this?” All Maddie could do was shake her head blindly. “Know this. They walk through time in search of all like you. For six centuries now each one they have found has died, slowly and terribly. Do you understand? They would tear you from me—and from time itself. You must stay silent,” he whispered. “I—I understand.” His breath eased out in relief. “Then do not fear. Without being called, they cannot pass me or my sword.” But fear gripped Maddie’s chest as the light flashed again. Why was she falling for his delusional story? She was smart and tough and none of this crazy talk about rosemarks and danger could frighten her into— There was no time to prepare. The air seemed to pull back in an icy wave, tearing the breath from her throat. Energy snapped and sizzled in the narrow space, thick with anger and the frenzy of violence. And then Maddie saw them.
His name was Lyon of Greyhaven and he held his sword well, clasped by one scarred hand. The Rose was behind him, where she must always stand in his protection. His code was implacable. The Walkers must never pass beyond him. It was law. More important still, it was honor, honor through the blood of his kind for generations, back to the mist before Arthur and the Romans. Back to foreign shores and some said back to the time of the Master himself. Lyon did not interest himself in history. Duty was all that mattered to him. And his duty lay clear before him now, burning in the silver air, blinding in the hatred of those who waited at the far side of the portal. They must not find her. Others had failed to guard their Rose. Lyon would not fall among them. The air grew brighter, burning, taking on the shape of an oval. The portal opened. Mail and cold metal quivered and shook from angry steps. “There!” A voice boomed, muffled as if cast through a tunnel or deep water. The boundary grew thin. Lyon felt the outlines of time and matter stretch and shift. He did not answer. He did not move. The force of his will was unbending. His left hand, not his sword hand, stretched out behind him to wrap protectively