Authors: Leigh Evans
Thank you for buying this
St. Martin's Press ebook.
To receive special offers, bonus content,
and info on new releases and other great reads,
sign up for our newsletters.
Or visit us online at
For email updates on the author, click
The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author's copyright, please notify the publisher at:
For Wild Bill Evans
Ever loved. Ever missed.
I'd like to thank my editor, Holly Ingraham, for buying my first novel; for leading me through the highs and lows a novice writer is sure to experience; and for giving me consistently strong advice. But mostly, I'd like to thank her for being who she is: Holly Ingraham, St. Martin's best damn editor
Next, I'd like to mention my amazing agent, Deidre Knight. I had a manuscript in deep need of burnishing. Deidre showed me how to improve my writing, and then springboarded that debut novel into a four-book contract. Along the way, we've gone from freak-outs to laughter, from contracts to conventions, from agent-client to dearest friends. She is the best agent you could ask for.
Additional thanks to the lovely Bella Pagan, my UK editor, and the fabulous art design team at Pan Macmillan.
Last, here's to the people who helped me cross the finish line: Julie Butcher, Suzanne McLeod, Rebecca Melson, Janice Pia, Kerry Schafer, Tricia “Pickyme” Schmitt, Amanda Seebeck, Susan Seebeck, and Lynsey Taylor.
AN HOUR BEFORE THE MOONRISE
Forgive the crap handwriting. Trowbridge's head is on my lap, which makes letter writing complicated. Don't worryâhe's not wounded; he's just taking a short nap. Ever the Alpha, he's claimed my leg, declaring it a preferable pillow to the stone floor. The latter is hard and unforgiving, and in that way it's rather like Merenwyn.
Yes, we made it to the Fae realm.
Big surprise, huh? Last you saw of me, I was walking into the hotel on my way to meet the wolf council. My prospects didn't look good and I wouldn't have bet my last stash of chocolate that Trowbridge and I would have got out of that kangaroo trial. But we did. We proved our innocence to St. Silas and the other members of the council, and Whitlock died.
I killed him myself, Cordelia.
Told you I would.
Anyhow, the end result is that the Ontario wolf pack is no longer in hot water with the council. I don't know if you care about that, but if Creemore is home to you, you can go back to it.
I'm smiling right now because I'm imagining you reading this.
Your face is screwed up into a diva scowl, and if there was a thought bubble over your head it would read: “Who gives a damn about Creemore? What the hell are you doing in Merenwyn?”
I didn't have much of a choice. The council wanted the Safe Passage sealed, and the Fae, with the key to it, dead. I was told to track down the Gatekeeper, kill her, and close the portal forever.
Unspoken in those orders was, “And don't come back.”
Trowbridge told me not to go.
He was there at the Peach Pit, handcuffed to the fence surrounding the mini-train enclosure. Though no one actually came out and said it, it was very much a case of “do what we say or your mate gets it.”
When St. Silas told me to take the jump, Trowbridge said that we shouldn't. That we should just take our final bows right then and there. He was really pissed with the NAW.
Plus, he knew what was waiting here.
But I had to take the leap.
I did it partially because I was completely convinced that there could be no happily ever after for any of us until the Old Mage's Book of Spells was turned to ash. That thing is a recipe book for bad magic, and it has fallen into the worst hands. Every spell that the old wizard ever conceived, every conjure that he ever produced, every exploration in elementary magic that he ever madeâthe details are all there, written in ink by his hand. And now the old man's prot
has begun to read it.
Evil will come your way when the Black Mage reads that last page.
It will come for all.
Tonight, no matter what happens, I've got to see that part of our epic quest through to the end, or little of this makes sense. I have to put a match to the book, see the flames dance, watch its pages burn.
I have to.
Goddess, I wish I was home. Even if it was just to receive a tongue-lashing from you. You're angry, right now, aren't you? Your mouth is a tight line; your shoulders are stiffâyou never lose your posture even when you're ready to blow.
Okay, Cordelia: you're right. I also crossed the gates between the two realms to rescue my twin. Before you start cursing me from here to Creemore, remember: I made the original bargain with the Old Mage.
set everything in motion. I'm the person who said, “Why, yes, Old Mage, thank you for asking me to be your nalera. I accept!”
It should be me sharing my body with the old guy.
Not my brother.
And before you point out that Lexi was already a wolf-killing drug addict who amounted to a waste of space, you need to understand that when I jumped I believed him to be salvageable. And that I was running on guilt, because I'd briefly experienced being a wizard's nalera.
How do I explain what being a nalera means to someone who hasn't lived it?
Imagine that you wake up blind. After a few seconds of blinking in total darkness, you realize you're posed on a bed of satin wearing your best dress and those
that woke you are the sounds of someone hammering in your coffin nails. When you work your throat to summon up a scream nothing comes out. When you tell yourself to moveâto hammer on that coffin lid for some helpâyou can't. You're fully aware, you're mentally struggling, but for all your angst and agony your efforts to free yourself amount to squat.
That's what sharing your soul with a powerful mage feels like.
You are his bitch. The legs to his will. You do what he says when he tells you to do it. And you have no place to hide because you're sharing your mind with your master. He's inside you. Seeing everything.
I thought I couldn't leave Lexi in that claustrophobic hell.
You're probably muttering, “Yes, you bloody well can. And you should let him take care of the book.”
As always, you're right.
But I won't.
As I stood at the portal to Merenwyn, making a decision between certain death and maybe death, I didn't fully understand why I couldn't trust Lexi to burn the encyclopedia of magic on his own. I was more fixated on the fact that I needed to get here, as soon as possible, because if Lexi saw three sunrises in Merenwyn the soul merge would become permanent.
Now, I understand those instincts were there, telling me I must jump, but there's just not enough paper left to explain them to you. And perhaps it's our story: Trowbridge's and mine. Lexi's tooÂ â¦
Since I've been in Merenwyn, I've seen the evidence to support the notion that those wards the Old Mage placed over his pages are degrading, flaking away faster than that cheap nail polish you bought and moaned about for a solid week back in the summer. Believe me when I tell you that the old man's apprentice, the Black Mage, has been thumbing his way through the book and that I'm pretty sure he's close to the end of it.
I know what's written on the last page now.
A little lateâit's starting to look like we might not win this fight ahead of us.
Which is why I ripped this honking big map out of its frame and penned this long-assed letter on the back of it. If I feel death coming, I'm going to try to get to Threall before I take my last gasp. There I'll put this paper into Mad-one's hands and I'll fill her brain with as many memories as I have of you, so that she'll recognize you when she finds your tree.
Yes, that may take some time, but time passes differently in this realm. Trust me, she'll have the time.
I think you have a soul-bearing tree in Threall. You are a Were, which makes you a descendent of a Merenwyn wolf. And I firmly believe that whether a person is a Fae, a wolf, or a mutt, they have soul in Threall.
I have to believe it.
Mad-one might not be able to harm a mage directly, but she's been dancing to their tune for a very long time and she wants to be free of them. If I fail, I think she'll help you.
If you get this map, you'll know that Trowbridge and I aren't going to be able to fix this. Bad things are coming your way. You have two choices: try to hide or come after the mage. If you decide to come, bring your courage and perfume, as many vials of iron shavings as you can carry, and this map. Don't bring Anu with you.