Authors: Dana Marie Bell
A crescendo of evil could destroy their perfect harmony.
The Gray Court, Book 5
Oberon is well and truly lost, with no memory of who he is, where he came from, or where he’s going. One woman makes his palms sweat and his heart race, a woman with turquoise eyes and a beautiful voice. Instinct tells him she’s the only one who can save him.
Cassie knows the truth—he is the High King, her truebond, the one man born to be hers and hers alone. Restoring his memory and keeping him out of the Black Court’s clutches is her mission, though success means losing him. Yet to give the world back its High King, she will make that sacrifice.
As soon as Oberon’s memory comes crashing back through his mind’s closed door, he makes one vow. Though beset by enemies, chased and attacked, he will return to his rightful place with his Queen by his side.
Except when he makes good on his vow, all hell breaks loose. And when Cassie’s life is threatened, the fae world will bow before the High King or pay the price in blood.
Warning: This title contains explicit sex, graphic language, fishy shenanigans and royal naughtiness.
Dana Marie Bell
To Mom, who thinks the term nerdgasm is a dirty, dirty word, not to be spoken of in front of little ears.
To Dad, who knows what a nerdgasm is, but is pleased my mom still has such a dirty mind after forty-six years together.
And to Dusty, who married me because I gave him all sorts of nerdgasms. A girl who plays D&D, video games
reads sci-fi/fantasy? He was so there he put a ring on it. Hello, sweetie.
Cassie smiled, her gaze lifting from Kael toward the doorway where Harold stood. From the slight frown on the majordomo’s face, she hadn’t managed to hide the sadness she’d been feeling. “Good morning, Harold.”
The majordomo entered the room, a mug of coffee in his hand. He gave it to her, nodding at her murmured thanks. “How are our patients?”
“Kael’s doing well, much better than I hoped. He’s strong.” Cassie was in the middle of checking Kael. She was pleased to see the pooka was recovering nicely. His injuries had been severe, but not life-threatening, not like the woman Oberon had carried away.
Cassie grimaced, remembering the icy expression on his face, the way he turned his back without even a second thought. She’d never felt so cold in her life.
Ugh. Thinking about it now, about
, wasn’t going to do her any good. She had two patients who needed her, and a truebond who obviously didn’t. It had been a few weeks since she’d seen him, weeks during which she’d tried to focus her attention on Kael. The young pooka was sleeping quietly, almost healed.
Soon, Cassie would leave the Gray Palace. She doubted she would ever return.
“And Snod, your highness?”
“Much better. He’s already been released and is back on guard duty.” Healing the redcap, Snod, had been a surprise. The song of his soul resonated inside her, surprisingly sweet and simple for a creature with such a fearsome reputation. She attributed most of that to his bond with Lady Michaela Goodfellow, a woman she’d only recently managed to meet. Robin Goodfellow was extremely proud of his truebond, as well as overprotective to the extreme. But Michaela seemed to take it in stride, managing her bondmate quite easily. If anyone saw how Robin caved every time Michaela turned those pleading golden eyes on him, they’d be shocked. She had the fearsome Hob wrapped around her pinky finger, to the point where he’d accepted Snod into his household as his truebond’s bodyguard.
“That’s excellent.” Harold smiled, obviously relieved. “I wasn’t certain about him at first, but he’s devoted to Lady Goodfellow.”
“Mm-hm.” Cassie stood and stretched her aching back. She’d been bent over the sleeping pooka, humming softly as she lulled his injuries into healing, and now her back ached something fierce. As a siren, her songs had the ability to heal even the most grievous of injuries, but they still took time and energy she didn’t always have. Finding the pooka’s song, the very essence of his being, and fixing the discordant notes was hard work.
“I’d best return. His majesty will be expecting to speak to me soon about his day.”
“How is he?” Cassie winced. She hadn’t meant to ask, but the High King was never far from her mind. It wasn’t just his waist-length, snowy hair or his silver eyes, either. There was something truly regal, almost otherworldly, about Oberon that drew her as nothing else could. She wanted to hear his song, to test it and taste it, to see if it would blend with her own the way she thought it would. Or, even better, if it would surprise her, showing her different sides of her bondmate that none other had ever seen before. She wanted to know the parts he kept hidden away from the world, but she doubted she’d ever get that chance. He’d been clear in his dismissal, and although he was aware of her presence in his palace he’d made no move to come and see her.
The rejection stung. Oh, it hurt, and there wasn’t much she could do about it. He was so much more than she was. Trying to force him to acknowledge her wouldn’t work.
