Chest of Time, Prologue & Chapter 1



She kneeled on the bank of a sluggish river the color of merlot, the sun bright overhead. It was there. She was sure. How she knew eluded her. Was it a call? A pull? A song?

Silence surrounded her. Not the caw of a bird, the buzz of an insect cut the air. Even the grasses on the small verge before the wood were hushed.

The opaque water drifted by. Her knees ached. She’d been kneeling a long time. She dragged her fingers through the russet water, shamed by her vacillation. Palms open to the river, she moved her hands to the left. No, that wasn’t correct. She shifted them to her right.

A bright crystal note chimed in her head. She plunged her hands deep into the river and pulled It out. She rocked back on her heals.

But, it couldn’t be…

A storm ignited in her mind, her heart, burrowing insistently into her soul until it unmade her.

The world snapped off.

Hours later—Days? Millennia?—she lifted heavy lids. Dizzy.

It rested on her belly, and her mind failed to fathom what she held. Was it brown or purple? Square or oblong? Stone or wood?

Why couldn’t she see it?

She sat up and shook her head to clear it. Something was different. She stretched her arms above her head, body stiff, muscles aching. Odd. Her fighting leathers felt tighter across her breasts and hips, but looser at her waist. Crazy. Her braid pulled at her scalp, and she reached back to unleash it.

Longer. Her hair was definitely longer. She went to pull a clump to the front.

The crack of a branch stilled her hand. The sound had come from up the hill, within the scrim of trees.

She ponytailed her hair, plunged It back into the river, and leapt to her feet. Adrenaline vanished the aches and pains, and with precise motions from years of practice, she reached back, unfastened her bow, unfolded it, and strung it. Found her quiver and clipped it to her belt, her arrows now easily accessible. She carried twenty-five of them, firing fifteen per minute, wishing she had her full complement of fifty. But the remainder were back at camp. It would have to do.

Now, she’d wait, an arrow nocked, prepared for the inevitable attack. It wouldn’t come from the purple-grassed hill, with its scents of lavender and honey. No, they’d slink beneath the stand of red-barked oaks with their polka-dotted leaves of white and green shielding them. The gollups weren’t stupid, but disgusting things of oily blackness and sinew and bone.

The black sand shifted beneath her feet. Nerves. She wished to move, needed to. That would be the smart thing to do. But if she did so, her absent companion’s fury would result in more of her blood spilled, more vile bruises and deepening heart pain.

She cast her eyes left, center, right, her ears pricked for each crunched leaf, every sloughed breath. Oh, the gollups were there, right at the periphery of her senses. 

Sweat dotted her upper lip, and she wiped it away with her gauntleted forearm. She lowered her bow and arrow to her side, allowed her muscles to momentarily relax, her body to regroup.

The gollups would attack, all right. They always did. In pairs or trios, seeking what she’d found. The Chest of Time lay beneath that turgid pink water.

She and her… She refused to even think the word, it prompted such sadness. They’d searched years for the chest and had stumbled upon its location by accident. Correction. She’d stumbled upon it. She’d found it. And as was typical, she’d been left alone, again, to guard what was more precious than a sliver of the true cross.

She didn’t want to be here anymore, in this strange land of unexpected killers and miraculous sunsets, where time passed in trickles of days or tsunamis of years. She could never be sure which was which anymore, only that it hurt.

A tickle to her nose, one not near as good as the shifters, but good enough. The creatures’ scent drifted on the air just before the soft breeze batted it away. There, to her left—gollups. How many? She raised her bow. While her stance remained face forward, her eyes slid in their direction.

She was ready, her quiver filled, her mind disciplined by her companion to utter stillness. The last was a lie, but it amused her. She wasn’t that easily cowed.

Movement. A shadow darker than the red bark of the oak closest to the stream.

Sweat tickled her spine. Would this be the day she missed? Would this be the day the gollups devoured her? Would this be the day she ceased to exist?

Her arrow flew. A cry of pain. She’d already nocked a fresh arrow even as the shadow creature crumpled to earth, its taloned fingers reaching for something it would never obtain.

Over the years, she’d gotten inhumanly faster. Ha! Poor word choice—she’d never been human.

She caught movement from the corner of her eye and swung around as two more rushed her, one dead center and a second on her right.

In a flash, she let fly a barrage of arrows, felling one. But the other, too close now.

She unsheathed her knives. Death flew at her on swift feet, bearing pointy teeth and razored claws.

