Otherworld Tales Volume 2

This anthology contains the previously published novellas:

MOONSWEPT: Almost everyone remembers their first love. And so, we take a peek back at the D'Artigo sisters' first loves in three short stories. Because long before Smoky, Morio, and Trillian came into her life, Camille's heart belonged to her cousin Shamas. And before Shade, Delilah was learning what love meant from her all-too human detective. And Menolly wasn't always a vampire...at one time, she had dreams of creating a family with a man who taught her to respect herself and never settle for anyone who tore her down.

Forbidden Love: Camille and Shamas secretly plan their future together, until his envy over her connection to the Moon Mother, and an attempt at an arranged marriage get in the way.

Im-Purrfect Match: Delilah never expected to fall for Chase Johnson. But one night, while searching for information on a man named Tom Lane, the werecat and the detective discover an unexpected attraction.

Shadows of Love: Menolly wasn't always a vampire. And once, long ago in Otherworld, a gentleman farmer taught her that she should never settle in matters of the heart.

EARTHBOUND: When Camille, Menolly, and Delilah D'Artigo are reassigned Earthside, they have no clue of what to expect. Getting situated in a new world, figuring out where they're going to live, what they're going to do, is an adventure in itself. Return the beginning, as the D'Artigo Sisters walk through the portals to their new home for the very first time.

KNIGHT MAGIC:

Camille journeys to Otherworld on a quest to find the last member of the Keraastar Knights. There, she must face one of the ancient Fae Lords who stands between her and the key to fulfilling her destiny. And there, she also discovers that her past has come full circle to meet her future. This novelette takes place between Moon Shimmers, book 19 of the Otherworld Series, and the upcoming Harvest Song, book 20.

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Book Cover: Otherworld Tales, Volume One

Available 6.6.2017

From New York Times bestselling author, Yasmine Galenorn:

Take a walk deep into the forests of Otherworld. Learn the history and secrets of the characters who make up the realms of Earthside and Y'Elestrial, and discover the hidden worlds of the men and women who have been part of this magical series. This collection contains the stories in three collections, until now, only published in E-format: Tales From Otherworld, Men of Otherworld: Collection One, and Men of Otherworld: Collection Two.

This volume contains the stories in:
Tales From Otherworld
Men of Otherworld: Collection One
Men of Otherworld: Collection Two

What really happened when Camille cast the invisibility spell? How did their parents Maria and Sephreh meet? Who is the mysterious ghost that is haunting the D'Artigo house? And what was the "turkey incident" that precipitated the opening scene in Priestess Dreaming?

The Hunger: What really happened to Rozurial and Fraale when Zeus and Hera showed up at their house?
Blood Ties: Roman's brother is coming to town, and it's not a happy family reunion.
Ink Bonds: Trillian's love for Camille drives him to seek her out, even a world away.
Chasing Sharah: Chase and Sharah have the most unexpected first date ever.
The Purr-Fect Weekend: Shade relishes the idea of a weekend alone with Delilah, until cat-astrophe turns it into one long fuzzy disaster.

FAE-TED TO LOVE: Vanzir and Aeval take a startling turn in their relationship.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS: Smoky has to decide just how he feels about humans...and he tastes his first inkling of love.
LUCK BE A LEPRECHAUN: Bruce discovers that sometimes, there's a good reason to stay out of the woods.
FAMILY TIES: Morio's caught in a lie that he told for love.

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They’re the D’Artigo sisters: savvy half-human, half-Fae agents of the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. Camille is the Queen of Dusk and Twilight. Delilah is a two-faced werecat and the Autumn Lord’s only living Death Maiden. And Menolly is a vampire princess and married to a gorgeous werepuma Amazon. It’s been four long years since they first found out about Shadow Wing…and now, they’re facing the end of the line. It’s time for the D’Artigo sisters to extinguish Shadow Wing’s evil forever, before he goes mad and tries to unravel the world…

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Chapter 1

I FLIPPED ON the lights as I entered my office, dropping my backpack on a chair by the door. The meeting had been frustrating, and my temper was at a low boil. I decided to hit the gym before I went back to my suite, to work out the irritations of the evening. But first, there was more work.

A glance at the clock told me it was midnight, which meant that I had to answer my email, answer my snail mail, and take care of a dozen other administrative tasks before I could knock off for the evening. I had quickly learned that being a princess of the Vampire Nation wasn’t all powder puffs and tiaras. It was an endless roundabout of diplomacy. I had come to hate the bureaucracy, and I wondered how Roman had managed to put up with it as long as he had.

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As I headed toward the massive walnut desk, Nerissa entered the room. Since she had been forced to quit her job with the FH-CSI, she had taken up a position as my secretary. It was well below her qualifications, but it gave us more time together, and now she was on my schedule, at least partially. She woke up at noon, and went to bed around four in the morning, so we had a lot more overlap than we used to have. Luckily she didn’t need as much sleep as a human would.

“How did the meeting go?” she asked, wrapping her arms around my waist.

I leaned up to give her a long kiss. We’d spent a leisurely hour in bed when I woke up, making love and cuddling. The scent of her fragrance still lingered on my skin. Even though I didn’t have to breathe, I could smell her perfume. A quick thought that it would be fun to play hooky and sneak back to bed ran through my mind, but one look at the pile of mail on my desk quashed that thought.

“It was a royal pain in the ass. There are problems over in the European quadrant of the Vampire Nation.” I shrugged. “And these are problems that aren’t going to be solved through a Skype meeting. Roman has to make a trip over there. He wanted me to go along, but there’s no way I can get away at this point. At least he understands that.”

“Problems? What sort of problems?” She moved a pile of file folders over to the to-file box and tidied up a stack of letters I was working away at. A number of vampires were so old school that they refused to use email, so we still kept the post office on their toes.

I returned to my chair, leaning back against the soft, supple leather. Nerissa took her place in the chair next to my desk, setting down her tablet. She leaned her elbows on the polished wood, resting her chin on her hands as I swept my braids back to catch them in a ponytail.

“One of the regents over there—Harriman—seems to be going rogue. He’s refused to curtail the attacks against the human population like he’s supposed to, and in fact, there are reports that he’s actually encouraging them. When Roman phoned him a few days ago, he wouldn’t take the call and his valet confided to Roman that he’s afraid for his life. So Roman had a couple of our agents in the area look into matters, and they think that Harriman’s inner predator is out of control.”

“Which means trouble,” Nerissa said.

I nodded. “Yes, precisely that. And it means that we have to take action as soon as we can. We don’t dare let him rile up the vampire populace. The last thing we need is for him to gather an army behind him. We’re still trying to convince a lot of the old-school vamps that they’re better off following our way, and even though they answer to Blood Wyne, there’s a lot of dissent—especially over on the continent.”

The old-school vampires of the Vampire Nation had resisted Blood Wyne’s decree, which severely curtailed which humans that vamps could drink from, and how much blood they could take at one time. We weren’t exactly fighting an uphill battle, but it wasn’t easy, and we had been forced to put down a number of the vamps who had outright refused.

“Uh-oh,” Nerissa said. “Are you afraid he’s going to start a civil war?”

“I’m not sure, but Blood Wyne’s afraid of that. And with her experience, if she’s worried a civil war might happen, then we all should be on the alert. The Queen has an excellent read on the various regents, and she’s scary smart. And a vampire civil war would be hell on anybody else living in the area.”

Nerissa sighed. “So you think she’ll really take him out?”

“Blood Wyne won’t, but Roman will. He has express orders that Harriman isn’t to walk out of this.” I tossed the pile of letters on the desk and began cleaning my nails with the letter opener. “Blood Wyne is as ruthless as they come. She won’t hesitate to destroy anyone or anything who defies her rule. We can just thank the gods that she has a strong sense of community responsibility. I don’t know how she’s managed to keep her inner predator under control for as long as she has, but I’m just grateful that she has it in check.”

“I suppose we better start going through some of your mail.” Nerissa looked about as excited as I felt. She was qualified for so much more, but the fact that we were married, not only to each other but also to Roman, Prince of the Vampire Nation, meant that neither of us were allowed out in public without a retinue. Our lives had changed drastically over the past six months, and I had a suspicion that she was as uncomfortable as I was with a number of those changes.

I stared at the stack of envelopes in front of me. “I hate this shit.”

“So do I, but apparently it’s part of our responsibility and so we have to do it.” She gave me a steady look. “I love you, Menolly, you know that. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anybody. But if I had known what it would mean for our lives when we married Roman, I would have thought twice. I’ll follow you anywhere, but you need to know that I’m feeling terribly claustrophobic living here. And living with a bunch of vampires isn’t exactly my idea of happy happy, joy joy.”

I pressed my lips together for a moment. Her comments stung, but at least she was honest. That was one thing that we had learned the hard way. Communication was vital if our relationship was to survive. Honesty suited us both, regardless of whether it caused pain.

Setting down the letter opener, I turned to her. “I know. I know you’re not thrilled about our life at this point. I feel the same way. It’s like we’ve been locked away in an ivory tower. I don’t know what else we could have done, though. Blood Wyne could have killed me if I refused. At least Roman’s a good sort.” I paused, dreading the answer to my next question. “Do you want out? Blood Wyne will never let me divorce her son, but I doubt if she’d keep you here if you said you wanted to leave.” I was praying she would say no, praying that our love would be strong enough for her to stay.

Nerissa quirked her lips. After a moment, she shook her head. “I love you more than I hate the confinement. Maybe things will change. But no, I’m not going to ask for my freedom. I’m not willing to give you up.”

Relief flooded through me.

“I’m so glad you said that. I can’t imagine life without you. Maybe there’s some way we can ask Roman to ease up on requiring so many bodyguards and curfews and everything that goes along with this life. I’ll tell you one thing. If this is what being royalty is like, I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.” I paused, thinking. “It must be worse for Camille—she’s the actual queen of her Barrow.”

We started in on the mail again, sorting through the charity requests, the invitations, the thank-you notes, and a dozen other categories of correspondence that came our way.

A text message on my phone put a stop to the tedium. I glanced at it, at the same time that Nerissa pulled out her phone. We were both included in the group message, from Delilah.

BE HERE AT THREE AM. CARTER'S ON HIS WAY. HE'S FOUND OUT WHAT THE GEMS ARE.

