Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks

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In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.

Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party — one that turns out to be a trap.

Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted — especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

As loyalties shift, and as the two men vie for her attention, Sage tries to figure out who to trust in a realm she doesn’t understand. One thing’s for sure: the trap she’s in has bigger claws than she thought. And it’s going to take a lot more than magic for this Celtic demigoddess to make it out alive.

Book Details

  • File Namefire-and-bone-by-rachel-a-marks.epub
  • Original TitleFire and Bone
  • Creator
  • Languageen
  • IdentifierISBN:9781503946750
  • PublisherSkyscape
  • Date2018-02-19T16:00:00+00:00
  • File Size688.444 KB

Table of Content

  • 1. Unnamed
  • 2. ALSO BY RACHEL A. MARKS Winter Rose (novella) The Dark Cycle Darkness Brutal Darkness Fair Darkness Savage
  • 3. Unnamed
  • 4. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Text copyright © 2018 by Rachel A. Marks All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher. Published by Skyscape, New York www.apub.com Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates. ISBN-13: 9781503946750 ISBN-10: 1503946754 Cover design by Eileen Carey
  • 5. For my bashert, Joseph, because he knew before I did.
  • 6. CONTENTS BEFORE ONE SAGE TWO SAGE THREE FAELAN FOUR SAGE FIVE FAELAN SIX SAGE SEVEN SAGE EIGHT SAGE NINE FAELAN TEN SAGE ELEVEN SAGE TWELVE SAGE THIRTEEN FAELAN FOURTEEN SAGE FIFTEEN FAELAN SIXTEEN SAGE SEVENTEEN FAELAN EIGHTEEN FAELAN NINETEEN FAELAN TWENTY SAGE TWENTY-ONE SAGE TWENTY-TWO SAGE TWENTY-THREE SAGE TWENTY-FOUR FAELAN TWENTY-FIVE SAGE TWENTY-SIX FAELAN TWENTY-SEVEN SAGE TWENTY-EIGHT FAELAN TWENTY-NINE SAGE THIRTY FAELAN THIRTY-ONE SAGE THIRTY-TWO FAELAN THIRTY-THREE SAGE THIRTY-FOUR FAELAN THIRTY-FIVE SAGE THIRTY-SIX SAGE THIRTY-SEVEN FAELAN THIRTY-EIGHT SAGE THIRTY-NINE FAELAN FORTY SAGE FORTY-ONE FAELAN FORTY-TWO SAGE FORTY-THREE FAELAN FORTY-FOUR SAGE FORTY-FIVE SAGE FORTY-SIX SAGE FORTY-SEVEN FAELAN FORTY-EIGHT SAGE FORTY-NINE SAGE FIFTY FAELAN FIFTY-ONE SAGE FIFTY-TWO SAGE EPILOGUE KIERAN ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ABOUT THE AUTHOR
  • 7. BEFORE The flames came without warning at her touch. She could do nothing. Only watch the fire consume him as her soul splintered. His long black hair took wing with the blaze, twisting and melting into nothing as his screams filled the forest where they stood. The same forest where she’d kissed his human lips, reveling in his scent. Where she’d let him love her, their secret safe in the arms of the emerald trees. Now all was orange and golden light, eating him away. She tried to quench the flames with her shawl, her hands, but still his perfect skin blistered and cracked, peeling off in flakes to float away with the sparks above her head. It happened so quickly. The face she’d kissed so many times disappeared in the dancing glow, unveiling a grinning skull. Her cries of anguish echoed around her as his choked off, his charred body crashing to the ground. Sweet mother Brighid, no! What had she done? Silver smoke rose in pluming clouds, stinging her eyes, her nostrils, as the burns on h
  • 8. ONE SAGE I have this thing for fire. It terrifies me. Because when I feel the warmth on my skin, or watch the dancing flames, it’s as if the pulsing glow is speaking to me. It’s only a small whisper, but it’s crystal clear in my mind. A voice that merges with the rhythm of the flickering tongues of light: Touch. Feed. Control. I’m sure something is very wrong with me, but my crazy isn’t my biggest problem right now. It’s my lack of a place to crash for the night. I flick my lighter on and pretend I don’t hear the whispers as I hold the flame up to the end of Ziggy’s cigarette. She pulls in a drag and then coughs. She’s totally asthmatic, but for some reason she won’t quit. “I hope they have some of those blueberry scones left over,” she says, leaning on the wall beside the back door of the coffee shop. She twists one of her short dreadlocks around her finger. “They make me feel fancy. And I need to feel fancy on Halloween, like I’m in disguise.” The alley is lit by the small yellow lam
  • 9. TWO SAGE “She’s definitely not much to look at,” a voice says, pulling me from sleep. I was dreaming of . . . I don’t know, it’s fluttered out of my head already. But I do know I’m not alone in the room. I sit up in a rush and scramble back against the wall. Three large males hover over me, all wearing cat ears and holding red Solo cups. Two are blond with pale skin, and the third is super tan with brown eyes and dark brown hair. They study me intently, like I’m some sort of science experiment they’re trying to figure out. “Whoa,” blond number one says, his head pulling back. Blond number two adds, “Skittish thing,” like I’m not staring right at him. The tan guy takes a drink, then says, “You’d be skittish too if you woke up to someone insulting you.” Blondie One looks dubious. “You know I’m flawless, Ben.” “Sure I do,” Brown Eyes answers dryly. He must be the cousin. Star pushes them all aside. “Gods’ bones, give the girl space to breathe. I told you to leave her be until Faelan gets
  • 10. THREE FAELAN “You’ve got the wrong girl!” the demigoddess yells as I lift her out of the beanbag chair and drag her by the arm down the hall to the back room. “Please! My mom’s name is Lauren, not Brighid!” She squirms and wriggles like a determined salmon and keeps shouting. “The bitch is probably in jail again. Or in a gutter smoking crack. Whatever you’ve got going on with her, I’m not a part of it. I haven’t seen the woman in years.” She’s trying to convince me of her humanity, trying to convince herself. But her aura is sparking orange and gold. Can’t she feel her Other blood ready to be released? Can’t she sense her soul aching for her own kind? If not, she’s about to get a very loud wake-up call. I drop her on the bed and attempt to think past her screeching. I need to take a breath and come at this more delicately, or we’ll lose her and she’ll end up in Prince Kieran’s clutches, captive to the whim of the House of Morrígan. I don’t understand how she doesn’t realize what she di
  • 11. FOUR SAGE The guy steps closer, his fist clutching a dagger at his side. The glinting silver blade is all I can see. He was babbling about moons and pixies or something, and now he’s decided to kill me because I’m not buying his bullshit? I scramble back, pressing myself against the dresser. “What’re you doing?” “Since you won’t listen, I’ll show you the truth.” A scream rises in my throat, but all I can do is choke in horror. I can tell by his hard gaze that if this strange guy wants me dead, I’m dead. I could fight, but I’ll lose. He pauses a few feet from me. Instead of attacking, he puts the blade to his own forearm. Then he presses hard and slices deep. I stare in horror as blood bubbles up in a rush of deep red. Panic jolts through me. But before I can move, the bedroom door opens and one of the pale blond guys comes in, propping up a limp and ashen Ben. Faelan’s arm is dripping with blood now—it pitter-patters as it hits the floor. He points his red-tipped knife at Ben and looks
