Authors: Tera Lynn Childs
“You saved my son,” the woman said, proving Winnie’s guess true.
“Then he’s alive?” she asked, desperate for news. “He’ll be okay?”
“He will be.” The queen stepped closer, looked deep into Winnie’s eyes. “You are the girl. The one he visits on his
Winnie nodded. Her heart thudded.
She remembered Cathair saying his people drew power from negative emotions like fear. The queen must have been getting quite a boost from her at the
“And you are a seer,” Cathair’s mother mused. “Interesting. That makes things vastly more complicated.”
Winnie stood motionless as the queen studied her. She sensed the power in this woman, knew that if she decided Winnie must die, it would happen this very
instant. Knowing that her own fear might fuel the magic that could kill her did nothing to ease her panic.
The queen’s unreadable face shared obvious features with Cathair’s. The high cheekbones, the slashing brows, and of course the golden eyes.
“You know of the betrothal?”
“And our clan’s…
Again, she nodded.
The queen tilted her head, studying Winnie further.
“You know more than a human should,” she finally said.
Winnie sucked in a breath, more than half afraid of the fate the next sentence would seal. But the queen said nothing. Without another word, she turned and
What just happened?
Stunned, Winnie stared into the forest, into the space between two trees where the queen had disappeared. That had been more anticlimactic than she’d
imagined. Or, if she was honest, than she’d been hoping for.
Then, from the space between the trees, another fae appeared. And not just any fae, the guard who had carried Cathair away.
“I am Tearloch,” the fae said, “Captain of the Royal Guard.”
“Hi. I’m Winnie,” she replied lamely.
“The queen has instructed me,” he began.
Oh no, this is it
, Winnie thought. The queen had told him to come back out here to kill the human who knew too much. Some thanks for the girl who’d saved her son’s life.
Well Winnie wasn’t going down without a fight. As Tearloch approached, she backed toward the car, keeping as much distance between them as possible. If he
reached for her, she would pull out some of the Tae Kwon Do moves she’d learned in the self-defense class Aunt Maureen made her take.
She tried not to laugh at the thought of using her non-existent fighting skills against a trained fae soldier.
Tearloch stopped, frowned. Finally he shook his head and finished his sentence, “the queen has instructed me to escort you safely home.”
Winnie’s first reaction was unparalleled relief—she knew her martial arts kicks would have been a joke against this lethal fighter.
Her second was despair. The queen was sending her home. The message was loud and clear: Winnie would never see Cathair again.
Cathair felt weakness like never before. His limbs were heavy, leaden, and he couldn’t seem to open his eyes. With every breath, his throat felt like he
had swallowed flame.
Something moaned. With horror, he realized the sound had come from within him.
“Hush, sweetling,” his mother’s voice cooed. “Rest. When you wake again the magics will have healed.”
He couldn’t remember his mother ever cooing. As the queen, her role required strength and certainty. She carried that requirement over into the rest of her
But despite the warnings in his mind, the desperate feeling that something was very wrong, he couldn’t make himself rise. Couldn’t pry his eyelids open.
Couldn’t remain awake…
This time when Cathair woke, the leaden feeling was gone and with tremendous effort he managed to open his eyes.
At first he thought the view that greeted him was the night sky—all midnight blue and silver stars. As his eyes focused, however, he realized the sky and
stars had been painted on. His bedroom ceiling.
Turning his head, he saw the dark silks that covered his bed.
“He wakes.” The smile in the queen’s voice was unmistakable.
His mother rose from the chair beside his bed and leaned over him. As she brushed the hair from his forehead, he swore he saw the glisten of tears in her
Memories came back to him in flashes. Leaving Winnie. The wolf. Dying on the sidewalk.
He had been so certain he was dying. The wound had been fatal—healable if he had not been so very far from the veil. Far from the only magic that could
heal a magical wound. But somehow he was alive. Somehow he…
“She saved me,” he echoed, his voice rough, scratchy.
He knew it had to be true. Winnie must have found him, must have gotten him back to the veil. He could not imagine the kind of terror she must have felt.