And with those words, our lives once again shifted.

***

ROMAN’S VALET WAS packing for him when I entered his room. Nerissa and I had our suite, and Roman had his own. When we married him, we had insisted on a private living area, and he had agreed. At first, he seemed to feel left out, but now he just seemed relieved. Nerissa and I hated clutter, and preferred a modern look. Roman’s room looked like a Victorian antique shop had exploded all over it.

As I entered the room, I found him sitting on the bed, reading something on his tablet. He glanced up, a smile spreading across his face. Holding out his hand, he motioned to me, and I allowed him to draw me down beside him. He wouldn’t kiss me in front of his valet, it wasn’t considered proper, but he stroked my hand before letting it drop.

“Hello, my love. Did you come to help me pack?” His eyes glinted with laughter. He knew just how much I hated packing and anything to do with boxes and suitcases.

“Fat chance. You’re on your own there, bub. Sink or swim. No, I wanted to talk with you before you left. When are you headed out?”

Blood Wyne owned her own jet. It contained a sun-free cargo space where vampires could travel safely during the day. Several international airlines were starting to offer the same services, but Blood Wyne’s jet was piloted by her own captain and was filled with security guards. While a vampire could travel halfway across the world in just a few hours on their own, providing they didn’t have to carry luggage, Roman not only had a dozen suitcases, but also an entourage. Which meant flying via plane.

“We leave at two am. I have to be down at the airport in ninety minutes. I’m so not looking forward to this trip. Staking Harriman isn’t going to be easy, and Mother wants him to suffer a little first, as a lesson to other regents over on the continent.”

“Translation: you’re going to make him regret defying your mother.” I shuddered, glancing at Rubicon, the valet. He kept his gaze firmly on his job, which was, right now, packing Roman’s clothing. His loyalty had been tested time and again, and he had come through with flying colors, but I still thought it odd that Roman felt comfortable talking so freely in front of him. I was far more suspicious than that.

Roman shrugged. “Mother calls the shots.” But the expression in his eyes told me that was exactly what he was thinking. He didn’t have a problem with torture, not when it came to things like this. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?”

I snorted. “I think you know the answer to that. I have no interest in witnessing the…interaction. Besides, I have to stay here. We’re getting close to discovering…”

I paused. Roman might trust Rubicon with his secrets, but I wasn’t about to. The secrets I carried had far too many ramifications to chance them reaching the public. And while I knew that Rubicon was loyal to Roman, I still doubted his loyalty to me. There had been a lot of outcry over my ascension to Roman’s side, and I was never sure just which vampires had disapproved of our marriage.

Roman snapped his fingers and Rubicon turned. “Leave us for a moment, if you will. I’ll text you when to return. Don’t go far.” As much as Roman loved his traditions, he had also embraced technology as part of them.

“As you wish, milord.” Rubicon exited, firmly shutting the door behind him.

Roman waited for a beat, then turned to me. “So Carter’s found out what the gems Shadow Wing carries are?”

I nodded. “Nerissa and I are headed over to the house as soon as I get done talking to you. Finally, after four years, we have an endpoint in sight.”

“What do you have to do? And when are you going to do it?” Roman held my gaze, his expression somber.

“We figure out how to destroy them. And then our plans are to summon Shadow Wing through a demon gate. When Shamas returned from the grave, he returned a far stronger sorcerer than he entered it. He can create a demon gate powerful enough to bring Shadow Wing through. After all the battles through all the years, we finally have a chance to end the demonic war.”

“Should I stay? I can ask my mother to send someone in my place.”

Roman was serious, but I shook my head.

I kissed him gently on the lips. “I appreciate the offer, but I can’t tell you exactly when we’re going to do this. It could be tomorrow, it could be a week from now, or maybe a month. All I know is that it has to be soon. The longer we wait, the more chance there is that Shadow Wing’s power will grow. Besides, your mother would have a fit if you turned Harriman over to someone else, and even I would agree—you have to be the one to squash his rebellion. It has to come from the throne. No, you worry about him. We’ll take care of Shadow Wing. This is our fight, Roman. Not yours.”

Roman pulled me to him, holding me by the shoulders.

“This may be your fight, but it’s my fight as well because we’re married. You and Nerissa are my wives, and while I know full well that neither of you love me the way you love each other, we are a triad. You two have done so much to fit into my world. I want to help you any way I can.”

Feeling restless, I broke away, pacing the length of the room.

“Honestly, the way this war has run, I’m not surprised that in the end, it’s coming down to us against him. I haven’t mentioned my feelings to Delilah or Camille yet, but I have a sneaking suspicion they feel the same way. Sometimes, turning points in history balance on the shoulders of one person. Or a small group.”

Roman nodded. “True enough. I’ve seen that play out time after time through the centuries. And what strikes me so much is that usually the vast populace never knows what’s gone on behind the scenes. Or they never find out they were ever in danger. Saving the world can be a private affair, and usually it’s best if it’s kept in secret.”

He stared at the suitcases, then his gaze flickered to me again. “I’ll go. You’re right. Mother made it clear that dealing with Harriman is my duty, but I’m not happy about leaving you. Text me if you need me, although I’m not so sure how cell phone coverage is where I’m headed. Harriman lives in an isolated mountain range, but he rules his region with a bloody fist. That’s another thing we’ve been trying to discourage. When it comes to interacting with the general population, fear isn’t the best motivator. Although my mother doesn’t hold with that thought when it comes to the Vampire Nation proper. She has most of the vamps cowed in front of her.”

I shrugged. “Let’s face it, we’re top of the food chain predators. We don’t have a lot of enemies, except for each other. If Blood Wyne tried to be diplomatic among our own kind, she’d never get anywhere. They’d stake her within minutes. She has to play the bitch queen when it comes to our own people.”

I felt odd, calling the Vampire Nation my “own people,” because I still identified with being half-Fae like my sisters. But when I was with Roman, I tried to blend into his world.

“You’re right about that. I suppose I’d better get back to packing.” He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Promise me you’ll be careful. I won’t ask you to keep out of trouble, because we both know that isn’t in the cards for either of us. Especially not with what we’re facing—with what you’re facing. I was hoping to be in on the end of the game with the war, but I don’t know how long it will take me to corral Harriman. If I’m not here when you face Shadow Wing, remember how much I love you, and remember your strength.”

He kissed me then, holding me tight as his lips played over mine. We were both cold as the grave, cold as death, and yet a warmth spread through my body that I seldom felt. It was true that I didn’t love Roman like I loved Nerissa, but I was deeply fond of him, and I loved him in my own way.

“You promise me that you’ll be careful. If Harriman has given into his inner predator, then chances are he suspects you’re coming for him. And who knows what spies he has in the court? Be careful, my liege, and come back whole and safe.” I kissed him again, and then crossed toward the door as he texted for Rubicon to return.

“Menolly,” Roman said. “Give Nerissa my love. Hold tight to each other, and if you need to, turn to my mother. She picked you to be my wife for a reason.”

As the door opened and Rubicon entered, I gave Roman a solemn nod. Then, taking my leave, I returned to the office where Nerissa was waiting. We headed down to my new Jaguar that Roman had bought me as a wedding present. He wasn’t thrilled that I still insisted on driving myself, but he put up with it.

As we sped into the night, I couldn’t help but wonder what Carter would have to say. And just how long it would be before we were facing Shadow Wing.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Bloodbonds:

Three Doors Down: Kryptonite
AJ Roach: Devil May Dance
Android Lust: Here and Now
Arcade Fire: Abraham’s Daughter
Arch Leaves: Nowhere to Go
The Animals: Bury My Body
AWOLNATION: Sail
Band of Skulls: I Know What I Am
Beck: Farewell Ride; Emergency Exit
The Black Angels: Half Believing; Hunt Me Down; Death March
Black Mountain: Queens Will Play
Bon Jovi: Wanted Dead or Alive
The Bravery: Believe
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Buffalo Springfield: For What It’s Worth
Camouflage Nights: (It Could Be) Love
Cobra Verde: Play With Fire
Colin Foulke: Emergence
Crazytown: Butterfly
David Bowie: Golden Years; I’m Afraid of Americans
Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being
Eels: Souljacker Part 1
Everlast: Black Jesus; I Can’t Move
FC Kahuna: Hayling
Garbage: Queer
The Gospel Whiskey Runners: Muddy Waters
Gypsy Soul: Who?
The Hang Drum Project: Sukram; Shaken Oak; St. Chartier
Harvey Danger: Sad Sweetheart of the Rodeo
The Hollies: Long Cool Woman
Jessica Bates: The Hanging tree
John Fogerty: the old Man Down the Road
The Kills: Nail in My Coffin; You Don’t Own the Road
Lorde: Royals; Yellow Flicker Beat
Pearl Jam: Even Flow; Jeremy
PJ Harvey: Let England Shake; The Glorious Land; The Words that Maketh Murder; In the Dark Places; The Colour of the Earth
Rob zombie: Living Dead Girl
Robin Schultz: Sugar
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Scorpions: The Zoo
Seether: Remedy
Shriekback: And The Rain; Wriggle and Drone; Church of the Louder Light; Now These Days Are Gone
Tina Turner: We Don’t Need Another Hero; One of the Living; I Can’t Stand The Rain
Tom Petty: Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Traffic: The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Yoko Kanno: Lithium Flower
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

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We're the D’Artigo sisters: savvy half-human, half-Fae agents of the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. My sister Camille is the Queen of Dusk and Twilight. Menolly is now a vampire princess. And me? I’m Delilah, a two-faced werecat and the Autumn Lord’s only living Death Maiden. Even as Trytian’s father maintains the Daemon front raging against him, Shadow Wing is seeking greater power by draining his own armies of their lives. His necromancer Telazhar is dead, but the Demon Lord has found a new threat to move against us, putting my fiancé, Shade, in the most dangerous situation of his life...

Shadow Wing sends Yerghan the Blade after us. The warrior led the battle alongside Telazhar during the Scorching Wars, and was banished to the Sub-Realms along with the ancient necromancer. Now, his new mission: kill my sisters and me. When Yerghan attacks my home, Shade finds himself fighting for his life. Deep in a coma, he’s lost in the Realm of Wandering Souls. My sisters and I must journey there to find him and bring him back. But in order to do so, we must face our darkest fears, or forever risk losing my love among the mists of limbo.

