An Urban Fantasy Romance
Marion Garin is the daughter of Metaraon, the former Voice of God. Now she's also the steward of the Winter Court, which has been in anarchy since a revolution five years earlier.
Problem: Marion still doesn't remember anything that happened before two weeks ago.
Seth Wilder has a lead on her memories. Whoever stole them and sold Marion's essence to a demon lord in Sheol. Marion wants to help steal them back, even though that means abandoning the Winter Court to war. And Seth can't seem to tell Marion no.
He wants Marion nearby. Very nearby. Possibly in his teeth. See, Seth has this little problem where he's developing a killing urge, and it seems to be centered primarily on the half-angel girl who adores him. It conflicts with everything Seth believes himself to be: a moral man, a doctor who heals instead of hurts. Yet he's obsessed with Marion. She wants her memories, and he wants her to have them as much as he wants her blood.
They'll work together to make Marion whole, come hell or high water. Even if it means war. Even if it means Seth might hurt Marion. And damned be the consequences...
Marion Garin gripped a pen so hard that it snapped.
Black ink oozed across the table. She bit the inside of her cheek and tried to mop it up with a piece of official stationary before anyone noticed.
“What’s wrong with you?” muttered the vampire on Marion’s left. Her name was Jolene Chang, and she was representing the American Gaean Commission. Jolene was an asanbosam—a weak breed with knives for teeth, long fingernails, and insignificant social power. Yet Marion was forced to sit beside her.
What was wrong with her? Marion wasn’t seated at the head of the table, that was what was wrong with her.
She was among a dozen preternaturals who had been selected as speakers for their various factions, which meant that she was ranked equally among them in this particular context. But in every context—including this one—she was still the Voice of God, and she should have been in charge.READ MORE
Instead, she was seated at the far end of the table beside Jolene, a great big nobody, and another vampire delegate, Lucifer, who was as much a nobody.
Being surrounded by speakers from insignificant factions spoke volumes about the organizers’ respect for Marion.
On the other hand, Prince ErlKonig of the Autumn Court was seated near the head of the table. When he caught her looking at him, he winked. Marion reluctantly smiled.
“Cast your votes,” said Rylie Gresham, Alpha of the North American Union shapeshifters.
She was the one in charge, so she had been seated at the place of honor at the head of the table. It was her logo on everything. Her blond-haired, apple-cheeked face on the posters ringing the room. Her guards, from both the Summer Court and the shifter sanctuary, protecting the doors and watching the delegates to make sure that they couldn’t cheat while voting.
Rylie Gresham was all over everything.
Marion couldn’t cast her vote with a broken pen. She gestured to her assistant for help. Jibril was an angel who looked as pleased to be her assistant as he would have been to scrape dog crap off of the bottom of his designer shoes.
Everyone else around the table had already marked off their vote, folded their papers, and passed them to Rylie.
That was how they were voting. They were writing “yes” or “no” on a paper, and then Rylie would count them. It was irritatingly low-tech for a summit of such importance.
Konig had said that Marion had originally been slated to cast some kind of voting spell. Unfortunately, Marion’s oeuvre at the moment was more along the lines of breaking pens, irritating the angels, and making people hate her, and not so much with the politically oriented magic.
So they were casting votes manually.
Marion glanced at Konig again. He was sitting back in his chair, hands folded behind his head. The decision had been easy for him.
Marion moved to mark her vote, but the tip of her new pen hovered over a clean sheet of paper…and she didn’t know what to write.
It felt like everyone was looking at her.
Jolene certainly was. So was Jibril. Marion didn’t want to look at anyone else in case they really were, too.
What is wrong with you?
A question that applied perfectly to so many situations.
Marion wrote quickly. She folded her paper. And then she passed it to Rylie Gresham.
Rylie’s eyes were warm but worried when she smiled at Marion. Their hands brushed, and Rylie’s fingers lingered in a fashion that was most likely meant to be comforting. “It will only take a moment to add these up,” Rylie said, returning to her seat.
The Alpha sorted them by yes and no votes. She counted them, and then had her Alpha mate count them as well. Abel seemed to take longer to count. He probably struggled to get above numbers like five or six. Abel was a stupid idiot moron who had only become important because the skanky Alpha female was sleeping with him.
Marion was so busy glaring at Abel and thinking mean things that she forgot to be anxious about the outcome of the vote.
“No,” Rylie finally said. “Nine votes say no. Four say yes.”
There were no cheers, no groans. Not a sound in the entire room.
Quite the anticlimax.
“Thanks for your time,” Rylie added.
Chairs were pushed back. Bodies shifted.
Then the whispers started.
Marion watched the others without getting up. She was getting better at picking up on their thoughts. That was apparently part of her oeuvre too—part of the oeuvre of anyone who had angel blood, which Marion did, though hers was watered down more than that of the others. She was only half-angel. Half seemed to be more enough.
