Rian Sheridan is a foundling, a Northern Irish Catholic corner boy whose world was destroyed in fire, and reborn the same way, beside an Orangemen’s bonfire last July the Twelfth. A consuming, dimly-remembered pain in his past calls to him, taunting him, daring him to find it and lose himself to it in the S&M underground of Belfast.
Cuinn an Dearmad is the last surviving Fae Loremaster, and he’s just seen the beginning of the death of the Realm, the haven of the Fae race. The only hope of stopping it starts with him finding the Prince Royal of Fire he stole from the cradle, and lost in the human world, many years ago. He has a few guesses about where that hope ends, and he doesn’t like any of them.
Rian and Cuinn are an impossible pairing, two SoulShared Fae. Any two Fae will strike sparks, but these two Fae are a conflagration. Unable to stand one another, yet drawn into an escalating series of sexual collisions, their passion will either save a world or destroy it.
Outside the Queen’s Gate, Palace of Fire
I really am barking mad.
Rian blinked blood out of his eyes and tried to push himself up to have a look around. The fancy scrollwork on the gazebo had looked flimsy enough, but apparently the verticals at the eight corners, not to mention the fecking roof, were made of sturdier stuff.
“Keep your head the fuck down,” Cuinn hissed, yanking at the arm he still held.
“I hate to tell you this, but we’re not exactly inconspicuous.” Rian could see curious onlookers gathering around the edge of the pond.
“Doesn’t mean we want them to see our faces.” Cuinn moved experimentally, grimacing as beams failed to budge.
“You mean, you don’t want them to see yours. I’ve never been here before.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Highness. And would you kindly put a sock in it while I work this out? We have exactly one shot at getting out of here before those hounds find us, and I don’t dare spend magick to make it happen.”
The baying he’d noticed in the background was growing louder. “I take it we don’t want the dogs to find us?”
“Unless we want to be torn limb from limb by creatures the size of deer who can follow our scents even when we Fade.” There was a pause, as Cuinn tested the rubble again. “You might enjoy the experience, at that.”
“I doubt it, ‘twould be over too quickly. What exactly are you trying to do?”
“We have to get away from the dead zone I created when I drew magick out of the Realm. Recharged my batteries. Whatever. Which means getting out from under all this shit. And if I spend magick to clear it, I’ll need to draw still more, I don’t dare go home with less than a full supply.”
“Is that all?” Rian laughed. He’d been told there was something wild about his laughter. Maybe it was because there was something not human about it. Any road, he’d had enough practice with his curse, or his madness, to do for the half-rotted ruins of the structure. He closed his eyes, focusing on the inhuman and implacable power that had wakened in him that twelfth of July. Coaxing it out, and setting it free to devour the remains of the gazebo.
“What the motherfornicating hell do you think you’re doing, you crazy bastard?”
Rian opened his eyes. The fire was burning hot and fast, the embers were already beginning to crumble. But it burned only the wood, as that’s what he’d created it to do. Cuinn was staring at him, wide-eyed, whites of his eyes showing all the way around widely dilated pupils.
He couldn’t resist. “Don’t be afraid, I’ll not let it harm you, little one.”
“Fuck you, Highness, and the horse you rode in on. Maybe by the horse you rode in on.” Cuinn rose to his knees, drawing Rian up with him, bits of flaming wood falling away from them both – and froze. “Oh, shit.”
Rian followed the line of his gaze, and felt his own blood turn to ice in his veins. Six dogs burst from a line of trees. Like Irish wolfhounds, only Cuinn’s guess as to their size had been on the small side. These were the great hounds of Culainn, out of legend. On fecking steroids.
“Move your ass, Highness. And hold your breath, this time.”
Cuinn’s hand turned into the grip of a vise around his arm. Together, the two of them surged to their feet and made an ungraceful dive into the pond, Rian barely managing to fill his lungs first. He hated water. Always had.
A deeper darkness opened up in front of them, a tear in the cool darkness of the water. He thought he saw Cuinn gesture, and then the water seemed to come alive around the two of them. It wrapped around them, bound them together, and shoved them through the great fecking hole in the world.
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Rory Ni Coileain has been writing almost as long as she’s been reading, and reading almost as long as she’s been talking. She majored in creative writing in college, back when Respectable Colleges didn’t offer such a major, so she designed it herself—being careful to ensure that she never had to take a class before nine in the morning or take a Hemingway survey course.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at the age of nineteen, sent off her first short story to an anthology being assembled by an author she idolized, received the kind of rejection letter that fuels decades of therapy, and found other things to do for the next thirty years or so, including nightclub singing, working as a volunteer lawyer for Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and studying ballet in New York City, until her stories grabbed her by the shirt collar and announced they were back.
Now she’s a legal editor, a soprano in her church choir and the St. Mark’s Cathedral Choral Society (unless they’re singing Mozart, because she’s decided that Mozart didn’t like sopranos very much), the mother of a teenaged son and budding film-maker, and amanuensis to a host of Fae, Gille Dubh, and shapeshifters who are all anxious to tell their stories, and some of whom aren’t very good at waiting their turns.