A cursed fae prince. A lonely human lass. A magical bond that can’t be broken…
All Aislinn Morgan wants is to live a peaceful life with her sister in the beautiful highlands of Scotland. When a hike on the Isle of Skye goes horribly awry and the sisters are taken to the mythical land of the fae, Aislinn will do anything to protect the only family she has left.
Even bargain with a beastly fae prince.
But the powerful Kieran O’Bairr is no ordinary fae.
He’s dark, dangerous, and devastatingly handsome—and he claims Aislinn is his fated mate.
As the magic of their bond brings them closer together, Aislinn wonders if she can heal his cursed heart… or if his haunting darkness will consume them all.
Fae Prince Kieran O’Bairr has spent the last one hundred years in a self-imposed exile for a crime that haunts his every waking moment. The isolation has only hardened his cursed heart and an unexpected burden cripples his once unmatched power.
The breathtaking Aislinn Morgan is a complication he doesn’t want.
But his longing for the golden-haired lass is undeniable, her kissable lips a temptation he can’t resist.
Aislinn is his fated mate.
And one desperate, stolen kiss will be his undoing.
Step into the mythical land of the Celtic Fae, where romance meets mythology in a breathtaking tale of love and adventure. Fate Calling is the first book in this clean romantic fantasy series. It’s packed with magic, enemies-to-lovers and slow-burn soulmate romance!
SNEAK PEEK AT FATE CALLING
Kieran had known the lass would be his undoing.
He sank to his knees, too weak to even stand. He had once fought hundreds of blood-sucking baobhan siths single-handedly, yet this one enemy had tested the limits of his power.
Through the copse of spindly birch trees, Kieran met the arrogant crimson eyes of his enemy. The pale-gray skin shone silver in the veiled sunlight, contrasting with the striking black veins—a sign of the dreaded curse upon his kind.
Kieran wiped the sweat from his brow with a bloodied hand and watched his enemy approach. He didn’t have much time. His energy was fading, his life dwindling. In his final moments before certain death, Kieran thought of… her.
Golden hair the color of the sun.
Kissable, rosebud lips he was unable to resist.
The warm brown eyes that had sealed his fate with a single look.
She was a complication he’d never wanted.
And he would protect her with his dying breath.
* * *
ONE: A Land of Myth
Once upon a time… my life was torn asunder. Brutally shattered. Obliterated by unthinkable loss.
It had happened not far from where we were hiking, just beyond the mountains looming in the distance. It had been six years since that fateful night. I never expected to return here—not after what had happened.
But it seemed fate had other ideas.
Covering my eyes with one hand, I peeked up at the gloomy afternoon sky. Rain had been drizzling down all morning, and the approaching mist crept slowly across the moor in eerie and ominous curls.
Iconic Scotland—a land of myth and mystery.
Its folklore dated back thousands of years and was often interwoven with elements of magic and romance—the kind fanciful little girls read about in fairytales. When I was a child, one of my favorite legends had been about a human falling in love with an immortal faerie. It was about a love that was true and everlasting. A love that transcended all reason.
But true love didn’t exist.
And not everyone lived happily-ever-after.
I paused in the road and looked up the steep, gravel hiking trail. Dull rays peeked intermittently through the clouds, shining light over a handful of tourists.
We were on the Isle of Skye, standing at the foot of the Black Cuillin Mountains near a popular tourist attraction known as the Fairy Pools. It was a series of beautiful, small waterfalls and pools of crystal-clear blue, accessible only by foot.
It was a place right out of Scottish myth.
It was magical.
It was a place where the locals believed faeries could pass through a veil between worlds.
Drawing in a deep breath, I followed my sister on what I was certain would be an ill-fated journey through the Scottish highlands. My already dark mood deepened with every step.
It took twenty minutes to reach the first and largest of the waterfalls. Its deep pool was a vivid turquoise, the water so clear I could see the moss-covered stones littering the bottom. It was breathtaking and utterly magical with the mist drawing ever closer.
But these pristine, natural pools weren’t the reason we were here. We were searching for a pool of near supernatural beauty, hidden within the mountain where tourists rarely ventured.
A pool the locals referred to as Tir na Nog.
“Watch your step, Cat,” I warned as the pathway veered to the left, rising upward with natural rock steps. The ground was slick from the slight rainfall—an accident waiting to happen.
Catriona joined me at the top of the steps and nudged my arm with her elbow. “Don’t be such a worry wort. I can climb stairs without falling.” She tossed her straight, brown hair over her shoulder as she gave me a sidelong glance. “And would it kill you to smile, at least a little?”
I crossed my arms and offered the ghost of a smile.