Elation radiated from the seelie sidhe serving as speaker for the Summer Court. Storm must have voted no.
His elation was tinged with anxiety, though. He knew what his “no” meant.
Adàn Pedregon, speaker for Los Cambiaformas Internacional, was only angry as he stormed past Marion. He’d likely voted yes, as getting the angels out of the Ethereal Levant would mean more room for his gaeans to expand—or perhaps an easy route to move down into Africa.
She didn’t need to reach into Konig’s mind to know how he’d voted. He had told Marion how he wanted things to go, and she had ultimately agreed with him.
“What did you write?” Jibril asked.
Marion stood, smoothing her dress. It was a flashy thing that day: a red dress with a fitted bodice and ridiculous number of skirt layers, more akin to something sidhe might wear than an angel, half-blood or otherwise.
“Votes are private,” she said, stepping into the hallway behind the other speakers. Marion glanced over her shoulder at Rylie and Abel, who were still seated at the head of the table, discussing the votes in whispers.
“Votes aren’t private within the factions.” Jibril grabbed Marion’s arm the instant that the door swung shut behind her. “Did you vote for angels to get control of the Winter Court?”
The Winter Court was in the Middle Worlds: one of the four courts that was meant to be occupied by the sidhe. Specifically, it should have been occupied by the unseelie sidhe.
There had been a coup five years earlier which had resulted in the queen’s assassination. The rebels hadn’t managed to maintain power either, and since then, the Winter Court had been in anarchy.
The angels wanted that Middle World for themselves.
The gods had commanded that Marion should take stewardship of it until the unseelie could resume leadership.
The vote of nine against four meant that an overwhelming majority agreed with the gods.
“Hands off, angel.” Konig had been waiting for Marion outside the board room, leaning nonchalantly against the wall. Now he hovered beside them and he radiated danger.
Jibril released his grip on Marion instantly. He knew better than to pick a fight with Marion’s boyfriend.
“Are you okay?” Marion asked. She couldn’t imagine that Konig was thrilled about the outcome of the meeting.
“Of course I am. It’s over! Now we can deal with the next thing.” Konig was immediately pleasant again once he’d been obeyed. It was shocking how quickly he swung between intimidation and charm. “I thought I’d die of boredom during all the final speeches leading up to the vote.” He planted a kiss on Marion’s lips, wrapping a firm arm around her waist.
“Me too,” she said. “And they seated me so far away from you.”
“Precious thing,” Konig said. He seemed to think that Marion was offended that they didn’t get to sit together, not that she had been seated with a couple of vampires.
Jibril made an impatient noise when they continued to kiss.
“Time to turn this loss into a victory,” Konig said. “Good thing I had my knights getting everything packed this week, just in case. Now you and I can get to our home. Our new home.”
Her heart fluttered. “Already?”
“The sooner we move in, the sooner we can get the refugees somewhere safe.” He beamed at her, excitement glowing from the violet gemstones of his eyes. Sidhe weren’t subtle about any of their emotions, whether it was anger, lust, or happiness. He was shining brighter than the sun. “And the sooner we can get comfortable in Niflheimr.”
Marion wasn’t shining along with him. She had been trying not to think too hard about what the “no” vote would mean personally.
War with the angels was bad enough.
Becoming steward of the Winter Court—a Middle World frozen in eternal darkness—meant that Marion had to leave her comfortable home on Vancouver Island to live in Niflheimr.
Marion found the idea of such a leadership position appealing. The climate…not quite so much.
At least Konig had agreed to go with her if such a thing happened. He wasn’t from the Winter Court, but his unseelie power meant he’d be able to engage most of the wards around Niflheimr, and he was more familiar with the local culture. Together, they would cooperate to gather refugees and start the court anew.
It was like buying their first house together. Except that house happened to come with vassals, enemies, and an entire kingdom.
As a prince, Konig had spent his life prepared for such responsibility, and he got to do it with his girlfriend at his side. Of course he was excited.
“I should see Jibril off,” Marion said, twining her arms around Konig’s neck. “Will you wait for me?”
“Afraid not, princess. Have to give the order to start moving my belongings into the Winter Court. I’ll have Nori pick you up in a couple hours. Don’t be surprised if you get waylaid in the Autumn Court—my mother will want your feedback on her decisions about redecorating Niflheimr.” He rolled his eyes.
“Her decisions?” Marion asked.
“Don’t start with me.” Konig kissed her again, hard enough to take her breath away and scramble her thoughts.
He released her, and Marion staggered, hand pressed to her beating heart.
The look he gave her… It almost made Marion forget about how queasy she felt about the outcome of the vote.
How could Konig be “business as usual” when that decision was going to piss off the angels so thoroughly?
