Silver Ashcroft slipped through night and shadows, heart pounding and rage simmering. Although she belonged to a D'Anu Coven that practiced white witchcraft, there was no doubt in her mind this situation required a good dose of gray magic.
Behind her, Paranormal Special Forces Captain Jake Macgregor walked as soundlessly as she did despite the fact he was tall, big, and muscular, and had to weigh a good two-twenty. "Are you sure, Silver?" the handsome dark-haired man asked through the transmitter attached to her ear.
She paused only long enough to toss him a glare over her shoulder. "Have I ever been wrong?"
Jake answered with a wink and she shook her head as she reached the fire escape. It was one of the older boardinghouses on the southern side of San Francisco, and it showed its age with its cracked and peeling paint, rusted drainpipes, and weed-choked yard.
Without waiting for Jake, Silver grabbed a rail. The paint-chipped metal felt rough beneath her palms and she caught the smell of rust. She swung up and onto the fire escape and landed soundlessly on the mesh floor.
Below her Jake swore under his breath, but she heard it over the communication device. He hated to have her involved in the actual bust, but when she led them to illegal paranormal activities like ritual sacrifice and the use of magic to destroy property or steal expensive items, she insisted on taking part. She often made the take-down easier, but knew the officer still didn't like her putting herself in danger.
Smells of garbage, dirt, and weeds met her nose as she grasped the metal bars that would take her to the next story.She'd have to be careful the creaking fire escape didn't catch the attention of the occupants in the third-story apartment.
When she was at the second story, she whispered into the transmitter, "Make sure your team is ready."
In the next moment she ran her hand down in the air before her face, drawing a glamour around herself and disappearing from human sight.
Jake murmured to his team into the communicator on his jacket as Silver continued her climb. Chill air penetrated her black gloves, jeans, and jacket, and her nose was so cold it was nearly numb. She heard the captain swing up and onto the fire escape to begin his quiet climb. He would stay one floor below her, knowing she needed her space to perform her magic.
PSF team members eased from the shadows and waited on the ground, their guns trained on the third-story windows. More officers blocked all escape routes and some had already slipped into the boardinghouse to await Jake's orders.
When Silver finally crept onto the third-floor fire escape, she crouched near the dingy window closest to her. She peered through a pair of frayed white curtains parted just enough for her to see into the room. With her glamour she had no fear of being seen, but she always took care just in case she ran into something that could actually see an invisible witch.
Her gaze took in the sparsely furnished room. She caught the odor of cigarettes, and that musty smell of old buildings, along with a more bitter odor---calamus root and dragon's blood. Countless black candles flickered for attention, giving the room enough light to see by.
As sharp and hot as a desert wind, heat flooded her at the sight of the inverted pentagram burned into the frayed carpet, a lidless eye at its center. It was identical to the others they'd found near dead witches.
For a moment she didn't see anyone through the window, but then a form in a black robe appeared, entering the candlelit room from another part of the house. The hood dropped back away from the woman's face. With her long blond hair and classic looks, she was beautiful by human society's standards.
Silver would never have taken her for a Balorite warlock, but she knew she needed to shed her stereotypes of warlocks. These Balorites were a whole new breed. Unfortunately, practicing evil didn't make them look evil. In fact, rather the opposite, as if those initials with physical flaws were culled.
From what Silver had scried using her pewter cauldron, she had learned that Balorites definitely used blood magic---the spilling of blood to draw on energies and beings far outside the warlock's own ability---for personal gain and power. Also for the purpose of hurting other living things. Rumor had it they intended to rule the underground magic world and ultimately take political power for themselves.
And like members of the D'Anu, by day many of the Balorites already served in high positions in the government, and in major corporations. Positions of power.
But by night, many of the Balorite Clan---or their minions---wreaked havoc that the D'Anu worked to overcome with white magic.
Except for me. Gray magic was what Silver practiced, unbeknownst to her Coven.
She attempted to shake off the feeling of evil from being in the mere vicinity of obvious preparations for a Balorite ritual. But she could feel it creeping down her spine, making her squirm in revulsion.
"Are you all right?" Jake's voice crackled in her ear from the transmitter.
Even though she knew he couldn't see her because of the cloak of magic she wore, she nodded and responded with a "Shhh," as she moved to the next window. She squinted, trying to peer through another set of curtains, but they were shut tight. With her gloved hands, she attempted to lift the window only to find it locked.