“Oh, come on! You can do better than that.” Catriona poked at my ribs, searching for my ticklish spot. “Give your favorite little sister a smile. Come on, you can do it.”
I pushed her hands away and rolled my eyes. “You’re my only sister,” I pointed out. “Of course you’re my favorite.” Ignoring the sweet, pleading smile Catriona aimed at me, I resumed my defensive stance. “I’m here because you asked me to come with you—but I can’t pretend I’m happy about it.” Not after what had happened the last time. Inching to the right, I peered warily over the cliff’s edge. “I have a bad feeling about this, Katy-Cat.”
My sister’s playful smile dimmed. She patted my arm and briefly squeezed my shoulder before climbing the next set of steps. “Don’t worry, Ash. Everything will be—” Her words broke off with a startled cry as her foot slipped out from under her. She teetered backward, her sunshine-yellow Wellies skidding uselessly over the wet rock.
“Catriona!” I cried out, lunging for her. But I was several steps below, and her grasping fingers only managed to slip through my rain-slicked hands. Horror filled my chest as she flailed precariously on the edge of the cliff.
A hand suddenly latched onto Catriona’s arm. “Easy there, lass. I’ve got ye,” said an elderly man in a lightweight rain jacket, swiftly pulling her to safety. He had a thick Scottish brogue and a friendly smile that was barely visible behind his aged-red beard.
I reached them seconds later and grabbed hold of Catriona with shaking hands. “Oh, Cat! Thank goodness.” I squeezed her in a fierce hug, my heart hammering against my ribs. That fall would have killed her if she wasn’t lucky enough to land in the crystal pool below—and I seriously didn’t believe in luck, or fate.
Not after what had happened to us.
Catriona buried her face against my shoulder and rubbed my back. “I’m okay, Ash. I’m okay.” Her voice was gentle—understanding. She knew what another loss would do to me. “I’m sorry for scaring you.”
“I know, I know. Just… try to be more careful.” I briskly kissed her forehead and forced my hands to unleash their death grip without giving in to the urge to shake some sense into her. My little sister was curious—and often fearless. She charged into every situation without hesitation, without forethought. Her bravery frightened me.
I turned toward the elderly man and the woman standing beside him. “Thank you for helping my sister,” I said, clasping his hand and shaking it vigorously.
He touched the brim of his flat cap. “My pleasure, lass. Are ye hiking to Tir na Nog?” he guessed, nodding at the backpacking bags slung over our shoulders. “It’s another twelve kilometers beyond the final pool. Take care when you find it. It’s Beltane, ye ken, and folks often disappear around the Fairy Pools on Beltane—when the faeries pass through from the Otherworld.” His eyes twinkled as he gave us an exaggerated wink.
He wasn’t the first local to have warned us about Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival celebrated on the first of May. Beltane marked the beginning of summer. In Scotland, it was a day of celebration.
A day for the supernatural—when the portal to the Otherworld opened, allowing all manner of mischievous faeries to pass into our world.
It was a day when people often went missing.
“Och, don’t scare them,” chided the woman standing hand-in-hand with him. Her white hair was twisted up into a bun, but tiny wisps had pulled free to tickle the skin around her flushed cheeks. She swatted the man’s arm and leaned toward us with a kind smile. “Where are you dears from? You sound American.”
“We’re from Alaska,” Catriona answered. “But we just moved here, actually.”
The woman’s eyes widened. “Did ye, now? That’s exciting! Have you moved here to the Isle of Skye?”
“Portree,” Catriona clarified. It was the largest town on the isle, but remote enough to give us the peace and serenity we came to Scotland in search of.
“That’s a bonnie town, right on the harbor,” said the woman. “Did ye ken it’s the capital?”
My eyes strayed to the mountains beyond as I tuned out the rest of their conversation. I was ready to get this over with—and allow the memories we unearthed to remain buried where they belonged.
“Well, we should get going,” Catriona said, laying her hand on my shoulder. We thanked the couple again and continued on our way.
After hiking past several more pools and mini waterfalls, we came to the end of the main hiking trail. A weather-beaten wooden sign was posted, urging travelers to proceed at their own risk.
Hesitating, I glanced briefly over my shoulder at the people dispersing through the distant parking lot. A moment of indecision held me rooted in place. It wasn’t too late to change our minds.
There was still time to turn back.
To avoid the haunted memories.
I was just about to ask Catriona to reconsider the hike when she stopped suddenly and whispered, “We’re close.” Our shoulders brushed as I drew even; she was trembling.
“Are you sure you want to go through with this? It’s not too late to turn back—”
“No,” Catriona said, adjusting her pack with a determined set to her shoulders. “I need to do this.”