He closed his eyes, knowing that her fear probably saved his life.
“Aye,” his mother replied. “She approached the veil, at great risk to herself. It is only chance that Tearloch found her. Another guard…”
Cathair filled in the rest of the sentence. Another guard might have killed Winnie, not knowing her death would have been a death sentence for the prince
as well. But she was not out of danger. If his mother viewed Winnie as a threat to the clan, or as a threat to her son, there was no telling what she might
“She is brave,” Cathair replied vaguely.
“Her bravery is not in doubt.” The queen sat on the bed next to him. “She knows much about our world.”
He considered withholding the truth. But as he had told Peter recently, his mother knew when others lied. She had a sixth sense for falsehood. There was
little point in even trying.
“She is a seer,” he said. When his mother began to reply, he added, “And a dreamer.”
The queen jerked back. “Truly?”
Cathair nodded, his chest tight.
For several long moments she was silent, thinking, her thoughts a mystery. When she finally spoke, Cathair feared the answer.
He need not have worried.
“I have heard prophecy of such a one. The daughter of two lines.” The queen gazed into the blazing hearth. “She is said to be quite powerful.”
Stunned by both his mother’s words and their gentle tone, Cathair could think of no response. Only questions. Winnie had been prophesied? She was descended
lines of fae magic? Did Winnie even know this?
“But that is a concern for another day,” the queen finally said, rising and turning to face him. “We have more pressing issues. How did you come to be
injured? What attacked you?”
His jaw clenched as he remembered the attack. “‘Twas a wolf.”
“A wolf?” his mother scoffed. “No mortal world wolf could—”
“A wolf as black as midnight,” he explained. “With lavender eyes.”
“No.” The queen clutched at her throat. “It cannot be.”
As fae, Cathair was very nearly immortal. Within the human realm, he was susceptible to few wounds. One delivered by a magical weapon. One delivered by a
creature—animal or human—enchanted by magical spell. Or one delivered by one of his own kind.
There was no doubt which kind of wound he had sustained.
“Mother,” he said, his voice full of strength despite his body’s weakness, “I am not mistaken.”
The queen stiffened. Her despair melted away, burned off by anger. He saw fury in her eyes that could have cowed the darkest of evil.
She turned in a swirl of gowns and stormed from the room.
He understood her fury. Among his kind, the animal form chosen for
reflects at least some features of the fae’s true form. Like his owl
with feathers the same color as his hair. Like his mother’s caramel-feathered hawk. Like her advisor’s lavender-eyed wolf.
Left alone with his thoughts, he found himself thinking not of Ultan’s assassination attempt, but of Winnie’s courage. Of the bravery that had saved his
life. Of the love he felt for her and knew she must have also felt for him.
Walking away from her would have been the greatest regret of his life. Thankfully he still had time to repair things between them.
By the time his mother returned, he had made his decision.
“The traitor fled,” she growled as she swept back into the room. “It is rumored he seeks asylum within the Deachair.”
Cathair processed the information. In collusion with the Deachair? He should not be surprised. Ultan had been in close talks with them for years, working
to secure an alliance between the clans. Perhaps in the process he had forged a better alliance for himself.
“Good,” he replied.
“Good?” His mother looked at him like he’d lost every last shred of rational thought. “How on earth could such news be
“Because we can use that as excuse when I call off the wedding.”
“When you call off the—“ Her question cut off abruptly. She stopped and considered him for a long moment. “I see. So you love her.”
It was not a question.
Cathair nodded. He had been prepared to walk away, for the good of the clan. But his near-death had brought life into perfect clarity. “As you have always
shown, what is best for the clan is the strength of its leaders,” he said. “And I will be stronger with Winnie at my side.”
He was not defying his mother so much as making sure she understood that he would not yield. Surely she would respect that.
The silence stretched for so long that he began to worry his mother might never respond at all.
“You are wise beyond your years,” she finally replied. “Besides, it would not do well to go to war with your bride’s clan.”
