Darkfever, p.19
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       Darkfever, p.19

         Part #1 of Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
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  A Fae was here somewhere, glamouring things up, and it was one of the death-by-sex ones. I assumed it was V’lane, mostly because the thought that there might be multiple, terrifyingly beautiful, mind-bending, libido-distorting Fae in my world was more than I could handle.

  From somewhere behind me, laughter rolled like smooth, round, cool pearls sliding slowly over my clitoris, and I was suddenly a great, bottomless abyss of excruciating sexual need. My legs were shaking, my panties were gone again, my inner thighs were soaking wet, and I was so hungry for sex that I knew for a fact I was going to die if I didn’t get it right here and now.

  A clatter drew my gaze to the floor. Next to my panties was my pearl bracelet. I wasn’t sure if I’d done what I’d just felt between my legs, or if it had. “V’lane,” I whispered, through lips swollen and plumped, just like my breasts were swelling and plumping. My body was changing, making itself ready for its Master, growing softer and wetter and riper and fuller.

  “Lie down, human,” it said.

  “Over my dead body, Fae,” I snarled.

  It laughed again and my nipples were on fire. “Not yet, sidhe-seer, but one day you might beg for death. ”

  Anger. That was it. Anger had worked before. Anger and another A-word. But what was it, that word? What had saved me before? What was that unhappy thought, that miserable thought that could make me go cold inside and feel like Death myself?

  “Apple,” I muttered. No, that wasn’t it. Artifact? Adam? Alleged? Allowed? Wasn’t I? Allowed to have sex right here and now? Hadn’t it said, “Lie down, human?” Who was I to disobey?

  I knelt on the cool marble floor of the museum and slipped my skirt up over my hips, baring, presenting. Here I am. Take me.

  “On all fours,” it said behind me, laughing again, and again I felt the cool slip of pearls being dragged slowly between my thighs, over my taut bud, between my swollen, slick lips. I dropped forward on my hands and knees. My spine arched, my bottom lifted, and I made a sound that wasn’t at all human.

  My mind was going. I could feel it and I still didn’t even know if it was V’lane behind me or some other Fae that was going to nail me to the floor and slowly screw me to death. Then its hands were on my bottom and it was positioning me, and if I was a Null, I’d forgotten I had hands, and if there was a spear nearby, I’d forgotten I had a purse, and if I’d once had a sister who’d been killed somewhere in Dublin—

  “Alina!” The word exploded from me with such vehemence and desperation that spittle sprayed from my lips.

  I wrenched myself free, reared around, and slammed both palms into V’lane’s chest. “You pig!” I scuttled sideways, a bare-bottomed crab, desperate to reach the purse I’d dropped several yards away, along with my shirt and shoes.

  By the time I reached my small pile of abandoned possessions, the Fae was already unfrozen again. Barrons had been right, the higher the caste, the more powerful the Fae. Apparently I could only freeze royalty for mere moments. It wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough.

  “We are not pigs,” it said coldly, rising. “It is humans who are the animals. ”

  “Yeah, right. I’m not the one that almost just raped me!”

  “You wanted it and you still do,” it said flatly. “Your body burns for me, human. You want to worship me. You want to be on your knees. ”

  The horror of it was—it was right. I did. Even now, my back was still arched with sensual invitation, my bottom was questing up like a cat in heat, and my every move was supple, sinuous. I was one great big come-hither. There was a mindless nymphomaniac inside me and it didn’t care how many orgasms it took to die. With trembling hands, I grabbed my purse. “Stay away from me,” I warned.

  Page 71

 

  Its expression said it was in no hurry to get close to me at the moment. Its expression said it was revolted by my all-too-brief power over it, by a mere human having dominion in any manner over something so glorious as itself. “Why have you come here? What of ours is here, sidhe-seer?” it demanded.

  Unzipping my purse, I nudged the ball of foil from the tip and closed my hand on the spear, but left it tucked inside. I wanted to preserve the element of surprise. “Nothing. ”

  “You lie. ”

  “No, really, there’s nothing here,” I said truthfully, not that I would have told it if there had been.

