A Faire Keltic Renaissance

 

It ain’t easy being afairekelticrenaissancefey and the subject of prophecy.

 Three worlds face danger. Ancient prophecy may defeat the separate evils, but will love survive?

Lucidea had no idea her father wasn’t human. Her uncle is held prisoner in the World Between Worlds by an ancient fire elemental. Now, as the half Alfar-Sindhu heir, she’s unprepared to assume the leadership of an underwater world–a parallel universe.

Then she meets Jaysson Zeroun…

…who has Otherworldly issues of his own. Evil continues to plague his family and protecting a newborn child takes priority over personal dreams. When Lucidea offers a sanctuary for the child’s family at her Highlands manor, Jayse accompanies them to Scotland. He just doesn’t know how Lucidea will react to the news he’s a quarter Faerie, and heir to the rule of a world parallel to the human world.

It’s not easy being fey, and both Jayse and Lucidea fear what the other will do when they admit their heritages. Then pieces of an ancient prophecy are discovered in each of three parallel worlds, spiraling the evil menace closer. Will the ancient prophecy prove true, allowing them to finally conquer evil? Can their love survive?

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Enjoy Chapter One

One

The castle was nearly complete. Only a crenellated tower remained, needing just a couple more cardboard tubes. Jayse stepped back and surveyed the work with narrowed, critical eyes. Then a smile burst over his face and he chuckled. It seemed like he’d been working on his castle his entire life. And in a way, he had.

That dream he’d had when he was little more than four, that dream where an ornate castle imprinted on his brain, now came to life in a storage garage. Under the smooth, plaster finish, an array of plastic wrap tubes, bread boxes, and other assorted kitchen items…

Slowly circling the castle, Jayse shook his head at the evidence of his construction skills at ten. The model had grown, but he wouldn’t change the rough walls and crooked balustrades of his early work.

College had put an end to his youthful obsession until a few years ago when he began to dream again of the castle, perched at the edge of a cliff above a wild sea. Compulsion urged him to pull the partially constructed building from a storage area in his aunt’s Otherworld palace. He sighed, remembering the care with which she’d had her servants place the rickety construction into safe keeping. Though he believed he’d passed childhood by then, she’d still indulged his childish whim.

Perhaps, it wasn’t so childish, now that the castle occupied nearly the entire floor of a rented garage, as well as his plans for the future. Coated in plaster, the castle stood stark and white against the unadorned stud walls and stained concrete floor.

He hadn’t quite decided how to finish the outer walls. A collection of small, smooth river stones from the Otherworld was piled to the side. He chose a couple stones and manipulated them through his fingers—a contemplative movement he’d learned from Bryce. The stones might work for at least part of the castle. Maybe he’d etch square blocks in a gray plaster above the stone foundation. The finish details were still vague in his mind’s eye, yet he had no doubt when he hit upon the correct look, he’d know.

Just as he knew his dreams would come true. And soon.

The tiny phone in his pocket chimed and as he tossed the stones back to the pile he glanced at the screen. “Hey, Sis.”

“Hey, bro.”

“Lara, what’s up?”

“Your voice’s echoing funny. You in that garage again?”

Jayse grinned at his sister’s mock dismay. Happily, in his family, odd eccentricities were more than tolerated; they were cherished and encouraged. Although, he had suffered more than his share of teasing over the castle from the moment he placed the first two cardboard tubes together. Feeling a bit rebellious at the continued bantering, he frowned. He’d show them.

“Jayse? Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing. Yeah, I’m here. In the garage. Just trying to decide how to finish this project.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” He arched his eyebrows. That sounded like a serious apology. What could Lara have done that would need forgiveness? Then he rolled his gaze. Sisters.

“Uh, Dad asked me to give you a call.”

“And…”

“And let you know that he needs to talk to you.”

Jayse gave a soft snort. “He couldn’t call himself?”

“He was summoned to the Otherworld. I don’t know why, so don’t ask. He’ll be back at the office early afternoon.”

“Hey, what are you doing here in the human world?”

Lara chuckled. “Brought the twins to see their gramma. Both sets. Mom’s been reading one of her favorite old books to Belle and Antin.”

Jayse joined her laughter as he turned from his castle and flipped off the overhead light. “Not The Bobbsey Twins again. Don’t you have enough just living that life with your double doubles?” He locked the door and turned toward his car. “I’ve got work at the office, so I’ll be there whenever Dad gets back.”

“Hey, Jayse?”

“Yeah?”

“Come to supper some night. Soon?”