“Is war inevitable?”
“Even now, the Moraine army is readying itself for an assault on the Deachair palace.” The queen paced to the door, ready to return to her leadership
duties, but then stopped. Without looking back, she added, “Go, find your love. When you return, you will both be needed.”
The certainty of war could have made him doubt his decision, but it did not. Instead, it only solidified it. He knew in his heart that with Winnie at his
side, both he and his clan would be stronger for the union.
He threw off the covers and made ready to go back into the human world once more.
Winnie watched the wolf slink away from the palace, slipping into shadows like ink into blackness. Like last night on the roof with Cathair, she felt
herself both within and above the dream world. She was aware it was a dream, and also aware that she was not entirely in control of it.
She had never dreamt about an animal before. While she had seen many creatures in her dreams, one had never been the focus before in the way she was
actively pursuing this wolf. As if it was the star of the dream.
When the wolf reached the perimeter guard station she finally understood why.
Helpless to do anything but scream, Winnie did just that—screamed and screamed—as a woman stepped into the wolf’s path and the beast immediately launched
onto the fae guard. It clawed at the frail body, tearing at her chest and shoulders. The wolf’s massive jaw clamped over the guard’s throat. In one fierce
movement, teeth slashed flesh and suddenly there was blood everywhere.
The wolf released its prey, leaving the guard limp on the ground, lifeless.
Just like Winnie had found Cathair on the sidewalk.
As the beast walked away, it turned back over its shoulder and stared straight at her. It could
her. Then it transformed before her eyes into a
fae man. Into the queen’s advisor. Still he stared at her. Until he started to run.
Winnie didn’t realize she was actually screaming until Aunt Maureen’s voice woke her.
“Winnie, sweetheart,” she said, her tone both soothing and firm, “wake up. You’re only dreaming.”
Winnie bolted upright, gasping for breath. Her blood roared through her veins and she felt the tickle of sweat across her forehead. It took her almost a
full minute to focus, to realize she was in her bedroom, safe in her bed. Safe from Ultan.
“There you are.” Aunt Maureen’s hand smoothed up and down Winnie’s back. “You’re okay. It was just a dream.”
Winnie struggled to breathe, struggled to think.
She wished her aunt’s reassurances were true. Things were so much easier when she believed her dreams were nothing but fantasy. But now she knew that
everything she had just seen was actually happening. Had already happened.
Which meant—she forced her mind to put the pieces together—that the wolf had attacked Cathair outside her house. The queen’s advisor had tried to kill the
prince. Ultan was a traitor.
“I have to warn them.” Winnie jumped out of bed and dashed to her closet. She grabbed jeans and a shirt and then headed for her dresser.
“Whoa, Winnie, calm down.” Maureen stepped between her and the dresser. She grabbed Winnie by the shoulders. “It was just a dream.”
Desperate, Winnie blurted, “It wasn’t. It’s not just a dream.”
She shrugged off her aunt’s grip, surprised when Maureen let go so easily. Winnie knew her behavior must have seemed erratic, and she expected more
resistance. Whatever the reason, she didn’t have time to wonder. Lives were at stake. The future of an entire fae clan was at stake.
She dug out a bra and socks from her dresser drawer.
Maureen wandered over to the bed and sat with a heavy bounce.
“You see them, don’t you?” Her aunt’s voice sounded distant. Hollow.
It made Winnie stop. “What?”
Maureen’s gaze met hers. “The fae. You see them.”
“How did you—“ Winnie froze, shocked. Maureen knew? “Did Gran tell you?”
“Your grandmother?” Maureen frowned. “No. Your mother had the sight. And our mother before her. It passes only to the oldest.”
Winnie dropped onto the bed next to her aunt. Her mother? Her mother had been able to see the fae? She’d never said anything.
Everything made sense now. She had two powers because
sides of her family had fae magic. It was almost beyond comprehension.
But Winnie didn’t have time to freak out about that. She had to get back to the veil, get back to Cathair, and tell him what she’d seen in her dream.