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With Halloween (Samhain) fast approaching, I’ve posted one of the scarier moments from my novel Soul Fire. Daire, Sidhe Prince of the Seelie court is trapped in the mortal world, aided by Rowan Blake, a human with an uncanny ability both to produce Soul Fire on which the Sidhe thrive, and to turn his world upside down. Fighting his growing attraction to her, Daire struggles to protect her from the dark Sidhe forces which follow him. Ambushed and driven into the forests, their only hope is to reach her home, before their enemies reach them.
Daire dropped to his knees, only the sword holding him up. Rowan sprinted to his side, leaping over undergrowth. She seized his arm, pulling him to his feet.
“Come on,” she urged. “Before they wake up or come back. Let’s go!”
Daire allowed her to lead him. The trees swept by them, shadowy sentinels which Rowan feared at any second would morph into another Dark Sidhe.
Almost within sight of the house, Daire pulled her to a halt, his hand firm but gentle on her upper arm.
“Do you recall what you did the other night?”
The confused images flared behind her eyes again, the coiling of roots and vines, the upheaval of the earth, the flow of raw energy from her innermost core. Nervously, she nodded.
“We’re going to do it again. When the spell activates, we need to stand ready to run for your home. Do you understand?”
Run? Could they outrun whatever lay in wait? Rowan’s chest tightened. “Yes,” she whispered.
He pointed to a tall yellow-flowered gorse. “Pick some of that.” Rowan didn’t think to argue but used her pilfered sword to hack some of the longer growth off. She offered it to him, but Daire shied back.
“No. And be careful with it. Once inside, lock the doors and windows and light a fire with that, understand?”
“No buts,” he warned in a voice that would brook no dissent. “They will kill us if they catch us and that is the best treatment either of us could hope for.”
She glared at him, guessing his plan. He intended to remain outside and hold his enemies off. It was plain on the determined lines of his face.
“And what about you?” she asked, keeping her voice as diamond hard as his gaze. Daire didn’t answer.
Rowan followed him through the trees. They moved slowly, with the utmost care, each step judiciously placed. As they made their way forwards, Rowan tried to work out what she had actually done the night they met. Daire had been holding the sword, the world was going insane all around them and she had grabbed the hilt, needing to do something, anything! Seeing his fading strength, she had reached out with her own and…and what?
In the shadow of a horse chestnut’s wide, spreading branches, she reached out to him. Her fingers brushed his arm lightly, to get his attention, intending only to tell him she didn’t know what to do. He turned so quickly, the sword sweeping towards her, that Rowan gave a tiny cry of surprise and saw the darkness flooding his eyes.
“You must be silent.” His voice emerged as a hiss.
“But I don’t—” she managed, but then laughter came from the narrow clearing ahead, a cruel, thin sound, the sound of the mean-hearted, the laughter of a tormentor. Rowan recoiled, but didn’t dare retreat. The Dark Sidhe were all around them, waiting for such a mistake.
“Prince Daire has a plaything,” one voice called out.
“Will he share?”
“No. His heart is gone. He doesn’t love us anymore. He doesn’t love anyone. He won’t share.”
“No fair no share.”
Rowan’s breath scraped against the insides of her throat. “Oh, God.”
Something to her left—far too close to her—spat out a curse.
“All the gods abandoned you, little one,” said a deeper voice, filled with the sound associated with the worst kind of leer. “There’s only us.”
And Daire, she thought. His broad shoulders rose before her, his curling hair brushing the place where his neck joined them. She could smell his scent, the deep, rich aroma of earth and wood, of the natural world.
But another smell drifted closer, from behind, the smell of decay, of rot. Rowan’s eyes widened as she realised what it meant. A hand grabbed her shoulder, pulling her aside and the knife flashed in the twilight, heading straight for Daire’s unprotected back.
Rowan did the only thing she could; she shouldered the arm aside and thrust the sticks she carried right into the torso and face of their attacker. The Dark Sidhe fell back, screaming. His knife flew from his hand into the darkness.