  • 12. FIVE FAELAN The demigoddess has been silent the whole drive into the city. The only clue that lets me know she hasn’t gone catatonic from shock is the way she keeps shaking out her hand and flexing her fingers, likely because of pain from striking the human girl’s jaw. She doesn’t hit very hard. I’ll have to be sure her tutor works with her on self-defense during her transition. Still, I’m fairly sure that the human, Ziggy, will have a bruise on her jaw for a few days. It’s odd, but the demi seems more disturbed by the human’s betrayal of her than by the revelation of her origin. Her energy went a thick dark gray when she walked across the room to slug the girl. It’s resting in a heavy fog on her shoulders right now. “The human was sworn to secrecy,” I say, feeling the need to dampen the swirling cloud as it starts to roll down her arms and fill the car. “She was only following orders. She’s what we call a watcher. Her job was to keep a close eye on you for us, and it would have meant
  • 13. SIX SAGE I try to shake off Faelan’s hand, but he just grips me harder and tugs me along like I’m a child. “Is everything all right?” the receptionist asks, looking from me to Faelan with a frown. “Right as rain, Dana,” he answers with his annoying accent. I mouth the word help at her, but she doesn’t move; she just watches us with wide eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses. Her shiny red lips purse in curiosity as we turn left and head down a long hallway. “Nice try,” Faelan says to me. “She’s a pixie. And she was gawking because she knows whose daughter you are, not because I was dragging you out of an elevator.” I deflate and study the surroundings as I’m pulled along. The décor is stark—black and white and gray. Gray wooden floors, and white glass walls that have odd black lines and shapes on them for decoration. Not a speck of color in sight. As I try to make sense of the designs on the walls, I realize I’m looking at oversize replicas of pencil drawings. Sketches of buildings. And I r
  • 14. SEVEN SAGE Faelan leads me back to the car in silence. This time he doesn’t tug me along like I’m a fussy preschooler. Actually, he doesn’t seem to want to touch me at all. Which is good. I think if he did, I’d freak out in a major way, with this mess inside me. He’s obviously pissed. He practically punched the elevator button into the panel to get the doors to close faster. It’s hard to care, though, with my own nerves on fire. I’m trying to take deep breaths and get this heat in my skin to pass. It’s so overwhelming, it’s actually starting to hurt. I don’t know what to do with it. I hardly notice the wait for the valet to bring the car around. I barely register getting in the Audi or driving through the city. I’m focused so intensely on shoving down this crazy storm inside me that the rest of the world has become a blur of muffled noise and color. My mind can’t seem to think past the embers in my skin, the need. I must be some kind of monster to feel like this about a guy I just met.
  • 15. EIGHT SAGE Sleep. It’s barely happening. There was a moment of stillness, when the warmth and comfort of my new surroundings wrapped around me, the poolside waterfall lulling me with its calming rhythm, allowing me to nearly drift off. But then I remembered the last time I fell asleep and woke to three guys gawking at me. And the way I was trapped. And lied to. My whole life. Eventually, I sit up and scan my new living quarters, which I didn’t bother to look at when I walked in a few hours earlier. I just made a beeline to the couch and collapsed on it, curling myself into the throw blanket tossed over the back. Now I notice that the couch is purple velvet, soft against my skin. The blanket I was wrapped up in is a pale blue angora, and the throw pillow I rested my head on is delicately embroidered, fit for a queen; it was obviously made by hand. I run a finger over the faded threads and marvel at the detail of the design. Like something out of one of those ancient manuscripts I saw on
  • 16. NINE FAELAN I rise from sleep quickly, my new task weighing heavily on my mind. I climb down from the nest in the center of my new room. The dirt floor of the bungalow is cool under my feet. My arm brushes against one of the ropes of ivy hanging from the ceiling, and a few leaves wilt as I unintentionally take in a thread of life. My head is still a mess from earlier. I need to shed this if I’m going to do what Marius wants and assist this new demi with her transition. I need to focus. Once I got settled in here this morning, I managed to fall into a light sleep for a few hours, but the stillness was fleeting. I kept seeing the fear in the demi’s eyes, kept smelling her shock. The cloud of her misery seemed to follow me after we parted ways, and it’s still sticking to my skin. I’m not sure how to cleanse myself of it. I consider feeding more, but I already took some energy from the growth around me as I slept, and it hasn’t done any good. Instead, I make my way into the attached greenh
  • 17. TEN SAGE Who turned up the heat? It’s so warm. Like, really warm. A vague memory of fire and the smell of rosewater drift away as I become more aware of my surroundings. Sweat pearls on my temples. My lungs ache like they’ve been singed from the inside. As I open my eyes, they sting like mad, my vision blurring. What’s with all the fog in the room? No, not fog. Smoke. My nerves spark, and I sit up in a rush, every muscle in my body screaming. I feel like I raced an Ironman or something. What the hell? A cough rips from my chest, raspy and thick with phlegm. And then another. I wipe the tears from my eyes and wave a hand in front of my face to attempt to move the smoke. But when my surroundings become a little clearer, the heat against my skin dulls. And icy threads of fear weave through me. Everything around me is black, burned, charred into rubble. The bed I’m sitting on is only coal and sticks now, the ceiling above my head full of smoldering holes. And the cushy chair near the windo
  • 18. ELEVEN SAGE I knock on Faelan’s door, but only silence echoes back. Unconscious people tend not to answer doors. When I glance across the walkway to my cottage, I don’t see any sign of a fire. The air smells a bit tangy still, but the smoke damage on the outer wall is gone. I’m guessing Aelia is right, and the repairs have already been completed. Do they just move real speedy, like the Flash? Or does time just sorta stand still whenever they need to get stuff done quickly? I knock on Faelan’s door again. Still no answer. After standing on the welcome mat for a few seconds and absently watching a blue jay hop around on a nearby branch, I decide that things are way too wacky in this place to give a crap about decorum. So I try the knob, and when it won’t give, I pull one of the bobby pins from my hair that Aelia used to make it look like I had a stylist instead of a pocketknife. I bend the thin metal and wriggle it into the keyhole. The lock’s got pretty old guts so it clicks almost imme