  “It has been five days, sidhe-seer. What did you take from O’Bannion?”

  I blinked. How in the world did it know that?

  “He died trying to get it back, that’s how. I know where you stay,” it said. “I know where you go. It is useless to lie to me. ”

  I preferred to believe the Fae had read the thoughts on my face, not plucked them from my mind. I bit my tongue to keep from whimpering. It was doing something to me again. It had my pearls again. And was working between my legs with them, one hard, cool ball after the next.

  “Talk, sidhe-seer. ”

  “You want to know what we took? I’ll show you what we took!” I curled my fingers tightly around the base of the spearhead, yanked it from my purse, and drew it back threateningly. “This!”

  It was the first time I ever saw such a look on a Fae’s face and it would not be the last. It filled my veins with such a heady rush of power that it was very nearly equal to the insane sexual arousal I was feeling.

  V’lane, prince of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, feared something.

  And it was in my hand.

  The imperious Fae was gone. Just like that. Blink of an eye, if I’d blinked. I hadn’t. He’d vanished.

  I sat, breathing deeply, clutching the spear, and trying to regroup.

  The room seeped slowly back into my consciousness: a buzz of noise, a blur of color, and finally, snippets of conversation here and there.

  “What do you suppose she’s doing?”

  “No idea, man, but she’s got a great ass. And talk about your tits to die for!”

  “Cover your eyes, Danny. Now. ” A mother’s tight, pinched voice. “She’s not decent. ”

  “Looks better than decent to me. ” Accompanied by a low whistle and the flash of a camera.

  “What the hell is in her hand? Should somebody call the cops?”

  “I dunno, maybe the paramedics? She doesn’t look so well. ”

  I glanced around, wild-eyed. I was on the floor, surrounded by people on all sides, a circle of them, pressing in on me, staring down at me with greedy, curious eyes.

  I sucked in a ragged breath that wanted to come back out as a sob, crammed the spear back in my purse—how in the world would I explain having it?—yanked my skirt back down over my bottom, clasped my bra over my bare breasts, fumbled for my shirt, yanked it over my head, picked up my shoes, and scrambled to my feet.

  “Get out of my way,” I cried, plunging blindly into the crowd, shoving them aside, vultures, one and all.

  I couldn’t help it. I burst into tears as I raced from the room.

  For such an old woman, she sure could move fast.

  She cut me off less than a block away from the museum, darting in front of me, blocking my path.

  I veered sharply left, and detoured around her without missing a beat.

  “Stop,” she cried.

  “Go to hell,” I snapped over my shoulder, tears scalding my cheeks. My victory over V’lane with the spear had been completely overshadowed by my public humiliation. How long had I been sitting there with parts of me sticking out that no man had ever gotten a good look at in broad daylight unless armed with a speculum and a medical license? How long had they been watching me? Why hadn’t someone tried to cover me up? Down South, a man would have draped a shirt around me. He would have taken a quick glance while he did it, I mean, really, breasts are breasts and men are men, but chivalry is not entirely dead where I come from.

  “Voyeurs,” I said bitterly. “Sick scandal-starved people. ” Thank you, reality TV. People were
so used to being taken straight into other people’s most intimate moments and viewing the sordid details of their lives that they were now far more inclined to sit back and enjoy the show than make any effort to help someone in need.

  The old woman got in front of me again and I veered right this time, but she veered with me and I crashed into her. She was so elderly and tiny and fragile-looking that I was afraid she might topple over, and at her age, a fall could mean serious broken bones and a long recovery period. Good manners—unlike those creeps in the museum, some of us still had them—temporarily eclipsed my misery, and I steadied her by the elbows. “What?” I demanded. “What do you want? You want to bean me in the head again? Well, go ahead! Do it and get it over with! But I think you should know that I couldn’t help seeing this one and the situation is—well, it’s complicated. ”

  Page 72

 

  My assailant was the old woman from the bar that first night I’d arrived in Dublin; the one who’d rapped me with her knuckles and told me to stop staring at the Fae and go die somewhere else and—although now I knew she’d saved my life that night, she might have done it more nicely—I was currently in no mood to thank her.