Biting her lower lip in concentration, Silver flicked one finger in the air, sending her magic to do her bidding. In the next second she heard the rusty scrape of metal against wood as the latch unfastened.
She held her breath, hoping the warlock hadn't heard.
After pausing two heartbeats, Silver gripped the bottom of the window and her muscles tightened as she slowly pushed it up. Wood scratched wood like fingernails across a chalkboard, as she eased the window high enough that even a grown man could crawl through. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness when she parted the stained green curtains, but then her heart thumped in her throat.
It was the same scene she'd witnessed with her scrying cauldron earlier that evening. The missing child was curled up in a ball in an exhausted sleep, her cheeks grubby and tearstained, her hands bound in front of her with cloth strips biting into her small wrists.
Silver's blood boiled even hotter. This girl had been kidnapped to be used in unspeakable rites, harmed in ways that made Silver ill to think about.
Blood magic. The blackest of all black magic.
Remaining in a crouch, Silver moved back to the first window and saw that the woman had been joined by two men, both wearing black robes identical to the one the woman wore. One man was slightly turned, so that she could make out his aristocratic profile. The second man had pierced ears, shaggy brown hair, and a day's growth of stubble. He was speaking to the other Balorite warlocks. Silver caught the words "Darkwolf," "initiates," "ritual," and "soon."
Silver tamped down fury that threatened to overcome her, that threatened to make these warlocks pay in a way that would make them wish they'd never been born to this world. But that would be black magic, and she walked the fine line of gray and white. Never black.
If she'd been Janis Arrowsmith or any older member of the D'Anu Coven, they would simply have let the PSF officers take over once they directed the cops to the house where the child was held. Rhiannon, Mackenzie, and Sydney often helped Jake, too, but as far as she knew, they used only white witchcraft.
Not Silver. She would ensure these warlocks wouldn't escape the justice due them.
The barest of thumps on the fire escape startled Silver so badly she nearly cried out. At the same time she cut her gaze toward the sound, she flipped out two short, thin, and extremely sharp stiletto daggers sheathed inside her boots.
A man was mere inches from her, and from her crouched position she had to look up---way, way up---to fully see him. His massive arms were folded across his powerful chest, his stance wide, shoulder-length ebony hair whipping in the breeze. He wore all black, a snug sleeveless shirt and tight leather pants with a glimmering sword sheathed to one side of his lean hips, a dagger at his other. A fierce expression crossed his rough features, and his jaw tightened as if with anger.
He was one of the most gorgeous men she'd ever seen.
A man that made her heart pound, and fire burn in her blood.
A man who shouldn't have been able to get past Jake.
Silver clenched her jaw and gripped her knives tighter, but the man held his fingers to his lips in a "shush" motion. "Quiet," came a voice with a strong Irish brogue in her mind. "I will help you get the child to safety before you attempt to finish your assignment."
Silver was speechless. He'd seen through her glamour and he had spoken in her mind.
Before she could react, he leaned in through the now open window, his longer body and sheer strength giving him an advantage she didn't have. In mere seconds he reappeared with the sleeping child in his large embrace.
He held her tenderly, as if she were a precious treasure and might break if he wasn't careful. He stroked a strand of the girl's matted brown curls from her face. "A leanbh," he murmured aloud, his amber eyes focused on the girl, a look of compassion on his strong features. "You are safe now."
He looked to Silver and his features hardened, and again he spoke in her mind. "The warlocks. Stop them."
Silver's gaze shot to the room where the three black magicians were placing flickering black candles around the inverted pentagram.
She glanced back to the man and the child---
They were gone.
A chill gripped Silver's chest and she cursed herself. Where had the man taken the girl? And how had he gotten past her?
A few heartbeats later Jake spoke through her transmitter. "One of my men has the child. I don't know how, but she's safe."
Relief coursed through Silver and her muscles relaxed. Somehow the man had gotten the child to the officers.
She shook the question off. Time to take care of business.
She flipped her blades back into her boot sheaths. When they were safely tucked away, she raised her hands and projected gray tendrils of fog through the window. The fog streaming from her fingers slowly crept along the floor, growing thicker and thicker, until it was swirling around all three Balorite warlocks like dark chains of mist.
The fog caught the attention of one of the males. "What the fuck?" he said at the same time he dropped to his knees from the power of Silver's magic.