  • 19. TWELVE SAGE We’re sitting on the couch in the den, within sight of the dining room and the entry hall, waiting for Marius to come home. Aelia is looking at her nails like the secret of the universe might reside in her cuticles. I’m trying not to let the avalanche of questions in my head crush my brain. The uniformed maids are going back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room to set the table. I’m more than a little relieved when I hear footsteps echo from the back hall. Marius enters the room, and Aelia leaps from the couch and tackles him in a hug. “Daddy!” she squeals like a little girl. She leans away to look at him and asks, in all seriousness, “What’d you bring me?” He pulls her close again and kisses the top of her head. “Well, my Lia, I found some lovely Russian nesting dolls.” She droops. “I wanted Prada.” “They belonged to the last czar’s daughter. A secret note was hidden inside, written in his own hand.” She pulls from his arms. “I still say lame.” He chuckles. “O
  • 20. THIRTEEN FAELAN I open my eyes to a dim haze. I blink, trying to clear my vision, and my eyelashes catch on gauzy coating. A hibernation cocoon? Why am I in—? There’s a soft sigh in my ear, and something slides across my chest and down my bare torso. I turn my head. My cheek brushes against silk—no, it’s hair, smelling like sweetened jasmine. It’s a pixie; I can tell from the sugary scent. Her hair is long and reflects the low light with a slow, pulsing glow. Her small fingers play against my abdomen, her leg sliding against mine. “You’re awake,” she says in a dreamy voice. My pulse picks up, my skin heating. “You need to stop that hand from moving any lower, pixie.” I can’t see clearly, but I think it’s Aelia’s friend, Niamh. She giggles and her body presses into mine as she kisses my neck and whispers close to my ear, “Don’t be silly. This isn’t my first time coming out of hibernation with a son of Cernunnos. Your brother Finbar’s requested me three times.” The sound of that name mak
  • 21. FOURTEEN SAGE “The shoes you have on aren’t perfect, but they’ll do,” Aelia says, setting her wineglass on the table with a determined clink. “We should go before Daddy sends Faelan the Downer in to start you on your energy diet.” “What? Go where?” I lean back in my chair. “You need to mingle a little, I think. A few drinks at The Fitz and some time with the girls sounds about right. Maybe we can even get you laid before the boring stuff takes over.” She stands. “If you’re going to make a splash, you may as well jump.” “Your dad said we need to be careful. Going out to party isn’t careful.” Though it might be a chance to sneak away from her for a second, get space, which sounds great—but I could hurt someone, which isn’t good. “Oh brother, don’t be such a pixie,” Aelia says, coming around the table. She takes me by the arm and pulls me up. I jerk away. “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?” “You’re apparently some important demi and you’re acting like a pixie—who are sniveling narcs.
  • 22. FIFTEEN FAELAN After Marius leaves, I stay in the rose garden for a minute, trying to figure out how to go about getting Sage to trust us. There’s more at stake here than I realized, and I started on the wrong note with the demi. I should have considered that she’d be volatile and treated her more carefully. I knew she was a daughter of Brighid, and I should have known she’d have weaknesses from being left so long among the humans without her magic, without her own kind. But it’s like I haven’t seen sense since I met the girl. I’ll pull her aside tonight. Maybe I can go over some of the lore with her, cover some basics so she feels more grounded, more familiar with her new reality before the Introduction. As I cross the yard, heading for the French doors at the back of the main house, I consider what needs to happen. I’ll have to get her to open up to me somehow. I’ll need to get her to feel a connection with me in some way that can dispel this tension between us and soften her to our
  • 23. SIXTEEN SAGE There’s a line for the bathroom, even though the crowds are still thin. It’s early, and the nightlife in LA doesn’t usually get pulsing seriously until after eleven. I settle into formation behind a girl who’s sucking on a blue lollipop. Her lips and tongue are stained purple. The white-blond ponytails on either side of her head flick at the air when she bobs to the music. She glances at me and gives me a quick grin, then goes back to her lollipop. It’s so weird to think that most of these people in here aren’t really people at all. Like, what’s this girl? A pixie? Her eyes seem teal, though, and her skin is sort of sparkly. My babysitter, Freya, settles in beside me and leans against the wall. She shoots a sneer at the girl next to me. “Wow, the dregs are out tonight.” Lollipop Girl tips her head in an endearing way. “And apparently so are the petri dishes,” she says in a giddy voice. “How is the bottom-feeding Shade Brigade these days?” Freya looks like she’s about to sc
  • 24. SEVENTEEN FAELAN I catch Aelia’s scent in the air first, then Sage’s, as I approach the building. The smell of the fire demi’s energy is strong, her power like a shimmering trail I can’t quite catch. I follow it toward the main entrance, where humans stand among several shades, all in line along the wall. There’s a selkie chatting with the bouncer at the door, distracting him as she sucks on a lollipop. A thin pixie boy slips past them into the club. I see a whisper of something in the air near the selkie, a thread of gold; I think that’s a remnant of Sage’s energy, but— “Faelan?” says a shocked female voice. “Is that really you?” My frayed nerves spark, and I don’t want to turn. I can’t be hearing right. No way. The goddess wouldn’t do that to me, not tonight. My head is already bollocks; I need to find Sage, I— A soft touch on my arm makes me look. “Astrid,” I say as my eyes fall on her. After more than three centuries without seeing her, my breath still catches: her regal stance, th
  • 25. EIGHTEEN FAELAN Bending space is never as simple as walking from one location to another. It wreaks havoc on a cellular level for a human, and Aelia’s blood is more human than Other. While I manage to land on my feet as the passageway releases me, Sage still in my arms, Aelia collapses on the mossy ground in front of me with a whoosh of breath, gasping and gagging. Then she crawls into a cluster of high ferns and begins to vomit. I only have to crouch for a moment, holding Sage tight to my chest to keep from dropping her. I breathe through the flip of my gut, the buzzing in my muscles, the fading crackle in my ears, used to the odd sensations after hundreds of years of traveling through passageways. Aelia, however, continues to throw up. I steady myself and look around. We’re in a small thicket. There won’t be any humans this deep in the forest, only animals and the occasional wysp—a small creature made of water that lives in the river just north of here and sometimes hides in the fog.
