Indigo Court Boxed Set 2

For the first time, here are the last three books in the New York Times bestselling Indigo Court urban fantasy series, collected together into one volume.

 

Book Four — Night Vision:

 

Destined to become the Fae Queens of Winter and Summer, Wind Witch Cicely and her cousin, Rhiannon, are eager to assume their roles and marry the loves of their lives. But while Myst hides in the shadows, seeking to regroup her forces, another danger is lurking closer. Renegade vampires Geoffrey and Leo manage to free the Blood Oracle and set him upon New Forest, Washington. Not satisfied with wreaking havoc on the town, Leo ups the ante by kidnapping Rhiannon. Now, Cicely must lead her forces in a bloody battle to save her cousin before everything they’ve worked for crumbles to dust.

 

Book 5 — Night’s End:

 

Newly crowned Fae Queens Cicely and Rhiannon have embraced their destinies and claimed their thrones. But Myst is rising once more, and now, at the helm of her armies, she begins her final assault on the Golden Wood. As Fae, vampires, and magic-born alike fall under the tide of blood, Cicely and her friends must discover a way to destroy the spidery queen before they—and their people—face total annihilation.

 

Book 6 — Night Shivers:

 

Cicely, Queen of Snow and Ice, is slowly getting used to her new role in life as Queen of Winter. The Vampiric Fae have been conquered and Myst is gone, but now something new is unsettling her kingdom. A ship sails across the Crashing Sea from the Golden Isle with new members for her kingdom, but all of the Sidhe aboard are missing. And the Wilding Fae are appealing to the Fae Queen. It seems that several of their members have vanished, and a large shadowy wolf has been seen on the outskirts of their village. Something from the depths of Hel is on the loose, trying to usurp control of the Realm of Snow and Ice. Now, Cicely and her friends must face down the monster before he can marshal the ice giants, and destroy the new Queen and her rule.

 

Additional books in the series that are not included in this set:

Night Myst (book 1)

Night Veil (book 2)

Night Seeker (book 3)

Published:
Share Button
Indigo Court Boxed Set 1

For the first time, here are the first three books in the New York Times bestselling Indigo Court urban fantasy series, collected together into one volume.

 

Book One — Night Myst:

 

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the Dark Fae in order to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they imagined. Now Myst, the Vampiric Fae Queen of the Indigo Court, has enough power to begin a long prophesied supernatural war. And Cicely Waters, a witch who can control the wind, may be the only one who can stop her-and save her beloved Fae prince from the Queen's enslavement.

 

Book Two — Night Veil:

 

Cicely Waters had always thought she was simply one of the magic-born-a witch who can control the wind-but recently she discovered she's also one of the shifting Fae. Now she must perfect her gift. Because Cicely and her friends may have escaped from Myst and her Shadow Hunters, but Myst has managed to capture the Fae Prince who holds Cicely's heart.

 

Book Three — Night Seeker:

 

Cicely Waters, owl shifter and Wind Witch, has rescued the Fae Prince Grieve at a great cost. Their reunion has lost them the allegiance of the Summer Queen--and the tolerance of the vampires. In desperation they turn to the Consortium for help. Now, to regain the good will of Lainule, they must dare to enter the heart of Myst's realm. But as Cicely and Grieve embark on their search for the heartstone of Summer, Winter is already wreaking her terrifying revenge.

 

Additional books continuing the series that are not included in this set:

Night Vision (book 4)

Night’s End (book 5)

Night Shivers (book 6)

Published:
Share Button

Cicely, Queen of Snow and Ice, is slowly getting used to her new role in life. The Vampiric Fae have been conquered and Myst is gone, but now something new is unsettling her kingdom. A ship sails across the Crashing Sea from the Golden Isle with new members for her kingdom, but all of the Sidhe aboard are missing. And the Wilding Fae are appealing to the Fae Queen. Several of their members have vanished, and a large shadowy wolf has been seen on the outskirts of their village. It seems Fenrick, a wolf-shifter and priest of Hel, the frozen goddess of the underworld, is on the loose, trying to usurp control of the Realm of Snow and Ice. Now, Cicely and her friends must face down the monster before he can marshal the ice giants, and destroy the new Queen and her rule.

Published:
Genres:
Excerpt:

The new Courts had risen to power, the Queen of Snow and Ice on her frozen throne, and the Queen of Rivers and Rushes in her fiery realm. The time of the Vampiric Fae had passed, and what few were still alive hid themselves, cloaking against discovery. A time of truce between factions was growing—the true vampires of the Crimson Court, the Fae, and the Consortium. Together, the three powers negotiated peace, and looked to creating a world that all could enjoy—including the yummanii—the human-born. But there are always enemies, and there will always be war. And so, a year after Queen Cicely accepted the crown of Snow and Ice, there came to her door the first hint of a new threat—perhaps an even greater one than Myst had presented… 

From: The New Courts of Fae

READ MORE

Chapter 1

A STORM WAS racing in off the distant ice fields. As I stood at the crest of the hill, I could feel it riding the winds, hard, like a Wind Elemental on an overdose of steroids. The gusts were strong with this one, and the blizzard would be harsh and fierce. I could almost feel a sentience to the storm, as though it were a creature. Hunger drove it. That, and the desire to cover the land in a cloak of white.

I brushed my hair from my face as the wind whipped through, catching up the strands that had strayed from my ponytail. My crown fit snuggly, but it could only do so much in keeping me presentable. At least I don’t have helmet hair, I thought.

But out here—on the Western Floes by the Crashing Sea—looks didn’t matter. Out here, where the ice stretched out over deep oceans of freezing water, survival was the name of the game. And stray hairs were the last thing I was worried about. I was dressed in a thick pair of black jeans. For this journey, I had refused Druise’s attempt to get me into my traditional corset top, insisting instead on a heavy layered sweatshirt. The cold wouldn’t bother me too much, but I needed to be able to move. Even though I was essentially immortal, if I fell into the azure depths, I could still drown.

Grieve was standing by the edge of the ice sheet we were on, his hand shading his eyes from the gleam of late afternoon light. The sky was silver, with strands of blue streaking through it. The sun never rose, nor shone down with its brilliant beams. The realm of Snow and Ice was illuminated by silver hues, accentuated with pale blue in the morning. At dusk, they faded into a velvety aubergine and then into deep black.

“Do you see anything?” I cautiously skirted the jutting blocks of ice that littered the floe, coming to stand by his side.

He shook his head. “Not yet. I know The Wave Catcher was supposed to be arriving at our harbor today.”

“Harbor” was a kind word for the makeshift piers we stood next to. The Crashing Sea was as violent as its name, and very few ships ever came over the horizon to dock by our shores. For one thing, most of the ships would have to launch from another realm, coming through a dangerous portal.

“Do you think…will they be on it?” I could barely breathe, hoping against hope, but my love softly turned and took my hands in his. His hair hung down his back, spun platinum against his olive skin. His eyes were the black of night, with a thousand stars circling in them.

My love. My Prince. My King. Grieve, my chosen consort.

“Cicely, you know they can’t return here. Wrath and Lainule are forever gone from these realms. The minute they crossed into the realm of Snow and Ice they would begin to age and die. They must remain on the Golden Isle, where they will live until they are ready to let go and walk into the mists.” He lifted one of my hands and kissed it gently, his razor-sharp teeth grazing my skin. I shivered at his touch.

“I know, but I keep hoping. I miss them.” Miss was putting it mildly. Every day, I thought about my father, and the former Queen of Rivers and Rushes. They had not only changed my life forever, but had been instrumental to my very existence.

“I know you do. But focus on the positive. The ship is bringing new members for our Court—and for the Court of Rivers and Rushes. New immigrants.”

Grieve seemed genuinely excited, and I tried to match his enthusiasm. But the thought of newcomers entering our halls scared the crap out of me. Would they accept me as their queen, given my heritage? I was only half Cambyra Fae—the rest of me was magic-born, regardless of the fact that I had been through a magical transformation.

I was still unsure of my place, and each day brought its own series of accomplishments and setbacks. At least I could speak Cambyra fairly well. I had immersed myself in it, forced Grieve to spend at least an hour a day talking to me in the dialect of the Winter Fae, and though I wasn’t entirely skilled, I finally had managed a rudimentary grasp of how the language worked.

An owl hovered overhead, then settled down near us. Shifting—like a blur on the ice—my grandfather straightened up. I flashed him a grateful smile. He knew how nervous I was.

“Hunter, I’m glad you made it.”

“To see new blood come to our land? I wouldn’t miss it, my girl.”

“There! I see the ship!” Check, one of my personal bodyguards, pointed out a dark shape riding the swells of the Crashing Sea. As it grew closer, the ship came into focus, ghostly in the mists that boiled along the water. A massive galleon with three masts, the sails were fully unfurled, the wind driving against them with a hard, steady breeze. The wood of The Wave Catcher gleamed in the late afternoon, carved from ancient white oaks back on the Golden Isle, the birthplace of the Sidhe.

I strained my eyes, trying to see anyone who might be watching over the railing, but could see no one. There were no figures rushing about, no shouts from the deck. In fact, the silence was downright eerie as the ship slowly approached the edge of the floe. I cocked my head, wondering why the ship was sparkling so brightly.

“Something’s wrong. Look at the ice.” Grieve leaned toward me, and pointed to the masts. I squinted, realizing he was right. The masts—the railings, the entire ship seemed encased in a layer of ice.

“Reminds me of when the men are out on the Bering Sea on The Deadliest Catch.” I shook my head. “There’s something odd about that ice, but I can’t put my finger on what.”

“ ‘Deadliest Catch’? What are you talking about?”

“Television show. I used to watch it all the time. I can’t now that we live here.” But I remembered all too well what the ships had looked like, icing up during the freezing storms that hit them. The storms knocked them around like spinning tops, and the men had to get out on the decks and break the ice off before it overloaded the ships and sent them to the bottom of the sea.

“The ice should have capsized her by now, shouldn’t it?” I didn’t know much about ships, but I did know that this wasn’t normal.

Grieve shook his head. “No, it shouldn’t. The ship came through the mists into our realm. When you really think about it, I doubt if it’s been on the waters long enough to become so iced over. The crew should have taken care of it, even so.” He motioned to Check. “Take the Queen back a safe distance. The ship is traveling at a good clip and they are showing no signs of slowing down, even though they’re almost to the docks.”

Check nodded. As usual, I was forced to retreat to the top of the cliff, away from the length of ice that stretched out to form a natural pier. Posts had been frozen into it, with strong ropes to tie down the ships as they eased into the harbor.

As I struggled to see what they were doing, the ship kept its heading: straight at the ice.

My men hesitated at first, then began to back away. Then, as the galleon lurched into port, they turned to run. The ship rammed itself into the edge of the floe. As the two forces met, the scream of wood against ice was excruciating. The ship shrieked, the wood splintering like toothpicks, as the ice—hundreds of meters deep—won the battle, driving like a wedge into the hull of the boat. The destruction echoed around us as the ship shuddered to a halt and then the water began to flow in through the holes in the hull.

My men sprang into action, racing across the ice as the boat began to flounder. Three of them—owl shifters—transformed and flew up to the deck, shifting back as they landed. It was easier and safer than scaling the ropes, which were swinging from the sides of the hull.

I watched, waiting. We had to get the Sidhe who were aboard safely off the ship. Some were Cambyra—the Shifting Fae. Others were the Sidhe of the Old World, but they were all our kinsmen. Fretting, I planned out what we would need. Blankets, food, medical care…but until I knew how many reserves we would need, all I could do was wait and hope that we got everyone off. That nobody would be dragged to the bottom as the ship slowly sank.

COLLAPSE
Share Button

Re-release coming in November 2018

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the dark Fae in order to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they could have imagined. Now, in a final push, Myst returns with a vengeance to bring the Golden Wood forever under the rule of the Indigo Court.

Newly crowned Fae Queens Cicely and Rhiannon have embraced their destinies and claimed their thrones. But Myst is rising once more, and now, at the helm of her armies, she begins her final assault on the Golden Wood. As Fae, vampires, and magic-born alike fall under the tide of blood, Cicely and her friends must discover a way to destroy the spidery queen before they—and their people—face total annihilation.

Published:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

I STOOD ON a hillock near the Barrow. The land was covered with snow and ice, the horizon stretching out in a vast panorama of winter. It was the perfect picture. The snow gleamed under an overcast sky, sparkling with the cold. Here and there, patches of ice glistened, a sheen rippling across the landscape, casting pale blue shadows to blanket the world. Evergreens—firs and cedars—stood cloaked in white, the snow weighing down their limbs so they brushed the ground.

My breath emerged in puffs, visible in the early dusk, a cloud of white every time I exhaled. But the pristine chill that made the very air shimmer barely penetrated the feathered cloak I wore. And what little of the cold that did make it through had ceased to bother me over the weeks. For I was the Queen of Snow and Ice now, and cold was no longer my enemy.

READ MORE

As I surveyed the land around my Barrow, I was aware that not ten yards away, Check, my personal guard, kept watch. Beside him stood Fearless, who had thankfully recovered from his wounds. Cambyra Fae healed quickly, and Fearless had mended right up, even with the severe wounds he’d sustained from the Shadow Hunters. While he had been in great pain for several weeks, now he was back in action. I had noticed a side effect of the attack that was both welcome and curious: His attitude toward me had shifted. Where before he had simply been doing his duty, now I sensed loyalty mingled in with that duty; an impression of respect that he hadn’t offered me before.

As I stood there, I plunged myself into the slipstream, searching for information. The realm of Snow and Ice might be mine to command, but we were terribly vulnerable. While Myst was still out there, we were in danger, and we couldn’t let down our guard. I trusted the scouts and my advisors, but ever since my coronation, my awareness had heightened. If I listened carefully enough, I could reach out, almost touch Myst’s energy. After all, we were bound together from a lifetime long before this one. She had been my mother, and I had been her daughter Cherish, the shining star and hope of the Indigo Court, until I betrayed both her and my people.

Ulean, my Wind Elemental, swept around me. She was stronger here, in our frozen realm. The winter kingdom agreed with her. While I’d always heard her clearly—from the very beginning when we were first bound together—here I had become even more aware of her.

At times, I thought I could catch a glimpse of her. Strict, my advisor, had told me it was one of the side effects of taking the crown. One more in a long line of shifts and changes that I had been going through. Some days, I looked in the mirror and wasn’t entirely sure of who I was.

Cicely, there is danger close by. A looming shadow. I believe Myst is on the rise again. Ulean swept past me, swirling snow in the gust of her wake.

It was only a matter of time. We knew she was regrouping. I’ve been hoping she would hold off until Rhiannon and I were more settled in our positions—that it would take her more time to re-strengthen her forces, but I don’t think we have that leeway. I’m afraid we’ll be fighting her sooner than we’d hoped.

Shivering, but not from the cold, I pulled my cloak tightly around my shoulders. The owl feathers used to make the cape had been gathered one by one, hand-sewn by a talented seamstress. My Uwilahsidhe brethren had gifted it to me for my wedding, an honor that meant they’d accepted me into their people. My people. I was half magic-born, and half Uwilahsidhe—the owl-shifters, a branch of the Cambyra Sidhe. I’d only discovered the latter half of my heritage six weeks before. Everything I thought I’d known about myself had changed in that time.

We will do as we must. If we fail, Myst will extend her reach. She will take control of this realm and drive the eternal winter into the world to blanket the land with ice and snow. She will loose the ravenous appetites of her Shadow Hunters on anyone who stands in her way. We cannot let her win, Cicely, or everyone—the magic-born and the Weres and the yummanii—will all be so much prey for the Vampiric Fae. Even the true vampires, Lannan and Regina’s people, will fall to her fury if we don’t stop her.

I reached out, trying to sense the danger Ulean had mentioned. It was like stretching a new muscle—not a physical one, but mental. Focusing, I sent out feelers, probing the landscape. They crept like vines through the slipstream. There, I could sense an arctic fox, and over there—the hare it was stalking. A ways beyond I felt the silent passage of a group of Ice Elementals, their focus so distant and alien that I couldn’t have deciphered their intent if you paid me to. But the creatures were my subjects, they were aligned to me, and so I simply touched their energy before I passed on.

Beyond the Ice Elementals, I came to a tree line, and the dark sentinels of the woodlands whispered rumors in my ears. There were creatures in the woods—monsters who did not belong here, even though they, too, were born of winter and hearkened to the dark months of the year.

I softly began to move forward, my attention drawn by a familiar presence in a stand of snow-covered bushes nearby. As I approached the Wilding Fae—I knew who she was—Check and Fearless flanked my sides.

Ulean laughed. Your friend wishes to speak with you. You have won the hearts of the Wilding Fae, and that is a double-edged blessing.

