Darkfever, p.13
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       Darkfever, p.13

         Part #1 of Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
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Page 47

 

  “So, what is it? Any idea?” The feeling I got from it wasn’t the same as the one I’d gotten from the photocopies of the Sinsar Dubh. Though I’d begun feeling nauseated the instant I’d stepped into the chamber, it hadn’t approached incapacitating, not even when I’d located and stood right next to the thing. I’d taken advantage of Barrons’ and Mallucé’s ridiculous posturing and made my stealthy swap. Handling the box hadn’t been pleasant, but I’d been able to contend with my queasy stomach.

  “If it’s what I think it is,” Barrons replied, “it’s nearly as important as the Dark Book itself, indispensable to us. Ah,” he said with satisfaction, “there you are. ” With tiny steely clicks, the box popped open.

  I leaned forward and peered inside. There, on a bed of black velvet, lay a translucent blue-black stone that looked as if it had been cleaved in sharp, clean strokes from a much larger one. Both the smooth outer surfaces and rough inner faces were covered with raised runelike lettering. The stone emitted an eerie blue glow that deepened to coal at its outer edges. I got an icy chill just from looking at it.

  “Ah yes, Ms. Lane,” Barrons murmured, “you are indeed to be commended. Maladroit methods aside, we now have two of the four sacred stones necessary to unravel the secrets of the Sinsar Dubh. ”

  “I see only one,” I said.

  “I have its mate inside my vault. ” He traced his fingers lightly over the raised surface of the faintly humming stone.

  “Why is it making that noise?” I was beginning to feel a great deal of curiosity about just what else might be tucked away beneath Barrons’ garage.

  “It must sense the proximity of its counterpart. It is said if the four are brought together again they will sing a Song of Making. ”

  “You mean, they’ll create something?” I asked.

  Barrons shrugged. “There are no words in the Fae language equivalent to ‘create’ or ‘destroy. ’ There is only Making, which also includes the unmaking of a thing. ”

  “That’s odd,” I said. “They must have a very limited language. ”

  “What they have, Ms. Lane, is a very precise language. If you think about it a moment, you’ll see it makes sense; case in point, if you’re making sense, you’ve just unmade confusion. ”

  “Huh?” My confusion hadn’t been unmade. In fact, I could feel it deepening.

  “In order to make something, Ms. Lane, you must first unmake what is in the process. Should you begin with nothing, even nothing is unmade when it is replaced with something. To the Tuatha Dé there is no difference between creating and destroying. There is only stasis and change. ”

  I’m a bottom-line girl. I barely managed Cs in my college philosophy courses. When I tried to read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, I developed an unshakable case of narcolepsy that attacked every two to three paragraphs, resulting in deep, coma-like fits of sleep. The only thing I remember about Kafka’s Metamorphosis is the awful apple that got impacted in the bug’s back, and Borges’ stupid story about the avatar and the tortoise didn’t teach me a thing, except how much better I like Little Bunny Foo Foo; it rhymes and you can jump rope to it.

  The way I saw it, what Barrons had just told me was this: A Faery not only wouldn’t care whether I lived or died, it wouldn’t even really register that I was dead, just that, before, I could walk and talk and change my clothes by myself, but afterward I couldn’t, as if someone had yanked the batteries out of me.

  It occurred to me that I could really learn to hate the Fae.

  With a muttered apology to my mom, I snatched up a shredded pillow, hurled it across the ransacked bedroom, and cried, “Damn, damn, damn! Where did you put it, Alina?”

  Feathers showered the room. What remained intact of the slashed-up pillow crashed into a framed picture of a thatch-roofed seaside cottage above the headboard—one of the few items in her apartment that had been left undisturbed—and knocked it off the wall. Fortunately, it fell on the bed and the glass didn’t break. Unfortunately, it didn’t reveal a convenient hidey-hole.