  • 26. NINETEEN FAELAN He wants us to feed Sage? He knows it’s not safe to feed a demi before she’s learned to control her powers—definitely not a demi who manifests fire. In normal circumstances, it would be a deadly plan, but with Sage being a corpse, I’m not sure what it means. She would have to link in to her prey; she’d have to initiate the connection to pull life. Aelia and I can’t just pour our energy over her. The wise man appears to be considering the two of us, like he’s trying to decide whom to toss overboard. “The druid would work, I think,” he finally says. “If she’s gobbled up in a blink, it won’t be much trouble. Useless any day of the week.” He shrugs. “What a gentleman,” Aelia says. I’m dead either way because Marius is going to kill me if I bring back a corpse. “I’ll do it,” I say. Obviously, it’s going to be me. I would never put my leader’s daughter in harm’s way, even though, at this stage in the death, it would be less dangerous. Gods, it’s been more than an hour since K
  • 27. TWENTY SAGE Something moves against my arm. My mind surfaces from sleep in a rush, awareness filtering in. The feel of soft pillows under me, the smell of soil, of damp green things—it’s soothing and lovely. I open my heavy eyelids, but everything is blurry. I can’t see right. Am I still in the alley? No, it smelled like soot and smog there, and nothing was comfortable. Memories appear like cloudy puzzle pieces: the creatures slinking from the puddles, the dark-haired guy, he . . . he—cut my neck! I sit up in a rush, hand going to my neck where the strange raven guy was gripping me. Am I in a forest? I’m surrounded by trees. And under my fingertips there’s a thin bumpy line of skin on my neck—a scar? Faelan told me about a dark prince, and I laughed, I thought it was so funny, that Faelan was crazy, or I was crazy, someone had to be crazy, because guys called the Dark Prince are only in books and movies that nerds like Ziggy talk about. They’re vampires or wizards, and that stuff is .
  • 28. TWENTY-ONE SAGE Amazingly enough, my closet isn’t just a smaller version of Aelia’s; it’s actually got stuff in it that I like. There’s edge and grit, and not a pink thread in sight. It’s still all completely overpriced label wear, but at least it’s not Kardashian chic. I can’t let myself get used to it, though. I never stay anywhere long, and I doubt this time’ll be any different. I pull out a bra, a T-shirt, and jeans, and I’m shocked when the jeans fit kind of tight, and so does the bra. I don’t even remember the last time my clothes weren’t baggy. I check the sizes and they’re what I would’ve thought fit me. But the hips and butt are pretty snug in the jeans, and the elastic on the bra is digging in under my arms. I move to the full-length mirror. My face . . . is something wrong with the mirror? My face looks rounder. My hair is damp from my shower, but it seems longer, thicker at my neck now, and hanging farther past my chin in the front—is that right? I step closer to my reflect
  • 29. TWENTY-TWO SAGE As he reads over more of the squiggly lines, I drink my water and study his profile. He’s less tense, like he’s leaning into it all. I’m not sure if that should make me relax too, or put me more on guard. Once I’ve had enough of a pause, we move back to our spots, and he has me close my eyes and go over the events in the alley again. And again. He asks me to try to be more aware of my body, my pulse, when the emotions come. Each time we go through it, he asks me to tell him more of what I was feeling last night, more of what happened. I don’t tell him everything Kieran said, or how those silver eyes hypnotized me, but I try to be as honest as I can. Each time, the heat wave takes over later than the time before. The cadence, as he called it, stretches out several more seconds until, on the third try, he tells me to open my eyes, and I watch the last of the flames slide over my arms before sinking back into my skin. “Remember what your energy is, that it’s fire,” he says
  • 30. TWENTY-THREE SAGE Aelia doesn’t even knock—she just comes into the cottage exactly as the clock ticks over to 4:00 p.m. Three girls from the other night at the club follow her in: Freya, the zit critic, and the mousy girl. “You’re early,” I grumble, too exhausted to get off the couch. “We’ve got work to do!” Aelia says, holding up several makeup bags. I was enjoying staring at the ceiling and finding animal shapes in the plaster. And not thinking about tonight. Because then I have to think about Faelan. And I really don’t want to think about Faelan right now. The training thing was almost going well—he’d barely grunted at me the whole time. But he got so intense when the protector thing was brought up. And everything went wacky. I left, letting him believe that I didn’t trust him. And maybe I don’t. I shouldn’t. But why the hell did I bring up Kieran? I handled it completely wrong. I made him feel like I was considering dumping him for a creep. I’m not sure what I was thinking. What a
  • 31. TWENTY-FOUR FAELAN After Sage left to get ready, I didn’t have the balls to call Marius and tell him what’s coming tonight when she’s asked who she chooses for her protector—how it’s probably not going to be me. How it might even be bloody Kieran at this point for all I know. Because I fucked it up. Instead I went for a swim and showered, reciting Beowulf to quiet the commotion in my head. I’m in an extremely pissy mood by the time I’m ready. I can’t stop thinking about how I grabbed her—what the hell was that? And after what Kieran did to her . . . dick move. I know too little about practicing patience. I was never the right one for this task—I’m not sure what Marius was thinking. I can hear Aelia’s coven out by the pool, and I don’t want to leave my cottage. So I sit in the greenhouse and wait for the sound of Sage’s door opening across the walkway. Time passes slowly. As it becomes obvious we’re going to be late, I consider walking over and banging on Sage’s door. But the less time
  • 32. TWENTY-FIVE SAGE “I’m sorry,” Faelan says in a tight voice. “I never should’ve . . . that wasn’t right.” His body is tense enough to crack. He looks ready to bolt. “I’m fine, Faelan,” I say, trying to reassure him. “Everything is fine.” But I can hardly believe what we did. Not just the kiss, which was—wow. My legs are officially useless and I’m ruined forever. But I controlled it. I controlled the hunger. I took that thing in me that I felt this afternoon and forced it down deep until it was barely a buzz in my head. He was right: once I understood it better I could manipulate it. And I did. And then he kissed me. Oh wow, did he kiss me. Not that he’s happy about it. He’s obviously not. I’d be offended by his reaction if I wasn’t so relieved that I’d pushed back this thing inside me. “Thank you,” I say. His brow goes up in surprise. “For helping me.” I can’t keep a grin from surfacing. “I can’t believe I stopped it. I feel so much better.” He watches me like he doesn’t believe me, and