The Wilding Fae were dangerous, a breed unto themselves. Ancient even by the standards of the Cambyra Fae, they were feral, belonging only to themselves, aligned with no one. But they had chosen to live in the realm of Snow and Ice when I took the throne. Bargaining with them could prove dangerous, but once they’d accepted my rule, they knew better than to try to trip me up with their deals. A good thing, too, considering my lack of bargaining skills.

I paused by the juniper bush. As I waited, a figure stepped out from behind the laden branches. Gaunt, she was short and dressed in a ragtag patchwork of a dress that swept the ground. Her hair was matted into clumps, draping to cover her shoulders. A withered roadwork of lines crisscrossed her face. Her limbs were long and lean, her fingers gnarled with the knots that usually came from old age. But to be honest, I had no clue as to how old she was. The Snow Hag might be old as the world for all I knew, or as timeless as the stars.

She flashed me a cunning smile, and one of her teeth curved up from her upper jaw to rest against her bottom lip. She did not kneel, but I didn’t expect her to. The Wilding Fae lived by their own rules, and while they might now make their home in my realm, they were a force to be feared and respected.

“A queen might be listening for danger, but looking in the wrong direction.” She cocked her head.

I stared at her. Apparently we were dispensing with the niceties today. Usually there was a set format—a pattern with the Wilding Fae that held sway even when discussing nearby dangers.

“It would be helpful if one of the Wilding Fae could help to guide a queen as she seeks for the source of danger on the wind.”

I didn’t have the full cadence down, but Chatter—my cousin’s husband and the new King of Summer—had been drilling us. He was adept at bargaining with the Wilding Fae. Right now, I wished he could be here to help me. But I had to learn for myself at some point, and if I made a mistake, well…then I made a mistake.

“There is a learning curve to this. A queen might be making good progress, however, even while she trips a step here or there. If a certain Wilding Fae were less scrupulous, there might be trouble brewing, but luck will out. One of the Wilding Fae respects the young Winter. And at times, luck has little play in matters of destiny; desire wins out instead. And there is desire to see the new rule continue.”

She winked and laughed. It reminded me of the wolf out of Little Red Riding Hood, but then the slyness vanished, and good humor shone through. Once again, I could feel the Snow Hag’s power emanate through the forest, down to my very bones. They were a crafty, cunning lot, the Wilding Fae, and were dangerous enemies to have.

I thought over what she had said and tried to pinpoint my mistake. Where had I slipped up? But right now the thought of danger lurking in my land preoccupied me, and I was having a hard time concentrating.

After a moment’s silence, the Snow Hag broke a small branch off the tree. “Looking into the distance often leaves a queen ignoring what is directly below her nose. Danger can be alluring, and seemingly, the best of friends. Danger might also throw a furtive glance, begrudge good fortune, and be trapped by what was thought to be a good deed but turned into a snare. Usually, such hints will be visible if one chances to look for them.”

That didn’t sound good. “A spy? You’re saying that I have a spy in my midst?” When she remained silent, I rephrased it as best as I could. “One might think, by your comment, that a queen might have a spy in her Court, as eyes and ears of Myst.”

And with that the Snow Hag cackled. “One might think the Queen of Snow and Ice is growing into her throne. She is wise to listen to and understand the Wilding Fae. One might think the Queen of Snow and Ice is on the right trail and should look in the dark recesses of her Barrow for mice that do not belong there.” And with that she vanished back into the bushes.

Hell. The last thing I needed was one of Myst’s people hiding in my Court. And the Snow Hag had said the danger was right under my nose. I glanced back. Check and Fearless were standing at attention, studiously ignoring my conversation. They had learned the fine art of being present without intruding, a difficult tightrope for anyone to master. But this information meant I couldn’t trust anyone, and while Check and Fearless seemed more than willing to protect me, when I thought about it, I really didn’t know them. I’d have to corner my husband, Grieve, when I returned home, and ask him what we should do.

While I made my way back to the guards, a sudden shift in the wind alerted me as Ulean slipped past.

Cicely—move. Fly. Get yourself out of reach!

I trusted Ulean with my life, and if she said there was danger, I knew it was true.

“Danger! There’s danger coming.” As I warned my guards, I was already raising my arms, transforming, my arms spreading into wings. I shifted into owl form. And then I was aloft and on the wing, in my barred owl shape. Until recently, I’d had to undress in order to transform, but one of the perks of becoming a Fae Queen meant that my clothes changed with me now.

As I spiraled up into the chill evening air, I looked down to see a creature racing out of a nearby bush—and then, with a shimmer, another figure appeared. Shadow Hunters! And they had to have gained entrance to my realm via some way other than the front gate. We had guards set up, watching. Unless those guards are corrupt and working for Myst. The thought crept in as I circled the fray below.

I watched as Check and Fearless engaged the Vampiric Fae.

I wanted to be down there, fighting, but I was the Queen, and I wasn’t allowed to fight my own battles. At least, not unless there was no other option. It felt more and more that my freedom had been pared down. Although I had more power than I ever had possessed, I also had more restrictions. I chafed at the constraints, even though I understood the reasoning for them.

The two Shadow Hunters launched themselves at my guards. They were twisting, morphing into the great cerulean-colored beasts of the Indigo Court, as they prepared to destroy. They were hungry, and unlike the true vampires, the Vampiric Fae fed on muscle and sinew as well as the life force.

Check engaged them with a jeweled sword while Fearless scrambled out of reach. One of the Shadow Hunters had snapped at him, almost catching him in its slathering jaws. Fearless had just recovered from a similar attack, and my blood rose as I watched my men struggle to keep the Shadow Hunters’ great bared teeth from latching on to them.

There was no way I could survive an attack should I set down on the ground. Not even my queen’s dagger could deflect the attack of one of these monsters. But then I knew exactly what to do. It was a dangerous choice, but I couldn’t fly off and allow the Shadow Hunters to ravage my guards.

I spiraled up to the nearest tree and landed on the first bare branch I could find that was big enough to support me when I changed back to my normal shape. Balancing on the limb, I made certain it would be wide enough, then spread one wing so that my arm would be braced against the trunk as I shifted back. My cloak almost threw me off-balance, but I managed to catch myself and stood at the crotch of the limb where it met the trunk, bracing my weight against the tree.

Once I knew I was steady enough, I closed my eyes and summoned the winds. My hair began to lift as the currents of air rose around me, and a niggle of delight twisted in my stomach.

It was a dangerous prospect for me to gather the winds, to stir up a tornado or a gale. Too often, they beckoned me to stay at their helm, to fully give myself over to their realm and become a mad queen on the crest of a storm. But I could save Check and Fearless—and I wasn’t about to let them die.

As I glanced down at the ground, the blood channeled across the snow in a delicate wash of rose that spread over the blanket of white. Whether the blood belonged to Check, Fearless, or the Shadow Hunters, I didn’t know, but if I didn’t act, my guards would be dead. Or worse. Myst could offer worse fates than merely being killed by her people.

Gale Force.” I whispered the words, but the slipstream caught them up and sent them spinning into the air, and they took the form of a vortex.

A breeze wakened, starting lightly, but as I focused it through my body, the gusts increased. They were strong beyond the winds of my Winter realm. They bled directly from the heart of the Elemental plane of Air, a boreal wind sweeping down to buoy me up, to fill me full with a delicious sense of power. I rose to my tiptoes, balancing precariously on the branch.

As I raised my arms, no longer needing the support of the tree trunk, the winds lifted me into the air and spun me aloft, carrying me at the helm of a bank of mist and whirling snow. A second whisper of “Gale Force,” and the winds roared into a storm, hurricane strength, only instead of driving rain along the front, in its fury it picked up the snow and used it as a weapon.

Sleet and snow pelted against the Shadow Hunters, blinding the Vampiric Fae as they struggled against the biting wind. Check and Fearless fell back, Check shouting something to me that I couldn’t hear through the raging storm, but I understood his gestures. He wanted me to drop the winds, to fly back to the Barrow.

But they held me in their mania, and I couldn’t break free. Each time I used this power, it was harder to rein myself in. Each time, I was one step closer to being enslaved by the chaotic forces from the plane of Air. One day, I might not be able to free myself. They summoned me, cajoled me to dive headfirst into their strength, to give myself over to them.

But a shout from below caught my attention. A handful of my other guards had noticed the battle and were wading into the fray. Armed, they pushed forward to attack the Shadow Hunters, even as Check and Fearless rejoined the battle. My forces were strong, and Myst’s pair couldn’t stand up against them.

In that moment of clarity, I released the storm, and as the Shadow Hunters fell under the wave of my guards and the snow was stained with their blood, I transformed back into my owl form and circled to land on the field below.

* * *

I SAT ON the edge of my bed. Druise, my personal maid, was helping me change clothes. She bundled me up into clean, dry black jeans and laced my blue corset snugly, then brought me dry boots and a thin black cloak embroidered with silver threads. The cloak was surprisingly warm, and I wasn’t sure from just what kind of material it had been woven, but it was light and pretty and would keep any chill in the Barrow at bay.

As she draped the material around my shoulders, she was careful not to touch the crown that circled my head. A diadem forged with silver leaves entwining on either side of the circlet, the vines met in the center of my forehead to embrace a glowing cabochon of black onyx. Below the onyx dangled a single diamond teardrop.

I sat on the bed, sipping tea and eating a cookie.

The huge four-poster bed was made from yew wood, the headboard intricately carved with designs and runes that I couldn’t decipher. The bed was old, and I wondered just how many queens had slept in its protection and comfort. Piled high atop blankets and sheets, the indigo comforter matched the pattern of the carpet. Covering the cobblestone floor, the rug was a sweeping panorama of swirling labyrinths embroidered in silver against the indigo weave.

Over the bed, inlaid in cabochons of iolite, sapphire, amethyst, and quartz, the pattern continued. The rest of the ceiling was jet-black, and the gems shimmered against the dark background, their inner light picking up the glow from the lanterns. The shadows in the room seemed to flicker in a slow, sinuous dance of movement.

“How long before you have to be at your meeting, my Lady?” Druise refilled my teacup and I inhaled the rich aroma, grateful as the peppermint cleared my thoughts. A glance up at the clock told me it was five p.m. Of course, it was an arbitrary setting. Time always worked differently within the Faerie Barrows, but I used the clock to keep me on track with my schedule. It gave me some sense of familiarity, a touch from the outer world that made me more comfortable as I adjusted to my new way of life.

“An hour. They’re conferring now, but I needed… I need to think over something before I meet with the others.” Actually, what I had needed was a chance to decompress from the afternoon.

I inhaled slowly, my breath grounding me back into my body, lingering over the comforts of the tea and food. Finally, able to put it off no longer, I sighed and stood. Time to face the reality we had all been dreading. But we’d known she would return sooner or later. Myst was out for my blood and bone.

It had been a month since my cousin Rhiannon and I had taken the thrones of Summer and Winter. A month since I had married Grieve and she had married Chatter. Since then, Rhia and I had poured ourselves into an intensive study of the language of our people and the customs of our Courts as we desperately crammed on what it meant to be Fae Queens.

The whole concept that we were effectively immortal was still too much to deal with, although truth was we could be killed. But if we avoided accidents and murder, if no one found our heartstones, we would live into the mists of time until we were ready to let go and lay down our duties.

Gathering up the messenger bag I carried within the Barrow, I made sure my notebooks were in it, along with pens, chewing gum, my EpiPen, and everything else I would need while out of my chambers. With one last look around the bedroom, I pushed open the door. Check was waiting on the other side to escort me to the council room.

* * *

THE COUNCIL CHAMBER was lit by the ever-present lanterns that lined the Eldburry Barrow. The lights within, pale blue and violet, were young Ice Elementals, indentured into service before being set loose into the world. They did not object to their service.

Within the Fae world and the world of Elementals, human rules and emotions didn’t apply. In the Marburry Barrow—the Summer Court of Rivers and Rushes—the lights were fueled by young Fire Elementals.

Strict was waiting at the table, along with Grieve, my beloved Fae Prince turned King. Check and Fearless stayed after escorting me there, and several other advisors and guard leaders had straggled in. As I entered the room, everyone stood and bowed. Once again it hit me that I was the end of the line. No matter what everyone else did, it all came back to land on my shoulders.

I took my place at the table and nodded for them to sit. A servant offered me a tray filled with roast beef sandwiches, bowls of hot chicken soup, and the ever-present tea. I was weaning them onto coffee, but it was a hard sell.

The Barrow kitchen had already gone through culture shock when I banned all fish and shellfish products. If people wanted to eat them in their own homes, fine, but for me and my staff there would be no seafood at the table. I was EpiPen allergic, anaphylactic, and even though I didn’t like thinking about the possibility, the fact was it would be an easy way for an assassin to get to me. That I even had to think about things like this still sent me reeling, but I was quickly getting used to it.

Once we were settled in with food, Grieve leaned over and placed a kiss on my lips. He was my love, the heart of my heart, and I wore a tattoo of his wolf on my stomach that responded to his feelings. Grieve had been crown prince of the Summer Court—the Court of Rivers and Rushes—until Myst had overrun the Marburry Barrow, killing hundreds of the Cambyra Fae. But he’d been caught by her, and she turned him. Even though he had control over his nature now, he was still feral and wild, a hybrid. But he was my love, and that’s all that mattered.

“Myst is on the move.”

The room fell silent. I had abandoned the protocol of moving through business and polite chitchat.

“Check told us about the attack.” My advisor, Strict, picked up the thread, smoothing over my gaffe, but I didn’t care about faux pas or social niceties. The nightmare had returned. Small talk was all well and good, but right now we didn’t have the luxury to observe tradition.

“He and Fearless would have bought the farm if our men hadn’t noticed the commotion and shown up to help.” I told them about my encounter with the Snow Hag, though I didn’t mention that she’d warned me about a spy in the Court. “Luckily we weren’t far from the Barrow, or we would have been in a fuckton of trouble.”

“Your Majesty…” Strict winced. My slang still bothered him. We were speaking in English because I didn’t know enough Cambyra to make myself understood. I was learning, but it was a complex language.

“Bite me, Strict. When I speak my own language, it’s going to be in my own way.” I flashed him a smile.

That cracked his stern demeanor, and he laughed. “The Cambyra are definitely being dragged into a new way of life thanks to you and your cousin. As to Myst, do we know if she’s within the realm of Snow and Ice?”

I shrugged. “I can’t be certain, but I don’t think so. When I was flying overhead, all I saw were the Shadow Hunters emerge from behind the bushes. They had to get into the realm somehow, so either we have a breach at the gates, or they’ve found some way to transport them over here.”

“Myst could be here, however. We can’t discount the possibility, Your Majesty.” Check tilted his head slightly. “She might have sent them ahead as scouts. I think at this point in the game, we have to be open to just about any possibility.”

Considering what the Snow Hag had revealed, he made a valid point. I leaned back, wondering how much to tell them. The Snow Hag had said the danger was under my nose rather than in the distance, and I knew she hadn’t been talking about the Shadow Hunters. If we did have a spy in our midst, could it be Strict? Check? Fearless? Or one of the other members of my staff gathered around the table with me? Or even…my own sweet Grieve?

But as quickly as it passed through my mind, that last thought vanished. I knew my love, inside and out. I knew that even though he would forever be a member of the Indigo Court, he had broken the connection with Myst. He would always be wild-eyed and feral, my wolf-shifter husband, but he loved me and would lay down his life for me.

After a moment, I motioned to him. “We need to talk, my husband. Alone.”

He followed me into a private chamber just off the council room.

Ulean, keep watch. Make certain nobody is listening at the door. Warn me if they are. And listen to what they are saying while we’re sequestered. I want to know if it’s anything to worry about.

I will, Cicely. But the Snow Hag is right. Danger lurks here. Not necessarily in this room, but the Barrow feels uneasy, and I think there is treachery hiding in the shadows. The feeling of danger was not here yesterday, I don’t believe. Though perhaps I only notice now because I am looking for it. But I think, had it been here before, I would have sensed it. I could be wrong, however.

I shuddered and Grieve pulled me into his embrace. His long platinum hair shimmered against the dim light, and his olive skin was warm and musky. He smelled like cinnamon and autumn leaves, like the dark half of the year on a rainy, chill night. Like the blackness of stars against the snow. He held me close, kissing my hair, kissing my forehead.

“What’s wrong, my Cicely? What gives you grief?”

In soft tones, so as not to be overheard by any prying ears, I laid out what the Snow Hag had told me. “Someone is playing the spy for Myst in our midst. I don’t know who it is, or where to find them. Now I can’t trust anybody. My father assured me that I could trust Strict. He told me that shortly before he and Lainule left for the Golden Isle. But now can I believe what he said? Do I dare trust anybody?”

Trust is a relative word. You were right to keep this a secret. We can’t take chances. While I doubt that Strict or Silverweb would be in Myst’s pocket, we have to know for sure before continuing. If any one of the council in that room happens to be in the service of Myst, and we talk openly about this, she’ll know we’re onto her plans, and then our advantage will be undone.”

