Book 1 in the Fae Touched Series
When the Fae abandoned humanity, they left behind more than myths
1. Never remain in one city too long
2. Don’t go out after sundown
3. Under no circumstances reveal your magic
These are the rules Abigail MacCarthy has followed since escaping the secret agency that controlled her life for years. But eluding recapture is not the only threat Abby’s facing. A rare halfblood in a world with wolf shifters, witches, and vampires who would demand allegiance if her bloodlines were discovered, staying off the magical community’s radar is key. But one broken rule—okay, three—meant her days of hiding are over…
1. Guard the region
2. Protect the queen
3. Nurture the Clan
These are the creeds Alpha shifter Samuel Walker lives by. Yet after his queen is saved from an assassination attempt by a form of magic that shouldn’t exist, Samuel is torn between responsibility to the Fae Touched and protecting the beautiful halfblood he’s tempted to claim as his own.
What will happen when doing his duty puts Abby in danger? Samuel is about to find out…
Book 1 in the Fae Touched Series
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“Always go out looking your best. You just might meet the love of your life.” Bridget MacCarthy
The vampire queen had power, wealth, eternal beauty—and abysmal taste in clothing.
Abigail MacCarthy wedged herself between the boutique’s towering shelves of designer jeans, retreating until her shoulders hit the wall. Her gaze darted to the store’s guarded front door, then shot to the equally blocked emergency exit and back to her boss, Cindy, who was assisting their sole remaining customer with her latest unfortunate choice of outfits.
The Dádhe, vampires informally, were allergic to UV rays. And being naturally nocturnal, they were the easiest of the nonhuman races to avoid during daylight hours. A fact Abby chose to ignore when she agreed to cover the nightshift for a sick co-worker. It’d been a mistake; a monumental lapse in judgment that could cost her everything.
After two years on the run, she really should have known better.
In Abby’s defense, no one could have anticipated the ruler of the East South Central’s Fae Touched population—which included every witch, shifter, and vampire in the four-state region—would choose to visit La Bella. The Dádhe queen had previously never stepped foot inside the store. And it was just rotten luck all three members of the Guard accompanying her that night were Ferwyn males.
Abby should have fled along with the rest of La Bella’s clientele, but the arrival of the monarch and her trio of wolf shifter bodyguards had frozen her in place. Then it’d been too late to run without drawing unwanted attention.
Fingers shaking, Abby reached inside the pocket of her navy pencil skirt for the small bottle of perfume she applied whenever the less nose-sensitive female shifters came into the shop. She withdrew the uncapped rollerball for the third time since sundown and glided the jasmine fragrance over the pulse points at her wrists and throat. The heavy floral scent might not be enough to mask her unique smell from the more primal males of the Ferwyn race, but she had to try something.
Abby’s boss continued to flit around their prestigious client on the other side of the store. Each item the vampire had chosen was lovely on its own but in that particular combination? Not so much.
“Lady Standish,” Cindy said tentatively. “Your majesty—”
“Lady Rose,” the queen corrected, preening in front of the dressing room mirrors in white leather pants and chunky platform sandals. Her dark, wavy hair brushed over her bare shoulders as she twisted gracefully to get a better view of her shapely backside. “We do not use formal titles quite the same way humans do.”
“Of course, forgive me.” Cindy quit fussing with the silk laces on the vampire’s strapless corset and desperately scanned the room.
“Milady is fine, if you prefer.” Lady Rose’s bright green eyes remained fixated on her reflection.
“Yes, um…milady.” Cindy opened her mouth and then quickly shut it, clearly at a loss how to tell the beautiful Dádhe she looked like a high-class stripper—an extremely successful one.
Although Cindy owned one of the few upscale lady’s boutiques in Memphis, she had a surprisingly poor sense of style and relied heavily on her handpicked sales staff to uphold La Bella’s classy reputation. Abby had been hired because she had a knack for putting together flattering outfits for any woman’s body type. But she’d made herself scarce since the arrival of the queen, and Cindy was floundering badly on her own.