 

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Chapter 1:

“YOU HAVE TO be kidding me.” I stared at the dress that the sales associate was holding up.

A nightmare in tulle and ruching, the gown must have had twenty yards of billowing material draped in folds and layers with a train that spilled out, begging to trip me up. The color was a soft eggshell and the neckline had been contorted into a weird, asymmetrical shape.

“Did the designer drop acid or X or whatever the drug of the month is?” I asked. My question was met with an icy silence. “This is the third dress you’ve brought out that is light years away from what I asked. Have you heard a word I said?”

The woman’s silence extended into a long, offended stare.

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Camille snorted, and Menolly pressed her lips together, trying not to laugh. Iris glared at me, with an expression that I recognized as her Will you behave look.

I let out a long sigh. “Let me try this again. I don’t want a white dress, or any shade of white, cream, ecru, eggshell, ivory, or any variant thereof. I’m not Cinderella. I don’t want a ball gown, or a princess gown. I don’t want a mermaid gown, or anything that looks like a cupcake. I asked you to show me something streamlined. Just a nice long dress that doesn’t poof, fluff, or spill out. I want a pretty, simple gown in a lovely shade of green, or something that suits my coloring.” I had explained this in detail to three different shopkeepers. Each time, we had gone through the same rigmarole, with the same result.

The sales associate let out a little huff. “I’m sorry, miss, but I don’t think I can help you. We don’t sell green wedding dresses. I suggest you might want to try a department store. Or look into buying a prom dress. Or you might find something appropriate at a thrift store.” Her snotty tone ruffled my fur, but Camille grabbed my hand, squeezing tightly before I could respond.

“You’re right,” Camille said, brushing past the saleswoman. “And since you obviously can’t satisfy our needs, then we’ll find a store that will be happy to accept our money. If you’ll excuse us, we’ll be on our way,” she said, her voice dripping with icicles. She motioned for us to follow her.

Grateful that it wasn’t me on the other end of my sister the ice queen’s shade, I grabbed my purse and slung it over my shoulder, following her out. We were almost to the car, Camille still fuming, when I happened to glance down the street. There, a few doors down and still open, was a little vintage shop tucked between a tattoo parlor on one side and a used bookstore on the other. In the window, a mannequin was draped in a vision that took my breath away, a long gown in a rich green, no less.

“Wait!” I dashed toward the shop, the others following me.

The dress in the window was an elegant sleeveless A-line with a fitted bodice. The shoulders were beaded with delicate pearls, and a sheer chiffon overlay stretched across the upper chest. Gathered at the waist, the skirt flowed into soft layers to the floor, with flower appliqués spaced over the top layer that were the same dark silvery-green as the rest of the dress. It was everything I was looking for. Elegant simplicity, and as green as the forest. Praying to Bast that it fit me, I started toward the door before they could close, my sisters and Iris right on my heels.

“Pardon me, Your Majesty, Princess Menolly, Miss Iris, and Miss Delilah, but we have to check it out first.” A man caught up to us, darting around us. One of Camille’s bodyguards, he and the other four men who were tailing us did a good job of giving us the illusion of autonomy, but the fact was, anywhere Camille went, they were always in tow. She groaned, but waved them on.

Inside, the clerk looked worried as the guards entered, but after Jal, the head of Camille’s personal retinue, spoke with her, she brightened up and beckoned for us to come inside.

The clerk was smiling as she saw us. She curtsied clumsily. “I’m honored to have you in my shop, Your Majesty. May I help you with something?”

Camille inclined her head, smiling. “Actually, my sister has a question.” She motioned to me in what felt like a gesture that had been finely tuned for public use. I flashed her a bittersweet smile. Her life really wasn’t her own, anymore.

I gestured to the mannequin in the window. “That dress—the green one. Do you think it would fit me?” I turned to Camille. “They always say you’ll know the right dress when you see it. This is the right dress.”

A soft smile played on her lips. “I know, Kitten. I can see it in your eyes.”

The clerk peeled it off the mannequin. “You’re in luck. I was going to change the window display tomorrow and this would have come down. Here we go.” She glanced at the tag, then with a critical eye, scanned my figure. “I think it should fit you. Would you like to try it on?”

I nodded, surprised that I cared so much. Shade had been after me for the past two months to get it together and help him make some sort of plans for our wedding. I had told him whatever he wanted was fine with me, but he refused to let me off the hook. You’re not going to leave it all up to me,” he had said. “I’m not taking the blame if you aren’t happy with your wedding.”

I wasn’t the planning type. I would have been happy getting married in the living room with only my sisters, Iris, and Hanna there. But a month ago, something had happened that had thrown my laissez-faire attitude out the window. Now I was scrambling to make up for my procrastination.

A month ago, during August, I had traveled with Camille to Otherworld in order to find the last Keraastar Knight. Shortly before that, Greta had shown up. Greta was the leader of the Death Maidens, and she had trained me. This time, she had brought with her a message I hadn’t expected.

***

SIX WEEKS BEFORE the trip to Otherworld:

I was sitting on the bed, clipping my toenails, when I felt a shift in the room. I slowly straightened up, glancing around. Shade was out. He was down at Iris’s, helping Bruce to fix up their greenhouse.

I was feeling on edge. There had been too many unwanted surprises lately, so much so that I felt like I was constantly on high alert. Every noise, every nuance had become an instant alarm. Anything that shifted the energy had raised a red flag until we checked it out.

The constant vigilance was tiring, especially since Camille and Menolly had moved out right before the Summer Solstice. Everything about the past few months had felt off-kilter as I learned how to live in a house that had suddenly emptied out. Oh, Shade was still with me, yes, and Rozurial was still living out in the studio. Maggie and Hanna were with us. But the rooms seemed to echo with the absence of life.

Over in the corner, a figure began to form in a haze of mist. I reached for my dagger, but then relaxed when I recognized the familiar face.

The woman had long hair that waved past her shoulders, the coppery red strands the same color as Menolly’s. On her forehead, she bore the same mark that I did—the silhouette of a black scythe, gleaming like obsidian. Her arms were a vision in vivid black and orange, covered with tattoos of autumn leaves and vines that twined their way up to her shoulders. Again, they were the same as the tattoos on my arms. The leaves burned with color, vibrant and alive. The woman wore a sheer robe the color of twilight over a long gown, and a wreath of autumn leaves wound around her head.

“Greta, I’m surprised to see you. Is anything wrong?”

It had been a while since I had talked to Greta. She was as corporeal as I was, yet she was long dead. She was my trainer, and had become a friend in the process. She lived in Haseofon—the home of the Autumn Lord’s Death Maidens.

“I know. We’ve been giving you time to acclimate to your newest changes.”

I had figured as much. Nine months ago, both Shade and I had faced turning points in our lives. A devil-wraith had siphoned off a number of Shade’s abilities. He was half–shadow dragon, half-Stradolan—a shadow walker. The Stradolan were the descendants of the children of the Autumn Lord and Grandmother Coyote. As a race, they were elemental in nature, only taking physical form if they were half-breeds. And the only race they could interbreed with were the shadow dragons. The children were born sterile, but in physical form. The father was always Stradolan, the mother always shadow dragon.

When the devil-wraith attacked us in the middle of the night, it leeched away Shade’s Stradolan powers. The loss had proved to be a major adjustment, and though he still struggled with it, he was doing better than I had expected.

As for me, in that same timeframe, I had found myself suddenly able to see ghosts. The spirits were everywhere, at times disorienting me to the point of nausea. Greta had told me that it was all part of my transition as I settled into my Death Maiden self, but the ability had manifested so swiftly that I had ended up spending two weeks in Haseofon, learning how to harness my control of it. While I couldn’t exactly turn it off, I no longer felt like I was walking in two worlds at once.

“Then what’s happened? What’s wrong?” I realized as I spoke that, for the most part, I expected to hear bad news from any new messenger.

She held up her hand, smiling. “Nothing’s wrong, but I bring you a message from the Autumn Lord.”

I blinked. Usually, when Hi’ran wanted to talk to me, he came to me himself. Greta must have seen the look on my face, because she smiled again.

“This is his busy time of year, you know. He bade me bring you this.” She held out her hand. In her palm, she was holding a carnelian heart.

I accepted it, turning it over in my fingers. The stone was warm, pulsing with a spark that I recognized as Hi’ran’s energy. I wrapped my fingers around it, closing my eyes. The energy reverberated through me, into my core, as I felt something deep inside me quiver and awaken. His voice reverberated throughout every cell of my body.

It’s time, he said. It’s time to begin.

I paused as the realization of what he was talking about swept over me. When I had first been claimed by the Autumn Lord, it was with the understanding that I, as his only living Death Maiden, would one day bear his child, by proxy. And now, Hi’ran was calling in my promise. Wide-eyed and a little frightened, I looked up at Greta. Her expression told me that she knew what I was thinking.

“But…how…? I’m on a birth control method that lasts several years at a time. I just renewed it a year ago when I was in Otherworld.”

Greta smiled. “Do you think Himself wouldn’t be able to negate that? He’s one of the Harvestmen, an Elemental Lord of the Autumn. But I have answers to some questions he anticipated you might ask. You and Shade must go through two ceremonies. The first is a ceremony joining your hearts. The second, a darker ritual, will prepare the way for the Autumn Lord to mingle his essence with Shade’s semen, which is sterile. This will quicken it, and allow him to impregnate you. I will be your priestess when it’s time for the second ritual.”

My stomach lurched as I realized this was for real. It had all seemed academic before, sometime far off in the future, like old age or retirement. Apparently, the future was closer than I had realized.

I bit my lip. “Well, we’re planning to get married on the autumn equinox.”

“That’s perfect for the joining of hearts,” she said. “You must both undergo a purification ceremony afterward, shortly before the second ritual. The wedding will seal your hearts together. The second ritual we will perform on Samhain, and then, well, nature will take its course.”

I sucked in a deep breath and scooched back on the bed, crossing my legs. Her words reverberated through me. “Who should be our priestess for our wedding? Does it matter? I had my heart set on asking Camille to perform the ceremony.”

