Daughter of the Dark Moon - Review / Excerpt & Events
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Book 3 of the Twin Moons Saga
Easing the door open, he stepped outside. The whine and buzz of hungry insects swarmed around him for a second, then disappeared. Even insects knew better than to feast upon fae flesh, or at least this fae’s flesh.
Probably equal to the Erlking and Enders in age, power, and capability, Uberon, the deposed king of the Unseelie Court, was the second most dangerous living creature on Planet Earth while he deigned to visit.
“I wondered why you gave up the kingdom so easily,” came the dry remark from the most dangerous creature on Earth.
Uberon looked at the spiral ivory horn and the flashing opal eyes. “The kingdom was Marog’s and he is gone. I have no further need of the crown.”
The sleek head swung to look at the dim cabin, then back at Uberon. “What have you need of then?”
The unicorn chuckled, but Uberon did not smile. “I never thought to see the day when mighty Uberon whose veins flow with ice succumbed to his libido.”
“Mate,” he corrected.
“Mate?” The razor point of the horn bobbed. A cloven hoof stamped once. “You were already once mated.”
“The fae get but one true mate each, if that.”
The unicorn’s laughter rang out, inaudible to the ears of mundane humans who did not believe in such mythical creatures. “You want us to transform her for you.”
“If you won’t, I will.”
“Do you really think you have that power?”
“Aye.” Uberon knew he did. All those thousands of years of scholarly immersion gave him the knowledge to access and exploit the power he’d need to effect the metamorphosis necessary for his mate to live in his world. Whether she would consent to it was another question, and not one that bothered him all that much.
The unicorn eyed the calm, assured male standing unafraid before him and understood that the former king of the Unseelie Court most likely did have the power to convert his little human into fae.
“We have never had two moon-borns at the same time. They are catalysts. The result may be unpredictable and possibly catastrophic.”
“She need not be moon-born, merely fae. She has her own power.”
“A human with power? How extraordinary.”
“Bring her to us at the dark of the moons.”
“No. I will bring her to you when she consents.”
“You dare defy us?”
“I will persuade her; but she will come at her decision, not yours.”
The beast shook his heavy mane. “You play dangerous games, Uberon.”
His lips curled in a smile that offered neither joy nor humor. “I’m a dangerous fellow and I don’t fear you.”
And that, the unicorn decided, was the problem. Uberon respected little and feared nothing.
CHAPTER 3 Excerpt
When his woman had disappeared into the washroom, Uberon exerted a whisper of power to clean and tidy the kitchen. What would have taken an ordinary human minutes to do took him a mere few seconds. When she emerged from cleaning herself, her freshly washed hair bound in a loose braid and her body graced by short cotton pajamas decorated with yellow cats and pink teapots, the former king of the Unseelie Court nearly swallowed his tongue as the urge to take her as his mate slammed into him. She looked and smelled fresh and clean and absolutely delicious.
He exhaled slowly through his nose, imposing stern control upon himself.
“Bathroom’s yours,” she said. “I’ll fetch a blanket for you.”
He nodded and rose from the chair in which he’d been sitting. He watched as she retrieved a blanket and spread it over the sofa cushions.
“You’re a bit tall for that sofa, but beggars can’t be choosers and you’re not sleeping with me,” she said with the hint of a snarl.
He nodded, keeping his expression mild. If he climbed into her bed, she’d not get sleep. Nor would he. He approved of her caution and the distance she seemed determined to maintain.
“Oh, and if it gets cold—” she said and waved her hand. Fire ignited on the hearth. She waved her hand again and the fire vanished. “—feel free to light a fire.”
The corners of Uberon’s lips curled upward in a faint smile at her small display of power. He should have known that fate would not pair him with an unworthy, unequal female. She had power of her own, small power in this blighted world tainted by so much iron, but power nonetheless.
Corinne frowned at his utter lack of astonishment. She’d meant to intimidate him, to let him know that she could protect herself if he decided to attack her. After all, most humans—ordinary humans—couldn’t will fire into existence and dismiss it with a thought. She focused and a cooling breeze flowed through the open windows, the fine mesh screens preventing most insects from entering the cabin.
