MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks...until something extraordinary happens.
When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae....
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands....
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Karen Marie Moning is the internationally bestselling author of the Highlander and Fever novels. Her books have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, and have one numerous awards, including the prestigious Rita. She lives in Georgia and Florida with her husband Neil and the world-traveling cat, Moonshadow.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A year earlier . . .
July 9. Ashford, Georgia. Ninety–four degrees. Ninety–seven percent humidity.
It gets crazy hot in the South in the summer, but it’s worth it to have such short, mild winters. I like most all seasons and climes. I can get into an overcast drizzly autumn day–great for curling up with a good book–every bit as much as a cloudless blue summer sky, but I’ve never cared much for snow and ice. I don’t know how northerners put up with it. Or why. But I guess it’s a good thing they do, otherwise they’d all be down here crowding us out.
Native to the sultry southern heat, I was lounging by the pool in the backyard of my parents’ house, wearing my favorite pink polka–dotted bikini that went perfectly with my new I’m-not-really-a-waitress-pink manicure and pedicure. I was sprawled in a cushion-topped chaise soaking up the sun, my long blonde hair twisted up in a spiky knot on top of my head in one of those hairdos you really hope nobody ever catches you wearing. Mom and Dad were away on vacation, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a twenty-one day island-hopping cruise through the tropics, which had begun two weeks ago in Maui and ended next weekend in Miami.
I’d been working devotedly on my tan in their absence, taking quick dips in the cool sparkling blue, then stretching out to let the sun toast drops of water from my skin, wishing my sister Alina was around to hang out with, and maybe invite a few friends over.
My iPod was tucked into my dad’s Bose sound dock on the patio table next to me, bopping cheerily through a playlist I’d put together specifically for poolside sunning, comprised of the top one hundred one-hit wonders from the past few decades, plus a few others that make me smile–happy mindless music to pass happy mindless time. It was currently playing an old Louis Armstrong song–“What a Wonderful World.” Born in a generation that thinks cynical and disenchanted is cool, sometimes I’m a little off the beaten track. Oh well.
A tall glass of chilled sweet tea was at hand, and the phone was nearby in case Mom and Dad made ground sooner than expected. They weren’t due ashore the next island until tomorrow, but twice now they’d landed sooner than scheduled. Since I’d accidentally dropped my cell phone in the pool a few days ago, I’d been toting the cordless around so I wouldn’t miss a call.
Fact was, I missed my parents like crazy.
At first, when they left, I’d been elated by the prospect of time alone. I live at home and when my parents are there the house sometimes feels annoyingly like Grand Central Station, with Mom’s friends, Dad’s golf buddies, and ladies from the church popping in, punctuated by neighborhood kids stopping over with one excuse or another, conveniently clad in their swim trunks–gee, could they be angling for an invitation?
But after two weeks of much longed for solitude, I’d begun choking on it. The rambling house seemed achingly quiet, especially in the evenings. Around supper time I’d been feeling downright lost. Hungry, too. Mom’s an amazing cook and I’d burned out fast on pizza, potato chips, and mac-’n’-cheese. I couldn’t wait for one of her fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh turnip greens, and peach pie with homemade whipped-cream dinners. I’d even done the grocery shopping in anticipation, stocking up on everything she needed.
I love to eat. Fortunately, it doesn’t show. I’m healthy through the bust and bottom, but slim through the waist and thighs. I have good metabolism, though Mom says, Ha, wait until you’re thirty. Then forty, then fifty. Dad says, More to love, Rainey and gives Mom a look that makes me concentrate really hard on something else. Anything else. I adore my parents, but there’s such a thing as TMI. Too much information.
All in all, I have a great life, short of missing my parents and counting the days until Alina gets home from Ireland, but both of those are temporary, soon to be rectified. My life will go back to being perfect again before much longer.
Is there such a thing as tempting the Fates to slice one of the most important threads that holds your life together simply by being too happy?
When the phone rang, I thought it was my parents.
It’s funny how such a tiny, insignificant, dozen-times-a-day action can become a line of demarcation.
The picking up of a phone. The pressing of an on button.
