For the greater good.
Hidden within the shadow of ancient oaks, a safe distance from Rohan’s palace, Evangeline repeated the familiar mantra, allowing the sentiment to smooth over the ripples of doubt seeking to gain a foothold in her mind.
It was her only option, she reassured herself. Fae law prohibited the magick she was about to attempt, but the law had been put in place to protect the Fae, and that was precisely what she intended on doing. She may not be a seer, but Evangeline knew danger lurked amongst them and no one could tell her otherwise.
The Faes’ opinion no longer mattered to her.
If she could break through the barrier between the Fae and Mortal realms, she would have secured a viable escape route should the standing stones be disabled. The granite monoliths were portals between the two worlds. Portals Rohan, high king of the Seelie Court and overseer of the five Fae kingdoms, had closed before. She couldn’t risk being trapped on either side. The thought of leaving her friend Syrena unprotected in the Mortal realm was as difficult to consider as leaving the Fae unguarded.
But more importantly, Evangeline would have proof her magick surpassed the most powerful of wizards and would serve her well when the time came to protect the Fae of the Enchanted Isles. And with Lachlan MacLeod, the half-blood highlander, as their king, she knew without a doubt that day would soon be upon them.
Concealed by the dense foliage, reasonably certain she was safe from prying eyes, Evangeline widened her stance. Flexing her fingers, she tipped her head back and inhaled the sweet, earthy fragrance of the forest to center herself. A gentle breeze riffled the leafy canopy above, caressing her face as though it encouraged her efforts. A soft smile played on her lips and she closed her eyes, raising her arms to call upon the magick within her. A warm white glow blossomed low in her belly and she welcomed it as though it were a much-loved friend.
Snap. On a startled gasp, her eyes flew open. Heart racing, she frantically searched the woods. A bird, its iridescent blue and yellow tipped wings flapping noisily, shot from the branches overhead with an outraged shriek. Evangeline jumped then shook her head at her nervous display.
No one knows what you attempt, she chided herself. The Fae have no interest in you.
Her bitter laugh punctured the enveloping silence.That was not entirely true. They watched and waited for the day she would show her true colors. For the day the seeds everyone said her mother Andora had sown inside her took root.
She ignored the dull ache in her chest. Their censure didn’t matter. Perhaps at one time it had caused her pain, but no longer. She would prove to them all she was nothing like Andora. She would protect them as her mother had once destroyed them. They would have no choice but to acknowledge she was not evil then.
And you, Evangeline, will that be enough to make you believe you are not? a voice inside her asked.
With an impatient flick of her hand, Evangeline shooed the question from her mind and resumed her stance. A rustle of leaves drew her attention and she squinted, scanning the shadows for movement, unable to shake the sensation someone watched her. She lifted her gaze to the leafy canopy, thinking perhaps it was another bird. When moments passed without the brightly plumed creature making an appearance, she concluded her frazzled nerves were to blame.
Hastily, shoving aside the sense of foreboding, she returned to her previous position. There was no time to waste. Rohan had called an emergency meeting of the Seelie Council and it was a meeting Evangeline refused to miss. Not with that fool Lachlan MacLeod about to receive his comeuppance. At the thought, she called upon her magick with a self-satisfied smile.
A soft moan of pleasure escaped her parted lips as the white light flooded her with power, exciting her as nothing or no one else could. Her body crackled with heat, blue sparks shooting from the tips of her fingers. With a keening howl the wind gusted through the trees, lifting the carpet of leaves from the forest floor to swirl about her in a frenzied dance. The words of the forbidden spell she murmured joined the wind on a rising hum of power.
Captured in the whirlwind’s grip, she spun with dizzying speed. Her pointed toes dug into the damp loam, flinging it in every direction. Beneath her feet the ground cracked open, and on an exultant cry, she disappeared below the surface. Within a sphere of white fire, the bright flame illuminated the cavernous depths. She carved easily through layer after layer of earth and granite until she hit the barrier with a resounding bounce.
Sprawled face down, her frustrated groan was smothered in a thick, jellylike substance. Gritting her teeth, she peeled herself off the sticky film. She pushed and prodded the dense membrane, but it resisted her efforts. Refusing to admit defeat, she dug deeper inside herself than she ever had before. Her muscles quivered with the demands she put on her powers, the transparent fabric shivering beneath her. Then, with a loud tearing sound, she exploded through the membrane, somersaulting with stomach-wrenching speed through wispy clouds. Disoriented, fighting against panic, it took a moment before her vision cleared. Focusing on the moors far below her, she flashed to the top of a hill in the Mortal realm of the Emerald Isles, landing with a soft thud.
