EXCERPT: The Phoenix Charm by Helen Scott TaylorWednesday, December 30, 2009 16:00
We couldn’t leave you today without a smidge of Helen’s newest book in her Magic Knot Fairies series, The Phoenix Charm.
If you’ve read The Magic Knot, you know that Michael, Niall’s twin, is as sexy as can be but a little irresponsible. Boy, are you in for a surprise when it comes to that roguish twin!
If you’ve not read Helen’s work yet, you need to get busy. No paranormal fan wants to miss out on stuff this good. And if you’re not into the paranormal all that much, you will be a convert by the end of this book. That’s guaranteed! Here’s a little something to get you started:
HE’S PURE TEMPTATION.
Cordelia has sworn she’ll abstain from looking into Michael’s future–particularly when the image in the gilded smoke of her divination mirror shows him half naked. Yet she can’t resist watching the sexy rascal slowly running his hand down his ribs, over his abdomen, flicking open the button on his jeans with a little flourish like a magician performing a trick.
SHE’S TRYING TO RESIST.
Respectable wise woman Cordelia restrains her secret water nymph sensuality with the Celtic symbols painted on her skin. But Michael’s powerful fairy glamour leaves her breathless, off balance, struggling for control. When Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh King of the Underworld, steals away Michael’s infant nephew, Cordelia must work with him to save the child. But how can she trust her instincts with Michael tempting her to explore the hidden elemental depths of her nature and insisting that she believe in the power of…The Phoenix Charm. Now on to the good stuff…….
The sun sank into the Atlantic, painting the water molten gold and casting a warm glow over the granite manor house set atop the rocky cliffs of Cornwall. After years of neglect, Trevelion Manor, ancestral home of the Cornish pisky troop, now thrived under the care of the new pisky king and queen. Sun sparkled off the tiny diamond panes of glass in the windows. Tumbling creepers dotted with purple and yellow flowers clothed the walls, while granite tubs on the terrace overflowed with scarlet, pink, and white geraniums.
Seated on a Windsor chair at the table in the library, pisky wise woman Cordelia Tink paused at her work and glanced out the open window, inhaling the floral-scented air. She ran her hand down the crease of the huge leather-bound book laid on the table before her and took a moment to reread the last few paragraphs she’d written. With a sigh, she set aside her pen and rubbed her eyes.
The task of recording the history of the pisky troop fell to her, but she would have gladly handed the job to another of the piskies. Two years ago, Niall and Rose O’Connor, the new pisky king and queen, had rescued the troop from thirty years of imprisonment in the shadowy nothingness between life and death called in-between. Today, Cordelia had finally summoned the strength to relive her failure to protect her people from that horror and enter an account in the pisky annals.
Lazing in the last few rays of sunlight on the desk at Cordelia’s side, her gray cat Tamsy opened one eye. She peered at Cordelia critically and flicked her tail. “You’re right, poppet.” Cordelia nodded to her cat. “Enough doom and gloom for one day.” Cordelia closed the book with a thud and pushed it away.
She stroked the soft fur on Tamsy’s belly and smiled at the rumbling purr of response. What she needed was something to take her mind off the past—something pleasurable. Just the word “pleasure” summoned the image of Michael O’Connor’s seductive smile in her mind. A quiver of awareness ran across her skin, light and tickly as the brush of a feather. She’d once seen him do that—trail a feather across a woman’s naked body…
Cordelia screwed her eyes closed, trying to rid herself of the image she’d seen while foretelling his future. Instead, the memory became clearer, his long naked body spread languorously on the sheets while he brushed the feather over the woman’s breasts.
Cordelia stood and swiped her hands down the front of her dress to rid herself of the tingling sensation tightening her skin.
Although the pisky king Niall O’Connor was not Cornish, but half noble Irish Tuatha Dè Danaan and half leprechaun, he was a strong, caring leader they could depend on. How the womanizing rascal Michael could be related to Niall, let alone be his twin brother, baffled her.