She set off again, leaving me to follow. As much as I didn’t want to be here, I couldn’t allow her to do this alone. I was the big sister. I was the one who needed to protect her—especially now that we were orphans. Trudging after her, I stared at the mountain looming before us.
From here, the land spread out in a layer of peat moor. Raindrops glistened upon batches of gently-waving green grasses and mud splattered the dirt trail. The hike lasted another four hours and took us deep into a mountain crevice that was well away from the other tourists.
Just before sunset, we found it.
Tir na Nog.
“There it is,” Catriona whispered. “It’s… it’s…” She shook her head, at a loss for words. I stared in equal awe.
Although six years had passed, Tir na Nog looked exactly as I remembered.
Spanning over twenty feet, it was a glistening pool encased in rough rock and fed by the small waterfall embedded within the mountainside. Torrents of water rushed and whirled in a thunderous cascade. We scooted around the edge toward a tiny clearing beside the waterfall, left our bags in a pile, and sat down beside the water’s edge.
As I drew closer to it, I could swear I felt a pulse emanating from the water. It seemed to throb in my very bones.
It called to me.
“Can you believe it’s been over six years?” Catriona asked, leaning forward and swirling her index finger through the crystal-blue water. “Daddy loved it here; he always said it was one of his favorite places in all of Scotland.”
“I remember,” I murmured, staring out over Tir na Nog.
In the last glimmer of daylight, the water was a vibrant blue-green, brighter than a typical shade of turquoise. It was unlike any color I’d ever seen before. The various plants ringing the rock edges were thriving in glorious hues of green. They swayed around each other, moving in and out, almost like a dance.
I could understand why our father had loved Tir na Nog. It was beautiful and magical. And whenever I was here, I always seemed to feel a strangely deep connection to the land.
Like I belonged here.
Like it was calling me home.
I shook the silly feelings away and swirled my fingers through the water, admiring the ripples it created. I’d always loved Scotland and being here—despite the tragic memories—reminded me of how much I’d missed it. How much the land called to me. It thrummed through my blood with a supernatural energy.
It was the land of my ancestors.
A gentle sniff made me glance at Catriona, and when I saw the single tear sliding down her cheek, I wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close for a hug.
“Oh, Katy-Cat,” I whispered, fighting back my own set of tears.
She leaned her head against my shoulder and sniffled again. “I miss them… every single day.”
I pressed my cheek to the top of her head. “I do, too.”
“Really?” She looked up at me with fresh tears brimming in her light-brown eyes. “Because you never show it.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t feel it,” I whispered.
“But it makes me feel like I’m all alone in this. You didn’t even cry at Mum’s funeral.”
That wasn’t true—I’d just cried where no one could see me. And I’d cried in my room every night since her diagnosis, while drowning out the tell-tale sounds with music.
“I wish you’d confide in me more,” Catriona continued, oblivious to my inner turmoil. “You never share what you really feel, you just keep it all bottled up inside—”
“What good will it do to let it out?” Wearing the pain on my sleeve wouldn’t fix the break in my heart. I was trying to be strong—I needed to be strong. We were the only two left in our family.
“It will help you learn to let go,” she whispered with a sad smile.
Catriona had been telling me to let go for the last six weeks, ever since our mother had died. Let it go, let it go, let it go.
But I couldn’t let go of this pain. It was permanently etched within my heart—my soul—after losing both of my parents within six years of each other. It was a living, tormenting reminder of how badly a broken heart could hurt. And it was a pain I never wanted to feel again.
Shifting away from Catriona, I pulled my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. My hand automatically went to the necklace I was wearing.
It was a round, silver pendant with a belt and buckle looped around a griffin bearing a sword. The Morgan family crest.
Staring out over the water, I rubbed my fingers over the ancient heirloom. It was lackluster and dull after years of being worn, but it was a priceless memento I would forever treasure.
Catriona turned her face away from me, and we lapsed into silence as the memories I’d been fighting flooded my mind. Memories of two loving parents. A happy childhood. Annual camping trips in the Scottish highlands. I could still picture us on that final camping trip—here in this very spot.
It was the last time I’d seen my dad alive.
Tears burned my eyes and spilled over my cheeks. Closing my eyes, I pressed the pendant to my lips with a shaking hand. “I will never forget you,” I whispered, then added in Scottish Gaelic, “Beannachd Dia dhuit.”
May the blessings of God be with you.
It was a phrase I’d memorized for our mother’s funeral.
A moment later, Catriona reached over and squeezed my arm. I angled my face away, not wanting her to see my tears. I was the big sister—I needed to be strong for her.
