It’s been an intense ride, but this fae fantasy romance is LIVE, exclusive on Amazon and in KU! I have grown attached to the story and the characters as I wrote it, and it’s safe to say often I got lost in them. Here is the first chapter, I hope you enjoy it. Oh, and feel free to leave a comment, or share it with people you know might enjoy an intense fae romance for Christmas : )
A fae prince made of shadow and smoke whisked me off to another realm—with dark intentions.
We humans are nothing but lowly creatures to the fae. They’re arrogant and cruel, and who could blame them? They’re formidable beings, and they consider us nothing but mortal bundles of flesh, worthy only of the dirt under their feet. Only that this particular bundle of flesh—Yours Truly—is the shadow fae’s only chance of survival as a race.
Salazar Shadowthorn, their prince, needs me in order to rise to former glories. He’s deadly and feared, but his enemies are as many as his admirers. And they’re after his most valuable possession—me. I may be his slave, but it turns out I’m special. I have magic, and Salazar needs to help me scale it in order to use me for his purposes. Still, we were never meant to become more than master and slave. In his world, it shouldn’t even be possible. But as enemies emerge from the shadows, both Salazar and I are faced with a truth we can’t deny—if we want to win this, we have to give in to that dark, dangerous calling that we feel towards each other. Problem is, it comes with a huge price.
Hutchinson, Massachusetts, is a cursed place. With the ocean waves crashing against its dark cliffs, and thick forests surrounding it, this town has always had a foreboding air about it. I think it was this very gloom fit for a mystery movie setting that drew all the rich and famous to buy holiday estate here, though I’m sure its secluded location played a part too. As did the expensive private school.
Almost the entire population of Hutchinson consists of rich kids abandoned by their high-flying parents at the Ivy League Anne Hutchinson High, living under the meek supervision of their staff. Many seniors used to throw wild parties at their mansions, but the partying has died down now. All gates and doors are locked after dark, and the most expensive alarm systems switched on, because some seriously weird shit has been going down.
Two people went missing in the past month, and nobody has a clue what could have happened to them. It’s like they vanished into thin air, and neither police nor press, not even private investigators have gotten a single lead so far. Both of these people were from my school, and both of them female. The first was Georgia Hathaway, head cheerleader and wet dream of the entire male population at Anne Hutchinson High. The second one was Josephine Norman, a Scandinavian cold beauty with straight As in science and serious abandonment issues. She’s also my best friend.
If we’re looking at a crime, the victims are two people who couldn’t have less in common.
Josie’s disappearance has left behind two picture perfect parents, probably not as devastated as the media portrays them to be. Her father runs a film-making company, her former model mother does charities, and both of them always dreaded having to spend time with their child. There wasn’t ever any real emotional connection between them, Josie said. A child was a box that needed to be ticked before her mother turned thirty-five, so they adopted her from Scandinavia. But the glamor of being a new mom faded for the former model rather quickly, which means that Josie was mostly raised by maids and nurses.
She’s had to deal with some serious bullying at school, too, and if anyone understands bullying, and how far it can go, it’s me. As a working-class kid who’s gotten into an Ivy League high school through a scholarship, I’m nothing but a parasite to the high-flyers. One they take great pleasure in torturing. I can barely walk the hallways without being called all sorts of names, and my locker gets vandalized so often it’s not even funny anymore. A-hole Lachlan Vallar, popular jackass with a face crisscrossed by chicken pox scars but a frame big enough and a proclivity for violence steep enough to scare all the other guys shitless, never runs out of ideas. He’s the reason I always try to close the distance from school to the dorms as quickly as possible on my bike. I don’t want to give him a chance to drive after me, calling out all the things he’d do to me if I just joined him and his mates in his car.
“Neveah McKinney, you little tramp, no point hiding those perky tits behind that oversized sweater. We all know you’re dying to have cum squirting all over them,” he’d yell after me in front of all his mates, window down. ‘Tramp’ is his favorite word to use on me. I can almost taste his pleasure as he rounds the word in his mouth, and it disgusts the hell out of me. He likes painting it on my locker, and he’s threatened it’s only a matter of time until it’s tattooed on my ass, too.