He moved back, holding me by my shoulders. “I know you aren’t going to like this, but there is a way to find out. We have to be cautious about how we go about it so word doesn’t get around, however.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about, and he was right: I didn’t like it.

The shamans of the Cambyra Fae had a procedure they could perform. Painful and intrusive, the ritual allowed them to delve into someone’s mind, to root through their thoughts and feelings and secrets. Essentially it came down to a form of mental torture. But it got the job done. And everyone in the Barrow had been through it before I took the throne, so either someone new had joined us, or someone’s loyalty had been turned after the fact.

“I don’t want to order that.” Even as I said the words, I knew that I was fighting a losing battle. There was no other option. Simply going around asking, “By the way, are you working for Myst now?” wasn’t going to get me anywhere, and I knew it. “It’s mind-rape,” I whispered.

“Perhaps so, but it might also save our people. Leave a spy from Myst loose in this Barrow, and the bitch will have a good chance of sweeping through here again. And this time, Myst won’t leave anyone alive. If she gains a foothold again, rest assured the Barrow will be slick with blood and bone and gristle.”

“And she’ll turn everyone who she can use. And the rest…food for the Shadow Hunters.” I hung my head. “I really don’t have a choice, do I?”

Grieve slowly backed away and knelt before me. “You are the Queen of Snow and Ice. Wear your crown and wield your power.”

And so, reluctantly, I whispered, “Then how do we go about this without word getting out?”

“We tell no one else. Not Luna, not Peyton or Kaylin.” The warning in his voice was clear—our friends couldn’t know what was going on. “We visit the shamans. They alone can be trusted. They are chosen from birth for their discipline and power.” He rose, staring into my eyes. “And first, they put me to the test.”

You?” Startled, I began to shake my head. “Not you—”

But Grieve took my hands and gently brushed my wrist with his razor-sharp teeth. A thin red weal rose as blood welled up. Even as I responded, melting under his touch, he shook his head.

“Remember, my love. I belonged to Myst for a time. I carry her blood in my body. She turned me into one of the Vampiric Fae, and while I have gained a modicum of control, as Queen, you cannot be complacent. You cannot trust even me, not without knowing for certain.”

And so, my heart heavy, we returned to the main chamber and told everyone to sit tight. And then Grieve and I made our way through the Barrow, to where the shamans lived. To where I would order them to torture the truth from my beloved husband and the rest of my people.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Night's End

I write to music a good share of the time and have been sharing my playlists on my website. I finally decided to add them to the backs of the books for my readers who aren’t online.

—Yasmine Galenorn

A Pale Horse Named Death: Meet the Wolf
A.J. Roach: Devil May Dance
Adam Lambert: Mad World
Agnes Obel: Close Watch
Air: Moon Fever; Astronomic Club; Napalm Love; Surfing on a Rocket; Playground Love
Android Lust: Here and Now; When the Rains Came; Saint Over; Stained
Antaeus: Palm of the Prophet
Atlas Sound: Angel Is Broken
AWOLNATION: Sail
Black Angels, The: Vikings; Don’t Play with Guns; Young Men Dead; Manipulation; You’re Mine; You on the Run; Indigo Meadow; Haunting at 1300 McKinley
Black Mountain: Queens Will Play; Wucan
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Feel It Now; Shuffle Your Feet; Fault Line
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside; The High Road
Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth
Chris Isaac: Wicked Game
Clannad: Newgrange; Banba Óir
Cobra Verde: Play With Fire
Crazy Town: Butterfly
Cure, The: Charlotte Sometimes; Pornography; Cold
Dragon Ritual Drummers: The Fall; Black Queen
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being
Eels: Souljacker Part 1
Faithless: Addictive
Faun: Lupercalia; Pearl; Zeitgeist; Hymn to Pan; Sieben
Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks
Gabrielle Roth: The Calling; Raven; Rest Your Tears Here
Garbage: I Think I’m Paranoid; Bleed Like Me; Only Happy When It Rains; Queer; Beloved Freak
Gary Numan: Melt; Dead Heaven; Hybrid; Dead Son Rising; In a Dark Place; Walking With Shadows; When the Sky Bleeds, He Will Come; Pure; Dominion Day; The Angel Wars
Gotye: Somebody That I Used To Know; Hearts a Mess
Hedningarna: Grodan/Widergrenen; Räven; Tuuli; Ukkonen
In Strict Confidence: Silver Bullets; Snow White; Tiefer
Julian Cope: Charlotte Anne
Kyuss: Space Cadet
Lady Gaga: Paparazzi; I Like It Rough; Teeth
Ladytron: Black Cat; I’m Not Scared; Ghosts
Lindstrøm and Christabelle: Lovesick
Lord of the Lost: Sex on Legs
Low: Half Light
Madonna: Beautiful Stranger; 4 Minutes
Marcy Playground: Comin’ Up From Behind
Marilyn Manson: Tainted Love
Mark Lanegan: Phantasmagoria Blues; The Gravedigger’s Song; Methamphetamine Blues; Riot in My House; Bleeding Muddy Water
Nine Inch Nails: Get Down, Make Love; Sin; Closer
Nirvana: Heart-Shaped Box; You Know You’re Right
Notwist, The: Hands on Us
Orgy: Blue Monday; Social Enemies
People in Planes: Vampire
Puddle of Mudd: Famous; Psycho
Rammstein: Ich Will; Stripped; Wollt Ihr das Bett in Flammen Sehen
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Sarah McLachlan: Possession
Scorpions: The Zoo
Screaming Trees: Dime Western; Where the Twain Shall Meet
Seether: Remedy
Stone Temple Pilots: Atlanta; Creep
Susan Enan: Bring on the Wonder
Syntax: Pride
Tamaryn: While You’re Sleeping, I’m Dreaming; The Waves; Violet’s in a Pool
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Tom Petty: Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Verve, The: Bitter Sweet Symphony

Share Button

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the dark Fae in order to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they could have imagined. Now, even with Myst, the Queen of the Indigo Court, temporarily out of action, the new Queens of the Golden Wood find themselves facing incredible danger…

Destined to become the Fae Queens of Winter and Summer, Wind Witch Cicely and her cousin, Rhiannon, are eager to assume their roles and marry the loves of their lives. But while Myst hides in the shadows, seeking to regroup her forces, another danger is lurking closer. Renegade vampires Geoffrey and Leo manage to free the Blood Oracle and set him upon New Forest, Washington. Not satisfied with wreaking havoc on the town, Leo ups the ante by kidnapping Rhiannon. Now, Cicely must lead her forces in a bloody battle to save her cousin before everything they’ve worked for crumbles to dust.

Published:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

AS I STEPPED out from the forest, under the open stars, the dark silhouette of the Veil House warmed my heart, but it was a bittersweet moment. The house stood silent against the night sky, but signs abounded that it was slowly returning to life. The walls had been rebuilt, the roof repaired, and it was beginning to look like a house again rather than the bombed-out shelter that it had been. But it would never again be my home. After too many years on the road as a child, I’d returned to New Forest, Washington. I’d come home to my aunt Heather and the Veil House, only to lose both of them for good.

So much had changed over the past few weeks since I’d rolled into town. And so much was still in flux. Literally caught up by a whirlwind, I barely recognized myself now. Everything I’d ever thought about my childhood and heritage had been turned upside down.

READ MORE

A light flurry of snow fell softly, drifting flakes clinging to my shoulders like frozen butterflies. My breath hovered, a pale fog in front of me. Over the past weeks, I’d gotten to hate the snow. Myst had destroyed my love for the icy months of the year.

“You’d better learn to love the cold,” I whispered to myself. “Soon enough, winter will be your permanent home.”

Standing on the precipice of a transformation, I would soon enter the realm of snow and ice forever. Today…today I was still Cicely Waters, Wind Witch and owl shifter. But soon, I’d be…

Who am I becoming, Ulean?

Are you afraid? Do not worry. The initiation will change you—make you stronger.

Again, I shivered. That’s what I’m afraid of. Will I still be me afterward?

Ulean’s laughter surrounded me, a gentle breeze that swept by, almost warm in its touch. The Wind Elemental had been with me since I was six years old. We were bound, and she guarded my back.

You will always be who you are. You’ll just know more about yourself. You’ll learn to control your emerging powers better. You’ll be you, but you’ll also be a queen. And I will always be with you. Lainule bound me to your service before you ever knew who or what you were to become. Her visions guided her. I will not leave you.

And then she fell silent, leaving me with my thoughts again.

I kicked a pile of snow, wishing for spring. Wishing for any season that involved green, growing things. Myst, Queen of the Indigo Court—the Vampiric Fae, upstart winter queen—had brought the eternal twilight to town, determined to spread her ice and chill across the land. Her Shadow Hunters fed on bone and gristle and marrow and life force. Once we finally defeated Myst, the seasons would return to their normal ebb and flow. Until then, we were caught in her unwavering grasp, even though we’d driven her into hiding.

“Any sign of Shadow Hunters?” Rhiannon, my cousin, emerged from the wood to stand beside me. “I’m sorry I’m late—the Summer Court has been keeping me busy.” She didn’t sound exactly thrilled about the whole thing, but I knew that it was just her nerves.

I shook my head. “I don’t see any. But they’re out there. Somewhere. I doubt if they’ll show themselves until Myst regroups her forces. Who knows how many of them managed to escape? And there were plenty of others scattered around the country. They’ll come to her aid when she calls. She’s just biding her time until she rebuilds her army.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Rhiannon glanced over her shoulder. “I wish I felt it was safe to go out alone. Do you think we should bring a couple of the guards?”

I glanced back at the trees. Our guards were there, hidden in the woods, ready to join us if we required. But I’d managed to convince Lainule that—with Myst currently out of the picture—we really didn’t need them. Especially since we were headed to the Emissary’s mansion. Myst couldn’t get through the vampires’ defenses—not when she was at the peak of her power, and not now.

“I think we’ll be fine. We’re just going to Regina’s…” I paused. “But soon enough, we won’t be able to travel alone. Although Lainule does. So maybe…maybe…they won’t be on our tail every place we go.” The thought of being watched everywhere we went didn’t sit well with me.

As the dusk fell across the snowbound evening, Ulean whipped around me. She seemed agitated.

Trouble. There is trouble in the Veil House.

Fuck. Maybe we did need the guards. Shadow Hunters?

No, not Shadow Hunters. Vampires, and they have Luna with them. She’s afraid—I can feel her fear.

I turned to Rhiannon. “Luna’s in the house and Ulean says there are vampires in there with her.” I rushed forward, wondering if the guards would follow. I had no idea if they could see us from where they were in the forest.

Rhiannon plunged through the snow after me. “Damn it. Lannan promised allegiance—”

I raced through the snow, slipping on the icy crust a couple of times. “I don’t think it’s Lannan.”

A sense of dread seeped through me. We’d been cocky. We’d driven Myst back and, even though we knew she was regrouping, the town had felt safe enough to wander around. We’d grown careless the past couple of days. So when Luna had gone to the market alone, assuring us she would be fine, we let her go. Apparently, she was wrong, and so were we.

The back porch of the Veil House had been fully repaired and I bounded up the steps, glancing over my shoulder. No sign of the guards.

Ulean, can you warn Lainule we might need help?

I will. Be cautious, Cicely. I do not know what’s going on in there. I cannot read the vampires’ energies.

With Rhiannon on my heels, I slammed through the door and into the kitchen, skidding to a halt in case they were there. Nothing but a silent room.

The kitchen had been entirely rebuilt. The new color was chiffon yellow, pale as the cool morning light in early spring, and it spread across the room, a gradient of apricot blushing toward the ceiling. The trim had been replaced, and all the cabinets and cupboards. The workmanship was meticulous.

I glanced around, trying to decide whether to go up the back staircase to the bedrooms or—

A noise from the living room caught my attention and I slowed, motioning for Rhiannon to stay behind me. I felt for the sheath hanging off my belt, gripping the hilt of my new dagger. Lainule herself had given it to me, and it was fit for a queen—wickedly sharp, a magical silver alloy, and deadly. Behind me, Rhiannon drew her matching gilt-edged one. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Rhia hadn’t been trained in the use of a blade, and I didn’t want her stabbing me by accident. Or herself.

We peeked around the wall leading to the living room. Here, where the smoke had damaged furniture and wallpaper but not the actual structure, the walls had been stripped and now a pale green illuminated the room, and the antiques had been restored where they could be. New furniture replaced the pieces too broken to be fixed.

Standing in the middle of the room were two men—vampires by the looks of their eyes—wearing dark suits. Between them, they restrained Luna, each holding one of her arms. They were ignoring her as they talked in soft whispers over her head.

Luna was crying, softly, and I saw her shiver as one of the vamps reached down to tip her chin up so she was staring him in the face. He said something—I couldn’t hear what—and she let out a whimper, then pressed her lips together.

“So, what the fuck do you plan on doing with my friend?” I stepped out from around the wall. I wanted more backup, but we had to do something.

The vamps glanced over at me, and then one snorted.

“Took you long enough, witch. We’re here to deliver a message.” He let go of Luna and shoved her forward with so much force that she went sprawling at my feet.

She landed hard on the floor, and I quickly bent to help her up. Struggling, she looked up at me, dazed. Her eyes were wide, and two ragged punctures marred her neck, dried blood from them coating her skin. I knew exactly what that meant.

“Fucking perverts, you fed from her.” I whirled on them. “You’d better not be aligned with Lannan, or I swear, I’m—”

The first vamp sneered. “Shut up, cunt. Try being a little more respectful. You see, we don’t give a fuck about your powers or your lineage or the fact that your oh-so-fragile neck is going to hold up a pretty little diadem.”

“Quiet,” his partner said. He pointed to Luna. “The girl is your message.” They turned to leave, but he stopped and glanced back. “Next time we meet, the warning will be harsher. You might caution your friend about being so carefree. We could have broken her neck without blinking an eye and left her on the street. We could have turned her and taken her with us.”

“Who sent you? Who are you working for?”

He laughed. “You’ll find out soon enough. We’re just administering a gentle reminder that not all vampires in New Forest are as entranced with you as that sycophant Altos and his bitch whore sister.”

I drew back my dagger, knowing it was a foolish move. But I had to do something. I couldn’t take them down with it, but I could do my best to protect us—at least for a while. I moved in front of Luna.

“I don’t care who hates me. Just don’t take it out on my friends—” And then I paused. Crap. I knew who had sent them. At least, I was fairly certain. “Geoffrey and Leo sent you, didn’t they?” Behind me, Rhiannon gasped. “Get back, don’t let them near you.” I glanced over my shoulder to make sure nobody was behind us.

The larger vampire snorted. He cocked his head to the side, his obsidian eyes gleaming. “Don’t worry your scrawny neck about it. We’re not out for the win. Yet. Just consider this visit a promise of things to come. Geoffrey loves the chase, and the hunt. But you’d better prepare yourselves, because when it’s time to get real, little girl, you can be sure there won’t be any place to hide.”

And then, in a blur so fast I couldn’t see them move, they were gone.

I stared at the front door. It was open, blowing in the wind.

“We’re in deep shit, aren’t we?” Rhiannon leaned close to me.

I nodded, staring at the snow that swirled in on the wind. “Yeah,” I said softly. “And somehow, I don’t think it’s going to get any easier. Not for a long time.”

* * *

RHIA AND I managed to get Luna onto the sofa. I was attending to her wounds—the punctures were jagged and deep, and she’d lost a fair amount of blood—when Grieve burst in, followed by Kaylin and several guards.

Kaylin took one look at Luna, on whom he was crushing bad, and rushed over, sliding to the floor beside the couch. “Is she—” He glanced up at me.

“I’m not dead, if that’s what you mean.” Luna groaned and sat up, gently pressing her hand to the bandage on her neck. “But damn, I hurt, and I’m dizzy.”

“There’s no food in this place. We need to get you something to eat.”

Kaylin pulled a candy bar out of his pocket and pressed it into her hands. “What happened? Did you cut yourself? Lainule said there were vampires up here…” He glanced around. The guards had already spread out through the house, making sure the coast was clear.

“The vamps are gone, for now.” I let out a deep breath. “Geoffrey and Leo sent them. Luna…they…” My gaze went to the bandage on her neck.

Kaylin followed my look. “Those fuckers drank from her?”

His eyes grew dark. He was Chinese, and his long hair was pulled back in a ponytail. He looked our age—around his mid- to late twenties—but in reality he was more than a hundred years old. With a night-veil demon wedded to his soul, Kaylin walked in shadows. He played in the dark.

“Yeah,” I said slowly, standing so I could stop him if he tried to follow them. His eyes flashed dangerously, lighting with a fire I had seen only once or twice. “She’ll be okay, Kaylin. They didn’t feed enough to endanger her life.”