He was already striding away with his entourage, leaving Marion with Jibril. The hall had otherwise emptied. Everyone was in a rush to get home.
Get home, and probably batten down the hatches.
“Well, Marion?” Jibril demanded.
Marion swallowed the knot in her throat and got into the next elevator. An empty one. “It doesn’t matter what I voted. We lost.”
“We’ll appeal,” Jibril said, joining her in the elevator.
She pushed the button to take them to the zeppelin dock at the apex of the tower. “Appeals aren’t possible.” That vote had concluded the summit. There had been other, more minor issues debated in the last week—such as territory squabbles between independent shifter packs—but the fate of the Winter Court was the only issue everyone had cared about.
“What am I supposed to take back to the EL?” Jibril asked. “I can’t tell them we’ve lost.”
The lights flickered.
“Control yourself,” Marion said. “You’ll break the elevator.” Angels could disable everything electrically powered within a mile if their power flared—say, during an emotional outburst. Jibril looked to be on the brink of an outburst that could fry all of New York City.
“Don’t you know what Leliel will do?”
Marion could imagine. Leliel was the ruthless leader in the Ethereal Levant—an angel who had been de-winged shortly before Genesis and hadn’t taken the amputation gracefully.
She’d tried to assassinate Marion in order to keep her from delivering a message from the gods. The one that had led to the vote.
Leliel was not a woman with an even temper.
Marion sighed, massaging her temples with her fingertips. “I’m sorry, Jibril.” She lowered her voice. “If it makes you feel any better, I voted yes.”
Jibril’s eyes widened. “You did?”
“I’m the Voice of God, not the Mindless Obedient Zombie of God. I’m allowed to have my own opinions.” At least, Marion assumed she was allowed such things. Her memories didn’t stretch far enough back to include her last conversation with the gods, presumably when they had told her that they wanted the angels to stay out of the Middle Worlds.
“Why?” Jibril asked. “You want to run the Winter Court. You want to run everything.”
Marion wasn’t going to argue with that. “Believe it or not, I don’t want to fight with you people, nor do I want angels to die out. If the Winter Court’s the best place for all of you to nest, then you should have it.”
“You’ve surprised me.” Jibril drummed his fingers on his hip. “What would you think of negotiating some kind of compromise, now that you’re steward?”
“I’d be thrilled to discuss it. I’d also be shocked if Leliel is willing to talk to me rationally.”
“We’ll see about that,” Jibril said. “We can arrange something without her, though. I’ll meet you and Prince ErlKonig tonight in the Winter Court. There may be something we can do.”
“Hopefully Leliel will come.” After all, Leliel led the angels in Dilmun—they couldn’t make a binding agreement without her. “I’ll propose negotiations to her personally.”
The angel had failed to kill Marion once already. She was reasonably certain she could handle another tantrum from that woman.
And Leliel probably wouldn’t try to murder her now that the summit was over. Angels were, if nothing else, deeply logical creatures. The vote had ended, so killing Marion at that point would only be a waste of energy and a great way to piss off the Autumn Court.
The elevator chimed and its doors slid open. The dock was already occupied by the rest of the ethereal delegation, preparing to return to the EL after the summit.
Suzume stood on the left—an amusingly crass angel—with Leliel on her right. Marion had been planning to escort Jibril to the edge of the dock, but the sight of Leliel stopped her two feet in front of the elevator.
Leliel was beautiful. Curvaceous for an angel, statuesque, auburn-haired with skin in warm olive tones. Her body was draped in layers of peach that accentuated her large breasts and hips. She could have also probably hidden a few knives under that dress. Maybe even one of the flaming swords angels so often carried.
The instant that Marion saw her expression, Marion knew that Leliel had already heard of the vote.
“I have a message for you to deliver to your in-laws,” Leliel said. “Tell them that war is coming.”
“Wait, Leliel. We should talk,” Marion said.
“You’ve done enough, mage girl.” Her enchanted wings whipped free of the tattoos on her back. The other angels unfurled their wings as well—genuine wings, feathers glowing with so much energy that all the lights immediately extinguished in the dock.
The wind caught them, and they were gone.
Marion stepped up to the edge to watch the three of them go. She had a foul taste in her mouth.
“I voted in your favor, dammit,” she said into the foggy evening.
But it didn’t matter.
Marion’s fists were shaking, and she realized that her fingernails had cut neat half-moons into her palm because they’d been clenched so tightly.
Strangely, she wasn’t angry that Leliel refused to listen. Marion never would have expected her offer to talk to go over well.
She felt queasy that she’d even voted in the favor of Leliel, her would-be killer, even she and Konig had agreed that it would be the easiest way to prevent war.
What’s wrong with you? Jolene had asked.
“If only I knew,” she muttered.COLLAPSE