Read Released Online

Authors: Kerrigan Byrne

Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Historical

Released (2 page)

BOOK: Released
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What madness was she spouting?  “I never even
at your sister.  It was Angus who loved—”  Rory’s heart began to race, a sick knowledge knotting in his belly.  Suddenly he couldn’t breathe. 

Angus.  What did ye do?

looked at Kylah.” 

wasn’t the one I wanted.”  Rory tried to track her movements but the very air around her transparent form snaked and twisted in wretched vibrations.  Like bones rubbing against one another and flesh tearing.  One moment she leaned and whispered darkly in his ear.  The next she was behind him.  Then on the ceiling, her joints twisted in unnatural angles as though holding to the stones.

“Angus made my mother watch as he took my sister’s virginity and then threw her to his men.  They’d spent themselves on her and had already lit the washhouse on fire by the time Kamdyn and I returned from the woods, or we would have suffered the same fate.”

Her every word drove a spike through his chest until Rory thought he might die from the pressure alone.

“Instead, they doused the three of us in whisky and locked us all inside.”  In the space of a blink, her face floated in front of his again, which meant her feet were at least a span off the floor.  “They didn’t touch my mother with liquor,” she snarled.  “
burned more slowly.  And for every excruciating minute she suffered, you and your family shall endure an eternity.”

Rory swallowed the contents of his stomach crawling up the back of his throat.  He wished his brother alive so he could tear him apart with his own hands.  He hadn’t the stones to do it before. 

He would now.

His twin created this creature of vengeance.   Banshees arose from a soul so tortured and wronged that the Fae took pity and gave them a chance to reap justice.  Rory gazed into the woman’s eyes, so alight with hatred, and despaired. 

For a glimmering moment, he’d begun to hope for the future.  He’d thought that, with enough sacrifice on his part, he could heal the wounds created by his father and brother.  He could pull the MacKay clan from the dregs of their massive defeats and mend broken clan alliances. 

He’d been a fool to hope.  The very word should have been ripped from his vocabulary decades ago. 

The weight on his shoulders finally buckled his strong knees and they hit the floor. 

“Do it,” he rasped.  “Take yer vengeance.” 

The creature cried and a thousand nails rained down upon his exposed skull, but a blast of cold air was all that touched his skin.

“Get up,” she snarled. 

Rory shook his head, affixing his gaze on the glowing coals of the fire.  “I’ll not ask yer forgiveness.  It isna deserved.  I’ll burn for the sins of the Lairds before me if it puts ye to rest.”

” she screamed.  “You’ll not take this moment from me! 
burned.  My sisters burned.  My mother burned.  But not you, Rory MacKay.  You’ll beg me for a lot more than forgiveness before I strip the flesh from your bones!”

   Rory looked up at her, a determined calm settling over him.  “I’ve never begged for my life,” he informed her.  Though he’d had plenty of chances.  “I’ll not be going to now.  Maybe I deserve this.  Not only for what my brother did to ye, but also for what I did to him.”

Katriona paused.  “What did you do to him?” she demanded. 

“I had him assassinated.”  There.  He’d said it.  His most evil act and darkest secret. 

Some of the weight abated. 

“No.”  The fear and pain conveyed in that one word caused him to wince.  The wind died down to a breeze.  “No, it can’t be.  Where is your father?  Is he not away raiding?”  Her voice almost sounded human.

Confused, Rory shook his head.  “He was killed in the Battle of Harlaw by the Berserker, Roderick MacLauchlan.”  She’d died right before then, but if she’d lingered in this world, how did she not know this?

“Two dead?” she whispered, a frantic light pulsing from her.  “But there are
  Three of us.  Three MacKays.  Three deaths to keen before we can rest. 

“I’m sorry,” Rory murmured, wishing that words existed to express the depth of his regret.  “Mine is the only life I can offer ye.” 

Her scream rent the night as she rushed toward him.  Searing cold infused his body as she grasped his shoulders and opened her mouth.  He felt a tear.  Not in a physical way, but like the fabric of his very essence unraveled.  The pain paralyzed him in place. 

But the relief still lingered inside him, and soon, she would have her revenge.

Chapter Two


He wasn’t dying. 
wasn’t he dying? 

Katriona blasted him with renewed effort, drawing all remnants of her magic and forcing it from her fingers into his body. 

His chiseled features twisted into a grimace, but he made no torturous sound of agony.  No blood leaked from anywhere.  She’d been promised
and damn it she
be satisfied. 

“Why do you not die?” she demanded.  “How do you resist me?”

The Laird blinked his liquid brown eyes open and looked across at her, his brows drawn in puzzlement rather than pain.

“I doona know, Katriona.”  The sound of her name on his lips riveted her.  They way he said it, like silk snagging on gravel, echoed through the stone room as powerful as any of her screams.  “I’ve never been able to resist ye before.”

What the bloody hell did he mean by that?  Katriona glared at him, her thoughts racing through her options.  His sword was inches from where her hands rested on his chest, but she couldn’t very well wrap her hand around it and shove it though his body.  As a spirit, she wasn’t corporeal, and therefore couldn’t move anyth—

Katriona gasped. 
Her hands rested on his chest.

Smooth, warm flesh flexed under her fingertips.  The quick pace of his heart thumped a strong rhythm beneath her palm and his ribs expanded with deep breaths.  Dumbfounded, Katriona moved her hands across the expanse of his torso.  As with any inanimate object, she reached right through the tartan slung over his shoulder, but once her hand hit skin, it was as tangible as when she’d been alive. 

And smooth, very smooth.

“What sorcery is this?” she breathed.  “How can I feel you?” 

Large, calloused hands covered hers, their warmth spreading up the perpetually cold miasma of her arms.  The light she cast illuminated golden striations in the darkness of his umber eyes.  The sorrow she read in them interrupted her rage and held her captive for a soft moment. 