Waiting for a moment till he calmed down and sat beside her, I turned to Luna. “Can you tell us what happened?”

She shuddered. “I was on my way to the market—I wanted to make apple pie, but they didn’t have everything I needed at the Barrow. I thought I’d be fine. If anybody had to worry about going out alone during the day, I thought it would be you and Rhiannon. I argued with the guards until they let me go alone.”

“Right. I heard.” I’d vouched for her, told Lainule she’d be okay. I hung my head, sorry I’d ever opened my mouth. “You left around four, right?”

“Yes. I wanted to stop in at the bookstore to see if a book I ordered last week had come in. It felt so good to walk down the sidewalk without being afraid that the Shadow Hunters would be hiding in the alleys.” She grimaced and stretched her neck, wincing from the pain of the bite. Vampires could make you come by drinking from you, but the aftermath? Not so much fun. Kaylin and I helped her sit down again.

“I guess you should have taken a guard with you.” I stopped, realizing I’d just spouted off the same advice Rhia and I had refused to take. With a sigh, I shrugged. “What happened?”

“I stopped at a coffee shop after that, then the market. When I came out, it was just after sunset. I was waiting at a bus stop to return here when they appeared, out from the alleyway. Before I knew what was happening, they grabbed me and dragged me into the shadows. My packages were on the ground, and they pressed me up against the wall. One of them turned to look at me, and that’s when I realized they were vampires. I tried to look away, but…”

Vampires could mesmerize with their gazes, and Luna, as magical as she was, couldn’t possibly hope to stand up against them.

“They both fed on me.” Her voice was thick, and she blushed. “I liked it. They made me like it. I feel…dirty. Used.”

“Yeah, they do that.” I flashed a look at Kaylin that said Don’t say a word, and then knelt beside her. “Did they do anything…else to you?”

She shook her head. “They dragged me into a limo. And then…we were here. I thought they were going to kill me, but the one—the bigger one—just told me that I was lucky this time. Then he grinned and said that next time, he’d finish me himself. He said my blood was sweet.” Another shudder, another look of horror. “That’s right when you came in.”

“Kaylin, take her back to the Barrow and make sure she’s okay.”

Kaylin said nothing but wrapped his arms around her shoulders and, once again, helped her stand. It was obvious she was weak. Luna was short, plump, and pretty. The demon within Kaylin’s soul had given him extra strength and speed, though, and he picked her up as if she were light as a feather and carried her out the door, calling to one of the guards to accompany him.

As they left, I turned to Grieve and Rhiannon. “Want to make a bet this has something to do with our meeting with Regina?”

“You need to take guards with you, since I am specifically not invited.” Grieve glowered. He hated it when I went into Lannan’s territory without him, but there wasn’t much we could do. Having them in the same room together was pretty much like holding a lit rag to a can of gasoline.

I bit my lip. “Twenty minutes ago, I would have said no. Now? Not so much. But they can’t ride in the car. The iron would hurt them.” I pulled out my cell phone and dialed Regina’s private number.

Within seconds, the Emissary for the Crimson Court answered, her voice slick like honey and oil.

“Regina, Geoffrey and Leo just delivered a bloody message to us. I need to bring guards with us tonight. You will allow them through the gate, right?”

Silence for a count of one…two…three. Then she answered, in a voice that wavered only in the slightest. But that faint quiver told me there was cause for concern. “Of course. I’ll tell my guards to be ready for them. How many are you bringing?”

“Five should do it. And Regina, thank you.” Without waiting for an answer, I punched the End Talk button. I knew Regina well enough to know that she wasn’t going to say anything more over the phone. I notified the guards of the sudden change in plans, and they took off, heading for Lannan and Regina’s mansion.

As Rhiannon and I prepared to leave, I held out my arms. Grieve, my Fae Prince, slid willingly into my embrace. “I wish you could go with me, but so not a good idea.” Softly, I kissed his lips, and he growled a little, causing the wolf tattoo on my stomach to respond. “I’ll be careful, I promise.”

“See that you are.” His dark eyes were as black as those of the vampires, but their onyx cores were filled with gleaming stars. Platinum hair cascaded down his shoulders, and he reached up, solemnly, to stroke my face, smelling of cinnamon and apples. “You are my everything. You are my Queen. Do not let the darkness swallow you, my love.”

Nodding, I turned to Rhiannon, who followed me out the door. The guards were already off and running toward Regina and Lannan’s mansion. They would meet us there.

As we hurried to my beloved Pontiac GTO, several armed guards waited beside it, making sure we were safely tucked inside. I turned the ignition, dreading what the rest of the night held. Because I knew in my heart the news was only going to get worse.

* * *

“THEY’RE NEVER GOING to give up until they get even, are they?” Rhia leaned her head against the window, watching as the evening dusk grew deeper.

I shook my head. “No. I don’t think so. I wish I could say yes and mean it, but Leo and Geoffrey are dangerous. Not as dangerous as Myst, but we can’t underestimate them. Regina sounded almost…afraid.”

Rhia jerked around. “Afraid? Regina?

“Yeah, I know—an oxymoron. But she sounded…cautious.”

My stomach fluttered, a knot rising, but I pushed it away, focusing on the icy street as I navigated through the silent neighborhoods. So many people had fled New Forest, and though some were trickling back, the town seemed unnaturally quiet and subdued.

“We’ll know what she knows soon enough.” I turned onto the street that led toward Lannan’s mansion. The estate had belonged to Geoffrey until he’d defied the Crimson Court and been ousted from his position of Regent. Now, Lannan Altos, the golden boy of the Vampire Nation, and my personal nemesis, had taken over the job.

The brilliant mansion lit up the night as we approached. Gleaming white with gold trim, the behemoth rose three stories high, with who knew how many stories belowground. Columns lined the wraparound porch, and urns sported rosebushes now nestled beneath the snow. The tableau suggested a Grecian temple more than a mansion belonging to New Forest.

The entire estate sprawled across two acres, fully gated and surrounded by snow-covered gardens and security guards in dark suits. Vampires they might be, but they also carried guns and stakes and whatever else they might need to defend against enemies. With their obsidian eyes cloaked behind dark glasses, and dressed in black suits, the vamps had an old-time gangster look going on. But there was no mistake—they were vampires, far deadlier than the yummanii mobsters.

As we eased into the driveway, one of the guards hurried up to open my door. They knew my car by now and gave us only a cursory patdown. I politely turned over my silver dagger—which they were cautious to avoid touching. I slipped it into the weapons case one of them carried. I’d pick it up on the way back.

Beside them stood our guards. I saluted them and they bowed, which felt weird as hell, but considering I was in line to become the Queen of Winter, and Rhiannon the Queen of Summer, we’d have to get used to it.

I handed my keys to the valet. As we started up the steps, he carefully parked Favonis out of the way.

Rhia and I glanced at each other.

“After what happened to Luna, I hate going in without backup,” she said.

“I know, but Regina will keep us safe. Even though she’s the Emissary to the Crimson Court, I trust her. She has to be diplomatic, and she knows that the Cambyra Fae would come stake her royal ass if either of us were hurt.”

As soon as I rang the bell, the door swung open. The maid who answered was a bloodwhore, but with perfect makeup, her hair in a chignon, and a stiffly pressed uniform and heels, she had to belong to the Emissary’s stable.

“We’re here to see Regina.”

The woman curtseyed, then led us through the spacious foyer, past the office that had once been Geoffrey’s. But we didn’t stop there. Instead, she led us to the next door down the hallway, at which she tapped discreetly. After a moment, she opened the door, peeked inside, and whispered something. Then, standing back, she ushered us in.

As we entered the room, I was surprised to see that it was yet another office, but this was oh-so-official, with what I assumed was a print of the royal seal of the Vampire Nation hanging over the cherrywood desk. The polished desk was a monster, filling a good one-third of the room. The top was clear except for an appointment book, a pen on a blotter, and a bronze statue that at first looked to be a woman kissing a man. As I drew closer, I saw that it was actually a vampire holding her victim.

Regina, behind the desk, stood as we entered. Blond like her brother, she wore her hair in an intricate updo that must have taken an hour to fix. A black linen pencil skirt hugged her hips, and a red corset boosted her cleavage in an impressive display.

A large ruby teardrop flanked by two diamond baguettes hung around her neck from a gold chain. I knew they were ruby and diamond because Regina would never stoop to wearing costume jewelry. Matching earrings dangled from her ears, and her face was flawlessly made up.

Regina’s eyes glowed with the soft, unbroken obsidian of all true vampires. She wore a neutral eye shadow, with thin, precise liner and heavy mascara that glittered with gold flecks. Her lips were crimson, moist and alluring, and her alabaster skin was like fine porcelain. When she smiled, the tips of her fangs showing, and motioned for us to sit, I felt a brief rush of hunger.

“Cicely, Rhiannon…please make yourselves comfortable.” She waited until we were seated on the dusky mauve divan opposite her desk, then motioned for the maid to leave and close the door behind her. Sitting back, she studied us carefully, as if she were gauging what to say. Or, perhaps, how to say it.

I leaned back against the velvet of the divan. I’d learned never to rush a vampire. The more you pushed, the more they pushed back. So, we waited. Rhiannon nervously knotted her sweater sleeve in her hand, but after a moment, she let out a long breath and finally leaned back beside me.

Regina stepped from behind her desk, crossing to the front, where she leaned her butt against the edge, her long legs stretched out in front, ending in five-inch stilettos. She glanced at the door.

“Lannan will be joining us shortly.” She held up her hand as I shifted uncomfortably. “I know you’d prefer to deal with just me, but the fact is that Lannan’s input on this is vital. Trust me, the news isn’t pleasant.”

“I have a feeling your news is going to be just about as good as what just happened to us.”

On that cheery note, we went back to staring at each other. Even though she didn’t try to pull glamour on me, her gaze unnerved me. I licked my lips and yawned, quickly trying to cover my mouth. Were Queens even supposed to yawn in public? Flustered, I glanced up at the gorgeous vampire, and to my surprise, Regina flashed me a little smile—probably as genuine as she could manage.

“There are so many things changing. The old ways no longer serve your people, nor mine. We must learn to adapt. I think that our two nations have much to explore over the coming decades, don’t you agree? Hmm?” Her voice was smooth, silk against skin, and I ducked my head, feeling oddly shy.

Before I could think of an answer, she straightened up. “I’m being remiss in my duties as hostess. Would you care for something to drink? Some wine, or sparkling water, or a café au lait?”

I was about to say no when Rhiannon surprised me. “Some sparkling water would be nice, with ice if you have it.” She cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders.

“And the girl of light and summer can actually speak.” Regina’s laugh was throaty and rich. I could never tell if she was making fun of us or truly found us amusing. Either way, she rang a small bell and a different maid immediately entered the room.

“Sparkling water for the Queen of Summer. Cicely—what will you have?” Regina expected an answer, and so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

“Mocha, please, with extra chocolate.” A jolt of caffeine would do me some good.

“Mocha, for the Queen of Winter. Extra chocolate and—I think—an extra shot of espresso would be in order for what we have to discuss this night.” Regina dismissed her with the flick of a finger, and the woman scurried out of the room.

It was still hard for me to sit by and watch the vampires treat their servants like chattel, but even more disturbing was the realization that I was growing used to it.

After another awkward silence, the woman returned with our drinks. Directly on her heels was Lannan Altos, who swept over to Regina and kissed her hand and then her lips, his tongue playing over them. After the maid had given us our drinks, Lannan turned to face us.

Lannan Altos, Regina’s brother and her lover. Originally from Sumer, they were two of the older vampires around. Lannan Altos, my bane.

Lannan of the golden hair that flowed down his back and the sleek, tight build. Lannan the hedonist, whose obsession for me had become a dangerous game. Lannan, who had taken me down and made me grovel willingly at his feet. Lannan, who enjoyed games of humiliation at others’ expense.

But Lannan—pervert though he was—had helped us when we needed it, though whether it was due to his own twisted agenda or not, I wasn’t sure. And that meant I had to walk softly and try to keep out of his clutches and stay on his good side. He could do far more damage to me and our cause against Myst than I could do against him. Yet.

Rhiannon and I stood, giving him a cursory bow. As Regent, his position demanded it.

He moved in close, looming over me, and I was keenly aware of his presence. My body responded to him, remembering him in a way I didn’t want it to.

“This matter was brought to our attention just this evening, so I apologize for my tardiness. You will forgive me, won’t you? Cicely?” And he fastened his gaze on me, holding me entranced with those eternally black eyes.

I cleared my throat, mulling over the best response. After our last interaction—the day I’d left the mansion—I wanted nothing more than to kick him in the balls, but diplomacy won out.

“Of course.” I turned to Regina. “But first, let me tell you what happened tonight.” I told them about Luna and the vamps, and the message from Geoffrey. “We have to find them. We have to stop them.”

Regina pressed her lips together before answering. Her voice was tight and brusque. “I have been in communication with the Crimson Queen. The situation is far more dire than you think.”

Uh-oh. That couldn’t be good. I glanced at Rhiannon. We waited for Regina to continue.

“When one of our esteemed Vein Lords went to visit the Blood Oracle yesterday, he discovered that…well…Crawl has gone missing.”

“Missing?” At first I thought I’d heard her wrong, but one look at her face and I knew she was telling us the truth. Her four little words were enough to crumble my world.

Lannan stared at me, unblinking. “Make no mistake. It’s true. Crawl is missing, and no one knows how he escaped from his prison.” His voice echoed through the room, no longer smooth and elegant, but instead harsh. He paced back and forth.

“Prison? Crawl’s chamber is a prison?” That was the first I’d heard anything to that effect.

The Blood Oracle was esteemed, a seer among his people, revered as almost a god. I had no idea he was a prisoner, though it made sense. I knew they’d kept him tucked away between the worlds with good reason. The freakshow was deadly, with no conscience whatsoever, and he’d had his fangs in me once already.

Lannan glanced at me. “Crawl was imprisoned by the Crimson Queen eons ago, when she first anointed him as the Blood Oracle. He’s far too powerful and dangerous to be allowed among the populace, especially around breathers.”

He paused by me, lifting my chin to stare into my face with those gleaming black eyes of his. “You, of all people, should know what he can be like, my sweet Cicely.” And the Golden Boy was back.

Shivering—from both his touch and the memory of Crawl tearing into my neck with wanton thirst—I swallowed the lump rising in my throat and forced myself to remain steady.

Rhiannon looked ready to faint. “How did he get loose?”

Regina grimaced. “Not without help, I can tell you that.”

The idea of someone helping Crawl escape was ludicrous. “Who the fuck would help him get free? Who would even think of something that stupid?”

She gave me a long look. “Consider the situation, Cicely. Who has everything to gain by causing mayhem? By aligning himself with one as powerful as the Oracle?”

And then I knew. “Geoffrey.”

“Yes, Geoffrey and Leo. Word on the street is that Geoffrey is planning a major coup against Lannan, while Leo’s out to kidnap Rhiannon. And both of them are out for revenge against you, Cicely.”

“But why Crawl?” Rhia was so pale she looked as bloodless as the vamps.

Lannan answered. “Crawl can wield dark magic. Ever since he tasted Cicely’s blood, he’s been obsessed with how sweet and rich and tender she was. The Oracle does not forget lightly. And…the Oracle’s sanity long ago turned to dust.”

“And Leo means to turn me into a vampire,” Rhia said. “He wants to turn me and keep me locked up with him.”

Lannan nodded. “No doubt.”

Regina regarded him somberly. “We believe that Geoffrey plans on turning Cicely over to Crawl…” She paused, shuddering. “I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to be at the mercy of the Blood Oracle.”

The room fell silent. I could barely think, let alone speak.

Lannan cleared his throat after a moment and turned to his sister. “What are the Crimson Queen’s orders?”

Regina held up what looked like an official decree. “Direct from the Queen: Our first order is to secure the safety of the newly arisen Fae Queens and the populace of New Forest. With Crawl free among the townspeople, the Vampire Nation could suffer irreversible damage to our reputation. Second: We return him to his prison. And third: We terminate Geoffrey and Leo.”

“Do you know where they are?” I asked.

She let out a soft whisper. “No. We have no idea. I sent in guards to raid their last known hideaway earlier this evening. There was no trace of them or where they went. The owner of the club died without revealing their whereabouts. My men used every form of persuasion possible. The club owner died in the process.”

I crossed to the big bay windows. Every morning, they were covered with steel shutters. Now, I stared outside, into the dim night. The snow was piling up again. Myst was still out there, gunning for us. And Leo and Geoffrey had freed a monster from his dark and fiery hell to claim the streets of the town for his own.

Myst was a holy terror, but at least, she was somewhat predictable. Whereas Crawl…Crawl was as alien as an insect, and as dangerous as any predator who ruled the top of the food chain. Crawl wanted my blood, and Leo and Geoffrey were only too happy to serve me up on a platter.

