Authors: Jocelyn Adams
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Urban, #Romance, #Suspense
When there were no more tears, I pulled myself together and turned the shower off. I would find a way to keep my promise to my mother. I would fix the Seelie and the devastation Parthalan had brought upon the human world. Somehow.
“I’ll be waiting for you,”
Liam whispered as he left my mind.
I dried myself with a towel and slipped the robe back on before going out to the bedroom. The soup was cold, but it still tasted like ambrosia. I scarfed down the crackers and cheese until the plate held only miniscule crumbs.
My mouth was still full when the hallway door burst open and a girl rushed in. Her light pink hair, the color of the sky before dawn, was gathered up in a bouncy ponytail that reached down past her shoulders. She had the look of fresh youth—fair skin with a smattering of freckles high on her cheeks and pouty pink glossed lips. Her white skirt flared around her knees, and a T-shirt in the same shade as her hair stretched over her small breasts. She held a bundle of clothes in her arms.
The young fae stopped mid-stride and scanned the room with barely contained energy, antsy as a racehorse behind the starting gate. When she turned and saw me standing beside the door, she let out a huff.
“Well, come on, girl.” She urged me forward with a nod toward the bed. “Let’s get you in some practical clothes before old mother hen comes back and pecks my eyes out. They’re waiting for us.” She had to be Brígh.
“Who is?” I grabbed the clothes and sorted through until I found a pair of reasonably sized black pants.
“Everyone that’s left in the city.”
“Where did you find these clothes?” I put on the blue underwear and a matching bra I found in the bundle. I yanked on the pants and pulled a snug-fitting white T-shirt over my head. I rubbed my hands over the cotton, happy to be dressed again.
“I saw you coming and went looking for something practical for you to wear. I knew the silver bitch would never go for anything but the ruffled shite she wears, so I hooked you up.”
Ah, so that’s why Nix winked.
I stopped while trying to stuff my foot into a grey sock, my thoughts screeching to a halt. “What do you mean you saw me coming?”
“I’m a Seer. I’m not very good at it yet, but some snippets of the future come to me stronger than others. Seeing you come through the portal sent me off the bed in the middle of the night. Cracked my forehead open on the table and went around for three hours with two black eyes and a red exclamation point carved above my eye. Hurt like a bitch, but I figured I might as well get to work while I was up.” She went from talking to a blinding grin in an instant. Watching her bounce around filled me with some of her restlessness.
How could they all take their abilities in stride when I hurt more people with mine than I helped? Why weren’t they afraid of their power? I began to wonder if I’d been doing something wrong.
After I finished lacing up a pair of black sneakers, I went to the door where Brígh pranced as she waited for me.
“What’s the rush?” I asked.
Some of her jubilance drained away as she met my stare. Brígh’s anxiety convinced me something waited for me.
“We received a message from Parthalan.”
I coughed in an effort to avoid throwing up my soup. “Oh, hell.”
I sprinted along the corridor after Brígh. The polished alabaster walls gleamed, making the tall, seemingly endless hallway appear brighter than it really was.
“What was the message?” My chest constricted—not from the exertion of running, but from the horrific thoughts that crept into my mind about what Parthalan might have done or threatened to do. Knowing him, it would be bad.
She stopped in front of a set of wooden double doors, an inlay of a golden eye in the center of each. The doors opened a moment later, revealing a white chamber. Without a pause, she snatched up my hand and yanked me inside with her. The doors closed, and the light in the walls brightened.
“What is this thing?” I asked when my vision distorted.
“It’s a transport. Beats the hell out of walking up the stairs.” She paced and muttered something unintelligible.
I moved to block her path. “The message. What was it? By the way you’re carrying on, I’m thinking we need to get this transport moving faster.” My heart beat an ominous tune against my rib cage as I stared at her fear-shined eyes.
“I don’t know exactly, but it freaked out Gallagher. If it freaked him out, then—shit. He doesn’t get freaked out over anything.” She shook her hands out and threw her arms around me. I stumbled back into the wall with my new cling-on. When I couldn’t pry the trembling fae away from my body, I rubbed her back until she calmed.
“Your Light is so warm,” she whispered against my throat.
Awkward didn’t quite cover it. I grabbed her by the arms and pushed her back far enough I could see her face.
“Can you see what Parthalan plans to do?” I asked.
She dropped her eyes, rubbed her arms. “It doesn’t work that way. And I don’t want to see.” She put a hand over her eyes, a child afraid to look at the monster.
I wondered how old she was. I guessed late teens, but considering how slowly the fae aged, she could have been anywhere from fifteen to four hundred. “Then how does it work?”
“I see visions once a path is certain, like when you escaped Parthalan and started for Dun Bray. Nothing with him is ever certain. His madness makes him too unpredictable to see, and his ambition makes him dangerous.” She met my gaze with haunted eyes. “He can still win. He can still destroy everything we are and every last human on the earth. All he needs is you to do it.”
I slumped against the chamber wall. She spoke the truth, but to hear a certified psychic say it out loud crumbled the momentum I’d been building.
