Blood Spelled, страница 1
Rogues Shifter Series Book 8
Copyright 2016, Gayle Parness
For my readers who wait so patiently. Thank you.
Table of Contents
About the Author
Connect to Gayle
Other Books by Gayle
Excerpt from Playing with Passion
I moved the curtains aside just enough to peek out the living room window at my son. Like yesterday morning and the morning before that, Charlie had settled in his favorite wicker chair on the front porch, his long legs stretched out and his feet perched on the railing. One of those fantasy novels he liked to read was closed and resting in his lap and Samson, his dog, was snoring on the wooden floor beside his chair. Charlie was staring ahead at the forest, lost in thought, and not for the first time I wished I could sneak into his mind and gently poke around to see how I could help him. The healer in me couldn’t turn away, especially when it came to my son.
Charlie was grieving. Grieving the loss of his “child,” as Fin called the Zerian clone Charlie had created. In his mind, he knew she hadn’t been real—had only been created to hide the real Zerian’s location—but Charlie had somehow instilled enough magic in the female to make her a complex creature, one who was capable of thinking outside Charlie’s desires.
When she’d died, she hadn’t disappeared like the other clones he’d created with his incredible magic. Charlie had held her in his arms when she’d taken her last breath and that moment still haunted his dreams. To honor her, King Finvarra had buried her body on a mountaintop in Faerie, the grave tended by demi-fey and guarded by a pair of dragons. But honors aside, my son was hurting.
Not that he spent his days moping around since he’d gotten home. He’d been visiting all his buds and playing nighttime soccer with Sash, Rick, Garrett and whoever else wanted to kick a ball around with a bunch of crazy supes. Elle, Sash’s girl, and I usually hung on the sidelines eating pretzels or popcorn and drinking honey wine, cheering on our respective guys. The longer the game went on, the louder our cheers got, a result of the very high alcohol content of the beverage, but also the fact that the games were always exciting.
Since Charlie refrained from using his magic, Rick and Sash were pretty much unbeatable, so the two vamps would split up to make it more evenly matched. Garrett was by far the weakest player, but he probably had more fun than all of them combined.
It was still pretty early, much earlier than he usually dragged his butt out of bed when he was home, and his glazed over expression clued me in to the fact he hadn’t slept well. There’d been no evidence in the kitchen that he’d had breakfast or even coffee, which was something concrete I could fix.
Charlie sighed and shifted in his chair, finally giving me hope he might stir, although it would take a lot to brighten his mood. He seemed to save up his melancholy moments for the rare times he was alone. Charlie really needed to talk to someone he trusted, and gee, guess who happened to be available for a heart to heart?
“Good morning, honey. Eggs, pancakes or waffles?” I asked from the doorway, keeping my tone gentle.
“Not hungry, but thanks.” He hadn’t even turned around. And good morning to you too, Mom. Moms can dream, right?
He didn’t understand that not having breakfast wasn’t one of the choices. “As long as you’re here you’re eating, so pick.”
This time he looked up, bestowing a wary glance in my direction. “You don’t know how to make waffles.”
“I’ll have you know I begged on street corners for the last month so I could save up my pennies to purchase a waffle maker.”
“Really? Took you a whole month?”
“Fingerless gloves and all.”
“Uh huh. But once you got the machine home, could you figure it out or did you need Dad to explain it?”
My hands moved to my hips. I was always getting razzed about my cooking abilities. “If I can make pancake batter, I can make waffles.”
“Can you? Make pancake batter?”
“You’ve eaten my pancakes and lived to tell the tale.”
He laughed, but his expression turned serious again in only a heartbeat. Way too fast. “I’m not really hungry.”
“Pfft. When are you not hungry? How are you going to beat Sash in the rematch game if you don’t get your carbs?”
“I figured I’d go home this afternoon.” Realizing what he’d said and who he’d said it to, he checked my face for any sign of irritation or sadness. I’d become a master at keeping my expression neutral around him, because wearing my heart on my sleeve made him feel guilty, which wasn’t my intention. It usually shut off all communication, and then we were back to square one. “I mean I’m going back to LA.”
“You’ve made a home for yourself in LA. I get it. No problem.”
“Good try.” He knew I wanted him home, in our home, where I could be sure he was safe. We weren’t like a normal family where kids went off to college and Moms waved goodbye knowing their sons and daughters would not be hunted down and killed by vicious supernatural creatures. No, Charlie had an enormous target on his forehead and his back, and a day didn’t pass that I didn’t worry about him.
I smiled to shake off my dark thoughts. “Busted, huh? I love you and miss you sweetie, I’m not going to lie, but I won’t butt into your life. I get that you’re all busy saving Faerie, protecting teenaged witches and sorcerers from dark magic users, journeying to other realms to form alliances with the Goblin King and the King of the Kelpies. You know, just doing those normal things most young adults do. Nothing to worry about at all.”