Abby’s dream of a career in fashion ended as a teenager after the death of her parents, and the unwelcome discovery of her gift that steered her education in a far different direction. Still, with no other talents at her disposal, at least not ones she was willing to disclose, Abby was grateful for the seemingly frivolous skill. It had helped her find employment across the country in stores like La Bella; places that insulated her from the more dangerous magical races. But safety was an illusion. A temporary one.
Cindy had finally spotted her.
Abby closed her eyes, deliberately shutting out her boss’ unspoken plea. Like a toddler playing peekaboo, she pretended for one wishful moment that the outside world couldn’t see her if she couldn’t see them. Unfortunately, she wasn’t a child any longer, or invisible.
Why couldn’t it have been a team of witches escorting the queen?
Ferwyn males were too risky to be near with their heightened sense of smell and blatant disregard for personal space, but the Anwyll, or witches, were a race Abby dealt with daily at the boutique. Fooling an ordinary Anwyll was easy as long they had no reason to doubt her humanity.
Abby marshaled her courage and opened her eyes.
She left the inadequate hiding spot behind, weaving between the boutique’s long, narrow aisle of clothing racks. After pausing to nab a tailored white jacket from a circular stand, she reluctantly headed for the store’s array of shoes and the massive shifter blocking them.
Clan Walker’s beta was at least six-foot-five and stood with thick legs spread wide, hands clasped behind him. The outwardly casual stance placed his bulging biceps on display along with the unsheathed sword and small, round shield that hung from his belt. The military pose also made it impossible to miss the large gun in the leather holster under his left arm. It was against the law for the Fae Touched to carry firearms on American soil—unless part of a monarch’s security force.
Her tentative approach faltered as the Ferwyn perused her body as though searching for threats. Straightening her shoulders, Abby forced herself to keep walking.
She could do this! What other choice was there?
“Would you excuse me, please?” she asked, stopping a few yards from the unnerving beta, fighting to keep her voice calm and even.
He didn’t budge.
Flicking her fingers in a shooing motion, she held onto what hopefully passed as a friendly smile.
His lips twitched, but he didn’t move. Not a blessed inch.
“Now what,” she muttered.
The tow-headed shifter barring La Bella’s front entrance softly chuckled, diverting Abby’s attention. The Guard member she hadn’t immediately recognized from the local news appeared to be in his mid-twenties, but could be decades older as Ferwyns aged slower and lived longer than humans.
The shifter winked and then flashed her a cocky grin while scraping his chin-length hair away from a boyishly attractive face.
Abby tried her best to return his smile but hurriedly looked away when her lower lip trembled. Getting through the night without her true abilities being discovered was all that mattered. The last thing she could afford was any of the Ferwyn males becoming suspicious.
Quietly exhaling, she threw up a silent prayer that the multiple perfume applications would be enough to cloud her scent and stepped forward. She lifted onto her tiptoes, leaving as much space between them as possible.
She was short and barely caught the toes of the red-soled pumps on the top shelf with her fingertips. Lowering to her heels, she turned to make a quick escape and almost screamed. The large shifter’s nose was less than a foot from her face. He gripped her shoulder, holding her in place before she thought to react.
“What are you?” His accent was thick and Southern. He breathed in deeply, and the dark stubble on his jaw grazed her cheek as he sniffed her hair. “Not a witch.”
A menacing snarl sounded from the direction of the third and most dangerous Ferwyn escorting the queen. The beta didn’t seem to notice his commander’s warning.
What had she been thinking? It had been insanity to believe she could fool a group of male wolf shifters for long. Abby knew better than even to try.
She’d been taught better.
“Let her go, Tucker,” Alpha Samuel Walker ordered, his deep growl rumbling directly above Abby. “Now.”
