Authors: Linda Eberharter
From the Ashes
From the Ashes
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509
Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © 2009, Hailey Edwards. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
Max sprinted around his new backyard; his shaggy blonde hair fell into his eyes as he ran from Cilia. She paced herself and allowed the boy to take the lead. Happiness radiated from every line etched in her face. The setting sun glinted off her raven hair and tinted her skin a golden red.
Fiach and Cilia had spent all afternoon with the human child and his mother, Stella.
They were celebrating the couple’s move from the hotel, where they had been staying, to the new home that Fiach had purchased for them. The house had been a gift to replace the apartment Cilia had accidentally burned down a few months before.
Max’s new puppy leapt and chased the pair as their race deteriorated into fits of laughter and finally exhaustion. Fiach carried them each a chilled bottle of water. Max wrinkled his nose at the offering, but Cilia uncapped the bottle and drank greedily.
His thirst stirred as the muscles worked in her throat. She was a Phoenix, and because of their mate bond, so was he. Their biological clocks set to burst into flames every five hundred years. Fiach had never experienced the rebirth in fire, but Cilia had convinced him it was something to anticipate.
A fine sheen of sweat glittered over her skin. His fangs distended. If they had been alone, he would have sampled the salty moisture and perhaps something more substantial.
The vein in her neck pulsed; the flutter of life tempted him to taste the sweet rush of adrenaline-laced nourishment he would find there.
“Did you see that? I beat her fair and square,” Max boasted, taking a grudging sip of water.
Cilia elbowed Fiach and brought his attention to the boy and away from the temptation of her blood. “I don’t know Max; it looked pretty close from here,” Fiach replied.
Cilia shoved Fiach’s chest. He rocked back on his heels and captured her hand, pulling her in for a quick kiss before releasing his grip.
“Now, now. Let’s keep in mind there is a child present.” Cilia warned. Stella joined them on the porch and pointed at her son, who stared at them in fascination with his prepubescent interest piqued. “Sorry, Stella. We’ll behave.” Cilia winked at Fiach, who swatted her bottom as she sashayed past him to reach down and fondle the puppy’s ears.
“I saw that.” Stella chided.
“I’m sorry, Stella. I’ll try to restrain myself.” He flashed a wicked grin at Cilia then softened the smile for the human. When Cilia and Max wandered out of earshot, Fiach spoke softly. “Thank you for inviting us over. She misses you a lot, you know.”
Stella crossed her arms and pursed her lips. “I miss her too. The separation is killing Max, but she’s not who I thought she was. Not even what I thought she was. You both risked my son’s life.” She glared at Fiach. “You, in particular, bargained with a demon so you could put the moves on my next door neighbor.”
“I never meant for either of you to be harmed. Please believe that.”
One of Stella’s eyebrows rose in a doubtful expression. She watched as Max started another round of tag with Cilia. “He’s all I have in the world. If something ever happened to him…” Her voice broke. “I don’t know what I would do.”
“I understand Stella, but Cilia had nothing to do with it. The fault is all mine. If you have to be mad with someone, be mad at me.”
Stella frowned in the fading light. “I appreciate the offer, but it doesn’t work that way.” Her voice turned hard. “You have to learn that you can’t play with other people’s lives or their loved ones. Cilia explained what you both are, but that doesn’t excuse what you did.”
“Does it really bother you so much to know what we are?” he asked.
She gestured between Fiach and Cilia. “You two shouldn’t exist. I shouldn’t be able to have this conversation because you shouldn’t be real.”
He leaned against the house and crossed his arms, his stance mirroring hers. “I could say the same thing about humans. Maybe you shouldn’t exist. I was born half demon.
Humans believe in those. I’m also half fae. Most human children believe in fairies.” He grinned in amusement. “You read about us in fairytales; you can’t say you were never warned.”
Stella pinched the bridge of her nose between two fingers. She appeared to struggle between her desire to be a good host and her instinct to put distance between her child and the danger that Cilia and Fiach represented.
Max flew past them; his puppy ran in circles around his legs. In a blur of motion, the two tangled, and the boy began to fall. He stumbled close to the heavy planters that dotted the edge of the patio. Fiach used his supernatural speed to place himself between the child and the cement containers; he scooped Max into a bear hug and brought him to his mother for inspection.
Stella reached out, but Max pushed her away and grinned sheepishly. “Thanks Fiach.
Phoenix is just playing around. Mom says he’ll grow out of it eventually.”
“Phoenix, huh?” Fiach teased.
Max’s face flamed red, and his eyes shifted to some suddenly interesting point over his mother’s shoulder. Fiach had noticed that Stella and Max had been careful to only refer to the puppy without the use of a name. Now, he knew why. In Max’s idol worship, he had named the dog after his newest hero and heroine.
Fiach was amused and oddly proud that the human child thought so highly of his mate, and of him. He tousled the boy’s hair. “It’s alright Max. When I was a child, my mother gifted me a pony. I was ready to name it Aranax, after a great warlord. Imagine my surprise when I found out not only could the pony speak, but it was already named.”
Max moaned sympathetically, envisioning where the story was headed. Fiach nodded sagely and continued, “Her name was Buttercup.”
The boy’s jaw dropped. He doubled over and whooped until his laughter dissolved into hiccups. When he could manage a gulping breath, he asked, “What happened with your pony?”
