Authors: Veronica Del Rosa
Victor kept his
eyes front, ignoring the beauty of the Fae lands. Previous experience had taught him that the wild seductiveness hid treachery and death. Like the Fair Folk, the land opened its arms wide to ensnare the unsuspecting. His sister, Lilith, had learned that truth at the expense of her own sanity, and he’d been helpless to stop her descent into madness. One being could save her, and he refused, laughed every time Victor approached him.
A sweet, lilting voice called out, “Play toys for me? Stop and stay for a while. You’ll forget all your cares.”
The tinkling laugh promised paradise and decadence, an erotic blend of both. Even with foreknowledge, he found it hard to resist.
Step off the path. Give his soul to that wonderful voice. Live a life of servitude. She’d bring him pleasure. Exquisite pain.
Nothing else mattered, not the mission, not his life, not his sister…
He shook his head trying to clear the fog wrapped around his mind.
Darkness and evil hid behind the innocence of that voice.
The Fae delighted in destroying other races.
“Seraphina, enough.” The sharp, commanding voice cut through the remaining fog in Victor’s mind. He shuddered to realize how close he’d come to succumbing.
Damn the Fae.
“Markus, I thought you brought me presents to play with.”
He heard the pout in her voice, and even that sounded sexy, like being wrapped in silk sheets. Turning his head to look at her, the air left his lungs, a sucker punch to the gut.
Gorgeous. More so than any creature had a right to be, especially an evil Fae. Long silver hair caressed her pale purple skin, the strands moving on their own. Was her skin as soft as it appeared? Would she live up to the sensual promises of her sleek body and enticing smile?
Her smile widened, and he shuddered, with desire or fear, he wasn’t sure. She had sharp, pointed teeth.
He glanced around to the other men. This exquisite Fae had enthralled them as well. All except Markus, who looked less than impressed.
“Oh, you did bring me a play toy. I remember you.” Her sweet voice hardened, and her eyes narrowed in anger. “You cost me a guardian and a troll. You and that little girl you were with. I demand blood.”
Her words were directed at Jackson, Victor’s Enforcer partner. A few months back Jackson, a fugitive from the Coterie, had taken a shortcut through Fae.
When Jackson and Julia, the woman he’d accidently kidnapped, had come through Fae, Seraphina had tried to bring them before the Light Fae Queen. In the ensuing battle, Jackson and Julia had killed some of Seraphina’s men. Not surprisingly, she still held a grudge.
This could be bad. Very bad. A Fae bent on revenge was near impossible to stop. Shifting through his mental grimoire, he searched for spells to incapacitate her.
His searching stopped in shock as Markus left the path and strode over to Seraphina. Guess
didn’t worry about punishment or being kept by the Fae. Then again, who in their right mind would even think about punishing Markus? And come to think of it, could the Fair Folk even hold him?
“We have a deal. No interfering with the Enforcers. We’re on our way to rescue one of our own, and time is of the essence,” Markus stated, his voice flat, although his irritation showed in his stance.
The Fae was unfazed as she sidled up to him. Her hand trailed up his throat, and she rested her fingertips on his face.
“Now Markus, we did have a deal. But that was before I learned the truth.”
He jerked his head away from her and said through gritted teeth, “There were no untruths between us. Stick to the deal, Fae.”
She laughed, and Victor shook his head, awed over the lack of respect Seraphina gave Markus. All races cowered before Markus. Even the Fae Coterie treated him with a healthy dose of respect and fear. Did this Fae not value her own skin? Was she mad?
“Now, my sweet mage, you didn’t tell us you were waging war against humans. Naughty, naughty. How could you leave me out of this? I haven’t tasted human blood in ages, and I’m thirsty.”
Circling behind him, her silvery hair caressed his chest and shoulders as she moved. Again her hand came up, and this time she gripped his black hair. She pulled his head back, exposing the mage’s throat and nipped at his ear with those sharp teeth.
Fear, or perhaps desire, skated along Victor’s spine. His feelings towards her were complicated at best.
“The deal has changed, Markus. If you want access to our portals and safe passage for your Enforcers, I come with you. I will not harm your people or the prisoners. Why, I’ll even forget my revenge against the little mage.” She nodded her head towards Jackson, dismissing him. “I can’t speak a lie.”
Cold steel threaded her words, and he knew she’d be joining them. They needed the portals, and she knew it.
“Markus, please, agree so we can save Sylvia.” Even spoken quietly, Derek’s deep voice cut through the tense stillness.