I really can’t afford to stop until I get to the dorms, but a street lamp with a large Missing Person sign stops me in my tracks. I dismount my bike and hook my fingers tighter around the straps of my backpack as I stare into Josie’s face, her spectacles fitting her bone structure perfectly, but barely hiding her ever-gloomy expression. Tears come to my eyes, along with some of the most painful memories we shared.
“There she is, Hutchinson High’s sweetest little tramp.”
I spin around. Damn it, the bastard is approaching on foot, and I’d been relying on the loud rumbling of his sports car to announce his presence. I back away towards the street light as he and his friends close in on me like hyenas. Lachlan is the biggest of them all, always in the spotlight, while the others lick their snouts, anticipating the show. Josie said they might be getting off on watching Lachlan torture a skinny girl in oversized clothing. My mousy brown hair and unassuming pale face that I never apply make-up to doesn’t seem to cock-block him either. On the contrary, it seems this helpless school-girl look only turns on his dirtiest fantasies.
“Now I’m getting it, Neveah McKinney,” Lachlan says, grabbing my sweater loosely. “The baggy clothes, the gypsyish hair. It’s all a part you’re dressing up for. You know it turns me on, and it’s why you do it.”
“I’m not trying to stand out to you,” I spit out, but Lachlan’s grin gives me the chills.
“Come on, you know that’s not true.” He traps me against the street light as my backpack hits the pole. I’m shaking, my eyes feel hot, and I’m hardly blinking. He grips my face, forcing me to look up into his. It distorts with a larger grin, the chicken pox scars tightening on his skin. “Why don’t you let me feel those tits.” He pushes one hand under my oversized sweater.
“You mother—” I try to hit him, but he slams me against the pole.
“Get that backpack off of her,” he orders the others, who hurry to do his bidding and rake the backpack’s straps off of me. I struggle, desperation clouding my vision and making me wonder who this is happening to, because it can’t be me.
Lachlan’s lackeys hold me still, enjoying the show as he pushes his hands under my sweater, grabbing my breasts over my bra so harshly that I yelp.
“The more you struggle, the more difficult you’re going to make this on yourself.”
“Are you crazy, you can’t rape me! The police—” But then it hits me. What if he did the same to Georgia and Josie, and then did away with their bodies? My lips seal as the scenario runs before my eyes. No, it can’t be, Lachlan is a bastard, but he can’t possibly be a killer. Can he?
“And who do you think the police would believe?” he says. “You’re a nobody. No one in Hutchinson has ever heard your last name, which makes your family pretty much shit. Whereas mine…” He wriggles his hairless eyebrows, a gesture that finishes the sentence for him. He’s someone, I’m no one. He pushes his groin into me, his engorged member pressing like a gun into my lower belly.
“I’m gonna give you this dick, you little tramp.”
I scream and struggle like a lunatic against the other goons’ hold. They might beat me to a pulp to get me to quiet down, but it’s worth it if it draws someone’s attention, anyone’s. Only there is nothing but the great expanses of gardens between the gates hidden behind trees, and the rich mansions they belong to.
The street lamp behind me starts flickering as if some electric field were messing with it. Lachlan’s goons’ hold slackens enough for me to shake myself free of them, but that only prompts Lachlan to yank me closer. I knock against his meaty body, his beefy arms closing around me. They choke the air out of me as the light goes out completely.
Such complete darkness takes over that I wouldn’t even be sure whether the world still existed if it weren’t for Lachlan’s very real body against mine, the side of my face pressed into his chest. He whispers something above my head, his breath on my hair. To my surprise, it’s not something threatening. On the contrary, it’s monotone and calm, like some kind of magic spell. I still, listening as the darkness thickens. I’ll be damned, I would recognize those words anywhere. I know them, I’ve read them before, in my favorite books.
Legends of the Fae.
