Nym risked her life to save Faelen, her homeland, from a losing war, only to discover that the shapeshifter Draewulf has stolen everything she holds dear. But when the repulsive monster robs Nym of her storm-summoning abilities as well, the beautiful Elemental realizes her war is only just beginning.
Now powerless to control the elements that once emboldened her, Nym stows away on an airship traveling to the metallic kingdom of Bron. She must stop Draewulf. But the horrors he’s brought to life and the secrets of Bron are more than Nym bargained for. Then the disturbing Lord Myles tempts her with new powers that could destroy the monster, and Nym must decide whether she can compromise in the name of good even if it costs her very soul.
As she navigates the stark industrial cityscape of Bron, Nym is faced with an impossible choice: change the future with one slice of a blade . . . or sacrifice the entire kingdom for the one thing her heart just can’t let go.
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Book Two in the Storm Siren Trilogy
By Mary Weber
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Mary Christine Weber
All rights reserved.
Five minutes earlier ...
There is a moment, just before every storm, when the entire world pauses. As if the atmosphere, in unison with the ocean tides, the wind, the sky's watery teardrops, is forced to hold its breath. A bracing against the violence it knows will come—the tempest that perhaps this time, this moment, might actually shred the world's soul.
I am in that moment now.
I am that moment.
My Elemental blood is paused in my veins—I can feel it the same way I feel Eogan's hand on my skin as the golden candle orbs float past my window, ascending from the Castle's courtyard celebration below. On their way to the stars, their round glow shines through the glass pane to reflect off the floor, the glossy walls, the bedpost in my room. They illuminate Eogan's beautiful black skin and the jagged bangs covering half his face as his green eyes search mine.
"Are you all right?" His voice is ragged, fresh from the peace-treaty speech he just gave with King Sedric.
I nod and glance over the healing bruises and cuts I can see, and the internal ones I can't because they're hidden behind that unfair tweak of a smile. You? I want to ask.
His grin widens as he traces a finger down my cheek to my jawline and leans his tall self in until he is inches away and I am breathing in his familiar scent of honey and pine mixed with something oddly musky. His gaze drops to my mouth.
Never better, his eyes answer. He bends closer so that, for a second, his lips nearly touch mine.
I swear it almost dissolves every piece of me in the in-between as I wait for his kiss. Just as I've waited for this moment, this time, finally alone with him, for the past week since the battle at the Keep.
But the kiss doesn't come.
Instead my breath, my veins, they remain bated as the cheers from the courtyard erupt louder through the shut window—the Faelen people extolling Eogan and King Sedric for the truce the two kingdoms just signed.
"To our own King Sedric!"
"And Eogan of Bron! Lost prince who helped defend Faelen!"
Lost prince who is now king of Bron.
I lean back and clear my throat, then tip my head toward the sound. They're calling for him to go back out there. Instead he's here consorting with a slave.
I give him a sly grin. What will they think? But abruptly my heart is dithering and thudding because, yes, what will they think? What will he think? The only man I've cared for is now the most notable person in the Hidden Lands. And I am still Elemental—recently elevated to revered status in Faelen maybe, but I doubt his Bron subjects will feel the same.
He doesn't answer. His grin just ripples and broadens.
Suddenly his whole body is rippling, shaking beneath my fingers.
Next thing I know he's raised a scornful brow and uttered a growl and the broadening smile turns toothy.
I pull away. What in hulls?
The firelight bounces off of those teeth a moment, making them look long. Shiny. I'd think he was teasing if it didn't look so disturbing, but he's stretching his neck and shoulders, extending them up as if adjusting his spine beneath that undulating skin. When he straightens it's to glare down at me, as if he is still Eogan. And yet not.
Very carefully he sweeps his black bangs from his face and tucks them behind his ear in a sickening, all-too-familiar trait.
It makes my stomach lurch. I swallow and retreat another step in my velvet slippers and white waste-of-someone's-good-fortune dress.