The only thing she could hope was that eventually the pull toward her would be so strong he would no longer be able to deny it. Only then would they stand a chance of having the kind of bonding Cassie longed for.
“Tired still, but happy for Lord and Lady Goodfellow.”
She wasn’t surprised. The healing he’d done had been greater than any she’d seen, and had brought out harmonies and bits of melody in Michaela Goodfellow that had long lain dormant. In short, he’d taken the slain human and made her one of the Tuatha Dè, calling to that part of her blood that was fae and coaxing her soul out of hiding before it fled her body.
It was a feat she hadn’t thought possible until she saw Michaela’s song. The young Tuatha Dè was remarkably resilient, a trait she’d need to be Robin’s mate.
Harold bowed. “Where would you like your lunch this afternoon, your highness?”
Cassie had been avoiding the areas where Oberon would most likely be. Something told her that confronting him before he was at full strength would be a mistake. She wanted him to make decisions when he was in full charge of himself, even if that meant he turned her away forever. “The usual place.” She’d found a lovely little nook with a view of the mountains, a view she never seemed to get tired of. For a water sprite, the fact that she found Oberon’s mountain home stunning was a surprise. “Thank you, Harold.”
“You are more than welcome, princess.” Harold left the room, a spring in his step. He seemed pleased with the way things were turning out. Even Kael, who slept most of the time while he healed, seemed happy that she was there.
Did they know who she was, and what she might become? There was no way she could find the courage to ask. Until things were at least somewhat resolved with Oberon, she had no right to question anyone.
Cassie scowled. She was becoming far more despondent than she’d ever been, even when her parents had signed a contract for her to marry the prince of Pacifica, Osmond. The man was a sweetheart, but…
Yeah. She’d done her best to convince Osmond to tell his parents the truth, but he’d been terrified of their reaction. So she’d run, giving them both time to find a way to deal with a match neither of them wanted.
If Pacifica found her, they might feel honor bound to conduct the wedding despite the protests of the bride and groom.
But if her home country of Atlantis found her first, they’d punish her severely for embarrassing them,
they’d force the marriage. Cassie was the disposable princess, the one they felt comfortable pawning off. Neither Demetria, Leah nor Iona was ugly enough to hand over to the Black Court.
But Cassandra, fourth daughter and huge disappointment, was. Only Dayton, the youngest and only male, treated Cassie like family. He, too, was treated like an unwanted child. The king and queen of Atlantis had the perfect princesses in their first three children, but pressure to produce a male heir had forced them to continue.
What a huge disappointment Dayton had been to them, and what a delight he was to Cassie, who mothered him when their own mother turned her back on them. He was the only reason she’d waited so long to leave Atlantis and her only regret when she ran.
Speaking of whom, Cassie hadn’t spoken to her brother in days. With his help she’d managed to evade her family’s guards so far. She just prayed he wouldn’t be found out. The consequences for him could be dire. Her father and mother were rigid in their beliefs, and Dayton could be branded a traitor to the crown. That would place Demetria on the throne instead of Dayton, an outcome their parents wished for outside of Dayton’s hearing.
Cassie pulled out the shell compact she kept in her purse, opening it to reveal the unbreakable Mother of Pearl center. “Dayton Nerice.”
The Mother of Pearl swirled, coalesced into a tiny image of her brother’s face. “Hello, Cassie.”
The easy smile on Dayton’s face didn’t fool her for a second. “The harpies giving you a hard time today?”
The smile faded. “Yeah, but that’s nothing new.” Dayton’s smile brightened again. “You’re looking good.”
“Any trouble with Pacifica?” Dayton blushed every time the other court was mentioned. Cassie had her suspicions that her brother had a crush on Osmond, but she couldn’t prove it.
“Nah. I’m avoiding both coasts as much as possible.”
“Good.” He bit his lip, looking concerned. “They’re up to something. Something bigger than an alliance marriage with Pacifica.”
“Any idea what?” She wouldn’t put anything past her parents.
“No clue, but things have been really hush-hush around here. They’ve got some guards on me, but every now and then I give them the slip.”
“Are they there now?” Cassie’s heart began to pound. She didn’t want her little brother to be punished for helping her.
“I wouldn’t have answered if they were. I’m in my nook, and they usually leave me alone here.”
Cassie grinned. That was something she shared with Dayton. They had special places with a wonderful view, where they just liked to sit and think, lost inside their own heads as the palace’s political dance went on around them. “Keep an ear to the ground and stay out of trouble, okay?”
