A ll of us have our little problems and insecurities. I’m no different. Back in high school when I used to feel insecure about something, I would console myself with two thoughts: I’m pretty, and my parents love me. Between those two, I could survive anything.
Since then I’ve come to understand how little the former matters, and how bitterly the latter can be tested. What’s left then? Nothing about our appearance or who loves or hates us. Nothing about our brainpower—which, like beauty, is an unearned gift of genetics—nor even anything about what we say.
It’s our actions that define us. What we choose. What we resist. What we’re willing to die for.
My name is MacKayla Lane. I think. Some say my last name is really O’Connor. That’s another of my insecurities right now: who I am. Although, at the moment, I’m in no hurry to find out. What I am is disturbing enough.
I’m from Ashford, Georgia. I think. Lately I’ve realized I have some tricky memories I can’t quite sort through.
I’m in Ireland. When my sister, Alina, was found dead in a trash-filled alley on Dublin’s north side, the local police closed her case in record time, so I flew over to see what I could do about getting justice.
Okay, so maybe I’m not that pure.
What I really came over for was revenge. And now, after everything I’ve seen, I want it twice as bad.
I used to think my sister and I were just two nice southern girls who would get married in a few years, have babies, and settle down to a life of sipping sweet tea on a porch swing under the shade of waxy-blossomed magnolias, raising our children together near Mom and Dad and each other.
Then I discovered Alina and I descend not from good, wholesome southern stock but from an ancient Celtic bloodline of powerful sidhe-seers, people who can see the Fae, a terrifying race of otherworldly beings that have lived secretly among us for thousands of years, cloaked in illusions and lies. Governed loosely by a queen, and even more loosely by a Compact few support and many ignore, they have preyed on humans for millennia.
Supposedly I’m one of the most powerful sidhe-seers ever born. Not only can I see the Fae, I can sense their sacred relics that hold the deadliest and most powerful of their magic.
I can find them.
I can use them.
I’ve already found the mythic Spear of Luin, one of only two weapons capable of killing an immortal Fae. I’m also a Null—a person who can temporarily freeze a Fae and cancel out its power with the mere touch of my hands. It helps me kick butt when I need to, and lately, every time I turn around, I need to.
My world began falling apart with the death of my sister, and hasn’t stopped since. And it’s not just my world that’s in trouble; it’s your world, too.
The walls between Man and Faery are coming down.
I don’t know why or how. I only know they are. I know it in my sidhe-seer blood. On a dark Fae wind, I taste the metallic tang of a bloody and terrible war coming. In the distant air, I hear the thunderclap of sharp-bladed hooves as Fae stallions circle impatiently, ready to charge down on us in the ancient, forbidden Wild Hunt.
I know who killed my sister. I’ve stared into the murderous eyes of the one who seduced, used, and destroyed her. Not quite Fae, not quite human, he calls himself the Lord Master, and he’s been opening portals between realms, bringing Unseelie through to our world.
The Fae consist of two adversarial courts with their own Royal Houses and unique castes: the Light or Seelie Court, and the Dark or Unseelie Court. Don’t let the light and dark stuff deceive you: they’re both deadly. Scary thing is the Seelie considered their darker brethren, the Unseelie, so abominable that they imprisoned them themselves a few hundred eons ago. When one Fae fears another Fae, you know you’ve got problems.
Now the Lord Master is freeing the darkest, most dangerous of our enemies, turning them loose on our world, and teaching them to infiltrate our society. When these monsters walk down our streets, you see only the “glamour” they throw: the illusion of a beautiful human woman, man, or child.
I see what they really are.
I have no doubt I would have ended up every bit as dead as my sister shortly after I arrived in Dublin, if I’d not stumbled into a bookstore owned by the enigmatic Jericho Barrons. I have no idea who or what he is, or what he’s after, but he knows more about what I am and what’s going on out there than anyone else I’ve met, and I need that knowledge.
When I had no place to turn, Jericho Barrons took me in, taught me, opened my eyes, and helped me survive. Granted, he didn’t do it nicely, but I’m no longer quite so picky about how I survive, as long as I do. Page 2
Because it was safer than my cheap room at the inn, I moved into his bookstore. It’s well protected against most of my enemies with wards and assorted nasty tricks, and stands bastion at the edge of what I call a Dark Zone: a neighborhood that has been taken over by Shades, amorphous Unseelie that thrive in darkness and feed off humans.
Barrons and I have formed an uneasy alliance based on mutual need: We both want the Sinsar Dubh—a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, allegedly scribed by the Unseelie King himself, that holds the key to power over both the worlds of Fae and Man.
I want it because it was Alina’s dying request that I find it, and I suspect it holds the key to saving our world.
He wants it because he says he collects books. Right.
Everyone else I’ve encountered is after it, too. The hunt is dangerous, the stakes enormous.
Because the Sinsar Dubh is a Fae relic, I can sense it when it’s near. Barrons can’t. But he knows where to look for it, and I don’t. So now we’re partners in crime who don’t trust each other one bit.
Nothing in my sheltered, pampered life prepared me for the past few weeks. Gone is my long blond hair, chopped short for the sake of anonymity and dyed dark. Gone are my pretty pastel outfits, replaced by drab colors that don’t show blood. I’ve learned to cuss, steal, lie, and kill. I’ve been assaulted by a death-by-sex Fae and made to strip, not once but twice, in public. I discovered that I was adopted. I nearly died.
With Barrons at my side, I’ve robbed a mobster and his henchmen and led them to their deaths. I’ve fought and killed dozens of Unseelie. I battled the vampire Mallucé in a bloody showdown with the Lord Master himself.
In one short month I’ve managed to piss off virtually every being with magical power in this city. Half of those I’ve encountered want me dead; the other half want to use me to find the deadly, coveted Sinsar Dubh.
I could run home, I suppose. Try to forget. Try to hide.
Then I think of Alina, and how she died.
Her face swims up in my mind—a face I knew as well as my own; she was more than my sister, she was my best friend—and I can almost hear her saying: Right, Junior—and risk leading a monster like Mallucé, a death-by-sex Fae, or some other Unseelie back to Ashford? Take a chance that some of the Shades might cop a ride in your luggage and devour the charming, idyllic streets of our childhood, one burnt-out streetlamp at a time? When you see the Dark Zone that used to be our home, how will you feel, Mac?
Before her voice even begins to fade, I know that I’m here until this is over.
Until either they’re dead or I am.
Alina’s death will be avenged.
Y ou’re a difficult woman to find, Ms. Lane,” said Inspector O’Duffy as I opened the diamond-paned front door of Barrons Books and Baubles.
The stately old-world bookstore was my home away from home, whether I liked it or not, and despite the sumptuous furnishings, priceless rugs, and endless selection of top