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Authors: Karen Marie Moning

Fever 4 - DreamFever

BOOK: Fever 4 - DreamFever
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DELL BOOKS BY KAREN MARIE MONING

     Beyond the Highland Mist
    To Tame a Highland Warrior
      The Highlander's Touch
       Kiss of the Highlander
        The Dark Highlander
     The Immortal Highlander
       Spell of the Highlander
              Darkfever
             Bloodfever
               Faefever

Some people are a force of nature.

Like wind or water over stone, they

reshape lives. This book is dedicated

to Amy Berkower.

When I was in high school, I used to hate that Sylvia Plath poem where she
talked about knowing the bottom, that she knew it with her great taproot and
that it was what everybody else feared, but she didn't, because she'd been
there.

  I still hate it.

  But I get it now.

                                    --Mac's journal

                                       Prologue
                               Mac: 11:18 a.m., November 1

D    eath. Pestilence. Famine.

They surround me, my lovers, the terrifying Unseelie Princes.

  Who'd've thought destruction could be so beautiful? Seductive. Consuming.

  My fourth lover--War? He ministers to me tenderly. Ironic for the bringer of Chaos,
creator of Calamity, maker of Madness--if that is who he is. I cannot see his face, no
matter how I try. Why does he hide?

   He caresses my skin with hands of fire. I char, my skin blisters, bones fuse from
sexual heat no human can endure. Lust consumes me. I arch my back and beg for more
with parched tongue, cracked lips. As he fills my body, he quenches my thirst with
drink. Liquid spills over my tongue, drips down my throat. I convulse. He moves inside
me. I catch a glimpse of skin, muscle, a flash of tattoo. Still no face. He terrifies me, this
one who keeps himself concealed.

  In the distance, someone barks commands. I hear many things, understand none. I
know that I have fallen into enemy hands. I know also, soon, I will no longer know even
that. Pri-ya, a Fae sex addict, I will believe there is no place, nothing else I would rather
be.

   If my thoughts were coherent enough to form sentences, I would tell you that I used
to think life unfolded in a linear fashion. That people were born and went to ... what's
that human word? I dressed up for it every day. There were boys. Lots of cute boys. I
thought the world revolved around them.

  His tongue is in my mouth, and it's tearing                         apart    my     soul.
Helpmesomeonepleasehelpmemakehimstopmakethemgoaway.

  School. That's the word I'm looking for. After that, you get a job. Marry. Have ...
what are they? Fae can't have them. Don't understand them. Precious little lives.
Babies! If you're lucky, you live a good, full life and grow old with someone you love.
Caskets then. Wood gleams. I weep. A sister? Bad! Memory hurts! Let it go!

   They're in my womb. They want my heart. Tear it open. Gorge on passion they can't
feel. Cold. How can fire be so cold?

  Focus, Mac. Important. Find the words. Deep breath. Don't think about what's
happening to you. See. Serve. Protect. Others at risk. So many died. Can't be for
nothing. Think of Dani. She's you inside, beneath that adolescent thumbs-in-the-
pockets, one hip cocked, thousand-yard stare.

   I orgasm without ceasing. I become the orgasm. Pleasure-pain! Exquisite! Mind-
melting, soul-shredding, the more they fill me the emptier I am. It's slipping, all
slipping, but before it goes, before it's gone completely, I get a hateful moment of
clarity and see that

  Most of what I believed about myself, and life, I derived from modern media, without
questioning any of it. If I wasn't sure how to behave in a certain situation, I'd search my
mind for a movie or TV show I'd seen, with a similar setup, and do whatever the actors
had done. A sponge, I absorbed my environment, became a byproduct of it.

   I don't think I ever once looked up at the sky and wondered if there was sentient life
in the universe besides the human race. I know I never looked down at the earth beneath
my feet and contemplated my own mortality. I tunneled blithely through magnolia-
drenched days, blind as a mole to everything but guys, fashion, power, sex, whatever
would make me feel good right then.

  But these are confessions I would make if I could speak, and I can't. I'm ashamed.
I'm so ashamed.

   Who the fuck are you? Someone shouted that question at me recently--his name
eludes me. Someone who frightens me. Excites me.

  Life's not linear at all.

