Thanks to Lauren Dane and Jody Wallace for giving me their proofing skills and opinions when I desperately needed them.
Thanks to Brenda Maxfield for always being my sounding board and for listening to me prattle on about my stories and characters.
Major appreciation to Axel de Roy, the brilliant artist who created the interactive map of Piefferburg that can be found on my website. I have loved your art for the last fifteen years, just about the same amount of time I’ve been married to your good friend.
And an extra thanks to my husband for not only putting up with me when I’m stressed and/or deadline-frenzied, but for suggesting the brilliant name of Faemous for the human media coverage of the Seelie Court.
“SEX incarnate,” the women and men around her whispered. “Half incubus.”
Aislinn didn’t know if it was true, but she did know the man was Unseelie in a Seelie Court. That didn’t happen very often, so she stared just like everyone else as he passed down the corridor.
Dressed head to toe in black, wearing Doc Martens, a pair of faded jeans, and a long coat over a thin crewneck sweater that defined his muscular chest, he seemed to possess every inch of the hallway he tread. He walked with such confidence it gave the illusion he took up more space than was physically possible. Seelie nobles shrank in his wake though they tried to stand firm and proud. Not even the most powerful ones were immune. Others postured and drew up straighter, offering challenge to some imaginary threat in their midst. Not even the gold and rose-bedecked Imperial Guard seemed immune from his passing, as if they sensed a marauder in their midst.
And maybe this man was a marauder.
No one knew anything about him other than that the dark magick running through his Unseelie veins was both lethal and sexual in nature. The court buzzed with the news of his arrival and his meeting with the Summer Queen, High Royal of the Seelie Tuatha Dé Danann.
According to gossip, Gabriel Cionaodh Marcus Mac Braire had been welcomed past the threshold of the gleaming rose quartz tower of the Seelie Court because he was petitioning the Summer Queen for permanent residence, a subject that had received a huge amount of attention from Seelie nobles. Predictably, most of the people against it were men.
Gabriel, it was said, held Seelie blood in his veins, but the incubus Unseelie part of him overshadowed it. The rumors went that he was catnip to females and—when his special brand of magick was wielded at full force between the sheets—he possessed the power to enslave a woman. The afflicted female would become addicted to him. She’d stop eating and sleeping, wanting nothing more than his touch, until she finally died from longing and self-neglect.
Just the thought made Aislinn shudder, yet it didn’t seem to deter his female admirers. Maybe that was because no one had ever heard of any woman who’d suffered that fate. If this man could use sex like a deadly weapon, apparently he never did.
Yet some kind of sexual magick did seem to pour from him. Something intangible, subtle, and seductive.
Watching him now, so self-assured and beautiful, Aislinn could see the allure. His long black coat melded with his shoulder-length dark hair until she wasn’t sure where one began and the other ended. A gorgeous fallen angel whose every movement promised a night filled with the darkest, most dangerous erotic pleasure? There was nothing to find uninteresting. Even herself, jaded and pride pricked by “love” as she currently was, could see the attraction.
That attraction, of course, was the stock-in-trade of an incubus and Gabriel was at least half, if court gossip was to be believed. But for all his dark beauty and lethal charm, and despite that odd, subtle magick, he didn’t entice Aislinn. To her, he screamed danger. Perhaps that was because of the very humbling public breakup she’d just endured. All men, especially attractive ones, looked like trouble to her now.
“Wow,” said her friend Carina, coming to stand beside her. “I see what everyone was talking about. He’s really . . .” She trailed off, her eyebrows rising into her ebony hairline.
“He’s really what?” Carina’s husband growled, coming up from behind them to twine his arms around his wife’s waist.
“Really potent,” Carina answered. “That man’s magick is so strong that even standing in his wake a woman feels a little intoxicated, but it’s false.” She turned and embraced Drem. “My attraction to you is