The corners of his mouth curled up. “You’re good, Ma.”
“Would you like blueberries in your waffles?”
“You have whipped cream?”
“Yep.” I stretched out my hand and he took it, unfolding his long body from the chair in the graceful way of most supernatural creatures.
He gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek. “Morning, Mom.”
“Did you feed the doofus?”
“Yeah. Where’s Hercules?”
“Still sleeping. That lazykins doesn’t understand that the sun coming up has anything to do with increased activity.”
“Samson wore him out last night. He has to run three times as hard to keep up.”
“Problem is, he doesn’t know when it’s time to go to sleep. He reminds me of you when you were little.”
“You been having trouble sleeping, sweetie?”
“Not really.” I arched an eyebrow. I knew when he wasn’t being honest and he knew I knew. He held up his hands in surrender. “Okay. Yeah. I have dreams.”
“Keep me company in
We switched locations and as I pulled the batter I’d made last night out of the fridge, he began to talk. “It’s always the same. I’m hanging with Zerian and a bunch of other people, only a tornado is coming. No one seems to be frightened even though we’re in some kind of an enclosed porch with lots of large glass windows. I keep screaming at them to move to the basement, but they don’t listen. Even Zerian. They keep gabbing away and laughing. No one is looking out the window, and the storm is so close now. The glass begins to crack, then slivers are flying toward us. I’m able to protect Zerian and myself, but the other people are in the line of fire. They’re sliced up, bleeding all over. But they’re still smiling as if it didn’t hurt. More and more of them are injured and I can’t do anything about it. I usually wake up when the guy next to me is beheaded by a huge slab of glass.”
“What do you think it means?”
“The war’s coming and no one is preparing. They don’t see the danger. If I don’t do something…” He hesitated. “They’ll die.”
“Remember, this is a dream, not a prophecy. Dreams are usually our wishes or our fears. This is scary, so I’m guessing it’s the latter.”
“How do I make them see the truth? Fin is busy taking care of Faerie, making it into the world he’d left behind, ensuring the safety and health of all his people. I’m not saying that isn’t important work, but wouldn’t it make sense to put in some time with the kelpies again? It’s been centuries since they’ve worked together. Or send out some spies to gather info? Or have Aedus, Kaera and Brina help with training the troops? Or…”
“Have you spoken to Fin about any of this?”
“No. It would mean going back. He won’t come here. He’s too busy.”
“Why do you prefer not going back?”
“You know why.”
“You didn’t kill her.”
“I did. I made her too real. I added too much—I don’t know—too much something to the magic. Maybe too much heart. I connected to her, more than even the real Zerian. It was so weird.”
“Fin told me what she said at the end. She was proud to have helped restore Faerie.”
“You don’t get it, Mom. You’ve never—”
“I killed my sister. My twin. I chose to kill her. It wasn’t an accident. I get it.”
“Will killed her.”
“I put her in the ring and hurt her badly enough for Will to strike the final blow. I was responsible.”
“Aunt Bridgett wanted to kill me. You were protecting your child.”
“And when you created Zerian, you were protecting Fin and Brina and Farrell and Linn and—”
“I created her to hide the fact that the real Zerian was here.”
“To form an alliance with the Goblin King so the citizens of Faerie won’t be wiped out by Naberia when the war begins.”
“Okay, I get it. I do. It’s just… When does it stop hurting?”
“I don’t know. Maybe never.”
“You’re out of whack. Unbalanced, as Liam would say.”
“And how the hell do I re-up my whack?”
He was being snarky, which was okay. I’d rather argue than watch him staring off into space like some zombie. “My advice? Go back to Faerie and make her death mean something. Get those overly tranquil elders thinking about a war council. Talk over your ideas with Aedus and Caelen and Fin and anyone else in charge these days. They’ll listen. Especially now that they see you’re dedicated to keeping Faerie healthy.”
“I don’t know…”
“Go forth and ruffle some tunics.”
And the wall between us came tumbling down. Charlie bent back his head and laughed so loudly I had to join in. When we’d calmed down enough to speak again, he said, “You make it all sound possible.”
I plunked the plate of four blueberry waffles down in front of him, then slid the bowl of fresh whipped cream closer. “I have learned that almost anything is possible in our world. Now please eat.”
We shared a few minutes of silence over our breakfast, at least until Samson came racing in with Hercules nipping at his heels. Samson flew around the table twice, with Hercules ducking under and cutting across, the smart ass. Samson ended up hiding behind Charlie’s chair, growling softly when he wasn’t whimpering. “Wow. I’ve never seen you back down to anyone—dog, human or supe. What’s up, boy?”