Wrapping her arms about her waist, she embraced her accomplishment, drowning out the niggling of guilt with a joyful laugh. A low whicker interrupted her celebration and she followed the sound to the base of the verdant mound. Two dark-haired men on horseback stared up at her in open-mouthed astonishment.
“An angel, Padraic, we’ve found ourselves an angel,” the younger of the two said in an awestruck voice.
“Nay,” his companion said, not taking his intent gaze from Evangeline. “Angels no ’ave ’air as black as night.”
“And ’ow many angels ’ave ye seen?”
She lingered, interested in the man’s response. After all, if angels were making an appearance in the Mortal realm, it was something she needed to know.
But the one named Padraic ignored his friend’s querulous question. His dark eyes locked on her chest, a salacious grin creased his raw-boned face. “And ’tis sure I am they no ’ave the curves—”
“Mortals . . . men,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. They were all the same. Her mind turned to a certain mortal—half-mortal—and the talk of Lachlan MacLeod’s lusty appetites. She harrumphed; if King Rohan had his way, that was all about to change.
Unwilling to miss the arrogant highlander being taken to task before the council, she raised her hand, flicking her finger at Padraic. The words he was about to utter came to a gurgling halt in his throat. Eyes bulging, he clutched his neck with both hands, shooting a panicked look at his companion.
Since the spell would not last long, Evangeline wiped them of their memories before she shot back through the clouds to hover beneath the tear she’d made in the barrier.
Lying prone beneath the length of membrane that flapped in the gentle breeze, she was aware of the importance to mend it carefully—to leave no weakness as a port of entry. With a low murmur, she called on her magick, frowning at the lukewarm heat and dull wash of white that responded to her call. Spidery threads of panic latched on to her guilt. Did breaking Fae law somehow cause her powers to diminish? As if in answer, a wisp of black smoke snaked its way through the light, wrapping its inky tendrils around her mind, dragging her deep inside herself to a dark and tortured void. With chilling certainty she recognized it for what it was—the evil within her.
What had she done? Fighting against her horrified alarm, she clawed at the shadows.
Why do you protect them when they condemn you? A voice slithered through her senses, stopping her cold. Show them your power, treat them as they treat you, the voice cajoled seductively. Destroy them as they would destroy you.
“No,” Evangeline cried, digging feverishly through the muddy light for her magick. Her vision hazed. Breathe, just breathe. She found a finger of light and latched on to it, tugging until a glowing ball exploded inside her, eviscerating the darkness. She gasped for air, trying to banish the words from her head. But the fear she’d inadvertently unleashed the evil her father Morfessa said dwelled within her overwhelmed her. She couldn’t rid herself of the thought that by using forbidden magick she’d finally become the monster he said her to be.
No! She refused to listen to his spiteful opinion of her. He’d hated her from the moment she’d drawn her first breath. Shielded by the knowledge, she searched her mind for a logical explanation.
It was an anomaly, she finally decided, clinging desperately to the explanation. Her body and her magick had simply been traumatized from coming through the barrier. The mind-numbing fear that held her in its grasp eased somewhat, but any pleasure she’d felt at her accomplishment evaporated. Knowing she could not remain suspended in midair for much longer, she raised a trembling finger to the membrane. Sparks sizzled; smoke filling the air as she repaired the fissure. She prodded the area where the tear had been to be certain the seal was as strong as it appeared.
After one last poke, her ability to remain hanging above the clouds vanished. She dropped like a stone. Her stomach lurching as she fell from the sky, she tried to shake off the panic the violent free fall induced. As a child, the idea she could fly like the angels had intrigued her. She hadn’t known the ability was beyond her and had foolishly jumped from the top of a mountain. Unable to control her magick, she’d slammed into the rocks at the base of the cliff. Her broken body had repaired, but it had taken months for the bones to painfully knit together and she’d never gotten over the experience.
Forcing herself to take slow deep breaths, she focused on the circle of standing stones far below in the Mortal realm and transported there. Dwarfed by the granite slabs, she took one last uneasy look up at the barrier to assure herself the membrane was secure, then stepped through the stones to enter the Fae realm.
Flashing to Rohan’s palace, she reminded herself that no one knew what she’d done, least of all witnessed the consequences of her actions. She pushed open the gilded doors. Before she crossed the marble entryway, she took a moment to compose her features into a mask of icy disdain. A mask that was as much a part of her as her magick. A mask that dared the Fae to trifle with her . . . Evangeline, the most powerful wizard in the Fae realm.
Crouched behind a tree, Morfessa spat his silent contempt on the forest floor. What is the she-devil’s spawn up to? He shifted his weight, leaning forward to see around the thick trunk. A branch snapped beneath his foot and she jerked her gaze in his direction. He eased back, assuring himself it was not for fear of what she would do upon discovering him there, but fear he would miss the opportunity to learn what she tried to hide.