It can't be.
"I warned you at the Keep," he whispers.
Oh, please, no.
Before I can ask or curse or make my mouth work in any way that forms words, he tips his head to reveal the slightly healed gash running down the back of his neck. Not a gash. A clawed incision.
Exactly like Breck had when Draewulf cut her open and crawled inside her skin.
I shake my head. It has to be a trick of Lord Myles. He must be alive and using his mind powers in retaliation.
I squint, searching his face, waiting for the mirage to change, but he merely bends closer and tucks a swag of my hair behind my ear as a disgusting snarl mars his rich voice. "I told you that you couldn't save both Eogan and your country."
My lungs empty as my heart crashes to the Castle's stone floor.
I blink once, twice, to clear my blasted vision. But there's nothing to clear.
It's not a trick of Myles.
It's the face of the man I love taken over by a 130-year-old shape-shifting murderer.
Draewulf. My breath is reeling and my heart is choking out of my chest. "You didn't. You couldn't—"
"Couldn't?" He lifts a hand to my snowy-white hair.
My veins ripple, and that half smile I've come to care for most in the world goes eerie as his green eyes flicker to reveal black wolf eyes. "You chose Faelen," he murmurs.
One heartpulse ...
Two heartpulses ...
"You should've kept a better eye on him, Nym."
No, no, no, no. This is not happening. I curl my hand into a fist and cause the sky to thunder so loud my words shake the walls. "What. Have you. Done?"
He bends closer. "Took over Eogan while you were too busy saving the pathetic people who enslaved you."
My breath explodes and I ignite like fire and maelstrom and murder. My body sizzles with the static sweeping through my blood as the siren inside that pushed back the airships, the siren that saved Faelen, flares through my Elemental veins.
I lift my deformed left hand and place it against my trainer's broad chest that now holds a monster. He clamps down on my arm.
I don't even think about it—I just let loose a surge of energy against him, as if to burn the beast from his body before considering the damage that doing so might cause. His skin lights up like brilliant night skies, but instead of melting him out, my energy molds into a shield over him—Eogan's block somehow countering me in the only way it's ever been able.
"Mother of a toothless—" I let loose choice words owner number four's mum taught me and press harder, drawing in a mass of clouds above the Castle courtyard where the atmosphere darkens.
"That erratic temper of yours that he found so appealing does not amuse me, girl. You'll stop. Now."
A flick of my wrist and the lightning it elicits rips through the slit in the window seam, blasting the whole pane open in explosive shards across the floor. The lightning narrowly misses the bed as it cracks the air and practically shatters my eardrums. Eogan growls, and the curtains catch fire—the flames of cloth quickly drip to the seat before sliding to the small carpet.
He snatches my crippled hand as if to soothe me, control me. "You will stop or—"
"Or what?" I shove into his chest again to shoot a thin layer of ice from my gimpy, curled fingers, spreading it out across his skin and down his body onto the floor, toward the window and up onto the seat and curtains where it smothers the fire. The next instant the ice is crawling up from my hand to enter his mouth, his throat. His breathing turns labored. He begins choking. Gasping.
Eogan's body is dying at my hand.
His eyes widen. As if Draewulf in him is surprised. Impressed. "Kill me, and you'll kill his body." His voice crackles in a tone that's suddenly too close to Eogan's. Too intimate. Too perfectly familiar.
My hand falters.
His grip tightens over the memorial tattoos on my left arm and Eogan's ability to soothe rushes my veins, muting the fury, deflating the curse in my blood.
I pull back. How dare he use Eogan's block against me.
But his lips curl as his other hand lashes up to rest right above my screaming heart. And suddenly he's squelching something. Sucking the life-pulse.
My insides are being carved up and cut out.