She released me after several heartbeats and stood, brushing the dirt from her jeans. Her voice was soft and filled with understanding. “You know, Ash… it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes.” She gave my shoulder a final pat before turning away and leaving me to my melancholy.
I listened to Catriona rummage through the packs while fighting another onset of tears. When I’d finally composed myself, I helped her set up our measly campsite. Thin bedrolls and mummy sleeping bags were squeezed into a two-person tent. We crawled into it minutes before the clouds opened in a torrential downpour. Not even bothering to eat dinner, I curled up in my sleeping bag and cried silently until every last shred of my heart had poured out its pain.
* * *
My tears had long since dried, but the rain hadn’t let up at all.
Sitting cross-legged on my sleeping bag, I peered out through the open tent flaps. Mist had crawled in and rain drenched the ground. Wind began to howl, rattling the tent in its violent grip. Now that the sun had disappeared behind the mountain, darkness descended all around. It was pitch black in the empty, haunted place where my father had died.
A shiver trailed down my spine.
What if the same fate awaited us?
I glanced at Catriona, sleeping soundly beside me. We were crazy for doing this—for coming here, all alone. But Catriona had refused to listen to reason when I’d tried to convince her not to come.
Nervous energy charged through me. I wanted to pack up and head straight back down the mountain, but it was too late—too dangerous to traverse the mountain trail in the dark. We had no choice but to wait it out until morning. Peering out at the downpour, that uneasy feeling grew.
“Ash?” My sister’s groggy voice whispered in the dark. “What are you doing? It’s the middle of the night.”
“I’m just watching the rain. Go back to sleep.” I patted her leg beneath the sleeping bag.
“‘Kay.” Catriona yawned and rolled over, laying with her back to me. I smiled when her gentle snores filled the tent a few minutes later. I was a light sleeper, but Catriona could sleep through pretty much anything.
I envied her that sense of oblivion, for even in sleep I found no respite from the horrors of reality. My dreams were often haunted by memories of the past and fear of the future. Heaving a weary sigh, I propped my chin on my fist and gazed out at the steady downpour. My mind reeled with worried thoughts.
At only nineteen-years-old, I had become the sole provider and protector of my eighteen-year-old sister. How was I supposed to take care of her emotionally and financially? The money our mother had left us was quickly running out after our impromptu move to Scotland. I had managed to snag a waitressing job at one of the local restaurants, but it didn’t pay well, and the rent on our crappy flat nearly ate up my entire paycheck. I didn’t know how I was supposed to pay for our other bills, let alone necessities like groceries.
My shoulders sagged beneath the weight of my grief and fear.
It was too much to handle. Too much to bear on my own.
I covered my face with my hands and battled the thick, burning sensation in my throat. The tears threatened, but I refused to let them spill. Crying wouldn’t change anything. It wouldn’t stop the torment, or turn back time—
Wait. Something wasn’t right.
I lifted my head and lunged toward the tent opening, shifting forward so quickly that Catriona startled in her sleeping bag.
“Ash?” she called in a sleepy voice. “What is it?”
“The rain,” I whispered, feeling chilled to the bone. “It stopped.”
“O-kay.” The sarcasm in Catriona’s voice was obvious, but I knew she didn’t understand. She was still half-asleep… and I was beginning to think I was too.
Because what I was seeing was impossible.
Purely, simply impossible.
Mouth gaping in wonder, I scrambled out from the tent and gazed around with wide, rounded eyes. The rain had indeed stopped—but so had everything else. It was like an utter stillness had fallen over the entire mountain.
The waterfall was no longer cascading in a steady stream, but frozen mid-fall as if time had merely stopped. The swaying grasses lining the pool began to slow and still, one by one. The water’s glassy surface was a perfect reflection of the star-filled sky overhead, but completely and unnaturally still. Not even the hint of a ripple.
“Oh my gosh.” Catriona stumbled out of the tent behind me and sucked in a gasp. “Ash, are we dreaming?”
“We have to be.” Bewildered, I dropped to my knees at the water’s edge. My fingers dug into the rock face as I stared at the pool, still fighting to make sense of everything. It felt too real to be a dream, but what other explanation was there?
A minute later, a single ripple fanned out from the center of the pool. Something broke the surface, rising from the deep, dark depths.
My breath caught as a head emerged.
It was covered in shaggy black hair and threaded with pond weed. Next, I caught a glimpse of light-brown skin and amber eyes with strange, slitted pupils.
A creature of nightmares.
Was it a faerie? No, that was impossible. Tir na Nog was not some magical portal to the Otherworld. This had to be a dream.
But the uneasy feeling in my chest expanded—and a part of me feared it wasn’t just a dream. I scurried backward from the edge, slamming into Catriona. She shook as she clung to me.