And for what? Forgiveness? Pride? Love?

She braced for attack.


Chapter 1


All we had to do was get into the rental van that awaited us outside our hotel in Charleston. How hard could that be?

Apparently near impossible.

When James swung our weapons pack into the back, he bumped Alex. Shit.

“What the hell, Larrimer?” Alex clamped his hand around James’ throat.

James punched it away. “Asshole.”

“Me?” Alex laughed. “Look who’s talking.”

Testosterone flared to nuclear levels. Alex might rule the Arctos pack, but James commanded the Five. James might be stronger, but Alex had bigger teeth. And they were staring death at one another, Alex’s gold eyes glowing and James’s nanoteched muscles bulging.

“Stop it.” My words, unsurprisingly, had no effect.

I looked to my companions for help. Melike’s wolfie teeth had elongated, too. Neddy bounced on the balls of his feet, fingers lengthening and turning pink. Rae grinned. Damn that mage, he was enjoying this.

We had one purpose—to find my rebellious, beloved 16-year-old ward Lulu and bring her home. Days earlier, she’d run away. From me. From the wolves. From safety.

Alex raised a clawed hand. Now it was James turn to laugh.

I wasn’t putting up with their crap, not when my frickin’ fae mother had already lobbed her first salvo. Hands at my sides, palms out, I dug deep to covertly unleash my fireflies, the pleasure-pain pinching my nerves.

Golden motes swirled from my palms to surround the men.

They froze.

“Good move, boys.” My Flow wasn’t hurting them. But it could, and they knew it.

How to diffuse this? What to say? “My mother knows we’re coming.”

The tension popped like a burst balloon. The two men swiveled toward me, and I fisted my hands, cutting off my fireflies. Five pairs of angry eyes speared me. Ouch.

“What did you say?” My lover’s iced voice shivered down my spine.

“When I hit terra firma after we landed. In my head. She repeated what she’d said after I killed Tommy.”

Rae snorted. “Repeated? Since y’all haven’t seen fit to tell us, sugah, what might those words be?”

“She screamed, You killed my son!”

“And you didn’t tell me because…” James, so quiet, his honied-granite voice tight with suppressed anger.

“Or me.” A growl rumbled up from Alex’s chest.

Melike just snarled.

I spread my arms. “Because I knew you’d all react poorly.”

James barked a laugh. “Since when are you given to understatement, Clea?”

“So now she knows we’re here,” I said with a glibness I wasn’t feeling. “Big whoop.”

“It changes things, Clea,” Neddy piped up in all his boyish innocence.

“We’ll work it out, Neddy,” I said. “We always do.”

“But I’m worried about you.” The boy ran a hand through his tousled curls.

I gave him a hug, then snagged his eyes. “Look, we can’t do anything about it now, right? What we can do is fix James and Alex.”

Fix?” the two men chorused.

Melike and Neddy laughed, and Rae rolled his eyes before he slipped onto the van’s driver’s seat.

“Yes, I said fix. You two are acting like playground children. Get over it.”

“She’s right,” Melike said, who grinned at Alex’s dour look.

James rocked back on his heels. He thrust out a hand to the alpha wolf. “Truce, for the duration.”

Alex eyed it, then gripped James’ hand in his and shook. “Agreed. We settle this after we retrieve Lulu.”

Before James climbed inside the van, I tugged at his shirt and brushed his chin with a kiss. His response was to take me in one so passionate, I forgot our mission, forgot the world, and reveled in his arms banding me, the heat of his lips burning me, the demands of his tongue delving me. Our song rose, his thread speaking of love and devotion, twining around mine, which spoke the same. Together. Partners. Home.

Good thing he kept his arm around my waist when we came up for breath. “Wow.” 

“It was either kiss you or spank you.” His Pacific-blue eyes blazed. “Next time, talk to me, Clea. Tell me.”

I’d hurt him. I hadn’t meant to. “I will. Promise. Was the cherry on top Alex watching?”

He flashed that devilish grin of his.

I lay a hand on his chest, stood on tiptoe, and whispered, “You’re my one and only, Dragon Dude. For always.”


Once we’d all piled into the van, Rae turned in his seat and caught the eye of each of us. “Here’s what we’re all gettin’ into. Ever since the French and Gaelic fae invaded America in the eighteenth century, they gathered a shit-load of magic to create their primary court in America—Charleston. First stop, the Angel Oak, ya’ll.”

“A thin space,” James said, surprising me.

