FATED HEART EXCERPT
ANGEL’S FATE: BOOK 6
Crushing cold filled my chest and stole my breath, and I knew the final key to releasing Faerie’s Heart had become empowered.
“Amiah!” Cassius’s fire writhed, sending painful heat radiating across my suddenly too-cold skin, and his body tensed as if he were fighting to get control of his magic but couldn’t. Which was terrifying. His chiseled facial features already looked haggard, and he had dark circles under his eyes despite the still-powerful glow radiating from them.
I couldn’t understand how he could still be at full power. He’d been dripping flames since yesterday, and now even his clothes were burned. He should have been completely out, without even a hint of smoke.
“Amiah,” he pressed, yanking my attention back to myself and the ice crushing inside me.
“It’s the final key,” I gasped, struggling to my feet. “It’s become empowered. We have to get to the others.”
I glanced around, looking for a way off the top of the dragon’s mountain, and while there were craggy outcroppings jutting up that could have hidden a passage back into the aerie, my soul screamed that we didn’t have time.
I pushed power into my back and released my wings. We had to get the key. Deaglan already had two of the four keys, and even if we weren’t ready to take his keys from him, we couldn’t risk him getting another one. He was a powerful fae sorcerer and another key, even without being able to find the Heart, still made him more powerful.
“Don’t you dare try flying in your condition,” Cassius said through gritted teeth. His fire stopped pouring from his body, but it still roared around his hands and up his forearms.
“I can make it to the kitchen.” I was going to have to make it. That was where Sebastian, Hawk, and Rin were. And then I was going to have to make it to wherever the key was, because I couldn’t touch Titus and, given how much Cassius was struggling to control his flames, he was going to kill himself trying to hold it back long enough to carry me to where ever the key had become empowered.
“Amiah, just give me a minute. It’s too dangerous for you to fly.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but the frozen pressure inside me surged and a groan of agony escaped instead. For a second I was surrounded by darkness, trapped and crushed and forgotten.
Save me. Remember me. Free me.
Panic seized my heart, and my soul screamed, the cry yanking me back to the flat-topped mountain. I had to go. Now. I had to get the key, had to be free, and I couldn’t wait.
Cassius’s fire weakened, turning into thick billowing smoke, then burst over his hands again. He trembled with the effort to get it back under control and his breath turned ragged.
“You need Sebastian,” I said. He wasn’t going to be able to get it under control, not without help, and the only way to get help was to go to Sebastian. Which meant as foolish as it was, I needed to fly on my own.
I spread my wings and stepped off the mountain’s edge as the pressure swelled and snapped, sending frigid shockwaves crashing inside me.
Both mind and body seized, and I missed catching the wind.
I plummeted toward the ground, the humid jungle air blazingly hot against my frozen skin.
Cassius leaped off the mountain after me, fire exploding from his body as he released his wings and streaming behind him like a writhing red-orange banner.
Desperate, I stretched my wings and caught air, but my shivering made it hard to keep gliding and the pressure in my chest made it impossible to catch my breath. There was no way I was going to be able to fly to the newly empowered key. I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it to the kitchen.
Except Cassius was fully on fire — including the hem of his gaudy, ridiculous Hawaiian shirt — and with the ferocious inferno heaving in his life force, he wasn’t going to get it under control anytime soon.
I had to get to Sebastian. Sebastian would be able to help—
Except if he used what little magic he’d managed to recover since we’d cured his demonic magic infection, he might not have enough magic to fight Deaglan. Which meant I had to hold it together until we’d won and so did Cassius.
Gritting my teeth, I searched for the dining room window. I wasn’t sure which of the many openings in the mountain’s face was our kitchen-dining room area, but the moment I realized I wasn’t sure where I was going, my magic that sensed life forces connected with Sebastian, Hawk, and Rin, who were all still in the dining room.
Their life called me like a beacon, and I careened toward their icy brightness, fiery darkness, and alive-yet-dead essence, not caring how fast I flew or how much I struggled to keep my balance. I didn’t have to look good getting there. I just had to get there before I lost all breath or the darkness overwhelmed me again and I fell out of the sky.