As head of the region’s Guard, Samuel Walker was one of the highest-ranking Fae Touched in the ESC. As the príoh of its Ferwyn Clan, he was in charge of every wolf shifter in the territory and the Alpha of its strongest pack. Though he was several inches shorter than Tucker, he was no less formidable. Built like a boxer with a broad chest, defined arms, and a thick but flat waistline, Clan Walker’s leader radiated authority. There was no doubt in Abby’s mind which male currently sandwiching her was the more dominant shifter.
In contrast to his intimidating demeanor, his sandy-blond hair was disheveled. The jagged layers sticking up in every direction around a ruggedly masculine face, the windswept style softening the sharp angles of his high cheekbones and square jawline.
Abby’s fingers itched to straighten the beautiful chaos, despite her escalating fear. Rather than give in to the ludicrous temptation, she death-gripped the articles in her hands.
What was wrong with her?
“I said back off, lieutenant.” Samuel glared at his subordinate, amber eyes narrowing.
Tucker raised his brows but released her so abruptly that Abby lost her balance. She backpedaled into a solid wall of warm flesh and then hopped forward with a squeak, teetering on her thin-heeled pumps.
Samuel grasped her from behind, cupping the side of her neck with one hand while the other held onto her arm. When she was steady, he leaned down until his nose bumped her temple and drew in a lungful of air.
Abby’s heartbeat skyrocketed. Everything she’d done to stay off the Fae Touched community’s radar could be wiped out with a single whiff.
“Be calm.” He inhaled again, his thumb making small circles at the base of her skull, the rough pads of his fingertips resting on the rapid pulse in her throat.
Was he kidding?
“I need to go.” Abby wanted desperately to break the deceptively gentle hold and run. Instead, she held perfectly still, her silk blouse sticking to her damp skin as she resisted the instinctive urge that all prey possessed to flee from an apex predator. Running would make things worse—if that were even possible.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Samuel said. He wrapped the long fall of her ponytail around his knuckles and brought the captured blond ends to his nose. “But I need to know what species you are.”
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The fingers tangled in her hair were inappropriately intimate, even for a Ferwyn male. Abby sensed the commander wasn’t purposely trying to scare her, but he was doing a bang-up job of it anyway. “I’m human. Untouched by Fae magic,” she told him, working to control the quiver in her voice and failing.
She had always been a miserable liar.
“Commander, what are you doing?” Lady Rose interrupted the tense exchange, fists on her slender hips. “Release the girl so we can finish up here.”
Abby waited, hardly daring to breathe while Samuel slowly unraveled her ponytail and stepped away.
“Thank you,” she said without thinking, the polite response written into her DNA at birth and honed at her Southern mother’s knee. No matter how inane the reply sounded, she was grateful for anything that placed distance between them. Anything that kept the powerful Alpha from figuring out who Abby was. What she was.
Her legs felt like they wouldn’t hold her weight, but she managed a slow, steady pace toward her boss and the impatiently waiting vampire queen.
“Close your mouth, Noah.”
At Samuel’s clipped words, Abby stopped and glanced behind her.
It was another mistake.
The commander’s irises glinted more yellow than brown under the harsh lights of the boutique, his attention squarely on Abby instead of the young shifter by the door. His penetrating gaze bore into hers as he brought his knuckles to his nose and sniffed.
Abby turned and bolted.
* * *
Fifteen minutes later and the three Ferwyn warriors were still scrutinizing her every move. The commander hadn’t stopped watching her since their earlier confrontation, and Abby’s nerves were stretched thin.
On the upside, Lady Rose donned the lightweight blazer without complaint, the slim-cut jacket covering the skimpy bustier. The queen also agreed to exchange the clunky sandals for the sleeker pumps. Abby hoped she liked the new look enough to purchase the outfit and leave the store, taking Samuel and the rest of the Guard with her.
After being relieved of vampire duty, Abby waited nearby while her boss promoted the expensive clothing.