“Well, it turned out the pony was actually a Kelpie. My mother kept her at a stable near the outlands of Faerie, close to where you were taken. She told me to never ride the pony near water, even if it begged for a drink.” Fiach frowned. “One day I went for a ride with some of the other fae children. It was the peak of summer, and we were all hot and thirsty. One of the other boys knew a place where we could rest our ponies and swim. I disregarded my mother’s wishes and heeded the urging of my friends instead. That was my first mistake.”
“What was the second?” Max asked, eyes wide.
“Not noticing how quiet my usually talkative pony had become. Buttercup knew she would lose my mother’s favor if she lured me to the water’s edge. If I went there on my own, and she just happened to be there when I did, she felt it was the only logical assumption that I was fair game.”
“Did she try to hurt you?” he asked.
Fiach caught Stella’s wary glance and decided to tone down the actual events of the story. Max was secure in the protective cocoon that his mother had created for him, and Fiach wanted the boy to remain there. There was no reason for Max to know that Kelpie attacks on humans were attributed to fresh water sharks since both shared the same serrated teeth. Just as there was no reason for Fiach to tell Max all he knew about Kelpie attacks from the experience.
Once a Kelpie smelt water, its skin turned adhesive and trapped the rider onto its back. It would wade into the deepest part of the stream and stay beneath the water until the victim drowned. Then the Kelpie devoured its prey. They were careful to stay near thriving streams and rivers so that fish and other wildlife helped cover their misdeeds.
Max hadn’t grown up in the same grim fairytale as he, so Fiach embellished the truth. “Actually, I remembered the warning about the time I started sticking to my pony. I called for my Mother, and she came and,” he looked away, “rectified the situation.”
“Oh.” Max said. “So it all turned out right in the end?”
Fiach recalled the memory of his water horse being dragged away in iron shackles, hobbling along to her execution. He still held Buttercup’s death as a grudge against his mother. The Kelpie had only acted as it was created to. Its only crime was its poor choice of victim.
Max poked him in the ribs with a lean elbow. “Well? Did it turn out okay or didn’t it?”
“Yes it turned out okay in the end. My mother saved me, and I learned to always look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Max shook his head. “Whatever,” he said and scampered off to catch up with Cilia.
Max had no idea how fortunate he was to grow up with a mother like Stella. The woman was all plump curves and good intentions. The kind of casual affection that the two shared was enviable, something Fiach had never known with either of his parents.
He had known all of his life that his blood was not pure. He exuded neither the icy demeanor of his mother nor the malicious tendencies of his father. He was different, and more than the full black-feathered wings on his back marked him as such.
In a desperate attempt to conform him, his mother had taught him to use glamour personally so that he could hide his wings and his nature around others of her kind as well as from those who kept his father’s company.
She was the Lady of the Sidhe court. His father was Harailt, a demon lord who took her body as punishment for offering asylum to two creatures that he wanted dead. The result of their union had been Fiach’s conception. A rare mix of genes since bedding demons was looked down upon in Sidhe society, no matter what the title. His mother’s pregnancy was something none of the fae ever talked about, which spoke volumes about how immense the blight on her reputation was, because all fae are social and thrive on gossip.
He caught sight of Cilia pirouetting away from the energetic pup. If his father knew what she was or what Fiach had become, he would gather the Morag, his personal demon guard, and kill them both. Harailt had hunted Phoenix almost to extinction. Now the burden of Cilia’s protection, as well as his own survival, rested on his shoulders.
“Is it my imagination or does she seem to touch Max more often than she did before?” Stella asked, intruding on his thoughts. “They were always close, but seeing her now, it seems different somehow.”
Cilia had been forced to abstain from physical relationships with humans. Phoenixes bond by transferring heat and energy. A lone Phoenix would have sensed the relationship between Cilia and Stella, or Max, and reached out to cement its own ties to them. The results would have drained away the humans’ life energy and left them as blackened husks consumed by Phoenix fire.
“I think they’re both making up for lost time,” he replied.
“Yes, I suppose that must be it.”
The low hum of energy that all living things exuded would always interest their Phoenixes. Now that Cilia had mated Fiach, they could share with each other and curb their appetite for life energy. They could live a more human life, something he never expected to prize so highly.
Stella glanced at her wrist and twisted the watch face upright. Fiach looked to the sky, noting the location of the sun. Dark was coming, and it was time for Max to get ready for bed.
Cilia held up her finger to indicate one more race. She lined up beside Max; Phoenix pawed at their heels. Her muffled countdown drifted across the yard. Max shot off the mark and ran with speed impressive for such a physically limited species. His coordination had improved considerably over the last few months; his gangly limbs had learned to move in greater concert even as they continued to lengthen and stretch his frame with new growth.
The pair skidded to a stop in front of Stella and Fiach, panting and out of breath.
They dropped to lie in the grass and let the puppy lick the sweat from their faces.
Cilia stared into the sky. “I didn’t realize how late it had gotten. It’s time for you to get ready for bed Maxie.”
Stella chimed in. “She’s right, hon. You need to take a bath and wash some of the dog off of you, then it’s up to bed.”
“Aw Mom,” he groaned. “I haven’t seen Cilia in ages. Can’t she stay just a little longer?”
“No Max. If you behave yourself, we can invite them over again next weekend.”