All heads turned toward Derek. A twinge of sympathy for the wolf distracted Victor. Unlike Derek, he had no feelings of hatred and hostility. He understood why the Alpha disliked him and had no way of changing his opinion. Sylvia lay at the crux of that complicated mess.
Instead, he stayed out of Derek’s way. Quite frankly, he didn’t know which one of them would win should Derek ever give over to his rage.
At six feet eight inches, Derek was built like a linebacker, and Victor felt it wise to maintain his distance. Silver studs shone bright against the werewolf’s black skin. Piercings in his ears, nose and lip showed he could withstand constant pain. Only the strongest, or the craziest, of werewolves pierced themselves with the metal that burned them.
Sometimes, though, he enjoyed tweaking the wolf’s tail, watching him erupt. It was a weakness, true. One he didn’t plan on fixing.
These past few months he’d left Derek alone. Witnessing the Alpha’s agony over Sylvia’s abduction brought home his own pain. His failure to save his sister. Sweet Sylvia was in the hands of sadistic bastards. Another woman in his life destroyed on the whim of another.
Anger over this delay ripped through him, and he wanted to blast the interfering Fae with an electrical bolt. How dare she stop them?
He curled his fingers into tight fists, squeezed his almost uncontrollable rage into a tight ball and shoved it deep down inside. Starting a war with the Fae would not help Sylvia, no matter how satisfying he would find it.
Markus nodded his head, unconcerned that several strands of his hair remained in Seraphina’s grasp. “Creature, you stay by my side until we’re through the portal. You will help my people or the prisoners when they need it. You may not allow harm to come to them if you can stop it. Understand?”
“Mmm, I love a forceful man. I’ll gladly stay by your side,” she purred before nipping at Markus’ ear again. “We have an agreement. But first, I must change into my battle gear.”
Victor shook his head in disbelief. The Fae was mental for poking the dangerous mage.
Raising her arms to the sky, Seraphina threw her head back. Her hair writhed and danced in a non-existent wind, sinuously wrapping around her pale limbs. An erotic dance that left him lightheaded and lustful.
Her short, white dress flowed from her body, disappearing wherever her hair touched it. Leather straps formed and crisscrossed over her breasts, scarcely covering them. A leather skirt now hung low on her hips and stopped mid-thigh.
While he stared and wondered how the hell that getup would protect her, she pulled her hair to one side, showing off a bow and quiver of arrows. Great, stuck in the medieval ages. Damn Fae would die once the humans pulled out their guns.
Then again, what did he care? One less Fae was a good thing.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” she demanded as she grabbed a hold of Markus’ arm and stalked to the front, clearly impatient to continue.
Interlude now over, the Enforcer men and women picked up the pace, eager for bloodshed.
Sylvia’s abduction weighed on them. Her training and natural speed should’ve aided her. Instead, she’d disappeared without a struggle. Victor had searched the art gallery, thinking a clue had been missed. A useless hope. The Enforcers had scoured the place and found nothing. No video feed, no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses.
Either she had left with someone she knew, which meant a traitor in their midst, or the humans had found a way to neutralize an Enforcer.
Victor patted his pockets, checking his spell components and weapons. His long overcoat hid several pockets both inside and out. Made for mages, plastic lined each pocket, and each was divided into smaller compartments. Spell components took up little space, as most were powders and dusts. The main thing was to remember which component was where.
Once he’d tried to put out a raging fire. He had thought he’d grabbed a pinch of rosemary for his rainstorm spell and instead had grabbed marjoram. The results had been disastrous. While he’d expected rain to pour down, he’d watched in horror as cute fluffy bunnies fell from the sky. Their screams still haunted his dreams.
Unlike some mages, he didn’t use a blasting rod or wand. Many needed the item to help focus their energy, and they channeled their magic through it. And since it looked pretty badass to shoot magical fire or electricity through a blasting rod, it became a staple of many a mage’s gear. Victor, however, didn’t like relying on one. Plus, depending on his target, he didn’t need brute force. He idly wondered if his area of expertise would work on Seraphina. It was a rare female who could resist him, especially when he turned on the charm, so to speak.
It was also the main reason why he dealt almost exclusively with demons. They didn’t feel the same draw towards him as females from other races did. It was a relief to be around women who merely wanted to kill him, not bed him.
As a result, he didn’t have a lot of friends. Men didn’t want him anywhere near their girlfriends or wives. And women, well, they didn’t think of him in terms of friendship. Dampening the effect was possible, although it drained him to do so for extended periods of time.