Lannan was suddenly behind me, making no noise with his approach. He placed his hands on my shoulders and leaned down to whisper in my ear. “Are you afraid, Cicely?”

I turned to stare at him over my shoulder. He wasn’t being sarcastic this time. His question seemed oddly genuine. “Yes, I’m afraid.”

“My offer stands, you know. Let me turn you. Renounce the world of Fae and join me. It would be easy for you to fight back, then. With your powers, combined with me as your sire, you could defeat Leo and Geoffrey.”

His words entwined around me, and the wolf tattoo on my stomach growled a low warning note. Grieve could tell I was all too close to his rival.

I shook my head. “No. I refused to let Geoffrey turn me—I would become a bigger monster than Myst. But thank you. I think you really mean it—you really want to help.”

“Don’t be so quick to think you know my mind, girl.” Lannan let out a low laugh. “I just don’t want to lose you.” But the look on his face told me that Rhiannon and I weren’t the only ones who were afraid. I turned to look at Regina. She, too, wore a look of concern on her face.

As I stared back into the night, too aware of Lannan’s hands still on my shoulders, I thought I saw something dart past the window. As I wiped my eyes, whatever it was seemed to disappear.

It was all too much. Too many enemies. Too much stress. I just wanted to go home and crawl under the covers, but even home now had a new meaning, and was still an alien and strange place. Rhiannon joined me at the window and I took her hand in mine. We stood there, linked, twin-cousins, fire and ice against the shadows outside, as they grew dark and long, and looming.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Night Vision

I write to music a good portion of the time and have been sharing my playlists on my website. I finally decided to add them to the backs of the books for my readers who aren’t online.

The 69 Eyes: August Moon; Some Kind of Magick; Angels
A. J. Roach: Devil May Dance
Aerosmith: Walk This Way
Air: Astronomic Club; Seven Stars; Moon Fever; Napalm Love; Playground Love
The Alan Parsons Project: You Lie Down with Dogs; Children of the Moon; Breakdown
Android Lust: Dragonfly; Stained; Saint Over; A New Heaven
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour: Lady Jesus
Black Mountain: Wucan; Queens Will Play; The Hair Song; Druganaut; Wild Wind
Bon Jovi: Wanted Dead or Alive
Brent Lewis: Beyond Midnight; Wild Wood
Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth
Cobra Verde: Play with Fire
Dave & Steve Gordon: Shaman’s Drum Dance; Four Direction Ritual; Empowered Fire Groove
David Draiman: Forsaken
Eels: Souljacker Part I
Faun: Sieben; Deva; Punagra
Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks
Gabrielle Roth and The Mirrors: The Calling; Raven; Mother Night; Rest Your Tears Here
Gary Numan: When the Sky Bleeds He Will Come; The Fall; Hybrid; Dominion Day
Godhead: Penetrate
Gorillaz: Stylo
Gotye: Hearts a Mess; Somebody That I Used to Know
In Strict Confidence: Silver Bullets; Something to Remember; Snow White
Julian Cope: Charlotte Anne
King Black Acid: Rolling Under; Haunted
Lady Gaga: Teeth; I Like It Rough; Paparazzi; Paper Gangsta; The Fame
Ladytron: I’m Not Scared; Ghosts; White Elephant; Ritual
LindstrØm & Christabelle: Lovesick
Lord of the Lost: Sex on Legs
Low with Tom and Andy: Half Light
Madonna: 4 Minutes
Marilyn Manson: Godeatgod; Tainted Love; Personal Jesus; Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These); Redeemer
Mark Lanegan: The Gravedigger’s Song; Phantasmagoria Blues; Riot in My House; Wedding Dress; Methamphetamine Blues; Riding the Nightingale; Judas Touch
Nine Inch Nails: Closer; Down in It; Sin; Deep
Nirvana: Heart-Shaped Box; You Know You’re Right
Notwist: Hands on Us
Orgy: Social Enemies; Blue Monday; Fiend; Dizzy; Pantomime
A Pale Horse Named Death: Pill Head; Meet the Wolf; Heroin Train
People in Planes: Vampire
Puddle of Mudd: Famous
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik; Sir Psycho Sexy
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Sarah McLachlan: Possession
Screaming Trees: All I Know; Look at You; Dying Days; Witness; Dime Western; Gospel Plow
Seether: Remedy
Soundgarden: Let Me Drown; Black Hole Sun; Fell on Black Days; Fresh Tendrils
Susan Enan: Bring on the Wonder
Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Warchild: Ash
Woodland: Will o’ the Wisp; Lady and the Unicorn; First Melt; Winds of Ostara; I Remember; Gates of Twilight
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

Share Button

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the dark Fae to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they could have imagined. Now, the Vampiric Fae are on the move, hunting anyone in their path. As the war with the vampires ratchets up, Myst, Queen of the Indigo Court, enshrouds New Forest in her chilling grasp.

Cicely Waters, owl shifter and Wind Witch, has rescued the Fae Prince Grieve at a great cost. Their reunion has lost them the allegiance of the Summer Queen--and the tolerance of the vampires. In desperation they turn to the Consortium for help. Now, to regain the good will of Lainule, they must dare to enter the heart of Myst's realm. But as Cicely and Grieve embark on their search for the heartstone of Summer, Winter is already wreaking her terrifying revenge.

Published:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

THE NIGHT WAS still. Snow drifted slowly to the ground, where it compacted into a glazed sheet covering the roads. Favonis—my 1966 sparkling blue Pontiac GTO—glided through the empty streets as I navigated the icy pavement. We had to be cautious. The Shadow Hunters were out in the suburbs tonight, searching for those who braved the cold. They were running amok, and New Forest, Washington, had become their hunting grounds.

Equally dangerous, Geoffrey and the vampires were also out in full force, patrolling the streets. Clusters of dark figures in long black dusters wandered the shopping areas, their collars turned up, hands in pockets, searching the crowds for Myst’s hunters, trying to prevent any more massacres from happening.

READ MORE

At least we could bargain with the vamps and have a chance of winning through reason. They weren’t like the Vampiric Fae; they weren’t out to destroy everyone they met. But still, it all boiled down to the fact that two bloodthirsty predatory groups now divided the town. And they were aching to shake it up.

As for us? We were on a reconnaissance mission.

Kaylin was riding shotgun. My father, Wrath—King of the Court of Rivers and Rushes—and Lannan Altos, the vampire I loved to hate who had become an unexpected ally, sprawled in the backseat.

We were on our way to see what was left of the Veil House, if anything. We’d been holed up for two days, planning out our next moves. Finally, tired of being cooped up, I suggested an expedition. If we could sneak back onto Vyne Street, we might be able to scavenge something useful from out of the ashes.

I dreaded seeing the pile of rubble. I expected to find a burned-out shell filled with soot and charcoal, soggy from the snow. So when Rhiannon had suggested coming along, I stopped her. Better that I go rather than my cousin. She’d grown up at the Veil House. She’d lost her mother there. Asking her to go on a raiding expedition would have been cruel. Besides, the four of us were the least likely to be killed. I’d wanted to bring Grieve, my lover, but it was dangerous to have him so close to the Golden Wood at this point.

A glance over my shoulder told me that my father was doing his best to avoid touching the metal framework of the car. The iron in the car hurt him, but he swallowed the pain, saying nothing. I admired his strength and reserve, and thought that finally I had a role model—someone I could be proud of in my family. But as he lurched against the side, a nasty thought struck me.

“You don’t think I’ll develop a weakness to iron, do you? Favonis has never bothered me before.” I’d only recently discovered that I was half–Cambyra Fae—one of the Uwilahsidhe, the owl shifters—and that Wrath was my father. And the Fae did not get along with iron.

“You are worried about this?” Wrath leaned forward, still looking ill at ease. “Have you noticed a problem?”

“No. It’s just that…I wonder, as more of my Fae lineage comes to the surface, will I be more vulnerable to the things you are?”

“Eyes back on the road, please. I don’t fancy dying in this contraption.” He gave me a slight shake of the head. “If you were to develop our intolerance to iron, it would have happened by now. The only reason you didn’t discover your owl-shifter capabilities earlier was because of the spell I laid on the pendant. I hid it for you, charming it so that you would not remember until you were ready. And I also placed a spell on you, when you were a baby, that you remain unaware of your heritage until you found the necklace and I could teach you how to fly.”

“Good, because I love my car.” I longed to flip on the radio, to listen to some sound other than the quiet hush of our breathing, but it wasn’t a good idea. We were doing our best to avoid drawing attention. I’d wanted to make this trip during the day, but Lannan couldn’t travel then. And during the day, we would have been far more visible to Myst and Geoffrey’s spies. So here we were, in the dark of the night, creeping through the streets, hoping to find something at journey’s end that would help us.

“What are we looking for?” Lannan asked. “I don’t understand why you want to go back to that husk of a house. I have money. If you need something, I can buy it for you.”

I shook my head, glancing toward the rearview mirror, even though I knew I wouldn’t see his reflection. “Not everything we need can be purchased. Especially with Myst and Geoffrey hunting for us. I want to see if we can find any of our magical supplies. Last week, I finished making a lot of charms for Wind Charms, my business. If any survived the fire, they might come in handy. And I just need to see…” I paused.

“You need to see the Veil House and what happened to it,” Kaylin said. “A reality check.”

I kept my eyes on the road, even as my voice was shaking. “Exactly.” I nodded. “But don’t even use the word ‘closure’ to me. There can never be closure, not until Myst is dead and routed out of the wood.”

I pressed my lips together, still bitter over the way things had fallen out. Two of our most powerful allies had turned their backs on us because I refused to go along with a plan that would have changed me forever. I’d refused to let them turn me into a monster, so they walked away and left us dead in the water.

As if sensing my thoughts, Wrath leaned forward and put his hand on my shoulder. The weight and strength in his fingers reassured me. “You chose the correct path. It may be more difficult than the one Geoffrey offered you, but you must trust in your instincts, Cicely.”

I nodded, trying to wrest the feelings of betrayal that ran through my heart. What was past was past, and we’d have to do without either Lannan’s people or the Summer Queen’s help. And that brought up another sticky matter. My father, Wrath, was married to Lainule, and he had chosen to help me rather than side with her. A sick little fear niggled inside of me—would she come after me, too, for claiming his allegiance?

As I turned onto a side street, I flicked off the headlights. We’d wing it in the dark from here. Favonis fishtailed and I eased the wheels into the skid, slowly pulling out before we bounced off the curb. The silent fall of snow continued, as the long winter held us hostage in her embrace.

* * *

FIFTEEN SLOW MINUTES later, we approached the turnoff onto Vyne Street, a cul-de-sac. This town—and the Veil House—had been the only home I’d ever truly known. For years, I’d longed to get myself off the streets, to run away from my mother, who was a strung-out junkie and bloodwhore, and return to New Forest. Now that I’d gotten my wish, all hell had broken loose.

As we approached the end of the road, where the Veil House had stood until two nights ago, I realized I was holding my breath. What would we find? And would we have to fight off a host of Myst’s Shadow Hunters to get through to the ruins?

I pulled into the drive, finally daring to look over at the house. A blackened silhouette stood there—and my heart began to race. It wasn’t burned to the ground, there was still something left. I reached for the door handle.

“It’s not all rubble!!”

I started to jump out of the car, but Lannan snaked over the backseat and looped his arm around my neck, yanking me back. “Be cautious, my beautiful Cicely. The night is filled with predators. Don’t go running over there without us in tow.” His voice was seductive but oddly protective.

I glanced over my shoulder at him. Lannan Altos, with his jet-black vampire eyes that gleamed in the dark, set off by the golden hair that fell past his shoulders. He was gorgeous, and a freak, and his fingers lingered on my skin. I tried to ignore the lurch in my stomach at his touch.

“Point taken.” I’d been so eager I’d almost lost my head. And losing my head could lead to losing my life. I was learning, but over the years I’d had plenty of occasions in which I’d had to leap without looking, and I’d gotten used to hitting the ground running. But here we had to bide our time. The hunters who dogged our heels were far more deadly than any perv or junkie or cop on the street.

I leaned back in my seat, staring at the house. Beyond the three-story Victorian stood the Golden Wood, which spread out, buttressed against the foothills of the Cascades on its far edge. But the golden glow of the Summer Queen was only a memory, and now the forest belonged to Myst, with her spiders and her snow. The aura of the trees burned with a sickly greenish blue light, and I began to tremble. Evil lurked within the woodland, and a ruthless darkness.

I closed my eyes, calling for Ulean. We were bonded, she and I—she was the essence of the wind, an Elemental linked to my soul, and we worked as a team.

Do you sense anything out there?

Her words came in a rush through my mind. Yes. Two of the Vampiric Fae are around back of the house, hunting. If you creep up on them, I’ll be able to keep your scent from traveling ahead of you.

Anything else I should know?

She is out there, far in the forest, weaving her magic. And she is hungry, and angry. You stole Grieve back from her—she wants your blood and your soul. Myst is growing stronger even as the winter strengthens.

I nodded, then turned to the others. “Two of the Shadow Hunters are on the far side of the house. Ulean will run interference for our scent, but be prepared to take them down. No prisoners, no survivors.”

No prisoners. That had become our creed. I was still getting used to the feeling of being a killer. “Murderer” wasn’t a label that weighed easily on my mind, but it was what it was, and Myst was who she was, and in the deadly game of us or them, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice myself or my friends.

We quietly climbed out of the car and I craned my neck, listening. My father did the same. Lannan and Kaylin stood guard, poised for trouble.

A gust of wind howled past and I projected myself onto the slipstream. A whisper rushed by. I listened, focusing to catch the faint words. It wasn’t Ulean. What did you find? Does anything live within the house?

And then an answer: No flesh. No life. Nothing of importance. Only trinkets. She will not want them.

The Shadow Hunters. And they were probably searching for the cats, looking for food. No worries there, though. We’d managed to save all of the felines from the flames and falling timbers, and they were tucked away, safe and sound, back at the warehouse with Luna.

I turned to the others. “We go in. Take them down. Wrath, can you change into your owl form? They won’t be expecting you.”

My father nodded, stepping away from us. He shimmered and then, in a blur, lifted his arms. They became feathered wings, an almost six-foot span. His body transformed, shrinking, and then there he stood—a great horned owl, majestic and beautiful, a study in grace and danger.

I sucked in a deep breath, my blood stirring as it recognized his. Beside me, Kaylin let out a little sound. Lannan stiffened, watching my father with almost too much interest. His obsidian eyes glittered, taking in every nuance of the metamorphosis.

When Wrath was ready, he launched himself off the ground and took to the air, circling us as I jerked my head at the others. Crouching, I moved forward slowly and cautiously. Wrath disappeared around the house, his wings silently propelling him through the night.

Are you ready? We’re about to go in.

Ulean’s hushed reply echoed through me. I will slip ahead and disrupt your scent. They will not know you are coming.

And so we moved. I took the lead, with Kaylin behind me and Lannan silent as the night behind him. For some reason, Lannan’s stealth surprised me, though I don’t know why—vampires made no sound when they chose not to. Perhaps it was because he was so flamboyant. Perhaps because he always had to have the last word. Whatever the case, we proceeded in unison, stooping through the shadows, keeping to the sides of the ruined Veil House.

My fan was looped around my wrist. With it I could summon up gale force winds against our enemies, even a tornado, but Lainule had warned me to use it with caution. Magical objects had a way of possessing their owners if they weren’t careful. In my other hand, I held a silver dagger my father had given me. Kaylin was armed with shurikens, and Lannan carried no weapons. He was a weapon.

We circled the house, the scent of sodden ash and charcoal filling my nose. I caught my breath, once again struck by the loss we’d endured. But worse yet was the loss of my aunt Heather. She had been the heart and soul of the Veil House. Thinking about her, living under Myst’s rule as a vampire, made me cringe. I forced my attention back to what we were doing. One thing at a time. As for Heather…she was long lost to us. There was nothing we could do but attempt to release her spirit, and that meant finding her—and staking her.

As we rounded the corner, there they were. The Shadow Hunters. Vampiric Fae. They lurched up as we rushed in, and one of them let out a low hiss. The cerulean cast to their skin glowed in the light of the falling snow, but instead of the pure black of vampires’ eyes, the black voids glittered with a swirl of white stars.

I rushed forward, trying to reach them before they transformed. As I moved toward one, Wrath came winging down with a shriek and grappled the other Vampiric Fae by the shoulder.

The Shadow Hunter screamed and twisted as my father raked his skin. As Wrath flew out of reach, Kaylin sent a flurry of shurikens into the man. I launched myself at my opponent, with Lannan right on my heels.

The Shadow Hunter saw me coming and pulled out an obsidian dagger. Crap. Their blades were usually poisoned, so sharp that they could rip through skin like a hot knife through butter. And I had a particularly hard time with obsidian. The stone unleashed my predatory nature and I didn’t have control over the effects yet.