  Tilting her silvery-white head back, she stared up at me, a flabbergasted expression on her wrinkled face. “Who are you?” she exclaimed.

  “What do you mean, who am I?” I said sourly. “Why are you chasing me if you don’t know who I am? Do you make a habit of chasing strangers?”

  “I was in the museum,” she said. “I saw what you did! Sweet Jesus, Mary Mother of God and all the saints, who are you, lass?”

  I was so disgusted with people in general that I shrieked, “You saw what that thing was trying to do to me and didn’t try to help me? If it had raped me, would you have just stood there and watched? Thanks a lot! Appreciate it. Gee, it’s getting to the point where I’m not sure who the bigger monsters are—us or them. ” I spun sharply and tried to walk away but she latched onto my arm with a surprisingly strong grip.

  “I couldn’t help you and you know it,” she snapped. “You know the rules. ”

  I shook her hand off my arm. “Actually, I don’t. Everyone else seems to. Just not me. ”

  “One betrayed is one dead,” said the old woman sharply. “Two betrayed is two dead. We count precious each of our kind, never more so than now. We cannot take risks that might betray more of us, especially not me. Besides, you held your own in a way I’ve never seen—and against a prince, no less! Sweet Jesus, how did you do it? What are you?” Her sharp blue gaze darted rapidly from my left eye to my right and back again. “At first your hair fooled me, then I knew it was you, from the bar. That skin, those eyes, and the way you walk—och, just like Patrona! But you can’t be Patrona’s, or I’d have known. From what O’Connor line do you come? Who is your mother?” she demanded.

  I tossed my head impatiently. “Look, old lady, I told you that night in the bar that I’m not an O’Connor. My name is Lane. MacKayla Lane, from Georgia. My mom is Rainey Lane and before she married my dad, she was Rainey Frye. So there you have it. Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s not a single O’Connor anywhere in my family tree. ”

  “Then you were adopted,” the old woman said flatly.

  I gasped. “I was not adopted!”

  “Ballocks!” the old woman snapped. “Though I’ve no notion the hows and whys of it, you’re an O’Connor through and through. ”

  “The nerve!” I exclaimed. “How dare you come up to me and tell me I don’t know who I am? I’m MacKayla Lane and I was born in Christ Hospital just like my sister and my dad was right there in the room with my mom when I was born and I am not adopted and you don’t know the first thing about me or my family!”

  “Obviously,” the old woman retorted, “you don’t, either. ”

  I opened my mouth, thought better of it, shut it, and turned and walked away. I would only be giving credence to the old woman’s delusions by rebutting them. I wasn’t adopted and I knew that for a fact, as certainly as I knew she was one crazy old woman.

  “Where are you going?” she demanded. “There are things I must know. Who you are, if we can trust you and how, by all that’s holy, did you get your hands on one of their Hallows? That night in the bar I thought you Pri-ya”—she spat the word like the foulest of epithets—“from the moonstruck way you were staring at it. Now I’ve no idea what you are. You must come with me now. Stop right there, O’Connor. ” She used a tone of voice that, not so long ago, would have stopped me dead in my tracks and turned me around, out of respect for my elders if nothing else, but I wasn’t that girl anymore. In fact, I was no longer even certain who that girl had really been, as if Mac BTC—Before The Call that day by the pool—hadn’t quite been real, just an empty, pretty amalgam of fashionable clothes, happy music, and coltish dreams.

  “Stop calling me that,” I hissed over my shoulder, “and stay away from me, old woman. ” I broke into a sprint but wasn’t fast enough to outrun her next words, and I knew as soon as she said them that they were going to chafe like sharp pebbles in my shoes.

  “Then ask her,” rang out the old woman’s challenge. “If you’re so certain you’re not adopted, MacKayla Lane, talk to your mother and ask her. ”

  Page 73

 

  NINETEEN

  What’s on the agenda tonight?” I asked Barrons the moment he stepped into the bookstore. I’d been pacing near the front windows with all the lights blazing, both interior and exterior, watching as night fell beyond the illuminated fortress.

  I guess my tone was a little tight, because he raised a brow and looked at me hard. “Is something wrong, Ms. Lane?”

