A/N: Thank you for continuing to read and a special thanks to those of you who commented! It really means a lot to me that you took the time to leave kind words. This chapter is the longest yet so I hope you like it. For your reference, Cliodna is pronounced KLEE-nah.
The characters this FanFic is based upon are owned by the magnificent Karen Marie Moning. My use is strictly for non-commercial purposes and is in no way intended to affect the value of her series.
I sprang into defense mode, my hand instinctively reaching for my spear, drawing it. I looked to my hand, surprised to actually see the spear in it. In other encounters I'd had with Fae, both Seelie and Unseelie, my spear had been taken. Not taken—I had been fed the illusion that it was taken. Whoever this was before me must have lacked the power to pull that little trick.
"Do not be foolish, sidhe-seer. If I so desired, I would not only relinquish you of possession, but leave you lifeless at my feet."
The disembodied voice echoed the warning all around me. Even though the words were threatening, the tone was melodious and soothing.
"Fear not," the voice continued. "Such trifles would frustrate my purposes for summoning you. Accept my gesture as a token of trust." I reined in my aggressive instincts—as much as I could—and sheathed my spear.
My hostility was replaced by annoyance. This was getting to be ridiculous. I don't like to be in situations that leave me vulnerable. It's borderline claustrophobic. I feel closed in and I get edgy, looking for an escape. And the Fae seem to have no regard for how sifting someone without permission to an unfamiliar place can be discombobulating. Case in point, how many times have I been dragged off to alternate realms now, royally screwing up my day? Actually, they probably know exactly what they're doing. This had better be good.
I took in my surroundings and hissed out a breath. It was unbelievable. The scene before me was too beautiful. It was almost painful to look at. I'd seen the Faery Court in Barron's mind and I'd spent plenty of time at the White Mansion, but I was completely unprepared for this onslaught of visual stimuli.
If I had to describe it, it would be somewhere between Alice's Wonderland and James Hilton's Shangri-La. It was vast and alluring, but the proportions were all wrong. The flowers were too vibrant. The landscape was too lustrous. Everything was too detailed and too intricate to please the eye. It was exquisite. It was tantalizing. It was life. It was eternity.
I was overwhelmed.
"Who are you?" I asked, circling slowly, searching for a body to claim the voice still resonating around me.
"The question, sidhe-seer, is who are you?"
With that, she appeared before me, the embodiment of divinity. Her oval face featured perfectly formed pink lips and perfectly pronounced cheek bones. Her perfectly arched eyebrows sat above perfectly symmetrical almond-shaped, iridescent eyes. Long locks of perfectly wavy strawberry-blonde hair fell down her petite form and rested well below her waist. Or maybe her hair was golden? No, it was red. It kept changing under the strange sunlight.
No movie star or super model could ever compare. Mankind would forever worship her existence. Make sacrifices in her honor. Fight wars in her name.
I'd had little experience with the female version of Seelie, and zero one-on-one time. I'd failed to consider that the death-by-sex power they hold over humans would not be gender specific. If I hadn't been immune, I'm pretty sure I would have offered myself up to her like I had once done for V'lane/Cruce. It wouldn't have mattered that, given the choice, I prefer men. The kind of pull the Fae have strips you of your will and leaves you with your soul bared
Luckily for me (if you could call it lucky) that part of my soul had been excised when the Unseelie Princes raped me, leaving me Pri-ya. After Barrons brought me back, even at full power, I can resist that sexual allure the Fae produce. I'm almost positive I'm the only human with this ability. That didn't stop her from trying.
"Interesting," she said, her head tilting almost imperceptibly. "I have heard tell of your experiences, but I've never seen one such as you. It was foretold that you would come to be, but so often events do not develop as they should."
I was curious about her remark –and mildly insulted by it. I tried to be patient and wait for her to offer more. One thing I've learned about the Seelie is that they tell you only what they wish you to know. Asking additional questions is rarely effective-at least not right off the bat.
Of course, my patience has its limits. She may have all eternity to stand around, staring me up and down, but if I was in Faery, time in the real world would be moving rapidly without me. "Are you one of the lost princesses?" I blurted out. I couldn't help it, I was getting anxious.
She offered me a small smile. It didn't seem natural on her flawless face.
"What do you know of the lost princesses, sidhe-seer?"
Trick question. She wanted to know how much I had learned about Fae history. V'lane/Cruce had warned me about revealing all that he had told me. He may have turned out to be a traitor, but that seemed like sound advice and I would heed it for now. "I know they disappeared shortly after the Queen did. No one knows if they're dead or hidden away." That seemed like a fair statement. I'm pretty sure that was common knowledge.