Rae nodded. “Ya’ll been doin’ your homework. It’s the portal to their court, which remains in the mundane realm.”

“But with all that magic, Charleston’s faeland can’t be mundane.” I said.

“Correct,” Rae said. “Nor is it the same as in the magic lands, sugah. The Fae Court’s one of the few lands with merged magical and mundane worlds. Ya’ll be prepared for weird, hear?”


We drove across James Island, then over another river onto Johns Island, home of the Angel Oak. All the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about Lulu. Just three days earlier, she and I had giggled and swooned when we rewatched Wonder Woman and The Princess Bride. My empathic senses had devoured her exuberance and joy. And it hurt, to think how she’d been preparing to carve a hole in both our hearts.

My emotions ping-ponged from angry to sad to worried and back again. Why had she left?

In that note we’d found, she’d said she needed “to prove to you that I’m worthy.” I mean, c’mon. Worthy? Lulu had never been unworthy! She was precious and beautiful, smart and feisty, and full of fun. She had opinions and spine, and, yeah, sometimes she was a pain-in-the-ass teen. Weren’t they all? But she’d triumphed over her kidnappers and her father’s tragic death and come into her own. I was so proud of her.

Worthy, my ass. Geesh, Lu, why?

My eyes burned with tears. I wouldn’t let them fall. I had failed—to mother her, to understand her, to make her feel her worth in a way she understood. If I hadn’t, she wouldn’t have left. I’m sorry, Lu.

I’d fix it. I had to.

Now, the six of us were on our way to a strange land I’d targeted as Lulu’s destination because her bitch of a birth mother had lured her there. The place had to be a minefield, especially because Lu was a mutt like me—part fae and part mage.

Once I found Lu, I’d hug her like crazy. I’d throttle that bitch mother of hers, too. The woman had abandoned Lulu when she was just a kid, the same as my mam had done. Hugging and throttling settled in my gut with a pleasing thump.

Suburban houses, industrial buildings, lots of trees and other vegetation rolled by. James slipped his hand into mine, threading our fingers together. His head dipped and his breath warmed my ear. “We will find her, Clea.”

“What if I’m—”

“You’re not wrong. And if you are, the hunt continues until we bring her home.” He squeezed my hand. I squeezed his back. It felt good, right, our fingers entwined. A comfort. 

We made decent time and parked on a street much like any other. After we weaponed up, we walked the short distance to Angel Oak Park’s entrance. Which is where I slammed into a wall of power. I staggered, as did Rae. Neddy stumbled, and Alex caught him. Neither Alex nor Melike seemed affected by the surge. Maybe because the Arctos pack had lived so long in the mundane world? Or perhaps because they were shifters? Unsurprisingly, James hadn’t budged.

“Did you feel power surge?” I asked him.

“Yes. But I expected it. The wyvern warned me.”

Now he was talking to the wyvern who lived inside him? A progression I didn’t like.

We walked across a carpet of browned leaves that covered the mulchy soil. A small cabin stood to our left, but the focal point was the massive live oak said to be the largest tree east of the Mississippi. I’d swear I smelled magic on the air.

The oak was shorter than I expected, not near as tall as full-growth northern oaks. But from its mighty, moss-covered trunk, branches sprawled nearly two hundred feet from end to end, so huge they would drape the ground had they not been elevated by wooden blocks. Some said the oak was 400 years old, others said fifteen hundred, still others alleged it was eons old. The city of Charleston claimed ownership. I suspected the fae did the same.

Like giant octopoid tentacles, the oak’s limbs seemed to reach for us. A soft breeze pushed at our backs, prodding us toward the trunk. The push might be faint, but the pull toward the tree was exquisite and inexorable. Were those whispers? From whom?

I raced forward.

Shouts behind me, but the more ground I covered, the more the whispers rose, a sea of spirits urging me onward. I had to find them. I ran farther, faster.

An arm clamped around my waist stopped my forward movement.

I blinked, paused. “James?”

He stared, all sleepy-eyed and calm, cheekbones sharp, jaw tight. I knew that look. It meant the monster was about to emerge. Oh, not the wyvern, but James’ own, personal one, which was scary as shit. “What’s wrong?”

He leaned down, nuzzled my ear. “You went somewhere else. Stay with me, baby.”

“I…” I shook my head. “Didn’t you hear the whispers?”

He cocked an eyebrow.

Those whispers… Ghosts? Fae? Other? “Strange stuff.”