“What do you think, milady?” Cindy finally asked.
The queen didn’t answer, addressing Abby instead. “I’m more interested in what you think, Miss…”
“Abigail…Barnes, milady.” The false surname was the third in the past twenty-two months. Did it sound as fake to them as it did to her?
“So, Miss Barnes. May I call you Abigail?” She didn’t wait for an answer, taking her assent as a given. “How do I look?”
“Stunning. So much better than–” Abby snapped her mouth shut, shocked at what she’d been about to say. Cindy’s eyes bugged out of her thin face. Noah choked on muffled laughter in the background.
“So much better than what?”
“I meant I like the changes made to the outfit.” Abby crossed her arms over her waist, feeling a bit sick to her stomach.
“And what exactly was wrong with it previously?” the queen asked, lobbing the loaded question with a lifted brow.
“It might have been a bit…” She hesitated, searching for the least offensive adjective. “Flashy?”
Abby inwardly cringed as Cindy sputtered a denial.
The vampire shushed her boss with a wave. “Flashy? Are you implying my attire is that of a Covent Garden nun?”
“Well…” She blew out a breath, thrown even more off-kilter by the thirty-something-looking Dádhe’s terminology, which presumably stemmed back centuries to the Infusion that transitioned her from human to immortal.
“Or perhaps a blower?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that…exactly.” Because what did that even mean?
Abby’s last quietly spoken word boomed off the shop’s white walls like a crack of thunder, the ensuing silence deafening. The queen’s full mouth compressed into a straight line as though mulling over the idea that her style choices might be questionable.
Astonished by what she had just insinuated, Abby rubbed her forehead with cold fingers. If Bridget MacCarthy were alive, she’d be appalled by her daughter’s uncharacteristic rudeness. It was a testament to how badly she’d been rattled by Samuel and the others that her ingrained manners had slipped so spectacularly.
The work shift needed to end, and Abby needed to leave—not only the boutique but the state. Without a doubt, it was time to move on again. Past time.
She’d lingered in Memphis too long, lulled into a false sense of security and tempted by the prospect of making real friends instead of passing acquaintances. The warm southern climate and dulcet twang of the city’s people had reminded her of home, the familiarity easing the constant aching loneliness that came with pretending to be someone she was not.
Emotionally exhausted, Abby heaved a sigh. “Lady Rose, please forgive m—”
The glass storefront imploded, and five men jumped through the broken window’s jagged opening, firing automatic weapons. They were dressed in black, their faces hidden by nylon balaclavas.
Dropping into a crouch, Abby reached around the small of her back to grab her compact SIG Sauer. It wasn’t there. She hadn’t worn the holster that day, carrying her gun to work in her purse instead. The purse she’d stashed underneath the register.
On the other side of the room.
Lady Rose narrowly avoided the barrage of bullets that shattered the trio of full-length mirrors behind her.
Abby covered her head, protecting her face from the shower of broken glass buffeting her bare arms and legs. Cindy screamed, dived into the nearest dressing room, and scrambled into the corner. She pulled out a .22 LR pistol, aiming it unsteadily at the gap in the privacy curtains.
Although it felt like an eternity, the gunfire didn’t last long. The assailants abandoned their firearms and drew sleek katanas, opting for the more traditional form of Fae Touched combat. The two-handed blades—opposed to the Ferwyns’ curved tulwars and shields—identified them as vampires as surely as if they’d hung signs around their necks.
Four of the masked Dádhe charged Samuel and Tucker. The fifth engaged Noah, who had been separated from his clanmates during the initial salvo. The young shifter’s neck was bleeding.
Abby’s heart lodged in her throat as the commander narrowly evaded a vertical strike from one vampire, deflecting the oncoming blade from a second with his dish-sized shield. Before either opponent could counter, Samuel delivered a powerful kick to the nearest one’s ribs, sending him flying across the store. He crashed loudly into La Bella’s clothing racks, his arms and legs tangling in stainless-steel and silk shirts.