“What is that?” Her voice was filled with horror—and disgust.
I backed us up a step, moving very, very slowly. “I don’t know,” I barely dared to breathe.
The creature paused with its face still partially submerged in the water. Bright amber eyes swiveled toward us and locked onto mine, suspending time once again. My breath lodged in my throat. I waited for the creature to move, but the longer it sat there, staring at me, the more dread flooded my veins.
Cold, icy—and paralyzing.
Gazing into the equine-like eyes, I suddenly realized I was rooted in place, unable to move. My eyes widened in fear.
Then the creature lunged.
* * *
TWO: The Seelie Court
Slamming his sword into the blood-soaked dirt, Kieran O’Bairr leaned heavily against the hilt and surveyed the bloody aftermath. A pack of dead faolan lay scattered across the moor. The wolf-like faeries had caught him by surprise in the dead of night, but a pack of nine was not enough to take him down.
Unrelenting magic still coursed through Kieran’s veins—the all-consuming and familiar effect of the Bloodlust.
It left him feeling energized.
It was a dangerous combination.
Ignoring the burning call in his blood to fight—to destroy—Kieran crouched down to examine the closest corpse. Hungry, red eyes were staring blankly in death, and the gaping muzzle revealed bloody, razor-sharp teeth. Its tufts of scraggly gray fur was matted in thick, congealed blood and the claws protruding from its massive paws bore evidence of his own injuries.
Kieran straightened and dragged a weary hand through his sandy-blond hair. The Ardríoch Moor was overrun by dangerous, bloody-thirsty faeries. He would be lucky to make it through the night without another attack.
As if summoned by his thoughts, Kieran felt a presence behind him. He gripped the hilt of his sword and yanked it from the ground. The Bloodlust surged through his veins as he spun to face the newest threat, begging for another fight. Golden-red flames erupted down his blade. Kieran raised his arm, preparing to strike at the hooded figure standing before him, shrouded in mist.
An assassin sent by the reigning king?
If it was, Kieran couldn’t afford to hesitate. He swung his sword in a downward arc, but the stranger swiftly reached a hand up to pull the hood back. The gesture revealed shaggy blond hair, deep-green eyes—and a painfully familiar face.
“Eamonn?” Kieran rasped, adjusting his swing and narrowly missing his brother’s face by mere inches. He dropped his sword to the ground and staggered back, fighting against the all-consuming Bloodlust threatening to overtake him. He gritted his teeth against the power pulsing through him. “Eamonn, what are you doing here?”
Eamonn looked Kieran over slowly, eyeing the golden-red magic flickering over his skin. It dimmed and faded until nothing remained. “You’ve learned to control it,” Eamonn noted, the corner of his mouth tilting upward in a smile. “You’re ready to come home.”
“No—” Kieran argued.
But Eamonn ignored his refusal and dropped to one knee. “It’s time, Kieran,” he said, bowing his head. “The Seelie Court needs its rightful king.”
* * *
Kieran hesitated at the border of the Seelie Court, standing in the bright light of the double moons. He hadn’t set foot on his homeland in over a century. Not since—
“Come on,” Eamonn urged from the other side of the border. He was hiding behind an oak and peering cautiously around its moss-covered trunk. “We don’t have much time between guard patrols.”
Kieran wondered when the Órail Guard had begun patrolling this far north of Elphame City. There was nothing here but forest and grasslands, and the several small towns that housed lesser faeries. There was no reason for the king’s guard to monitor the Mór Pass leading in and out of the Seelie Court—unless they were looking for something, or someone.
He shook his head and snorted. It seemed the king had expanded the perimeter of his search.
“Hurry, Kieran!” Eamonn instructed in an urgent voice.
Drawing his shoulders back with a long, steadying breath, Kieran crossed the border and followed Eamonn into the deep shadows of the forest. Through the birch trees bordering his right side, he could see the rolling highlands slanting along the Dubh Mountains and toward the southern cliffs. The silver moonlight cascaded over the blooming heather, making it appear a pale, moonlit lavender. Kieran silently followed Eamonn’s lead, winding past ferns and fallen trees blanketed in deep-green moss. They kept to the shadows and avoided common foot trails, traversing instead through the darkest depths of the forest.
The last thing they needed was for Kieran to be found in the Seelie Court.
Eamonn suddenly stilled, then shoved Kieran into hiding behind an ancient oak with gnarled roots sprouting from the ground. They crouched among a patch of stitchwort and watched the guard patrol marching in the distance just beyond the forest. A storm gathered overhead and broke, pummeling them with rain and cold gusts of wind. The Seelie Court was an eternal land of spring and summer, but storms were a common occurrence. Huddled beneath their thick black cloaks, the brothers spoke in hushed voices as they waited for the guards to move out of their intended path.