  It happens in lightning flashes. So fast you don't see those lay-you-out-cold moments
coming at you until you're Wile E. Coyote, steamrolled flat as a pancake by the Road
Runner, victim of your own elaborate schemes. A sister dead. A legacy of lies. An
unwanted inheritance of ancient blood. An impossible mission. A book that is a beast
that is ultimate power, and whoever gets their hands on it first decides the fate of the
world. Maybe all the worlds.

  Stupid sidhe-seer. So sure you had things headed in the right direction.

  Here and now--not on some cartoon highway from which I can peel myself, stand
up, and magically reinflate, but on the cold stone floor of a church, naked, lost,
surrounded by death-by-sex Fae--I feel my most powerful weapon, the one I swore
never to give up again--hope--slipping away. My spear is long gone. My will is ...

  Will? What's will? Do I know the word? Did I ever?

  Him. He's here. The one who killed Alina. Please, please, please don't let him touch
me.

  Is he touching me? Is he the fourth? Why conceal himself?

  When the walls come tumbling, tumbling down, that's the question that matters. Who
are you?

  I reek of sex and the scent of them--dark, drugging spices. I have no sense of time or
place. They're inside me and I can't get them out, and how could I have been such a
fool to believe that at the critical moment, when my world fell apart, some knight in
shining armor was going to come thundering in on a white stallion, or arrive sleek and
dark on an eerily silent Harley, or appear in a flash of golden salvation, summoned by a
name embedded in my tongue, and rescue me? What was I raised on--fairy tales?

   Not this kind. These are the fairy tales we were supposed to be teaching our
daughters. A few thousand years ago, we did. But we got sloppy and complacent, and
when the Old Ones seemed to go quietly, we allowed ourselves to forget the Old Ways.
Enjoyed the distractions of modern technology and forgot the most important question
of all.

  Who the fuck are you?

  Here on the floor, in my final moments--MacKayla Lane's last grand hurrah--I see
that the answer is all I've ever been.

  I'm nobody.
 

                             Dani: 2:58 p.m., November 1

H    ey it's me--Dani. I'm gonna be taking over for a while. Fecking good thing, too,
`cause Mac's in serious trouble. We all are. Last night everything changed. End-of-the-
world stuff. Uh-huh, that bad. Fae and human worlds collided with the biggest bang
since creation, and everything is a mess.

  Fecking Shades loose in the fecking abbey. Ro through the roof with it, screaming
that Mac betrayed us. Ordered us to hunt her. Bring her in dead or alive. Shut her up or
shut her down, she said. Keep her away from the enemy, because she's too powerful a
weapon to be used against us. She's the only one who can track the Sinsar Dubh. No
way we can let her fall into the wrong hands, and Ro says any hands but hers are the
wrong ones.

  I know stuff about Mac that she'd kill me for, if she knew I knew. Good thing she
doesn't know. I never want to fight Mac.

  But here I am, hunting her.

  I don't believe she spiked the Orb with Shades. Pretty much everyone else does,
though. They don't know Mac like I do. I know Mac like we're sisters. No way she
betrayed us.

  Seven hundred thirteen of us alive at the abbey at five o'clock last night. Five
hundred twenty-two sidhe-seers left at last count. Taking Dublin back. Hunting Mac.
Kicking every bit of Fae ass we see along the way.

  No sign of her yet. But we're headed in the right direction. There's an epicenter of
power in the city, reeking stinking nasty Fae as toxic as the fallout plume from a nuclear
explosion. We all feel it. Taste it. Practically see the mushroom cloud hanging in the air.
We don't even talk to one another. Don't need to. If Mac's still in Dublin, that's where
she is, straight ahead. No way any sidhe-seer could turn away from this kinda pull. I
hope she's nailing their butts with the spear. We'll fight back to back like we did a
couple nights ago.

  But I've got this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ...

  Bull-fecking-crikey! I don't feel sick. I never feel sick. Sick is for wusses and
wannabes.

  Mac can take care of herself. She's the strongest of us all.

  "`Cept me," I mutter, with a swagger and a grin.

  "What?" Jo says behind me.

  I don't bother answering. They already think I'm cocky enough. I have reasons to be
cocky. Uh-huh, I'm that good.

  Five hundred twenty-two of us closing in. We fight like banshees and can do some
serious damage, but we've got only one weapon--the Sword of Light--that can kill a
Fae.