"Indeed," she said. Her facial features remained impassive, but I detected amusement in her eyes. "Shall we – how would you say it? Ah, yes. Let us 'take a stroll,' sidhe-seer." All arrogance, she turned and began walking—more like gliding—presuming I would follow her. Not that I had a choice. I followed.
"My name is Mac. MacKayla," I offered.
"Of course," she said without turning around. I hurried to catch up to her, trying not to trip over my skirts. Our path led over lush, rolling fields of grass that felt as springy as a trampoline on my bare feet. I could probably jump higher than natural here too. The sun was warm and comforting, emitting a rich, sparkling glow. Even the blooms on the flowers and the trees seemed to glow. When we reached the top of a hill, she paused.
I stopped too, a few steps behind her. She stood with her back to me and beyond her I could see the expanse of a magnificent valley with rippling creeks and shady trees. Creatures I had never seen before drank from the brooks and sunbathed on rocks near the water. The trees held fruit that looked so appetizing, it reminded me of Eve and her temptation. I would not be Eve.
After several moments, she finally spoke. "I am called Cliodna." Her voice was soft and silvery. Her back remained to me so I moved to stand beside her. She continued to look out into the valley. "Tell me, MacKayla, do you know of the human lore?"
I looked at her curiously. "You'll have to be more specific. There's a lot of 'lore.' "
She turned her head and gave me another small smile, as if indulging a child. "Relatively speaking. I refer to the mythologies of your Greeks and Romans."
I hadn't expected that. I'd read the Iliad and the Odyssey in high school, maybe even again in college, but I had no idea why she would ask me about that now. "Some," I replied honestly.
She turned back to face the valley. A large, multicolored bird with two long, feathered tails soared by. It sang a hauntingly beautiful aria that gave me goose bumps before disappearing over the horizon.
"The Greeks worshipped the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, the Romans adopted many of the Greek myths as their own. They told of the gifts given by the gods and the theatrics between them, of the meddling in human lives. Naturally, much of it has been misconstrued. But much is quite accurate. Even prophetic."
I raised an eyebrow. Where was this going?
"Has it occurred to you the similarities between their legends and these times?" No. It hadn't.
"Have you considered what role you might play?" Again I didn't answer. I'm still not clear where I fit in with things Fae, I haven't had the time or forethought to consider the Greeks and Romans.
"What role do you play?" I asked. She turned to face me, this time the amusement was clear in her eyes.
"You are indeed unique, MacKayla. And you are changing, in many ways. I sense the life inside you. I find it…curious." I instinctively moved my hands to cover my stomach. I didn't like her sensing anything about the life inside me. As far as I was concerned, she could keep her Fae nose out of my business.
"You became a matter of Fae concern some time ago," she declared. I scowled. I knew I hadn't spoken aloud; I needed to be more careful about wearing my emotions on my face.
"There is one who protects you, more so than all others," she began and I stiffened. If she was talking about Barrons, did she know about the princess he killed? Was that was this was about? Would she seek revenge through me? Through our baby?
"The efforts are misguided. You are only just beginning to become what you are. We will meet again, MacKayla."
It sounded more like a threat than a promise, but I could never tell with Seelie. Before I could begin firing off all the questions I had, I was back in the book store.
I tried to wrap my head around all that had transpired. It would probably take some serious mulling over to unravel the cryptic message Cliodna had delivered. Apparently it wasn't in a Seelie's nature to be specific.
Once my eyes adjusted to the dim indoor lighting, they nearly bugged out of my head. I must have been gone longer than I thought because my book store had been completely trashed. Magazines and newspapers ripped to shreds. Hundreds of books torn from their bindings. It would take me forever to clean this up!
And how exactly was I supposed to replace all the things that had been ruined? It wasn't as if Random House was still printing new editions, and I hadn't seen a new copy of the Courier Herald or the Irish Times since the walls fell. The only new materials being printed were survival tips and strategies and I'm pretty sure Dani was the main publisher of those rags.
I let out a huge sigh of defeat and the next thing I knew, my back was against the wall. The transition was so gentle, I barely registered moving.
Barrons was before me, his eyes full of a mixture of rage and relief. His hands were at my waist, gripping the opalescent material of my Faery gown I still wore. I could hear the rattling in his chest as he battled for control over his inner beast. There was a flash of crimson in his eyes.
"Who took you? Where?" he snapped. So much for a "Welcome home, Mac..."
