THE COLLECTOR by Shannon K Butcher
THE COLLECTOR by Shannon K Butcher is a novella found in the anthology ON THE HUNT. Part of the Sentinel Wars series of books, The Collector considered number 3.5 in the series is Neal Etan and Vivian Rowan’s story. Like the previous novels, the Sentinels are descended from an ancient race of guardians known as the Thernai, and without a mate to absorb the excess of power to save their dying souls, the Sentinel warrior suffers immense pain and their Tree of Life-lifemark begins to lose its leaves.
Neal Etan is a warrior on the hunt. Hoping to locate the missing medallions that will save his friend Torr, Neal must convince antique’s collector Vivian Rowan that the medallions she has in her possession, will cure his friend’s paralysis. Still suffering the lingering side effects from a near –electrocution, Neal’s amped up power reserve is tapping his lifemark faster than normal, and the pain has increased exponentially. But when Vivian offers her hand in introduction, Neal’s years of pain and suffering are eased and with it the knowledge that she is his soulmate-his other half-the woman who can syphon the mounting power that Is building within his body.
Vivian Rowan has always felt alone. All her life, as an adopted child, she has never fit in. But one touch from Neal Etan, has marked her forever. There is a connection unlike anything she has ever felt. With her power to sense when something or someone is near, Vivian knows that this man is somehow connected to the many antique collectibles that she has amassed over the years. She is drawn to these ancient articles, feeling a connection to their history and lore. But Neal’s aggression and need for the medallions forces Vivian to send Neal away.
A call to Drake, another Theronai warrior reveals that now that Neal has connected with his soulmate, she is at risk for an attack by the Synestryn demons. Her protective barriers are no longer able to hide her Theronai heritage and presence in the human world. Hoping to protect his future mate, Neal arrives only to find the demons have already located Vivian. Using his skill as a warrior and the magic sword, Neal and Vivian make their escape.
But Neal is still in need of the medallions, and Vivian is not willing to acknowledge their existence. To complicate matters, the medallions have been separated and Vivian can only sense the whereabouts of one
Vivian takes Neal to Professor Reynold’s house, where she has hidden the first of the medallions, but it is too late. The Synestryn demons have already killed the professor and now Vivian blames herself for her friend’s death. When Neal finally locates the medallion, he urges Vivian to use her to locate the other antiquity, but her powers are not strong enough.
Neal, needing the connection to his mate, reluctantly offers a deal. Trying not to overwhelm his mate, Neal explains a partial history of the Sentinel Warriors who guard the gate between Athanasia and the human world, and suggests that to heighten her powers of sense, she wear his Luceria-a necklace that symbolizes the mated pair, and one that will increase their powers together.
Because The Collector is a short story, the relationship development is quick. When Vivian agrees, Neal pledges his life to protect his mate, but she is still reticent and is not willing to pledge an eternity to the man, who may be her future. Neal knows to complete the bonding, the pair must engage is making love, but if Vivian walks away from their relationship, Neal will die- a risk he is willing to take to save the life of his friend and his mate. With her new powers, Vivian locates the second medallion at a limestone cave, but they are once again attacked by the Sgath demons. Channeling her new-found powers, Vivian draws energy from her mate, and aids Neal in his battle to save their lives and the life of his friend. Vivian and Neal’s connection, and her proclamation of love and pledge to protect her mate, the luceria colors of bronze to match, as does her new title of The Bronze Lady.
THE COLLECTOR is a wonderful short story. We were first introduced to Neal in the earlier storylines and now that he has found his mate, we hope to hear more about these characters. I always worry, that when an author writes a novella, the mated pair tend to fall by the wayside, rarely to be heard from again. But with his friend Torr still in need and the many other Sentinels still requiring mates, I am hoping for a reunion of all the warriors when we meet again. Another great story from Shannon in The Sentinel Wars series.
Reviewed by Sandy