The Immortal Highlander Read online
About the Author
Also by Karen Marie Moning
For Elizabeth—if we weren’t sisters, we’d be cats. Sister cats.
You can borrow my hat anytime.
Damn, it’s good to be me.
—ADAM BLACK, ON BEING ADAM BLACK
Tuatha Dé Danaan: (tua day dhanna)
A highly advanced race of immortal beings that settled in Ireland thousands of years before the birth of Christ. Called by many names: Children of the Goddess Danu; the True Race; the Gentry; the Daoine Sidhe; they are most commonly referred to as the Fae or Fairy. Although frequently portrayed as shimmering, dainty creatures of diminutive size that flit about exuding effervescent good humor and a penchant for mild mischief, the true Tuatha Dé are neither so delicate nor so benevolent.
—FROM THE O’CALLAGHAN Books of the Fae
Tuatha Dé Danaan, a rogue even among his own kind. His favored glamour is that of an intensely sexual Highland blacksmith with a powerful rippling body, golden skin, long black hair, and dark, mesmerizing eyes. Highly intelligent, lethally seductive. Alleged to have nearly broken The Compact on not one, but two occasions. He is, by far, the most dangerous and unpredictable of his race.
WARNING: EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION IF SIGHTED.
AVOID CONTACT AT ALL COST.
—FROM THE O’CALLAGHAN Books of the Fae
Adam Black stood in the central chamber of the stone catacombs beneath The Belthew Building and watched as Chloe Zanders stumbled about, searching for her Highland lover, Dageus MacKeltar.
She was weeping as if her very soul were being ripped apart. Incessant and piercing, it was enough to split a Tuatha Dé’s head.
Or a human’s, for that matter, he thought darkly.
He was getting bloody tired of her constant wailing. He had problems of his own. Big problems.
Aoibheal, queen of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, had finally made good on her long-running threats to punish him for his continued interference in the world of mortals. And she’d chosen the cruelest punishment of all.
She’d stripped him of his immortality and made him human.
He spared a quick glance down at himself and was relieved to find that, at least, she’d left him in his favored glamour: that of the dark-haired, muscular, irresistibly sexy blacksmith, a millennia-spanning blend of Continental Celt and Highland warrior, clad in tartan, armbands, and torque. On occasion she’d turned him into things that didn’t suffer the light of day well.
His relief, however, was short-lived. So what if he looked like his usual self? He was human, for Christ’s sake! Flesh and blood. Limited. Puny. Finite.
Cursing savagely, he eyed the sobbing woman. He could barely hear himself think. Perhaps if he informed her that Dageus wasn’t really dead she would shut up. He had to find a way out of this intolerable situation, and fast.
“Your lover is not dead. Cease your weeping, woman,” he ordered imperiously. He should know. Aoibheal had forced him to give of his own immortal life-essence to save the Highlander’s life.
His command did not have the intended effect. On the contrary, just when he was certain she couldn’t possibly get any louder—and how such a small creature managed to make such a huge noise was beyond him—his newly acquired eardrums were treated to a wail that escalated exponentially.
“Woman, cease!” he roared, clamping his hands to his ears. “I said he is not dead.”
Still she wept. She didn’t so much as glance in his direction, as if he’d not spoken at all. Furious, he skirted the rubble littering the chamber—debris from the battle that had taken place there a quarter hour past between Dageus MacKeltar and the Druid sect of the Draghar, the battle he should never have intervened in—and stalked to her side. He grabbed the nape of her neck to force her gaze to his, to compel her silence.
His hand slid right through the back of her skull and came out her nose.
She didn’t even blink. Just hiccuped on a sob and wailed anew.
Adam stood motionless for a moment, then tried again, reaching for one of her breasts. His hand slid neatly through her heart and out her left shoulder blade.
He went still again, wings of unease unfurling in the pit of his all-too-human stomach.
By Danu, Aoibheal wouldn’t! His dark eyes narrowed to slits.
Jaw clenched, he tried again. And again his hand slipped through Chloe Zanders’s body.
Christ, she had! The bitch!
Not only had the queen made him human, she had cursed him with the threefold power of the féth fiada!
Adam shook his head disbelievingly. The féth fiada was the enchantment his race used when they wanted to walk among humans undetected. A Tuatha Dé customarily invoked but one facet of the potent, triumvirate spell—invisibility. But it could also render its subject impossible for humans to hear and feel as well. The féth fiada was a useful tool if one wished to meddle unobserved.
But if cursed with it permanently? If unable to escape it?
That thought was too abhorrent to entertain.
He closed his eyes and delved into his mind to sift time/place and return to the Fae Isle of Morar. He didn’t care who the queen was currently entertaining in her Royal Bower; she would undo this now.
Nothing happened. He remained precisely where he was.
He tried again.
There was no swift sensation of weightlessness, no sudden rush of that heady freedom and invincibility he always felt when traversing dimensions.
He opened his eyes. Still in the stone chamber.
A snarl curved his lips. Human, cursed, and powerless? Barred from the Fae realm? He tossed back his head, raking his long dark hair from his face. “All right, Aoibheal, you’ve made your point. Change me back now.”
There was no response. Nothing but the sound of the woman’s endless sobbing, echoing hollowly in the chill stone chamber.
“Aoibheal, did you hear me? I said, ‘I get it.’ Now restore me.”
Still no response. He knew she was listening, lingering a dimensional sliver just beyond the human realm. Watching, savoring his discomfort.
And . . . waiting for a show of submission, he acknowledged darkly.
A muscle leapt in his jaw. Humility was not, nor would ever be, his strong suit.
Still, if his choices were humble or human—and cursed and powerless, to boot—he’d eat humble pie until he choked on it.
“My Queen, you were right and I was wrong. See, I can say it.”
Though the lie tasted foul upon his tongue.
“And I vow never again to disobey you.”
At least not until he was certain he was secure in her good graces again.
“Forgive me, Queen Most Fair.”
Of course she would. She always did.
“I am your most