He grimaced. “Cassie, whatever they’ve got going on, it’s major. Demetria has been walking around like a warrior queen, and the other two are following along like a school of herring. And the parents are acting all smug, like they did that time they managed to pull one over on the Baltic ambassador. Even worse? No one’s mentioned your name in days.”
“You think their scheme has taken their attention off the marriage?” Cassie could only hope.
“No, I think you’ve been put on the back burner, but you haven’t been forgotten. Some of the court wants you declared a traitor and banished for all time. I think the parents are leaning toward that if you aren’t found soon.”
Wonderful. While the idea that she might never have to deal with her parents again was really appealing, the thought that she might never again be allowed into the sea was daunting. As a siren, a mermaid, she would lose her immortality slowly as she remained fixed on dry land. Not even a lake would do, as that was the domain of the naiads, the merfolk who inhabited fresh waters. While she could dip her toes into a salt lake, it just didn’t hold the same magic that the sea did. It would slow her death, but would not prevent it.
It was a death sentence without the bloodshed, and her parents knew it. “Keep me posted, bro, and stay safe.”
“Got it. Love you, sis.”
“Love you too.” Cassie watched her brother’s image disappear. She started to close the compact when she was startled by another face appearing, one she’d seen before. The thing was, the man should not have been able to contact her through the compact. Only the royal Atlantean family had access to them, and Cassie had fixed hers so that only her brother could get through to her. She hadn’t wanted her parents to trace her through it, but she couldn’t quite get rid of the last connection she had to her old life. “Shane?”
Shane Joloun Dunne, also known as the Child of Dunne, waved merrily at her. “Hello, Cass.”
“What the… How did you get on my compact?”
He shrugged. “Ve haf our vays.” He waggled his brows and Cassie laughed. But that quickly his demeanor changed. “I need you to pay attention, Cassie.”
“Okay.” When Shane spoke that way, in that tone of voice, Cassie had learned to listen. This was no longer the easy-going glass artist; it was the Child of Dunne speaking to her, commanding her attention. Shane’s visions had been responsible for finding and protecting Lady Goodfellow, had saved members of his family and allowed him to deal with his temperamental dragon mate, Akane Russo.
“You need to leave the Gray Palace now.”
“Why?” But Cassie was already reaching for her car keys.
She froze. “The prophecy?”
“Yup.” Shane grinned viciously. “And you’re the only one who can save him.”
“Shit.” Shane had warned her this day would come, had told her what she’d need to do, but she hadn’t believed him. Her truebond was invincible.
Oh gods, she was going to throw up. He couldn’t die. They might as well place her in the desert and let her dry out if that happened.
“He’s gone!” Harold darted into the room, his eyes wild, his hair sticking up. “None of us can find him!”
“Leave now, Cassie.” Shane’s voice was barely audible over Harold’s desperate ranting. “And keep him safe. He’s hunted, and they aren’t far behind him.”
“Shit.” Cassie ran for the door, aware she wouldn’t be back for a while, especially if she found Oberon. “I’ll check the highway, Harold. You contact Robin.”
“Yes, your highness.” Given a task, the brownie seemed to settle down. “What should I tell him?”
Cassie paused. “Tell him the High King is missing.” And she was out the door, determined to save her bondmate.
He shivered as he made his way down the highway, the icy cold rain plastering what little clothing he had to his skin.
Something was very wrong. He needed to go somewhere. Be somewhere, but…
He shoved the long white hair out of his face. The wind was whipping it around, slashing him in the face with the strands.
Why couldn’t he remember?
The sum total of what he knew was this barren highway, this pouring rain. Nothing, not even a glimmer of what he’d once been, lived within his mind.
Why? What had happened that he didn’t even know his own name?
Headlights cut through the dark, dreary night, slowing to a stop beside him to reveal a dark sedan. The driver’s side door window rolled down, revealing a familiar face.
He gasped, stumbling back a step.
The shock that raced through his system at the sight of the woman behind the wheel nearly staggered him. Heat raced through his system at the sight of turquoise eyes, almost too large for her face. Her shoulder-length brown hair was pushed back by a headband, causing the bangs to stand almost on end. The effect was oddly rooster-like, and made him want to laugh. But it was that face that riveted him, held his attention like nothing else had before or, he suspected, would in the future.
Her face was far from beautiful. Her features were too large, her jaw too square, her mouth too wide and full for true beauty. But the strong, square jaw and large, once-broken nose were offset by the smile lines around her mouth and eyes and the way her gaze seemed to zero in on him to the exclusion of all else.
The sum of all her features was arresting. Hers was a face that would age well, give her character where traditional beauty would fade into bland obscurity.