I darted to the side as he brought the blade to bear. Lunging past his outstretched arm, I drove my own dagger deep into the muscle above his waist. He let out a scream and began to transform as Lannan came in from the other side.

The Shadow Hunter shifted, his mouth unhinging as his jaw lengthened and he went down on all fours, into a monstrous dog-beast with razor-sharp teeth. He rushed toward me, even as Lannan landed on his back and brought his fangs down onto the back of the creature’s neck, distracting it.

I grabbed the chance, plunging my blade between its eyes. As the Shadow Hunter screeched, Lannan reared back, driving his fangs deep in the flesh as he ripped open the veins. A fountain of blood bubbled up, spurting into the air, foaming over the side of the beast. With a throaty laugh, Lannan began to suck from the wound.

I stumbled back, yanking my dagger out of the creature’s skull, unable to look away. There was something primal, something feral and wild and passionate about watching the vampire feed. I wanted to reach out, to run my hand through his hair, to brush his lips with my own…

Ulean howled around me. Cicely! Watch your step—you are too close to the flame.

Shaking my head, I forced myself to turn away and brushed my hands across my eyes. Damn it. Ever since I’d drunk Lannan’s blood, there’d been a bond between us that I did not want. Like it or not, it existed, no matter how hard I tried to deny it. I’d noticed, over the past few days, that I felt him when he was nearby, like a shadow creeping behind me, waiting. As much as I tried to hide the sensations from Grieve, I was afraid my lover had noticed.

Shaky, my knees weak, I turned to see that my father was back in his Fae form. He and Kaylin were finishing off their opponent. Wrath carried a curved dagger and he slit the man’s throat quickly and quietly, stepping away as the Shadow Hunter clutched at his neck and went tumbling to the ground.

They lay there, silent bodies in the snow, as a stain of blood spread around them, dyeing the brilliant white with dark crimson. Lannan pulled away from the creature, which had reverted to its Fae form. He wiped his mouth on his hand, his eyes glittering. His shirt was stained with blood, and he fastened his gaze on me.

Stepping forward, he reached for my hand, and unable to look away, I let him take it. With a slow, sinuous smile, he lifted my fingers to his mouth, kissing them one by one with his bloody lips.

A shiver raced through me, a live wire that set me aflame. There was something about the blood splattered on him, about the savage way he’d torn into the Shadow Hunter, that set me off. As if he could sense my thoughts, Lannan’s smile turned into a smirk, and he squeezed my hand so tightly I grimaced before he slowly let go, dragging his index finger against my palm.

My wolf growled. I pressed my hand to the tattoo on my stomach. Grieve could sense my feelings, and he wasn’t happy. I quieted him, even as Lannan leaned close to my ear.

“I can smell your arousal,” Lannan whispered. “I’ll fuck you right here if you want me to, baby.” But then Wrath called to us, and he backed away.

I turned to find Kaylin staring at me, but he said nothing. Instead, he motioned to the house. “We should get in there and see what we can find before any of their kinfolk arrive.”

Not trusting my voice, I nodded. The back of the house had been the most damaged, and I wasn’t sure how much I trusted the roof over the kitchen. Most of it had burned away, but there were still patches held up by support beams that had survived the inferno, albeit heavily damaged. The front of the house looked much more stable.

“We go in through the front door,” I finally said. The others followed me, Kaylin first pocketing the obsidian knives from our enemies. We hurried back around the house and up the front steps.

The house is clear?

Ulean shivered against me. Yes, the house is empty, but do not tarry. The woods are alert tonight. The hunters are awake and active. They are searching for you and Grieve. And all who helped him escape.

“We have to hurry, Myst’s people are out in full force and we don’t have a lot of time.” I jogged up the stairs and pushed open the door. We hadn’t even had a chance to lock it when we were rushing to escape.

As I entered the living room, it hit me just how much had happened in the past few weeks—and how much we’d all lost.

* * *

MY NAME IS Cicely Waters and I’m one of the magic-born, a witch who can control the wind. I’m also part Cambyra Fae—the shifting Fae. Uwilahsidhe to be precise, which means I can shift into an owl. On that front, I only recently learned about my heritage and in no way have honed my abilities. But in a few short weeks I’ve learned to love being in my owl form, and I’ve found a freedom I’d never before experienced. Flying, soaring over the ground, has offered me an escape I’ve never before felt. I always felt like a part of me was missing. Now, I feel whole.

When I was very young, Grieve—the Fae Prince of the Court of Rivers and Rushes, and his friend Chatter—came to my cousin Rhiannon and me and taught us how to use our magical abilities. It was Grieve who bound me to Ulean, my Wind Elemental, telling me I would need her help. In a sense, he was foreshadowing my life to come.

When I turned six, my mother, Krystal, dragged me down the stairs of the Veil House, and we headed out on the road. My aunt Heather and the only stability I’d ever known vanished in the blink of one afternoon.

I learned early on how to survive on the streets. I’d longed to return to the Veil House, but Krystal—a meth head who used booze and drugs to dim her own gifts—wasn’t capable of surviving on her own and so I stayed with her until she died in the gutter, a bloodwhore who’d serviced one bad trick too many. Until that day, I’d kept us going, using my ability to hear messages on the wind to stay one step ahead of the cops and the drug runners.

And now my mother was dead, and I’d finally returned to New Forest, Washington. But too little, too late. My aunt had been captured by Myst, and my cousin Rhiannon was terrified for her life. Myst holds the town in her icy grip, and she’s out to spread her people throughout the land, to conquer the vampires and use the magic-born and yummanii—the humans—as cattle.

In a past life long, long ago, I was Myst’s daughter. And Grieve had been my lover then, too. We’d defied our families to be together, rampaging through the bounty hunters and soldiers who sought for us. We’d hidden behind rock and tree, snared them in traps, and I’d torn them to shreds, reveling in the blood.

Grieve and I had fought for our love, killed for our love, and—at the end—when we were cornered and couldn’t escape—died for our love. We had bound ourselves together forever with a potion designed to bring us back together again in another life.

Now, we’re back, and we’ve found one another again. Once again, we’re caught between the Cambyra Fae and the Vampiric Fae. Only this time, Grieve is the one bound to the Indigo Court. Myst turned him into one of her own. And now, the vampires are playing into the equation. I’m tied to their shirttails by a contract that they insist on enforcing.

Some of our allies have chosen to betray us, so we’re in hiding, on the run, fighting against overwhelming odds. Only this time, it will be different. Neither Myst nor the vampires will win. Grieve and I will weather the storm. We have no other option.

* * *

ONCE WE WERE inside, I flipped on a flashlight. The living room had survived the fire, with soot and smoke damage, but the weather was creeping in through the caved-in roof in the kitchen, and I shivered at the ravaged state of the room. Myst’s people had been through here, that much was apparent. The upholstered sofas were shredded as if by wild dogs. Holes marred the walls, the beautiful old antiques scratched and broken.

I slowly walked over to my aunt Heather’s desk. She’d never sit here again, writing in her journal. The sight of the injured wood made me glad that I’d come, and not Rhiannon. It was bad enough to lose her mother to the enemy, but to see how many of the memories of her childhood had been destroyed? I wasn’t about to put her through that. As I ran my hand over the hand-carved oak, now dented and scratched along the once-polished surface, my heart ached.

“I’m sorry.” Kaylin’s voice echoed behind me. “Can I do anything to help?”

I turned, gazing into his smooth, unlined face. Kaylin’s soul had been wedded to a night-veil demon while he was still in his mother’s womb and he hadn’t ever been fully human. Gorgeous, he was Chinese by descent, with a long ponytail trailing down his back. Lithe and wiry-strong, Kaylin Chen was over one hundred years old and had seen more than his share of sorrow. So when he lightly touched my elbow, I knew he understood.

I sought for something to say, but there were no words. I was in a dark spot, and I didn’t know the way out. Finally, I looked around the room. Everything seemed hopeless. But a picture on the wall of Heather and Rhiannon spurred my tongue.

“Family memories. If you see any pictures…for Rhiannon…like that one…”

He nodded, taking the picture off the wall, and then began to hunt through the sideboard on the opposite side of the room. After a while, he moved out into the next room.

I turned back to the desk and yanked open one of the drawers that had remained untouched. And there, I saw my first sign of hope. Aunt Heather’s journal, containing her magical notes, intact with the map that showed the Veil House as a major power juncture on several crisscrossing ley lines.

I pulled out the journal. It was cold in my hand, slightly damp, but otherwise unharmed. Shoving it in my bag, I shuffled through the rest of the drawer. The bank book, an envelope of cash—of course, the Shadow Hunters would have left these things. Myst’s people had no use for money, but we could use it.

After a quick look-see, I just swept everything into the bag and then glanced at the piles on the floor surrounding the other upended drawers. Not much had been left intact, but there—a ring of keys. Not sure what they went to, I added them to the bag.

Lannan had vanished, but after a moment he reappeared, carrying a large bag stuffed full of filled plastic bags and jars. “I found your herb stash. Thought these might be useful.”

I nodded, rummaging through them. Some of these I could use. Some had been healing herbs that Leo had used to make healing salves. Leo. “Crap.”

“What’s wrong?” Lannan was on instant alert, darting a look over his shoulder at the door. “Do you sense something?”

“No. I was just thinking about Leo and how he fucked us over.” I glanced up into Lannan’s eyes. A mistake—you should never stare at a vampire directly—but I didn’t care.

Lannan’s eyes were the center of the abyss, cold and unfeeling. “Leo made his choice. I told you that Geoffrey was not to be trusted.” He hefted the bag over one shoulder. “Don’t blame the boy. He chooses what many would choose—to align himself with immortals over frailty.”

“Don’t blame him? Leo trashed Rhiannon’s world. They were engaged and he turned his back on her. He fucking knocked me across the floor. And Geoffrey…” I shuddered. “Geoffrey wanted to turn me—the same way he’d turned Myst. He wanted to use me as a weapon to bait her.”

Eons ago, Geoffrey, the Regent of the Northwest Vampire Nation and one of the Elder Vein Lords, had attempted to turn the Unseelie Fae. It was then that Myst had been born, turned from his lover into a creature neither vampire nor Fae. A terrifying half-breed, she was more powerful than either Unseelie or vampire. And she was able to bear children. She had become the mother of her race and Queen of the Indigo Court.

Lannan brushed away my fear. “Forget about Geoffrey.” His voice coiled seductively around me as he leaned against my back, one hand around my waist. “I want to turn you but not in order to use you against Myst. I want you for a playmate. But you, Cicely Waters, you would be no fun if I made it too easy. I like a little fight in my playthings.”

I caught my breath, steeling myself as his lips tickled my ear, his fangs dangerously close to my neck. “Better find another toy.” I pushed his hand away from my waist. He let go, only to grab my wrist, his fingers holding me in an iron grip as he delicately rubbed against my skin, setting off yet another unwelcome spark in my stomach.

“Remember your manners, Cicely. Or I’ll have to give you another lesson in etiquette.” His words were soft but threatening.

The glimmer of the flashlight on his hair made him sparkle as if a golden nimbus surrounded him. A memory flared, with me caught in the blood fever, crying out, “My angel of darkness…” My words echoed through my thoughts and I let out a little moan. I was walking on thin ice—I’d felt the sting of Lannan’s perverted lessons too many times now.

Lannan watched me closely, a look of delight spreading across his face. “You’re thinking about me. Inside you. If only we hadn’t been interrupted, I could have finished and you would have been mine. Can you really think that I don’t revel in your reluctance? But you have to admit, I’ve become a valuable ally.”

I let out a long, slow breath and nodded. “Perhaps, but I don’t trust you.”

“Good. You shouldn’t trust anyone. I don’t understand why you trusted Leo to begin with. He stuck his nose so far up Geoffrey’s ass that I’m amazed you didn’t suspect him earlier. He’s just doing what his nature begs.”

“Stop, please. And don’t defend Leo.”

Lannan snorted. “Girl, if Geoffrey gives him what he wants, your cousin better lock her doors at night, because he’ll be coming for her. I know his type.”

“If he hurts her, I’ll never forgive him.” If Leo came after Rhiannon, I’d stake him myself.

Tipping my chin up with his index finger, Lannan shook his head. “My sweet Cicely…if Geoffrey turns him, Leo won’t bother asking for forgiveness. Vampires have neither need nor desire for atonement. I am what I am. I’m a predator. I’m your master. And I have no remorse for any of the things I’ve done in my life. Save, perhaps, for leaving Regina behind. The thought of my beautiful sister in that house with Geoffrey…I fear for her safety, even though she’s the Emissary to the Crimson Court.”

I pulled away and kicked at the rubble. There was nothing else of value here. “You had to. You didn’t have a choice.”

“Now you come to my defense? You’re a confusing one, Cicely. Perhaps you’re right, perhaps not. But we should go, if you are done. Here come your father and Kaylin.” And once again, he was all business.

We carried what bags and boxes we’d found out to the car and backed out of the driveway to return to the warehouse that had become our temporary home. All the way there, Lannan leaned over the backseat, resting a hand on my shoulder.

I knew Wrath and Kaylin were watching, but there was nothing I could do to stop him. Lannan was an ally we needed, and if I protested, he’d only find another way to screw with my head. And another mind-fuck was the last thing I needed right now.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Night Seeker

I write to music a good share of the time and have been sharing my playlists on my website. I finally decided to add them to the backs of the books for my readers who aren’t online.

—Yasmine Galenorn

Adam Lambert: Mad World
Air: Napalm Love, Surfing on a Rocket, Playground Love, Another Day, Cemetary Party
Android Lust: Dragonfly, Stained, Sex and Mutilation
Avalon Rising: The Great Selkie, Dark Moon Circle
Awolnation: Sail
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Shuffle Your Feet, Fault Line
Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe
Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth
Cat Power: I Don’t Blame You, Werewolf
Cat Stevens: Katmandu
Chester Bennington: System
Chris Isaak: Wicked Game
Cobra Verde: Play with Fire
Corvus Corax: Filii Neidhardi, Mille Anni Passi Sunt, Ballade de Mercy
Cul de Sac: I Remember Nothing More, Into the Cone of Cold, The Moon Scolds the Morning Star, The Invisible Worm, Song to the Siren, Cul de Sade
David Bowie: Sister Midnight
David Draiman: Forsaken
Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Depeche Mode: Dream On, Personal Jesus
Disturbed: Stupify
Faun: Sieben, Punagra, Deva
Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks
Gary Numan: Walking with Shadows, Prophecy, The Angel Wars, Melt, A Child with the Ghost
Gypsy: Spirit Nation, Morgaine
Heart: Magic Man
Hedningarna: Gorrlaus, Juopolle Joutunut, Tuuli, Räven (Fox Woman), Grodan/Widergrenen, Täss’ on Nainen
Hugo: 99 Problems
In Strict Confidence: Promised Land, Forbidden Fruit, Silver Bullets
Jace Everett: Bad Things
Jay Gordon: Slept So Long
Jorge Rico: Theme from Picnic at Hanging Rock
Julian Cope: Charlotte Anne
King Black Acid: Rolling Under
Lady Gaga: Paparazzi, I Like It Rough
Lacuna Coil: Our Truth, Swamped, Fragile
Little Big Town: Bones
Low: Half Light
Marilyn Manson: Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon, Tainted Love, Godeatgod
Nine Inch Nails: Sin, Get Down, Make Love, Deep
Nirvana: You Know You’re Right, Heart-Shaped Box
Notwist: Hands on Us
Orgy: Blue Monday, Social Enemies
A Pale Horse Named Death: Meet the Wolf, Cracks in the Walls
PJ Harvey: Let England Shake, The Words That Maketh Murder, In the Dark Places
Puddle of Mudd: Psycho
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication
R.E.M.: Drive
Ringo Starr: It Don’t Come Easy
Rob Zombie: Mars Needs Women
Róisín Murphy: Ramalama (Bang Bang)
Sarah McLachlan: Possession
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Seether: Remedy
Sully Erna: Avalon, The Rise
Susan Enan: Bring on the Wonder
Tamaryn: The Waves, Mild Confusion
Tina Turner: One of the Living
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Warchild: Ash
Woodland: Morgana Moon, The Dragon, Blood of the Moon, Winds of Ostara, Gates of Twilight, First Melt, Into the Twilight
Wumpscut: The March of the Dead
Yoko Kanno: Lithium Flower

Share Button

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the dark Fae to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they could have imagined. Now, the Vampiric Fae are on the move, hunting anyone in their path. As the war with the vampires ratchets up, Myst, Queen of the Indigo Court, enshrouds New Forest in her chilling grasp.

Cicely Waters had always thought she was simply one of the magic-born-a witch who can control the wind-but recently she discovered she's also one of the shifting Fae. Now she must perfect her gift. Because Cicely and her friends may have escaped from Myst and her Shadow Hunters, but Myst has managed to capture the Fae Prince who holds Cicely's heart.