The doors opened. Panic launched me out of the transport beneath a domed glass ceiling. The enormous circular room hummed, filled with at least fifty fae, sitting, standing, some talking and some staring absently at the alabaster walls. Their postures, low voices and darting eyes betrayed a communal fear.
Liam bolted up from a black leather chair, one of many that encircled a round table the size of a small house.
I ran, unable to peel my eyes away from him as others stood. Clean shaven, his hair spiked up a little—similar to the first time I’d seen him—wearing light blue jeans and a white T-shirt. I stopped before I touched him, realizing how many people were watching us. He kept coming, grabbed me up in a hug and squeezed until I thought he’d break me in two. I gave up, pressing my face against his chest and inhaling his scent until his essence drowned out everything else. Trembling, he grabbed my face and crushed his lips against mine.
Our Light flared, permeating me to my marrow. I opened myself to him, relished in the softness of his lips, the skill of his probing tongue.
When he finally released me, I found Nix standing beside us. The sight of him brought my thoughts back to reality. I put a hand on Liam’s cheek.
“I missed you,”
he said through our link.
“I missed you too. I admit it, but I’m not into public displays, and we kind of have a big problem right now.”
I wondered if Liam put on that little display for Nix’s benefit, but I shoved it aside.
Message now, petty concerns later.
“What’s the message?” I asked Gallagher. My voice echoed back to me from the ceiling.
Neasa approached. Her mouth hung open, I assumed upon examination of my outfit.
Garret sat huddled beside a stone fireplace beyond the table. He shot me a glare, and the corners of his mouth dropped into a frown. After kicking the nearest chair hard enough it slammed against the table, he folded his arms over his chest and scowled.
Gallagher stood and walked directly to me as if his clouded eyes could truly see me. Expression grim, jaw flexed, he reached a hand out and touched my arm. Instinct forced me back a step, and he didn’t pursue. I liked him better all the time.
“I think it would be best if the boy leaves before we begin.” Gallagher stared at me in a way that made my spine itch.
“He lost his father getting me here, Gallagher. He has as much right to hear this as I do.”
The white-haired fae glanced at my brother. After stuffing his hands into his pockets, he edged closer. “It’s out of kindness for the boy that I say this. This concerns his father, and his emotional stake in this matter will not help us come to a decision about what is to be done. We have a hard choice to make, and the outcome will undoubtedly have a profound effect on Garret.”
My knees wanted to give out on me, but I held them stiff and concentrated on breathing. I came close to blurting out that he was my father, too, but I kept my wits about me long enough to remember why I shouldn’t.
Liam must have heard and slipped his hand into mine. I squeezed it while the colors of the room paled. The edge of consciousness frayed and threatened to send me into the abyss.
“I think Gallagher’s right,” Liam said. “I can talk to Garret if you want.”
I shook my head, my chaotic thoughts locking the words in my throat.
“Where did you get those ghastly clothes?” Neasa sat down on a heavy wooden chair nearby and clasped her hands in her lap. Brígh, who stood beside her, shrugged.
“Not now, Neasa.” I pondered what to tell Garret that wouldn’t upset him any more than he already was.
“Why do you touch this one—” Neasa flicked a finger at Liam. “—but refuse the touch of your own people?” Her eyes challenged me.
I stared at Liam, who seemed to know what I wanted. He closed his eyes and our link opened a moment later.
“Do I tell them?”
“They’ll figure it out anyway.”
His eyes wandered toward Nix, a tiny triumphant grin spreading across his face.
“Stop it, Liam.”
I shook my head and turned back to Neasa. “I’ll make this brief because we don’t have time for this protocol shit. The Goddess mated Liam and me a few days ago. No, it wasn’t our choice. I can’t help touching him, and I’m not sure how I feel about it, but it is what it is.”
With my gaze fixed on my brother, I strode over to him, the weight of every eye in the room pressing on me. A few gasps and whispers followed.
“Garret.” I sat down beside him. “I don’t have time to explain this to you properly, but I need you to go back your room until I come and get you.”
When he leapt up, I pulled him back down and put a finger over his lips. His jaw flexed, and his eyes narrowed to slits. “I give you my oath, I’ll explain everything after I talk to these people.”
If I’d been anyone else, the darkness behind his eyes might have made me cower. He stood without a sound, kicked over one of the chairs at the table and jogged back to the transport. When one of the guards in a white tunic followed him in, Garret glared at him.
What the hell happened before I got here?
As the doors closed, I stood and went to the table where Liam waited. He motioned for me to sit in the empty seat beside him. Those who didn’t have a seat at the table stood in a circle behind the chairs.
“What’s the message?” I asked again.
Gallagher sat straighter in his chair and closed his eyes. His head twitched as if something hurt him. When Parthalan appeared in the middle of the table, I pushed my chair back hard enough it toppled over, throwing me to the floor by the fireplace.
“It’s okay.” Nix offered his hand to help me up. “Gallagher is projecting the message he received from one of Parthalan’s telepaths.”