  • 33. TWENTY-SIX FAELAN I stand at Sage’s side, getting ready for the demis to begin their introductions. The awareness of my blood on her forehead is nearly overwhelming, the small crescent moon showing me as her chosen shadow, tied to her as long as she wishes. And after what I did beside the fountain, that idea is . . . terrifying. Some of the most powerful demis in the West are here to witness my soul’s suicide—even the Cast’s envoy is looking on with sharp eyes. It’s rare for so many to be present at an Introduction. The Emergence ceremony is where the full court gathers. Tonight, however, there are several representatives from every line in attendance. The curiosity about the newblood is strong. And I have a feeling Marius is about to have serious competition for her loyalty. Sage is a ruby appearing in an ash heap, and the world’s head is turning to see it catch the light. She’s standing tall in spite of the fear I can feel on her. I wait just behind her on the small platform as each
  • 34. TWENTY-SEVEN SAGE I lean on the counter in the bathroom, pleading with my panicked insides to calm down. What is wrong with me? I can’t understand why I was so shaken by Kieran again. And this time was so much worse. When he whispered to me, I heard a familiar voice. I wanted to do what he said, and I wanted to hear him say my name. It was horrible and wrong, and the things my mind pictured . . . I reach up and touch the thin scar on my neck, reminding myself what he did to me, how much I hate him. Because I do; I hate him with the power of a thousand suns. Even more than I hated him this morning. He makes me feel vulnerable and weak. He takes away my will. And even more frightening, I know he can see it. He’s doing it on purpose. I wonder if it’s some twisted form of revenge for what my sister did, killing his brother. I’m still gripping the small black velvet bag in my hand, the medallion on the torque digging into my palm. A torque that belonged to my sister. My sister who’s in godd
  • 35. TWENTY-EIGHT FAELAN I was hoping she’d leave well enough alone, but Astrid has always been the most stubborn woman I know. So I’m not surprised when she slips away from Duncan’s side and approaches me. I am surprised, though, that she’d let people see her speaking to me. “Can we talk?” she asks. “Perhaps we can find a quiet spot, just for a moment.” When I first saw her at the club last night, I was shocked. But after seeing her with my brothers, the way she lets them lord over her, the old anger has bubbled up, the wound she left tearing open a little. “You don’t want to talk to me,” I say. “And I certainly don’t want to talk to you.” Her brow pinches. “I know that I hurt you—” “You betrayed me. There’s a difference.” “I know,” she says. “There’s just so much you don’t understand.” I’m shocked she’d make excuses. To me, of all people. Is she really so clueless that she doesn’t realize how low she sank? There’s a reason I’m an outcast. “I understood a lot more than I bloody wanted to s
  • 36. TWENTY-NINE SAGE I’m more than a little relieved when we pull up in front of the Cottages. Neither of us said a word the whole way home. The silence was heavy with horror and unspoken questions. I just saw my first official dead body. And the worst part is, I’m numb now. Maybe I’m in shock. When I realized what I was seeing under that table—the moment my mind registered the human hand, the clothes, the torn flesh—my heart stopped and everything slowed. My mind couldn’t understand what I was seeing, the pieces . . . bile filled my mouth and I wanted to cry, to scream. But then Faelan pulled me away, and icy awareness hit me; nothing would happen because of it. No investigation, no arrests. Nothing. No one would ever know what became of that person. The body was probably one of many in that place. And Kieran was standing right beside it as if it was a piece of dropped meat. On the street, you get used to injustice. The shadows are full of bastards who get away with all kinds of sickening
  • 37. THIRTY FAELAN It’s late into the morning and Sage hasn’t emerged from her cottage yet. Marius hasn’t come by to see how she’s doing yet either. Which is maybe a good thing. I feel like I need to talk to her first before I tell him my concerns about Kieran and the new torque. Before I confess what I’ve already kept from him, like the fire, and that kiss. I knock on her cottage door around ten. No answer. I sniff the air for smoke, but I don’t smell anything except the overcast day—the morning dampness of the plants, the crisp water from the lagoon pool. I search for her power, for the connection I should have with her after the ceremony last night, but I don’t sense anything. I’m not sure how to feel about that. I know it’s working to a point, since I felt her anxiety at the tribunal, but I still can’t tell how solid the connection is. It’s possible her power is rejecting it. I turn the knob, and the door clicks open as I call into the entrance, “Sage?” I step inside, looking around. Th
  • 38. THIRTY-ONE SAGE “Daddy won’t like this, Faelan,” Aelia says, folding her arms across her chest. “A dream spell can totally backfire. She could get stuck in there.” At first I wasn’t really on board with this idea of Faelan’s—I don’t trust Aelia and don’t want her help with anything. But then I realized I was being stubborn. If I can get this Kieran weirdness off the table, then all I have to think about is learning to control my fire. And that’ll free me from this mental prison I’ve suddenly found myself in. Whatever Aelia does or doesn’t do to me in the meantime won’t matter anymore. I only have ten more days until the Emergence; I’m going to use every second of it to get free of this world—and learn how to live free without endangering myself or anyone else—before the hammer falls. “In spite of your distracting obsession with fashion, Aelia,” Faelan says, “you’re an excellent druid. Even better than your sisters. I know you can do this and make it work.” Her features soften. “You’re
  • 39. THIRTY-TWO FAELAN My eyes snap open. I gasp for air, feeling like I haven’t breathed in decades. The chill of the stone room shifts to the warmth of my cottage; the bed melds into my nest; the smell of snow turns to the smell of green life. What did I just see . . . feel? That wasn’t Sage in that vision. It wasn’t Sage. And with sudden clarity I know why Sage feels a connection to Kieran, what memories she’s sensing when she’s with him. It must be one of these dreams. One of Lily’s memories of the king. Because that was Queen Lily. I can barely believe it. Sage was living her sister’s memories in her sleep. A striking, vivid dream of a real moment from long ago. How is that even possible? It’s not possible. Unless . . . Unless Sage was given the blood memories by someone. No. That’s not—it can’t be. Who would do that? And how would I have missed it? It takes a fairly complex spell, and whoever did it would have had to store the memories for centuries. Not to mention the fact that Queen
  • 40. THIRTY-THREE SAGE “The protector spell won’t let me hurt you,” he says, his voice tense as he passes the knife back. I take it from him for the second time, the smooth hilt cool against my palm. “Okay,” I say. “I’ll just do a quick cut then—where’s the best spot?” I wave the blade over my forearm. His hands go in his pocket. “Your palm. And you should hurry. I feel like I’m going to come out of my skin if I don’t stop you.” “Right.” Without thinking about it, I press the blade’s edge to the soft flesh of my palm as hard as I can and slice with a quick swipe. I hiss in a breath, my hand throbbing instantly. It’s a good cut, blood pearling up, sliding in a thick coat over my palm, dripping from my fingers to the floor. “Now what?” I ask through my teeth. “You’ll still heal with the torque on, maybe a bit slower, but you shouldn’t be able to release the energy in its element form.” He directs my attention from my bloody hand to the cardboard. “Focus on the pain. Try to push it into the ca