“Are the rumors true?” Kieran asked. He didn’t want to believe them, but there had been a sinking feeling in his gut since the rumors first reached him. The corruption in their ancestry was too strong—and the seer’s damning words were ones he’d never forget.
Eamonn stared out into the rain, avoiding Kieran’s gaze. “That depends on what you’ve heard.” He rubbed a hand over his wet blond hair and sighed. “But it’s probably true. Things have gotten bad.”
Kieran tensed. “How bad?”
Eamonn hesitated and fiddled with the single dagger in his hand—a gift their father had given him when they were adolescents. Kieran recognized the emerald embedded in the pommel.
“Eamonn,” Kieran pressed when his brother remained silent.
“It’s worse than you can imagine.” Eamonn finally met his eyes, and Kieran recognized the defeat written all over his face. “I’ve never seen him like this. He’s always been arrogant and competitive, but now he’s simply a bastard. He’s not the brother you remember.”
“Becoming the king was bound to change him.”
“It’s not just that.”
Kieran studied Eamonn, trying to piece together what was really going on. “What’s the problem, Eamonn? Why did you insist on bringing me back—”
“He’s grown more powerful,” Eamonn said, his fist tightening around his dagger. “I know it’s impossible, but he has more power than even you.” Kieran’s brows arched and Eamonn shook his head in equal bemusement. “Do you—do you think father’s power could have transferred to him after all this time?”
The question forced the flashback of a memory Kieran longed to forget. It was the night their father had died, nearly one hundred years ago. Even though Kieran hadn’t been with him, he’d felt his father’s power transfer over to him across the Ardríoch Moor and thousands of miles that separated them.
The power of the rightful king.
Kieran curled his hands into fists and shoved the painful memory aside. He spoke through clenched teeth. “No, that’s not it.”
Eamonn raised a brow, but made no remark. He twisted the dagger between his hands, sending moonlight bouncing off the curved blade. “It doesn’t matter where it came from. The problem is that I think it’s corrupting him. I think he’s becoming a soulless Shadow Fae. That’s why I went to find you.” He shot Kieran a desperate, pointed look. “It’s time for you to claim your birthright.”
Kieran’s jaw ticked. “No.”
“I said no!” Kieran stood on a wave of anger, feeling the magic in his blood heat in response. Gritting his teeth, he forced the anger down and kept it buried. Was this nothing more than a ploy, or was their brother truly in danger of losing his soul?
Kieran’s train of thought was interrupted by the sudden screams that pierced the howling wind. Frightened, human screams.
Were the guards attacking innocent humans now? The bastards!
Without thought, Kieran shoved away from the gnarled oak and rushed toward the source of the screams. He wove through a thick copse of birch trees, his feet moving swiftly over the thick, mossy undergrowth. He heard Eamonn running after him, but didn’t slow to wait for him.
When Kieran neared the edge of the forest, he spotted a kelpie in the grasslands fifty yards away. It was emerging from one of the numerous portals that led into the mortal world. As the kelpie dragged what Kieran assumed to be human bairns out of the loch, crystal-blue water swirled around its legs in a writhing vortex.
Kieran snorted at the sight of the despised bounty hunter. “Have we started using changelings now?” he fumed, not wanting to believe what he was seeing.
Only the Unseelie exchanged sick faeries for human infants—a tradition the Seelie had long since abhorred.
“It’s worse than you think,” Eamonn huffed, joining him at the edge of the forest. “For the last fifty years, they’ve been stealing more than just bairns.” He jerked his chin toward the kelpie and the two humans it had wrapped in chains.
Kieran peered closer and snarled when he realized the kelpie had stolen two young adult females, not bairns. “No,” he growled. “How can Torrin allow innocent humans to be taken and sold into slavery?” Disgust fueled his rage. The Seelie—and his brother—had fallen far during his absence. Kieran stepped forward, ready to free the lasses bound by the kelpie’s chains, but Eamonn clasped his shoulder to hold him back.
“I know you want to help them, but you can’t afford to be seen! If Torrin finds out you’re here—”
“I know,” Kieran muttered, “but I can’t stand by and allow them to be harmed.” He gestured toward the humans being dragged through the rain and mud. The dark-haired lass was meekly following the kelpie, but the other, the blonde… she was tugging on the chain, fighting tooth and nail with every step.
“You must,” Eamonn insisted, his hand tightening on Kieran’s shoulder. “This is the way it is, now.”
Kieran’s brows lowered. “I won’t accept that.”