  I sank to the floor and leaned back against the wall, staring up at the ceiling, waiting for inspiration to strike. It didn’t. I’d run out of ideas. I’d checked every place Alina had ever hidden a journal at home and then some, with no luck. Not only hadn’t I found her journal, I’d discovered a few other things missing as well: her photo albums and her floral-paged Franklin Planner were gone. Alina carried her planner as faithfully as she wrote in her journal, and I knew she had two photo albums in Dublin: one of our family and home in Ashford to show to new friends, and a blank one to fill while she was there.

  Page 48

 

  I’d had no luck finding any of them. And I’d done a thorough search.

  I’d even stopped at a hardware store on the way over and bought a hammer, so I could tear apart the baseboard in her bedroom closet. I’d ended up using the claw handle to pry at all the moldings and casings in the place, looking for loose trim. I’d tapped at the wood nooks and crannies of the fireplace facade. I’d hammered at floor planks, listening for hollow spots. I’d examined every piece of furniture in the place, tops, sides, and bottoms, and even checked inside, as well as beneath, the toilet tank.

  I’d found nothing.

  If her journal was hidden somewhere in the apartment, she’d outdone me this time. The only thing left for me to try was complete demolition of the place: smashing out the walls, ripping off the cabinets, and tearing up the floors, at which point I’d have to buy the darned building just to pay for all the damages, and I didn’t have that kind of money.

  I caught my breath. But Barrons did. And I could offer him an incentive to want to find her notebook. I wanted Alina’s journal for the clues it might hold to the identity of her killer, but there was a good possibility it also contained information about the location of the Sinsar Dubh. After all, the last thing my sister had said in her message was, I know what it is now, and I know where—, before her words had abruptly terminated. The odds were high she’d written something about it in her diary.

  The question was, could I trust Jericho Barrons, and if so, how far?

  I stared into space, wondering what I really knew about him. It wasn’t much. The darkly exotic half Basque, half Pict was a self-contained mystery I was willing to bet he never let anyone get close enough to unravel. Fiona might know a thing or two about him, but she was a mystery herself.

  I knew this much: He was going to be royally pissed at me by the time he saw me again, because the last thing he’d said to me, in his typical high-handed manner, before I’d stumbled exhaustedly off to bed early this morning was, “I have things to do tomorrow, Ms. Lane. You will remain in the bookstore until I return. Fiona will procure anything you might need. ”

  I’d ignored his orders and, shortly after I’d awakened at half past two in the afternoon, slipped out the back way, down the alley behind the store. No, I wasn’t being stupid and I didn’t have a death wish. What I had was a mission, and I couldn’t afford to let fear shut me down, or I might as well reserve the first seat available on the next flight back to Georgia, tuck tail and run home to the safety of Mom and Dad.

  Yes, I knew the Many-Mouthed-Thing was out there looking for the blonder, fluffier version of me. Yes, I had no doubt that while Mallucé slumbered his daylight hours away, tucked in a garish Romantic-Goth coffin somewhere, dripping blood-encrusted lace, his men were already scouring Dublin for the thieving Ms. Rainbow.

  But nobody would be looking for this me. I was incognito.

  I’d scraped my dark hair tightly back into a short ponytail and tucked it up beneath a ball cap, pulled down low. I was wearing my favorite faded jeans, a sloppy oversized, nearly threadbare T-shirt I’d swiped from Dad before I left, which had once been black a few hundred washings ago, and scuffed-up tennis shoes. I didn’t have on a single accessory and I’d used a brown paper bag as a purse. I’d ap
plied no makeup; zip, zilch, nada, not even lipstick, even though my mouth felt really weird without it. I’m pretty addicted to moisturizers. I think it comes from living in the heat of the South. Even the best skin needs a little extra care down there. But the crowning triumph of my disguise was a truly hideous pair of magnifying spectacles I’d purchased at a drugstore on the way over that I currently had hooked on the neck of my dingy tee.

  You might not think it sounds like much of a disguise, but I know a thing or two about people. The world notices pretty, well-dressed young women. And it tries real hard not to see the unattractive, sloppy ones. If you’re bad enough, you get the thousand-yard stare that slides right off you. There was no doubt that I looked worse than I’d ever looked in my life. I wasn’t proud of it, yet at the same time I was. I might never manage ugly, but at least I bordered on invisible.

