After being forced away for seventeen years, Alice is finally home. But home isn’t what she thought it would be, and every day the secrets she holds from her parents grow with weight. But how do you tell your mother and father that you’re not normal? That the world is a far more dangerous place than they have ever known and you are anything but the small, innocent child that was torn from their arms all those years ago?
Owen can’t say goodbye, and Alice can’t hold on to him tightly enough as the pressures of danger and obligation grow stronger and stronger. With a broken heart, Owen is headed to San Francisco with his crew of musicians. But the Golden City is filled with history and secrets, and brutal deaths are just lying in wait for Owen and his people. To survive these trials and this city, Owen will need everything he has—even the broken parts he gave to Alice—to have any hope of doing the impossible one more time.
About the Author
Brian is fascinated by both the written word and learning new subjects. He is always up for a laugh, a game, or a drink with friends and family. He is also the son of #1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan, who started his training to become an author before he was old enough to walk. For more information about Brian and his novels, please visit BrianFeehanAuthor.com and join his mailing list.
Read an Excerpt
Owen Brown sat on a log, his legs stretched out toward the large steel-ringed fire on an old farm in Denver, Colorado. For the last couple hours, the cool wind of autumn had done battle with the heat of the tall blaze as Owen silently pressed and released the strings on the neck of his old acoustic guitar with one hand while his free hand held a warm beer he had forgotten about.
Around Owen were his people and Alice. They were all laughing and drinking and smiling up at the moon while he mostly held still but for the drifting fingers of one hand over the guitar and his mind singing with chords of music. This time, as with the last number of nights, he held a secret. A secret he wasn't prepared to share. It would be foolish to share, knowing Alice as he did, knowing what he knew.
This time, as with those other times he had created music just in his head, using his imagination, Alice was singing with him. In his mind, her voice was strong and rich and had the ability to curve around words as easily as a dancer could move around a room. In his mind, where it was safe and he was entirely in control, they rode the sound together as it poured out of him into the night, his fingers digging into the strings of his acoustic, moving and tucking and pressing as the music in his mind reshaped and charged forth. He did this all deep within while the others talked, joked and drank beer, leaving him alone with his secret.
"Hey! Hello! Why is nobody listening? I am trying to perform here," Max said from across the fire with enough force that the music was pulled back into Owen's body and away from his eyes and fingertips.
"Max," Clover said with a warning, "you don't need to be rude about it."
"I was listening. Don't bunch me in with the two of them," Daphne said, referring to Jessie and Clover.
Owen knew if he needed to, he could pull back the conversation but didn't bother to after this many hours around a fire under a night sky. It was about letting the stress out. Letting go and letting the magic of the stars above sink into your soul.
"Daphne? I'm not sure you were even in your own body, the way you have been staring into the fire for the last five minutes. Something on your mind? Something you need to get off your chest?" Jessie asked with genuine concern.
"Hey, leave her chest alone; she's only eighteen," Clover shot back with a grin. "Pervert!"
"Not cool, Clover," Jessie said quickly, pointing a finger off his beer bottle in accusation.
"No, nothing is on my mind!" Daphne called, ignoring Clover and the attention she was bringing. "Nothing I need to talk about. I just like the fire tonight. It's pretty and sort of alive as it dances in the air, and I'm not sure those veggie tacos were all veggie." Just then, a small burp slipped out of Daphne's mouth, and everyone chuckled as her face turned a little red, and she apologized.
These were his people. His people who lived outside the rules of normal humans. Clover with her sass and spice. Jessie, his best mate, smooth and handsome. Max, tall and always able to find trouble. And Daphne, new and far too skinny, but bright and intelligent. And then there was Alice. Her left hand was in his hair and on the back of his head, strong but gentle fingers moving over his scalp. A slow rhythm as her fingers moved this way and that. Her other hand held an almost empty beer. She, too, seemed to simply be basking in the night air.