The heat from Cassius’s fire grew stronger as I reached the large window to the dining room. Much to my surprise, all three of my guys sat together at the long stone table closest to the window’s spindly stone railing. Hawk and Rin had their backs to me, but Sebastian faced them and saw me coming.
“Hawk, behind you,” he said as he scrambled over the table.
Both Hawk and Rin jerked to their feet and turned to face me, and I crashed into Hawk’s arms. Our chests hit with a heavy thump that stole what little breath I had left. For a split-second his life force rushed through me and my soul sang at the contact. Then my body screamed at his hotter-than-a-human’s body temperature, his touch burning even through our clothes, and I tried to push out of his embrace.
“Too hot,” I gasped. But my legs were unsteady and I couldn’t keep my balance let alone push away from him.
His unusual gray-blue eyes widened, and I knew he’d instantly figured out what was wrong. He grabbed my shoulders to steady me and stepped back as Sebastian’s arms, which should have been cool because he was winter fae, but were gloriously warm and not too hot, wrapped around me. His life force connected with Hawk’s fiery darkness and the song in my soul grew stronger.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Cassius demanded as he landed a good twenty feet away, his inferno roaring around him.
“The final key— empowered,” I said through chattering teeth to the others, ignoring his question.
“Shit,” Hawk hissed.
“And not what I was talking about,” Cassius said as he glared at me. He heaved his wings in, sending sparks showering around him, and slapped his hands against the hem of his still-burning Hawaiian shirt to put out the flames. “Still, I was hoping we’d have more time.”
“Yeah,” Sebastian said, his voice strange and soft.
I dragged my gaze up to his, and for a second was captured in the vast pale-blue depths of his eyes and glimpsed a hint of the endless universe of power within him. Regret and fear churned with the frozen pressure inside me. I wanted to believe that Titus and Hawk were right and that Sebastian wasn’t furious that I’d permanently bound his soul to mine, but the look in his eyes was strange. It was a mix of… I had no idea what it was, and I was too cold and suddenly too exhausted to figure it out.
“I’ll fix this. Just like I’ll fix it with Rin,” I promised. If Sebastian wanted the bond gone, I’d do whatever it took to free him, no matter how much it hurt me, or how impossible it might be because the bond was fully sealed.
“Don’t be an idiot.” He slid his hand to my side and pressed his palm against my ribs where our bond lay hidden beneath my thin cotton shirt, its golden threads permanently etched into my skin. “Fate might be fucked up, but this isn’t a mistake.”
“You don’t know that. When this is over you’re going to regret not being able to move on and return to the life you had before all this.”
“The only thing I regret was not being able to see Sparky’s face when you sank onto my cock and got Hawk to make you come.”
And a part of me couldn’t believe I’d done that, either. But Sebastian had been dying and the only way to save him was to give him as big a transfusion of fae magic as I could while Rin pulled out the rest of the demonic magic infection.
“You didn’t miss much,” Cassius said, his voice gruff.
“Turned away and couldn’t watch like a typical angel then,” Sebastian teased. “You could have picked up some pointers.”
The fire pouring off Cassius thinned to a trickle. “I don’t need pointers.”
“You sure? She’s been sleeping with an incubus. She has higher expectations now.” Hawk batted his eyelashes at Cassius and flashed his heart stopping wicked grin. “I should probably show you a thing or two so you can keep her satisfied.”
“You want to suck my cock, fine,” Cassius huffed, his statement shocking me. I didn’t think I’d ever heard him say anything like that before, but then I’d heard him swear more in the last few days than I had during our entire time together. Clearly my other guys were a bad influence on him… not to mention he was under a great deal of stress. “But I’m pretty sure that’s not going to satisfy her.”
“Hey if that’s where you want to start,” Hawk drawled, “we can certainly work up to the more complicated lessons.”