  “No. Not at all. I’m fine. I just wanted to know what I have to look forward to tonight,” I said. “Robbing somebody we get to let live, or somebody we have to kill. ” I sounded brittle even to myself, but I wanted to know just how much worse a person I was going to be by tomorrow morning. Every day I looked in the mirror it was getting harder to recognize the woman looking back at me.

  Barrons paced a slow circle around me. “Are you sure you’re all right, Ms. Lane? You seem a little tense. ”

  I rotated at the center, turning with him. “I’m just ducky,” I said.

  His eyes narrowed. “Did you find anything at the museum?”

  “No. ”

  “Did you search every exhibit?”

  “No. ”

  “Why not?”

  “I didn’t feel like it,” I said.

  “You didn’t feel like it?” For a moment Barrons looked perfectly blank, as if the idea that someone might disobey one of his orders just because they didn’t feel like it was even more inconceivable to him than the possibility of human life on Mars.

  “I am not your workhorse,” I told him. “I have a life, too. At least, I used to. I used to do perfectly normal things like date and go out to eat and see movies and hang out with friends and never once think about vampires or monsters or mobsters. So don’t go getting all over my case because you think I haven’t performed up to your exacting standards. I don’t plan your days for you, do I? Even an OOP-detector needs a break every now and then. ” I gave him a disgusted look. “You’re lucky I’m helping you at all, Barrons. ”

  He closed in on me and didn’t stop until I could feel the heat coming off his big, hard body. Until I had to tilt my head back to look up at him, and when I did, I was taken aback by his glittering midnight eyes, the velvety gold of his skin, the sexy curve of his mouth, with that full lower lip that hinted at voluptuous carnal appetites, and the upper one that smacked of self-control and perhaps a bit of cruelty, making me wonder what it would be like—

  Whuh. I shook my head sharply, trying to clear it. From my two brief encounters with V’lane, I knew that merely being in the same general vicinity with a death-by-sex Fae caused an extreme hormonal spike in a woman that did not go away until it was released somehow. What V’lane
had done to me today had left me so awfully, icily aroused that it had taken more orgasms than I’d thought possible and a long frigid shower to calm me. And now it seemed I hadn’t done a good enough job, because I was still suffering residual effects. There was no other way to explain why I was standing there wondering what it would be like to kiss Jericho Barrons.

  Fortunately, he chose that moment to open the mouth I’d been finding so disturbingly sexual and begin speaking. His words abruptly restored my perspective.

  “You still think you can walk away from this, don’t you, Ms. Lane?” he said coolly. “You think this is about finding a book, you think it’s about figuring out who killed your sister—but the truth is, your world is going to Hell in a handbasket and you’re one of the few people that can do something about it. If the wrong person or thing gets its hands on the Sinsar Dubh, you won’t be ruing the loss of your rainbow-hued, prettily manicured world, you’ll be regretting the end of human life as you know it. How long do you think you’ll last in a world where someone like Mallucé, or the Unseelie who’s got his Rhino-boy watchdogs stationed all over the city, gets the Dark Book? How long do you think you’ll want to? This isn’t about fun and games, Ms. Lane. This isn’t even about life and death. This is about things that are worse than death. ”

  “Do you really think I don’t know that?” I snapped. Maybe I hadn’t been talking about everything he’d just said, but I’d sure been thinking about it. I knew there was a bigger picture going on out there than just what had been happening to me, in my little corner of the world. I’d eaten ketchup-soaked fries and watched the Gray Man destroy a helpless woman and I’d wondered every night since who was falling victim to him now. I’d gotten an up close look at the Many-Mouthed-Thing’s many mouths and knew it was out there somewhere, feeding on someone. I’d wondered—if I could jump forward in time a year or two—what Dublin would look like then. I had no doubt the dark territory of the abandoned neighborhood was expanding even as Barrons and I spoke, that somewhere out there another streetlamp had fizzled, emitting a final, weak flicker of light before burning out, and the Shades had instantly slithered in around it and tomorrow, according to Barrons, the city wouldn’t even remember that block had ever existed.

 
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