After taking a few deep breaths to overcome the rush of panic, I took Nix’s hand and stood. His hands were large and rough.
A working man’s hands.
I liked that.
Liam hovered beside us, staring daggers at the blond Musketeer. I shook my head, left them both behind and sat back down at the table.
The illusion played before me. Parthalan sat in a dim room, wearing streaks of someone’s blood thick enough to be mistaken for a striped crimson shirt. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, his raven hair waving around his head.
“Although I have enjoyed the chase, my darling, my patience with you has come to an end. You will return to the Black City before the sun sets on the human world tomorrow, or Donovan will suffer for your refusal.”
With a gasp, I shot up from the table. “He’s not dead? But—I saw him collapse.”
Liam wrapped his arms around me from behind and pulled me against him. I struggled free of his hold.
The illusion continued. “He has already suffered more than any fae has suffered and survived, but I promise his pain will grow with every hour you delay. He will beg for death before I grant it.” Parthalan stood, his scowl evolving into a psychotic grin. He walked to the far side of the dingy room. It had the appearance of a dungeon from an old castle, chains dangling from the walls like broken arms. Dark splashes scarred the stone, probably old blood.
The next set of shackles held a fae slumped forward. Blood trickled in a steady flow from his bowed head. My heart stopped when Rourke stepped into the image, grabbed the fae by the hair and yanked his head up so I could see the face. Barely recognizable as a fae, battered and coated in blood, I could only make out the goatee on his chin. The sounds in the room faded beneath the thudding of my heartbeat.
Rourke turned as if he knew just where to find me, flashing his lunatic grin. “Allow me.” He pulled a cloth from the pocket of his black pants and wiped the blood way.
“Shit!” I blurted. “Stop, please stop for a second.”
‘The Glass Man tells only lies.’
My mother’s warning rang out in my head.
Gallagher blinked and sat forward in his chair. The image froze. “What is it, Lila?”
“I saw Donovan fall. Blood poured from his eyes and ears as we jumped from the window. Is there anyone else other than Donovan and Garret that can create illusions?” I pointed a trembling finger at the Parthalan hologram. “This has to be a trick.”
“It’s possible,” Gallagher said. “That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t want Garret to see this yet.”
To my right, a female fae with light brown pixie-style hair cleared her throat. “I can see through any fae glamour, and I see no illusion here.”
“But you are seeing what I see, Granya,” Gallagher said. “It may render your
ineffective in this case.”
She nodded, dropped her gaze to the table, then turned to me and offered a sympathetic smile. A few of the others around the table whispered to one another, their faces all equally grim.
I slumped back down in my chair when dizziness enveloped me. “Okay.” I planted my hands on the table to steady myself. “Let’s see the rest.” I spoke the words, but the voice in the back of my head screamed at me not to look. I had to see.
Gallagher closed his eyes and the scene continued with Rourke throwing the bloody cloth to the ground. Parthalan appeared on the other side of my father, handed a dagger with a curved blade to Rourke, who spun it once in his fingers with the skill only years of practice could have perfected. He laughed as he pressed the tip of it into Donovan’s chest at the base of his throat. My father’s crystal eyes opened. He screamed as Rourke slid the blade farther down his skin. A scarlet ribbon opened up in its wake.
I gripped the table until my fingers turned white. The sound of my father’s pain invaded my ears and injected acid into my soul.
Parthalan sauntered back to his chair and sat down. “If this does not persuade you to come, then I will begin arming my human thugs with fae weapons. Their descent into beasts has amused me, but I’ve grown bored. Perhaps a little violent action might … entertain me.” He blew me a kiss, the blood from his hand staining his mouth crimson. Moaning, he licked his lips. “See you soon, princess.”
The illusion vanished, along with the air in my lungs. I bolted up from my chair, stumbled toward the wall and smashed my fist against it again and again until Liam grabbed my wrists and pressed them against the smooth surface.
I roared in his grasp. “I could have saved him from this!”
“No,” Liam said, “you couldn’t have.”
I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.
“He’s alive. I’m going to keep him that way.”
Liam whirled me around, gripped my face with his hands and forced me to look at him. His swirling blue eyes pulled every muscle in my body tight. “We don’t know that for sure.” Liam averted his gaze. “Donovan was afraid this might happen. I gave my oath that I wouldn’t let you go back for him, and I intend to keep my word.”
My palms thrust into his chest, tearing a grunt from him. “I won’t let him suffer and die like that!”
“The matter of the Unseelie is of no concern to us, Majesty.” Neasa folded her hands together on the table. “We need to decide on an offensive before he escalates war among the humans.”
Unable to contain the instant rage, I dashed for her, picturing my hands around her scrawny neck. The lid on my well of energy rattled, but it didn’t give. Otherwise, she would have been folded into a pile of flesh on the floor. A commotion rose beside me before someone tackled and pinned me to the cold tile.
I fought against Nix as he contained me in his arms with effort.
“I’m sorry,” he said between grunts. “I don’t want you to do anything you’ll regret later.”
“I wouldn’t regret decking that heartless hag!”