She pressed her hand to her bodice where the hot thud of Michael’s psychic presence beat in her chest like a second heart. She was powerful enough that fairy glamour didn’t affect her, with one darned annoying exception—Michael O’Connor.
Unwillingly, her eyes rose to the silver divination dish she used to foretell the future. The skin on her scalp prickled and her cheeks warmed as she tried to pretend she wasn’t thinking of doing what she was thinking of doing.
“Not again. I promised myself I’d abstain.” Despite the firmness of her tone, her feet were already moving toward the door. She pulled it open just enough to poke her head out and check that the hall was empty. The ancient oak creaked as if trying to alert someone to her wicked intent. She drew back quickly and turned the long iron key, grimacing at the thunk of the lock.
Pressing her back to the door, she rubbed her temples. In anticipation of what she was about to see, the sensual water nymph allure she’d inherited from her mother churned within the confines of the restrictive magical wards painted on her skin.
She drew a slow, deep breath and stared through the dust motes dancing in a shaft of sunlight at her divining dish. Were the gods themselves tempting her to indulge? Surely everyone was allowed one illicit pleasure—even she.
Tamsy sat up and watched with enigmatic gray eyes as Cordelia gave a defiant huff and marched back to her seat. She lit the three fat white candles floating in the silver, water-filled dish. Within seconds, wide ribbons of smoke rose before her.
Raising a hand, she sketched a magical symbol in the air. The smoke stilled and glazed over into a mirror. Her insides trembled expectantly while she concentrated on Michael’s psychic signature and waited for an image of his future to appear in the shiny surface.
She pressed her fingers to her lips as the picture became clearer. When she peeped into Michael’s future, half the time she saw him performing routine activities at the pub he owned in a nearby village, the other half…
Her breath caught. She stared, too entranced to blink as an image of Michael’s naked shoulders and lean back filled her scrying surface. Muscles rippled beneath smooth skin when he moved. His biceps clenched as he lifted a hand and flicked back a handful of dark wavy hair from his face.
A woman appeared before him, an indistinct form clothed in muted colors. When Cordelia watched Michael, she chose to ignore the identity of his numerous human lovers. All her attention focused on him.
Cordelia’s heart thudded as he prowled forward, faded jeans riding low on his hips. Slowly, sensuously, he ran his hand down his ribs, over his abdomen, flicked open the buttons on his fly one by one with a little flourish of his hand like a magician performing a trick. Although it was no white rabbit he was about to pull out. As the last button popped and the jeans slid lower, a small needy sound escaped Cordelia’s lips. Heat flashed across her flesh, gathered and swirled, a hot whirlpool in her belly. Her sensual water nymph allure flowed closer to her skin, preparing to draw in and capture the man she desired. When the energies met the barrier of the magical Celtic symbols painted on her skin, her temperature shot up as though she were trapped in a pressure cooker.
She flapped a hand in front of her face, fanning herself. If she kept watching Michael, she would expire from lust.
Although she was burning up, a breath of chill through the window raised goose bumps on her arms. She caught a whiff of something rotten on the breeze and reluctantly dragged her eyes from Michael to glance out at the twilight sky.
When she looked back to the divination mirror, darkness oozed across the gilded smoke like oil on water, obscuring Michael and his faceless woman. Cordelia blinked in surprise and leaned closer to get a better view. A howl issued from the murky surface, a mournful wail that slashed fear through her. Her cat shot to its feet, fur on end, puffed up to twice her normal size. Hidden within the mirror’s shadowy image, other creatures joined the lament until the eerie clamor of baying filled the room.
Tamsy scooted off the table and crouched beneath a chair in front of the huge stone fireplace, but Cordelia had no time to comfort her. She stared at her divination mirror, searching the gloom for any clue to the meaning of the augury. Was this still Michael’s foretelling? Had another possible future for him intruded? The hair on her neck prickled when pairs of small red dots appeared. They looked like animal’s eyes glowing evilly in the darkness.