A quick shake of his head to clear his thoughts, he glanced around as he jogged the path with the other Enforcers.
Ignorance led to surprise attacks and death.
The vibrant colours of the trees dazzled him anew. Bright green, pale blue, deep pink and neon yellow leaves blended with the riot of flowers on the forest floor. Previous experience had proven that even the fragile blooms in this deceptive place were dangerous. They could be poisonous, full of invisible thorns or even carnivorous.
Movement on the ground caught his attention. A vine tried to wrap itself around his foot, extending itself from the undergrowth. As he gathered energy to blast it, the vine slithered away and coiled under enormous fern leaves, a giant snake waiting for unsuspecting prey. Brow furrowed in confusion as to why it didn’t attack, he looked up and met Seraphina’s gaze. She nimbly ran backwards keeping pace with Markus. She must have extended protection to the group. Not even the wildlife could strike at them.
Her narrowed stare unnerved him. He tried to tear his eyes away from her, but couldn’t and it pissed him off. If she wanted to fuck with him then she’d get a taste of what he could do. Reshaping the gathered energy, he sent a jolt of desire towards her. He made sure it touched only her, as he didn’t want the female Enforcers distracted from their mission.
Seraphina, he didn’t care about. Tough luck if preoccupation meant pain for her.
Her eyes widened as the energy hit her, her breath quickened and she almost stumbled. Markus whipped his head around, his black brows drawn together in confusion, and he put a hand on her arm to steady her. Surprisingly, she placed her other hand over his and gave it a squeeze before shaking herself free.
Victor sneered at her, letting her know exactly who had caused the unwanted emotion and finally broke eye contact. Damn Fae and their need to screw with everyone. He refused to follow his sister’s path. Lilith was barely a footnote in the Fae’s history of casualties, one of many who had believed the false promises and twisted desires of these beautiful, insidious creatures.
Up ahead the trees thinned out, giving way to a small clearing. A tiny sigh of relief escaped him. A few more minutes and they would be gone from here. A few more minutes and he would destroy those who hurt Sylvia. The need for vengeance weighed heavily on him. With his sister, he’d been unable to exact retribution.
Nothing would stop him this time.
Finally they arrived
at the clearing to the portal. Derek fought the urge to break formation. Behind him was Zmitro and he knew his Beta would follow him. In fact each packmate with him would follow to their deaths if it came to that. Although it went against standard procedure, he’d brought all of his Deltas, nine in total. The submissive members were now unguarded and this show of force had left his pack weakened, but he saw no other choice.
He needed Sylvia back.
If not, the pack was fucked anyway with an unhinged Alpha.
A glance over his shoulder showed his Beta and Deltas, grim and determined. They’d obey his orders no matter the personal cost. Any one of them could’ve refused, could have challenged him for pack leadership, and yet none of them had. Instead, they had supported him through this bleak time and jumped at the chance to extricate their missing Beta. After this was over, he was giving them a vacation.
The group of Enforcers fanned out in the clearing, securing it for their purposes. He watched as the two groups worked seamlessly together, werewolves and mages.
An invitation to the humans hadn’t been extended for obvious reasons. The vampires had wanted to come. However, waiting until nightfall wasn’t an option. No one trusted the demons as they worked to their own agenda and rarely helped the other races.
And the Fae, well, who the hell wanted the Fae around? They were worse than the demons. At least with demons it was easy to tell when they were lying – their lips were moving. The Fae couldn’t lie, but they could twist words until a person believed the sky was green and the grass was purple. They also liked to collect slaves, although they called them pets. Derek grunted at that. He’d rather a silver bullet in the head than become one of their pets.
A tingle of electricity feathered over his body, causing his hairs to stand on end. Someone was casting a spell. Surveying the mages, he didn’t spot a single one in the process of gathering energy. Alarmed, he strode to Markus.
Leaning down he whispered to the mage, “Someone here is casting a spell.”
“Probably a defensive one. Nothing to worry about,” Markus replied. Sun glinted in his eyes, and the irises lit up as if a fire burned within them. Derek blinked, startled by the sight, and the light disappeared.
“Okay, fine,” he said as he stalked to his vacant spot.
“Everyone buff up.” In the center of the grassy meadow, Markus commanded the attention of the lethal warriors present with ease. “Mages, buddy up with a werewolf. Cast your buffs on them. Before we enter the portal I’ll
everyone. Don’t forget to give them
as well. We don’t want to lose anyone. Oh, and I’ll bridge the
so we can communicate. Keep in mind, each use will weaken the spell, so use it when absolutely necessary.”