Eamonn shifted to block his path. The look in his eyes grew contemplative. “You won’t have to… if you take back the throne.”
“Eamonn,” Kieran warned.
“No!” a female voice screamed into the night.
The sound sent a prickle of awareness down Kieran’s spine. He jerked his gaze away from Eamonn. The dark-haired lass had fallen to her knees; mud splattered her face and tangled hair. But the blonde lass was standing toe to toe with the kelpie, her face set in a mask of defiance.
“Stop it!” she shouted at the kelpie. “You’re hurting her!”
“Silence, human filth!” The kelpie struck the fair-haired lass across the cheek, sending her sprawling into the mud.
Fury arced through Kieran’s veins. “I’ve seen enough,” he growled. Drawing his sword from its sheath, he ignored Eamonn’s protests and stalked across the moonlit grasslands.
He might not be the king of the Seelie Court—but he would not stand by while the innocent were threatened.
* * *
THREE: The Kelpie
My cheek burned where the creature had struck me.
Blinking back tears, I pushed up from where I had fallen into the mud and glared at my despicable kidnapper. A mixture of fear and anger burned through my chest. The creature was disgusting, with its slimy brown skin, webbed hands and rows of razor-sharp teeth. It could probably shred through my skin with one bite.
What the heck was it?
And where had it taken us?
The land surrounding us looked like the rolling hills of Scotland—and yet, somehow it was different. More vibrant. More… magical. I thought I saw two shimmering moons peeking through the gray cloud cover, but it was hard to see through the pouring rain. Mud splattered my clothes and face, scrapes adorned my elbows and knees, and the chains around my wrists were already rubbing my skin raw.
Too much had happened in so short a time.
I must have been imagining things.
My mind was surely playing tricks on me; hiding the reality of a truth too terrible to comprehend. But… it felt so real.
Wiping the mud from my chin with the back of my stained shirtsleeve, I shivered against the sting of pelting rain and biting wind. What reality could be worse than this? Catriona crawled toward me, her eyes wide and filled with fear. Did she know what was happening, or was her mind broken, like mine?
Standing over us, the creature bared its razor-sharp teeth and yanked on the chain. “Get up! Get up!” The rusty metal twisted painfully around my wrists and forced me up onto my knees. I had to bite my lip to keep from crying out.
As I struggled to find my footing, two dark silhouettes appeared in the distance behind the creature. They had emerged from a shadowy forest and were moving quickly across the tall stretch of grass. It was difficult to see them through the pouring rain, even when they crossed the streak of silver moonlight.
The larger of the two was menacing, his every step swift and powerful. He didn’t need a weapon; his size alone was intimidating. The second stranger was moving at a slower pace, holding a curved dagger in each hand. When they were less than a foot away, I stepped in front of Catriona, pulled her to her feet, and shoved her behind my back.
The creature finally sensed the approaching danger and whirled around, bearing a dagger in its webbed hand. “What do you want?” it demanded.
The stranger stood cloaked in mist and rain, towering nearly a foot above my five-foot-seven. A hood hid his face in shadows; he could have been another horrifying creature for all I knew. A bandolier was strapped over his leather-clad chest, fitted with small throwing knives, and a longsword gleamed in his hand. He pointed it at the creature, holding its pointed tip at chest level, and spoke in a deep voice. “I want you to release these humans, kelpie.”
Kelpie… Kelpie… The name sounded familiar. I filtered through the many stories of myth and folklore my parents had told us at bedtime. If I remembered correctly, a kelpie was a malevolent water spirit. A faerie from the mythical Otherworld.
But… that wasn’t possible.
None of this was possible.
I knew I was too overwhelmed by shock and the pain of capture to really understand what was happening. But the deep, honest truth was none of what had happened made any sense.
It was improbable.
“They’re mine,” the so-called kelpie snarled, spitting at the stranger’s feet and jerking us closer with the chain. Catriona stumbled against my back and I struggled to keep us both upright in the slippery mud.
The second stranger joined us as the first suddenly slashed his sword in a downward arc, cutting through the metal chains as if slicing through softened butter. The chains slackened and we fell backward, landing in the mud once again. I frowned up at the stranger. His hood had fallen away, revealing a handsome face of unnatural, rugged beauty. My jaw fell open with a soft gasp.
He had untamed, dirty-blond hair and a well-shaped mouth that hinted at a dimpled smile, despite his scowl. He was the best-looking man I’d ever seen.
I stared at him like a smitten high-school girl, until I noticed the pointed ears peeking out from beneath his dirty-blond hair. Pointed ears? Was he a faerie? I trembled and pressed closer to Catriona.
What the heck was happening?
Where were we?