  I glanced at my watch and pushed to my feet. I’d been searching Alina’s place for hours; it was nearly seven. Barrons seemed to have a habit of showing up at the bookstore shortly after eight, and I wanted to be back before he arrived tonight. I knew Fiona would rat me out anyway, but I figured he wouldn’t be half as irritated if his personal OOP-detector had already returned safe and sound by the time he showed up, as he would be if I left him to stew over the potential loss of it for a while.

  Page 49

 

  I collected my paper-bag purse, stuck the awful glasses back on my nose, pulled my ball cap down as low as it would go, turned out the lights, and locked up.

  The air was warm, the sky streaked with the orange and crimson of a magnificent sunset when I stepped from the building. It was going to be a beautiful midsummer’s eve in Dublin. Alina’s place and Barrons’ were on opposite ends of the busy Temple Bar District, but I didn’t mind that I had to push through crowds of festive pub-goers to get back to the bookstore. I might not be happy myself, but it was kind of nice to see others who were. It made me feel more optimistic about my own chances.

  As I hurried down the cobbled streets, not a single person spared me a glance. I was pleased with my invisibility, and determinedly tuning out my increasingly alien and depressing world by tuning in to my iPod. I was listening to one of my favorite one-hit wonders, “Laid,” by James—this bed is on fire with passionate love, the neighbors complain about the noises above, but she only comes when she’s on top—when I saw it.

  I wanted to fuck the moment I laid eyes on it.

  I told you before, cusswords don’t come easily to me, especially not that particular one, so you can see the measure of the Fae’s impact that the word marched into my mind and assumed immediate control of the front. Ego and superego were dispatched with a single swift, killing blow and in swaggered my new ruler—that primitive little hedonistic bastard, the id.

  I was instantly wet, hot, and slippery in my panties, every cell ripe and swollen with need. My breasts and loins plumped just from looking at it; grew soft, fuller, heavier. The friction of my nipples against my bra was suddenly an unthinkable sexual torture device, my panties more binding than ropes and chains, and I needed desperately to have something between my legs, pounding into me, cramming me full inside. I needed friction. I needed thick, hot, long, rough friction pushing in and pulling out. Pushing in and pulling out, over and over, oh God, please, I needed something! Nothing else would stop my pain, nothing else would satisfy my sole purpose in life—to fuck.

  My clothes were an offense to my skin. I needed them off. I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and began to pull it over my head.

  The breeze on my naked skin startled me. I froze, my shirt half over my face.

  What in the world was I doing?

  My sister was dead. Buried and rotting in a grave outside the church we’d gone to since we were children. The church we’d both dreamed of one day getting married in. She never would.

  Because of a Fae, I had no doubt. After the events of the past few days I was certain one or several of them had been responsible for her brutal murder. For ripping and tearing into her with their teeth and claws, and for God only knew what else they’d done to her. No, the coroner hadn’t found semen inside her, but what he had found inside her, he’d not been able to explain. Most of the time I tried not to think about it too much.

  “I don’t think so,” I hissed, yanking my shirt back down. I took advantage of that moment to pluck the ear buds from my ears as well. Listening to James sing about obsessive-compulsive sex was proving the equivalent of tossing gas on an open flame. “Whatever it is you’re doing to me, you can just turn it off. It’s a waste of your time. ”

  “It is nothing I do, sidhe-seer,” it said. “It is what I am. I am every erotic dream you’ve ever had and a thousand more you’ve never thought of. I am sex that will turn you inside out and burn you down to ashes. ” It smiled. “And if I choose, I can make you whole again. ”

  Its voice was deep, rich, and melodic and had all the impact of a soft, sensual suckling at my swollen nipples. The erotic inferno began to rage inside me again. I backed away, straight into the window of the pub behind me. I pressed against it, shivering.

  Alina is dead because of one of these things. I clung to that thought like a lifeboat.