Which is when I realized... I wiggled my gold finger, the one crafted by Rae to replace the digit lost to the Chest of Stone. “I can feel it, sensation in my finger.”

He rubbed his thumb across the mechanical digit.

“Wow,” I said.

“I’m betting that’s the least of it.”

“Y’all fixin’ to move?” Rae said. “We’ve got three days to find her, we agreed. Only three.”

I rolled my eyes.

Rae wagged a finger. “You’ve got to find the remaining chests, sugah, or soon the world, it’s gonna splinter into a million pieces.”

 “I know. I know.”

We strode toward Rae, around the immense trunk, and away from the tourists who, oddly enough, ignored us. The sky lightened, the air redolent with gardenia and hints of the exotic.

“We’re at the gate, hear y’all?” Rae said. “We’re gonna hold hands to get through. It won’t be easy.” Rae clasped Neddy’s and Melike’s hands. Alex came beside me opposite James and took my free one.

I squeezed theirs as we walked forward following Rae’s group.

The air grew viscous, each step challenging our forward momentum. We pushed, and I held tightly to my companions. Instinct told me they couldn’t move forward without my half-fae aid. No, I’d bet James, with his fae spark and wyvern blood, could.

We pressed harder, muscles straining, our clasped hands slick with our mingled sweat. I leaned forward, muscling my way.

The pressure ended so abruptly we crashed onto our knees.

I caught my breath. Once we regrouped, we peered down a seemingly endless drive, the red earth hard-packed beneath our feet.

“Everybody okay?” James said.

Distracted murmurs of assent, their preoccupation obvious.

Live oaks draped with Spanish moss lined the drive, except they grew alongside strange pines with periwinkle needles and black-barked trunks. Tiny alien violet flowers carpeted the earth, interspersed with clumps of taller red bee balm. Ruby-throated hummingbirds drew nectar from tall red flowers, the birds replicas of those at my feeder. But the brilliant pink, blue-throated hummingbirds feeding alongside them were hawk-sized.

Is this what our world would look like when the magic and mundane completed their retwining? I’d been to the magic realm. This place was different—a mashup of both.

Here, the air redolent with florals and spices, evoked feelings of calm and harmony. So unlike our world, where the retwining was discordant—chaotic at best, disastrous at worst.

If I successfully retrieved all five Chests of Unity, our world could be like this—harmonious and beautiful. Which would never happen if Tatianne or The Union had their way. My imaginings grew bleak. My task felt impossible.

We moved into what James called the wedge formation—a triangle, with James leading as point man. Rae fanned out to the left behind him, with Alex on the right. Melike took the base of the triangle’s left, I took the center, and Neddy the right. We didn’t expect trouble. Nonetheless, we’d prepared. As soon as we’d crossed into their land, the fae had to know we’d arrived. But James insisted we should present some sort of tactical formation to the fae. Expert archers Melike, Alex, and James carried bows at their sides, their quivers strapped to their backs. Of course James also carried his katanas. We all carried various weapons. But Rae had assured us the fae, renowned as archers, would use bows.  

“Pick up your pace, hear?” Rae said.

 I glanced at Melike as we walked toward faeland. “Do you feel the difference in the air?”

She nodded. “Oui. It’s thinner.”

“Cooler, too,” Neddy chimed in.

“Like we’re at a higher elevation,” I said. “The scents are incredible.”

Neddy flexed his bicep, muscle bulging, and laughed. “I’m stronger, which is really neat.”

I reached for my power. It slammed into me like a bullet train. “Whew, me, too.”


My gut said we were being watched, and I was sure the others knew. We’d discussed that contingency and decided we’d ignore the fae until they made the first move.

Up ahead, James peered over his shoulder. “The wyvern demands to speak with you.”


His brows crashed together. “So he says.”

It disturbed me how much the wyvern was talking to James. “Let me in?”

“You don’t have to ask.”

“It’s polite.”

He snorted. “Your good behavior worries me.”

“It shouldn’t. It won’t last.” I grinned, stilled, and dived inside James. Deep, past the radiant fae spark that I’d once seen nearly extinguished, deeper still to the wyvern.

How was I able to do this? I never knew, yet each time I ended up at the wyvern’s “den.”

And there he was. The rounded scales of his immense red-gold body glowed with health, as did the spikes along his spine and the golden horns curving above his triangular head. He was magnificent.

His green eyes flashed open. They pulsed with excitement. Uh oh. He grimaced, and I took the rows of knife-edged teeth he revealed as a smile.