Samuel didn’t spare him a glance, his sword slicing toward the remaining assailant’s neck.
The Dádhe parried the death blow but strained against a Ferwyn’s greater strength as the commander stepped in close and locked their blades at the hilts. Samuel swiped at the vampire’s abdomen with his shield, converted nails extending beyond its rim ripped savagely through skin and muscle. His opponent collapsed to his knees, dropping his sword on a silent scream.
His comrade returned and attacked before Samuel could finish him off.
Abby watched in disbelief as the eviscerated Dádhe placed a bloody fist on the floor and retrieved his weapon. He regained his feet and staggered forward, yelling commands above the din of combat. His cohorts responded with a gale of sword strikes too fast to follow.
Afraid the coordinated effort would allow the injured vampire to slip past the queen’s protectors, Abby shouted for Cindy to get ready to shoot.
Modern-day ammo was made of steel and injected with iron, which was the single material guaranteed to harm a Fae Touched. Though a bullet wouldn’t necessarily kill a shifter or vampire, if it penetrated the heart or brain it would be debilitating. Their bodies would need to expend considerable effort and more importantly, time, to reject the toxin and repair the damage.
Cindy’s pocket pistol used small caliber ammunition but was rapid fire and carried ten rounds. If she succeeded in hitting the hostile vampire in one of those two susceptible organs, it would incapacitate him long enough to give the monarch a fighting chance.
Her boss jerked her head to the side. No.
Abby frantically sought the outnumbered shifters who were fighting furiously to obstruct the path to their queen. Noah leaped over the defeated vampire lying at his feet, swiftly joining his clanmates and evening the odds. Samuel went on the offensive, sweeping his blade in a horizontal strike. It sliced through the vampire’s forearm, and he reeled away shrieking in pain.
Her stomach lurched at the gruesome sight of the limb hanging by a grisly thread. Then it dropped like a stone as the previously gutted Dádhe skirted the ongoing battle and headed their way.
His arm was wrapped around his stomach, but the wound that would have killed a human hardly slowed him. The determined vampire picked up speed and was halfway across the long showroom when the commander spun, blood dripping from his curved sword.
Samuel’s rage-filled eyes met Abby’s horrified ones.
Dragging her gaze from the angry shifter, she pleaded with her terrified boss. “Cindy, please try.”
“I can’t,” she replied, the gun quaking in her grip.
Abby stood on trembling legs to face the queen, turning her back on Samuel and the rapidly approaching vampire.
Lady Rose was balanced on the balls of her bare feet among the chips of glass, readied to meet her attacker armed with nothing more than a sliver of broken mirror and an impressive set of fangs.
The masked Dádhe charged, sword slashing toward the queen’s neck. She ducked, and the blade whistled over the top of her head.
Abby gasped at the close call. It was time to choose.
She wasn’t who she claimed. Samuel suspected something was wrong, that her scent wasn’t right. But he couldn’t know why she smelled different. Not yet.
Abby understood better than most that acting didn’t guarantee success, and failure would expose her kind needlessly.
There was still a chance of walking away with her secret intact—if she stood by and did nothing to help. Allowed the queen to die.
Her parents would have been ashamed Abby hesitated at all.
While she struggled with her conscience, Lady Rose hadn’t stopped moving, jabbing her crude knife into the attacker’s abdomen. The vampire ignored the glass embedded in his gut, rotated the single-edged katana and went for the killing upstroke.
With no other option, Abby steeled her nerves, inhaled—and reached for her magic.
It had been almost a decade since her first, accidental entry into the Rip. Two years, six months, and twelve days since the promise to never willingly enter it again.
It never got any easier.
The magic was vicious, the agony so intense it blinded her for a stuttering heartbeat. Gritting her teeth, Abby allowed the Rip to yank her into the blistering coldness of the void between realms. The dense atmosphere inside molded to her flesh like a coat of wet cement, compressing her slight form in its viselike grip until she feared her ribs would crack.
