The links to other Excerpt Monday posts are underneath my excerpt, so click through a few and see what wonderful writing is available for you this month. (If any of them don’t connect right away, don’t panic. It’s international, so come back later)
Daire took his sword and plunged it into the soft earth, feeling the blade bite deep and hold. Then he knelt beside his brother.
Aidan moaned as Daire slid his arm under his shoulders, preparing to lift him. “If you can hear me, brother, listen. I’m going to try something. We’ll need to act at once when I do.”
“You shouldn’t move him,” said the girl, her voice more strident than he would have expected. She had been terrified, helpless, and now she decided to argue. Now, when he needed her to be silent and obey, she argued.
Daire bit back a snarl. There was no time. His strength was failing in this mortal world and Aidan’s was almost spent. If they were to have any sort of chance, it had to be now.
“I do what I must. Get to your home and be safe. Forget what you have seen. This is no place for the likes of you.” He lifted Aidan, holding him as gently as he could.
“The likes of me?” she exclaimed, pushing her unruly hair back from her face. “What is that supposed to mean? Just what do you…?”
Her voice fell to shocked silence and the air around them stilled abruptly. Daire cursed beneath his lead-weighted breath and within him an ancient instinct sighed, “Too late.”
Aynia glided from the tree line on artful feet, beautiful and sleek, a huntress. Lorcan trailed behind her like a dog. Four of her other guards flanked her. Daire’s sense of danger grew. Not from her guards. He could handle such scum. It was Aynia. Her face remained calm, but he could see the glint of triumph in her violet eyes. She shook back her hair, glossy and dark like a raven’s wing, and smiled her cutthroat smile.
Daire gripped the sword and unleashed his power. Magic spiralled down the bronze blade, the entire store of magic within his heart, crackling against the metal and burrowing into the soil, driven by his will.
The ground reared up under his opponents as root and vine erupted, seizing her guards and tossing them left and right.
Only Aynia stood unaffected, the calm at the centre of his world-storm, her hair billowing out behind her. Once he had run his fingers through that hair, whispered words of love while his lips had brushed against her flawless skin. Before she turned traitor.
“You’re weaker than I remember, Daire.” She stretched out her hand. Something thudded against his stomach, almost bowling him backwards, but he kept his footing, holding Aidan and trying to push all the remaining energy at his disposal through the sword and into an attack. But it was slipping away, his strength fading. Cursing the mortals, their world and their iron, he strained to renew his efforts, but the magic within him spluttered and failed. The garden and the forest beyond it started to calm and Aynia’s companions picked themselves up.
Daire swore as his vision blurred. He was weakening. The putrid air and the frailer nature of this world not only drained him, but made the environment more difficult to control.
“Two princes of the Seelie Court,” Aynia gloated. “Our rewards will be without measure. And what entertainment you’ll both provide. Take them.”
Before the Dark Sidhe could move, the mortal woman reached out and closed her hand over Daire’s where it rested on top of the sword hilt. Her palm felt like something carved from ice. The jasmine-and-orange-blossom scent of her overpowered him again, and with it came something else, something totally unforeseen.
Power flooded his system, glowing through his eyes, through the pores of his skin, warm and blinding, speeding his heart and wringing breath from him. Such fire could not be wasted, would not allow itself to be wasted. It seized him with an imperative all its own.
Rushing to obey while its power burned hottest, he turned it directly on Aynia. She screamed in fury, falling back against the onslaught. The Dark Sidhe dissolved to shadows once more.
“What did you do?” the woman gasped.
“What did I do?” He pulled his hand clear of both her and the sword. His skin tingled where she had touched him, glowed everywhere else. “I used whatever you just gave me, woman. But we haven’t much time. I must get him to safety.”
He hadn’t expected her aid, but she moved without his say-so and between them they lifted Aidan and retrieved the sword. Was it his imagination that the hilt still felt warm, or that the back of his hand itched with a need he couldn’t define, a need to feel her touch again? Madness. And thoughts that did not become a prince of the Sidhe.
Daire led the way, swiftly as he dared, through the woods to the stone circle where the veil parted. Evening wore on and the moon would soon rise. With sun or moon falling on it, the gateway would not budge without the most powerful enchantments – magic far beyond him – and he needed to get his brother to safety.