Her fists curled against the table as the memory of being imprisoned in-between crawled back to haunt her. Then, on the edge of perception, a whispered name snapped her to attention, trapped the breath in her lungs.
Gwyn ap Nudd.
The King of the Underworld.
Her concentration shattered. The murky image dissolved with a pop, scattering wisps of smoke. Her eyes watered, and she waved a hand to clear the air. The thought of the red-eyed creatures unsettled her, but more worrying was the fact that the whispered words had not come from the mirror. Someone nearby in Cornwall had actually spoken the name Gwyn ap Nudd.
She thrust out her awareness, tried to identify who’d called the King of the Underworld. Behind the deep pulse of Michael’s psychic signature, the members of the Cornish pisky troop filled her senses with the white noise of their presence. Cordelia focused on the lingering chill of the dreadful name.
She was sure the call had not originated from inside the manor. She puffed a misty sigh of relief in the cold air, wishing the granite fireplace held a roaring fire instead of a stoneware pot full of dahlias.
What would happen if the Welsh King of the Underworld answered the summons and came to Cornwall? Niall and Rose had left for two weeks to search for displaced piskies in America, leaving her in charge. Why on Earth did this have to happen now? Cordelia glanced at the Queen Anne clock on the oak mantelpiece. They’d already be in the air over the Atlantic. The earliest she could call them for advice would be the following day.
She traced her finger across a lacy layer of ice that had formed on the water in her divination dish, and shivered. When the pisky troop had been trapped thirty years ago, she should have foreseen the danger, but she’d been so distracted by the old king’s death, she had let her duties slide. This time she wouldn’t let the piskies down.
She glanced at the rows of massive leather-bound tomes holding records of pisky life going back centuries. She must find out quickly if the piskies had any history of conflict with Gwyn ap Nudd or the Welsh fairies in his domain.
Tamsy slunk out from beneath the chair and jumped on the desk. She padded closer, mewed softly, and butted her forehead on Cordelia’s chin.
Cordelia laid her cheek against Tamsy’s shoulder and considered what to do. She couldn’t check through a whole shelf of books in one night on her own.
She winced. “Oh, rats’ tails!” If she needed help, the logical choice was Michael. Not only was he the pisky king’s brother, but while the king and queen were away, he was responsible for their twin boys. He had a right to know immediately if the children might be in danger.
With luck, she might catch him upstairs putting the babies to bed before he went down to the great hall below the manor house for the night’s entertainment. In Ireland, he’d been Seanchai, the official storyteller in the Irish fairy court. Now that he lived in Cornwall with the piskies, he’d fallen into the routine of telling a tall tale to the assembled troop most evenings.
Cordelia stood and peered at her rosy cheeks in a small mirror near the door and thanked the gods that Michael would never guess the reason she was flushed. She fastened the three small buttons on the front of her dress, closing the garment to her throat.
When she reached the nursery, she found Michael’s leprechaun half sister Ana dozing in a chair beside the cot, keeping watch over the babies. But no sign of Michael.
She huffed as she closed the door. Tamsy wound between her legs and looked up at her with inscrutable gray eyes. “All right, I know. I’ll have to look for him in the great hall.”
After she descended the stairs, she strode purposefully along the moth-eaten carpet runner covering the passage. She’d rather stick pins in her eyes than walk into the packed hall and interrupt Michael when he was telling a story, but if she wanted his help, she had no choice.
When she reached the top of the narrow staircase that led beneath the house, she paused for Tamsy to catch up, and grabbed a fortifying breath. Then she descended to the rooms carved from the granite underneath the manor grounds. At the bottom, she grasped the doorknob for a couple of heartbeats before she pushed the door open.
The jaunty beat of Irish music assailed her.