"What the—?" The siren in my veins begins fluttering and beating, like a bird flailing for escape from the wave of heat barreling through. I try to jerk away, and for a second, I swear a cry breaks out from my rib cage before the hot surge courses in and cools to harden like doused metal underneath my skin, searing my blood to my bones. The siren's scream falls silent and there is nothing but heaviness.
My ability ...
I twitch my wrist at the sky to resummon the storm, but the clouds keep dissipating. What in hulls? I wrench harder, twisting my fingers to claim the night air, the wind, the rain.
Except it's not there.
As if my Elemental blood has been drained and I am left a normal, non-Uathúil, Faelen person.
"What did you do?"
He merely pinches harder.
I bat him away as his hands grab for my waist, my shoulders. I shove and squirm from his grip, but his fingers crumple my dress as he draws me firmly in place against his chest and sneers down from the mouth that kissed me exactly one week ago when we stood at the Keep while the world went to hulls around us in bursts of bombs and lightning. "Consider it a gift—a deliverance from your curse," he whispers.
I struggle against him, except even as I do, I'm inhaling Eogan's scent of pine and honey mixed with smoke from the extinguished fire, and I am simultaneously yearning for him and disgusted. My fingers claw at his arms but he doesn't seem to notice.
He just smirks and slides his hand up to my throat.
I stiffen and refuse to let him see in my expression how I'm bleeding at every single one of my heart seams. "Go ahead."
His fingers constrict.
I gasp. Wheeze. And wait for the slow death of him shape-shifting into me even as my fingers try to tear chunks from his flesh.
His hand crushes harder into my neck, cutting off my air. My vision swims until I'm clawing and writhing and a cry has seeped up from my throat. Oh hulls I can't breathe. I knee him in the thigh, but he doesn't even flinch. Then I'm gasping, flailing, dying.
Just as my legs give way and my vision starts to blacken, he relents and I drop to the floor.
"Like taming a pet," he snarls. He flips around and strides to the door and opens it to a rush of music from the Great Hall that drowns out the shouts from the partygoers in the Castle courtyard. "Don't be late to the banquet. I'd like to think you'll especially enjoy my toast praising your help in destroying Odion and handing me Bron's throne."
The door shuts without him looking back, sending a parting chill of horror to settle over me.
I stare at the cracked, silver-plated wood as the realization emerges ...
I have saved the world only to lose the most beautiful pieces of my soul: Colin. Breck.
I glare at the closed door, simultaneously holding my throat while cursing that illegitimate bolcrane offspring to come back.
I can't stop shaking. Exhale. Inhale. His scent is everywhere, piercing my nostrils, digging down my throat until I'm gagging on smoke and pulling myself up to scramble around the broken glass and ice. No no no no no! I lunge for the charred window and push my face out into the night air. The noise below is deafening—as if my erratic weather bursts only encouraged the people's frenzy.
I concentrate on breathing. Another inhale to clear my burning throat.
My body sways heavily and shakes harder, and for a second I swear my veins seize up.
I frown at my arms. What did he do to me?
"Focus on the atmosphere, Nym," I can almost hear Eogan whisper. "It's yours to control."
I shut my eyes and lean in, yearning to feel him against my achy skin and chest cavity where, until a few minutes ago, my world existed. "I can't focus," I whisper. I don't want to focus.
No! I can't do this without you.
But the moment slows anyway.
"Focus on the atmosphere."
I grit my teeth and open my eyes.
I shove my hand toward the sky.
Not even a breath of wind stirs as the golden candle bulbs rise into the now-perfect, starry heavens.
I try again. And again—this time with both hands. Then with my voice, begging the Elemental inside to waken and rise.
But it's no use.
The curse I've spent my entire life abhorring—the thing I trained so hard to control with Eogan. No. Longer. Exists.
Just as Eogan no longer exists.
"Are you jesting?" A scream rushes my lungs and explodes from my lips, but it's hollow and heartless, with no thunder to back it up. Like the voice of a powerless child, it drowns into the party noise below. "This isn't how it's supposed to be!"