“Thanks for cleaning up,” she said and walked into her bedroom, half expecting Uberon to follow her.
When she had finished the simple meal and swallowed another cup of that strange, fizzy water drawn from the Pool of Dreams, Thelan pressed a kiss to her forehead and bade her sleep. Before she could begin to ask the questions that clogged her throat and crowded her tongue, her eyes shut and darkness welcomed her again into its gentle embrace.
Gwenda was again ready with a tray of food when she woke.
“I need to get up,” Catriona insisted. “I need to figure out what happened.”
Gwenda, who had been nothing but caring thus far, assumed a stern expression and said, “My lord insisted you eat and eat you shall.”
Catriona struggled against the slippery silk sheets and found her strength quickly depleted. She sank defeated against the pillows and could not help the tears that trickled from her eyes.
“Go away. Please,” she begged.
Gwenda tilted her head as she pondered what to do. Should she obey her mistress’ request? Should she fetch the master and admit her inability to deal with his mate’s inexplicable distress?
“Do I not care well for you, my lady?” she asked, her voice beginning to tremble with the disturbing thought that maybe she would be punished for not alleviating her mistress’ distress. The captain had a reputation for being a demanding taskmaster.
“That’s not the problem.” A soggy sniff accompanied the denial.
Gwenda risked boldness: “I do not understand. You are the delight of the captain. You are given every luxury. Why are you not pleased?”
Catriona closed her eyes for several seconds, then struggled to sit up. The young woman aided her with gentle competence. She tried to explain: “I had a life. I was married to a good man. I had children and grandchildren. I had a job. My life was fulfilling and I looked forward to retirement if the cancer didn’t kill me first. Then one day after work, I was kidnapped, taken from all that was familiar. I remember pain, oh, God, the pain, but I was not conscious. I remember waking in unfamiliar surroundings beneath a man who used my body before I could even protest.”
“I can understand how the change must bewilder you,” Gwenda ventured with caution, “but why would you object to the captain’s touch? He is most handsome, as well as powerful. I have heard he generously rewards good service”
Catriona leaned her head back further against the soft pillows. “Because I did not choose this.” She lifted a hand, ran her gaze over the slender arm and noted the extra joint in each long finger, the ivory claws. She repeated, “I did not choose this.”
“You are exotic and rare,” Gwenda said and bravely offered a reassuring pat on her mistress’ shoulder. “Bards have already crafted ballads memorializing your transformation beneath the twin moons at the behest of the midnight and dawn swifts.”
Catriona sighed. “I don’t feel exotic and rare; I feel weird and … just weird.”
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Daughter of the Twin Moons
Cancer. The terminal diagnosis paralyzes Catriona. Both saved and imperiled, she must navigate a new, immortal life as mate to the Captain of the Seelie Palace Guard.
In obedience to the oracle’s command, Thelan abducts a human woman and takes her to the Deepwood where she is unmade and remade by ancient magic. Thus given his mate, he quickly finds himself enamored of her spirit, intelligence, and uncommon beauty. She arouses his passion and challenges both his control and authority at every turn. Thelan needs to win the heart and trust of this untraditional female whom he’s determined to keep and protect from those who covet control over the moon-born’s legendary influence.
Catriona let them have their way with her, obeying their softly spoken instructions as they massaged her limbs while they cleaned her body. She detected no prurience, no salaciousness, in their care for her and floated on a cloud of pure physical pleasure. She luxuriated in the warm languor, not particularly paying attention to her caretakers’ gentle splashing in the pool until she realized that their play with each other was not so innocent. She closed her eyes against their sexual play until, giggling, the women practically poured her into a long gray gown deceptively simple in its fashion. The neckline swept from collar bone to collar bone. The bodice seams followed the line of the feminine figure to flare at the hip into a full skirt. The hem dragged the floor, immediately darkening when the fabric absorbed the moisture.
“She’s not as tall as one might expect,” the attendant said in dismay as she stared at several inches of wet hemline. “I should find a shorter gown, perhaps in the children’s wardrobe.”
“She was built upon human bone,” Gwenda explained and, with a wave of her hand, dismissed the offer to find a child-sized gown which might be short enough, but would not accommodate adult curves. “The captain appears well satisfied with her small size.”