  • 41. THIRTY-FOUR FAELAN Sage and I walk down the hall to the red door. It opens before my knuckles hit the wood to knock. Gerald, Marius’s selkie assistant, is there, looking at us with his white eyes. “The master will be out in a moment. Please wait for him there.” He points to the two seats facing the desk. When Sage sits, she grips the arms of the chair, her knuckles turning white. I’m not sure why she’s so tense. It seemed like she was relieved for a second about the torque—for good reason. Her energy being contained will help her have a smoother transition. And it’ll allow for a clearer head when she chooses her House. She’ll still have to deal with the memories, but I’m hoping Marius will have a solution to that, maybe speeding up the process so they’ll fade faster. It doesn’t take long for Marius to emerge from his feeding room. His chest is bare, a towel is wrapped around his neck, and there are drops of water falling from his damp silver hair. The scars from his years as a child sl
  • 42. THIRTY-FIVE SAGE I really don’t want to go back to the Cottages. The closer we get, the harder it is to breathe. I should be relaxing into the idea of finding a way out of this now. My problems are all solved: my power is contained, I won’t hurt anyone, the dreams will eventually be gone. Yes, I’ll have to deal with them for a while, but I can do that anywhere. There’s no reason to stay and be tortured by this crazy Emergence choice anymore—because how does a person choose their destiny in one week? That’s ridiculous. And I could get free from it tomorrow if I wanted. Be back to depending on myself again. Simple. But deep inside, I know that I won’t. I won’t leave this time. I won’t run. The old me is seriously pissed, and confused. I can’t understand why I’m not willing to leave this behind all of a sudden. “What’s going on, Sage?” Faelan asks as we leave the 10 freeway and merge onto PCH. I’d like to know the answer to that myself. I watch the silver blue of the Pacific appear beside
  • 43. THIRTY-SIX SAGE I open my eyes to an unfamiliar world. Then the sound of the waterfall drifts into the room, and I realize this is reality. I rise slowly, uneasy, an odd feeling of disassociation hovering over me. The sensation of the king’s grip on my wrist still lingers, the conflict inside, wanting something I despise. But it was just a dream. I touch the bedspread, making sure the soft yellow cotton is real. Sunlight fills the room. I wonder what time it is. I slide from bed, my muscles protesting as I walk into the front room. The clock on the microwave says it’s ten. Faelan should’ve come to get me by now. But I’m not complaining. I make myself some breakfast, oatmeal and a banana, and then wander into the living room and sit on the couch. I eat the warm oats and stare down at the glass owl next to the black envelope on the coffee table. I know Kieran isn’t the king, and I know I’m not Lily, but all of this is seriously messing with my head. I have this tangle of emotions coiling
  • 44. THIRTY-SEVEN FAELAN Aelia gets everything set up in the living room in the main house for the new spell. The freshly mopped marble floor glistens. She had the servants rearrange the couches to make more space and created her circle on the floor out of a mixture of salt and chalk dust, rose petals sprinkled around the rim for an extra guard. One of the side tables is set up as an altar, and she’s arranged bird bones and marlstones in a lunar pattern for the gravity of the spell to hold, all around a rye candle to center the energy more effectively. Aelia may be a flake in most things, but in her magic a spark of genius shines through. She has the small scroll laid out on the couch, the tiny Gaelic script covering every inch of the vellum. She refers to it, and then motions to me. “You can’t be in the area of the spell, Faelan. Your energy will muck with the weaving. Go stand over there.” She points to the French doors near the kitchen. I do as she says, standing in a spot where I can st
  • 45. THIRTY-EIGHT SAGE My mind races back and forth, back and forth, trying to figure out what happened when Aelia was doing that spell. As soon as she started speaking in the strange language, I couldn’t get out of that circle fast enough. Okay, if I’m being honest with myself, from the second Marius handed me the scroll, I felt odd about the spell. Still, it was the right thing, the safest thing. And I wanted to be free of it. I did. But now . . . out of nowhere . . . I’m unsure about pushing these memories away. I think something shifted inside me last night when I held that glass owl. I want to understand what it is. Which terrifies me. Because what if Faelan’s right? What if I really am being tricked? We still don’t know who put these memories inside me, or why. What if it was Kieran? What if it’s supposed to make me choose something that could destroy me? That doesn’t feel true, though. All I have to go on right now is my gut. And for the first time in my life, I don’t want to run awa
  • 46. THIRTY-NINE FAELAN “You’re sure you don’t feel anything weird?” I ask, looking her over more closely. I try to ignore my body’s reaction to the scattering of freckles on the soft skin of her bare shoulders, the shape of her legs in those heels. Kieran’s a prick, but he’s right; she’s going to be the death of me. “I’m fine,” she says. “Bored to tears, but fine. What do you mean, a spell?” “I think we should leave.” The faster we get out of here, the sooner I can relax. Something’s up with Kieran. After Sage left us, he leaned over and told me I shouldn’t have brought her. When I asked him why, he just growled at me to be better at my job as he walked away. “Fine with me,” she says. “The sooner we get out of here, the better. Shouldn’t we find Aelia, though?” “I’ll text her. She can get a ride with one of the girls in her coven.” We stand and make our way back through the party, heading for the entrance. I watch the crowd, looking for a hint of why things feel so off. Then it hits me. Ho
  • 47. FORTY SAGE I close my cottage door and sigh, feeling lighter than I have in forever. In spite of everything, he was there. Again. He had my back. I think I’ve totally let myself fall for the guy. It’s so dumb. I peel off my dress, wash my face, and pull on a pair of stretch pants with skulls on them and a baggy Nirvana shirt. I smile to myself, thinking of how I felt his breath catch when I kissed his cheek. I climb into bed, curling onto my side, hugging my pillow, and marvel at his steadfastness. Then my fingers touch something cold. And I remember. I pull the glass owl out from under my pillow, and all thoughts of Faelan slip away as I roll onto my back, holding it up, studying it in the bright moonlight that’s coming through the window. My little Fionn. Thoughts of the evening float away as I run my fingers over the bird’s face, tracing its features, its speckled feathers. And then I grip it in my hand, pressing it to my chest. Thinking of the comfort of a cold mountain keep, the c