The woman, brown haired, solemn eyed, helped him carry Aidan through the forest without a word of complaint. For that Daire felt grateful because he couldn’t be sure he would have been able to carry him alone. He needed whatever help she could give. She staggered under the weight of the unresponsive body, her body still bearing the hallmarks of one left dazed from such a powerful casting. She would sleep sound tonight, if the nightmares let her. Even so, Daire could not allow her, a mortal, to see the way back. The old saying was ingrained in his memory, as much a part of his early lessons as how to count or write in ancient ogham.
Iron born and iron bred.
Trust not iron, it will see you dead!
On the banks of a stream, within easy reach of the slope leading to the circle, he stopped and laid Aidan on the ground.
“My thanks, milady,” he told her with a bow. “But you must leave us here. I am sorry for any distress my brother and I might have caused you.”
“But…but who are you?” She gazed at him with eyes bright as amber and pushed her hair out of her face with a trembling hand. An attractive thing, though her looks were nothing like the beauty of the Sidhe. Frail and mortal, a mayfly existence, yet beautiful nonetheless. In another time, another place, he might have-
Daire shook his head, dismissing that fantasy for once and for all. With another man, perhaps… Aidan had been right and Daire could admit it. He had not been made for love.
He caught her face in his hands, cradling her for a moment. She jerked back, but not so far as to escape. Beneath his touch, with glamour flowing from his palms, she stilled, gazing at him in wonder. Her soft skin warmed him. Part of him wanted to linger there, but it was impossible, impossible. He leaned forwards, brushing his lips to hers, letting her gasp of surprise fall against his mouth and he released a final spell, one of forgetting. He relinquished her with an unexpected tinge of regret.
“Go,” he told her. “Shut your doors and turn your iron keys. You’ll be safe at your own hearth. The moon has almost risen and we must be gone.”
She nodded solemnly as the enchantment encircled her, or perhaps she truly understood the gravity of the situation. It would be nice to think so. It was only after she had gone that he realised he hadn’t asked her name. A small discourtesy, but less so than seeing her become a toy of the Dark Sidhe. Still, it grated.
Aidan came to as they reached the veil, groggy and with legs as wobbly as a newborn lamb. He groaned, trying to pull away and stand alone, but he wilted a moment later. Daire caught him before he fell.
“Are you ready for home then?” asked Daire with a laugh, pulling his acorn key out from his shirt and closing his hand around it to activate the spell. Only one Sidhe at a time could pass through the veil and the key, this tiny pendant in the form of a golden acorn, was the Seelie Court’s chief defence against infiltration by the Dark Sidhe.
Aidan reached inside his collar for his own key. His face turned the white of a swan’s wing. “It’s gone,” he whispered, his voice hoarse and pained. “My key’s gone.”
Behind them, Daire could feel the light of the moon creeping through the trees. Briefly he wondered if the young woman was safe, if she had made it home. But the problem at hand loomed larger: one key, two Sidhe, one of whom was hurt. Time had just run out.
“Damn it Aidan, you’d better send help fast!”
Daire wrenched the key over his head and slid the chain around Aidan’s neck. He pressed the golden acorn into Aidan’s hand and pushed him through the shimmering mists of the veil.
The gateway to their world snapped shut, leaving Daire alone in the mortal realm. Moonlight enveloped him and his strength, such as it remained, gave out.
Other Excerpt Monday excerpts – Please note these are just a small selection and I have not personally checked them all. Please be aware that they are rated by the authors, and click accordingly. For a full list of excerpts this month go to the Excerpt Monday site.
Joining us this week:
Babette James, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
Christina DeLorenzo, YA (PG 13)
Nika Dixon, Romantic Suspense (PG 13)
Bryn Donovan, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Kaige, Historic Romance (PG-13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Adelle Laudan, Contemporary Romance (PG 13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical Romance (PG13)
Rebecca Savage, romantic suspense (PG 13)
Crista McHugh, Paranormal Romance (PG 13)
Leigh Royals, Historical Romance (PG 13)