Cassius’s fire sparked and then shrank some more as if Hawk and Sebastian’s teasing was actually helping him control his power. Now flames only danced over his hands and arms.
He sighed and rolled his eyes at Hawk. “Can we deal with what’s important?”
“Pretty sure Amiah’s satisfaction is important,” Hawk said.
“Yes,” Sebastian whispered, his grip around me tightening, and his life force surging, overwhelming the frozen pressure for a second. “You and Hawk weren’t the only ones to break our agreement. You astound me, Amiah, and frustrate me and surprise me. When we get the Heart, free Rin and keep me.”
“That’s just the bond talking,” I whispered back.
“You know it isn’t. It’s too new. I can feel the potential power in it, but it’s barely formed. Even your bond with Rin didn’t influence your feelings this quickly,” he said, pressing his lips against the top of my head. “I’m just relieved I won’t be forced to give you up.”
Hawk’s back stiffened — because if we didn’t fix this mess, he would have to give me up. The thought made my heart squeeze. “I’m not giving up any of you.”
Rin stepped up beside me and held out a blanket. I hadn’t even noticed that he’d left the dining room and returned. His hellfire was tight, simmering pinpricks in his black eyes and his expression on his sharp sculpted features was flat, but somehow I could tell he was hurt and worried.
“Only those who want to stay,” I said, taking the blanket. His strange life force joined Sebastian’s and Hawk’s and the frozen pressure weakened again for a second before flooding back in and stealing my breath. “I made you a promise and I intend to keep it.”
“Yes, your highness,” he murmured. Except it sounded as if he didn’t want for me to break our bond.
Which was ridiculous. It was just the bond making me see things that weren’t there.
The urge to be with him swelled—
Although if I really thought about it, it hadn’t gone away. I’d just managed to distract myself by talking to Cassius and now with the freezing weight from the empowered key. My need for Rin hadn’t diminished like I’d hoped. It was still just as powerful as it had been when we’d talked a few minutes ago in the sitting room and I’d barely been able to resist it. I’d had to command him to go, which had torn at my heart, but had thankfully managed to get us to part before we’d given into the screaming need to seal our bond.
I clutched the blanket to my chest, determined to fight everything, the cold, the darkness, and my desire for Rin. Except there were too many things to fight and I’d been fighting for so long. Something inside me was going to break and sealing our bond was the better of the bad options. That, at least, wouldn’t kill me. Everything else could.
I dragged my attention away from Rin, only to meet Hawk’s gaze. His hellfire had grown into miniature flames and his expression was pinched with worry and heartache, and my throat tightened with grief.
I loved him so much. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life without him. Except when I’d tried to brand him like I’d branded Sebastian by gathering all the power within me and releasing it when we’d had sex, it hadn’t worked.
And because fate was cruel, with his ability to sense sexual energy, he knew I desired him and also knew that I wasn’t going to last much longer against the urge to complete my bond with Rin. I was going to have sex with Rin when I really wanted to form that bond with Hawk.
I bit back a bitter huff. All the guys probably knew I wasn’t going to last much longer against my bond with Rin.
Which meant we needed to get moving so we could get the final key, take Deaglan’s keys, get the Heart, and break my bond with Rin… except we couldn’t do any of that without Titus who was flying over the Wilds somewhere, hunting for food so he could bring it back to me and prove his dragon’s mating magic was just as powerful as my angelic mating brand.
And I hoped to God it was because he was another one who was going to be heartbroken if we couldn’t get the Heart and fix this mess so that I didn’t fall out of love with him.
“We need to get moving,” I forced out between chattering teeth. “And we need a plan.”
“We need Titus to get his ass here,” Sebastian said. “We can’t come up with a solid plan until we know where the key is.”
“What we need is to figure out how we’re getting Amiah there. And no,” Hawk said, glaring at me. “You’re not flying.”
But that left Cassius, who, while he looked like he was mostly in control of his fire right now, could lose it just by holding me, or riding Titus, who would increase the key’s frozen pressure inside me when we touched.