It was too late for the man. It was too late for all of them. With fierce concentration, Silver wrapped the fog around the three warlocks, forcing the other two to kneel. Their eyes became vacant, unseeing, as her power over them expanded. At the same time her anger grew and she tightened the fog around the three, causing them to gasp, choke, and sputter. A sense of satisfaction flowed through Silver that shouldn't have been there. She shouldn't feel pleasure at causing any living creature pain.
An icy feeling gripped Silver, quick and sudden, like cold fingers closing around her heart. Grabbing her, yanking her toward the dark. Her vision blurred and she clenched her teeth to maintain her control over the Balorites.
A man---no, a warlock---appeared in her mind, blocking out everything around her. She no longer saw the Balorites, no longer saw the window, or anything else. Only the warlock.
He was stunningly handsome, dark-haired with high cheekbones, a cleft in his chin, and a sensual look in his dark eyes. "Darkwolf," someone whispered in her mind. "Darkwolf." A face to a name she'd heard so many times but had never been able to scry.
The Balorite high priest motioned to her, drawing on her gray magic, calling to her to join him. The call was sensuous, seductive.
And powerful. So very, very powerful. She could feel the need for that power growing within her. Could feel herself sliding closer to it.
Dark, the dark. So alluring. So masterful.
The warlock's mouth curved into a carnal smile and Silver shivered.
Her gaze dropped from Darkwolf's face to his chest. A black stone eye dangled from a chain around his neck, against his bare skin.
Something about the eye vibrated to her. Called to her like Darkwolf had.
Then it began glowing, a vicious horrible red.
The eye looked directly at Silver, seeing straight through her, straight into her soul.
Terror ripped through her and the real world crashed down. She reeled, barely maintaining control of her witchcraft. She yanked herself away from the call of the dark and almost collapsed on the fire escape.
Oh, goddess! What in the Ancestors' names just happened?
Her breathing came hard and heavy, her body weak with fatigue. It took all she had to maintain her hold on the warlocks with more force than was necessary, just long enough to project thoughts to the bastards---gray magic needed to get them to obey her.
"You will not attempt to escape," she ordered the warlocks with her magic. "You will tell the Paranormal Special Forces everything you know about the dead witches and the kidnapping." Everything.
The moment she finished her spell, the fog stopped flowing from Silver's fingers. Her glamour failed. She collapsed onto the fire escape, her back to the wall and her breathing heavy, her hands braced to either side of her on the metal grill. Knots twisted in her belly and perspiration coated her skin.
The glowing eye. Goddess, the eye!
She couldn't get it out of her mind.
Lately, every time she used gray magic, the call to the dark had grown stronger and stronger. But this was the first time she had seen Darkwolf. This was the first time she'd felt herself slipping over the fine edge between white and black.
How much longer could she fight it off?
Jake was at her side before she knew it. "Dammit, Silver." He squeezed her knee with his large hand, his gaze raking over her, taking in how exhausted she was. "You've overdone it again. You should let me handle things."
"Sure---shoot and ask questions later," Silver said between breaths. "Just get them. We need to find out how to locate their stronghold. We need to stop all these murders."
The PSF captain spoke into the transmitter on his vest, and within seconds she heard the front door crash open and the shouts of officers as they trained their weapons on the warlocks and began searching the small apartment.
Silver had started working with the PSF about a year ago when her sister Copper vanished after performing a moon ritual alone. The night before she disappeared, Copper had one of her dream visions. The vision had shown her that she must "draw down the moon." Copper had been evasive and had insisted on performing the ritual herself. Silver had argued against it, but had lost the battle.
When Copper hadn't returned home by dawn, Silver had gone in search of her sister at their sacred stretch of beach. All she had found were Copper's tools of the craft . . . along with a lidless eye perfectly outlined in the sand.
Not long before her disappearance, San Francisco's police force had finally come to terms with the fact that some crimes needed a special touch, a special sort of investigation. Crimes related to paranormal practices were on the rise, and Copper's disappearance confirmed that beyond all doubt. The police department set up a special Paranormal Forces Unit, secret to all but those involved.
Silver's chest squeezed at the thought of her missing sister, and she sank farther against the rusted railing of the fire escape.
No trace of Copper anywhere. Barely a hint of her energy left in the universe. Silver didn't think her sister was dead, but she was so afraid something bad had claimed her, like what had been happening to the murdered witches. Silver had tried and tried to scry to find out where her sister had disappeared to, or if something worse had happened, but not even the slightest clue had come to her.
