Author: Rachel Rawlings Some things are destined to end in death. After the first attempt on her life Maurin wasn’t scared. Hell, she was almost flattered. But someone put a price on her head and things are getting complicated. Trouble is brewing in the fae courts and it’s spilling over into Salem. The UnSeelie Dark Guard have answered the call for her head on a platter and people closest to her are disappearing. Can Maurin master court politics and find her missing men before someone claims the bounty on her head?
Title: Ill Fated
Published On: Feb 11 2015
Genres: Dark Urban Fantasy
Publisher: R Squared Publishing Purchase Links:
Some things are destined to end in death. After the first attempt on her life Maurin wasn’t scared. Hell, she was almost flattered. But someone put a price on her head and things are getting complicated. Trouble is brewing in the fae courts and it’s spilling over into Salem. The UnSeelie Dark Guard have answered the call for her head on a platter and people closest to her are disappearing.
Can Maurin master court politics and find her missing men before someone claims the bounty on her head?
No one should be awake at four in the morning. Especially me. I ripped the plug for my alarm clock out of the wall around three-thirty.
I forgot about the batteries.
The numbers on the clock taunted me like a green-eyed devil until I finally got out of bed. I fumbled in the dark to make a pot of coffee, refusing to turn on the kitchen light and formally acknowledge the day. I pulled my favorite mug out of the cabinet and filled it before settling at my table.
The dream came every night – technically morning – at three o’clock. I was used to running on little-to-no sleep, this bordered on ridiculous. Yesterday at the range I shot a target in the lane on my left. Fortunately, it had been Mason’s and I played everything off by exaggerating my sharp-shooting skills. Someone else could have had me banned. As it was, Mason thought I was being a competitive brat.
I wasn’t sure I preferred that to being a sleep-deprived danger to others.
I scratched my neck, pausing when I felt the delicate silver chain. I followed it down to the apple branch charm which rested on my chest. Weird. I could have sworn I took it off last night. I slid the charm back and forth as I went over the dream. Again.
After the first week, I’d broken down and started analyzing it. According to Freud, I had mommy issues. No surprise there. I seriously doubted my relationship – or lack thereof – with my adoptive mother was the cause of the recurring dream.
I fired up the laptop, unwilling to cease my search for answers. Instead of the trippy New Age sites I checked out last night, I went back to my trusty Google. I nodded off twice as I scanned the results.
What the hell did an old woman washing clothes in a river have to do with me? I might have written it off as paranoia or a side effect of all the spicy food I’d been eating, if not for the haggard old woman crooking her bony finger at me and called my name – every time.
I finally got a hit on an obscure mythology website. Bean Nighe, the washer woman of the Highlands. She scrubbed the bloody linens of those doomed to die. Knowing she was fae bothered me more than the knowledge the clothes she washed every night were mine. Impending death I could handle. Hell, I’d slipped through the Reaper’s grasp more than once. The Fae on the other hand, well they could be tricky
The phone rang just as I got up for a refill. The fact someone else was not only awake at this ungodly hour,but calling me, meant it was bad news. No one who valued their life called me before noon unless it was an emergency – one of the perks of my new position as Regulator.
I was now in charge of one investigator, two trackers and a team of cleaners. It was a lot like it sounds. We investigate, we track and we clean up. We clean up everything, no loose ends. You don’t ever want to find yourself in need of a cleaner. Late hours came with the new job, hence the “no calls before noon” rule.
I glanced at the screen before answering and recognized the number immediately. It helped I had been dialing it for the last four years – it used to belong to Captain Matthison. Of course Mason, my fae boyfriend and member of the Wild Hunt, was the captain of SPTF now.
We’d been officially dating for a couple months, moved well past first base. Hell, I had a key to his apartment. Granted I hadn’t used it since the night he gave it to me. I’d been dragging my feet, leaving deep ruts in my wake where our relationship was concerned. My track record wasn’t all that great. I’d rushed in before, once because I was spelled and once because I wanted to.
Neither ended well.
Things were going great. I was afraid if I labeled it, changed it in anyway, the change would be catastrophic. Thankfully, Mason was a patient man.
Except when it came to a four a.m. phone call. My phone stopped then immediately started ringing again.
My answer was short and to the point. “Morning.”
“You’re awake?” He sounded more than a little surprised.
“I’m not really sure the state I’m in qualifies as awake.”
“Here I was, terrified to poke the dragon, and you’re already drinking coffee and talking in complete sentences.”
I snorted and took a sip of the aforementioned liquid gold. “Are you always like this in the morning?”
“If you’d let me sleep over you’d already know the answer to that question. Why aren’t you asleep?”
In general or just tonight, I silently wondered. “Bad dream. I’ve been tossing and turning all night. I finally gave in and got out of bed.”
Papers rustled in the background and when he spoke again, his voice was lower, intimate, “You want to talk about it?”
“Something tells me my nightmares are the least of our problems.”
“You have no idea. I need you to come down to my office.”
I sighed. “Can it at least wait until after sunrise?”
“Would I be breaking the ‘no phone calls before noon’policy if it could wait?”