I turn back to my room, pick up the largest glass shards with my good hand, and hurl them at the walls, the fireplace, the door. How this happened I don't know—I scarcely looked away from Eogan as he fought Draewulf at the Keep. Only a matter of moments. And afterward—when he was talking to his generals ...
His skin had looked sallow. Bruised. Bloody. With that incision behind his neck.
My stomach turns. The thought of Draewulf slicing him open while I stood feet away—of Eogan dying, his essence being absorbed by the monster wearing him like a shell of flesh ... I fling a thick glass spike into the door. Then another, and another.
The last one thuds so hard it creates a crack across the overlay just as a knock sounds on the other side.
"Miss?" a man's clipped voice calls through.
"I've been asked to summon you to the banquet."
What? I look around. Now? An awareness of what I'm supposed to be doing sinks in, as does the roomful of dissipating smoke and broken glass and the blood covering my palms that are somehow sliced like ribbons.
Oh kracken. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to do this. I bend over as my head spins, bringing bile up my throat. "Why didn't you just kill me too?" I yell at Draewulf.
"To hulls with your blasted banquet," I snap loud enough for the man to hear. But I go ahead and dab my hands on my dress and step over to the washbasin to dunk them in case he barges in.
The cold water burns like litches. It scalds and sears the smoke from my head—enough to register the fact that not only am I supposed to be at the banquet, but Draewulf left me functioning enough to attend it. I steady my trembling arms. Bite my lip. Whatever he's planning, he kept me alive to watch.
"Miss." The man's voice comes again with a more insistent knock. "Please. We need to hurry."
Narrowing my eyes, I shove my blasted feelings so deep that the numb rises and spreads over them in a thin, fragile layer. Just go see what he's got planned.
I grab the drying cloth and stride to the door. I yank it open to find one of the captain's guards. Tannin, if I recall, with his brown eyes, brown skin, and hair that sticks up like a thatched roof.
His expression is full of admiration as he tips his head politely. "The celebration—" He stalls, and I watch the discreet slide of his eyes down my white waist-length Elemental hair to my blood-smeared dress. He makes a shocked noise in the back of his throat.
"I'll be a few minutes."
I shut the door and, turning back to the water-basin table, pull one of my knives from its sheath. Shakily, I use it to shred the drying cloth into strips and tie the material around my bleeding palms, pressing them hard until the oozing subsides, then walk to the wardrobe King Sedric had someone fill with the lavish-type dresses we both despise. Not because they're not gorgeous—they are—but because they're a disgusting waste of money when the peasant population has spent the last forty years starving.
I pull out a sleeveless black gown with no layers or buttons, which makes it easy to slip into despite my sliced palms and my left hand's fingers that are permanently curled inward almost to a fist. The fingers that never healed right after Brea, owner fourteen, took a mallet to them when my lightning strike took her husband's sight because he couldn't keep his anger to himself.
Once on, the dress shimmers and flows around my frame. A look in the mirror while I carefully drag a brush down my hair shows the dress does more than flow and cling. The color sets off the black trellis of owner- and memorial-tattooed markings circling my bare arms. It darkens them, making them look eerie. Uncomfortable.
I pick up my sheath of knives and strap the blades to my calf, then tug my dress over them. I firm my jaw. Hold it together, Nym. At least until you figure out what the kracken to do.
Except everything within me whispers that I already know what I need to do.
"Miss?" The man taps on the door again.
I lift my chin and straighten my unsteady shoulders. And harden my blue eyes before forcing the falsest grin I've ever smiled and walking over to open the blood-smeared, glass-impaled door.
Tannin's still standing there. He doesn't offer an arm. The veneration in his gaze is shadowed by a flash of fear. He's afraid to touch me.
I almost give a caustic laugh. Up until twenty minutes ago he should've been terrified.
Excerpted from Siren's Fury by Mary Weber. Copyright © 2015 Mary Christine Weber. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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