“Herc, heel!” My newest companion was in territorial mode, common for corgis. “He doesn’t get that this was Samson’s territory first. He’s trying to protect me.”
“Couldn’t he do that a little more quietly?” Garrett was up and looking delicious enough to eat, although maybe I shouldn’t have those thoughts with my kid in the room. I glanced in Charlie’s direction, but he was smiling at his dad and not paying any attention to my thoughts. Too late anyway.
Privacy had an entirely different meaning in our house.
Garrett poured himself coffee. “Waffles? You made waffles? Isn’t this the first time you’re using that contraption?”
“Oh, is it?” I did my best to look innocent.
“Hey, for using it for the first time, she did good.” Charlie leaned closer to his dad. “Nothing got burned and the house is still standing.”
“You two think you’re so funny. My cooking has improved over the years.”
Charlie slid his gaze to Garrett. “Don’t ask me. I don’t eat food.” He moved closer to me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders, kissing the top of my head. “I can only say with certainty; her blood is more delicious each time I—”
Garrett chuckled. “Sorry.” He sat beside me at the table and across from Charlie. “Are you ready for the rematch? Sash and I are practicing later.”
“You two shrimps are never going to beat us again,” Charlie said. Garrett was 6’ and Sasha was 6’2”, however Rick and Charlie were over 6’7”. It gave the two younger members of the team a slight advantage, although Sasha and Garrett had great speed, even without using their natural vampire quickness.
The stark truth? If the two teams were allowed to use their magic, the game would be a rout. Charlie’s team would win every time.
When I looked at him, I automatically read the power signature of his magic, amazed by how it seemed to gain in strength from day to day. It held the crystalline focus of a fae lord, the passion and strength of demon, and the calm compassion of a healer. He was learning to meld the three Magicks together, creating something unique and untested. I was awed by his power but also worried as hell. What had happened with Zerian’s clone was an example of what he could do, and it had brought him emotionally lower than I’d ever seen him fall. Usually he’d get angry, like me, turning that anger into positive action, but not in this case. Not yet. That’s why I was pushing him into Fin’s hands.
Isaiah could take Charlie’s anger and work magic, but Isaiah was not who my son needed now.
I wished with all my heart Charlie would allow me to share my healing energy with him. He’d been pushing me away because he didn’t think he deserved to heal, which I understood, but disagreed with intensely. Charlie was young, and still equated healing a loss with forgetting. But that wasn’t the case at all. Through the help of friends and family the traumas I’d suffered and the pain and guilt I’d felt because of the deaths I’d caused, no longer affected the choices I made moving forward. But I would never forget.
I was his mom and would always want him to feel proud of who he was and who he was becoming, but the first step was to find a way toward forgiveness.
Maybe Garrett could help.
Charlie spoke to Jay on the phone for over an hour after the game. Their friendship was back on track again and now that Farrell was stopping by to help, Jay and Ivy were handling the LA operation just fine. There’d been no sign of Zerian—the real one—but Charlie seemed okay with that. The next call he
He came to me twenty minutes later with his duffle bag packed and Samson by his side. “You taking off?” I asked, keeping my voice steady.
“Fin’s willing to listen to my ideas.”
“I think it’s where you have to be right now.”
Something glowed in his eyes, a confidence that hadn’t been evident that same morning. In a sudden move he crushed me against him, my very tall son practically smothering me with his tight hug. I loved every second of it. When he pulled away he held my shoulders and drew me in with his violet gaze.
“What is it?”
He seemed to change what he was going to say. “Um…take care of Dad.”
“I always do.”
“And take care of yourself.” There it was.
“I will. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“But we do. All the time.”
“Me and Dad. You’re a prime target and you don’t see it.”
“But not dead.”
“You know this for sure?”
“No, but I’ve been snooping around and that’s the word on the pathways. Some think he was sent to Tir Na NOg to hang with Aine and Fionna. Others think Fin changed him and is keeping a close eye on him. I’m guessing door number two.”
“Changed him in what way?”
“Stripped him of power—maybe changed his appearance. I’m not sure.”
“Fin can do that? Take away all of someone’s magic?”
“Fin, Naberia and Khent are ancients. I think they may be older than the planet. Or at the least the rulers they replaced were.”
“Naberia feels ancient. Icy cold. Fin doesn’t.
“She’d love to get her hands on you. She’d use you against me.”
I pushed away from him. “Don’t you ever sacrifice winning the war for me. I’ll survive, no matter what.” I gave him a nudge and he took two steps back. “You go off and do what you have to do to save the world.”
His smile warmed my heart. “Dad said you’d say exactly that.”