“Sure. Love to. I’ve got some ideas I want to toss around with Iain anyway. Talk to ya later, then?”

“Bye, bro.”

Jayse took a deep breath. Deep in his gut he knew why his father wanted to talk. But he wasn’t ready for that discussion. Not yet. Not until the castle was complete.

“I’d like you to take over the business as soon as possible.”

Startled from his contemplation of the file before him, Jaysson Zeroun jerked his gaze to his father who leaned back in his chair, arms folded casually. Jaye’s somber expression faded to worry as Jayse remained silent.

Finally, Jayse cleared his throat. “Uh, Dad? Can we talk about this another time?” He’d known this moment was coming. Zeroun’s had been in business for over thirty years—an amazingly successful thirty years. All due to his father’s—and his business partner, Tommy’s—vision and hard work. It was natural his dad would want him to take over.

“Later?” The tiny lines over the bridge of Jaye’s nose deepened. “Why later?”

“I’m, uh, in the middle of a project and…” Jayse shrugged and slipped the folder he’d been studying under a messy stack of invoices.

A low chuckle resonated from across the small office. “Another project? Son, don’t you think it’s time you got your head out of the clouds? I’m… tired. This mess with Feidhlim’s taking more time than I can give. Even though his magic has been destroyed, and he’s held in the world between worlds, I’ve still got this anxious knot in my stomach. I don’t have time for business.”

Then why not retire and close Zeroun’s on a high note? Jayse winced at the thought. He didn’t dislike catering, especially the specialty-themed events Zeroun’s was famous for, but he wanted to do something else. Needed to live the dream he’d held close in his heart since he was a boy.

Jaye filled the strained silence with an exasperated breath. “Okay, son. We’ll talk later. But, not much later.”

“Thanks, Dad. Promise, it won’t be long and I’ll be able to give you an answer.” As his dad turned back to paperwork, Jayse breathed out a soft sigh of relief. He wouldn’t be able to postpone this discussion forever. He touched the edge of the hidden file folder with his index finger. One call, all he needed was to receive one call.

Not much later the soft sounds of the office door opening and closing drew Jayse’s attention from the stack of invoices before him.

“He’s gone.”

“Who’s gone?”

Jayse glanced at the woman who faced his father’s wide, oak desk. Over the past months, the young Native American shaman had become a welcomed part of the extended Zeroun clan. Now, as Catori stared at his father, Jayse frowned at the worry creating a double line over her straight nose. Like his father, he leaned forward to hear her answer.

“The evil one. Feidhlim.”

Jaye shook his head. “No, the Watchers wouldn’t let him go.”

Catori gave a soft snort filled with derision. “I don’t think they let him go. Even without his magic, he still has followers who risk their lives for him.”

After wearily rubbing his eyes with his fingertips, Jaye shook his head again. “No, I don’t see how that could be possible.”

Perching on a corner of the desk, Catori glanced at Jayse and gave him a grimace as if to make some comment about the older generation. He bit back a chuckle—his father was far from settled into being an elder. His aunt, the Queen of their Faerie clan, had recently crowned his dad as ruler in her stead. The sense of responsibility and leadership drew Jayse to his feet. Immediately after accepting the Faerie rule, his father had named him as his heir.

“Don’t you think we’d better check this out, Dad?”

Jaye leaned his chair back as far as it would go without tipping and stared at the ceiling. “Aren’t we ever going to be rid of Feidhlim and his evil?”

Catori snorted again. “Not until he’s dead, Jaye. Not until his spirit no longer walks this world—or any other. His magical powers have already been taken from him and destroyed. His fey blood now runs red as human blood. He has nothing left—but revenge. Don’t underestimate that power.”

A tiny chime sounded, signaling the request to open a Faerie portal. Jayse nodded to himself—that had been a good idea. With he and his dad trying to run a human business and deal with the occasional problems of the Faerie Otherworld, there had been too many times when fey and human paths had nearly crossed. It could have very well ruined their business credibility.

“Enter.” At Jaye’s command a portal formed and a lean, dark skinned Faerie stepped into the office. He paused when he caught sight of Catori, then bowed slightly toward her and faced Jaye.

“Feidhlim is no longer in the world between worlds.”

Catori gave Jaye a smug grin. “See.”

He acknowledged her expression with a lift of one eyebrow then gestured toward a chair. “Have a seat, Gowthaman.”

Instead, Gowthaman faced Catori. “You know this as well?”