The books have been passed down through my family for generations, and I’ve been obsessed with them since the first time I read them. I have them in my dorm, on the upper shelf along with a few framed pictures and a music box, some of the few things from my childhood that I’m fond of. I used to find refuge in those books, take comfort in their fictional world, which is why I remember whole chunks of them. But that doesn’t explain how come Lachlan is whispering spells from Legends of the Fae. Dark spells, spells that are supposed to invoke shadows and smoke. The more he does it, the tighter he squeezes me as if he wants to suck me into himself, and the more I panic, rummaging desperately through my own mind for a solution. My mind gets stuck on the light spells that I know by heart from the same books, spells that dispelled shadows in the series.
Computing with a speed that I never thought it capable of, my brain plucks the words from the recesses of my memory. I breathe them into Lachlan’s chest, my eyes closed tightly. It takes a monumental effort to calm myself down enough to do it, emulating the characters from my favorite book series. If Legends of the Fae is the answer, then I must be completely calm for the spells to work, like the characters in the series had to be.
Run the moonglow through my veins,
Take the shadow by the reins,
Blind it with the silver light,
That shall carry all my might.
The street light starts flickering again. I try not to rejoice, but keep myself in that steady low frequency, and continue whispering the spells. ‘There’s a fine line between feeling the right thing and feeling nothing’, Legends of the Fae, Book One, said. But I lose the frail balance when Lachlan lets me go, and I catch a glimpse of his face—utter surprise and anger are imprinted on it.
“H-how is this possible?” he breathes, but I’m not gonna stick around to find out what he means. I take advantage of the fact that he let me go and break into a run, feeling his stricken eyes on my back as I give it all I have, heaving and forcing myself to go as fast as my legs will take me.
I should probably wonder why they aren’t coming after me. Maybe because they’re big and heavy, while I’m small and light on my feet, yet by the time I reach the expanse of lawn and snaking alleyways in front of the dorm building I hear them behind me, calling out my name. I keep saying the spells under my breath, and lights flicker on along the alleyway leading to the red brick dorm building. It seems the light causes Lachlan and his goons to fall back like vampires hit by sunlight.
I always keep my key card in the back pocket of my jeans, so I manage to take it out in time and swipe it through the entrance device. As soon as I’ve leapt inside, I force the door shut again, the system being too slow, my whole face scrunched and red from the effort. I succeed at the last moment, expecting my chasers to slam against the frosted windowpanes the moment the door falls into its locks.
I take a few steps back, eyes on the fuzzy white light that makes it through the frosted windowpane. The only sounds I can make out is the sound of my own breathing and the slow shuffling of my steps. Seconds feel like minutes as my eyes keep stuck to the windows. I’m not even blinking. Had this happened last month, it would have been surprising that no one’s on the hallways, no boisterous students disregarding some disgruntled teacher on night watch. But since the disappearances, an air of doom has been hanging over this town, and now all those daredevils prefer to keep out of the spotlight. Muscular heartthrobs and alphaholes with black belts keep their doors locked. There’s never any sign of a girl in the hallways at night, and I don’t want to hang around here for too long either.
I find my way back to my room, holding carefully onto the banister. Those goons could be thinking of something as we speak. The sensors should have picked up my presence on the hallway, for example, and turned on the lights, but that doesn’t happen. I might be falling down the steep slope of paranoia, but I can’t help thinking that maybe those bastards outside did something to cut the power off. But they wouldn’t go this far for a bullying job, would they? Or maybe this turned out more serious than they planned, and now they have to go all the way. Threatening a woman with rape in the street has consequences even for the big and powerful these days, no matter how insignificant the victim. Could they be dangerous just because they panicked?
I take the last few steps to my room at a run, slide my key card through the device attached to the knob, and storm into what I expect to be the warmth and dim light of my matchbox dorm room, but something’s wrong. The lamp on my desk by the window is off, and the heavy curtains apparently drawn, casting the room into total darkness. I stop in my tracks, the door still open behind me. I need a few seconds to make sense of this. I’m sure I let the lamp on—it has an energy-saving bulb—in order to make it look like someone’s home. There has been some breaking-and-entering going on lately. I’m pretty sure I didn’t pull the curtains shut either.
