A Highlander’s Destiny, page 1
Who was he to argue with a demand like that?
Smooth, firm, creamy skin yielded to his touch, molded to his palms as if her body had been made for him. She moaned as he ran the pads of his thumbs over her nipples, each one hardening under his caress, and he lowered his head to trace one pebbled tip with his tongue. The taste of her skin was intoxicating…
He froze, the muscles of his abdomen jerking in response to her hands pushing into his open jeans.
“You don’t like that?” she murmured breathlessly. She wrapped her jeans-clad legs up and around his hips, encouraging him down on to her.
Oh, he liked it. “Like it. Too much,” he panted. Still holding her wrists, he lifted them over her head and sank into her, kissing her breast, her arm, her elbow, her forehead, her neck, and finally, her beautiful, full lips.
“Mayhue’s world is magical and great fun.”
“A delightful world of the faerie.”
“A lovely getaway to fantasyland and I can be ready to go again in a moment.”
—Fallen Angel Reviews
“Melissa Mayhue rocks the Scottish Highlands.”
—A Romance Review
Also by Melissa Mayhue
Thirty Nights with a Highland Husband
Soul of a Highlander
A Highlander of Her Own
The Sale of this book without its cover is unauthorized. If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported to the publisher as “unsold and destroyed.” Neither the author nor the publisher has received payment for the sale of this “stripped book”
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 by Melissa Mayhue
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Pocket Books paperback edition January 2010
POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.
Cover art by Alan Ayers
Manufactured in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ISBN 978-1-4391-5601-8 (ebook)
To my wonderful family, for their support and love.
I don’t know how I’d do this without you.
Frank, Marty, Bee, Chris, Nick, Megan and Chandra—
my life is enriched by each and every one of you.
To the Soapbox Divas, Rena Marks and Kirsten
Richard. Through their own unbelievable difficulties
and tragedies, these talented ladies have been there for
me, pushing me to make my stories the best
they can be. You guys are the best!
My sincere thanks to the following readers who won the contest to name Sarah and Ian’s twins:
Laura L. Curtis
Aislinn and Alexander McCullough thank you!
Thank you to Nick Mayhue for his computer expertise and very patient answers to all my technical questions.
Thank you to the security professionals at Denver International Airport for their technical input.
Many thanks for all the support and friendship at Colorado Romance Writers and especially to my favorite book-signing buddies: Lynda Hilburn, Tara Janzen, Elaine Levine, and Robin D. Owens.
Thank you to my wonderful agent, Elaine Spencer, for always having the answers to all my questions.
And, as always, a huge thank-you to the best editor anywhere, Megan McKeever. I am eternally grateful for the pleasure of working with you!
“Watch your step, Adira, there’s another body here at the foot of the stairs.”
For a moment, Adira Ré Alyn ignored the hand Flynn Dá Anan extended to assist her in her descent. But that moment was long enough to remind him of his place. That and the haughty look she sent his way.
“If you please, mistress.” He continued to hold his hand out, but he’d lowered his eyes. As he should.
“Very well.” With a nod of her head, she accepted his assistance.
It was important she maintain the distance between herself and her servants. It was bad enough she’d had to rely on Flynn and Dermond so heavily since Reynard’s disappearance. Apparently that reliance had given Flynn the impression he was important to her. Indispensable.
He needed to be taught the fallacy of that particular assumption. Quickly.
Neither of Reynard’s lapdogs were of any consequence when compared to her. Not in this world. Not any longer. They were all Faerie full-bloods, but she was also a Courtesan of Nuada and the acknowledged mate to Reynard Servans. As such, in his absence she ruled their sect in his stead. One day, they would all acknowledge her as their queen.
She had no doubt there were some who worked behind her back to grab that power from her. She could feel it. But she would deal with them all in good time.
What she needed was an edge. Something to consolidate the authority in her hands until Reynard returned.
If he returned.
No one had seen him since he’d gone on his last foray to find a female descendant of the Fae. A female who could lead them back home to the Realm of Faerie and end their exile on the Mortal Plain.
“This way, mistress.” Flynn bowed his head, averting his eyes.
Good. He’d gotten the message. At least for now.
Pushing an errant lock of long red hair from her face, she followed carefully.
“You’re certain your man saw to it that the Mortals were trapped before the explosion?”