She slipped in and pressed her back to the wall, hugging the shadows. Rising on tiptoe, she peered between the tall brown-haired piskies. Most of them worked the land, turned wood or forged metal, and lived in cottages around the estate. Many were still dressed casually in work clothes, but a few had donned brightly colored jackets and hats in anticipation of the rowdy evening that always ensued when Michael told one of his bawdy tales.
A lump formed in her throat when she glimpsed Michael O’Connor on the far side of the room putting a mug down on the bar. His shaggy dark hair shone in the low light. The divine masculine shape of his wide shoulders and narrow hips silhouetted against the lamplight sent a hot shiver through her. How she hoped she could get the image of him naked out of her mind before she talked to him.
Michael grabbed the hand of an older pisky woman. She grinned up at Michael like a teenager on her first date and giggled as he spun her into a dance. The piskies clapped to the beat. Cordelia plucked at the neck of her dress, the collar tight on her clammy skin. Despite its size, the confounded hall was always stuffy in the evenings.
Tamsy pressed her silky body against Cordelia’s legs. Relieved at the distraction, Cordelia scooped the cat into her arms. She rested her cheek on Tamsy’s head and watched the laughing crowd of piskies.
Mewing, Tamsy turned a speculative eye on Cordelia. “I know.” She buffed the top of the cat’s head with her fingers. “No need to bully me. I’m about to ask him.”
Michael had escorted his partner to her seat and was now weaving between the tables toward his storytelling stool. As usual, the spiky auburn hair of her ward, Thorn, marked his presence a few steps behind Michael. She wished Thorn had chosen a more suitable male role model: Niall for instance. But at least Michael had generously taken the young man under his wing. She couldn’t fault him for that.
Cordelia threaded her way through the crowd. When people noticed her, they stepped aside with deferential nods. She pasted on her serene wise woman mask and held her head high.
When she entered the brighter circle of light near the bar, Michael looked toward her. He caught his bottom lip between his teeth and flicked up his eyebrows in question. Cordelia nodded in answer to his unspoken query. He grinned the wide seductive smile that had women falling at his feet.
Streamers of heat unfurled inside her, rippled beneath her skin. Her heart raced and she gritted her teeth. She could hardly think straight when she got close to Michael. But she’d eat worms before she admitted as much. The reprobate was already far too cocky.
He held out his arms and shimmied sideways between the tables, heading in her direction. The disreputable faded jeans he wore were the ones she’d just watched him unbutton. Cordelia swallowed. She wanted to look away; she really did. But his fairy glamour entranced her so much, she couldn’t fight the compulsion to stare.
Since St. Patrick’s Day, he’d insisted on wearing a green trilby with shamrocks embroidered on the band. He turned to face her, tilted the hat at a rakish angle on his mop of dark wavy hair, and captured her with his sinful blue gaze.
“You be wanting me, darlin’?”
Cordelia opened her mouth to answer, but there didn’t seem to be any air in her lungs. She sucked in an embarrassing gasp that made Michael’s lips twitch. “I need to speak to you on troop business.”
Michael reached out and rubbed a finger underneath Tamsy’s chin. The cat tipped back her head and purred, vibrating against Cordelia’s chest.
“Here’s me hoping you might be wanting me for something a tad more interesting.” As his finger lazily caressed Tamsy’s fur, he glanced up at Cordelia from beneath his lashes. A hot spurt of desire shot through her body, making her legs tremble.
This is ridiculous.
Fantasizing about him in private was one thing, being seduced by his glamour like a gullible human was another. After the effort her grandmother and father had put into hiding her uncontrollable sensual allure, she couldn’t let them down and shame herself—again. The price she’d paid the one time she defied them still haunted her night and day. Cordelia tightened her arms around Tamsy, shielding herself. The poor creature squeaked and Cordelia hastily loosened her grip.
“This is no time for joking. It’s a matter of urgency.” Someone chose that moment to reduce the volume of the music. Her final word came out rather louder than she intended. A few anxious glances shot her way.
She smiled reassuringly. The last thing she wanted was panic.