  • 48. FORTY-ONE FAELAN Only two more days. Two more days and she’ll decide. I wish I could say for sure that she’ll choose to stay with her blood House, but I can feel a piece of her holding back, as if it’s waiting. I just wish I knew what she needed. She hasn’t seen Kieran since the hunting party, and she doesn’t seem to care about it. So that’s a relief. I was sure these dreams would somehow draw the two of them together, but only his gifts arriving every morning say he’s still in the game—there’ve been no personal appearances. The sun is a quarter of the way across the sky by the time she emerges from her cottage. I’m finishing up my morning swim. I climb out of the pool and grab a towel, hiding a smile as I look at her T-shirt. It says “A druid is my homey” and has a picture of Aelia’s face on it. Sage sees me noticing. “My tribute from Lia,” she says with a stiff grin. “Don’t judge, it’s really soft cotton.” She follows me into my cottage and settles under one of the trees next to the
  • 49. FORTY-TWO SAGE I listen to the splashing of the water and watch it swirl in small eddies in front of me, lost in a sudden rush of anxiety. As soon as Aelia mentioned that Kieran hasn’t been seen since the party, my gut sank. A very real fear for him bubbled up, and I have no idea what to do with it. How can I feel any sort of worry for Kieran? “You good?” Faelan says. I turn toward his voice. He’s treading water two feet away, hair slicked back. Sunlight bounces off the water, glittering around him, shimmering in his green eyes, the water thickening his lashes. This is the guy I want. Not Kieran. I should be glad for the dark prince to disappear. “Uh, yeah,” I say, absently. “It’s all good.” He squints at me like he’s trying to figure me out. “You sure?” he says. “I could get you something to eat—” “No,” I say quickly, not wanting him to worry about me. “I’m just tired, that’s all.” I step out of the pool and walk over to grab one of the towels folded on the chair. “I know something’s
  • 50. FORTY-THREE FAELAN I can’t believe that I let it happen again. I kissed her, I touched her, I let myself want her more than I’ve wanted anything. And it’s no longer under my control. If it wasn’t for the torque, I probably would’ve let her consume me as she fed. That’s how far I’ve let myself fall. Something changed when I saw Niamh’s mutilated body. Something twisted in my gut, shifting reality for a moment. And it was Sage I saw, broken and bloodied. But unlike the last time I thought we’d lost her, this time I was only thinking about myself instead of my master. I was thinking how I wouldn’t get to hold her again. How that smile in her eyes would flash out. And I knew I’d be lost if that happened. It’s more than the protector bond now, more than duty. Somewhere in all the madness my heart’s become hers. “Niamh’s dead because of me,” she says, breaking into my stunned thoughts. Torment fills her words. “You can’t blame yourself for this, Sage.” “But—” “No.” I take hold of her arm and
  • 51. FORTY-FOUR SAGE I’ve just finished showering and dressing when Faelan calls from outside my cottage. “If you’re coming, Sage, I’m leaving right now. Meet me out front.” I hurry outside, trailing him to the car. “Where are we going?” I ask as we pull down the driveway onto the main road. “Romania,” he says. Because that’s completely normal. “Like, the country?” It turns out that the poison was made in Romania of all places. Faelan explains that Marius knows a guy in Bucharest who we can contact. Apparently, he’s the only druid in the area who makes that specific species of poison. When I ask how we’re going to fly to eastern Europe and back in a day, since I’m guessing he doesn’t want me to miss my own Emergence ceremony, he says we’re not flying. “Swimming takes a lot longer than a day,” I say. “What. Are we teleporting?” Not much more could surprise me at this point. “In a manner of speaking.” And there you go. “It’s a passageway,” he continues. “There are different passages that go d
  • 52. FORTY-FIVE SAGE I open my eyes. The smell of smoke lingers in the air. The familiar dark canopy of my bed hangs above me, curtains a sheer red. I turn toward the king. But the bed is empty. He was just here. Wasn’t he? I sit up, disoriented. A trickle of unease fills my chest. Where is he? “Hello?” I ask the silence. But wait. When I fell asleep, I wasn’t here; I wasn’t in the keep. I was with the king in the wood, under the rowan tree. I was . . . why can’t I remember? Something was wrong before I closed my eyes. The king had called to me, drawing me into the wood, and I’d found him resting under the rowan tree. He said there was something we could do to hide ourselves, hide our secret. Something that would save us from her. We argued because his plan was terrible, it was horrifying what I would have to do . . . but . . . Confusion rolls over me again. Why can’t I remember? I rise from the bed, wandering over to the fire. The embers have faded to nearly nothing. I snap my fingers, sen
  • 53. FORTY-SIX SAGE “I need lavender,” I say, stepping up to the fireplace. “You don’t have to do this, Sage,” Faelan says, his voice unsteady. He’s afraid. His goddess has been silent for hundreds of years—most of his life. And now I’m going to draw her closer. I hope. There’s so much that I need to know, that I need to understand. The old me of two weeks ago would be baffled by what I’m about to try, but in this moment I have a deep assurance. As a Daughter of Fire, this is what I would do. And I want to feel this. I want to understand. To know why . . . why she just abandoned me to that horror of a life. Kieran holds out a bowl of lavender buds as if he’d known I would need them. “Is this all you need?” he asks. I nod, taking some between my fingers. “Marius should be here,” Faelan says. “As leader of the House of Brighid.” “He’ll understand,” I say, even though I’m not sure of that. “It may not even work.” “It’ll work,” Kieran says, very sure. When I glance at him, he adds, “Why do you
  • 54. FORTY-SEVEN FAELAN I burst through the French doors of Marius’s house. Screams fill the air around me, coming from upstairs. Two females, from the sound of it. I take the stairs two at a time, pulling out my dagger. When I get to the landing, I slow, trying to catch a scent in the air that might tell me what I’m walking into. But I don’t sense anything odd or off. There’s soap and old perfume. One of the females is Aelia, I think. The other is a human, likely the mother, but it could be one of the servants. I move along the hallway, aware now that the arguing is coming from Aelia’s room. I pause outside the door, peek through the crack, and push the door open while trying to stay back. My thundering heart stops. Marius is on his hands and knees on the floor, the hilt of a dagger sticking out of his back. He’s gasping, gagging, trying to reach out for someone, trying to speak, but he can’t. Blood is coming from his ears, his nose, his lips, dripping onto the wood floor. Aelia is shoving