Mages and werewolves paired up to cast offensive and defensive spells. Energy built and pressed against Derek’s skin. The uncomfortable dance of electricity pushed and pulled, sighed and roared over him. He wanted to shout but forced himself into stillness. This was a necessary evil. For Sylvia, he would withstand the fires of hell.
A heartbeat passed, and Markus stood next to him. He hadn’t seen the mage move. Damn, he’d forgotten how fast the other man travelled.
“I’ll pair with you, my friend. We’ll take lead.”
Before he could reply, Markus cast several spells on him, all feather light. The only time it felt like a gentle caress was with Markus. Usually, it smashed into him like a sledgehammer when he was the recipient of a spell, even beneficial ones that shouldn’t harm him. The same question creeped into his mind: was Markus that powerful, or were the other mages that inept? He had a feeling it was due to the former.
Which begged the other question, why had the mage lied to him? Markus had cast the other spell, the one he’d dismissed as nothing. The magic felt identical.
“Oh, don’t worry about me,” Seraphina airily stated to no one in particular.
The entire group, save Markus, gave her a wide berth, unwilling to accidentally offend her. A Fae’s pride was as notorious as the punishments they meted out for imagined slights.
Tales were told of a human male who had stepped on the toes of the Fae Queen during the midsummer revelry. She had forced him to dance until he had bleeding stumps left. At the same revelry, a woman had laughed at the wrong time, and the Queen had cursed her to bray like a donkey whenever she tried to talk. Humans soon learned to avoid Fae lands, although some unwary ones still stumbled into open portals and became unwilling guests.
Derek turned his attention to Seraphina, curious as to how she could help. The Fae were vicious, but her outfit was simply ridiculous. Bullets would tear through her, and even humans knew to use cold-iron bullets. If they were smart, these humans would have two guns, one for cold iron and the other for silver bullets.
“I want to play now. Markus, can I play now, please?” She clapped her hands joyfully, dancing in place. Her smile, however, was less sweet and more malevolent, her hunger for mayhem evident.
Markus’ lips twitched with amusement.
“Go ahead, open the portal. Seraphina will go first. We follow her lead. Do not engage until we’re inside the building. No screwing around, Seraphina,” he told her sternly.
Clearly offended, she snorted. “Oh please. This isn’t my first raid. I know what to do. Stand back and watch a true master at work.”
She turned her back to Markus, her hair swirling around her. Quicker than he thought possible, a rip between the two worlds appeared. No energy build-up, no electricity. Between heartbeats, she’d opened the portal. No wonder the Fae could disappear without a trace.
More magic slithered through the air as Markus made the mages and werewolves invisible, each disappearing from his sight. Again a gentle whisper of electricity wrapped around him, and he gained the ability to see the others.
“Damn, I wish I could do a mass spell like that,” someone muttered.
“Keep dreaming,” another one answered. “It’d take you centuries to gain that kind of power.”
Derek tuned them out, searching for his pack members.
Zmitro paired with Victor, hardly a surprise. The two had been friends for years, almost as long as Derek had hated Victor. Zmitro and Derek agreed to disagree many years ago for the sake of their own friendship.
Isaac and Jackson were together while Emma partnered with Eric, a mage he wasn’t familiar with. A giggle escaped from Emma, and Derek’s eyebrows rose, astonished. She was usually solemn and not prone to giggles.
A faint flush stained her dusky brown cheeks and her lashes lowered to cover her dark brown eyes. Was she flirting? She ran a hand through her dyed-green pixie hair as a shy smile curved her lips. Yep, she was flirting.
Eyes narrowed, Derek assessed the mage she was paired with. He appeared strong and healthy. The fact they included him in the first wave meant he was an apt mage, powerful in his own right. He supposed the other male was attractive, what with his short black hair and crystal blue eyes. Was that his real eye colour? Probably a spell.
Giving a mental shrug, he didn’t care what she did so long as she kept her head in the game. If she screwed up, he’d personally see to her punishment.
Seraphina stepped through the portal first. Her body shimmered as it moved from one realm to the other. Derek trailed after her, impatient. Soft footsteps sounded behind him. Mages, not werewolves. His people would never make that mistake.
A small unassuming shack, badly in need of repair, sat in the middle of a field. The building leaned to one side, and the door no longer fit snugly in the doorframe. Broken windows boarded over with black plastic bags gave it a pitiful air. The aging wood barely supported the weight of the shack, looking ready to topple at any moment.
How the hell was this place keeping Sylvia prisoner? A good hard kick would demolish the building. He didn’t recall this from the blueprints that Mara had showed them. Where was the complex?