At the thought, my magical senses shot out of the aerie and connected with Titus’s fierce, primal life force. He was on the other side of the aerie, barreling toward us, and would arrive within minutes. The pressure in my chest grew tighter, making it difficult to draw even the shallowest of breaths then snapped with an explosion that swept ice through me.
Oh my God.
The blanket slipped from my numb fingers and my shivering shook me so hard I knew the only reason I was still standing was because Sebastian was holding me.
“Either way, you have to use your magic,” I said, clutching at Sebastian’s arms around me as if that could somehow warm me up. “Which is easier for you? Helping Cassius control his fire or staving off some of the key’s effects so I can ride Titus?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Cassius said before Sebastian could reply. “Use your magic on Amiah. I want everything I’ve got to dump on Deaglan.”
“Don’t be an idiot. We need to think about this, and we shouldn’t unnecessarily waste Bane’s power.” Hawk turned his attention to Sebastian. “You’ve barely recovered a fraction of the magic you lost fighting that demonic magic infection, and I bet your magical channels are still damaged and fragile. You can’t risk burning yourself up by channeling too much raw power, and you certainly can’t channel the same amount of power that you used to be able to. Not yet.”
Well make a decision, Titus said in my head — presumably all of our heads — as he soared into sight and landed with his enormous back feet on the spindly stone railing and his front feet on the long stone dining room table beside us.
He was stunning in his dragon form with his red-gold scales catching in the afternoon sunlight. He huffed smoke from his massive nostrils and blinked his large, golden eyes at us as the smoke curled around horns that swept up and back from his temples.
We have to go. Now.
His wild life force surged against my senses, and for a second I was strong, powerful, ferocious. Then the key’s connection that bound us together snapped, pounding into my chest and stealing my breath.
And as much as I wanted to argue and say that was just the key compelling him to rush into battle and it would be smart of us to come up with a plan first, I couldn’t. Deaglan could find the keys without Titus. He was probably already on his way… if he wasn’t there already. We didn’t have any time to waste.
“It isn’t much of a decision,” Sebastian said. “We have to bring Amiah, and Cassius is more useful in a fight right now. And just for the record, I have no idea how much power either option will take.”
“Fine,” Hawk said, not sounding happy about the decision but thankfully not wasting more time by arguing. “Then do your thing and let’s get going.”
A flicker of icy magic tingled through me, somehow colder and definitely brighter than the frozen power crushing me, and the cold and pressure inside me eased. It wasn’t a lot. It still felt like someone was sitting on my chest and I was still too cold, but it was better than before.
“Done,” Sebastian said.
Great. Now let’s go, Titus growled.
“One second,” Cassius said. “Rin, you’re the fastest of us. Grab some pants and boots for Titus. They’ll be the biggest sets on the bottom shelf in the bathroom. I don’t want to have to watch him fight naked ever again.”
“You know he’s just going to end up shifting and destroying them,” Hawk said as he climbed onto Titus’s back, settled between two of his spine ridges, and reached down to help me up.
I took his hand, his skin painfully hot against mine, and placed my other hand on Titus’s side. Sudden crushing power slammed into me, throwing me into darkness. My pulse leaped into a wild tattoo and I fought to breathe. I was trapped. Again.
Not again. Please. No one knew where I was. No one was looking for me. I was forgotten, trapped forever in this crushing darkness. Unable to move, to cry out, to do anything. Please. I couldn’t stay like that. I had to be free— No Karthick had to be free— No…? Please. Someone. Anyone. Help me!
“Please,” I gasped.
“Fuck. I’ve got you,” Sebastian said, his voice small and far away.
A cold blast of icy magic roared into my body. It yanked me back, making the dining room lurch around me, but the pressure and cold remained. They didn’t even ease up like they had when Sebastian had first used his magic a few seconds ago. Now I could barely draw in a breath and I couldn’t feel my hands and feet at all.
Hawk stared at me, his hellfire full flames in eyes wide with fear. “This is a terrible idea.”