Greta reached out to lay her hand on my shoulder. “You may ask your sister, if you wish. Whoever officiates at your heart-joining should be someone you trust and love.” She settled down beside me on the bed. “You do realize what a great honor this is? I would love to be in your place, but I only came to him after I was dead. Delilah, the Autumn Lord would not have chosen you for this task if he didn’t foresee you being happy in the role, happy with the outcome. He’s a harsh taskmaster at times, but unlike some of the other Elemental Lords, and unlike many of the gods, he does care for those who live within the mortal realm. He may not always extend mercy, but he does have compassion. And he truly cares for those who bear his yoke.”

I straightened my shoulders, nodding. “I know. I’ve thought about this a lot over the past four years since he claimed me. While I’m frightened, the truth is that I have always wanted children, and I’ve always known they’d be different, if only because of my own heritage.”

“And Shade?” she asked, probing softly. “You love him?”

I ducked my head, blushing. “Shade? He’s become my heart. He’s my touchstone and rock, he’s my anchor when I feel adrift. He’s also taught me a lot about owning up to my responsibilities. He’s the man I never realized I needed, until he showed up in my life.”

As I spoke, the words resonated through me. I usually didn’t wear my heart on my sleeve. Cats generally preferred to keep their emotions under control, expressed only to those who were closest to them. The concept of relationships had been foreign to me when I came over Earthside with my sisters. A relationship was an affair that other people entered, but one I didn’t believe I would ever understand.

“What about Chase?” Greta knew all about my past.

“Chase? I love him like a brother. We were far too rocky together, and I couldn’t be the woman he needed me to be. I don’t have it in me to be the rescued princess.”

“And Zachary?”

I had also touched hearts briefly with a werepuma named Zachary, but he had been too afraid, too unwilling to fight for what mattered. In the end, he had saved Chase’s life at risk of his own, but now he roamed the hills of Otherworld, permanently in puma form.

I held an image of him in my mind, then let it go, watching it drift by. “He’s a bittersweet memory.”

“Then rest easy. Everything happens for a reason, even when it seems like pure chaos is raining down on your head.” Greta stood, adjusting her robe. “I’ll talk to you soon.” And with that, she vanished before I could say good-bye.

***

THE DRESS FIT perfectly, looking like it was molded onto my body. I stared at myself in the mirror, trying to comprehend that, for once, I truly felt beautiful. I never felt ugly, but I seldom felt truly feminine, like the dress made me feel.

Iris let out a gasp. “Oh, Delilah. That’s so perfect.” The house sprite took a step back, shaking her head. “It won’t need a single alteration. With a wreath of white roses, or perhaps lily of the valley, it would look exquisite.”

“Kitten, you’re so beautiful.” Camille gave me a quick hug. “The dress was practically made for you.” She worried her lip, a wistful look in her eye. “I wish Mother could see you now. The last of her little girls, getting married.”

Menolly just stood back, leaning against the wall, watching me. After a moment, she gave me a thumbs-up. “You’re all grown up, Kitten.”

Those words meant more to me than what they said on the surface. I was second-born, but both Camille, the oldest, and Menolly, the youngest, had always treated me like the baby. I had been the naïve one, insecure and entirely too optimistic for my own good. I would never lose my playful side—at least I hoped never—but the past years had toughened me up enough to withstand the disappointments of life, and to cope with the struggles we went through. To have Menolly acknowledge that I had matured meant the world to me.

“What will you wear if I get this?” I asked. Menolly was my matron of honor, Camille was officiating, of course, and Nerissa and Iris were bridesmaids.

“I think if we wear a pale green, it would complement the rich tones of the dress.” Nerissa and Iris immediately began discussing ideas for their gowns. Camille would wear her official robes as the Queen of Dusk and Twilight, naturally.

I paid for the dress, after finding a beaded vintage bag and a pair of opera-length gloves to pair it with, and we left the shop.

“We should stop somewhere for a drink,” I said. “Want to stop at the Wayfarer?” It had been weeks since we had been out together, and I wanted the night to last.

“Lead on.” Camille stared at the waiting limo, frowning. “I miss driving.”

Ever since her coronation as the Fae Queen of Dusk and Twilight, she had been forced to make a number of radical changes in her life, not all of which had gone over well. For one thing, she wasn’t allowed to drive anymore. She had a limo, and was always followed by a retinue of bodyguards. Lars, one of her guards, did the driving. Tonight, they had brought a stretch limo so we could ride in style. Camille gave him the address of the Wayfarer.

On the way there, Menolly asked, “So are you still planning to hold the wedding at Birchwater Pond?”

“Yeah,” I said. “We can’t think of a more fitting place. And we’re definitely honeymooning up at Silver Falls in Otherworld, though not right away. We want all of you to come. I know the danger of the sun, but we can rig up something to protect you, Menolly.”

Menolly, a vampire, rubbed her forehead. “Roman won’t be into camping, but he’ll be at the wedding. I’ll give it a try if we can figure out a way to protect me from the sunlight. Nerissa, are you up for a camping trip?”

Nerissa was Menolly’s wife. They had both married Roman, the Prince of the Vampire Nation, when his mother, Blood Wyne, had ordered the match. It was a convoluted relationship. Menolly and Roman had chemistry, but Menolly and Nerissa had both chemistry and love.

“Of course. I love camping. It sounds wonderful, the idea of getting away from the city for a week or so. I’ll be able to run free in my puma form without worry.” Nerissa practically purred at the thought.

“Sounds good.” I wasn’t exactly disappointed that Roman most likely wouldn’t be coming along on the camping trip. While he was trustworthy, he was entirely too formal for my tastes. “As I said, I’m not sure when we’ll go. We want to see what happens with the war.”

Camille frowned, staring out the window. “I just want it over with. I wish we would get some word from Trytian about how his father’s army is doing.”

Trytian, the son of a daemon general, was an unlikely ally of ours. Actually, the daemons themselves were our unlikely allies. Apparently the old “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” business had proved true. They were fighting against Shadow Wing in the Sub-Realms, trying to shave away the Demon Lord’s advantages until we could figure out a way to kill him for good.

Iris let out a heavy sigh. “I know. Things feel like they’re balancing on the edge of a razor. I’ve been uneasy lately.” She paused, then added, “I might as well tell you this now. Bruce and I have been talking about moving out to Talamh Lonrach Oll.”

I jerked around, my heart sinking. “No! You want to leave, too?” The thought of Iris, Bruce, and their babies leaving the land knotted my stomach. “Please, don’t you go, too.”

“We’re just talking about it right now. But Delilah, there’s so much uncertainty. We all know Shadow Wing is planning something, and my children need more protection than I can give them. Even the guards Camille sent over from Talamh Lonrach Oll to watch over the land are feeling it lately—they’ve doubled their rounds. I was talking to one of them yesterday. He said he feels like we’re being watched by something that’s biding its time. But they can’t figure out what it is, and it’s making everybody nervous.”

I knew she was right, even though I didn’t want to admit it. Shade and I needed to scrounge up a powerful witch to ward the property, now that we were in charge. Camille was too busy with her own court, and we couldn’t expect her to come out just to check the wards every week.

We reached the Wayfarer, where we crowded in. The place was jumping, and I watched Menolly as she gave a wistful look around the joint. She still owned the bar, though mostly just on paper. She stood at the counter, running her hand over the polished wood, talking to Derrick the bartender in low tones. She looked as uneasy as I felt.

“Are you all right?” I sat down beside her as Derrick moved off to take Iris, Nerissa, and Camille’s orders.

She flashed me a quick shrug. “I suppose. I’m just thinking how much our lives have changed over this past year. We’re all moving on, Kitten. We’re growing up, changing our lives, changing our natures. Ever since Nerissa and I moved over to Roman’s, those shifts have been hitting me right and left. The three of us have been together all of our lives. Now we’re expanding out, and leaving that bond behind. I love my life, but… Growing up’s a bitch.” Her fangs descended just enough for me to see their pearly whites.

I was startled by her nostalgia. Normally, I was the one caught up in ruminating over the past, but during the past few months I had been too busy with the present to focus on what was slipping into the past. Once Camille and Menolly had moved out, I had turned my attention to my own life, and I had been mulling over what we needed to do in the looming battle against Shadow Wing. It was nearing end-game time, and the promise of that last clash loomed large in my thoughts.

“We aren’t losing the bond we have. I’d say, rather, that our childhood, our time here, has become our foundation for our lives, rather than the entire building.” I brushed one of her braids back from her face. Menolly was five-one, with a petite build and long burnished braids that fell to her lower back. She wore beads in them. She said when they clicked, it reminded her she was still alive. Well, undead. Like most vampires, she made little to no sound as she moved through her nights.

She glanced up at me. “Philosophical, much?”

“Not really. I’m not much of a philosophy type. But I think I’m beginning to understand what you and Camille have been trying to teach me over the past few years. I’m standing back, staring at life through the big picture, rather than a snapshot.” I paused. I had hinted to Camille on our trip to Otherworld about what was imminent in my life, but I hadn’t outright told her. Only Shade knew at this point.

“I need to talk to you and Camille. Nerissa and Iris, too.”

“You want to talk in a private room?”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t feel like being closed in. I want to go outside. It’s a warm-enough night. I guess when we get back to the house will be soon enough for discussing deep secrets.” I suddenly didn’t feel like drinking anymore. I put down my glass and brushed my hair away from the back of my neck. I had cut it again, missing the ease of the short, spiky ‘do I’d had for so long. My neck felt like something was tickling the base of it, making me edgy.

“Do you mind if we just go home?”

Frowning, Menolly shook her head. “Not at all. I’ll gather the others.” She paused. “Are you all right, Kitten?”

“Yeah, it’s just…I feel like something’s wrong.” As she disappeared into the crowd, a cold chill swept over me and I wondered what change the wind was bringing with it this time.

***

ON THE WAY home, I glanced out the window, staring at the ghosts who walked the sides of the roads. They appeared to be from various times, long past, and yesterday. Normally, I shielded myself from them because the sights and sounds disturbed me. But tonight, for some reason, I decided to open up, to watch them wander past. Some were lost, not realizing they were dead. Others knew they were dead but still clung to the mortal realm, unwilling to leave. Some were cursed, trapped for one reason or another, while still others were mere fragments of memory, caught in a loop between the layers of time.