Alice was something altogether different. Her soul was broken, but it didn't stop her from burning bright. Owen could feel her, sense her in the deepest fog, the blackest night. Sure, an etherealist like everyone else around the fire, with an incredible well of ethereal power, but it was the fight within that made them a match. Their love was new but genuine, a tangible force between them. She had been quiet the last half hour, the pressure of being reunited with her family three weeks ago slowly easing with each passing star.
"I am not rude," Max defended. "You are rude. I will say it again and again-musicians make the worst audience members. It's not cats, and it's not children. It's you people."
"No one says it's children. Besides, the worst are politicians. I think that's right. Politicians make the worst audience members," Daphne repeated.
"Not true. I used to think that, but it turns out politicians make for a great audience because they assume everyone is looking at them and they play the part. What about A-list actors?" Jessie continued. "But I might be wrong. Now that I am thinking about it, a comedian once told me the worst audience she ever went onstage for was at a corporate retreat. The retreat was in Atlanta at one of those big places. Anyway, she said she would give her left eye never to have to perform for any of them ever again. So there you go."
"How drunk are you?" Clover asked.
"About the same as you. Why?" Jessie said with a grin that lit up his eyes.
"Because, first, don't screw with actors, they entertain me!" Clover clarified. "And, second, which female comedian were you quoting? Was that the short woman in Michigan who wasn't funny, who you flirted with for like four hours and got nowhere? Or the tall blonde with that lazy eye you went down on inside the coat closet at that bar in DC, who also wasn't funny?"
"Thanks for that, Clover. And neither," he said.
Both Daphne and Clover shared a smile as Jessie shook his head in frustration.
The song inside Owen's mind was calling, a relentless pull to be both finished and played aloud. He had seven songs already stored in the back of his mind with Alice at the microphone; he could hear or play them at a moment's notice. Alice and the others didn't know about any of them. There was a balance, a fine line with people, with a band. Press too hard, twist the knob too tight, and the string breaks.
You can only break a string so many times before you have to start all over, he thought. I don't want to start over with them, and I'm about to twist the knob again. His last thought held real regret and concern.
A chilling air swept around the six people, and the fire's flame, hot and fierce, climbed higher into the night sky. Owen understood this couldn't last. In fact, it was over. He had stretched the relaxing time around the fire out for as long as he could have without being reckless. Soon Daphne or Jessie or one of the others would head off to bed. Or Alice would tap him on the back of the head and say, "Let's take a walk."
"Hey, that's enough. Everyone shut up and give me your attention. It's time for my magic trick. Alice, you want to kick Owen and wake him up or something?" Max said.
"I can hear you, Max," Owen said, and shifted the guitar to the empty camping chair on his left.
"That's good, Owen, because we all thought you were going to start drooling if you played in your head any longer," Clover said.
Owen felt the laughter as much as he heard it from the others. But it was Alice who held the spotlight. Her skin held the glow of the firelight, and her internal strength never seemed to dim. His chest moved, and he drank her in. The smooth skin, her sharp hairstyle and her deep green eyes captivated his mind and soul.
She was a punch he couldn't defend against and didn't want to try. A single contact from her was like water in the desert. A natural force to worship over.
How can I walk away from you? His thoughts drove a spike into his chest, and for a single perfect moment, he wondered if he would feel real blood pouring out of his chest.
"We will settle down and give you the stage. You tall, lanky, oddly dashing man-diva," Clover said, opening up the ice cooler and taking out a set of beers. One she took for herself, the other she passed to Jessie, who took it and tapped glass.
Everyone else seemed to settle for the first time in about an hour. But Owen couldn't feel the comfort. He looked toward the fire, the golden orange and black embers moving with an alien life that refused to be bound.
I can't hold still any longer.
Max moved from sitting forward to standing, the orange light of the campfire shading the stubble around his jaw, and for a moment, he held everyone's attention.
Behind him, the dark night swallowed the world, so it seemed as if Max's face and body could command the unnatural space between light and dark.
"All right, now that I finally have your attention. I have been working on a magic trick, and tonight, with each of you here as witness, I would like to perform for you." The voice that spoke was different, aged perhaps.
"Max, is one of your tricks tonight removing the tattoos you placed on Owen and me? Because that's the only trick I really want to see," Alice said.