Now she was driven to help save other witches before they disappeared or were murdered. It frustrated her to no end that she'd only been able to lead the officers to cold crime scenes---until tonight.
Thank the goddess they had saved that child. There would be no killing tonight, at least by those three warlocks.
And that was the crux of it, really.
Silver also helped the PSF because she was against killing of any kind. When things were going down on a paranormal crime scene, she wanted to make sure the suspects were under control. She didn't want the perps to attack and force the PSF officers to fight back. So whenever she could, she used gray magic to control those committing the crimes.
Even if she did tweak it just a bit to make a few suffer---but only the ones who had hurt other people.
Silver had learned gray magic from Mrs. Illes and an ancient Grimoire handed down through time from gray witch to gray witch. A Grimoire given to her by Mrs. Illes. Gray magic was anything that helped, but could risk disrupting the natural order and might cause indirect harm to a living creature or subvert a creature's natural will. Gray witchcraft could call on minor energies or good to neutrally aligned beings outside the witch's control---a definite no-no by D'Anu standards.
The risk of using gray magic---if a witch's own wishes, angers, wants, needs, or emotions flowed into it, it could become about personal gain and power instead of the general good. Touching gray, a witch could sense the immeasurable and powerful flow and pull of dark magic.
Almost tap it. Just another inch.
Silver's belly clenched and she gripped the fire escape railing tighter.
Gray magic could draw her so close to the dark. Just like when Darkwolf had called to her.
After Jake climbed down the fire escape, she waited a few long moments for her strength to return. Her arms ached, her head throbbed, and she felt as if she were going to throw up. When it came to using gray magic, there was always a price to pay.
But how high would that price climb?
From the shadows across the street, Hawk watched the rest of the events unfold. The special unit managed to not attract attention from neighboring homes. He had to admire them. They were stealthy, quick, and quiet.
Hawk ground his teeth at the thought of the little girl he'd held so briefly in his arms. If it had been his daughter Shayla, he would have ripped apart the warlocks responsible. Humans and witches had softer ways of dealing with fiends.
Pushing aside his anger, he focused on the witch named Silver while she climbed down the fire escape. She was lithe and slender, her movements fluid and graceful. After the Great Guardian had sent him through the veil, Hawk had followed Silver from her residence to where she led the law enforcement officers to the girl and the warlocks.
While he was watching, the intense urge to assist the witch and the child had come to him, and he'd been compelled to aid her. When Silver had drawn the daggers, she did it with such speed and agility that he had nearly been taken off guard, and his admiration for her had grown.
The witch was beautiful. He remembered every detail---her silvery-blond hair peeking from beneath her black cap, her delicate features, small nose, and her stormy gray eyes. Anger at the warlocks had emanated from her in waves. From where he watched it was easy to see the fury still raging within her.
Her powerful gray magic, it hugged her like a lover. Gray magic that had sent Hawk to this very witch. The Great Guardian of the Elves had Seen that Silver was the one.
When Silver reached the bottom of the fire escape, she swung off the edge and landed on her feet in a crouch, one hand on the ground. From beneath her jacket sleeve he saw a silver snake bracelet curled from her hand up her wrist, its eyes glowing in the night like amber flame. A silver pentagram flashed at the hollow of the witch's slender throat, its amber center matching the snake's eyes.
He shuddered at the thought of snakes. He hated the slimy little bastards.
Silver strode toward the house with the officer she had been working with, then vanished through the doorway and into the dark building.
Impatiently Hawk waited for the witch to reappear as it drew closer and closer to the time he would have to return to Otherworld.
Silver marched toward the decrepit house after she'd had a chance to recover from using her gray magic, and once she had shaken off the vision of Darkwolf and the eye---as best she could.
She was determined to be in on the questioning of the warlocks. This was the first time they'd actually made it to a scene where there were no dead witches lying beside an inverted pentagram at a cold crime scene. Silver wondered what use her scrying was if she couldn't reach the witches in time to help them.
Jake strode a little ahead of her, his long legs eating up twice the distance and making her have to work to keep up with him. They had known each other for just over a year now, since the time they had met at the PSF headquarters. Once they had even come close to becoming lovers---but not that close. A couple of months after they had met, they had gone on two dates, and both had been disasters. Humorous in hindsight, but disasters nonetheless.