“There really is no rest for the wicked, is there?”
He laughed and the sound warmed me more than a hundred cups of coffee. “Apparently not, in your case. Now, there’s a dirty chai latte and a croissant for you if you’re here before Amalie. I can’t promise real coffee and pastries will survive beyond five minutes of her arrival.”
“It’s four-thirty in the morning, Mas. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make sure at least one dirty chai and croissant remain unmolested.”
“I’ll see you soon.” He was laughing as he hung up the phone.
Three hours ago, I’d practically crawled through the doorway, exhausted from cleaning up after a newbie vamp who’d broken the Jus Sanguinis Intergentes when she killed her donor. The blood pact between people and vampires had a clear ‘no killing, no exceptions’ clause.
It was up to the maker to ensure their child was ready to feed unsupervised. If something went wrong and the Council found out about it, we cleaned up the mess and the sire was subject to heavy fines and possible revocation of their rights to expand their blood lines. She’d been quite literally a bitch to track and take down.
It had been a long night and it was shaping up to be an even longer day.
I wasted little time getting dressed, opting for a slip-on black jersey dress, eighteen hole Docs and a leather jacket. Jewelry was a hindrance in my line of work. My meeting with Mason could easily turn into a run. Choked with my own chain? No, thank you. Unclasping the necklace, I set it in a glass dish on my bathroom counter. I ran a brush through my hair, a toothbrush over my teeth and slipped into the Between. I stepped out of the alley two buildings down from the station and walked the last block and a half.
Amalie was swarmed by detectives trying to get at the goodies she brought over from the Daily Grind. She greeted me with a warm smile, shaking her head when I offered to pull her out of the fray. She had managed to endear herself to the entire department in record time. All it took was real coffee and fresh pastries. I pointed to Mason’s office. She’d make her way over once the starving masses had their fill.
Mason was so engrossed in the file on his desk he didn’t hear me come in. He looked as tired as I felt – too many double shifts. Despite an uptick in activity, SPTF was short-staffed due to budget cuts. Without enough man power to staff the shifts properly, overtime was mandatory.
“Is that for me?” I pointed at the to-go cup and white paper bag on his desk.
He finally looked up and gave me a smile which lit up his whole face. “As promised.”
I stole a quick kiss, grabbed the coffee and croissant, and settled in the chair across from him. I took a long sip of my latte, savoring the delicious mix of tea and espresso. “Man, I needed this. Is that the case you’re working on?”
“Yeah, we’ve got a real problem on our hands.”
“Don’t we always.” I tried to peek at the file.
Mason closed the manila folder. “I’d rather wait until everyone is here.”
“Who else is coming besides Amalie?” My curiosity was definitely peaked now. I reached across his desk, hoping to grab the file.
“You look exhausted. Tell me about your dream while we wait.”
I narrowed my eyes and glared at him. “I see this for the obvious distraction it is.” Sighing, I rubbed my temple. “However, I’m exhausted, too exhausted to argue. So I’ll tell you. Prepare to be confounded.”
He listened intently as I filled him in on the nightly visits from the weathered old woman who washed my clothes and hauntingly called my name. I expected him to laugh and tell me it was just a dream, that I had nothing to worry about.
I didn’t expect him to look so stricken.
“Bean Nighe.” He whispered the name.
“You’ve heard of her?”
“Of course I’ve heard of her. How long has she been coming to you?”
I stared at him curiously. “A few weeks. Why?”
When I agreed to give this thing with Mason a chance I also agreed to some conditions. No more flying solo, no more rash decisions or rushing off to play the hero. We were a team, in everything. This was just one of many setbacks.
“A few weeks and this is the first I’m hearing of it?” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, obviously struggling to control his temper. “We talked about this. No holding things back, remember?”
“I thought it was just a dream.” I shrugged. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“It was a big enough deal for you to research it.” Agitation rolled off him in waves.
“I got curious, did a little digging. Until tonight, everything I found pointed to deep-seated family issues, particularly with a mother figure. I’ve told you about my childhood, does that dream analysis surprise you?”
His growl told me he wasn’t in the mood for reasonable explanations. “When did you discover the true meaning of the dream? How long have you known about the Bean Nighe?”
“Tonight. This morning. Before you called me.” I held up a hand to stop the tongue lashing I knew he wanted to give me. “I would have told you. I got the impression on the phone there were more pressing matters than my insomnia.”
“Is this why you won’t let me stay at your place?” His gaze roamed over my face, searching. “Why you never stay at mine?”
“Is that the real reason why you’re so upset?” I arched my brows. “Because we’re not having sleepovers?”
“I stayed at your lovely apartment the first night we met.”
I turned to watch Aidan glide into the room, stopping behind my chair. Rolling my eyes, I snorted and muttered, “In the closet.”
Mason’s jaw twitched, but he didn’t take the bait. “Aidan.”
“It’s almost sunrise. Shouldn’t you be hunkered down for the day?” I sighed, wondering what he was doing here. I was too tired to deal with Aidan and Mason and their combined testosterone.