Authors: Sara Humphreys
Tags: #paranormal romance, #fantasy romance, #fae, #Irish romance, #contemporary adult romance, #romance
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Published by Sara Humphreys
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or those who believe in magic... ..
“If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future.”—Danielle Steele
reland—March 17, 1800 A.D.**
Declan Aherne carried his wife’s lifeless body up the hill toward the round tower. The winds blew cold and hard over them, but he barely noticed. All he could think about was that he had done exactly what her father said he would do—he brought Anastasia sorrow and death.
She was dead because of him.
Dropping to his knees Declan let out a strangled sob as the rain began to fall, and buried his face in the soft, damp waves of her auburn hair. Holding her limp form against his chest he wept and begged her for forgiveness, whispering into her ear, but knowing she could no longer hear him. He never should have loved her. For if he’d walked away when her father told him to, her light would still be shining instead of snuffed out by death.
“She should have heeded the warnings. Your kind brings nothin’ but death and sorrow.” The rough, gravelly voice of Malachi McGregor rumbled through the air, and sent a chill up Declan’s spine. “Lay her down and be gone. Leave her,” he shouted. “We’ll bury her in the sacred ground, and send her soul to the gods.”
Declan pressed his lips to the cool flesh of her forehead, the skin that had once been warm and supple. He fought the urge to scream, to roar at the world, the heavens, the gods for taking the one woman he’d ever loved. Swallowing his bitterness and fury, Declan did as her father asked and laid her delicate body on the soft bed of wet grass. The amulet, the one he’d worn since the day he was born and was given to him by his father, laid against her pale flesh.
He’d given it to her on the night he’d asked for her hand and an ache bloomed in his chest at the memory of that night. The look of love in her eyes just about did him in because no one had ever stared upon him with such genuine kindness. Even though Declan was one of the Leprechaun fae, outcasts who were not accepted by either fae or witch, Anastasia loved him.
That light, the beauty that glowed from within, was gone. Snuffed out by death, and destroyed much like the sacred promise he’d broken.
He’d sworn to protect her and failed.
The child in her womb, the one they both had wanted so desperately, had been her undoing. Once the babe was born, Anastasia gazed upon their daughter for only a moment before the life faded from her eyes and she took her final breath. In that moment, Declan knew the true meaning of torment when pure joy and unadulterated grief coincided.
He left the child in the care of a dear friend, not wanting to risk exposing her to the wrath of Malachi or the others who saw their kind as unclean. He left clear instructions that if he did not return before the sun set in the human realm the babe should be brought to the leprechaun village within the fae dimension.
It was the only place she would be safe and accepted for what she was.
He feared that the powerful warlock would sooner destroy the child than allow her to soil his royal line with leprechaun fae blood.
Declan reached out to adjust the sacred piece, to settle it in between the valley of her breasts, but a crack of thunder filled air and a streak of lightning split the stormy sky. The sword strapped to his back, the one with his family symbol etched into the hilt, the same emblem that graced the amulet, hummed against his flesh. It was a clear and familiar warning that danger loomed, but Declan did not make a move to use it.
Declan stilled and lifted his gaze to find the hate-filled face of Malachi. The warlock’s eyes were wild with rage and the black staff in his right hand glowed with an unnatural light. He knew the man wanted to cut him down, to destroy him for what he’d done, and Declan understood, for he wanted to die.
In fact, he deserved it and welcomed it but the child he left behind kept him from ending it all himself. What would she do without him to protect her and teach her the ways of their people? Who would show her how to use the gifts that she was born with?
“Step back, leprechaun,” he growled. “Ya shall not touch her any longer. If ya hadn’t been so concerned with protecting the damned gold, my lass would be not gone.”
“Gold?” Declan shouted. “That’s what ya believe?”
“I know what ya care for,” he spat. “She’s dead because of you and that bastard seed you planted inside her.”
A growl rumbled in Declan’s chest and he fought the urge to reach for his sword. So much about the leprechauns, the closely related cousins of the fae had been misunderstood. It was that lack of knowledge that led to the hunting of his people, and ultimately their self-imposed isolation. But what did any of that matter now? Anastasia was gone.
If he slayed a powerful warlock like Malachi, it would only bring him more misery. Anastasia loved her father in spite of his darkness, the same way she loved Declan in spite of what he was. He uncurled his fists and straightened his back ready to meet whatever fate Malachi saw fit to bestow.
“Malachi, please halt this foolishness.” Elizabeth, Malachi’s long-suffering wife, stepped between the two men. Tears streamed down her face and her long, green dress fluttered in the wind around her. “All this anger shall not return our girl to us, just as your protestations did not stop her from goin’ off with Declan. She loved him and what would she say now if she saw ya behavin’ in such a way?”