Published:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

THE GREAT HORNED owl sat in the oak.

I could see the bird from my window as it huddled in the sparse branches, trying to protect itself from the snow. I longed to join it, to strip off my clothes and turn into my owl self, to fly free under the haunting winter moon, but the weather was harsh and cold. And Myst was out there, hiding in the forest with her people, waiting.

And somewhere, hidden in her mists and shadows, Grieve is there, captive, caught in Myst’s web. Can he still possibly love me? Can he still be saved from the blood that flows through his veins? How can I let him go, now that we’ve found each other again?

READ MORE

I opened the window and leaned out, glancing down at the yard below. The snow gleamed under the nearly full moon, a crystal blanket of white flooding the lawn. The Golden Wood—or Spider’s Wood, as I called it—was aglow as usual, with a sickly green light that I’d seen every night since returning home to New Forest. A thousand miles and years seemed to separate me from my former existence, although it had been only a couple of weeks since I arrived back in town. But in that short time, my life had turned upside down, in every possible way.

The wind called to me to come and play and I closed my eyes, reveling in the feel of the breezes lashing against my skin. My owls shifted, urging me to fly. The tattoos—a pair of blackwork owls flying over a silver moon impaled on a dagger—banded both of my arms.

Slipping on my leather jacket and gloves, I cautiously climbed out on the roof, making sure that the snow that had built up was stable and didn’t skitter on the shingles, sending me sliding to the ground, but it had turned to ice. I scooted until my back rested against the window, then brought my knees up, circling them with my arms, and nestled as best as I could against the cold.

As I stared up into the oak, the great horned owl let out a soft hoot, stirring my blood. Over the past month, he’d taught me to shake off the fear of falling, to soar through the unending night turning on a wing, catching mice in the yard, while always, always, keeping an eye on the forest.

You are Uwilahsidhe. You are magic-born. You must keep watch for Myst, he constantly reminded me. The Queen of the Indigo Court seeks to destroy you.

I raised one hand in salute, the snowflakes softly kissing my skin, and he hooted again, a warning in his tone.

“What is it?” I whispered. “What are you trying to tell me?”

Ulean, my Wind Elemental, swept around me like a cloak, answering for him. He fears for you. There are ghosts riding the wind tonight, and the Shadow Hunters are out and about. There will be death before the morning.

More death. More blood. My stomach churned as I thought about the four killings reported over the past two days. One had been a child. All had been torn to bits, eaten to the bone.

I gazed at the forest. What were Myst and her people up to tonight? Who were they hunting? The bitch-queen was ravenous and without mercy.

There has been so much death over the past few days. They are terrorizing the town and now everyone fears them, even though they don’t know from whom they run. I leaned against the gentle current that signaled Ulean was embracing me. She had been my guardian since I was six years old, bonded to me through ritual, a gift from Lainule, the Fae Queen of Rivers and Rushes.

And they should fear. Myst won’t just go away. She is here to make her mark and conquer. She is here to destroy. Ulean caught up a flurry of snow and sent it into the air, spiraling around me.

I glanced back inside at the clock. Seven p.m. Another two hours before we were to meet with Geoffrey. Finally, after five days of silence, the Northwest Regent of the Vampire Nation had summoned us. Five days after we had rescued our friend Peyton from Myst. Five days after I’d lost Grieve. Five days during which the Indigo Court had rained hell on the town, killing eight people.

The owl hooted again and as I glanced in his direction, a shadow of movement caught my eye from below, over near the herb gardens.

Crap—something was rooting around down there. Not an animal, so what was it? Another glance over at the Spider’s Wood showed nothing amiss, but we couldn’t take any chances.

Ulean, do you know what that thing is?

A moment passed and then she drifted gently around me again. Not one of the Shadow Hunters, but I have no doubt it belongs to the Indigo Court. Myst is attracting the sinister Fae.

I leaned forward, trying to keep it within my sight.

I need to know what it is. We can’t take a chance on letting it prowl around our land.

Scrambling back through the window, I paused just long enough to slip on my wrist sheath and make sure my switchblade was firmly affixed. Grabbing my fan from the dresser, I slipped back out on the roof and edged my way to the overhang.

The two-story drop could have presented a problem, but a couple of days ago I’d installed a roll-up ladder. I’d been out flying and landed back on the roof, only to discover that somebody in the house had thought I was off shopping and had shut my window and locked it. I’d been stuck out in the snow, naked, too tired to change back into owl form to fly down to the ground and come through the front door. Now, I had the option of climbing down, which was a whole lot easier than shapeshifting when I was exhausted.

I rolled the ladder over the edge and was about to swing onto the rungs when Kaylin stuck his head through the window.

“What are you doing?”

“Goblin dog or something of the sort in the backyard. I was going to check it out.”

“Give me ten secs and I’ll come with you.” He ducked back through the window as I headed down to the ground. A moment later, Kaylin was shimmying down the ladder to land next to me. The dreamwalker was far older than his looks belied, and he was far more skilled in fighting than I was. Having him at my back made me feel much more secure.

“Where are the others?” I hadn’t seen my cousin Rhiannon all day.

“Rhiannon is out shopping, and Leo is on a last-minute run for Geoffrey.”

Leo was a day runner for the vampires. More specifically, he worked for the Regent, running errands that Geoffrey and his wife couldn’t do during the daylight hours.

“What about Chatter?”

“He’s in the basement, working on charms against the Indigo Court.”

“I thought the house seemed quiet.” I moved forward cautiously.

The backyard of the Veil House was more like the back forty. Filled with herb gardens, stone circles, and fruit trees, right now it lay blanketed in a thick layer of snow, and the rising moon set off a bluish tinge to everything around. We stopped, listening to the owl as he hooted again, his warnings echoing through the yard.

We were as quiet as possible, but at one point I stepped on a fallen branch, buried by the snow. It snapped in two. The creature, which had apparently been working its way toward the house, stopped moving.

This way, Kaylin mouthed, circling around it.

I followed his lead, edging closer to whatever it was. We managed to slip behind a nearby bush before it could back away. There didn’t appear to be more than one, and we were able to get a good look at it.

The creature was about four feet tall, with a bloated stomach and long bony arms that dragged along the ground. Its head was distorted, elongated and elliptical, with longish ears. The eyes were wide-set and cunning. As it drew back its lips into a grimace, drool dripped from between its needle-sharp teeth.

“Have any idea what it is?” I whispered to Kaylin, wishing he could talk on the slipstream. It was much easier to avoid being overheard when sending messages along the currents of air.

Kaylin cocked his head, his ponytail shifting slightly. “Goblin. One of Myst’s toadies, no doubt. If we let it live, I guarantee it will bring others. The dark Fae can get through our wards where Myst’s Shadow Hunters can’t, so Myst is probably testing how far she can push into our land using her allies.”

“Kill or wound as a message?”

“Go in for the kill. If we just wound it, we’d have yet another nasty enemy on our hands.”

I gave him a short nod, saving my breath as we burst out of the bushes and poured on the speed. As we caught up to the thing—the goblin was terribly quick—I pulled out my fan, whispered “Strong Gust,” and snapped it open, waving it twice.

A quick blast of air slammed against us—and the goblin. Startled, the creature skidded to a halt at the edge of the forest, looking confused. Kaylin dove forward, rolling to come up in a fighting stance. He kicked it in the chin. As the goblin lurched back, I slipped through on the left side and brought my switchblade down on its arm, stabbing it deeply.

Kaylin fumbled for his shurikens as an icy gust of wind came whistling from the direction of the forest, and a shadow figure loomed at the border dividing the woods from the magical barrier we’d constructed. A glimpse of pale skin with a cerulean cast to it told us all we needed to know. One of the Vampiric Fae. A Shadow Hunter.

“Shit,” I muttered, steeling myself as the goblin launched itself at me.

The Shadow Hunter raised a bow, his sight intent on Kaylin. He might not be able to set foot on our land, but his weaponry could. I shouted a warning to Kaylin and waved my fan in the direction of the Vampiric Fae, whispering, “Strong Gust.” The arrow came zinging our way, but missed by inches.

The goblin landed on me and we both went down, rolling into the snow. I couldn’t use my fan in such close quarters, so I struggled to catch the creature by the throat. I was bigger than the goblin, but not as tough. After thrashing against its leathery skin, I finally managed to get one hand around its neck.

Gnashing his teeth, the goblin snapped at my hand and I pulled away just in time. Even if I didn’t lose any fingers, chances were good it had to have some nasty bacteria in that mouth and I wanted no part of any infection he might be carrying. We wrestled, me trying to force back its hands as it scrambled to slash at my face. One swipe of those clawlike nails could take out an eye. The stench of the creature was putrid, like a combination of gas and vomit, and its eyes were round and lidless.

I sucked in a deep breath and heaved, pushing with both hands and feet, and managed to roll on top, trapping the goblin between my knees. I squeezed my thighs together, trying to keep the goblin from slipping away from me. At that moment, Kaylin let out a shout and I jerked around. A muscle pulled in my neck.

“Fuck!” The Shadow Hunter’s second arrow had grazed his arm.

The bolt had penetrated the heavy leather he was wearing but looked like it hadn’t gone too deep. Kaylin yanked the arrow out, tossing it to the ground, and dashed over the boundary line. The Shadow Hunter hadn’t been prepared for him to go on the offensive and went down when Kaylin tackled him, a flurry of fists flying.

I turned my attention back to the goblin. If I let this thing get away, it would be back, with reinforcements. I flipped the blade on my switchblade and paused. Killing creatures—even our enemies—was still new and did not come easy to me. I sucked in a deep breath.

You can do it. Steady. Aim for the forehead. Goblins are vulnerable in the third-eye area. Ulean flurried around me, trying to keep the snow from blinding me.

With a surge in the pit of my stomach, I brought the blade down, wincing as it slid through the goblin’s head. New Forest had become a town of kill or be killed. We no longer had the luxury of allowing our enemies to live in peace.

I drove the blade in to the hilt. The goblin screeched, loud and jagged through the twilight, and then fell limp as a fountain of blood stained the snow red, diluting into petal pink. The stench of the creature lingered, joined by that of blood. I withdrew my blade, yanking when it resisted.

Another shout. I looked up to realize that—in my fight—I’d also passed the boundary line and the Shadow Hunter was on the run, aiming directly for me. I froze, but he merely shoved me aside and fell to the side of the goblin’s body, his face pressed against the creature’s wound.

As I backed away, horrified, he lapped at the blood, and then began to transform, his mouth unhinging like that of a snake as he shifted into a doglike monster, his jaws lined with spiny teeth. With ravenous fury, he bit off the head, chewing it, spattering bits of brain matter every which way.

Kaylin brushed his fingers to his lips when I glanced at him and slowly edged up on the Shadow Hunter. He brought out a short dagger, serrated and coated in a magical oil. I knew what the oil did. As he plunged the knife into the side of the Vampiric Fae, aiming for the heart, the oil encouraged the blood to flow and the crimson liquid stained the snow still further.

The Shadow Hunter started to turn, but I was quicker, stabbing his haunch with my blade and dragging it through his tough hide. Then Kaylin and I lightly danced backward, out of reach of those deadly teeth.

A voice echoed from behind us and I turned to see my cousin Rhiannon stretching out her hands, a small red charm in the palm of her right. She whispered, just loud enough for us to hear, “Flame to flame, bolt to bolt, fire to fire, jolt to jolt. Lightning, let me be thy rod.”

All hell broke loose as a bolt of snow lightning came forking out of the gathering clouds, ripping to the ground to shatter the Shadow Hunter into a thousand pieces, as if he were a glass dish smashed on concrete.

As soon as the spell sang out of her body, Rhiannon collapsed and Kaylin raced over to catch her. I stared at the remains of the Shadow Hunter and the goblin. Not much left. Nothing to take home with us, except two more notches on our belt, and the hope that we’d be able to sleep soundly, knowing there was one fewer member of Myst’s court in the world. One less toady of hers to slip onto our land.

Kaylin shivered. He was bleeding through the rent in his jacket from the arrow. At that moment, I glanced down and noticed a trickle running down my own shoulder. A puncture wound had penetrated my jacket. I slipped it off to see blood saturating my top. The goblin must have stabbed me with its claw. I hadn’t even noticed.

“We’re growing numb to our pain,” I said as we turned away from the carnage we’d just inflicted.

“We have to,” Kaylin said. “We have to learn to weather the battles because there will be far more to come before things get back to normal. If there even is such a thing as ‘normal’ anymore.”

I nodded and looked at Rhiannon. “You saved the day.” The thank-you was implied.

She slipped her arm around my waist and leaned down to kiss my forehead. “I just got home and saw the commotion from the car. Leo’s still in town and I don’t know where Chatter is.”

“In the basement, working with the charms.”

“Ah. Good. We’ll need them.”

“I guess we’d better get back on our land before anything else comes out of the woods. We need to tend to our wounds and make sure they don’t get infected.” I wearily turned back to the house.

As we crossed the demarcation line that magically divided the Golden Wood from the Veil House, I couldn’t help but shudder. Like it or not, we were pawns in a war between two powerful enemies—Geoffrey and Myst—and we were doing our best just to stay alive.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Night Veil

I write to music a good share of the time and include my playlists in all my books.

Air: Napalm Love; Mike Mills; Surfing on a Rocket; Clouds Up; Playground Love
Audioslave: Set It Off
Beck: Scarecrow; Black Tambourine; Nausea
Black Label Society: Rust
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Shuffle Your Feet; Fault Line
Blue Oyster Cult: Godzilla
Cake: The Distance
Cat Power: I Don’t Blame You; Werewolf
CC Adcock: Bleed 2 Feed
Chester Bennington: System
Chris Isaak: Wicked Game
Cobra Verde: Play with Fire
David Bowie: Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed; Sister Midnight; Fame; Without You
Death Cab for Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Depeche Mode: Dream On; Route 66
Eddy Grant: Electric Avenue
Evans Blue: Cold
Faun: Satyros; Königin; Rad; Sieben; Tinta
Gary Numan: Survival; Noise, Noise; Call Out the Dogs; Dead Heaven; Sleep By Windows; Melt; Hybrid; Pure; Cars (Hybrid Mix); Soul Protection
Godsmack: Voodoo
Gorillaz: Clint Eastwood
Hives: Tick Tick Boom
Jace Everett: Bad Things
Jay Gordon: Slept So Long
King Black Acid: Rolling Under; Great Spaces
Lady Gaga: Paparazzi; Poker Face
Ladytron: Mu-Tron; Destroy Everything You Touch; Ghosts; Black Cat; I’m Not Scared
Lindstrom and Christabelle: Lovesick
Low: Half Light
Marilyn Manson: Arma-Goddamn-Motherfuckin-Geddon; Tainted Love; Godeatgod
Metallica: Enter Sandman
Nine Inch Nails: Sin; Get Down, Make Love; Closer
Nirvana: You Know You’re Right; Come As You Are
Oingo Boingo: Elevator Man
Orgy: Blue Monday
The Police: King of Pain; Don’t Stand So Close to Me
Puddle of Mudd: Psycho
Ricky Martin: She Bangs
Rob Zombie: Living Dead Girl; American Witch; Never Gonna Stop
Roison Murphy: Ramalama Bang Bang
Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Sarah McLachlan: Possession
Seether: Remedy
Shiny Toy Guns: Major Tom
Shriekback: New Man; Dust and a Shadow
Simple Minds: Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Soundgarden: Spoonman
Stealers Wheel: Stuck in the Middle with You
Susan Enan: Bring on the Wonder
Talking Heads: Psycho Killer
Tears for Fears: Mad World
Thompson Twins: Love on Your Side; The Gap
Tina Turner: One of the Living
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Tool: Prison Sex
Transplants: Diamonds and Guns
Warchild: Ash
Yoko Kanno: Lithium Flower
Zero Seven: In the Waiting Line

Share Button

Eons ago, vampires tried to turn the Dark Fae in order to harness their magic, only to create a demonic enemy more powerful than they imagined. Now Myst, the Vampiric Fae Queen of the Indigo Court, has enough power to begin a long prophesied supernatural war. And Cicely Waters, a witch who can control the wind, may be the only one who can stop her-and save her beloved Fae prince from the Queen's enslavement.

Published:
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Excerpt:

Chapter 1

THE WOMEN IN my family have always been witches, which is why when Ulean, my Wind Elemental, tossed my hair early on a balmy, breezy December morning and whispered in my ear to listen to the wind, there was a message for me riding the currents—I did. Pausing to close my eyes and lower myself into the slipstream, I heard a faint, feminine voice calling my name. When it told me that my aunt Heather and cousin Rhiannon were in trouble, I didn’t wait for a second warning. I called them to tell them I was on my way and got my second surprise of the day.

“Marta’s dead.” Heather’s voice was strained.