“Delilah? Delilah!” Camille finally broke through my thoughts.

“I’m sorry, I was off somewhere.” I straightened up. “What did you want?”

“I wanted to know whether you have a guest list yet. It’s late, but we can still send out invitations if you want. I can lend you a secretary of sorts.” She grinned. “There are perks to being a Fae Queen.”

I laughed, then. “Taking advantage of your authority, are you? Thanks, but we’re not inviting many people, and I can just call the ones we are. But if you could give me some help for the catering, I’d appreciate it, thanks. I don’t want to put the pressure on Iris and Hanna, and I’m just not good at managing that sort of thing.”

“Hey, while we’re on the way home I want to ask your opinion about a situation that’s been presented to me. I’d like your input on it, all of you.” Menolly glanced at Nerissa, who nodded.

“Tell them,” she said. “They’ll tell you the same thing I did.”

“What is it?” Iris asked.

Menolly brushed her braids back away from her face. “Okay, here’s the thing. Erin’s been promoted to head of security. I’m proud as hell of her. But…” She drifted off, looking uncomfortable.

“But what?” Camille asked. “I don’t see the problem.”

Menolly gave her a frustrated shrug. “Erin doesn’t want the job. She’s been offered another opportunity. I don’t want her to accept it, but she wants to give it a try. I could stop her, order her not to go, but Nerissa and Roman both think I’d be making a mistake by doing so.”

Even though Erin was by far older than we were—at least if you compared the human life cycle to the Fae life cycle—she was a baby by vampire standards. Menolly had sired her when Erin’s life was on the line a few years back. It had taken everything Menolly had to do so—she had sworn never to sire anyone. But when she gave Erin the choice, Erin had opted for life as a vampire over death, so Menolly had reluctantly turned her. Now, she was essentially Erin’s mother.

“What’s the other opportunity?” I leaned forward. I couldn’t imagine a job that had more prestige than being Roman’s chief of security.

“Wade’s offered her a chance to tour the country with him, setting up chapters of Vampires Anonymous all over the United States. Blood Wyne approves, and Roman’s giving Erin free choice. Erin’s waiting for my approval, and I know she wants to do it. I’m just…it’s a scary world out there for vampires who are in the public eye.” Menolly bit her lip, a worried look in her eye.

I began to understand her fear. “You’re afraid she’ll get staked at some hate-rally.”

“Well, the hate groups are loud and violent. While the vampire rights bill is before Congress right now, even if it passes, we’ve got a long ways to go before society fully accepts us.” She glanced at Nerissa. “Nerissa thinks I should let her do it.”

“Of course I do.” The Amazonian werepuma was one of the few women who could take on my sister and come out on top, in more ways than one. “Erin is spreading her wings. This is a great opportunity for her to grow into her new life. She’s smart, and she’s always been on the front lines. You know that. Hell, Erin is gay. She took on the haters when she was alive, and she can handle them as a vampire. This is a chance for her to champion yet another cause she’s passionate about. And you know Wade thinks the world of her.”

Menolly hung her head, lips pressed together. Wade had been a psychologist before someone turned him and his mother. He had decided to continue that career path, helping newly minted vamps adjust to their lives in death, and he had founded a self-help group for vampires to enable themselves to keep control over the predator within. Vampires Anonymous had caught the attention of Blood Wyne, the Queen of the Crimson Veil, and she had asked him to expand it nationwide.

I tried not to laugh. Menolly could be so fierce and deadly, and yet she was a yummy, gooey éclair inside when you poked certain areas.

“So let me get this straight. Erin has a chance to get in on the ground floor of something that can affect vampires’ lives for the better, on a nationwide scale, no less. She can make an impact on society and the world, and you’re dithering about whether to let her accept the job?” I leaned forward, tapping Menolly on the knee. “You know what you have to do.”

After a moment, she let out a sputter. “I’ve grown used to having her around, all right? I’m just…I’m going to miss her, damn it.” She sprawled back in her seat with a disgruntled grunt. “I know, I know. I have to let her do this. Grandmother Coyote told me years ago that Erin had a part to play in destiny, and I think this is it. So I guess I have to just bundle up my nerves and tell her to go with my blessing. But it’s not easy.”

“And you say you have no maternal instinct.” Iris laughed. “Remember, the nurturing instinct presents itself in many different ways.”

Standing at three-foot-ten, the Talon-haltija was a Finnish house sprite. With ankle-length golden hair, she looked for all the world like she had just stepped out of a Swiss Miss cocoa commercial. In reality, Iris was a powerful priestess who could turn people inside out when she was angry enough. She had married Bruce, a leprechaun, and they had twins. The boy was named Ukkonen, and the girl was named Maria, after our mother. Other than Bruce’s parents, we were the only real family Iris had.

“I guess that takes care of that issue. For the record, I agree with the others. You have to let Erin fly the nest.” Camille glanced out the window. The limo rode so smoothly it was hard to believe we were moving. “So what do you think the guys are up to?”

“Drinking? Remember when they got bombed out of their minds the night we all went to the Demented Zombie for Iris’s bachelorette party?” I snorted.

“Mostly, I remember Iris throwing up on the stripper when he shoved his junk in her face, and then you attacking him because he had fringe on his G-string.” Menolly stared at me, a smirk spreading across her face.

“Don’t remind me.” I had a problem controlling my shapeshifting when it came to shiny things, birds, and ribbons. Tabby loved to play, and I couldn’t repress my natural instincts very well.

“My guess is that Smoky and Shade are talking over serious dragon issues while Roz and Vanzir are playing video games,” Iris said. “Vanzir doesn’t get to do much that he used to, now that Aeval has pinned him down as her baby-daddy.”

As the limo silently glided up the long private road that led to the house, I grew nervous again. Something had set off my inner alarm and I couldn’t seem to quiet them down. We broke through the heavily tree-lined driveway into the clearing that served as our motor court, and I stared at the house.

An odd light seemed to hover around the old three-story Victorian, the same rust color that the sunset took on certain evenings. At that moment, I noticed that the drive was filled with cars.

“What the hell?” I stiffened, every nerve in my body screaming Danger!

Camille let out a soft hush. “Come on. We’ll find out what’s wrong.”

She pushed open the car door even as her guards sprang out behind us, pushing past her to head up the sidewalk to the porch stairs before she could take another step.

Leaving our packages in the car, we followed them. I knew in my gut that there was something going on inside, something that wasn’t normal. Unable to quell my nerves, I rushed up the stairs, passing the guards as I slammed open the door. My thoughts were focused on Maggie, our baby calico gargoyle, and Shade.

I headed to the living room, where I saw the lights were off. My mood plunged even further.

Camille and Menolly were right behind me, with Iris and Nerissa behind them. I fumbled for the light switch, afraid of what I might see. As I flipped it on, there was a sudden barrage of movement as a roomful of people jumped out from behind the furniture shouting, “Surprise!”

I blinked as I caught sight of a huge banner hanging against the back wall that read, “Happy Bridal Shower!”

“You guys, I can’t believe you set this up!” I started to say, trying to calm my beating heart. But then a woman entered the room from the parlor, and my stomach knotted again. Shade’s sister, Lash, was here. No wonder I had been on high alert.

COLLAPSE

Playlist for Harvest Song

Android Lust: Here and NowI
The Bravery: Believe
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Buffalo Springfield: For What It's Worth
Chumbawumba: Tubthumping
Corvus Corax: In Taberna, Ballade de Mercy, Bucca
The Cure: The Hanging Garden, Cold, From The Edge of the Deep Green Sea
Damh the Bard: Silent Moon, Tomb of the King, Obsession, Cloak of Feathers, Grimspound, The Wicker Man, The Cutty Wren, Matty Groves, Twa Corbies
David and Steve Gordon: Shaman's Drum Dance
Dire Straits: Down to the Waterline
Don Henley: Sunset Grill
Eagles: Life in the Fast Lane
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being
Eels: Souljacker Part 1: Love of the Loveless
Faun: Lupercalia, Iduna, The Market Song, Golden Apples, Adam Lay Ybounden, Rad, Sieben, Tinta, Tanz mit mir
Foo Fighters: The Pretender, All My Life
Foster the People: Pumped Up Kicks
Gabrielle Roth: Raven, Red Wind, Cloud Mountain
Gerry Rafferty: Baker Street
Gorillaz: Hongkongaton, Rockit, Kids with Guns, Dirty Harry, Last Living Souls, Feel Good Inc., Dare; Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head, Demon Days, Stylo
Harry Nilsson: Coconut
Eric Burdon & War: Spill the Wine
Hedningarna: Tulli, Chicago, Ukkonen, Grodan/Widergrenen (Toadeater), Raven (Fox Woman), Juopolle Joutunut, Drafur & Gildur
The Herbaliser: You're Not All That
In Strict Confidence: Wintermoon, Tiefer, Snow White, Silver Bullets, Silver Tongues
Ladytron: I'm Not Scared, Burning Up, Ghosts
Mark Lanegan: The Gravedigger's Song, Bleeding Muddy Water, Riot in My House, Wedding Dress, Phantasmagoria Blues, Methamphetamine Blues, Creeping Coastline of Lights, Little Sadie
Ohio Players: Fire
Oingo Boingo: Dead Man's Party, Elevator Man
The Police: Don't Stand so Close to Me, King of Pain
Queen: We Will Rock You
REM: Drive
Screaming Trees: Where the Twain Shall Meet, Dime Western, Gospel Plow
Sister Sledge: We Are Family
Spiral Dance: The Goddess and the Weaver, Boys of Bedlam, Asgard's Chase, Tarry Trousers, Rise Up
Stealers Wheel: Stuck in the Middle with You
Steppenwolf: Born To Be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride, Twisted
Tempest: Queen of Argyll, Nottamun Town, Buffalo Jump, Black Jack Davey
Three Dog Night: Mama Told Me
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Mary Jane's Last Dance
Wendy Rule: The Circle Song, The Wolf Sky, Evolution, Elemental Chant
Woodland: Silent Dance, Blood of the Moon, Golden Raven's Eye, First Melt, Conjure, Bacchus and the Maenads, Secrets Told
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

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PEOPLE...BEFORE YOU WRITE TO ASK IF THIS WILL BE AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK--IT IS. BUT...it's in POD, which means Print. On. Demand. It means if you click the Amazon link below, you will find that you can order it from Amazon. It will be in trade size (which is larger). I cannot order it into mass market size like you're used to from when I was with Berkley. And you CANNOT get it in stores. But you CAN get it in print, just like ALL my full-size novels that aren't reprints.

