Authors: Donna Grant
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Light Fae Court
Talin pushed open the thirty—foot double doors and entered . . . Hell. The court of Queen Usaeil was a gorgeous one. All around him, Light Fae with their midnight hair and silver eyes—their beauty a trait of being a Fae—danced, laughed, and plotted.
He paused steps into the massive room and surveyed the huge chamber. Everything glittered—per Usaeil’s demand. The decorations were white and gold, with splashes of vivid, breathtaking flowers in various colors everywhere.
There wasn’t an inch of the Queen’s castle that didn’t bespeak wealth and beauty. Add in the Light Fae, and the brilliance made it difficult to gaze upon.
Even for a Fae.
But then again, Talin wasn’t just any Light Fae. He was a Reaper—chosen by Death to be an executioner for all Fae. Except no one knew his true identity.
If he wanted to ensure that everyone lived, then they could never know.
Talin walked through the crowd gathered, in the hopes that Usaeil might make an appearance. The Fae, as a general rule, were a race of beings that cared only about themselves.
There were a few exceptions—Rhi, for instance. But the Light Fae who’d once had a well—documented affair with a Dragon King was another matter entirely.
The Fae around him now had no idea their queen pretended to be a very well-known American movie star. So they wouldn’t know she was on location shooting her next film and wouldn’t be in attendance that night.
Then again, the Fae didn’t care. Their thoughts were on something else entirely.
Talin paused when the whispers reached him.
. They whispered the word as if speaking it would bring them to life. Their voices were filled with fear, panic.
And they should feel such emotions. Every Fae was subject to Death’s judgment, be they Light or Dark.
The Dark Fae preferred to use their magic for evil, which changed them physically by adding silver to their black hair and turning their eyes red. They fed off humans by having sex with them, stealing their souls in the process.
Light Fae were those who grasped the magic they were given and only dallied with a human every now and again, though never killing them.
That didn’t mean the Light weren’t judged. In some cases, Death was harder on the Light than the Dark. Balance. There always had to be balance.
As Talin listened to the scheming and constant conspiring, he could understand why. Those among the court were devious, calculating, conniving, and treacherous. It wasn’t always done to get in favor with the queen. In fact, a lot of it was done for marriages, business dealings, and even position among the Light.
Talin didn’t understand the need to have a social standing. The humans had all but gotten rid of theirs, but the Fae made up for it by structuring their entire race around such things. Though it had always been so.
Since his arrival at court, Talin had been begged, bribed, and even threatened by families to marry their daughters. All of which, turned his stomach.
The machinations to get a man to notice a certain woman made Talin wary. He’d seen the same trickery directed at him on several occasions.
He quickly moved to the side of the room and up the four steps to one of a dozen white granite pillars. From this vantage point, he could see in almost every direction.
Talin leaned a shoulder against the column and crossed his arms over his chest. He wasn’t sure why Death had chosen him to spy upon the Light court, but a Reaper didn’t question orders.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. It had happened only once, and it was a good thing the orders were questioned, because it turned out Death hadn’t sent the directive for them to kill all half—Fae among the humans.
Turns out, that order had somehow come from an old enemy out to end the Reapers—and Death. The fact this new nemesis was none other than a former Reaper Death had sent to the Netherworld for his crimes only made things more difficult.
Talin had no idea what Death hoped he might find spying upon the Light court. All he’d discovered so far was that the Light somehow knew the Reapers were on Earth.
No one knew who the Reapers were, or if, in fact, they were real. The Reapers were a story told to the young to scare them as well as deter them from turning Dark. The Dark, well, he wasn’t sure what they were told.
The fact was, there wasn’t a Fae alive—Light or Dark—who wasn’t frightened of the Reapers. Just the mention of them put the Fae on high alert.
If no one knew whether the Reapers were even real, why would the Fae somehow know they’d returned to Earth? It was a question Talin asked himself over and over again with no answer in sight.
While he attempted to figure it out, he watched those at court. There were the ones who had prestige and position within Fae society.
Those few individuals walked around with a cocky smile in place, their heads held high as if they were above reproach. In their wake were others, whispering and plotting as jealousy threatened to swallow them whole. That was the next tier of Light—those who wanted the top positions.
These Fae never stopped scheming or conspiring. Their goal was to be on top, and they were going to get there one way or another. This group was by far the largest, with its own social hierarchy that made Talin’s head hurt each time he thought about it.
The last group was those who managed to make their way to the castle by the queen’s invitation, some trade or bargain, or another such endeavor. These Fae were rendered bright—eyed by the opulence and allure, and most didn’t realize they needed to guard themselves against it all.
With the right connections, these lowest of the Fae could manage to get into the second level easily enough. However, working their way through that hierarchy was trickier than maneuvering through a battlefield.
“Hello, lover,” whispered a sexy feminine voice in his ear as hands wound around him from behind.
Talin smiled, unable to help himself. He looked over his shoulder at Neve. She raised a black brow, her silver eyes searching his.
Desire struck him quickly, making him instantly hard. Neve managed to bring such a reaction from him every time he heard her voice, felt her touch, or looked at her.
In other words, simply her existence filled him with lust. It knotted tightly within him, demanding that he claim her body. He drew in a shaky breath as he ached to taste her, to hold her luscious body against his.
“You walked right past me.” She lifted her chin, her dark pink lips tightening subtly. “I should be offended.”
Talin took her hand and pulled her around to face him. His skin prickled at the feel of her soft curves against him. His heart quickened when he breathed in her scent.
How he craved this woman.
“But you won’t.”