A bird flew from the branch above him and he saw the moment she let down her guard, a look of relief upon her face. A face as hauntingly beautiful as her mother’s—the woman who’d ruined him. Even now, twenty-six years later, the thought of Andora’s betrayal caused his stomach to churn. As if using him to destroy the Fae of the Enchanted Isles had not been enough, the traitorous bitch had borne him a child. Evangeline, a constant reminder of his failure, his weakness. If not for Rohan—the soft-hearted high king of the Seelie Council, the man he served—staying his hand, Morfessa would’ve been rid of the she-devil’s spawn long ago.
Soon, he promised himself, soon.
But he had to proceed with caution. If he took her life without evidence of her evil, Rohan would strip him of his position as Imperial Wizard to the Seelie Court. Morfessa would never let that happen—his position was all he had left, all that mattered to him.
He ignored the niggling of doubt he would be able to kill her. She is not that powerful. Not yet, he amended. From the time she’d been a small child, she’d exhibited an aptitude for magick well beyond anything he’d ever witnessed. He’d warned his king, made his concerns known, but Rohan had paid him no mind. It was Andora’s fault. She’d diminished him in his king’s eyes.
His knees ached from holding the cramped position. He shifted, rustling the leaves under his feet. She stiffened, and he cursed inwardly. He should have sent someone in his stead. Someone like his apprentice, whose agile body would not feel the strain as Morfessa’s did, but he couldn’t deny himself the satisfaction of being the one to condemn her.
She murmured an ancient chant, the words rising and falling on the wind. He strained to hear what spell she wove. He picked out first one word, and then another.
No, she wouldn’t!
Reeling from the shock of what she attempted, Morfessa staggered from his hiding place. She spun in a swirl of light and leaves, then the ground cracked open and she disappeared.
The magnitude of the power she now wielded brought him to his knees on the damp upturned earth where she’d stood. His heartbeat hammered in his head, drowning out the roaring hum of her power. The knowledge her magick now surpassed his own was like a cesspool spewing its poison inside him. But the thought he now had proof of her evil spurred him to action. If he hurried, he’d catch her coming through the barrier.
Staggering to his feet, he transported to the stones. With the knowledge he would soon have her at his mercy, the haze of his fury dissipated, allowing him to think clearly. It was then he realized Rohan would never believe him. She’d wormed her way into his king’s confidence, usurping Morfessa’s rightful place at Rohan’s side. One more reason she deserved to die. He slammed his palm against the granite slab. He had no choice. He had to return for a witness.
The first person who came to mind was his assistant, and he flashed to the library of spells deep in the bowels of the three-story whitewashed building beside the palace. He cursed the wards that prevented him from transporting in and out of the library and flung open the thick oak door. The wards had been placed on all buildings in the Fae realm to prevent a surprise attack from their enemies. But today, they simply served to stymie his attempt to capture the one woman he’d always known would become their greatest threat.
He hurried across the wood-planked antechamber, uttering an impatient oath when he came to the door leading down to the library and found it sealed. It was his own fault. He’d activated the binding spell earlier in the day. He hadn’t trusted his assistant Tobias not to try to escape from his duties.
Minutes later, he opened the last of the seals. “Tobias,” he yelled as he pounded down the spiral staircase, leaning over the oak rail to seek out the boy. Frustrated when his assistant failed to make an appearance, he slammed down the rest of the steps, bellowing as he went. “Tobias!”
“Yes...yes, I’m here, Your Imperialness.” His assistant scurried from between the floor-to-ceiling bookcases lining the back wall. Noting his heavy-lidded gaze, the imprint of a hand on his gaunt cheek, Morfessa was certain his assistant had been sleeping. But now was not the time to berate him. Striding toward him, he grabbed Tobias by the front of his navy robes and hauled him up the stairs after him.
“I confess! I confess! I was sleeping,” the boy shrieked.
“Quiet!” he shouted, in no mood to listen to his assistant’s inane jabbering.
As soon as they stepped from the stones into the Mortal realm, Morfessa lifted his gaze to the clear blue skies for some sign of her. He prayed he was not too late. His vision impaired from years of using the caustic potions in his experiments, he launched from the stone circle, dragging Tobias along with him to fly toward the barrier.
In a frenzied panic the boy wrapped his gangly arms and legs around him. “Master, we’re not angels, we cannot fly. Set us down!”
“Calm yourself!” Morfessa tried to shake free of Tobias’s strangling hold while searching the skies beneath the barrier. If he didn’t need his assistant as a witness, he would shoot him with a bolt of his magick. When he could find no sign of her, his anger knew no bounds and he did exactly that.