Derek sent his senses out along the pack link and found the werewolves hiding in the closest tree line almost a half a kilometer away. At full speed, they could be here in less than a minute.
Wait for the signal to attack. You’re part of the second wave.
Turning his attention to Markus, he nodded to indicate his men were ready.
“Hello, dear sweet humans. Come to me. Come play with me. I’m lonely,” Seraphina’s voice caused a shudder to ripple through his body, and desire weighed heavy on him.
Briskly, he shook off the effects, refusing to succumb.
Her power was awe-inspiring in a truly horrifying way. Most of the males in their group tried to join her, held back by the women.
A handful of them seemed unaffected, but Derek didn’t have the luxury of time to figure it out. Why he himself shook it off was simple. He desired only one woman, and it wasn’t Seraphina.
The shack door creaked opened, and two men sauntered out gripping assault rifles. They wore hunting fatigues to fool innocent bystanders into believing they were ordinary hunters. However, the hard glint in their eyes, the casual ease with which they held their weapons and their lethal prowl told the truth.
Cold-blooded killers. Hired mercenaries.
And they headed straight for Seraphina.
Both men were shorter than Seraphina by a few inches but more than made up for it with the amount of muscles on their bodies. They either spent a lot of time in the gym or were intimately familiar with certain drugs.
The crazy Fae smiled, lips closed to keep her unnerving teeth hidden. She twirled in a circle, letting her hair and short skirt flare out. An impressive amount of thigh flashed, and the air filled with the musk of aroused male.
“Hello boys,” she purred, every inch the seductress.
Her hair caressed her exposed skin, over her arms, stomach and thighs. The men’s eyes followed her every move. They shifted closer, anxious to touch, and Derek shook his head at their stupidity.
While glad her skills worked in their favour, didn’t they think it strange a beautiful woman would show up in the middle of nowhere for their pleasure? Just how potent was Seraphina to overcome their natural wariness? These weren’t youths unused to war. These men trained to survive no matter the cost.
“I’m feeling bored. Entertain me?” she asked, letting her fingers nimbly dance over the chest of first one then the other.
She twisted around and rubbed her back against the dark-haired one. Grabbing hold of the blonde’s belt buckle, she yanked him closer, sandwiching herself between the two of them. The brunette ground his hips into her butt, obviously enjoying the feel of her. The blonde laughed while he stroked her arms, moving slowly to her shoulders, then closer to her breasts.
Without warning, both men fell to the ground.
Seraphina stamped her foot and pouted. “Markus, I was having fun. I would’ve gotten around to killing them…eventually.”
Markus gave her a quelling look, one that would have made any Enforcer piss themselves. Seraphina just sniffed at him, her nose in the air. Derek was close enough to hear him as he leaned in and tersely whispered in her ear, “Did you enjoy their hands on you, creature?”
She stiffened as if he’d slapped her and replied coldly, “Not as much as I enjoy my lover’s hands on me,
She shoved past him, and her shoulder slammed into his, forcing him to step back. Her hair lingered though, caressing him, before it, too, continued.
“How the hell did he kill them?” a mage close by hissed.
“Damned if I know. His
didn’t drop. How can you cast killing magic without dropping
?” another mage said.
Derek sliced them a glare. The area wasn’t secure. Both firmly shut their mouths, although fear and awe lingered on their faces.
Every inch the elegant lady, Seraphina glided to the open door and peeked inside, careful not to touch the doorway.
“Does anyone else want to play?” Her seductive voice drifted out of the room, wrapping itself around Derek and the men. This time they were prepared for the effects and fought it off quicker.
“It’s clear, boys and girls. Which means we need to figure out how to get into the underground bunker and find more playmates.” The girlish tone disappeared as she muttered, “Too bad someone didn’t let me interrogate the other two. Damn jealous bastard, not wanting me to have any fun.”
Markus quirked his eyebrow over her comments but refrained from replying. Derek was a little mystified over his restraint with this Fae. Rarely did he allow such blatant disrespect. Was she the Fae informant everyone hinted about?
Sliding past Seraphina, Markus strode into the tiny shack and assessed the room. He came back out and said, “There’s a locked door in the floor. Who wants the honour of blowing the hell out of it? Keep in mind, this will drop your
, and you’ll be a target for whoever’s down there.”
Jackson stepped forward. “I’ll do it. I’ll summon my imp. He can distract or incapacitate anyone down below, so don’t attack the little guy. I’m kind of partial to him.”