He took in her heart—shaped face and high cheekbones with skin that seemed to glow. Her ebony locks were pulled away from her face in several rows of braids before being clasped at the back of her head, leaving the rest of her locks to fall about her shoulders.
Black brows arched over large, almond—shaped eyes that tilted up at the corners. Her lashes were thick, her lips full.
The long, slim column of her throat tempted him to lean down and nip at the delicate skin while running his hands over her delicious curves.
She shot him an icy look before she let her eyes run up and down him. “Why’s that?”
“You’ll forget all about it when I take you down the corridor and into one of the many hidden alcoves.” He looked down at the bright pink gown that accentuated her breasts and small waist. Talin ran his finger along the swell of one breast. “I’ll tear off that dress and have you screaming in pleasure.”
He met her gaze as he slid his finger between the plump swells of her breasts. “I should be. I’ve done it with you often enough.”
Neve smiled and wrapped her arms around him and said, “Hmm. I like your thinking.” Then she gave a little pout. “You’ve been gone a long time.”
“I’m here now.” He squeezed her breast before wrapping both arms around her. So far, Talin had been able to dodge any questions she posed regarding his whereabouts, but Neve was getting more pointed in her questioning.
“Yes, you are. None too soon, either.”
That made Talin cautious. There was always something going on at court. Hopefully, this didn’t pertain to him or Neve. “What? Besides the usual.”
“You haven’t seen it?” she asked with a frown.
Neve took his hand and dragged him behind her as she meandered through the people until they came to a crowd of onlookers gawking at something.
Talin maneuvered around her and shouldered his way to the front. Hanging on the wall was the front of a human magazine with a picture of Usaeil and a man taken through the window of a hotel room.
The man was out of focus, but Talin knew who it was—Constantine. He was King of the Dragon Kings, and he wasn’t going to be happy about this.
Talin wondered if Con and the other Dragon Kings had learned of this. More importantly, had Rhi? Talin looked around to see if he could catch a glimpse of Rhi. This was definitely something she would post in the middle of court.
“Who are you looking for?” Neve asked.
Talin kept his hold on Neve’s hand and moved them away from the crowd. “Have you seen Rhi?”
“She always hated being at court, but no one has seen her in a long while. There was a rumor that she quit the Queen’s Guard.”
He ran a hand through his hair. There was one person who would know if Rhi was responsible for this. Daire was veiled and following Rhi wherever she went, per Death’s orders. Death had a peculiar interest in Rhi that none of them understood.
“Why are you asking about Rhi?” Neve questioned.
Talin shrugged and dropped his hand to his side. “Rhi’s pissed at Usaeil.”
“So you think she posted the magazine cover?” Neve asked with brows raised.
He glanced back at the crowd and halted before he faced Neve. “Yes.”
Neve licked her lips and took a step closer to him, her voice lowering. “Right now, everyone is shocked about Usaeil’s escapades as an actor.”
“She didn’t purposefully hide it. Did she?”
Neve lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “It explains why our queen has been gone so much. The fact is, that’s what everyone is talking about. Now. Soon, it’ll turn to the man she was photographed with.”
“And?” Talin wanted to know if the Light thought it was a human or a Dragon King.
“Some speculate it’s a human. That doesn’t bode well for our queen.”
Talin may not have known Neve for long, but in the time he’d spent with her, he’d come to recognize that she formulated her own opinions, thoughts, and answers without concern as to what the rest of the court thought or did.
Neve looked him in the eye and said, “I have other thoughts.”
“Like?” he pressed.
“I believe it’s a Dragon King.”
Several seconds passed before he reacted. “Why do you think that?”
“I’ve never met Usaeil, but I’ve seen her often enough. She’s a queen, Talin. She’s not going to give herself to just any man, especially not a human.”
“Even a queen has needs.”
That brought a small smile to Neve’s lips. “She’s taken lovers within the court every few hundred years, but none know their identity.”
“Then how do you know she’s taken a lover?”
Neve gave him a flat look. “How do you know anyone has taken a lover?”
“Point taken.” Talin started walking. He waited until they were outside the castle walls and strolling through the cold night air with dark, heavy clouds threatening rain before he asked, “Do you really think Usaeil would take a Dragon King as her lover?”
“You mean because of what happened with Rhi?”
He nodded. “Do you know the story?”
“Every Fae knows that story. Or at least what we were told.”
“I know Rhi was in love. I know the queen didn’t like the fact that a Light in the Queen’s Guard was seeing a Dragon King. There are some Light who believe Usaeil was the one who caused the end of the affair.”
Neve moved her hand in the mist that had begun to form. The cold didn’t bother the Fae as it did the humans. “No other Fae has been with a Dragon King before or since. It’s one of those unspoken rules.”
“Is it?” he asked with a frown. “I didn’t know.”
“How could you not? It’s because of Rhi. Usaeil might not have responded before or after the affair, but the fact she remained mute about it said more than if she’d made a speech.”
“True. How does everyone feel about Rhi quitting the Queen’s Guard?”
“So it’s true?”
“Just the rumors have shocked the court. She’s been gone so long, many have assumed the rumor is true. They’re not necessarily afraid without her. More uneasy. People trusted her. When Rhi gave her word, she carried through with it.”
Talin put all this to memory to share with the other Reapers later.
“You know,” Neve said. “I almost feel sorry for Usaeil.”
“Why?” he asked as he turned to her.
She gave a shake of her head. “If Usaeil has taken a King as a lover, it’s inevitable that Rhi finds out. The vibrant, impulsive Rhi will go after her.”
That was exactly Talin’s thought, as well.