“Love?” He spat. “’Twas not love. He used his fae magic to make her turn away from us or she never would have let him touch her. She was royalty and could have had any warlock she desired, but he cursed her and planted his wicked seed in her womb.”
“Wait.” She turned her teary, blue gaze to Declan and his heart clenched in his chest because they were eyes much like Anastasia’s. Desperation and hope edged her voice. “What became of the child?”
“Ya mean the
?” Malachi spat.
“It died,” Declan said flatly, praying they would believe his lie. “Stillborn.”
His heart ached for Elizabeth when he saw the stricken look on her face. She let out a weak whimper, and as much as he hated lying to the woman he knew that even she would not have been able to protect the child from her husband.
“You see,” Malachi seethed. “Nature would not allow such a creature to exist.”
“No more anger or vengeance, my love. There has been too much death this day.” Elizabeth clutched at her husband’s arms. “Allow me t’bury my daughter in peace.”
“I should kill him for what he’s done.” Malachi took another step closer but Elizabeth pressed both hands to his chest, keeping him at bay. “Blast him to ashes.”
“Ya should do it,” Declan said abruptly. All he could think of was his daughter. Tiny and helpless. If Malachi were to find her he would destroy her. If Declan did perish on this day at least he knew the child would be safe in the leprechaun village with others like herself. “Ya are right.”
“How do ya mean?” Malachi’s white eyebrows furrowed and his robes rustled around him with another gust of wind. “Speak,” he shouted.
“I did not deserve her love and she’s gone because of me.” Declan rose to his feet and stood before his accuser. Exhausted from loss and weary from the lonely existence he knew awaited him, Declan surrendered. He held his arms out and waited. “There is no life without Anastasia. All I had was her love. Her beauty and kindness. Do what ya will, Malachi. I’ll not stop ya.”
“Ya will know what true suffering is and ya will bear witness to a world without my lass,” Malachi whispered. His long, white hair and trimmed beard framed a face twisted with rage and beet red with fury. “No. I’ll not destroy ya. Death is too kind an end.”
Malachi pointed his staff toward Anastasia’s body as his wife shouted her protests. Declan thought he’d been prepared for what was to come, but once again he was badly mistaken.
He grunted with pain when an invisible force slammed into his body and rendered him immobile. Muscles straining, veins bulging, his voice stolen from him, he was helpless as his taut tormented body was lifted from the ground. A spell tumbled from Malachi’s lips as the winds picked up and the smoky clouds tumbled above. The last sight Declan witnessed before his body hurtled through the air was his amulet as it glowed brightly against his dead lover’s flesh.
He was whisked through the window of the castle by the powerful spell, his body tumbling like a leaf in the wind, helpless and without direction. Pain rippled through Declan’s chest and he braced himself as he was hurled toward a mirror hanging on the stonewall within the castle. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for impact—but none came.
A tingling sensation, like lightning, zipped over him from head to toe as he hurtled through a seemingly endless cold, dark tunnel. He tumbled head over feet until finally landing on a dank, hard surface with a grunt that rattled his bones. He shook his head and fought to gain his bearings as bone-chilling cold seeped under his flesh. Placing both hands on a dirt floor Declan grunted and pushed himself to his knees before finally rising to his feet. At first he thought he was in the dungeon of Malachi’s castle, but as the space around him came into focus he realized it was a different kind of prison.
The entire area was dark save for an oval window straight ahead—the only source of light or life. Fighting to catch his breath and still reeling from the bone-jarring landing, Declan stumbled toward the window. As he got nearer the pain was swiftly replaced by dread. He pressed both hands to the glass and found himself looking out at the massive entry hall of Malachi’s castle.
As the pieces fell into place Malachi’s laughter filled the air as he strode toward Declan. He raised the staff, which glowed again with an unnatural light, and Declan’s heart squeezed in his chest when he saw what was dangling around it.
Malachi possessed the primary source of Declan’s power. Escape would be impossible without it.
“Enjoy the view, leprechaun.” A wicked grin covered the warlock’s face as he ran one finger over the amulet. “Ya stole my treasure from me and now I have yours. Ya shall spend eternity watching the world around ya and witnessing a world without my lass. A world without her light.” He strode closer with every hate-filled word. “No death. No relief. No treasure. No magic. No sleep. No life. Ya shall remain in that realm, locked behind the glass forever.”
With a wave of his hand a black cloth covered the mirror leaving Declan alone in darkness. As the sound of Malachi’s laughter faded he knew what the warlock had said was right.