 

We're the D'Artigo sisters: savvy half-human, half-Fae operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. My sister Delilah is a two-faced werecat and a Death Maiden. Menolly is a vampire married to a gorgeous werepuma and a vampire prince. And me? I'm Camille, a Moon Witch married to three gorgeous husbands, and I'm about to ascend to the throne of Dusk & Twilight. But the path to the throne lies through a labyrinth of dangers, which I must face alone...

Before I can fulfill my destiny to become the Queen of Dusk & Twilight, I must seek out the Keraastar Diamond. But to find the magical gem and take control over the Keraastar Knights, I must venture back to Otherworld, deep into the treacherous Tygerian Mountains. Once there, I face a magical trial by fire. If I fail, the chance to stop Shadow Wing will fade with me. If I succeed, my life will forever change. And I'm not certain which prospect frightens me the most.

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Chapter 1

"Block him at the pass!" I dodged out of the way, trying not to dive face first into the dirt, but I didn't see the stray tennis ball some dog had dropped under the bridge, and did a banana-peel flop onto my butt. I rolled to the side, hard, as the damned troll charged past. Or rather, troll spirit.

"I swear, the next blowhard who tries to tell me that spirits can't be corporeal is going to get my fist in their face." I groaned, rolling to a sitting position. Damn it. I had torn my skirt on a shard of glass. Well, better my skirt than my leg. At least I hadn't broken my ankle. I had long ago given up fighting in stilettos, but tonight we hadn't planned on a showdown and we were all dressed to the nines for dinner, and my heels were four inch spiky sandals.

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Delilah raced by, pausing to hold out her hand. I grabbed it and she hauled me up. As soon as she pulled me onto my feet, she was off again, trying to catch up to the lumbering ghost. Menolly was already up ahead, dangling off the troll's back like some demented monkey, only cuter. I swallowed my pride, made sure nothing was broken, and hauled ass in their direction. Thanks to regular workouts, I was faster than I used to be, but I still lagged behind. Delilah was a natural-born athlete. So was Menolly, plus she was a vampire. Me? Not so much either one.

"He's not slowing down and I can't break his neck because he's not alive!" Menolly's voice echoed from up ahead. As I watched, the troll spirit veered directly for a massive cedar.

"Watch out for-" I stopped, wincing as the spirit skidded to a stop. In a whiplash effect, Menolly went flying over his head. She landed a good three yards ahead of him, sliding along the asphalt, cursing like a sailor. The troll turned right onto a side street and bounded away, leaving us all in the dust.

"Well, that had to hurt." Delilah shaded her eyes, watching the troll vanish.

I caught up to her and we jogged over to Menolly's side. Menolly picked herself up off the road and dusted her hands on her jeans. We had lost the troll's trail. Oh, we could go racing after him and probably pick him up again, but seeing that he was the spirit of a troll and not the actual creature, chances were we'd be off on a wild goose chase.

"What the hell was that?" Menolly stretched her arms over her head, then shook her shoulders out. Her eyes were glowing crimson in the pale light of dusk, a sure sign her hunting instincts had been out to play. "That wasn't like any troll I've ever dealt with before."

"That's because it was a ghost, although not your typical run-of-the-mill spook. Somehow, the spirit managed to become corporeal." I winced. The spill I'd taken was catching up to me and I was pretty sure I had bruised my tailbone. "What I want to know is where did it come from?"

We walked back beneath the overpass to stare at the Freemont Troll. A Seattle landmark, the troll was a massive sculpture that had been designed and created by a team of artists who called themselves the Jersey Devils. Formed from rebar, wire, and concrete, it was big enough to hold an actual Volkswagen Beetle in its hand. But behemoth or not, the troll was a just a sculpture. Or so we had thought. Nothing more than a neighborhood icon.

I would have been happy to remain blissfully ignorant, except Chase had called us while we were out to dinner. Someone had reported that the Freemont Troll had come to life and was rampaging around under the bridge. Once we got there, of course, we found the sculpture right where it had always been. However, there was a troll roaming around, only it was a confused, angry spirit.

"What do you suppose happened?" Menolly glared at the sculpture as we passed it. "Who on earth thought putting a troll under an overpass was a good thing?"

"They made this before the Supes came out of the closet." But I was right behind her in giving it a nervous glance as we passed it. Actually, the Freemont Troll was rather fun. Fans dressed him up for the holidays, and he was as much a part of the Seattle landscape as was the Space Needle. No, the troll we had faced had only hidden inside the sculpture until something set him off.

"We already knew that spirits can sometimes take on corporeal form. Something spooked this one and he's not happy. Which means our troll friend-the spirit, not the sculpture-is dangerous to anybody he happens to meet."

"I know what did it." Menolly dashed up the slope beside the troll to stand on top of his head. "Come up here."

The last thing I wanted to do was climb up a dirt embankment in a fancy dress and corset, but I pulled off my shoes and Delilah and I scrambled up the easy rise. When we were on top of the troll, we were standing right beneath the overpass.

There we found an altar, of sorts. A makeshift 'talking board' sat between two candles in Mason jars. The candles were still flickering. A quartz crystal rested to the left and a tipped over bottle of wine to the right. The board was a rough rectangle of plywood, with the alphabet painted across it, and the words, "yes" and "no" at the top corners. A upside-down paper cup rested on the board atop a thin piece of transparent acrylic, just the right size to cover one letter at a time.

"Fuck me now." I stared at the setup. "Somebody figured out there was a spirit hiding itself in the troll and decided to commune with it. Bingo, open door policy. Idiots didn't realize that boards like this are actually portals."

"Either that, or they were just drunk off their asses and screwing around." Delilah rubbed her temples. "When will kids learn?"

"Why do you think this was a group of kids? I've met plenty of adults who don't have the sense they were born with." I toed the board. Sure enough, a sizzle sparked against my big toe. "Well, whoever they were, they opened the door, but I doubt they're capable of locking the troll back in the bottle, so to speak. Which means we have to figure out what to do with it. We can't just force it to go back inside the sculpture. That's no life for any spirit."

"I feel guilty for suggesting it, but we could call Ivana." Menolly glanced at me. Ivana Krask, or the Maiden of Karask, was one of the Elder Fae. She loved ghosts. She loved ghosts all too much. She trapped the nasty ones in her ghoulish little 'garden of ghosts' where she fed off their energy and tormented them. But she was good at rounding up spirits, that was for sure. She'd probably salivate over the chance to nab a troll's spirit.

I stared at my sister. "While the idea of handing over this creature to her is tempting, the fact is that we don't know whether it's evil or not. And I honestly can't face myself in the mirror if we end up giving her a ghost who's just confused and unhappy."

"I thought you might say that." Menolly shrugged. "I'm out of suggestions for now. We don't know where the thing went. We don't know what to do about it if we do find it again. What do you suggest?"

"Let's head back to the car." Delilah glanced up at the sky. "We can hunt it that way. We'd better find it, though. Tomorrow night's the full moon and I won't be of any use then. I can already feel the pull in my blood." Full moons were always out when it came to any sort of plans for Delilah unless they included gallivanting around in my catnip garden, or chasing moths through the yard. They were out for me, too.

"Right. And I'll be off on the Hunt with the Moon Mother." I was swept away during the Full Moon, too, only I went racing through the skies instead of the back yard.

"So, what do we do? We can't even figure out how to contain it, let alone send it off to the happy troll gardens or whatever their afterlife is. All we've accomplished so far is a broken butt and torn skirt for you, and skid marks tearing up my leather jacket." Menolly shrugged. "Maybe we should do a little research? We may actually save time that way. We're near the station. They have computers. Chase will let us use one."

I hooked my arm through Delilah's. "She's right. We aren't going to manage anything until we figure out what we're fighting and how to combat it. Let's head over to the FH-CSI."

Delilah shrugged. "Whatever you think is right. I just hope that thing doesn't hurt anybody while we're surfing the net. Come on, let's go." She held up her keys as we approached her Jeep and unlocked the doors. Without another word, we piled in the car and were off to the station.

* * *

The FH-CSI was the acronym for the Faerie-Human Crime Scene Investigation unit. Over the years, it had grown from a specialty operation to a powerful city organization. Chase Johnson, the detective in charge of it, was a friend of ours. He and Delilah had been an item for awhile but the gulf between them was too great. Now, he was paired up with the Elfin Queen and while they got along great, once again, circumstance had intervened.

Sharah had returned to Otherworld to take up her duty when Elqaneve and the Elfin lands had been pulverized during war. The old queen was killed, making Sharah-a niece and the only one close to the throne who was still alive-the heir. She had returned home to take the crown, leaving Chase and their daughter, Astrid, over here Earthside. It wasn't ideal, but neither Chase nor Sharah had a choice. Her duty to the throne came first for Sharah, and duty to his daughter and his own post came first for Chase.

Located in the Belles-Faire district of Seattle, the FH-CSI was on Thatcher Avenue. It was a large building with one floor above ground which housed the police unit and healing facilities for the Supe community. At least three stories below ground included an arsenal, a jail, a laboratory, morgue and archives, and there was a rumored fourth level, though Chase would never confirm or deny it.

The parking lot was empty, though in thirty-six hours it would be full. A few of the jail cells were actually used as kennels during the full moon, for when some of the werewolves went careening around the city. The animal shelters sub-contracted members of the FH-CSI to round up the bigger predator types and cart them down to the holding cells until morning. Once they reverted back to their human forms, they paid a nominal fee and were set free. That way, nobody got hurt and in the morning, their families would come get them, crowding the parking lot.

As we approached the building, the sound of traffic blurred in the distance. The sky was clear and the weather, balmy. June in Seattle didn't exactly fit most people's definition of warm, but the rain was holding off and it was sixty degrees at ten-thirty. Shirt-sleeve weather to locals.