The thick lilac-scented air clung to her skin. It invaded her nose until she couldn’t breathe. Clogged her ears so she couldn’t hear. The constant pain made it hard to focus. It took every speck of Abby’s willpower to block the anguish long enough to concentrate on the frozen scene in front of her.
Lady Rose was unnaturally still, her skin ashen, her sable hair dulled to a matte silver hue. It was as though she’d been captured onto a single frame of an old black and white film, the shadowy image stuck on pause. Abby knew everyone within her sight lines would appear as motionless as the queen if she could spare the effort it would take to look.
The heels of Lady Rose’s hands were thrust forward, targeting the attacker’s wrists in what appeared to be a last-ditch attempt to disrupt his swing. But she’d been a fraction too slow, and the deadly sword hung in stasis above her outstretched arms—mere inches from her throat.
Abby’s moment of selfish reluctance had almost cost another life.
Ordering her abused body to move, she pushed through the gelatinous environment. It was like swimming through freezing tar. Each millimeter of ground gained only added to her misery and tried to break her resolve.
She didn’t want to be there. Wanted nothing more than to leave the unimaginable agony behind and never experience it again. But she couldn’t, at least not yet.
Physics didn’t change within the Rip. The larger the mass, the more force it took to move it. Once positioned in the middle of the dueling vampires, Abby reached for the attacker’s blade, driving through the icy sludge until her palms wrapped around the hilt of the katana. Seconds ticked by with excruciating slowness, wrestling the point of the weapon to the floor with the last of her strength.
Buoyed by the condensed atmosphere, Abby floated above the arms of the unknown Dádhe at an impossible angle. The thickened air lashed at her skin. The negative pressure crushed her lungs. Her body felt bruised and bloodied. Her eardrums were close to bursting.
If she didn’t leave the Rip soon, she would essentially drown.
Seeing no further way to aid the queen—Abby let the magic go.
The attack was unexpected, and Samuel’s gut told him it was hastily planned. The current climate between the nine Fae Touched territories and their US hosts necessitated days of preparation for Rose to safely leave ESC property. But the decision to come into the city had been an impromptu one. The excursion set in motion by a restless, obstinate monarch and contingent upon Samuel heading a handpicked security team.
No outsider could have known that Rose would be at La Bella. And it was apparent whoever sent them hadn’t counted on engaging the príoh of Clan Walker and his beta, or they would have sent more warriors. And maybe a battle witch.
The opening spray of bullets had grazed Noah’s neck, but the wound hadn’t kept his nephew from steadfastly meeting the vampire with his sword and shield, or swiftly taking him down. If the rogue Dádhes estimated even the youngest of the Guard escorting the queen would be an easy mark, they’d thought wrong.
Trusting his clanmates to watch his back, Samuel turned away from the battle. His gaze collided with Abby’s. The terror and despair he saw in her large, blue eyes had his priorities flipping. The loyalties of a lifetime called into question as every instinct screamed to protect her above all others. Above his monarch. Floored by his wolf’s visceral response, Samuel hesitated for a fraction of a second before regaining control and sprinting to the queen.
Rose’s lithe form moved with preternatural speed, narrowly dodging her attacker’s blade.
Samuel retracted his claws, grasped his leather-covered shield like a discus, and hurled it at the vampire’s head. Equal measures of disbelief and relief washed over him when the makeshift projectile completely missed its target—and the small blonde laying inexplicably in his arms. The vampire tossed Abby roughly aside and raised his sword.
Samuel vaulted the last yards and guillotined the Dádhe before he could strike at the unarmed queen again.
The severed head dropped with a sickening plop. A shrill scream rang out.
“Oh, do be quiet, Cindy,” Rose said, snatching the dead vamp’s katana off the floor, prepared to face another attack. But she was no longer in danger.