Wooden stairs creaked beneath her boots as she moved smoothly up the stairs to the porch. She shook her head at the memory of the first date, when Jake took her for sushi and she had had a violent allergic reaction to the whitefish. All those red spots---and his suit jacket never recovered from her, ah, ridding herself of the toxin. And then there was the second date, when Jake's broken ankle, thirty stings, and her black eye made it clear they were not meant for each other. She did tell him not to try to climb that trellis to get her a rose. He just wouldn't believe her when she told him about the hornet's nest.
When they could laugh about it they decided it best they remain friends and work together to solve paranormal crimes throughout the city. She thought of the lug more as a big brother now, and he was as overprotective as one.
While they worked their way up the stairs to the third story, Silver glanced at Jake. "There was a man on the balcony with me. How did he get past you?"
Jake halted on the wooden staircase and caught her by the arm. "What man?"
She frowned at him. "The one who took the girl to one of your team members."
"No one got by me, Silver." He shook his head and the lines at the corners of his mouth deepened as he returned her frown. "Jameson is the one who ended up with the girl. He thought McNulty handed him the child, but she doesn't know anything about it."
"Well, damn." Silver moved up the stairs, mulling over the strange man and his appearing/disappearing act. No, he wasn't a man. He was definitely something other.
When they entered the room where the warlocks were being held, someone had turned on the lights, making it so bright that Silver had to blink to regain her vision. As soon as her eyes adjusted, Silver narrowed her gaze at the warlocks and had the intense desire to tighten the fog binding them. Their wrists were cuffed and each kneeled placidly on the carpeted floor near the pentagram. PSF officers had high-powered rifles trained on each of the captives. The room was silent save for the sounds of cloth brushing cloth as the officers shifted to make room for Jake and Silver. Each officer was dressed like a SWAT team member, only no identification marked their clothing. The PSF was a highly secretive force that left no clues behind.
Remnants of the gray fog still swirled around the warlocks. For a second, Silver's vision of the handsome warlock and the red eye flashed before her and air felt trapped in her lungs. With a shudder, she shook off the images and tried to breathe.
She raised her chin and strode toward the Balorites, her booted heels thumping on the thinly carpeted floor.
"Why did you kidnap the girl?" Silver said to the blond woman, who looked almost angelic. The warlock had smooth, unblemished skin and clear green eyes that looked so innocent.
A slight smile flickered across her face. "We needed her blood for the ceremony," the warlock said calmly in her trance-induced state, as if it were nothing to sacrifice a child.
The mere thought sent flames throughout Silver's body. She clenched her fists. "Why?"
"Darkwolf was supposed to bring new initiates." The woman stared vacantly ahead. "We need blood for the conversion."
At the sound of Darkwolf's name, Silver felt as if she'd been slapped.
Her vision . . .
The eye . . .
She blinked, shoving the images away, and focused on the woman. "Why are witches and warlocks turning up dead?"
The Balorite female gave a slight shrug with one shoulder. "If their magic isn't strong enough during the conversion ceremony, they die."
"Only the strongest witches," one of the male warlocks added as he cut his blue gaze to Silver, "can be turned to serve Balor."
With one hand clasping the pentagram at her throat for comfort, Silver jogged down the wooden steps inside the boardinghouse beside Jake.
By the time they'd finished drilling the warlocks for information, what little they had learned was that Darkwolf had been performing the ceremonies in different places throughout the city to avoid being caught. He had an agenda, but the warlocks couldn't tell her exactly what that was. All they knew was that the powerful high priest was searching for practicing witches and warlocks with strong powers. In addition to the others in his Clan, he'd only found one or two more who hadn't died, while at least a dozen others had passed away during the conversion ceremony. Those who resisted were most at risk of dying.
None of the dead witches were D'Anu. Until tonight, Silver had believed that Darkwolf was unaware of the descendants of the Ancient Druids, the most powerful of witches in the world. Yet after her experience on the fire escape, Silver had a feeling Darkwolf now knew who she was, and that thought alone caused the hair to rise along her arms.
They had also learned from the captured warlocks that there was a Balorite Clan meeting hall. However, only a few key warlocks knew where it was located, and those clan members led the lesser warlock initiates in cars and to the hall blindfolded. Unfortunately, the three they had captured this night were among the lesser warlocks.
Silver's and Jake's boots thumped on the wooden porch and she turned to him when they stopped. "I'll see you tomorrow night. We're going to find these bastards," she said with grim determination.
Jake's look pierced her, as if he could see how upset she was. "Are you all right? This one shook you up a bit more than usual."
She brushed him off with a little wave of her hand. "I'm fine."