“K-Kieran,” the kelpie gasped, dropping to its knees in a groveling bow. It pressed its face into the mud, leaving the discarded dagger at its feet. “I didn’t realize you had returned. P-please, take these humans for yourself—as a gift.” It scurried away into the surrounding mist and light pattering of rain. By the time it reached the forest, the rain had stopped, leaving a brisk wind in its place.
The second stranger pulled his hood away—another unnaturally handsome man with messy blond hair. “So much for a low profile,” he muttered.
The one called Kieran shrugged and sheathed his sword. “I doubt anyone will believe him. I haven’t been seen near the Seelie Court in over a century.”
I choked on my own gasp. A century? Did he just say a century?
Catriona firmly patted my back while I struggled to catch my breath. Kieran glanced at me with a raised brow, but I averted my gaze. When my coughing fit finally subsided, I stole another peek at him.
Tall and muscled, Kieran carried himself with the build of a warrior and the bearing of a king. He was dangerous, imposing… and utterly captivating. My eyes traced the line of one pointed ear. Was Kieran fae—a race of immortal warriors with deadly fighting skills and elemental magic? I nervously bit the inside of my cheek. The thought made my nerve-endings ignite, but I was unable to tear my eyes away from him.
Would every one of my parents’ stories turn out to be true?
I swallowed down the sudden onset of nerves and finally ripped my eyes away from the stranger shrouded in myth and impossibility. “Cat,” I whispered, inching toward her. “Are you okay?”
She nodded and tried to smile reassuringly, but I could see the tears clinging to her dark lashes. I grasped her hand and squeezed it tightly. “I’m fine, Ash,” Catriona insisted. “Just a little sore—and super confused.”
“I know what you mean.” I rubbed the tender, bright-red circle marring one of my wrists and kicked at the offensive chains pooled on the ground nearby. Stupid chains. Stupid kelpie.
“Are you all right?” Kieran questioned from overhead, breaking into my mental pity-party.
Closing my hand over my injured wrist, I nodded briskly. “We’re fi—” The words stalled in my throat when I looked up and met his direct gaze. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared. Kieran staggered back a step, but didn’t break his gaze.
I stared in wonder. I’d never seen eyes that green. That vibrant. They were as stunning as the breathtaking Scottish highlands, only infinitely more so. But what made my breath catch in my throat was the intensity in his unwavering gaze.
His look was earnest.
He should have frightened me.
But instead, I felt… drawn to him.
I shook my head and broke our eye contact. Was this some kind of faerie trick? I couldn’t trust him—I couldn’t trust any of them. Right? Biting my lip, I stole another peek at Kieran.
He stood with his jaw clenched and his hands bunched at his sides, and he was still staring at me with the fiercest expression. It sent a shiver skittering down my spine. His eyes narrowed, and golden-red energy suddenly flared around him, sparking along his skin in tiny lightning bolts. Magic? Impossible.
Without taking his eyes from me, Kieran backed up several paces.
“What is it?” The other male grabbed hold of his shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“Anam dàn,” Kieran ground out, his gaze still centered unwaveringly on me. He took another step back, his entire body shaking. Undeniable fury blazed in his highland-green eyes.
“What? That’s impossible!” The other male turned toward me and took a step closer. His similar green eyes were full of confusion—and curiosity.
“Get away from her, Eamonn,” Kieran warned through gritted teeth. His expression had grown deadly. Feral. Bolts of energy suddenly exploded around him, zapping outward. Eamonn jumped back as the lightning bolts struck the ground in several spots around us with resounding cracks.
Catriona screamed and scrambled away from the charred bits of earth. I shoved her behind me, trying to shield her with my body. The stench of electricity and dirt filled my nostrils. Through the curling wisps of black smoke, I stared in horror at Kieran.
His eyes were still locked on mine.
Angry. Fierce. And blazing with a deadly-green glow.
A snarl ripped from his chest as another lightning storm exploded around him—and this time, I knew we were dead.
* * *
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First off I read the book in two days! I couldn’t put it down! Lots of romance and action that makes for a fun and entertaining read! – ADKINS
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A great fantasy, mystical story. The characters are fabulous… the slow burn between Kieran and Aislinn is delicious. – SAMIMI
– AMAZON REVIEWER
This book is hands down fabulous. It sucks you into the magical world and keeps you on your toes through to the last page. – HANEY
ABOUT LINDSAY GRACE:
Hi, I’m Lindsay! I write clean romantic fantasy novels about strong, courageous young women and the alluring heroes who fall in love with them. My books are full of magic, adventure and slow-burn soulmate romance. So what are you waiting for? Get lost in one of my breathtaking tales of love and adventure today!