I stared at the phone. Marta, dead? The woman had been ancient the last time I was home, but we all expected her to outlive the entire town. That she was dead seemed incomprehensible. “She’s dead? What happened?”

READ MORE

“I don’t know, Cicely. We found her in her garden. She was drained of blood and her throat had been…ripped apart. And I do mean ripped.”

The obvious answer was a rogue vampire, except for one thing: the “ripped” part. Most vampires were fairly tidy with their work. The Northwest Regent for the Vampire Nation lived in New Forest and kept order in the area. Geoffrey was a good sort—if you can call a vampire a good sort—and it was hard for me to believe that any one of the vamps under his control would be so stupid as to kill Marta. She had charms aplenty for warding them off and the repercussions would be harsh, even for the vamps.

“You think one of Geoffrey’s people killed her? What do the police say?”

My aunt paused. “I’m not sure of anything, to be honest. There are some strange things going on and the town is…changing. The cops didn’t seem too interested in investigating Marta’s death.”

A chill ran up my spine.

Strange is not the word for it, Ulean whispered. There are so many traps in New Forest now. The entire town is in danger.

“Are you sure you’re okay? A voice on the wind told me that you and Rhiannon are in danger. I was about to pack.”

A pause. Then, “Please come home. I’d love to have you come home for good. It’s time, Cicely. Krystal’s gone, and we need you. Right now, I’m not sure what that danger is, but yes, it’s lurking on the edges and in truth, it has me afraid.”

My aunt never admitted fear. That she would do so now sealed my decision to return to New Forest.

Heather paused, then added, “I think at this point, everyone’s fair game, but the magic-born seem to be getting hit the hardest. I’ll explain when you get here. And there’s another reason you should return.”

“What?” Family duty I had no problem with, unlike my mother. But Heather’s voice sounded odd and a tingling at the back of my neck told me that something else was in play.

“Marta passed the torch to you. She left you her practice. The town can’t do without her, and apparently she’s chosen you to take her place. You’ll have to move the business over here to Veil House. It will take a little while for you to get everything set up again, but she left you all her supplies.”

Stunned, I blinked. Marta was the town witch. People went to her for help. She was also the elder of the secret Thirteen Moons Society—the coterie my aunt belonged to. No one but family members knew about the Society and it was kept that way on purpose. Hell, even I didn’t know what they did—only when you were inducted into the Society were you told what went on.

“Marta left me her business? Are you sure of that?” I had been home once a year from the time I was thirteen until I turned seventeen, and that had been the last time I’d set foot in New Forest. And my mother had been persona non grata with the elder witch. “Why would Marta do that?”

Heather laughed. “Oh, Cicely, you may be twenty-six now and on your own, but you’re still one of us. You’ve always been one of us, even though your mother tried to distance the both of you. It’s time to come home to New Forest.” Her voice turned serious. “Krystal’s dead. You don’t have to run anymore. Come back. We need you. I need you. And you…you need us.”

She was right. In my heart, I knew it was time to go home. I’d been running for years, but now there was no more reason. There hadn’t been a reason for me to stay on the road for two years, since Krystal had died. Except that sometimes running felt like all I knew how to do. But now…Marta had left me her business. I had something to go home to—something to focus my life on, other than keeping my mother and me alive.

“Be there in three days tops,” I told Heather. “Can I have my mother’s old room?” Memories of the violet-and-ivory trimmed room loomed in my mind.

“Of course you can, and you can use the back parlor for your business and one of the spare rooms on the third floor for your supplies and workroom.” Heather laughed again. “Oh Cicely, I’ve missed you so much. I’m so glad you’re coming home again for more than a visit. We’ve missed you.”

And with that, I tossed the few boxes containing my possessions and my backpack in Favonis—my 1966 navy blue Pontiac GTO that I’d won in a game of street craps—and headed out of California without a single look over my shoulder.

LA was like every other city I’d lived in since I was six: a pit stop in the rambling journey that had been my life. But now, after twenty years, my past was about to become my future. As I pressed my foot against the accelerator, Favonis sped along the I-5 corridor.

I was wearing a pair of black jeans, a black tank top, and my best boots—a kickass pair of Icon’s Bombshell motorcycle boots. I had no job to give notice to—I’d picked up odd jobs here and there since I was twelve but never anything permanent. All through the years, I knew there was something I was supposed to do—supposed to accomplish—but I’d never known what. Maybe this was it. Maybe taking Marta’s place would fill the void.

“Come on, baby,” I coaxed. “Don’t let me down.”

And Favonis didn’t. She purred like a kitten, all the way up the coast.

Speeding along the freeway, fueled by numerous stops at Starbucks and espresso stands along the way, I kept my eyes peeled for the exit that would take me to I-90. New Forest was snuggled against the northwestern foothills of the Washington Cascades, and the promise of going home for real this time dangled in front of me like a vial of crack in front of a junkie.

Twenty years ago, I’d kicked and screamed my way down the front steps of Veil House, begging Krystal to leave me with Heather, but my mother had just dragged me to the taxi, bitching at me to shut up. Now, after a thousand miles on the road, and a thousand years in my heart, I was heading back to live in the only house I’d ever thought of as home. And this time I planned on staying.

Only now, I’m twenty-six and my mother’s dead. Something is terribly wrong in New Forest. And my wolf has woken up again.

* * *

TWENTY MILES OUT from town, I began to see spots of snow, and by the time I passed the Welcome to New Forest sign, snow blanketed the ground. Not wanting to bother my aunt till morning, I eased into the parking lot of the Starlight 5 Motel. I stared at the flickering light that illuminated the Vacancy sign. I was in New Forest. I was really back.

Grabbing my backpack, I hauled ass out of the car and stood there shivering as I listened to the air currents washing around me. Something was off—I could feel it. New Forest didn’t feel like I remembered it. A glance across the street showed me an all-night diner. The windows of Anadey’s joint glimmered with Christmas lights. I vaguely remembered Anadey from my visits. She was Marta’s daughter, if I remembered correctly. I wondered what she was doing running a diner, but decided to check in first and then snag a bite to eat.

The motel clerk stared at me, unblinking. “You want a room?”

I nodded. “Single. One night.” As I pulled out my wallet, he shoved the register across to me and I scribbled my name down and tossed fifty bucks on the counter in tens. He counted the bills, then nodded and held out a key.

“Room 105-A. Checkout by noon.”

“I’ll be gone earlier than that. You have anything on the second floor?” I’d long ago learned it was safer to be higher up.

He looked me over again and then handed me a different key. “Room 210-B. Nonsmoking and no hot plates.”

“No problem on either front.”

I took the key and headed outside again. The motel was built in a U shape and wrapped around the parking lot. I surveyed the upper story until I found my room and jogged up the stairs. As I unlocked the door, force of habit made me check the surrounding area, looking for anybody or anything suspicious. Krystal had raised me to be on guard, even though she had lost her own savvy over the years, thanks to the crack and the heroin.

No one in sight. I opened the door.

Cautiously, I scoped out the room. Queen-sized bed, a little lumpy. Headboard bolted to the wall. Utilitarian dresser and mirror with the TV atop it. Usable, clean bathroom with thin white towels. Typical cheapie motel. I dropped on the bed but was too pent up from the drive to sleep. My stomach rumbled and I realized I was hungry, so I gathered up my pack—no way would I leave anything in this joint while I was gone—and headed out to the sidewalk in front of the motel. I waited for the light to change and crossed the street to Anadey’s Diner.

The café had that truck-stop vibe, though there weren’t any places for semis to park. As I pushed through the doors, the dim light from the overheads filtered through the long, narrow restaurant. Utilitarian blinds gave a slatted view to the parking lot, and Formica ruled supreme. Booths lined one wall, while on the other, a long counter flanked the kitchen, with bar stools attached to the floor.

A tall, narrow Christmas tree was nestled in one corner, sparkling with lights and gleaming ornaments. The tree was pretty and it made me smile.

Several late-nighters were scattered through the café. Two of the men sitting at the counter looked odd—they weren’t magic-born, that was obvious, but they weren’t human either. I could read the difference just by looking at them. Both swarthy, with shaggy black hair and topaz eyes ringed with black circles, they watched as I passed by them, giving them a wide berth.

I chose an open stool at the opposite end of the counter and slid onto it. Picking up the menu, I pulled one of the saucers to me and flipped over the mug.

The waitress saw me and headed my way, coffeepot in hand. I recognized her.

“Hi, honey. I’m Anadey. What will you have? My daughter’s the best short-order cook in town.” She nodded toward the kitchen, where a tall, solid young woman flipped burgers behind the grill. A sparkle of magic flickered in the girl’s aura, and also surrounded Anadey, only stronger. I gave her a slow smile. She didn’t seem to recognize me, so I decided to wait until I was settled in before coming back and introducing myself. For all I knew, she could be angry that her mother had chosen to give me the family business.

“Your daughter’s lovely.”

“That she is, my dear. You want coffee?” Anadey hovered over the mug.

“Yes, and cream, please.”

The coffee steamed hot and black as she poured it into my cup. Anadey hesitated for a moment, then said, “Her name is Peyton. Come back in sometime when you’re not so tired. I think you’d hit it off. I’ll get your cream now. You want another minute with that menu?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

She bustled off, returning with the cream as I added three packets of sugar to my coffee. I gave her a soft smile—she looked somewhere in her early fifties and exhausted—and flipped open the menu. The words all seemed to run together and I closed it again, turning to gaze at the posters on the wall. Fatigue from the trip was setting in, big-time.

I motioned to Anadey. “Make my order to go, would you? A large chocolate shake. Cheeseburger and fries. Butter only on the bun. Hold the pickles and condiments. And a piece of apple pie if you have some. Oh—and make sure nothing has any sort of fish added into it, please. I’m allergic to fish and shellfish.” I reached into my pocket and produced my EpiPen for emphasis. Some diners didn’t take food issues seriously unless you hit them hard with the I can die speech.

“I have several friends with various allergies, so I keep a strict watch on my kitchen. We have a dedicated fryer for French fries to avoid cross contamination. And one section of the grill is reserved for unbreaded patties only and cleaned every time.” She gave me a wink. “You look like you’re about ready to crash, honey.”

I nodded. “Long trip to get here. Been driving for two days with very little rest along the way.”

“I’ll get your order going so you can get some shut-eye. You look about done in.” She hurried off and I sipped at my coffee. As I sat there, I became aware that the guy at the other end of the counter had gotten up and was strolling my way, his eyes glued to me. He didn’t look impressed.

I gave him the once-over as he passed by, on his way toward the restrooms. As he crossed behind me, I heard him whisper, “Magic bitch, watch yourself. New Forest doesn’t like your kind anymore.”

Taken aback, I swiveled full around, but he just went on walking. Normally I’d get in his face—I’d been in enough street fights to hold my own—but I was too tired to deal with a confrontation. Instead, I just memorized his looks and turned back to Anadey, who was polishing the counter in front of me, a concerned expression on her face.

“Regular?” I asked, nodding at his back.

She gave me a short nod, her lips pressed together, and I could see the flash of fear in her eyes. “Don’t cross him, child. He’s a mean one and a drunk. Just let it go. Your food should be ready in a few minutes.” She glanced at the other end of the counter where his buddy was sitting. She didn’t say a word, but the look in her eyes told me all I wanted to know.

Bad news…don’t trust them…they are not mortal. Ulean’s voice tickled my ears and I let out a low Umm-hmm.

As Anadey packaged my food and handed it to me, Snarly Dude came back from the bathroom, his full lips curling in a derisive, leering manner. I returned his gaze, keeping my expression neutral. Tossing a ten and a couple bucks for a tip on the counter, I headed toward the door, my senses on high alert.

Watch my back.

As always, Cicely…as always, came Ulean’s calming thoughts.

Once I was in the parking lot, a shift in the current alerted me. I paused, listening.

They’re following you…

I know, I whispered. I can feel them.

Not just them. Another. Older, more dangerous. I don’t recognize the energy, though.

I slowly exhaled, relaxing into my body. Tension could ruin a good punch, could turn a good fight into a bad one. I gave the parking lot a look-see. Five cars to my left. Another three to my right. Gauging how long it would take me to dash across the street, across the snow and ice, I headed for the sidewalk. The street was mostly empty; there were few cars on the road at this time of night, although two long, dark limos with tinted windows passed by, gliding silently, the sound of their engines muffled by the falling snow.

Vampires hunting. Ulean’s thoughts were filled with distaste.

I gave an imperceptible nod and set a foot into the road. Immediately, I sensed the men behind me speed up. I was two yards across the street before I broke into a run. The sound of footsteps told me they had done the same.

Crap. I still didn’t know who they were or what they wanted, but it was obvious they didn’t like me and I wasn’t going to stick around to find out why.

I made a break for it, Ulean whipping along behind me, pushing me forward. With a shout, my followers picked up the pace as their boots drummed a tattoo of running steps. On the other side of the road, I assessed my best option.

No way in hell could I go up to my room—they could easily break through the flimsy lock. Favonis was my best bet. I’d rigged her with an automatic key and kept my keychain hooked on my belt loop just for situations like this. I’d spent my life ditching danger of one sort or another with my mother and had learned a thing or two along the way.

I tossed the bag of food to the side and fumbled for my key, but even as I hit the shadows surrounding my car, a noise cut through the night behind me—a sharp scream, choked off before it barely began. I whirled, only to see Snarly Dude turning tail to race back across the street into the light. He slipped once on a spot of black ice, righted himself, then disappeared into a truck and squealed out of the parking lot.

As I tried  to figure out what the hell had happened, another sound echoed in the parking lot—a sickly gurgle—and the scent of blood washed over me. As I backed toward my car, another shift in energy cut through the night and the hidden force vanished.

Gone…and so is the man who cried out.

Crap. Gone? Where the fuck could he have gone? He’d been right behind me. I slowly edged my way toward the shadow that had engulfed him. The scent of blood hung thick but when I shone my pen flashlight on the ground, I could see only a few drops scattered red against the snow. I looked right and left—there was no place he could have disappeared to, but the man had definitely pulled a disappearing act. Not voluntarily, though.

I scanned the other side of the street. Nothing.

What the fuck is going on, Ulean?

I don’t know, Cicely, but that’s what we’re here to find out.

What was the thing that took him? Vampire?

A pause, then, No…not vampire. Do not be so quick to blame the Vein Lords. This…is much darker than vampire signature. Dangerous, feral…hungry in a way the vampires cannot even begin to match.

Cripes. Vamps were at the top of the food chain—predators, often without mercy. If this was worse than they were…I didn’t want to know what it was.

Without another word, I sucked in a deep breath, retrieved my dinner, and headed up the stairs toward my room. New Forest had changed, all right, and I had the feeling I was just skirting the tip of the iceberg.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Night Myst

I write to music a good share of the time and have been sharing my playlists on my website. I finally decided to add them to the backs of the books for my readers who aren’t online.

3 Doors Down: Loser
Alice in Chains: Man in the Box
Beck: Scarecrow, Dark Star
The Bravery: Believe
CC Adcock: Bleed 2 Feed
Chester Bennington: System
Chris Isaak: Wicked Game
Cobra Verde: Play with Fire
David Bowie: China Girl
Dead Can Dance: Yulunga, Indus
Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Depeche Mode: Personal Jesus, Dream On
Everlast: One, Two
Gabrielle Roth: The Calling, Dolphin, Raven, Mother Night, Luna, Seducing Hades, Black Mesa, Stone Circle, Rest Your Tears Here, Totem, Night Whisper, Zone Unknown, Avenue A
Gary Numan: Innocence Bleeding, Prophecy, Crazier, My Breathing, Before You Hate It, Dead Heaven, The Angel Wars, Noise Noise, Stories, Telekon, My Brother’s Time, Hunger, Devious
Gorillaz: Clint Eastwood
Jace Everett: Bad Things
Jay Gordon: Slept So Long
King Black Acid: Great Spaces, Rolling Under
Ladytron: Black Cat, Ghosts, I’m Not Scared, Burning Up, They Gave You a Heart, Predict the Day, Versus
Led Zeppelin: When the Levee Breaks
Lenny Kravitz: Fly Away
Little Big Town: Bones
Live: TBD
Low with Tomandandy: Half Light
Metallica: Enter Sandman
Nine Inch Nails: I Do Not Want This, Sin [long], Get Down, Make Love
Nirvana: Heart-shaped Box, You Know You’re Right
Oingo Boingo: Dead Man’s Party
Orgy: Blue Monday, Social Enemies
PJ Harvey: This is Love
Puddle of Mudd: Psycho
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Seether: Remedy
Steppenwolf: Jupiter’s Child
Tangerine Dream: Dr. Destructo
Thompson Twins: The Gap, All Fall Out
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Tori Amos: Little Amsterdam, Professional Widow
Wayne Static: Not Meant For Me
Ween: Mutilated Lips
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

Share Button