“Yep. I’ve been keeping watch over him during some of my drum journeys. Today, my circle grew cold—icy. When I sought the world between worlds, all I found was emptiness. Even the Watchers withdrew from my presence.” She rolled her eyes. “I don’t think they wanted us to know that he’s gone. And, I don’t think they did anything to keep him from escaping.”

Gowthaman turned to face Jaye. “He has returned to the human world. You must be wary.”

Jayse rose and paced around his workstation to join Gowthaman and Catori before his father’s desk. He extended his hand and after a brief pause, Gowthaman clasped his forearm. “You must take action to protect your family, Jayse.”

“How did you learn of his escape?”

The warm chocolate brown of Gowthaman’s skin paled. He cast his gaze around uncomfortably then met Jayse’s curiosity with a steady gaze. “Since my time in the world between worlds there has been a… connection. I do not understand. Nor do I wish to know more than I am now forced to know of that… place. It is as if when Feidhlim’s seeker… touched my mind, she opened my consciousness to that place of nothingness. When he was no longer there… I simply knew. I do not doubt that knowledge, as you should not.”

“We don’t, Gowthaman. This just came as a surprise.”

Gowthaman closed his eyes and inclined his head, a quiet acceptance of Jayse’s statement.

His father spoke softly. “I suppose we shouldn’t ever be surprised by what Feidhlim is capable of.” His eyes unfocused for a moment and he frowned. “Searlait?”

The portal opened again and a tall, blonde woman bounded through, her agitated breathing loud in the room. She paced back and forth before the others. “The Watchers have spoken to me. They havena done so since they released me from the world between worlds. I dinna ken at first, fer I dinna believe I waud ever hear such again.” One of her hands slid to her side as if in search of a weapon. “I should have finished him then. Finished this all when given the chance. Jaye, my king, I beg yer forgiveness fer my failure.”

“No failure, Searlait. We have been complacent, believing him to be defeated and held in a place where he could never touch this family again.”

“He will try. An’ soon. Carrie’s child is due to be born.”

Jayse took her place pacing the room. “Dad, we’ve got to do something.”

“Do you have any ideas, son?” Jaye shook his head. “How many times have we thought we were rid of Feidhlim only to have him appear as if out of nowhere. At least this time we have some warning.”

The young faerie lifted her hands in supplication. “But, Carrie—”

“Searlait, we will do what we can to keep her safe. I know he’ll try and find her, no matter where she might go. Though we hesitate to admit it, he did father her child. I’m sure his followers have been watching her, watching the whole family. We’ll just have to find him first.”

Catori brushed her hands together. “Good. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know. I’m here early, but I’ll wait to go back to Arizona until after the baby’s born.”

“You came all the way here just to tell us about Feidhlim?” Jayse touched her shoulder as she turned toward the door.

She spoke without looking at him. “Of course. Would you have believed me over the telephone? Besides, how could I do any less? It’s my duty as a shaman.” She glanced sideways at him. “And as a friend. Maybe, since he’s human now, you need to use the talents in the human world to find him. Take care.”

She slipped through the door before Jayse could respond. He looked helplessly at his father. Jaye shrugged. “I don’t know, son. I just don’t know.”

Lucidea backed from the small room, her gaze lingering on the desk she’d occupied for the last eight years. Though she wasn’t leaving for good, tears still burned the back of her eyes, blurring her sight. Since the bulk of the new forensic equipment remained in the room, she’d be back. She tried to smile. The equipment was hers, after all, and she was only loaning it to the department.

Thankfully, her boss wasn’t at his desk when she passed the open door to his office. She wouldn’t be able to face the crusty captain’s censure and keep her composure. He’d thrown a royal fit when she told him her unspecified leave of absence had been approved and had been only slightly mollified when she agreed to leave most of the equipment she’d earned during her assignment in Scotland under his care at the lab.

Scotland. She needed to return, but she wasn’t ready to face the memories and responsibilities she’d willingly left there. A single tear left a hot trail down her cheek. To find her uncle, then lose him the same day she finished the forensic sculpture proving that her father was dead… A second tear followed the first. She had to get out of the lab before somebody saw her moment of weakness.

Taking a deep breath, she tucked her laptop case closer to her side. She’d spend some time at home completing the sculpture of her uncle she’d begun when she’d returned from Scotland. Then, maybe she’d find a way to come to terms with her heritage and the responsibilities of leadership that fell into her lap at Morghan’s disappearance.

A shiver of dread ran across her shoulders, a signal that somewhere, something was happening that would directly affect her.