“Report,” Samuel barked over his shoulder, crouching next to the unconscious female on the floor and placing his fingertips on the pulse at Abby’s throat. He could easily hear her erratic heartbeat, but strangely couldn’t settle until he felt the additional proof of life beating against his skin.
He had been captivated by the petite beauty from the moment he walked into the store, his wolf enticed by her scent despite the stink of artificial jasmine drenching her skin. Samuel brushed-off the intense physical attraction and possessiveness wreaking havoc with his usually ironclad restraint, reasoning his dominant nature was innately drawn to the female’s shy sweetness. Abby’s vulnerability and underlying smell of fear would have triggered any Ferwyn male’s protective traits. That’s what he told himself anyway.
It was harder to explain why he’d held her soft hair in his fist earlier. Had been tempted to run his fingers through its length, depositing the pheromones from his skin onto the silky strands as if she belonged to him. Harder still to justify the uncharacteristic reaction to Tucker touching her—he’d wanted to break his fingers.
“Gone,” Tucker replied.
“You did the right thing.” Samuel reaffirmed his lieutenant’s decision not to chase after the remaining assassins. Reminded himself that the queen’s safety came first. “I want patrols on the island doubled and a cleanup crew here within twenty minutes. Tell Jenkins to get his ass down here ASAP to deal with the fallout we’ll get from the attack.”
“On it,” Noah said, walking away while punching numbers into his phone.
Samuel gently probed Abby’s skull. He discovered a small lump on the back of her head, but was more concerned with the blood staining both ears and leaving thin trails beneath her nose. Next, he ran his hands lightly over her limbs, finding no apparent breaks. After wiping away the blood above her lip with his thumb, he grabbed a discarded blouse from the floor, folded it into a loose ball, and eased it under her head.
“What do you smell, lieutenant?”
His beta’s nostrils flared as he breathed in the amplified odor of magic lingering in the air. “Wildflowers and rain.”
Every type of magic carried a distinctive smell. Witches emitted an undertone of pure vanilla, spicy and delicate like the pod. Different from the synthetic perfumes used in the commercial soaps and shampoos humans loved. Spellcasting would change the natural scent into the stronger aromas of anise or licorice. Nothing at all like Abby’s intoxicating scent.
“She must be a Na’fhuil,” the queen said with a trace of awed disbelief. She lowered her voice so only the Ferwyn could hear. “My nose is not as good as your kind, but I sensed there was something different about the girl. Her blood did not tempt me.”
“Abby isn’t one of your Feeders.” Samuel’s throat vibrated, a low growl emanating from deep inside his chest. “She isn’t prey.”
“No, I believe she is a descendant of a Sídhe Lord’s half-human offspring.”
“Or Lady’s,” Tucker said as quietly, gaze locked on Abby’s helpless form.
“It’s been a thousand years since the Fae left Earth’s realm and returned to Faery.” Noah’s expression bore his skepticism as he rejoined the group. “Halfbloods are supposed to be extinct.”
“It appears they are not. Although Na’fhuils are so rare that I have never encountered one in the four centuries since my Infusion, I can see no other explanation.” Rose glanced at the store manager huddled in the corner of the changing room. The woman was pale and shaking but had obeyed the order to remain silent.
“There was a rumor that the Swiss Guard had one of her kind protecting the pope about fifty years ago,” Samuel said without looking up, his interest caught on a strand of white hair mixed in with the rich honey color of Abby’s bangs.
“The head of Italy’s Dádhe House and the country’s Anwyll king both denied it. They have sworn repeatedly to me and the other eight US Nine that there has not been a Fae’s mixed-blood progeny with active magic in their territory in over two hundred years.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time our regions’ monarchs were lied to by their foreign counterparts.” He rubbed the bleached lock between his thumb and forefinger, certain it hadn’t been there earlier.
“Yes.” Rose frowned. “But if Abigail is a true Na’fhuil, why is she here?”