   "And it's mine." I grin again. I can't help it. Fecking A, it's the supercoolest gig in
the world to be a superhero. Superfast, super-strong, with a few extra "supers" in me
that Batman would trade all his toys for. What everybody else wishes they could do, I
can. Behind me, Jo says "What?" again, but I'm not grinning anymore. I'm back to

feeling prowly, pissed. Being fourteen--well, I almost am--blows. One minute I'm on
top of the world, next I'm mad at everybody. Jo says I'm hormonal. She says it gets
better. If better means I'm gonna turn into a grown-up, thanks but not. Gimme a blaze
of glory any day. Who wants to get old and wrinkly?

   If the Unseelie hadn't taken the power grids down last night, turning the whole city
into a Dark Zone, I'd've come after Mac sooner, but Kat made us hide like cowards `til
dawn. Not enough flashlights, she said.

  Duh, I'm superfast, I said.

   Great, she said, so you'd have us watch you whiz superfast right through a Shade and
die? Smart, Dani. Real smart.

  Pissed me off, but she had a point. When I'm moving like that, it is hard to see what's
coming at me. With the power grids down, ain't nobody gonna dispute the Shades own
the night once it falls.

  Who put you in charge? I said, but it was rhetorical and we both knew it, and she
walked away. Ro put her in charge. Ro always puts her in charge, even though I'm
better, faster, smarter. Kat's obedient, dutiful, cautious. Gag me with a spoon.

  Crashed and burned cars everywhere we turn. I thought there'd be more bodies.
Shades don't eat dead flesh. S'pose other Unseelie do. The city is spooky quiet.

  "Slow down, Dani!" Kat yells at me. "You're speeding up again. You know we can't
keep up with you!"

  "Sorry," I mutter, and slow down. With what I feel up ahead and this stupid sick
feeling in my stomach--

   "Not sick." My teeth clench on the lie. Who the feck am I kidding? I feel sick, sick,
sick. My palms and pits are slick with dread. I wipe my sword hand against my jeans.
My body knows things before my brain can. Always been that way, even when I was a
kid. Used to freak Mom out. It's what makes me fight so good. I know what I'm gonna
find up ahead is gonna be one of those things I'll wake up in the middle of the night
wishing I could scrape out from behind my eyeballs.

  Whatever we're headed for, whatever's throwing all that fallout into the sky, is more
Fae power than I've ever felt before, all clumped together in one place. The way we
work things, the other sidhe-seers close in and pound ass while I do what I've been
doing best since Ro took me in when Mom was murdered.

  I kill.

                                         ***

We range out like a net. Five hundred strong. Drape ourselves, sidhe-seer by sidhe-seer,
around the epicenter and close in tight. Nothing's getting through us unless it flies. Or
sifts.

   Aw, crap! Or sifts. Some of the Fae can travel from place to place at the blink of a
thought--just a hair faster than me, but I'm working on that. I have a theory I been
testing. Haven't worked out the kinks yet. The kinks are killer.

  "Stop," I hiss at Kat. "Tell `em all to stop!"

   She cuts a hard look my way but bites a sharp command that rips down the line.
We're well trained. We move together and I tell her my worry: that Mac's in there, in
serious trouble, and if the big-bads throwing off all that power are sifters--which most
of the big-bads are--she'll be gone the second we're spotted.

   Which means I'm going in alone. I'm the only one who can sneak-attack fast enough
to pull it off.

  "No way," Kat says.

  "No choice, and you know it."

   We look at each other. She gets that look grown-ups get a lot and touches my hair. I
jerk. I don't like to be touched. Grown-ups creep me out.

  "Dani." She pauses heavily.

   I know that tone like I know the back of my hand, and I know where it's going:
Lectureville on a runaway train. I roll my eyes. "Save it for somebody who cares.
Newsflash: It ain't me. I'll go up"--I jerk my head at a nearby building--"to get the lay
of things. Then I'm going in. Only. When I. Come. Back. Out." I spit each word. "Can
you guys can go in."

   We stare at each other. I know what she's thinking. Nah, reading minds isn't one of
my specialties. Grown-ups telegraph everything. Somebody kill me before I get one of
those Play-Doh faces. Kat's thinking if she makes the call against me and loses Mac,
Ro'll have her head. But if she lets me make the call and things go bad, she can blame it
on headstrong, uncontrollable Dani. I take the blame a lot. I don't care. I do what needs
to be done.

BOOK: Fever 4 - DreamFever
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