  The Fae stood in the middle of the cobbled street, fifteen to twenty feet away from me, making no move to approach farther. Cars were prohibited in this part of the district and those pedestrians crossing the street were detouring placidly around it without giving it a second glance.

  Nor was anyone looking at me, which I wouldn’t have found particularly interesting except that I had my T-shirt up again and was flashing the world my favorite pink lace push-up bra as well as most of my breasts. Inhaling sharply, I yanked my shirt back down.

  Even today, after all that I’ve seen, I couldn’t begin to describe V’lane, prince of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. There are some things that are simply too immense, too rich to be contained in words. This is the best I can offer: imagine a tall, powerful, mighty archangel, frighteningly male, terrifyingly beautiful. Then paint him the most exquisite shades of chestnut, bronze, and gold you can possibly imagine. Give him a mane shimmering with strands of cinnamon gilded by sunlight, skin of tawny velvet, and eyes of liquid amber, kissed by molten gold.

  Page 50

 

  The Fae was unutterably beautiful.

  And I wanted to fuck and fuck and fuck until I died.

  I understood then. Each Fae I’d encountered so far had a “thing,” its own personal calling card. The Gray Man stole beauty. The Shades sucked life. The Many-Mouthed-Thing most likely devoured flesh.

  This one was death-by-sex. Immolation by orgasm; the worst of it was that its victim would be fully aware with some distant part of her brain that she was dying, even as she begged and pleaded for the very thing that was killing her. I had a sudden, horrific vision of myself, right there in the street, naked, pathetic, writhing with insatiable need at the thing’s feet, invisible to passersby, dying like that.

  Never.

  I had one hope: If I could get close enough, I could freeze it and run. Steeling my will with the hellish memory of how Alina had looked the day I’d identified her body, I peeled myself from the window and stepped forward.

  The Fae stepped back.

  I blinked. “Huh?”

  “Not retreat, human,” it said coldly. “Impatience. I know what you are, sidhe-seer. We need not play your silly game of tag. ”

  “Oh right,” I snapped, “but we sure were going to take the time to play your silly game of death-by-sex, weren’t we?”

  It shrugged. “I would not have killed you. You have value to us. ” When it smiled at me, I went blank for a heartbeat, as if the sun had come out from behind clouds to shine down only on me, but it was so hot that it charred all my wiring. “I would have given you only the pleasure of my magnificence,” it told me, “not the pain. We can do that, you know. ”

  I trembled at the thought
all that heat, but no ice; all that sex, but no death. The night air felt suddenly cool on the scorching skin of my breasts, frigid to the fire of my nipples. I glanced down. My shirt and bra were lying in the gutter at my feet, mixed with the daily trash and grime of the city.

  Jaw set, hands shaking, I bent to retrieve my clothing. Blushing a half-dozen shades of red, I put my bra back on and pulled my shirt over my head again. I reclaimed my paper-bag purse and my iPod from the gutter as well, jammed my ball cap back on my head, but didn’t bother fishing out my hideous glasses—I didn’t want the thing looking any larger than it already did. Then, without hesitation, I stood and lunged straight for the Fae. I had to freeze it. It was my only hope. God only knew what I might do next.

  Before I was able to reach it, however, it vanished. One moment it was there, the next it was gone. I was pretty sure I’d just witnessed Fae “sifting” firsthand. But where had it gone?

  “Behind you, human,” it said.

  I turned sharply to find it standing on the sidewalk, a dozen feet to my left, pedestrians parting around it like the Red Sea drawing back from Moses, giving it increasingly wider berth. In fact, foot traffic on the entire street seemed to be thinning substantially and, here and there, a pub door suddenly slammed closed against a distinctly un-summery chill in the July air.

  “We do not have time for fool’s play, MacKayla Lane. ”

  I jerked. “How do you know my name?”

  “We know much about you, Null,” it said. “You are one of the most powerful sidhe-seers we’ve yet encountered. And we believe you have only begun to realize your potential. ”

 
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