"Let me walk you to your car." His mouth tightened into a grim line. "What about the man you saw on the fire escape?"
"You know I can take care of myself." Silver really hated when men went chauvinistic on her. "I'll pull a glamour," she said, even though she knew the being who'd rescued the girl had seen straight through her last one.
Jake paused, then gave a single nod. "Tomorrow night."
She didn't bother to answer. Her mind still churned over what had happened, and her emotions were too raw. She hurried down the porch steps and strode away from him. At the same time she drew her hand down in the air in front of her, effectively vanishing from his sight and anyone else's. She pulled off her black cap and let her long silver-blond hair tumble around her shoulders to the middle of her back and stuffed the cap into her jacket pocket.
Silver shivered. Despite the glamour, she felt as if she were being watched. Perhaps by the being who rescued the girl?
Shaking off the feeling, she walked around the corner, away from everything that was happening and into the darkness.
This time the night didn't feel like a friend. It raked at her like demon claws and she shuddered. The hair on her nape prickled and Silver almost stopped mid-stride.
Blood rushing through her veins a little faster, she reached the alleyway, bent and flipped her stilettos out of her boots. The knives gleamed in the pale glow of a nearby streetlight.
Her arms were grabbed from behind so fast it had to be something inhuman.
Her heart slammed in her chest.
Why hadn't she seen him? Before she could blink the person---the being---had pinned her wrists at her back, holding them fast in one hand. Her daggers slipped from her fingers and clattered to the ground.
A large palm clamped over her mouth before she could scream.
A masculine scent immediately invaded Silver's senses, along with the smell of leather. Terror ripped through her like scissors cutting her flesh. With her wrists bound she had no power. Not even an incantation or a mind spell would work without the use of her hands.
She kicked backward with one boot and connected with something solid. For a second she was gratified when she heard a male grunt of pain. The next thing she knew, she was being dragged into the dark alleyway, deeper and deeper. Anger pushed away fear. Adrenaline rushed through her, replacing the exhaustion she suffered after using gray magic. But she still couldn't hold on to her glamour and it slipped away. She kicked and struggled and wished her hands were free so that she could blast the bastard with a ball of spellfire.
She bit a finger on the hand clamped over her mouth hard enough to draw blood. The man swore in what sounded like Gaelic, of all things.
"Stop fighting me, witch of the D'Anu," a rough male voice with a strong Irish brogue said when they were deep into the darkness.
The same voice as the man on the fire escape who'd spoken in her head.
Silver went still. And this man---or whatever the creature was---knew she was one of the thirteen secret D'Anu witches in all of San Francisco.
Not good. Not good at all.
First she'd sensed Darkwolf's discovery of her, and now this.
"You have little time before your world changes." The man's brogue was deep and sensual, and Silver shivered despite herself. "Your Coven could be lost forever."
She tensed, wild thoughts racing through her mind. Was he threatening her? Or was he warning her? Her stomach pitched at the thought of anything happening to even one member of her Coven.
"I will release you if you promise to listen instead of fighting me," he said close to her ear, and she shivered again. "Then you may go."
Without hesitating, Silver gave a sharp nod and was rewarded with freedom. Quickly waving her hand with an illumination spell, she lit the alleyway with a soft blue glow. At the same time she whirled---and came to a complete halt, heart beating so hard her chest ached.
It was indeed the same gorgeous man who had been on the fire escape with her.
But this time he had wings.
Huge ebony feathered wings.
"Tuatha D'Danann," Silver whispered. She had no doubt the sexy winged man before her was one of an ancient race of Fae beings long absent from the mundane plane of existence. "You don't belong here. You belong in Otherworld."
The man gave a single flap of his massive wings. "I have come to warn you."
Silver shook her head. "No. The D'Danann are neutrally aligned, like the Elves. They don't warn. They don't take sides."
The corner of his mouth curved slightly. "You know our history."
She almost rolled her eyes. The D'Anu were all at least partial descendants of the Ancient Druids. How could they not know of the D'Danann?
Silver gathered herself and raised her chin. Her hands twitched at her sides, ready to perform spellwork if necessary---although who knew if anything she did could faze a D'Danann? Damn, but she wished she had her knives. She would never kill with them, but they had served her well in many other ways.
"What do you want?" she asked.
He took a step closer and it took all her control not to back up. She could best the strongest of men in a battle using her magic and her athletic abilities, and her daggers were often a big help. But this man wasn't human. If he really was D'Danann . . .