  • 55. FORTY-EIGHT SAGE “Do you hear that?” Kieran whispers as we cross the field. My feet slow a little, anxiety trickling through me. I scan the trees, seeing only shadows. Before I can tell him no, one of the shadows moves. A large one. Just slightly. I freeze. Kieran grabs me, pulling me to the side, ducking under a fallen tree. “Stay here, don’t move.” He brushes his fingers along the scar on my neck. “And trust that I’ll be watching you.” Then he poofs away. Seriously? I peek over the tree, searching for the spot where I saw the movement, but I can’t see anything now. It’s all a thick wall of tree limbs and ivy. I don’t even know if what I saw move was a threat. For all I know, it could’ve been an animal. Like a really big raccoon or something. Are there raccoons in this forest? Bears? We’re in Scotland, right? What sort of animals run around in the land of plaid? There aren’t monkeys, obviously, but maybe— “What are we hiding from?” whispers a voice beside me. I twist to look, nearly f
  • 56. FORTY-NINE SAGE “There she is.” Astrid smiles as I move away from the rock. “I thought I smelled you, newblood. How did you like the show?” “A bit melodramatic,” I say, hoping my voice isn’t shaking. “Sage,” Faelan says, sounding helpless. He shakes his head. “Just run.” “Oh, she can’t leave her crush,” Astrid says. “She’d ruin the story.” I give her a plastic grin. “I’m so going to hurt you, bitch,” I say. “Lots of pain.” And I mean every word. I’ve never in my life wanted to strangle someone so badly. I think this is what it feels like to be willing to kill. I’d be very okay with her not making it out of here alive. “Aren’t you precious,” she scoffs. But her lip twitches like she’s bluffing. “It’s so good of you to join us.” “Get your ass off him,” I say. “Now.” “Are you going to smite me, fire whore?” Her eyes fall to my chest. “No torque,” I say. “You picked the wrong day to mess with me, bitch.” But she laughs, like she’s got the upper hand. And then she places her palm on the gro
  • 57. FIFTY FAELAN “I died?” I ask, the shock from Sage’s words rolling through me. I woke up in Lailoken’s tree, Sage at my side. I didn’t even get a word out before she was tackling me and hugging me, sputtering out everything that happened after I passed out. Saying that Astrid killed me, let me bleed out—the one thing that would ensure I wouldn’t come back, since all I have left from my father is the power in my blood. Lailoken comes into view behind Sage. “Oh, it was amazing to watch! So much tension and knots in the stomach.” His brows go up and down. “And then you were totally kaput!” He throws his hand in the air. “Who would’ve thought Mr. Shadow would be so quick to help Mr. Winter? But our tale even surprises me at times.” His smile becomes whimsical. I’m at a loss. I sit up and give Sage a questioning look. “Kieran brought you back.” She motions to someone across the room. I turn my head, and a shadowed Kieran is leaning on the far wall, arms crossed over his chest, foot propped o
  • 58. FIFTY-ONE SAGE A wash of affection rolls over me as we say goodbye. I smile and kiss Lailoken’s wrinkled forehead. I feel more connected to him than I have to anyone in my life, and even though he knows me, I’ve really only just met him. But he raised me for a time, he cared for me. I can’t hold it against him that he left me with Lauren. He couldn’t have known what she was. “Thank you, friend,” I whisper. Color rises in his cheeks. He grabs the nest from the table and plops it back on his head. “Don’t fret,” he says. “The boy will bring you back to me for more adventures. Won’t you, boy?” “Yes, sir,” Faelan says. He hesitates and then asks, “I wonder . . . do you happen to have an antidote for Sagitta Anathema?” “Oh my. A sharp dart, that one.” He frowns, then looks through the bottles on his table. “I think some of this.” He hands Faelan a blue bottle. “Mixed with this, equal parts.” He hands him a milky bottle too. “Along with three pixie tears, a pickled robin’s egg, and fennel. Ma
  • 59. FIFTY-TWO SAGE I sit under the trees by the pool and watch the sun rise on the day of my Emergence. The sky is silver as the birds begin to stir. It shifts to pale blue, then a wash of pink emerges as the first rays of sunlight hit the ocean. The dew clings to my skin. The dream from the night before lingers, and an ache has settled in my rib cage since I opened my eyes. Now I know how it ended. Lily didn’t kill the king, not really. I have no idea what to do about it. Especially today of all days. Today I choose my path. Last night I packed a bag, in case the path I choose to follow is not to pick one of the Houses at all but to walk away altogether. To become a child of a goddess in hiding. When I packed the bag, I wanted that option in front of me. But once I woke up, the vision of my king’s death vivid in my mind, I realized I couldn’t go anywhere. I look down at my hands, knowing they’re not Lily’s. But I feel like I can still see the blood of my lover on them . . . so much blood
  • 60. EPILOGUE KIERAN What was she thinking? Fool girl. I hurry down the hall toward the library, breaking the lock and opening the door with a wave of my hand when I’m still several yards away. Mara will return any minute with her entourage in tow, feeling vindicated, thinking she’s won. I’ll need to take precautions, begin to change my plans—to what, I have no clue. But I certainly can’t start a war in the House now, not with Sage in the crosshairs. I’m going to throttle that bastard Faelan for giving the girl so much bloody free will. Once I’m in the library, I shut the door behind me and call out, “She’s gone and done the unthinkable, brother.” The raven swoops down from above, landing on the desk lamp. It screeches and pecks in my direction. I know my brother is in there somewhere behind those black eyes. I haven’t managed to find a way to understand him since Mara found him three months ago and held him here, but I’m hoping he’ll finally understand me. “I broke the spirit tether,” I sa
  • 61. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Every story has its own process. And along the road there are countless angels to help a tale find its way. This novel certainly had its fair share of heroes. I’m so very grateful to my agent, badass Rena Rossner, who reminded me more times than I could count that I could do this. You’re a fighter and a miracle worker, lady! And I’m beyond thankful to have you walking alongside me on this perilous journey of publishing. To the team at Skyscape, who make this publishing thing seem painless and work hard to let it be the great adventure I always dreamed it would be. To Adrienne—I’m so thrilled that you believed in this one, and I’m really hoping it’ll make you proud. To Marianna—you’re a visionary, lady! Thank you so much for bringing clarity to the crazy that I send you. A million hugs and boxes of chocolates to my writer friends, Merrie, Becky, Paul, and Mike, for your ready ears and red pens. Panera memories are the best memories. We’ll still be meeting in a booth when
  • 62. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Photo © 2014 Rachel A. Marks Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning writer, a professional artist, and a cancer survivor. She is the author of the Dark Cycle series, which includes Darkness Brutal, Darkness Fair, and Darkness Savage, and of the novella Winter Rose. Her art can be found on the covers of several New York Times and USA Today bestselling novels. She lives in Southern California with her husband, four kids, three chickens, two precocious pups, and a cat. You can find out more about her weird life on her website at www.RachelAnneMarks.com.

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