“Now!” Daire yelled and she flailed around, grabbing his shoulders with her free hand and willing every ounce of strength she possessed into him.
A wave of dizziness engulfed her. She sank back against the horse chestnut tree, no longer ready to run, incapable of doing anything but collapsing slowly, sliding down the rough bark. It pulled at her shirt, lifting it, scraped the length of her back.
Daire exploded into action. Four figures coalesced out of the long shadows, each one formed as handsomely as the Sidhe prince, but each one a pale comparison. They would have circled their prey, but Daire dismissed the one to his right with a high, spinning kick, while his sword lashed out at the one on his left, disarming him on the fore stroke, disembowelling him on the back.
Rowan gagged as the Dark Sidhe fell, clutching at his stomach, as if trying to stop the inevitable. His body twitched and then lay still. Daire scooped up the fallen sword and hurled it at the third. It impaled his shoulder, tossing him back with the power behind the throw.
The final Dark Sidhe curled his upper lip and snarled at Daire. Their swords clashed as he flung himself forwards, but Daire slipped his blade up and over his opponent’s. His enemy’s own weapon and arm guided Daire’s sword straight towards the heart. The Dark Sidhe opened his mouth, though whether to speak or scream Rowan couldn’t tell. Blood gushed from between his clenched teeth.
Rowan sobbed, curling in on herself, unwilling to look any longer. For the first time the danger became real, took on an actual, concrete reality in her mind. It wasn’t make-believe or a hallucination. Her imagination would never contrive such scenes. They were real. He was real. And if things went wrong they would both end up as dead as the Dark Sidhe littered around Daire now.
Daire breathed in, the muscles on his back flexing and relaxing beneath the thin layer of his leaf clothing. He allowed the breath out, slowly, and surveyed his work, a professional, she realised. A professional killer. Logic told her to direct her fear at him, but somehow she couldn’t. She clutched the plant stems and wondered where she had dropped Cathal’s sword.
Satisfied with his kills, Daire stalked back towards her. “I thought I said run for the house?”
She shook her head. It was about all she could find strength for. She felt icy cold and drained, like a wrung-out dish cloth. “I’m sorry.”
A frown creased his forehead and he knelt down before her, studying her face. The exhilaration in him faded. In its place she saw confusion which was swiftly surpassed by guilt.
“Rowan.” He touched her face tentatively, his fingertips brushing her skin. Energy crackled between them and a little more strength seeped away from her. He withdrew. “I’m sorry. I took too much from you. I never meant for you to give your all.” Before she replied, he slipped his arms around her and lifted her as if she weighed no more than a child. He studiously avoided her skin but cradled her against him. “Hold on to me.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and Daire flinched. Grey shadows tugged at the edge of her vision. She couldn’t seem to stop this burst dam of inner strength. She tried to keep the plant stalks away from him, for fear that he would react in the same way as the Dark Sidhe. As her remaining strength flagged still further, she rested her head on his shoulder, held on as best she could, and allowed his strength to carry her home.
Want to read more? Soul Fire is available as an ebook from Samhain and in Amazon Kindle format. It will be released in print format on the 1st May 2010.
Alexia Reed, Urban Fantasy (R)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG13)
Joining us this week:
Jamie Babette, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
M.G. Buehrlen, YA Fantasy (PG13)
AJ Chase, Paranormal Romcom (PG13)
Stephanie Draven, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Heather S. Ingemar, YA (PG 13)
Cynthia Justlin, Romantic Suspense (PG13)
Kaige, Historical Romance (PG13)
Julia Knight, Fantasy Romance (PG 13)
Nadia Lee, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Jeannie Lin, Historical Romance (PG13)
R.F Long, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Shawntelle Madison, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Christa McHugh, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Debbie Mumford, Fantasy Romance (PG13)
Bria Quinlan, Rom Com (PG13)
Megan S, Paranormal Romance (PG13)
Dara Sorensen, Historical Fiction (PG13)
And many more on the Excerpt Monday site