With a nod toward the exit she said, “Come upstairs where we can talk in private.” She ignored the wicked sparkle in Michael’s eyes.
“Your wish is my command, darlin’.”
In the two years since she’d met Michael, Cordelia could count on one hand the times they’d exchanged more than a polite greeting. Yet the way he called her darling with that deep Irish lilt to his voice was exactly the way he spoke to the women she watched him take to bed. She reached the door and ascended the first few steps, then paused and looked back at him. “I’d rather you didn’t call me…darling. I don’t feel the name’s appropriate.” And if he kept speaking to her in that tone of voice, she was likely to muddle fantasy with reality.
He grinned up at her, mischief twinkling in his eyes.
With a sigh of exasperation, mostly at her own ludicrous reaction to him, she hurried up the stairs, promising herself she was strong enough to ignore his glamour.
He grinned as he stopped in the doorway at the top and rested his shoulder against the frame. “Maybe I should call you sugarplum? You have the sweet ripe fullness of fruit ready to be—”
In the silence that followed her explosive retort, all she could think was ready to be what? A small part of her wished she hadn’t interrupted him.
And she hated that she fell for his suggestive banter.
Anger bubbled up, giving her words a harsh edge. “Just call me Cordelia in a normal tone of voice like everyone else.”
He flicked up his eyebrows, unabashed.
“Enough nonsense.” Cordelia smoothed her skirt, reluctant to admit she needed his help. “While I was foretelling in the library, darkness invaded my divination mirror. I also heard someone whisper the given name of the Welsh King of the Underworld.”
The mischievous half smile that always hovered on Michael’s lips dropped away. He pushed off the door frame and straightened, his expression serious.
“When did this happen, lass?”
“About fifteen minutes ago.”
He rubbed the back of his neck, turned, and glanced up the stairs. “Ruddy Badba,” he cursed. “I hope the babies are safe.”
Before she could reassure him that she’d just visited the nursery and the boys were fine, he took off, running up the stairs two at a time. She stared up at the landing while he put his head in the nursery door.
Thirty seconds later, he closed the door quietly and descended more slowly, a look of relief on his face.
“The babies are still there. When we tried to put them to bed, I half expected them to disappear and reappear somewhere else.” At Cordelia’s raised eyebrows he continued. “The rascals have just discovered they can walk unseen like me father.”
Cordelia shook her head in disbelief. Rose had told her the children took after their air elemental grandfather. But it had never occurred to her the children would exhibit the rare air elemental gift of walking unseen: disappearing and reappearing in another place.
“What sort of threat do you think Gwyn ap Nudd could be?” Michael asked.
“We’ve had no dealings with him during my life, but it’s possible he holds an ancient grudge against the piskies. You know what long memories these immortals have.”
He nodded and something dark passed behind his eyes. “Aye, I know.”
When Michael and Niall had lived in the Irish fairy court, Niall had apparently had problems dealing with the self-obsessed Irish fairy queen. Perhaps life had been just as difficult for Michael.
“I want to check through the pisky troop records for references to Gwyn, but there are at least fifty volumes in the library. I need another set of eyes to help me.”
Michael took off his trilby and ran his hand through his hair, lifting the luxuriant chestnut waves off his face, then letting them tumble back. All thought deserted her as she watched the silky strands settle against his skin.
“‘Tis not a problem, lass. I’ll gladly offer you me eyes. I read fast, so we’ll be through the books in no time.”
Cordelia blinked, pulled her attention back to the conversation. Michael O’Connor might be a master storyteller, but the possibility of his speed-reading seemed as unlikely as his sprouting wings. “Great. Thank you,” she uttered, feeling a touch guilty for doubting his word when he’d offered to help. “I’d rather not involve anyone else until we know if the danger is real.”
Michael nodded and popped his green hat squarely on his head. “We don’t want to go causing alarm, to be sure.”