The attendant smiled slyly. “I would have thought a larger female would be necessary to satisfy one such as he.”
“She is his mate, created for him, tuned to his pleasure.”
Catriona frowned at hearing that. What did Gwenda mean by that? She held her own hand in front of her face, examined the slender, graceful, smoothly skinned appendage that yet glittered faintly as though lit from beneath by myriad twinkling stars. She could not deny that much had changed, but she thought she was still the same person inside the new body—at least her bones were if she understood Gwenda’s oblique reference. She pondered the meaning of the physical change, the extent of the change that made her respond to the handsome captain and forget she had a life, a career, and a family elsewhere. And a date with chemotherapy or hospice. She missed them, didn’t she?
“Will you take her to the dining hall, Gwenda? Or return her to the captain’s suite?”
“The suite for now. She tires easily and must rest.”
“First, take care of her hair, else it will soak the gown.”
The two females escorted Catriona into a warm, arid room and unwound the towel from around her head. Gwenda caught her hair and began running a comb through the long, long strands. Surprisingly, the comb did not catch on any tangles.
Soon—too soon, really—Catriona’s hair was dry. Gwenda efficiently plaited it into a long braid that hung to mid-thigh. Unbound, her hair stretched to her knees.
“Thank you,” Catriona said politely in the new language that came so readily to her tongue.
The attendant nodded acknowledgement and said, “I shall call an escort for you.”
Gwenda, who now tended to her own hair, nodded assent. In a moment, the maid, wearing a moss green dress, and her mistress, wearing a similarly styled gown of pale blue, met a uniformed guard who bowed with stiff precision and allowed the rapidly weakening female on his right to use his strength to walk.
As Gwenda had mentioned, the palace rearranged itself and the return trip to the captain’s suite took less time along a shorter route in accordance to their needs.
Thelan waited for them when they arrived.
“Thank you for escorting my lady,” the captain said with a curt nod of dismissal.
The guard bowed and retreated, steps smooth and quiet and hasty.
“I wondered where you went,” he said quietly in a voice gone soft with menace.
Gwenda turned pale. “My lady felt much recovered and wished to visit the baths,” she replied, head bowed, gaze averted, near to trembling as though she expected a blow.
“Leave her be, Thelan,” Catriona said, drawing his attention away from the maid. “She was only trying to be kind and helpful.”
Thelan’s eyes narrowed at his mate’s acidic tone.
“I am grateful to her,” Catriona added. “And now, I’m hungry.”
Still stinging with the shame of having not anticipated his mate’s hunger after her first awakening, Thelan sprang to fulfill her nutritional needs. He took a chair and drew her into his lap, insisting that she rest against him while he brought choice morsels of fruits and cheeses to her lips.
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Cancer. The terminal diagnosis paralyzes Catriona. Both saved and imperiled, she must navigate a new, immortal life as mate to the Captain of the Seelie Palace Guard.
In obedience to the oracle’s command, Thelan abducts a human woman and takes her to the Deepwood where she is unmade and remade by ancient magic. Thus given his mate, he quickly finds himself enamored of her spirit, intelligence, and uncommon beauty. She arouses his passion and challenges both his control and authority at every turn.
Thelan needs to win the heart and trust of this untraditional female whom he’s determined to keep and protect from those who covet control over the moon-born’s legendary influence.
Catriona sat in her car, head bowed and white-knuckled hands clenched on the steering wheel. She leaned her head back against the headrest and tried to absorb the test results. It couldn’t be worse.
Stage IV ovarian cancer.
Intensive chemotherapy might--might--give her a few more months, but would those months be worth living? Should she call hospice care now or wait, because she was fairly sure she did not want to endure the misery of chemotherapy. She sighed and let the tears fall unheeded as she wrapped her mind around the dismal prognosis.
She was going to die, sooner rather than later.
How would she tell her husband? Her children? Her granchildren? Her elderly parents? Should she quit her job now and enjoy what time was left to her? What about insurance? She sighed again, sniffled, not knowing the answers and too stunned by the diagnosis to fully accept it yet. It didn’t seem quite real.
