Wander through the years while following one of Lycaonia’s most dedicated unit warriors and discover how the Vanguard came to be.
Unedited Excerpt- Under full copyright Alanea Alder 2020
Inception begins in the timeframe between books 5 (My Brother’s Keeper) and 6 (My Guardian).
Present Day- Lycaonia
Darren Williams covered his mouth with his hand to cover a smile as the tiny woman in front of him practically smashed her face against the glass case staring at the shelves of desserts inside. Beside her an equally enraptured little girl licked her lips in anticipation.
Darren looked up, the tall squire behind them winked and smiled. Darren couldn’t help but chuckle. Meryn’s head popped up at the sound.
“I’m pretty sure that your squire feeds you Meryn, why do you look so desperate?” Darren wiped his hands and set the bread dough he had been working on to one side. He covered the bowl with a damp towel and placed it on the warm stove so the bread would rise.
Meryn looked back at her squire a sheepish look on her face, she turned back to him. “He does feed me, but these,” she pointed to the case. “These are special. They are wonderful pieces of heaven that makes me feel like my soul is getting snuggled.”
Darren blinked, he had never heard his pastries described quite like that before. “Well, have you decided?”
Meryn nodded then looked down at the little girl. “I know mine, how about you Penny?”
Penny pointed to the small, square, yellow cakes. “Those, please.”
Meryn scrunched up her nose. “Are you sure? There’s no chocolate in those.”
The tall man behind Meryn stepped forward. “Just because you can’t have caffeine and chocolate, that doesn’t mean everyone should eat it in your stead.”
Meryn heaved a huge sigh. “I guess you’re right, Ryuu.”
Darren felt his chest constrict. He eyed his commander’s small mate carefully before looking up at the squire. “Is she well?”
“I’m right here.” Meryn waved a hand between them.
Behind Darren a soft laugh diverted his attention. “You’ll have to forgive my mate, when it comes to women’s health he gets very protective.” Warm arms wrapped around his waist and he felt the pressure of his mate’s lips against his back.
He enjoyed the feel of her rounded belly against him where their child rested between them before he pulled her to stand beside him. “And with good reason,” he murmured, kissing her temple.
Meryn blinked, turning to stare at him then his mate. “Huh?”
Darren reached down to take his mate’s hand. “Meryn, this is my mate Sophia. Sophia, this is Meryn McKenzie, Aiden’s mate.”
“Oh!” Sophia squealed, then rushed around the counter to pull Meryn into a hug. The poor woman looked positively terrified.
Sophia laughed and stepped back. “Sorry about that. I’ve been dying to meet you. The stories that the boys bring in when they get their snacks have been amazing.” Sophia looked down at the small girl. “This wouldn’t be Penny would it?” Penny nodded and edged behind Meryn.
Sophia waved. “I’ve heard about you too. The little girl that defeats the unit warriors on a consistent basis.” She turned to him. “Which desserts did they want?”
Darren blinked and remembered that Penny had wanted the lemon petit fours. He pulled out his tongs and set six on a small plate decorated with a pretty lace doily. The doilies had been Sophia’s idea, he had to admit it made the plate look very fancy.
He walked around the counter and set the plate down at the table where Sophia was getting Meryn and Penny settled. “Here you go little warrior.” He set the plate down and winked at the child. A look on intense concentration took over her face and with deliberate effort one eyelid came down in a wink. When she was done she beamed up at him.
He nodded. “Good job.” He turned to Meryn. “Have you decided on what you would like?”
Meryn drummed her fingers on the table. “Yes. That cinnamon roll cake and some information.”
Darren stared. “The whole cake?”
Meryn flinched. “Don’t judge me.”
Darren never even saw it coming. One second he was staring at Meryn the next he was automatically rubbing the back of his head. He turned to his mate. “Sorry.”
Sophia crossed her arms and rested them on her rounded belly. “I’m not the one you should be apologizing to. You know better than to ask a pregnant woman that.”
Darren winced and looked at Meryn. “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. How about I cut a few slices and bring you those on a plate? I’ll pre-cut the rest and put it in a to-go box for you.”
Meryn smiled. “That sounds like a good idea. Can we get some milk too?”
Darren was already moving. “Of course.”
While he grabbed two bottles of milk out of the cooler Sophia had moved back to the case and was cutting Meryn’s cake. He set the bottles on the table. “So, what information do you need?”
“Everything you know about the Vanguard. Where they are located, how many members there are, and how they check in and communicate. Oh and why you get protective about women’s health?” Meryn twisted the bottle cap off and sipped her milk.
“Is that all?” he asked sarcastically.
Sophia came up behind him carrying the plate with the cinnamon cake stacked high. She set it in front of Meryn. “Don’t act so surprised. You knew she would be asking questions when you heard about her database. It’s already three o’clock. I’ll flip the sign and close the store a little early. You answer her questions and I’ll go start dinner.”
Darren hesitated. “Are you sure? Do you need help with anything? Is anything you need for dinner heavy?”
Sophia exhaled. “Yes, no and no.” She walked over kissed him on the cheek, then locked the shop’s door, flipping their sign to “Closed”. “Have fun dear.” She waved and headed to the back of the store.
“She’s human isn’t she?” Meryn asked.
Darren turned to her eyes wide. “Yes, how could you tell?”
Meryn snorted. “Because she wasn’t taking any of your shit.”
He grinned. “She never has, right from the beginning.”
“Ohhh, that sounds like a story.” Meryn shoveled another bite of cake into her mouth.
Darren sat down at the table. “It is. But in order to answer your questions, I think I need to start at the very beginning.”
Meryn tilted her head. “When’s that?”
Darren looked out the large store window. “Aiden. It all started with Aiden.”