Before I pressed it–as far as I knew–my sister Alina was alive. At the moment of pressing, my life split into two distinct epochs: Before the call and After.
Before the call, I had no use for a word like “demarcation,” one of those fifty-cent words I knew only because I was an avid reader. Before, I floated through life from one happy moment to the next. Before, I thought I knew everything. I thought I knew who I was, where I fit, and exactly what my future would bring.
Before, I thought I knew I had a future.
After, I began to discover that I’d never really known anything at all.
I waited two weeks from the day that I learned my sister had been murdered for somebody to do something–anything–besides plant her in the ground after a closed-casket funeral, cover her with roses, and grieve.
Grieving wasn’t going to bring her back, and it sure wasn’t going to make me feel better about whoever’d killed her walking around alive out there somewhere, happy in their sick little psychotic way, while my sister lay icy and white beneath six feet of dirt.
Those weeks will remain forever foggy to me. I wept the entire time, vision and memory blurred by tears. My tears were involuntary. My soul was leaking. Alina wasn’t just my sister; she was my best friend. Though she’d-mailed incessantly and spoken weekly, sharing everything, keeping no secrets.
Or so I thought. Boy was I ever wrong.
We’d been planning to get an apartment together when she came home. We’d been planning to move to the city, where I was finally going to get serious about college, and Alina was going to work on her Ph.D at the same Atlanta University. It was no secret that my sister had gotten all the ambition in the family. Since graduating high school, I’d been perfectly content bartending at The Brickyard four or five nights a week, living at home, saving most of my money, and taking just enough college courses at the local po-dunk university (one or two a semester, and classes like How to Use the Internet and Travel Etiquette didn’t cut it with my folks) to keep Mom and Dad reasonably hopeful that I might one day graduate and get a Real Job in the Real World. Still, ambition or no, I’d been planning to really buckle down and make some big changes in my life when Alina returned.
When I’d said good-bye to her months ago at the airport, the thought that I wouldn’t see her alive again had never crossed my mind. Alina was as certain as the sun rising and setting. She was charmed. She was twenty-four and I was twenty-two. We were going to live forever. Thirty was a million light-years away. Forty wasn’t even in the same galaxy. Death? Ha. Death happened to really old people.
After two weeks, my teary fog started to lift a little. I didn’t stop hurting. I think I just finally expelled the last drop of moisture from my body that wasn’t absolutely necessary to keep me alive. And rage watered my parched soul. I wanted answers. I wanted justice.
I wanted revenge.
I seemed to be the only one.
I’d taken a Psych course a few years back that said people dealt with death by working their way through stages of grief. I hadn’t gotten to wallow in the numbness of denial that’s supposed to be the first phase. I’d flashed straight from numb to pain in the space of a heartbeat. With Mom and Dad away, I was the one who’d had to identify her body. It hadn’t been pretty and there’d been no way to deny Alina was dead.
After two weeks, I was thick into the anger phase. Depression was supposed to be next. Then, if one was healthy, acceptance. Already I could see the beginning signs of acceptance in those around me, as if they’d moved directly from numbness to defeat. They talked of “random acts of violence.” They spoke about “getting on with life.” They said they were “sure things were in good hands with the police.”
I was so not healthy. Nor was I remotely sure about the police in Ireland.
Accept Alina’s death?
“You’re not going, Mac, and that’s final.” Mom stood at the kitchen counter, a towel draped over her shoulder, a cheery red, yellow, and white magnolia-printed apron tied at her waist, her hands dusted with flour.
She’d been baking. And cooking. And cleaning. And baking some more. She’d become a veritable Tasmanian devil of domesticity. Born and raised in the Deep South, it was Mom’s way of trying to deal. Down here, women nest like mother hens when people die. It’s just what they do.
We’d been arguing for the past hour. Last night the Dublin police had called to tell us that they were terribly sorry, but due to a lack of evidence, in light of the fact that they didn’t have a single lead or witness, there was nothing left to pursue. They were giving us official notice that they’d had no choice but to turn Alina’s case over to the unsolved division, which anyone with half a brain knew wasn’t a division at all but a filing cabinet in a dimly lit and largely forgotten basement storeroom somewhere. Despite assurances they would pe...
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