“Hiding?” Tucker suggested, yanking a set of curtains from a stall and handing him one.
Samuel used the material to cover a shivering Abby to the waist while his lieutenant threw the other haphazardly over the body of the beheaded vamp.
“Why would she hide?” Noah asked, the wound on his neck fully closed.
“Those with halfblood magic were…vigorously sought after for their unusual talents.” Rose halted her explanation, her face pinched with distaste. She wrinkled her nose, looked at the beta, and gestured imperiously to the vampire’s unattached head.
“Hunted,” Tucker said, dutifully adding the rest of the dead Dádhe to its body, rolling it underneath the cover with his boot.
“Yes. If the tales are to be believed, a Na’fhuil can stop time with their magic. If Abigail’s lineage were brought to light, you can be assured she would not have been allowed to walk away. Anyone with access to that kind of power would have an unparalleled advantage over a rival.”
The muscle in Samuel’s jaw jumped. He’d be angered by any Fae Touched being forced to use magic, but picturing Abby hunted and abused for her gift set his teeth grinding.
The queen cocked her head, listening. The Dádhe had extraordinary hearing. More acute than a Ferwyn’s and unequal to any spell an Anwyll could conjure for that purpose. “The police will be here shortly.”
Rose tidied her blood-splattered jacket and placed La Bella’s shoes on her feet, managing to look regal among the carnage. A calculated gleam entered her eyes. “I have decided Abigail is in grave danger. She requires our protection and will return with us to the island for her safety.”
Before Samuel could comment, Abby’s eyes popped open, her spine bowing in soundless agony. Her pupils were dilated, the blackness almost blotting out the crystalline blue of her irises.
Samuel laid his palm on her shoulder to hold her still.
She shrieked at his touch. The sound tormented.
“What the hell?” Noah fell to a knee beside him.
Abby’s scream cut off with a wrenching sob.
“Don’t,” Cindy called out weakly. She crawled to the edge of the dressing room and halted, noting the bloody, glass-strewn floor. “I think she might be having a seizure. Abby said she hadn’t had one in years, but I wasn’t to touch her if she did.”
“What else did she say?” Samuel’s tone was harsh, and the woman paled further. He didn’t give a shit. He’d never seen anyone experience this type of magical backlash.
Magic always evoked some level of pain upon initiation, like a witch’s spell when cast or a vampire’s incisors dropping to feed. But it was fleeting.
The act of shifting hurt like hell, but once the change was completed, the discomfort evaporated within seconds and allowed the smallest pups to cope with converting their forms.
“What else,” he grated out, enraged by her continued suffering.
Rose placed a gentle hand on his back and turned to Cindy. “Did she tell you anything else about her…seizures? Think, Cindy; it is extremely important.”
The older woman lifted her hand to push her hair out of her face and realized she still held her gun. She set the loaded pistol gingerly on the floor. “She carries medication in her purse.” Her voice shook. “It’s under the cash register.”
Tucker was on the move before she finished speaking. He found Abby’s bag and tossed it to Noah who passed it to the queen. Rose rummaged inside, found a clear plastic tube and handed it to Samuel.
“Shouldn’t we wait for the ambulance?” Cindy asked. The wailing sirens were getting closer, as was the potential conflict with human authorities.
“No.” He didn’t want Abby hurting longer than necessary, and any medical personnel would ask questions. Questions he didn’t have any intention of answering. He removed the four-inch auto-injector from its case, thumbed off the safety cap, and sniffed. “Fentanyl.”
“But that is…” Rose trailed off, dumbfounded.
“A hundred times stronger than morphine,” Samuel whispered, as stunned as his queen. How can magic…any magic…cause enough pain to require a dose of a dangerous drug like fentanyl?
Rose closed her eyes briefly before drawing up to her full height and visibly pulling herself together. “The officers are here. I will take care of them. Do what you need to do, commander.”
by Lisa Rae Roman
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