Adira didn’t miss Flynn’s shifty sideways glance. His loyalty wasn’t to be trusted. Not that it mattered anymore. Now that she knew how The Renewal was accomplished, she could handle all future arrangements for herself if necessary.
She had never suspected The Renewal was such a simple process. It only required bringing about the untimely death of a Mortal to release the life essence she so desperately needed. Without that essence, she would wither and age.
But not die. She would never die.
That was the fate that hateful bitch, the Earth Mother, and her High Council of the Realm of Faerie had decreed for the Nuadians when they’d been banished to the Mortal Plain. Banished from all contact with their magic and the Fountain of Souls.
The thought of living for untold centuries as a creature decrepit with age, weak and wrinkled, was beyond any horrors Adira could imagine. No, that was not a fate she would willingly accept.
“Are there none left alive?” Adira grew more irritable with each lifeless body they found, her suspicion growing that Flynn’s puppet had completely botched the job.
Though he didn’t answer her question, the stiffening of his back told her she’d touched on his own concern. He needed the life essence as much as she.
“Down this corridor, mistress. We must hurry. The police will be arriving any time now.”
As if she cared about any Mortal authority figures. Thanks to the Earth Mother’s decree, no full-blooded Fae could be killed here on the Mortal Plain. Just as they could not harm anyone. Oh, they could reach out a hand to stroke, to play, to love. But let a single intent of harming another flit through their thoughts and their bodies became transparent as smoke. The Fae could neither commit nor experience violence in the Mortal World.
A fist sent out in anger would pass right through any person or object. Just as any weapon aimed at them would pass through their bodies as if through a shaft of light.
No, she didn’t fear the police.
Still, the authorities could interfere unduly, so she picked up her pace. She nodded and followed Flynn’s tall form through the darkened building, carefully stepping over the twisted metal and body parts, heading toward the room where the men were to have been detained.
“Shoddy work, Flynn. Wasteful.”
His lack of response was wise. What excuse could he possibly give? He’d been sloppy with the compulsion he’d placed on the Mortal. Obviously the man had needed more specific instructions than he’d received.
Since violence was impossible for the Nuadian Fae, using Mortals to accomplish what they couldn’t do themselves was an inconvenient necessity. So many Mortals possessed weak spirits and even weaker minds. The Nuadians only needed to find one of those and, with a simple mental push, replace the Mortal’s will with their own in order to accomplish whatever they wanted.
Easy enough to do, but it required a great expenditure of energy, which was why she preferred to delegate that particular task to her subordinates.
That and the pain one could experience if the Mortal chosen had a stronger will and fought the compulsion.
Adira shuddered at the memory of such an experience far in the past.
No, she much preferred to delegate.
In this case, Flynn had directed one of the weaker Mortals to detonate an explosive in this research facility. The location was secluded enough that they should have had time to make their way through the building before anyone could arrive.
The only problem was that the Mortal Flynn had chosen had used too large an explosive and most people inside the building had died instantly or within minutes.
That did her no good at all.
Her only hope now lay in the men who had been locked in the outer room. Their injuries would be substantial enough that they likely wouldn’t survive, either, but their distance from the center of the explosion should mean it would take a bit longer for them to die.
And that was key to Adira filling her needs.
If she wasn’t there, physically present, when their souls unwillingly departed their bodies, she couldn’t absorb the energy of the life essence that was given off by that process.
Ahead of her, Flynn punched a code into the electronic lock, pressed his shoulder to the door and, with a superhuman effort, shoved it open.
Adira stepped inside to the certain knowledge that even here the damage was greater that it should have been.
“It appears the instructions you gave your little pet were unclear.” How hard it was to control the disappointment, the desperation she couldn’t allow to filter through her voice.
Flynn prodded at the rubble in the room, raising more of the fine, powdery dust that covered everything.
“Adira! Over here. One yet lives.”
He’d found one! The news brought her such joy she chose to ignore even his familiar use of her name.
Nearing the Mortal, she could see it would be only a matter of moments. Not long to wait now. Quickly she crouched over him, eager to breathe in the essence that would erupt from his body as his life force was torn away.
But the uncooperative fool still struggled to hang on to his miserable life. He lifted one bloody hand to her leg, capturing the hem of her white designer pants in his weakening grip.
“Am I dying?” he asked through mangled lips.
“Yes, you are.” She purred her response, her excitement growing.