Before she opened her car door, Lucidea glanced at dark gray clouds dancing across the sky. Gray… there was something particularly ominous about the gray. She shook her head and the dread slowly faded. Maybe the odd feeling was just the electricity of an oncoming storm.

Unwilling to face the quiet loneliness of her townhouse, Lucidea drove out of the city to one of the small nearby recreational lakes. Halfway around the water lay a small cove shaded by ancient cottonwoods and elms. The quiet seclusion of the space reminded her of the loch on her uncle’s property in Scotland. Her property now, until Morghan returned.

After parking, she sat in her car for a long time letting indecision gnaw at her insides. Until with a huff of breath, she let her frustration escape and climbed from the car. Stretching, she stared toward the distant horizon and the streaks of sunset colors crossing the sky. The bright orange ball of the sun settled lower as she shaded her eyes from the sparkle off the mud-tinged water. She stood in silent contemplation until the sun disappeared from the sky.

Too bad those contemplations didn’t steer her any closer to what she should do. If she’d been asked, at that moment, what she’d been thinking about, she would be hard pressed to form an answer any more coherent than her thoughts. Lucidea gave a short chuckle and leaned back against the car fender to watch the stars twinkle to life in the twilight sky.

Soft splashing drew her attention to the dark lake. Expecting to see fish feeding on late evening mosquitoes, she gasped when a pixie-like face grinned at her from the shallows. Warily, she moved closer to the lake as her friend, Coralie, rose from the water and walked toward her.

Coralie shook her head, sending a spray of tiny droplets over Lucidea.

Lucidea laughed and brushed at the moisture on her face. “Coralie, how’d you get here?”

The young woman frowned and squeezed the water from her long, curly hair. “The watery passages of course.”

“To here? I know there’s waterways between the lochs—but to reach the other side of the planet?”

“Aye,” Coralie nodded. “No’ so many ken how to use them. Still, those who do are able to find the way.”

“Uh, Coralie.”

“Milady?”

Lucidea sighed. She’d tried, over and over, to get Coralie to not call her ‘milady’, but the honorific seemed ingrained and any attempts to change Coralie’s way of thinking met with quiet stubbornness. Lucidea turned and reached into the back of her car for a light blanket. “Wrap this around yourself. There might be someone else here. This lake’s not as secluded as Nas Duirche Ness.”

Coralie chuckled and made a toga of the soft cotton. “I ken. I had to speak with ye.”

Leaning back against the car, Lucidea wrapped her arms around herself and peered through the darkness, trying to read Coralie’s enigmatic expression. “You could have called, or sent an email.”

At the shake of Coralie’s head, Lucidea sighed. This wasn’t going to be good news.

“I couldna trust mechanical means to contact ye. Pagas watches me closely and had me followed.” Her white teeth glistened as she smiled. “But they couldna find their way to the passageways of this land. No’ without the knowledge given me by the creatures met along the way.” She shrugged, then adjusted the slipping blanket and glanced around her. “Still, I dinna wish to speak of these things so close to water.”

“Would you like to come to my house?”

Even as night stole the last bit of light from the sky, delight sparkled in Coralie’s eyes. She executed a deep curtsey. “Milady.”

Huffing out a breath of air that stirred the loose hair around her face, Lucidea shook her head. “You can’t call me that while you’re here. Lucidea. Say it, at least once, Coralie. Lucidea.”

“Lucidea. I shall no’ promise to remember at all times, yet, I shall try.”

“That’s all I can ask. Come on, then. Get in the car. I, umm, think I might even have some clothes at home that will fit you.”

“Aye,” Coralie chuckled and moved to the passenger side of the car. “I hadna thought about that. ‘Tis much easier to swim in only m’skin.”

Once Lucidea had driven a few miles from the lake in silence, she glanced sideways at Coralie who, eyes wide, stared out the window into the darkness. “So…”

Coralie jerked against her shoulder belt, then turned a guilt-ridden expression to Lucidea. “I beg forgiveness. I am… astounded by yer country. I have ne’re been here.”

“So, Coralie, why are you here?”

 

“There’s no telling what Feidhlim might look like now,” Jayse said as he slumped back into his chair, matching his father’s contemplative pose. “How can we fight against that?”

Jaye shook his head. “Like we’ve always fought him, I suppose. With lots of luck. Although, the destruction of his magic changes the odds, wouldn’t you say? If his followers—”

“If? I don’t doubt there’s still a number of misguided Faerie who cling to his supposed ideals.”