She drove home, went about her usual routine, claimed to be tired, and went to bed early. Her husband glanced after her retreating figure, questions and concerns unspoken. Catriona would tell him what was bothering her when she was ready and not a minute before.
The next day she got up and went to work as usual, letting her subconscious mull over her situation until she could figure out what to do. Her coworkers never suspected anything.
Thelan, captain of the palace guard, led three of his most trusted warriors through the dim, oily interior of a building where the horseless chariots of humans waited patiently for their owners’ commands. He could hear their thoughts: What is this place? What are those hulking metal beasts? In all his seventy thousand years, Thelan never thought to be grateful for such a distasteful environment as the humans built themselves. But it was there the oracle had sent him, there he would find his fate.
They heard a mechanical noise, the din of human voices discussing inconsequential things in their rough, rude tongue. A box opened and disgorged its passengers. Thelan had ridden in one during one of his intelligence-gathering sorties. It was called an elevator. He wasn’t entirely sure how it worked, but the mechanism performed with admirable efficiency. Humans, for all their shortsightedness and crudity, exhibited amazing ingenuity.
There she is, he alerted his men, communicating with them mind to mind across the common path. They followed the direction of his gaze and found themselves puzzled. The woman identified was no beauty among humankind. She bore a weary expression on her aged face and wore unflattering garb.
You must be mistaken, Captain, his lieutenant protested. Surely, the oracle would not burden you with an old woman.
Thelan, too, had been surprised by the woman revealed by the oracle; however, he could not argue. One only argued with the oracle at great peril.
The oracle identified this female and provided the coordinates to secure her.
The other three warriors did nothing so crass as shake their heads with disbelief, but he could feel their tamped-down incredulity.
You have the simulacrum? he confirmed.
Aye, his lieutenant replied.
We’ll need a few drops of her blood to activate the decoy.
The three warriors nodded.
The woman walked toward one of the shiny metal carriages parked in a somewhat darker corner of the parking garage than most of the other vehicles. Emerging from their concealment within a separate plane of existence, the four warriors surged forward and surrounded her. The abduction took all of three seconds. A silver blade pricked her arm which bled several drops onto the golem. The lieutenant tossed the activated simulacrum into the vehicle. It twitched and grew and transformed until a perfect facsimile of the woman rested unmoving in the driver’s seat.
“Sleep,” Thelan commanded, exerting his will upon her unprepared and unprotected mind. The woman slumped in his arms. He spat a quick spell that transferred the unattractive garments she wore to the golem. In deference to his mate’s modesty, one of Thelan’s guard shook out a blanket and wrapped it around her aged, pudgy body.
Remind me never to seek the oracle’s assistance in procuring a mate, one of the other warriors commented acidly as Thelan hoisted the unconscious woman in his arms. His captain threw him a dark look that promised retribution sooner rather than later.
At the end of those three precious seconds, one of the warriors opened the portal from one dimension to another and the other threw a silvery egg that shattered upon landing and released a final spell which would bring emergency personnel. The magic sustaining the golem would not last indefinitely, so it was necessary for the decoy to fulfill its purpose. Thelan did not want the woman’s family to search for a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter who could never be found. He had stolen her from them and they must know she was gone forever. Confirmation of her death would leave them no opening for doubt. He did not begrudge her family that final kindness.
Black void swirled with dizzying rainbows and meteor streaks of white light as the four warriors traversed the portal that led them from Earth to Emain Ablach. The one who opened the portal made sure to secure it shut to prevent any curious human from following through and stumbling into the Land of Promise.
“Thank you, Grigori,” Thelan said to his lieutenant as he shifted his grip so the woman lay more comfortably within his arms. He grunted under the burden of her weight.
“I hope you know what you’re doing, Captain,” his lieutenant commented.
“I am obedient to the oracle,” he replied solemnly.
The other males nodded their acknowledgement. One did not seek the oracle’s advice and then disregard it, however distasteful it might be. That might have been one reason the sidhe seldom sought the oracle’s wisdom.
“Return to the palace and resume your places there,” Thelan ordered. “Inform the king that we retrieved the female.”
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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