Welcome, Clea.

His voice resonated in my head. Hello, Wyvern. You wanted to talk. Are you okay?

Okay? I’m fabulous.

You’ve been talking to James?

Of course.

Bullshit. He never used to talk to his host, not until me. Not until I took away the wyvern’s pain those many months ago. Since then, he seemed to have grown in strength and awareness.

You haven’t visited me for ages, he said. You don’t call. You don’t write.

He’d also acquired a strange new attitude, not to mention hipness. It’s only been a few days.

He dipped his head closer to my essence. An eternity.

He’d saved my life, so I’d forbear the snark, but talk about hyperbole.

I reached out to pet him and he…purred? Gotta go. Fae Court stuff and all. We’ve come for Lulu.

His majestic head bobbed. I’d seen the wyvern in the flesh, when he’d emerged and taken over James during battle, something he’d liked way too much. For him to assume his physical form in the mundane world, I’d had to “command” him out, per his instruction. I sure as hell hoped that was true in this blended half-mundane/half-magical world.

I know about the Lulu girl, he said.

It’s upsetting.

Yes, my Clea, deeply. You are being shadowed by the fae.

I assumed, but thank you. I really have to get going. I patted his head again.

A moment. A warning. Do what you came to do and leave.

Of course we would leave. Okay.

Heed me. I sense—

Shouts, growls.

I careened back to awareness, crouched on the ground, surrounded by our group. Arrows rained around us in a circle, forming a pattern, but no fae were in sight.

None of our group were firing back and no one had been hit. Yet. Apparently this was some idiot fae welcome. A nasty one. We’d compressed the triangle, backs to each other. I leapt to my feet and stepped forward to stand between Melike and Neddy. She’d raised her bow, as had Alex and James.

I raised my hands, palms out, and called my fireflies. A massive surge of pain-and-pleasure as they flew from my palm, tiny motes of power, incandescent and beautiful.

They formed the triple-chains knitted stitch pattern, a beautifully protective one, as if my spirit chose the best pattern for my need. Much like a fisherman would cast a net, I threw the gorgeous motif over my companions, not hemming them in, but shielding them from the arrows.

Oh, hell. Neddy’s fingers had turned pink, black clawed, and elongated. His snout had lengthened, too, and was dappled with shiny pink flesh and tufts of fur. Even as I watched, smoke curled around him, while his body grew taller. He was transforming into the Pinky.

“Neddy, no!”

His head whipped around, a snarl blooming from huge lupine jaws that dripped drool.

“Neddy.” I squeezed his shoulder. “Don’t do this now. We’ve got this.”

His leaf-green eyes began to clear. The Pinky-boy swallowed hard and nodded, his features reforming into all boy.

The rain of arrows abruptly ceased. Still no fae. A glance over my shoulder showed Alex and James with their bows drawn. Beside me, Melike’s was the same, while Rae’s black motes swirled around his hands in a figure eight.

Needless to say, I kept my firefly shield in place.

I wanted to soothe Neddy’s fears. “It’s all good.”

“Yeah?” Neddy said, voice wobbly.

“I don’t want them to see you as the Pinky yet, okay?” Awkward it might be, but I leaned in and kissed his cheek. “You’re terrific.”

“Yuck, Clea.”

I laughed. Our strong, courageous Neddy was back.

“Fae sure are a pain in the ass,” Rae muttered.

A soft murmur, then a dozen fae stepped from the trees lining the drive, arrows nocked, bows aimed at our group. Charming. Much like Charlie the fae, they were tall and slender, pointy-eared men and women except for one curvy, six-foot female whose face bore a dangerous grin. They wore jeans and colored t-shirts, some with leather vests. Lord of the Rings they weren’t. Gee, they could’ve at least dressed up for their attack. A few had different length, pearlescent horns protruding from their skulls, like Charlie’s, the longest about three inches.

All were stoic faced, except for the grinning woman, who winked at me. I wasn’t sure what to make of that.

“Drop your shield,” said a gaunt, gray-haired fae. His brown eyes gleamed with malice.

“No,” James said. “Lower your bows and we’ll consider it.”

He gave us teeth.

I sensed James behind me.

“How long can you last?” he said with little more than a whisper.

“Long enough.”

“Good. We wait for the leader.”

“He isn’t here?”

Her spark’s behind the oak to your right,” Rae said.

I forced myself not to look.

A rustle through the fae, and with their bows still aimed at us, they dropped to one knee. 