The wheels in my head turn faster as I start walking backwards, re-considering the safety of the only place I’ve ever really felt safe in. I turn around, ready to break into a run, but the door slams shut. In shock, I don’t even scream. I stand here in the darkness as it starts wrapping around me like the arms of a man.
A very strong man, because his arms don’t give in an inch as I struggle. I scream in panic, but the darkness thickens, swallowing the sound.
“Jesus fucking Christ!”
I return to the one thing that worked when Lachlan and his goons got me in the street. I take a deep breath, even though what fills my lungs is smoke, and not air. Maybe there’s a fire somewhere close, but then again, if there were fire there would also be light. Not to mention the alarm would be tearing all through the dorm building, and other students would be running out of their rooms, trying to save themselves.
With my fists clenched and my back against something that feels like stone, I say the spell again. I can hear the lamp fuse buzzing on my desk, and the man holding me whips around, turning me in the process. The lamp keeps spewing out silver light, as if struggling on its own. My captor no longer holds me, but he’s not gone either. I can feel his presence so heavily that I can’t breathe.
A face begins to take shape from the swirling smoke, and the more I see of it, the lower my jaw drops. It’s a horned man with angular cheekbones, square jaw and completely black eyeballs. I was never much of a believer in good and evil as the religions serve them, but this must be a vision from hell, and this guy must be a demon stepping out of a portal of smoke. Probably the same one that took Georgia and Josie, too.
“No, this can’t be real.”
“Neveah McKinney.” His voice sounds as demonic as his eyes look, raising the finest hairs along my spine. “Daughter of Leah McKinney, born Silverstone, only female descendant of the Silverstone family. I’ve been looking for you for a long time.” There are leather pads on his broad shoulders, and those horns look more and more like a crown. He’s obviously strong, stronger than any human could be, and his face, even though masculine and aggressive in its lines, has an ethereal kind of beauty to it. Long black hair frames his face, and his skin has the color of moonlight.
“You wield magic. You use spells from books you shouldn’t possess,” he continues. “Now, where are those books?”
I don’t have to ask what he means. Legends of the Fae, the trilogy mom gifted to me on Christmas Eve, ten years ago. Back then, I thought she only gave me the books with their chipped covers and old illustrations because she couldn’t afford to buy something new. She was already drinking heavily at that point, and Dad had started down the same path, having failed to save her. That’s where all their money went.
“You’re gonna have to let me turn on the light to find them.” My voice trembles as I point in the general direction of the shelves where I keep them. The demon smiles in the corner of his mouth, a knowing, almost seductive smile. His silence feels like an invitation, so I turn on the lamp, this time with my hand.
I walk carefully to the shelves, rise onto the tips of my toes, and slide the cased omnibus set from the upper shelf. I keep my back to the demon for a few moments, clutching the trilogy to my chest and wondering whether I should try and make a run for it. But maybe I can negotiate with him.
“If this is what you’re after, you can take them,” I say. “You can have them with my blessing. But I’m gonna want Georgia Hathaway and Josephine Norman back.”
“Oh, I will take the books. And I will take you as well.”
“What? Why? All I remember from these books is that spell. You came here for the books, and you have them now. What could you possibly do with me? I mean look at me!” I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore, I’m babbling like an idiot, backing away towards the closed door until there’s nowhere left to go. The demon—or shadow fae, it occurs to me as I start remembering the stories inside those books—stands still, wisps of smoke swirling around him until they spread over the entire room. They crawl over the ceiling and the walls, my bookshelves and my bed, exuding so much power that I can feel it crawling over my skin.
It’s magical power. I desperately try to free myself from the wisps that curl around me, pulling me closer to their master, but not even the light spells can help me now. The desk lamp goes out, and now the only source of light is this fae man’s frosty face, its natural glow that resembles moonlight.
“I didn’t come here for the books. I came here for you.”
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