He extended an arm graciously in the direction of the library and smiled, a hint of mischief creeping back into his expression. “Lead on, sugarplum.”
For a moment, Cordelia debated whether to argue over her name. With a sigh, she decided she must choose her battles, and this wasn’t important. She marched off toward the library, acutely aware of him striding behind her, probably ogling her bottom.
* * * * *
Michael enjoyed the view as he paced along the hall to the library. Cordelia Tink might be uptight, but she had a damn fine arse. Although she’d covered herself from head to foot in a nondescript gray dress, it hugged every curve—and she had plenty of curves to hug. Her waist nipped in neat and small, accentuating the sweet roundness of one of the sexiest rumps he’d ever seen.
Realizing she’d halted, he raised his eyes to find her peering at him over her shoulder with a frown.
He did the same thing he always did when he was caught out–grinned, infusing the expression with glamour.
She rolled her eyes and pointed at the massive green leather-bound books that filled the bottom two shelves of the wall facing the fireplace. “We need to start from…here,” she said, resting a hand on a book.
Michael dragged out five volumes and hefted them onto the desk where she’d cleared a space. “A bit dusty.” He wiped his hands on his jeans and then drew in a deep breath.
Her hand shot up. “Don’t you dare.”
Confused, he let the air go.
“You’ll spread dust everywhere if you blow it.” She marched to her desk, pulled a duster from the drawer, and arched an eyebrow at him.
He stepped away, leaned an elbow on a chair back, and watched while she dusted each book, shaking the cloth out the window at regular intervals. Niall was always full of praise for Cordelia’s prophetic skills and thoughtful advice. But on the one occasion Michael had approached her because he thought having his future read would be fun, she’d nearly bitten his head off. According to her, she wasn’t a carnival sideshow for his entertainment.
Her gaze flicked up to him, then darted back to her book. She was attractive in a repressed way, as though she didn’t want anyone to notice. But whatever she wore, she couldn’t hide the fact she had a damn fine body, and incredible hair. Up close, he could distinguish pale gold strands mingled with the dark, and her braid was as thick as his wrist. He imagined her naked, her loose hair draping her shoulders like a cloak. He pressed his lips together to keep from smiling. She’d be all covered up, but he’d bet her nipples would poke through.
He jumped guiltily.
“Are you going to help me or not?” She held out a dusted volume.
Book in hand, he settled in one of the wing chairs before the fireplace. He’d tried not to worry about Gwyn ap Nudd, but the possibility his nephews were in danger flipped his stomach with a sick lurch. He pictured the sleepy little lads snuggled together in the cot they shared. The mantle of responsibility hung awkwardly on his shoulders, but he would do whatever was necessary to protect them. He loved the boys. Besides, Niall would string him up if he let anything happen to them.
Taking a steady breath, he focused his concentration on the key words to search for, then scanned the first page, flipped it over, scanned the next page, flipped, read, flipped, read—
“Michael! If you’re not going to take this seriously, I’ll find someone else to help.”
He blinked, adjusting his gaze. “Crikey O’Reilly, lass, I can’t go any faster.”
Confusion swept the annoyance from her face. She set down her book and swiveled in her chair to face him. “You’re reading the pages?”
“Aye.” He grinned. “I’m thinking you didn’t believe me when I said I could read fast?”
She opened her mouth—closed it again without making a sound, her gray eyes huge and soft. Beautiful eyes. Not like the normal pisky earth elemental brown or hazel. Somewhere in her lineage, she must have an ancestor who was not a Cornish pisky.
Cordelia swallowed audibly. “You’re sure you know what’s on each page?”
“Aye.” He gave her a moment to absorb the truth.
She stared at him as though he’d suddenly grown an extra head, but in a good way, as though the extra head impressed her more than the original. The possibility that reading fast would impress females had never occurred to him. Actually, he didn’t need any help attracting women. His local fame for telling tall tales meant there were always eager human women crowding his bar on the lookout for fun. Using his fairy glamour it was oh so easy to send them home with lovely memories but no recollection of his face or name.