“True, son. His followers may be able to use magic against us, but he’ll never harness that power for himself. From what I understand, he should no longer have the ability. We’ll be able to protect the family against any Nechtan-Cattee trickery.”

The two men sat in silence for a time, each absorbed in their own contemplations. Jayse guiltily let his thoughts drift to the final stages of a project he’d kept secret from the family and he ducked his head to hide a grin. Keeping secrets in his family was a challenge, though an enjoyable exercise in secrecy. If… no, he corrected himself… when his offer on the land was accepted, he’d make a formal announcement to everyone. And ask their help in completing his extensive plans.

A thick cardboard tube rested on one end on the corner of his desk. He’d been collecting the tubes from commercial plastic wrap since he was six. A year ago he’d transferred the sprawling cardboard construction to the empty storage garage near his apartment and completed the structure with an adult’s artistic eye. Almost. One last tube, one last tower, attached and plastered would complete the castle he’d dreamed about his entire life.

He picked up the tube and turned it over and over in his hands. His cardboard castle would be completed at the same time he launched into a massive, full sized building project. There was something ultimately—satisfying about the way one project flowed into the other…

“…some way to imagine him in different guises.”

“Uh, sorry, Dad. What did you say?” Guiltily, he lowered the tube from his eye and tossed the cardboard to the desk where it landed with a hollow thunk and rolled until stopped by his in/out basket.

“Daydreaming again?” Jaye laughed and shook his head. “Maybe someday you’ll get your head out of the clouds.”

“I hope not.”

“Jayse, stay with me here for just a bit.”

“Sorry, Dad.”

His father stood and paced before his desk. “Do you remember the police artist who talked to Carrie?”

“Sorry again, Dad. I wasn’t there.”

“Hmm, that’s right.” Jaye leaned on his son’s desk. “She used a computer program to create the face Carrie remembered. Then, erased a moustache and Feidhlim as I knew him was easily recognizable. I was thinking, maybe she’d be willing to help us out here. If she still has the picture, maybe she could alter it to give us ideas of how he might choose to look.” Straightening, he shrugged. “It’s worth a try.”

After years of sharing the office, his father’s thought processes were evident and Jayse took a deep breath. “And you’d like me to talk to her.” At his father’s nod, he continued. “No problem. I’ll stop by the police station on the way home and see if she’s there.”

“A phone call and an appointment might be easier.”

Reaching over the cardboard tube for the phone book, Jayse chuckled. “This must be why you’re the Dad.”

 

He lay on his back, staring at the water-stained ceiling. Anger distended his nostrils as his breath came hard and heavy. Hands fisted, he beat a fierce rhythm on the mattress, raising puffs of dust to hang in the stagnant, musty air.

With a sudden movement, Feidhlim rolled and sat on the edge of the bed, arms dangling between his legs, his chin touching his chest. He surged to his feet, paced around the end of the bed and flopped back to the same position on the other side to stare into a large, dirty mirror.

Why? Tightening his muscles, Feidhlim concentrated, straining to feel… feel anything. He cupped his hands, waiting for a zing of power, a tingle of magical electricity, a tremor of ability. He waited for… nothing.

Passing one hand over the other, he imagined forming a ball—a bright orange ball under his control. In his mind, the ball grew from a tiny pinpoint to a firm weapon and the hint of a smile eased the tension from his face. If he could just…

Shaking his head, he slapped his palms together. There was no concentration of power, no orange ball that would do his bidding.

Without even a chance to fight back, every bit of magic had been taken from him—stolen by the so-called Watchers in the world between worlds. Stolen and destroyed.

Emptiness, vast and cold, filled his belly. Overflowed into his heart. Inched a frigid path to his brain. Where his magic should be was nothing but… nothing.

He growled low in his throat. Anger warmed his cold skin, heated his blood until his heart beat hopeful in his chest. They would pay. There would be a way to take the magic from Zeroun and absorb the power into himself. There had to be a way.

Feidhlim scrubbed his hands over his face and rose to lean straight armed over a low chest before the mirror. A haggard, hollow-eyed visage stared back at him. The Watchers had kept him alive, though what pleasure the gray beings found in his torment eluded him. Basic needs had been provided, but he never saw another being, heard another voice, felt the presence of anything. The nothing had nearly stolen his will, broken him as the watchers had broken his magic.

As he would break Zeroun.

He leaned closer to the mirror and tried to imagine a new face, a disguise for his attack upon the usurper. But all he could see were dull, lifeless eyes in a drawn, thin face. It would do. He would attack Zeroun with the face the usurper made him wear. Let his enemy see the truth that would haunt him in his defeat.