Once more they laughed, and Owen tried to smile, but his face felt two-dimensional instead of natural. Laughter wasn't inside him right then. A phone call had come earlier, and he hadn't shared it with the others or with Alice. And they all needed to know. He had pushed the clock as far he could.
"No, it is not," Max said. "I told you-I told everyone-I'm working on finding a way to remove your tattoos, but it's been difficult. I am still not sure what went wrong with that magic trick, and every time I ask for help, no one here, not one of you," Max accused, "is willing to be my volunteer."
"He has a fair point," Alice defended.
Everyone laughed again. And Owen could see the defeat on Max's face.
Owen understood completely. Max used ethereal magic to perform his tricks. It was incredibly subtle work, using the tiniest, thinnest cords of magic. No one else in his group even attempted such a thing. But Max seemed to be obsessed with his tricks. Only, every once in a while, they went wrong, and that was how Owen wound up with a king-of-diamonds tattoo on his butt cheek, Alice the queen of diamonds on hers. Of course now, with the connection between Alice and him, Owen wasn't sure he wanted the tattoo of a playing card removed, but nobody needed to know that tonight.
"Okay, again, everyone shut up. I love you all, but can you please just shut it? Tonight, to break the tension, for my first magic trick-"
"Hold it!" Owen said, raising his flat beer high into the air and climbing up onto his feet.
"Owen?" Max asked. Then he swore with a knowing grace.
"I love you, Max, but I have no idea what your next trick or tricks are going to do, and I have something to say before we all start diving into chaos or for cover."
"Why are there so many days in my life"-Max paused to wipe the frustration off his face-"that I can't understand why I put up with any of you?" He sat back down.
Jessie was there with an arm around Max's left shoulder.
"It's all good, buddy. Owen's just building some anticipation for the next time you do your thing. Let's hear what our fearless leader has to say. Go ahead, boss. We're all listening. We are all ears, just like Clover."
Clover reached over and good-heartedly punched Jessie, and Owen ignored the byplay.
"Thanks, Jessie. You're too kind," Owen said. Unable to help himself, he looked back and down toward Alice, some deep part of his soul needing to hold on to her.
Owen's eyes met hers, and the world became so simple and then overwhelming. What he was about to say would change everything.
I have to go, and you have to stay.
Internally he swore as she broke the contact with a questioning look crossing her face. Not sorrow, but perhaps a sense of what was about to come.
"Boss, is this where you tell us we aren't working hard enough with our instruments?" Clover interrupted. "Or is this . . . is this where you tell us we aren't pushing ourselves as artists? Oh, I know-you're about to tell us we need to anticipate one another, to think and feel and move like one heartbeat when we are up onstage, or we will all burn to death." She and everyone else gave a small chuckle.
And this time, when Owen smiled, he thought he could feel humor on the outskirts of his emotion. And then his will for what needed to be done hardened over his heart.
The road is a brutal place to call home. Tell them the truth.
"I received a call a couple of hours ago. Mara is asking for our help." Owen was shaking his head no before Alice could ask if the call had been about her missing priest. After all, Father Patrick was being held by a secret sect of the church, and Owen's uncle Cornelius was working on getting him back.
"Does this have to do with Father Patrick and me getting him back? Cornelius said just a couple of days ago everything is on track with the negotiations," Alice said.
"No. This call had nothing to do with Father Patrick or the negotiations to get him. This was just a request to do a thing for Mara and the Golden Horn, do them a solid by hand-delivering some personal invitations in San Francisco." Owen turned to include his people. "We all know the secret ballroom under Mara's club was a special, important place for our kind and the We population before Mara shut the doors, years ago. I don't have the details, but it's been alluded to me that reopening the space is a big deal in the We world, and Mara needs the right We to sign off on it. I said yes to hand-delivering some invitations. I plan for us to be on the road by no later than eleven tomorrow morning. If we drive all night, we should arrive in San Francisco around the time the invitations show up."
Jessie said, "Do we have to be on the road that early? I have been working hard on getting a solid hangover by tomorrow. It would be nice to sleep most of it off."