Goddess help me.
Silver stared in amazement as she heard the pop of bone while his massive wings folded away and vanished right through his sleeveless shirt. By the time the man stood within a hairbreadth of her, she could barely breathe. His masculine scent of forest and mountain breezes enveloped her, and she grew almost heady from it.
She swallowed, trying to maintain her bravado. "What's your name?"
"Hawk." He reached out and stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. His caress felt so warm and electric that awareness traveled unbidden from her scalp to her toes. "And you are Silver."
Of course he would know. He was D'Danann, one of the strongest beings in Otherworld. But what did he want with her?
She straightened her jacket, cleared her throat, trying to ignore this strange magnetic hold he had on her. "What did you come to warn me about?"
"The Great Guardian of the Elves has seen the Balorite Clan delving into magic beyond their control," he said, drawing his hand from her cheek, and suddenly she felt lonely, bereft of his touch.
Silver narrowed her gaze. "But Elves have no interest in human affairs."
"The Elves have something at stake in this matter," Hawk said. "I do not know what it is, but it is important you learn what I have come to warn you about."
Her thoughts went back to what he had said earlier. "What is it that the Balorites are attempting?"
The D'Danann warrior crossed his arms over his massive chest. "Darkwolf is being influenced by Balor, the God of Death. Soon, the Balorites will summon our old enemies, the former sea gods."
"The Fomorii?" Her eyes went wide at the mention of the beasts of Ireland, dark gods of old who had been banished by the D'Danann to Underworld.
Balor had led the Fomorii in the battle to take over Ireland. After the Sun God, Lugh, had defeated Balor in combat by striking out his single eye with a golden slingshot, Balor had vanished. The D'Danann proceeded to defeat the Fomorii. God status had been stripped from the Fomorii and they had subsequently been turned into demons for their crimes. The fiends were to roam beneath the world's oceans and lakes forevermore, paying for their many evils.
Silver's skin chilled. "The Balorites are calling the demons here, to this city? That---that's impossible."
Hawk shook his head, his long ebony hair brushing his shoulders. "You had best use your abilities, Seer, to convince your Coven to act against them."
"Goddess help me." Silver moved her hand to her forehead as the enormity of what he was saying sank in. Her gaze shot up to meet his eyes---eyes that were as amber as the stones on the jewelry she wore. "The D'Danann, will they come to our aid?"
He paused for a moment. "The Chieftains will not evaluate the situation unless the D'Danann are called upon. Summoned. You must try."
"Why did you come to me?" Silver studied his amber eyes. "Why not to our high priestess?"
"Because the Great Guardian believes only you will listen," he said quietly. "Only you allow your conscience to rule, to lean to the gray like the Elves. Convince your Coven."
"The D'Anu belief is strong---passed down through the centuries." Silver pushed her hand from her face in a distracted movement. "Summoning beings from Otherworld could prove to be our ruin. It is forbidden. We can't."
"You must." Hawk reached out and gripped her upper arms, his gaze intense. "The old beliefs must be suspended, or your kind will perish."
"They'll never buy it." Silver noticed how firm yet gentle his grip was, and she had the strangest feeling, like she could melt into his embrace. She cleared her throat. "The D'Anu are so blessed dogmatic when it comes to the Coven's doctrines."
"You must," he repeated, lightly squeezing her arms.
Silver bit her lower lip before saying, "If I'm going to try, I have to have some kind of proof."
"Use your Seer's powers." Hawk trailed his hands down her jacket sleeves, and a shiver traced her spine just before he released her. "Find a way to convince them."
"Why don't you come with me?" If a giant Fae couldn't convince them, who could?
"I was able to cross worlds to warn you only because the Great Guardian opened a temporary window. It is time for me to leave now." His expression had turned from one of concern to something she couldn't read. "I will not be able to return in time to help you unless you perform a summoning." With that he stepped back. His wings unfurled and slowly opened and closed. "Go before it is too late."
Hawk gave her a slight bow then looked over his shoulder. To Silver's amazement, the apparition of a tall, beautiful woman stood behind him, motioning for him to come to her. She had long glorious hair and ethereal features that all but glowed in the night.
One of the Elves. She had to be.
With one last look at Silver, Hawk turned and walked toward the woman. While Silver watched, his body dissolved into so many sparkles.
In a mere blink he was gone.
Copyright © 2005 by Cheyenne McCray