Wild laugher burst from his lips.

Laughter that died in a sob. Feidhlim stared in amazement as tears spilled down his gaunt cheeks. Tentatively, he touched the damp trail with the tip of one finger. He cried? Dashing the tears away with fierce, jerking swipes, he bit the inside of his cheek to stop the welling of pain. He would not show weakness.

But the cry of his despair burst through his clenched teeth.

Nothing remained to him but revenge. He tore his hands through his hair, yanking at the length as though the pain would focus his thoughts, and spun in a tight circle. He couldn’t stop the tears. Fisting his hands against the mirror, he panted, the combination of anger and pain tearing harsh breaths from his chest. With a low growl, he drew back his hands, paused, then slammed his fists against the mirror.

Spider web cracks radiated from the impact. A second attack shattered the mirror and sent shards of sharp reflections about the room.

Feidhlim stared into the bits of mirror still within the frame. Fractured. He was as fractured as his reflection.

The anger disappeared. The pain faded. Inside, he was as empty as the world between worlds.

The door behind him burst open. “My lord?”

Slowly, Feidhlim lowered his fists to his side and turned to stare at the concern etched across his follower’s face. His follower. Despite his… disability, many still looked to him as their lord. He gave a derisive snort.

“My lord,” the faerie whispered. With a wave of one hand, the broken mirror repaired itself.

Anger rushed to fill Feidhlim’s emptiness. Though he paused to relish the feeling, any feeling, he lowered his brows and glared at his underling. “Never,” he said slowly. “Never use magic in my presence.” He turned his back. “Until such time as I am restored, I will not allow the exhibit of power before me.”

One side of his mouth twitched to a smile as he heard the fool prostrate himself.

“Your pardon, my lord. I forgot my place.”

Feidhlim grunted a response.

“How may I atone for my transgression?”

Bring me forgetfulness. A memory fought its way through the haze of anger. He could forget. There was a way. Why shouldn’t he travel that path? Was there a reason to ignore the craving… one thing he could feel? He faced the prostrate faerie. “You wish to regain my favor?”

“As always, my lord, my wish is to serve you.”

Feidhlim sighed. Would he be able to turn back once he spoke the words? Scrubbing his face with his palms, he pressed his fingertips against his eyes. “Bring me drink.”

The faerie lifted his head. Eyes wide, he stared at Feidhlim. “My lord? But—”

“I shall allow no dissention.” Feidhlim took a step forward and lifted a clenched fist. “You will do as I say, or you will be gone from my presence. Do you understand? I do not tolerate the questioning of my actions.”

“Oh, no, my lord. Of course, my lord. Immediately, my lord. I shall bring the finest of Faerie ale.”

The mention brought a flood of remembered flavor to Feidhlim’s mouth and he closed his eyes to savor the smooth bite and flowing forgetfulness. No. NO!

“No! Again you forget yourself. I am no better than human now. Bring me human ales.”

The underling crawled backwards from the room. “Yes, my lord. As you wish.”

Feidhlim gave the man his back. “Do not allow my glass to become empty until I give permission for it to be so.”

The door closed silently behind his follower. Feidhlim turned his gaze to the ceiling. “Bring me human forgetfulness,” he whispered.

Then, letting his anguish find voice in a drawn out cry, he shook his fists in the air. Damn Zeroun. Damn the usurper and his entire clan. Crying out again, he collapsed to the bed. Damn him to every imaginable hell.

Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, Jayse sat for a few moments before exiting his car. He’d called the police station and discovered that the artist, Lucidea Galvagin, had taken a leave of absence. Starting that day. Just his luck. But, maybe it was luck since the Captain had taken his name and his request and Lucidea contacted him only an hour later. Maybe the fact that Feidhlim was wanted by human law enforcement was a factor in her decision to see him.

He stared at the row of townhouses before him. The modern structure had tried for a Victorian appeal and he supposed the builders had succeeded—to a point. Neither as charming nor as homey as his folk’s neighborhood and the house he grew up in, the complex was, nonetheless, clean and well kept.

Taking a deep breath, he ambled to the numbered door and knocked. He looked around as he waited, absently wondering about the woman with the soft contralto voice. The voice that, even in his memory, thrummed through him with sensual promise.

A soft giggle sounded through the fiberglass door and he took a half-step back, waiting expectantly. The door opened.

His eyebrows lifted. He took another step back. A petite woman stood before him. Dressed in nothing but a large towel.

 

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