I glanced at the stars. Most of them were drowned out by the light pollution, but here and there, a bright star flickered. The sky was so different from what it had been home in Otherworld. Here, the city lights blotted out all but the brightest stars. But there was an energy over Earthside that OW didn't have. And I had gotten used to that energy. I was actually grateful that I was here to stay.

I pushed through the doors. The police station was to the left, and the medic unit was straight ahead. As we entered the police station, the bustle of activity hit us like a wave.

Yugi, Chase's second in command and a Swedish empath, was racing around with a clipboard in his hand. At least three officers that we could see were checking their weapons. I jumped back as Marquette-an elf who had joined the force a couple years back-hurried by. The look on her face was dour. Brooks, a full blooded human, followed her, looking just as grim. Behind him was Fry, another FBH. She was carrying one hell of a big shotgun.

Chase was standing at the door of his office. When he saw us, he brushed his hair back from his face and motioned us in. "Thank gods you're here. You lost the troll, didn't you?"

At six-one, Chase was Delilah's height. With dark wavy hair and olive skin, he looked Mediterranean. We had all thought Chase was human until a few months back when we discovered he actually had an ancestor from Otherworld in his lineage, giving him a touch of elfin blood. He was wearing a designer suit-Calvin Klein-and right now he looked like he was about to pop a blood vessel in his forehead.

"That's why we're here. The Freemont Troll is right where it was. What we're chasing is the corporeal spirit of a troll who was resting quietly inside the sculpture till some lamebrain decided to use a talking board. At least, that's the way we think it went down." I glanced over at his desk. His landline was ringing off the hook, three of the four lines flashing. "Your phone-"

"Never mind my phone. We have a major problem. Whatever that thing is, it's headed toward the Golden Gardens Park, where there happens to be a major event going on."

Delilah paled. "What event?"

"The midnight wedding of some big shot lawyer's kid. There are two hundred people milling around the park, half of whom are scheduled to eat a midnight supper there after the wedding. I'm sending officers over now but we have to do something before the bride and groom end up taking their vows over a mass grave." Chase was stumbling over his words. He usually wasn't this frantic, even during emergencies.

"Slow down. We'll head out there. We just wanted to do a little research on this spirit. We aren't sure how to stop it." I frowned. "What else is wrong, Chase? It's not like you to be so panicked over a routine monster fight."

His shoulders slumping, he dropped into the chair behind his desk. "What's wrong is this: Do you know the name Brandon Rigal?"

Delilah let out a loud cough. "Yeah, he's that big mucky-muck lawyer who defends the members of the Freedom's Angels and the Guardian Watchdogs when they get busted."

The Freedom's Angels and the Guardian Watchdogs were two incredibly nasty hate-groups out to oust the Supe Community from Seattle. They had spread to other cities as well. At first the Angels were talk-only, but once the Guardian Watchdogs got involved, and with the Brotherhood of the Earth-Born backing them, now they all violent. It wasn't a far step from shouting vile slogans to acting on the rhetoric.

"The wedding just happens to be that of Rigal's daughter. If the troll disrupts his little princess's precious nuptials, Rigal will do everything he can to rile up the Freedom's Angels and the Guardian Watchdogs. Not only that, he'll drag the FH-CSI through the mud."

Crap. That put a whole new spin on the night. We had to stop that troll spirit before he laid waste to the nuptials.

"Delilah, look up the troll on the computers. Menolly and I will head out...oh damn it, we can't. We only brought your Jeep." We had been on the hunt for fish and chips, not a fight. I turned to Chase. "Can Menolly and I ride with your people?"

Chase nodded. "Hurry, though. They're ready to head out. Delilah-you can use the computer in Yugi's office. He'll help you with anything you need." As we headed out the door, he called after us, "I don't care how you do it. Just get that troll or we'll all pay the price."

* * *

Marquette and Brooks were partners and they had already left, so Menolly and I crammed ourselves into the backseat of Fry's patrol car. Fry was lean and tall, and as tough as they came. When she barked, the others jumped. A regular Rottweiler, Chase had said.

She glanced in the back seat as we buckled ourselves in. "Don't touch the guns and don't spill anything on the seat. Especially blood."

I glanced at Menolly, repressing a laugh. "We aren't in the habit of grabbing guns, and I guarantee you, Menolly won't be using me as a juice box."

"Fine. Hold on. I'm cranking on the siren." And with that, the siren let out a loud alarm and we lurched out of the parking lot, gaining speed as the drivers ahead of us gave way.

Menolly stared out into the night. "You realize that by the end of this month, we won't be doing this anymore. Not like this, anyway."

My mood plunged to gloom within seconds. "I know. I don't want to think about it."

"You'd better start thinking about it, because Litha's coming up in a couple weeks and then..." She didn't finish. She didn't have to.

I didn't answer. There was nothing to say. Within two weeks, I'd be moving myself and my husbands out to Talamh Lonrach Oll, where I would take the crown as the Queen of Dusk and Twilight over the sovereign Fae nation.

* * *

My name is Camille Sepharial D'Artigo and together with my sisters, Menolly and Delilah, I came over from Otherworld a few years back. Our mother, Maria D'Artigo, was human, and our father, Sephreh ob Tanu, full blooded Fae. They met and fell in love when he was on assignment over Earthside. He swept her off to Otherworld and they had us. Shortly after Menolly was born, Mother died from a fall off of a horse. Our father never quite recovered from her death, and we lost him a few months back.

I'm the oldest, and I'm a Moon witch and High Priestess. And in two weeks, I'll take the throne as the Queen of Dusk and Twilight. I stand between worlds-between Otherworld and Earthside. Between light and dark. I'm married to three gorgeous men: Smoky-a dragon shifter, Morio-a youkai kitsune, and Trillian, a Svartan-one of the dark and charming Fae. They get along, mostly, and they are the loves of my lives.

Delilah, the second-born, is a two-faced werecat, able to shift into both a long-haired golden tabby, and a black panther. She's a Death Maiden, serving the Autumn Lord, and she's engaged to Shade, a half shadow dragon and half-Stradolan. Someday, she's destined to bear the child of the Autumn Lord with Shade acting as his proxy. Being the mother of an Elemental Lord-or Lady-seems a daunting prospect, but she's down with it. Delilah's very maternal.

And then there's Menolly. Menolly started out as a jian-tu. She could climb walls, ropes, trees with abandon. She could make it across cavern roofs, until the day she fell off into a nest of vampires. Dredge, one of the most dangerous vamps in history caught her and the result wasn't pretty. He tortured her and then, at the last, when she could hold out no longer, he forcibly turned her and sent her home to destroy her family. I managed to lure her into our safe room and lock her in. A year of rehabilitation taught her to control her impulses, but she continually battles her inner predator. Menolly's married to a gorgeous werepuma named Nerissa, and to Roman, prince of the Vampire Nation. They make an odd little trio, but somehow, it works.

The three of us are as different as light and dark. I have hair the color of raven wings, and violet eyes that flash silver when I work my magic. At five-seven, I have big boobs and ample hips and a narrow waist, and while I work out now so I can keep up in a fight, I'm a gurly girl and I'll always be. Delilah's six-one, athletic and lean, with short blond hair in a Euro-cut, and about the only time we can force her into a dress is during special occasions. And Menolly is petite, barely five-one. Her hair is the color of burnished copper hair and hangs to her lower back in long thin braids, dappled with beads.

Our mixed blood causes havoc. Our powers fritz out at the most inconvenient times. That wasn't exactly a big selling point to our bosses at the OIA-the Otherworld Intelligence Agency, and although we worked our asses off, we were never exemplary employees. Between our lapses, and my run-in with a supervisor who got pissed when I wouldn't blow him, we were shipped over Earthside on what was ostensibly a sabbatical. Things went downhill fast.

We arrived Earthside thinking our stay would be all fun and games. A real chance to explore our mother's home world. We ended up at the frontlines of a demonic war and trust me, saving two worlds, one monster at a time, isn't easy. We've been to hell and back in this war, and until we find the last spirit seal and forever bind all nine away from Shadow Wing-the leader of the Sub-Realms-there will always be the chance that he'll take control of the portals, force them open, and raze both Earthside and Otherworld. We're battle weary and we've lost too many friends to this war. We just want to finish it and be done, because trust me, war wounds run deep, and we're all scarred with injuries that are mostly unseen, but always present.

* * *

We were almost to the Golden Gardens Park when Fry suddenly veered off the road, onto the shoulder. She leaned across the passenger seat, squinting out the window. To the right was a swath of grass, and a large wall leading up to a street that ran parallel with ours. The wall was covered with ivy.

"I thought I saw something big and fast out there," she said. "Is this creature invisible?"

I glanced at Menolly. "I don't know if it can fully turn invisible, but I'd say it could camouflage itself against a background of greenery.

"Come on. Let's go take a look. Hand me the shotgun, please." She held out her hand.

I stared at the gun, not wanting to touch it. There was enough iron in that gun to burn my hands if I accidentally touched any part that wasn't wood.

"Just do it-oh." She stopped, looking at my face. "You're half-Fae. Iron thing right?"

"Right."

Menolly grabbed the gun, letting out a faint curse as her finger grazed the barrel. She carefully lifted it over the seat. Her fingers were blistered when Fry took the gun from her, but they began to heal up quickly. Vampires healed faster than most people realized, which meant she could touch iron and-while it still hurt-it wouldn't incapacitate her.

I frowned. "That gun won't do a thing against this creature. We're fighting a spirit. Even if you have silver bullets, it's not going to make a difference."

"Then what do you suggest I use?" Fry really didn't sound happy. She gazed down at the gun, then back at the window. "He's out there-see?"

I plastered my face against the window. Sure enough, I could see his faint form against the wall, blending into the ivy. "Come on, Menolly. We'll go on foot from here. Fry, why don't you drive ahead and try to keep people from scattering. If we can keep him from making it to the park, then maybe we can pull this off without the wedding guests ever knowing what's going on. Tell them...oh, tell them you're chasing a couple burglary subjects or something that won't cause a panic."

With that, Menolly and I hopped out of the car. Fry hesitated a moment, then she put the gun down and took off toward the park which was about a quarter mile down the road.

Menolly and I headed for the stone wall covered in ivy. I had left my shoes in the car, for easier running, and as we passed over a gravel spit, my toes grumbled. Of course, I had to find the sharpest pieces of gravel available. I hopped across to the grass and wiped off the pebbles that were stuck to the bottoms of my feet.