"She said her name was Cliodna. I'm pretty sure we were in Faery. How long was I gone?" Instead of answering, he held my arm out, turning it this way and that, looking over it thoroughly. He repeated with my other arm. He then lifted both arms above my head, holding my wrists and locking me in place with one hand while he examined my sides and underarms and…less exposed places.
Without warning, I was turned around with my face flat against the wall, my arms still raised above my head. His long fingers were gentle as he brushed tendrils of my hair away to search my scalp. He tenderly moved across my back. I was surprised to discover my gown was backless has he quickly brushed fingertips down my spine.
"What are you looking for?"
"Making sure you aren't marked. Fucking Fae are wising up about tracking and spelling. Easier than sifting around searching for someone."
A chill ran over me as he continued his assault. My back was once again against the wall and he knelt on the ground before me. He gingerly took my right foot in one of his strong hands while lifting my skirts up with the other. Extending my leg, he searched over it as he had done my arms. I had to rest my hands on his shoulders to keep from losing my balance. He switched hands to examine my left leg.
Apparently satisfied, he set my foot down and dropped the material of my dress so the layers fell back into place around my ankles and feet.
Standing up to his full height, he towered above me, emanating raw power. My hands still rested on his shoulders, which were now above my head.
His hands moved back to my waist as he dropped his forehead to mine. Gone was the anger in his eyes. He let out a long, shuddering breath. When I thought he might say something, he dropped his head forward, into the hollow where my shoulder met my neck.
"4 weeks. You've been gone for a bloody month," he murmured into my neck. No wonder my bookstore was in shambles.
"Really? It didn't even feel like an hour. I got a whole afternoon for a month last time. Exchange rate must not be as good as it used to be," I joked. I don't know why I was joking about it; he clearly wasn't in a laughing mood.
"I had no idea where you were. I couldn't find you." My heart lurched at the strain in his voice.
He took several deep breaths, as if inhaling my scent. I didn't want to ruin the moment by speaking. Or moving. I waited for him to come back to me.
The air around us changed suddenly and his hands tightened on my waste. I could sense emotion boiling inside him, electric beneath his skin.
"I need to be inside you," he growled in my ear. Lust took my knees out from under me. He swooped underneath them and scooped me into his arms. I circled mine around his neck.
He held me high, looking to me, as if giving me one last chance to object. Desire burned clearly in his eyes. I responded with a look of my own, giving him the answer he wanted to hear.
In a flash he was laying me out on our bed. For me, we had just been here this morning. For him, it had been weeks.
I reached out to touch him, but he circled my wrists with his fingers and held them over my head. I started to protest but he covered my lips with his own. A small moan escaped me into his mouth. His free hand was at my thigh, inching the filmy material up and up so that it bunched around my hips. His lips traveled down my jaw and neck.
He pulled back, holding himself above me. "Bloody fairies," he mumbled, taking a hard look at the sheer material covering my breasts. "At least they get some things right." He lifted my skirts up over my head and off, completely exposing me to him. Body and soul.
His eyes roamed my body hungrily. The look he gave me was so arousing that my hips arched up in invitation. He accepted.
I was ready for him when he entered me, but I cried out when he filled me completely with one stroke.
"Fuck," he groaned, holding us both still. My thoughts exactly. It seemed like ages before he began moving. Once he did, our pace became a rough and frantic rhythm.
I raised my knee and pushed my foot on the bed so we rolled over, putting me on top. I like being on top—from here I can watch his face as we make love. I can see the emotion he so often conceals outside this room.
I braced my hands on his muscled chest and began riding him. I slid up and down his body. Teasing him, teasing myself. I felt my release coming so I increased my movements. My back arched and my head fell back. I reached behind me to support myself by placing my hands on his thighs. "Jericho," I moaned his name as I climaxed. Actually, I screamed it.
His hands gripped my hips, taking control and moving me over him, faster and faster. I would bruise, but I didn't care. "God—Mac!" he roared as he came. With his final thrust, his hips arched up off the bed, lifting me up in the air, impaling me on him and drawing another orgasm from me. I watched ecstasy claim his features, his eyes closed, lips parted. He came down and I collapsed on top of him.
His thumbs continued to stroke my sides as we came back to Earth. Gently caressing my back, then moving across my abdomen. I realized it at the same time he did.
Still inside me, he sat up abruptly. We both looked down to my stomach. It didn't make sense.
When I showered this morning, I had been flat as a pancake. I reached down and put my hand over my lower belly. It was firm, almost hard. The unmistakable beginnings of a baby bump.
I looked back up to Barrons, wondering if he knew how this could be. He stared at the place where my hand rested, his face white. When he looked up and his black eyes met mine, I saw something I had never seen in them before.