Cordelia cleared her throat and turned back to her page. Michael settled again and did the same. When he finished the book, he placed it back on the shelf, and selected another from the pile. He forbore to comment that Cordelia was only on the tenth page of her first book. Ms. Starchy Pants would not appreciate the comparison.
As he prepared to start his second book, the library door cracked open. His friend Nightshade, the vampiric fairy, poked in his head. The lamplight cast a sheen on his ebony skin, and his silver eyes glinted with predatory satisfaction. Michael suppressed a sigh. Since he’d allowed the nightstalker to bite him and forge a blood bond between them two years ago, Nightshade hardly let him out of his sight. The way the vampire watched his every move was worse than being handfasted to a jealous woman.
Nightshade sauntered in, bare-chested, his wings folded tight to his back. He tilted his head and with one hand swept his long black hair off his face “I wondered what had become of you, bard. They’re asking for you in the great hall.”
Michael smacked his forehead. “I can’t believe I’ve gone and forgot about tonight’s tale. You’ll have to tell one.”
The vampiric fairy gave Michael an incredulous look.
“Erm, you’re right. ‘Tis a bad idea.” Although Nightshade’s mother had been a pisky, and his nightstalker father had left before his birth, Nightshade had confided that he’d always felt like an outsider. Thirty years ago, he’d betrayed the piskies and conspired with an evil druid to trap them in between life and death. He’d later repented and helped Niall and Rose free the troop, but the piskies had never forgiven him.
“Could Thorn tell a story? He’s listened to you often enough.” As Nightshade spoke, Thorn’s cheeky grin appeared around the door.
“I’ve been down to the hall and told them you’re busy tonight and won’t be back.” Thorn’s green eyes sparkled with mischief. “They assumed I meant busy with the babies.”
Thorn dogged Michael’s heels, but the lad was full of fun. He’d just turned twenty and needed some mates to have a laugh with. Michael had no idea what had happened to the young man’s parents. Cordelia seemed to be his surrogate mother.
Thorn grinned. “Hello, Dee. What you doing?” Without waiting for her to answer, he hurried to Michael’s side and stared eagerly at the book on his lap. “Can I help?”
Cordelia released a resigned sigh, nodded, and placed a hand on the pile of books. “Grab one each and make yourselves comfortable. We’re looking for any reference to Gwyn ap Nudd, Welsh King of the Underworld.”
Thorn lifted a book and took the chair across from Cordelia. Nightshade remained standing, hands on hips. “Why?”
Cordelia rubbed her temples. When her eyes met Nightshade’s, the tension in the room thrummed. “Someone nearby called his name this evening. I need to know if he has any reason to threaten the piskies.”
Nightshade remained rooted to the spot. Cordelia stared at him, her soft gray eyes now hard as flint, her lips pinched. The antipathy rolled off her in waves, far stronger than the other piskies’ dislike. Michael’s curiosity pricked to know what had happened between them to cause such hostility.
When Nightshade continued to glare at Cordelia, Michael decided that as he was blood-bonded to the vampire, he might as well make use of the connection. “You going to be helping us or not, boyo?” he asked softly.
The tension snapped when the nightstalker turned to him, his gaze softening. “Whatever you want, bard.” He gave Michael’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze, then hefted two volumes off the table before claiming the seat beside Michael.
Michael purposely avoided Cordelia’s questioning gaze. He did not want to explain his relationship with Nightshade. Ms. Prim and Proper would disapprove of the fact that he’d enjoyed the illicit pleasure of a vampire’s bite.
He resumed flipping pages. He knew little about the Welsh fairy king, but as Cordelia had observed, these immortals could be difficult. Growing up in the Irish fairy court, Michael had learned to survive the whims, wiles, and spiteful temper of the Irish fairy queen. If Gwyn were at all like the Queen of Nightmares, he did not want to meet him anytime soon.