“Again, I doona know, lass.”  One of his hands released hers.  The back of his fingers found the curve of her cheek.  “I never thought I’d see yer face again,” he murmured. 

At his touch, a dangerous heat threatened her frigid wrath, revealing the weak spots in the wall of ice she’d built around her humanity.  If he found one crack, the entire thing could shatter completely.  This wasn’t going at all how she’d planned.  He was supposed to be
.  Or at least writhing on the ground in anguish.

Panic surged and she smothered it with anger, slapping his hand away and jolting him with magic. 

He winced as though she’d shocked him, but still didn’t cry out. 

“You’re the worst one of the lot,
” she sneered.  “At least your father and brother didn’t hide their evil behind honeyed words and false compassion.”  Her cheek burned where his fingers had touched, almost as though he’d branded her. 

It fed her rage.

She didn’t want to notice how solid his flesh had been beneath her fingertips.  Or for his touch to remind her that it had been nigh on a year since she’d had human contact of any kind.  The fact that the vibrant timbre of his voice slid awareness to places she’d ignored when she was alive irritated her to no end. 

was the powerful one now, no longer helpless against the whims of stronger men.  How
he affect her like this?

“I will return,” she vowed.  “And when I do, I’ll bring your fate with me.”

A pottery bowl sailed through Katriona and shattered inside of the blackened, hollowed- out shell that used to be their fireplace.

?” her mother screeched.  “

Katriona floated over piles of scorched stone and rubble, evading the small fire pit in the open room.  A light, misting rain dampened inside the structure where the ceiling had burned away and exposed them all to the Highland sky.  “He said his father and brother were killed by the MacLauchlan Berserkers only recently.”  She didn’t examine why she left out the part where Rory had ordered his twin’s death.

!” Spittle collected at the corners of Elspeth MacKay’s scarred and disfigured lips.  “Deceit falls from the mouths of Angus’s kin like mud from a Firbolg.”

“But Mother, it’s true.”  Kamdyn hovered over the tiny, uncomfortable cot in the only corner of the ruined structure that maintained a roof.  Her sweet face, rounded with the softness of youth, mirrored the anxiety they all felt.  “Kylah and I both searched for Angus and his father.  We only found their graves.”

you allow him time to spout his poison Katriona?  Why didn’t you kill him right away?” 

,” Katriona pulsed with frustration, her blue glow intensifying with her emotions.  “He wouldn’t die.  He just—stood there.”

“You mean, he’s still
?” Kamden cried, her glow increasing, as well.  “What if he comes after us?”

“There’s nothing more any of them can do to us now,” Kylah murmured from her corner. 

They all three turned to look at her in surprise.  Her slim, delicate body leaned against the short remnant of what used to be the front wall.  Knees pulled up to her chest, she almost disappeared into her flowing, ghostly blue dress.  The steady rain pattered through her and colored the rock beneath her still body a darker grey. 

Her glow was the dimmest of them all. 

“He could come after Mother,” Kamdyn worried.  “Someone knows she’s here because food, furs, wood, and medicine arrive every week.

None of them knew the identity of their Good Samaritan, as the deliveries were always during the witching hour, when the sisters were drawn from this plane into an empty nether. 

“Could Cliodnah have tricked us?” Katriona asked.

Kamdyn shrugged, her thick waves of strawberry hair floating around her visage as though she was submerged in water.  “It’s possible, I suppose.  The Fae are known to use us mortals for their sport.”

“You dare question my integrity?”  A disembodied voice shook the earth. 

Kamdyn squeaked, and they all turned toward the center of their stone and earth ruin where a form slowly manifested. 

“She meant nothing by it, my lady.”  Elspeth threw her body in front of Kamdyn’s specter.  “She’s young and speaks without thought.”  

Any moisture in the air around the Faerie queen froze to glistening crystals, catching the light from the fire and winking like faraway stars.  The heavier drops of rain in her vicinity solidified and fell to the rubble below her feet, the resulting noise a musical tinkling of halcyon glass upon stone. 

Many a man mistook a visit from the Scottish Banshee queen as that of an angel as her silver robes and lily-white hair flowed with an invisible breeze and radiated an innate luminescence.  Of this, she took gleeful advantage, wreaking havoc with the blindly pious and simple-minded. 

“Your Majesty.”  Katriona took to one knee, hoping to distract Cliodnah from her ire.  “To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

Despite her symmetrical perfection, Cliodnah’s unnatural eyes detracted from her beauty.  Their movement didn’t seem to focus as a mortal’s might, but slid from vision to vision as though impeded by tar.  Far too large for the ocular cavity, her pupils disappeared from time to time into her eye-lids, which proved to be most unnerving.  Katriona tracked them as they followed the torpid movements of her neck before finally resting on her. 

“Nearly a year has passed since I granted your mother’s request and bestowed upon you the powers of a Banshee.”  The Fae spoke like she moved, as though immortality had banished any sense of urgency.  Every syllable carefully ennunciated.  Every thought clearly expressed in her flawless features before moving along to the next.  “Did I fail to mention that if your vengeance is not exacted within one rotation of the Earth in her orbit that you will fail to ever be released from my service?”

“Nay, my lady,” each of the sisters chorused. 

“Why, then, do you delay?”

“’Tis impossible, my queen, as two of our three intended victims have already died.” A jolt of panic ran through Katriona as she thought of Rory’s immunity to her magic.  “The other is not susceptible to my powers,” she admitted. 

“Interesting.”  Cliodnah’s voice never changed inflection.  Katriona was unable to ever ascertain the veracity of her words. 

“How is this possible?” Katriona ventured.  “Was there fault in how I used my magic?”

BOOK: Released
8.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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