“There isn’t a better one,” Sebastian said, grabbing my hips and steadying me, while Rin knelt, laced his fingers together, and held out his cupped hands by my knee in an offer to help me up.
“Thank you,” I gasped, putting my foot in his hands.
A hint of fear, so subtle I probably would have missed it if I hadn’t been determined to better read Rin’s body language, tightened his expression. Whatever they’d seen, it had terrified both Hawk and Rin.
It scared all of us, Titus said in my head as Rin lifted me into Hawk’s too-hot embrace. You were screaming for help.
Yeah, he said, his mental voice dark with worry as his life force snapped again inside me, crushing around my heart
I gasped and Hawk leaned back, putting as much distance between our torsos as he could while holding me steady, probably thinking it was his body temperature that had made me gasp, while Sebastian scrambled up behind me. He took over supporting me and pulled me around to sit in front of him, putting himself between me and Hawk.
Another flurry of icy magic rushed through me, easing even more of the pressure and cold, and I had no idea how much magic it had taken to do that.
“Stop using your magic,” I said. “I can handle this. Cassius might be more useful in a fight, but you still need your magic to get the other keys out of Deaglan.”
“And you need to make it to wherever we’re going alive, sweetheart,” Sebastian said, taking the blanket from Rin and wrapping it around me. “You now take out two of us if you bite the dust.”
Because my souls were bound to both Rin and Sebastian, and if I died, they died or went crazy.
“Really didn’t need that reminder right now.” I clutched the blanket and leaned back into Sebastian’s embrace. His life force swelled against my senses, adding to Titus’s ferocity, and warmed most of my chill for a second before the key’s connection between me and Titus snapped again, ricocheting more ice through my veins.
“You’re the priority,” Sebastian whispered in my ear, his breath hot against my cheek and neck when it should have been cool. “I don’t care what the others say.”
“But if we don’t get the Heart—”
“Then we’ll deal with it,” he said as Rin climbed onto Titus’s back and settled between the ridges ahead of me. “Rin, get closer. Your essence is strong, which means your body temperature is about the same as mine and she needs all the heat she can get.”
Rin glanced back at us, his gaze jumping from me to Sebastian, and he shifted over the spine ridge to pin me between them, sending a whisper of desire rushing through me despite the crushing cold.
“That wasn’t an order,” I said to him, my voice frustratingly breathy. “I meant what I said. You don’t have to help us.”
“I know,” he replied in his barely-there voice, making no indication that he wanted to get off and stay behind in the aerie. “And I meant what I said, too.”
He didn’t repeat himself, because when we’d talked about it a few minutes ago in the sitting room, the pain in his cells had flared up, making it hard for him to speak. But he’d vowed that he’d fight with us and that he’d protect me, and I believed him… and not just because our bond was telling me that I could trust him. He’d made a point to tell me even though it had caused him pain, which meant he was serious about it, and had felt, whatever the consequences, it was worth saying.
“Now that we’ve got that sorted, let’s get this key and beat the shit out of Deaglan.” Cassius released his wings with a burst of fire that hissed when it hit the stone tables, benches, and floor, and he leaped out the window. “Where are we going?”
The Winter Court, Titus said in our heads as he turned and leaped after him, spreading his massive leathery wings and soaring out of the aerie.
“Well that’s just great,” Sebastian huffed, his voice thick with sarcasm. “Because we wouldn’t want to make getting this last key easy.”
My pulse picked up and the ice inside me tightened in my stomach. I didn’t want to go back to the Winter Court. I’d promised that I would find it a new monarch. That had been the only reason it had pulled some of its power out of me. But I feared that if I returned without having someone else to take my place, it would try to take over my body again. And I was afraid that if it did, it would completely incapacitate me.
I was barely holding on as it was. Even now, I could feel the affects of Sebastian’s magic inside me weakening and the call from the key growing stronger. And there was no way I was going to admit any of that to the guys because I had a feeling we were going to need every ounce of magic and concentration that we had to beat Deaglan.