And… here comes Johnny.

Their commander stepped in front of me. I hadn’t seen her move. She was just…there.

Not Johnny, but Wonder Woman. She wore knee-high, lace-up combat boots over sprayed-on brown leather pants. Her gold bustier resembled WW’s, but with a peplum that belled over her hips. Gold armbands climbed from her wrists to her elbows. Wow—she’d sure be a hit at a cosplay event. Her auburn hair, woven in braids atop her head, was capped by five-inch pearlescent horns that curved away from the crown of her head. The longest horns I’d yet to see, which I assumed reflected her position as commander.

She moved panther-like as she stalked toward us.

Cold silver eyes fastened on me like claws. She betrayed nothing, but I felt her pleasure when she couldn’t probe my inner shields. Weird.  

Her unpainted lips widened into a smile of gleaming white teeth and lethality.

Oh, no. Nonono. Awareness shot through me. I knew that smile, had seen its twin many a time on my grandmother Bernadette’s face.

My mam was the troop’s commander.

Gee, maybe she’d flay me now for killing her precious son. Or barbecue me later. Hell.

She stepped close enough to touch the fireflies draping my body. No acknowledgement. Nothing. In a blur of movement she fisted my scarf and pulled. My fireflies fell, bouncing on the earth like pingpong balls.

James arm snaked around my waist, and he shoved her hard with the other, flinging her backwards.

She shouted, “Hold your arrows!”  

But one arrow flew true.

Melike screamed. Alex… falling to his knees, an arrow to the chest, blood staining the green parrots on his Hawaiian shirt.

I raced to Alex, feeling slow and clumsy as he slumped toward the ground, only to be caught by Rae. They became Michelangelo’s Pietà, Alex draped over the mage’s lap, one limp arm brushing the ground.

His heart. Had the arrow pierced his heart?

“Rae!” I screamed. “Heal him!”

His smoky eyes rose to mine. Moist, they held a grief I’d never seen before. “Can’t. Their arrows… Can’t.”

I whirled on the fae, my fireflies a terrible thing as they poured from both palms. I would burn them, fry them, kill them all.

We can save him.

My mam’s voice in my head.

With a reluctant twist of my hands, I halted my Flow mid-air and speared her with my eyes. “Is this your bullshit?” 

No. I speak truth.

Should I trust her? Did I have a choice? I squeezed my fists, ending my Flow in a shower of falling stars.

“Do it, dammit!” I turned to kneel beside Alex and stroke his beloved face, the tanned skin now leached of color. James and Melike loomed over us, swords drawn.

You are an arrogant little pissant, daughter.

I jerked, giving the golden bitch a narrow-eyed glare.

She nodded to the large fae woman, who ran to us and dropped to one knee. Melike hissed, raising her sword.

“No, Melike!” I said. “She’s here to help.”

The fae lay her hands to surround Alex’s wound and they began to glow with a blue-violet light. Face taut, the fae’s eyes shuttered.

“Remove the arrow,” she said in a lilting Southern voice.

Slow and sure, Rae drew the arrow from Alex’s chest while the fae’s steady blue-violet light pulsed. Blood welled, but the alpha wolf remained still as death, his long hair a river on the red-clay earth.

The fae woman pressed her glowing hands atop the open wound. Blood oozed between her fingers. After endless minutes, the flow slowed. Was his heart ceasing to pump or was he healing?

The healer’s dusky face grew as pale as Alex’s, but she remained still.

Alex’s eyes fluttered, but didn’t open.

“Alex,” I said. “We’re here. Please stay with us.”

“It’s not workin’,” the healer said. “Not healin’ him. Not enough for him to survive.” She expelled small pants of breath. “His shifter magic’s different from ours. He’s losin’ too much blood.” The healer cast a dark look at the woman I refused to call “mother.”

“Maybe my fireflies…” I raised my hands.

Rae gently pressed his hands to mine and lowered them. “Not with fae magic in the wound.”

My mother stood before us. “Let me take him. I can port to other healers who can give him what Odille alone cannot.”

I hesitated.

“I don’t care if he lives or dies,” my mam said. “But you do, correct?” She stretched out her arms.

“Think on this, Commander,” I said. “He is alpha of the Arctos pack. If he dies you will greatly regret the haste of your archer.”

James lifted the unconscious Alex and transferred him to my mother, who held the taller Alex with ease. I wanted to protest, but James was right. We had to do this. 

 In a poof the golden bitch and Alex disappeared.