His eyes flickered shut and she waited impatiently for signs of his end. Instead he stubbornly clung to his soul a little longer, his hand sliding up her leg, leaving a bloody trail on the expensive fabric.
“Are you an angel?”
His voice was weaker and the knowledge of what she would shortly receive from him emboldened her, excited her, drawing a sharp burst of laughter that surprised even her.
“You may think of me as the angel of death if you like.” She lifted his hand from her leg, taking one long finger into her mouth, curling her tongue around the digit, sucking.
Adira barely noticed his eyes open wide in shock, remaining open even when the life behind them ebbed away.
Her vision faded as her attention centered on the intense physical sensations gripping her body. The tang of copper and salt permeated her senses, sending an electric jangle through her limbs. The feeling intensified, as if her veins inflated inside her body, growing larger and larger until she felt as though she might burst, filled to overflowing with an unfamiliar energy coursing through her.
It felt of power, pure and simple, so concentrated she almost missed the Mortal’s last breath and the opportunity to capture the essence she had waited for so impatiently.
And then it was hers.
With one deep breath she could feel her skin smoothing, her vitality returning, even as the strange new energy swirled through her consciousness.
“Are you well, mistress?”
Adira glanced up to Flynn, surprised at the concern in his voice. Even in the dusty gloom of this room, the outline of his body fairly sparkled, as if she viewed him through foreign eyes. Eyes that saw so sharply, every strand of his long golden hair stood out individually.
“Of course I’m all right,” she answered, accepting his hand to help her stand, her legs unexpectedly shaky. She couldn’t remember anything like this happening before.
As she rose to her feet, the first sirens sounded.
Irritation raged through her mind. The Mortals couldn’t harm her, but it meant an inconvenience she didn’t wish to encounter.
The desire to vent her frustration was strong. She drew back her foot to kick the corpse of the aggravating Mortal whose pitiful, futile struggle to live had delayed her.
Her blow landed in the man’s side with a solid thwack, throwing her off balance and shooting pain through her toe. She grabbed for the wall to steady herself, her mind reeling with the shock of what she’d just experienced.
It wasn’t possible!
Her foot should have gone straight through the man. Where had this new ability come from?
Her mind raced, searching through recent memories for something, anything, to explain what was happening to her.
One action stood out in her mind.
Could it be the Mortal’s blood? It was only after she’d tasted the blood that she’d felt the wave of power wash over her.
“I believe we can still make it out of here through the back unnoticed if we hurry, mistress.” Flynn spoke from his position at the end of the hallway, his hand lifted to motion her forward.
He hadn’t seen!
She hurried to him, following his lead mutely, her mind otherwise occupied.
This was it, the edge she’d prayed for. She wouldn’t need to hunt weak-minded Mortals to do her bidding any longer. She could pick up a weapon, set her own exp
With power such as this, no other Nuadian would ever be able to challenge her. She wouldn’t just be queen of their sect, she could demand the obeisance of all the Nuadians inhabiting the Mortal World.
And all thanks to the blood of one obstinate Mortal.
She wanted to laugh out loud at the pure, blind luck of the situation. She had thought only to taunt the dying man and look what she’d discovered. What wonderful fortune smiled on her this day!
Possibilities and plans crowded her mind, each more brilliant and compelling than the one before until at last she and Flynn reached the back of the building. She slipped through the door and a new idea pushed aside everything else.
If a pitifully weak Mortal’s blood could give her this kind of power, what might she receive from the blood of a Fae?
“Is Rosie still having those awful dreams?”
Cate MacKiernan looked up from piping a sugary border onto the big birthday cake in front of her. She nodded her head in response to her sister-in-law’s question, gathering her thoughts and steeling her emotions. The memory of the fear she’d seen in her seven-year-old’s eyes brought a lump to her throat that she fought to force away.
“They’ve grown more frequent since we saw you last.”
“Have you any ideas as to what’s causing them?” Mairi MacKiernan Navarro ran her finger around the edge of the bowl on the table between the two women, scooping up frosting in the process.
“None at all.” Cate tossed her pastry bag into the sink with more force than was necessary, spattering its contents up onto the surrounding marble.
They’d eliminated spicy foods, altered Rosie’s bedtime, put a night-light in her room, and even limited her television time to only her most favorite feel-good, happy stories. Still, the child suffered through increasingly frequent night terrors.
“We’ve tried everything we can think of except taking her to a therapist.”