"What do we do when we get there?" Menolly asked.

I kept my eye on the hulking spirit. Turns out troll spirits were as big as their bodies, which was huge. The smallest troll I had ever seen was ten feet tall, and that was a youngster. Troll parents didn't let their young go wandering until they were large enough to look out for themselves. But trolls weren't just tall. They were bulky and muscled and scary as hell.

"At least we aren't facing a dubba-troll. Two heads are definitely not better than one." I paused, trying to keep track of where the troll spirit had gone to. Then I saw him, up ahead, still on his way to the park. "There he is. Why he's determined to go to the park, I don't know."

"Neither do I but let's get a move on. I'm going to ahead. You come as fast as you can." Menolly sped up. She could move in a blur, like most vampires, and before long she was keeping pace with the troll. The next moment, she was in front of him and ready to try to dropkick him backward. As her foot hit his stomach, it went right through him and she landed in a heap on the grass. The troll didn't even look back.

"What the hell? Now he's not corporeal?"

My phone rang as I jogged over to where Menolly had fallen. She was up and chasing him again. I stopped, leaning over to breathe, and glanced at the Caller ID. Delilah. I punched the TALK button and tried to keep from panting into the phone.

"Yeah? Talk fast."

Delilah snorted. "With as many workouts as your husbands give you, I'm surprised you aren't a champion sprinter. Anyway, I found reference on the GoGargoyle search engine to a particular spirit that seems to be endemic to Earthside. Apparently, some trolls and ogres who stayed behind near the Snohomish area began to fade over the years and they've wandered around the Seattle area over the years. They aren't true spirits, but faded shells of the creatures they once were. They've become a form of wight, though they aren't necessarily evil by nature anymore. Some dimwit dubbed them 'vrolls'-vapor and troll mixed-and it stuck. So we're facing a vroll. Apparently, they've lost their sense to hunt, and they're more like a wild animal who doesn't understand what's happened. Poor things are just afraid, from what the reports say."

"What's he looking for? How can we stop them?"

"Vrolls are looking for one thing: shelter and a place to hide, where they eventually will fade away into nothing. But when they're riled or forcibly shoved out of their hiding spots, they turn violent. Then the only thing you can do is either find a new place for the creature to slumber, or put it out of its misery. There's no reasoning with them. What's left is pure instinct and drive for self-preservation." She paused, then added. "It's really kind of sad, isn't it?"

I bit my lip. Sad was the word, all right. But even though the vroll was a sorry creature, we couldn't let it attack a wedding. Especially a wedding being thrown by one of Seattle's most vocal hate-mongers.

"How do we destroy it?"

Delilah let out an sigh. "You have to drain it of life-force. Menolly can't. There's no blood there to drain. But magick will work. We need Vanzir."

Vanzir could drain energy. The demon had, at one time, been forcibly bound to us, but he proved his mettle and now was a good friend, as well as an ally. He was a dream-chaser demon and he had the ability to feed off both the dreams and life-force of others.

"Can you call him? We're at the park and I'm trying to catch up to Menolly and the vroll."

"I already did. He's on the way. Smoky's bringing him through the Ionyc Sea. He's stopping here to pick me up first. We'll be there within a couple of minutes. Oh, by the way, apparently vrolls are attracted to sparkly things." She hung up.

I shoved my phone in my pocket-thank gods for skirts with pockets. Smoky-my dragon shifter husband-could travel through the currents of energy that separated the Ionyc Lands and kept them from colliding. The non-corporeal dimensions-the etheric, astral, and spirit realms all formed the Ionyc Lands, and to get to them, one had to either have the ability to shift over, or to travel through the great sea of energy.

The dusk was fading. We had only a few moments before it was full on night, and it would be harder than ever to see our goal. I shaded my eyes with my hands, trying to scan ahead to see where Menolly and the vroll were. The moon was rising, though nowhere near its zenith, but its light was enough to show me the silhouettes ahead. The park was only a few hundred yards beyond. Even from here, I could hear people shouting and laughing.

Fuck. We had to keep the creature out of their path until Vanzir got here. I sent a piercing whistle through the air. Menolly would recognize it. Sure enough, a few seconds and she appeared in a blur.

"What?"

I held up my phone. "Delilah called. Vanzir is on the way. He's the one who can stop the vroll-it's not really a spirit, but a faded troll. The only way to stop it is to drain its life-force. The creature's running scared and there's no way to reason with it. He's looking for a new place to hide, but if he can't find it, in his panic he'll just cause mayhem and havoc all over the place. We have to keep his attention until Vanzir and Smoky get here."

"He didn't blink an eye when I tried to smack him one. I went through him like water through a funnel. Something appears to be drawing him to the crowd. He can't eat them, can he?" Menolly glanced around, then waved to our right. "If he's looking for a place to hide, maybe the tunnel?"

I glanced over. There was a rounded archway in the wall that supported the street above, leading through to another wooded area. "Good thinking. We need to draw his attention over there somehow. If we can get him behind the wall, then maybe he'll feel safer and calm down." Then, I had an idea. "Get him to look over toward me." I took off for the wall.

Menolly nodded, veering off, shouting at the vroll. I raced over to the tunnel, which was pedestrian only, cursing as the gravel bit into my feet. But I ignored the pricks and jabs of the stones, instead focusing on the area in the center of the tunnel. I could create a bright sparkly ball of energy there, hopefully long enough for the vroll to notice it and come running.

Shouts and screams echoed behind me, and I whirled around, skidding to a stop beside the tunnel opening. Oh gods, the vroll had found the wedding, and with it, the silver balloons that were attached to every chair at the event. He was headed right toward the throng of invitees, just as the bride was walking down the aisle.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jill Smith on RT Book Reviews wrote:

4.5 Stars Top Pick

Superb writer Galenorn continues her long running Otherworld series with the 19th book that brings half-human/half-fae Camille D’Artigo’s destiny into clear focus. A true joy of this series is watching all of the various evolving relationships, especially those between the sisters. Camille, Delilah and Menolly each have a critical role to play in the unfolding fight against Shadow Wing and none of their destinies are easy. Supposedly there will be two additional books after Moon Shimmers that will bring this epic and amazing storyline to a close. Hang on for the danger is ramping up!

Moon Witch Camille is destined to become the Queen of Dusk & Twilight very soon, but before she can ascend the throne it is critical that she find the long missing Keraastar Diamond. This magic gem will allow Camille to reassemble and take over the Keraastar Knights who will be critical in the upcoming war with Shadow Wing. The hunt for the diamond will take Camille and her gang back to Otherworld and into the treacherous Tygerian Mountains. With all their hopes riding on her success, Camille will be tested as never before!


Playlist

Air: Playground Love, Napalm Love, Moon Fever
A.J. Roach: Devil May Dance
Al Stewart: Life in Dark Water
Android Lust: Here and Now, Saint Over
Arch Leaves: Nowhere to Go
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour: Sunshine Coolin', Heart Attack
AWOLNATION: Sail
Beck: Nausea, Qué Onda Guero, Emergency Exit, Farewell Ride
The Black Angels: Always Maybe, Don't Play With Guns, Young Men Dead
Black Mountain: Queens Will Play
Blue Oyster Cult: Godzilla
Boom! Bap! Pow!: Suit
The Bravery: Believe
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Buffalo Springfield: For What It's Worth
Crazy Town: Butterfly
Chris Isaac: Wicked Game
Cobra Verde: Play with Fire
David Bowie: China Girl, Fame '90, Golden Years
Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Possess Your Heart
Dizzi: Dizzi Jig
Don Henley: Dirty Laundry
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Beaing
Eivør: Trøllbundin
Elektrisk Gønner: Uknowhatiwant
Fatboy Slim: Praise You
Faun: The Market Song, Hymn to Pan, Iduna, Oyneng yar
FC Kahuna: Hayling
Fluke: Absurd
Foster The People: Pumped Up Kids
Gabrielle Roth: Raven
Garbage: Queer, #1 Crush,
Gary Numan: My Breathing, Walking with Shadows, I Am Dust, Cars (Remix), Petals
Gorillaz: Dare, Last Living Souls, Demon Days, Clint Eastwood, Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head, Kids With Guns, Stylo
The Gospel Whiskey Runners: Muddy Waters
Hedningarna: Ukkonen, Juopolle Joutunut, Räven (Fox Woman), Grodan/Widergrenen (Toadeater), Drafur & Gildur
Huldrelokkk: Trolldans
Ian Melrose & Kerstin Blodig: Kråka
In Strict Confidence: Silver Bullets, Tiefer, Snow White
Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
The Kills: Sour Cherry, You Don't Own The Road, Nail In My Coffin
Kirsty MacColl: In These Shoes?
Lady Gaga: I Like It Rough, Paparazzi,
Ladytron: I'm Not Scared, Paco, Ghosts
Leonard Cohen: It Seemed the Better Way, You Want It Darker
Lord of the Lost: Sex on Legs
Lorde: Royals, Yellow Flicker Beat
Low with Tom and Andy: Half Light
Marilyn Manson: Tainted Love, Personal Jesus
Matt Corby: Breathe
Nine Inch Nails: Deep
Orgy: Social Enemies, Blue Monday
Puddle of Mudd: Famous
The Pussycat Dolls: Don't Cha
Queen: We Will Rock You, Another One Bites the Dust
Roisin Murphy: Ramalama (Bang Bang)
Saliva: Ladies and Gentlemen
Screaming Trees: Where the Twain Shall Meet
Shriekback: Dust and a Shadow, Underwater Boys, The King in the Tree, The Shining Path, Intoxication, Go Bang, Now These Days Are Gone
Simple Minds: Don't You (Forget About Me)
Stone Temple Pilots: Atlanta
Strawberry Alarm Clock: Incense and Peppermint
Styx: Renegade
Sweet Talk Radio: We All Fall Down
Talking Heads: I Zimbra, Burning Down the House, Girlfriend Is Better, Moon Rocks
Tamaryn: While You're Sleeping, I'm Dreaming, Violet's in a Pool
Toadies: Possum Kingdom
Tuatha Dea: Tuatha De Danaan, Long Black Curl
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Warchild: Ash
Zero 7: In the Waiting Line

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