My philosophy is pretty simple—any day nobody’s trying to kill me is a good day in my book.
I haven’t had many good days lately.
Not since the walls between Man and Faery came down.
But then, there’s not a sidhe-seer alive who’s had a good day since then.
Before The Compact was struck between Man and Fae (around 4000 B. C. for those of you who aren’t up on your Fae history), the Unseelie Hunters hunted us down like animals and killed us. But The Compact forbade the Fae to spill human blood, so for the next six thousand years, give or take a few centuries, those with True Vision—people like me who can’t be fooled by Fae glamour or magic—were taken captive and imprisoned in Faery until they died. Real big difference there: dying or being stuck in Faery until you die. Unlike some people I know, I’m not fascinated by them. Dealing with the Fae is like dealing with any addiction—you give in, they’ll own you; you resist, they never will.
Now that the walls are down, the Hunters are back to killing us again. Stamping us out like we’re the plague on this planet.
Aoibheal, the Seelie Queen of the Light, is no longer in charge. In fact, nobody seems to know where she is anymore, and some people are beginning to wonder if she is anymore. The Seelie and Unseelie have been smearing their bloody war all over our world since her disappearance, and although some might say I’m being broody and pessimistic, I think the Unseelie are gaining the distinct upper hand over their fairer brethren.
Which is a really, really bad thing.
Not that I like the Seelie any better. I don’t. The only good Fae is a dead Fae in my book. It’s just that the Seelie aren’t quite as lethal as the Unseelie. They don’t kill us on sight. They have a use for us.
Though they barely credit us with sentience, they have a taste for us in bed.
When they’re done with a woman, she’s a mess. It gets in her blood. Unprotected Fae-sex awakens a frenzy of sexual hunger inside a woman for something she should never have had to begin with, and will never be able to forget. It takes a long time for her to recover—but at least she’s alive.
Which means a chance to fight another day. To help try to find a way to return our world to what it once was.
To send those Fae bastards back to whatever hell they came from.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, ahead of the story.
It began as most things begin. Not on a dark and stormy night. Not foreshadowed by ominous here-comes-the-villain music, dire warnings at the bottom of a teacup, or dread portents in the sky.
It began small and innocuously, as most catastrophes do. A butterfly flaps its wings somewhere and the wind changes, and a warm front hits a cold front off the coast of western Africa and before you know it you’ve got a hurricane closing in. By the time anyone figured out the storm was coming, it was too late to do anything but batten down the hatches and exercise damage control.
My name is MacKayla. Mac for short. I’m a sidhe-seer, a fact I accepted only recently and very reluctantly.
There were more of us out there than anyone knew. And it’s a damn good thing, too.
We’re damage control.
A year earlier . . .
July 9. Ashford, Georgia.
Ninety-four degrees. Ninety-seven percent humidity.
It gets crazy hot in the South in the summer, but it’s worth it to have such short, mild winters. I like most all seasons and climes. I can get into an overcast drizzly autumn day—great for curling up with a good book—every bit as much as a cloudless blue summer sky, but I’ve never cared much for snow and ice. I don’t know how northerners put up with it. Or why. But I guess it’s a good thing they do, otherwise they’d all be down here crowding us out.
Native to the sultry southern heat, I was lounging by the pool in the backyard of my parents’ house, wearing my favorite pink polka-dotted bikini which went perfectly with my new I’m-Not-Really-a-Waitress-Pink manicure and pedicure. I was sprawled in a cushion-topped chaise soaking up the sun, my long blonde hair twisted up in a spiky knot on top of my head in one of those hairdos you really hope nobody ever catches you wearing. Mom and Dad were away on vacation, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a twenty-one-day island-hopping cruise through the tropics, which had begun two weeks ago in Maui and ended next weekend in Miami.
I’d been working devotedly on my tan in their absence, taking quick dips in the cool sparkling blue, then stretching out to let the sun toast drops of water from my skin, wishing my sister Alina was around to hang out with, and maybe invite a few friends over. Page 2
My iPod was tucked into my dad’s Bose SoundDock on the patio table next to me, bopping cheerily through a playlist I’d put together specifically for poolside sunning, composed of the top one hundred one-hit wonders from the past few decades, plus a few others that make me smile—happy mindless music to pass happy mindless time. It was currently playing an old Louis Armstrong song—“What a Wonderful World. ” Born in a generation that thinks cynical and disenchanted is cool, sometimes I’m a little off the beaten track. Oh well.
A tall glass of chilled sweet tea was at hand, and the phone was nearby in case Mom and Dad made ground sooner than expected. They weren’t due ashore the next island until tomorrow, but twice now they’d landed sooner than scheduled. Since I’d accidentally dropped my cell phone in the pool a few days ago, I’d been toting the cordless around so I wouldn’t miss a call.
Fact was, I missed my parents like crazy.
At first, when they left, I’d been elated by the prospect of time alone. I live at home and when my parents are there the house sometimes feels annoyingly like Grand Central Station, with Mom’s friends, Dad’s golf buddies, and ladies from the church popping in, punctuated by neighborhood kids stopping over with one excuse or another, conveniently clad in their swim trunks—gee, could they be angling for an invitation?
But after two weeks of much longed for solitude, I’d begun choking on it. The rambling house seemed achingly quiet, especially in the evenings. Around supper time I’d been feeling downright lost. Hungry, too. Mom’s an amazing cook and I’d burned out fast on pizza, potato chips, and mac-’n’-cheese. I couldn’t wait for one of her fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh turnip greens, and peach pie with homemade whipped-cream dinners. I’d even done the grocery shopping in anticipation, stocking up on everything she needed.
I love to eat. Fortunately, it doesn’t show. I’m healthy through the bust and bottom, but slim through the waist and thighs. I have good metabolism, though Mom says, Ha, wait until you’re thirty. Then forty, then fifty. Dad says, More to love, Rainey and gives Mom a look that makes me concentrate really hard on something else. Anything else. I adore my parents, but there’s such a thing as TMI. Too much information.
All in all, I have a great life, short of missing my parents and counting the days until Alina gets home from Ireland, but both of those are temporary, soon to be rectified. My life will go back to being perfect again before much longer.
Is there such a thing as tempting the Fates to slice one of the most important threads that holds your life together simply by being too happy?
When the phone rang, I thought it was my parents.
It’s funny how such a tiny, insignificant, dozen-times-a-day action can become a line of demarcation.
The picking up of a phone. The pressing of an on button.
Before I pressed it—as far as I knew—my sister Alina was alive. At the moment of pressing, my life split into two distinct epochs: Before the call and After.