He’d said, I can’t accept that. I need to know.
What difference could it make? she’d said wearily. Would you be asking me to give up the child if it’s not yours? Do you think we can just send it back? Is that what you want of me? It’s my child, too. Either he could love them both or he couldn’t. By then a mother’s love had awakened, fierce and protective. She could feel the life within her, tiny and lovely. She’d already resolved her struggle. If the child were Cruce’s there were two options: kill it—which was no option at all; or give it away—which was no option at all. It was half of her, and if the worst were true, the child could have no mother better than Kat. Another woman would have no idea what she was raising. Her only choice was to trust in the power of love.
A love Sean clearly didn’t feel. She hadn’t seen him for over two years. She ached to see him. She struggled to not think about him, to not think about many things.
“Evening, Kat,” Enyo said, dropping down in a tufted chair next to her. Kicking her legs over the side, the tawny-skinned soldier nudged the butt of her gun, tucked in a hip holster, to keep it from digging into her ribs, and slid her automatic, suspended by a band across her chest, over the arm of the chair. Dagger hilts gleamed, tucked into her boots. Enyo was a crack shot, sniper or close-range, responsible for training all the women at the abbey that wanted to learn. None were pressured. Still, all eventually came.
“Good evening, Enyo,” Kat replied with a smile that wasn’t returned, but Enyo rarely smiled. Energy thrummed beneath her skin, intelligence flashed in her dark eyes. Though Kat would never voice them—it wasn’t her place—she knew some of the woman’s secrets. They were painful and had made her the hardened warrior she was. Born inside a military tank under heavy fire, war was where Enyo Luna thrived.
As the rest of the Shedon filed in, Kat focused outward, lowering her guards, assessing the room. Her gift gave her many unfair advantages. She used them.
There were eight members of the Shedon: herself; the fierce French-Lebanese Enyo; the ethereal Rhiannon from Wales whose specialty was shattering wards and neutralizing spells; quiet Aurina from Derrynane, County Kerry, who could commune with animals of every kind; sharp-edged Ciara from Ulster-east, with her wild fire-magic; Colleen MacKeltar from Scotland, who over the past two years had become, under one of her uncles’ tutelage, an expert in the druid arts; the lovely, aloof, chocolate-skinned Duff from their powerful Boston sister-house, who possessed a terrible gift; and the cynical, jaded Decla, who’d traveled the world with a military father and who possessed far darker sidhe-seer talents than she owned up to.
These women were the new rule. Duff and Decla took a bit more time to assess than the others but Kat ruthlessly scanned each of them in turn, assessing, seeking rotten spots in the shiniest of their apples.
She found none.
But maintained eternal awareness that one day, her elegant, brutal invasion might fail to yield such happy results.
Perhaps even with her own daughter.
The Song of Making had changed everything. War was coming, there was no doubt of it. Sides would be taken. None of them black and white; there were acres and acres of gray as far as she could see, evidenced by changes even on their estate. Six months ago a caste of tiny Spyrssidhe had taken up residence in the abbey’s gardens and labyrinth. They were as simple and kind as could be, lovingly nurturing the foliage, openly seeking the sidhe-seers, pledging their loyalty, eschewing their own race, outcast by them. Begging sanctuary to live among humans. Initially Kat had feared they were spies, but she’d turned her gift on the tiny sprites and found them as pure and simple as the dawn. Earth elementals, a type of Fae she’d never imagined existed. Good ones.
Though she’d been horrified to discover them capable of reproduction.
There was one Fae name she never permitted herself to think.
A name Rae would never know. He was dead. There was no reason to know. And no need for a paternity test.
Time would tell.
“Any luck?” she asked the room, as the women settled in armchairs and sprawled on divans. A dozen of their sidhe-seers, Adepts, had gone missing.
Duff said grimly, “Not yet. We combed Temple Bar from end to end and we plan to fan out into the outskirts tonight. Decla and I went into Elyreum, tried to ask around, but if you’re not willing to fuck Fae,” she spat with a dark scowl, “you get nothing but suspicion in that club. I don’t know how they survived their shifts there.”
“They knew it was necessary,” Kat said, with no small measure of regret. “We sent only volunteers.” The twelve were spies, mature women, Adepts, sent into Elyreum because the Shedon had finally unanimously agreed they could no longer go on without gathering intelligence on the state of the Fae court. For two long years they’d waited and prepared, giving the Fae wide berth. Never going near them, as Mac had demanded.
But rumors had been growing that the Fae had changed, and how could they hope to prepare for a war if they didn’t know their enemy? The team had gone in with full awareness of what they were getting into. What was being asked of them. They’d been working the shift for a week. And each morning, when they returned from having sex with the Fae, Kat had used her gift on each in turn, painfully aware of how ruthlessly, overwhelmingly seductive the Fae could be. To a woman, their dozen sidhe-seer spies at Elyreum had remained true. Night after night they’d let their bodies be used, while protecting their minds, mining for tidbits of information. Had sunk to the depths necessary to infiltrate the club, while holding onto their essential selves. And for so little gain. All they’d been able to tell the Shedon thus far was that the Fae were definitely more powerful, to degrees unknown, definitely changed by the Song, but there was an inner circle of High Fae cloistered deep within their own private club, to which a highly select few were ever granted access. None of the twelve had yet gained an invitation.
Now they were gone. All of them. Vanished without a trace. They’d left for the club, as usual, Saturday evening and failed to return Sunday at dawn. They’d been missing for two days now, and she feared the worst.
“What did Dani say?” Colleen asked. “Has she had any luck searching for them?”
“I didn’t tell her they were missing for the same reason we agreed not to tell her we were sending spies in. Had she known, she’d have insisted on accompanying them. If she knew they were missing, she’d storm into Elyreum, demanding answers at the tip of a sword. We all know what outcome that would have.”
Enyo said, “Our oath to the Fae queen would be broken. That sword is part of Dani’s soul. She can’t not kill Fae. The only way she’s managed it this long, and kept her word to Mac, is because she won’t allow herself to go anywhere near them.”
“Precisely. That’s why we can tell her nothing. Continue your search. Continue your silence.”
Nodding, the Shedon rose and prepared to head back into the city to find their missing sisters.
* * *
“Mommy, why are the Fae bad?” Rae said later as Kat tugged off her shoes and began to run her bath.
“Not all of them are,” she replied absently, mulling the day’s events with half her mind.
She realized what she was doing and forced herself to put away the abbey’s business for a time. Her daughter deserved her full attention, a thing she’d never known from her own mother. She’d been deemed a worthless implement by both her parents; handicapped with such extreme empathy, she’d seemed broken, even insane, as a child.
Rae was her world. An unexpected gift. A treasure she would forever cherish, protect, and love, and do all in her power to raise well. The love of a child from her own flesh was the purest an empath could know.
Her daughter had been slow to start talking but, given her own childhood, that hadn’t concerned her. Then suddenly, a month ago, Rae had begun blurting words she’d no idea her daughter even understood, stringing them together into impressive sentences.
“The Spur-shee like me,” Rae announced happily. “They say I smell good to them.”
Kat froze, her hand tightening on the edge of the antique, enameled, claw-foot tub in their suite. “Did they say what you smell like?”
Rae shook her head, black curls bouncing, eyes dancing merrily. “Just that I’m yummy. They smell yummy to me, too.”
“Like what?” Kat asked.