Tobias, a flurry of arms and legs, rocketed toward the earth. Morfessa scowled when the boy’s terrified screams ended. His broken body splayed at the base of the stones. The fool didn’t even have the sense to use his magick. With a disgusted sigh, Morfessa once more scanned the skies beneath the barrier, then flashed to the stones. He took hold of the boy’s arms and dragged him through the portals, leaving him on the ground in the Fae realm. Someone would find him. And when his assistant recovered, Morfessa would dismiss him. The incompetent fool had delayed him.
Consumed with rage at his inability to find evidence of her perfidy, he stalked toward his apartments in the building that housed the library of spells. He stopped short. What was he thinking? He could not let her actions go unpunished. Proof or no proof, he must confront her. There were ways to make her confess.
The two liveried guardsmen who stood in stony silence at either side of the massive gilded doors didn’t bother to acknowledge Evangeline as she entered the Seelie Court.
At one time the council had met in the forest, but Rohan had moved the court to his palace for reasons of safety. Creatures of habit, the Fae demanded the ambience of the woods, and Rohan had ceded to their wishes. Evangeline had to admit the branches of white ash trees encircling the room while water spurted from the iridescent blue fountains that fed the waterways lining the outer edges of the chambers had a calming effect. King Rohan, seated on his ornately carved wooden throne at the head of the table, stopped midsentence, arching a brow in her direction.
She dipped her head in acknowledgment of her tardiness. Gliding to his side in a rustle of silk, she averted her gaze from the curious glances of the four men seated with Rohan—the three kings and the wizard Uscias. She tamped down her disappointment that the full council was not in attendance to bear witness to the highlander’s set-down.
“You’re late, my dear. Is something amiss?” Rohan glanced over his shoulder to where she’d taken her place to stand behind him.
Heat suffused her cheeks and she damned the telltale flush. “No. I simply forgot the time, Your Highness.” Pleased that unlike her face her speech did not reveal her discomfiture.
Her gaze collided with Lachlan MacLeod’s, who sat sprawled in the chair to Rohan’s right. She attempted a nonchalant smile, but couldn’t quite pull it off under the intensity of his golden gaze. Her upper lip curled, and a lazy grin quirked his full sensuous mouth. Her hands balled at her sides. How she longed to wipe that supercilious smile from his too-beautiful face. When she remembered the reason the council met, a genuine smile curved her lips. The inept king was about to receive his comeuppance. If she had anything to say in the matter, he would have no choice but to acquiesce to his uncle’s demands.
Lachlan blinked, then narrowed his gaze on her. She suppressed the urge to stick her tongue out at him as she’d seen his cousin Rory’s sons, Jamie and Alex, do.
“She’s here now, Rohan, so can we get on with it?” King Broderick of the Welsh Fae demanded testily. Reminding her why she’d never been overly fond of the taciturn king.
“Certainly. I’ve received a missive from King Magnus,” Rohan began with a pointed look in his nephew’s direction.
A nephew who paid no attention to him.
Her nails dug into her palms. The fool was too busy contemplating the mead in his gold encrusted cup to be aware of his uncle’s censure. Uscias, wizard to the Enchanted Isles and Lachlan’s mentor, jabbed an elbow in his king’s side.
Lachlan grunted, skewering the wizard with a disgruntled glare. “Bloody hell, what was that fer?” he demanded in his deep, rumbling voice.
Uscias jerked his silver-bearded chin to Rohan. “Your uncle requires your attention.”
The highlander raked his hand through his thick tawny head of hair and raised his gaze. “I was distracted. What were ye sayin’?”
“What else is new,” she muttered under her breath. Obviously not as quietly as she’d thought since Gabriel, king of England’s Fae, snorted a laugh and Lachlan shot her a censorious look.
“King Magnus thought I would be interested to know that you refused the offer of his sister’s hand in marriage,” Rohan said, drawing Lachlan’s narrow-eyed attention from Evangeline.
“Why should he think ye’d be interested? The matter is no concern of yers, Uncle.”
Her temper simmered. The man truly was a fool. Did he not realize how precarious their relationship with the Fae of the Far North was and what his outright refusal could mean to his subjects? Magnus was powerful and until recently had aligned himself with Dimtri, king of the European Fae. Dimtri no longer answered to the Seelie Council. He looked for a way to overthrow Rohan. Keeping Magnus content would ensure his loyalty to the council and go a long way toward protecting the Isle Fae.
About ready to tear her hair from her scalp at Lachlan’s inability to see the danger he put his people in, she snapped, “If you didn’t spend all your time womanizing, your pea-sized brain would comprehend the peril you put your loyal subjects in.”
If not for the tightening of his beard-shadowed jaw, the slight twitch of a muscle there, she wouldn’t think her remark had penetrated his thick skull. His lack of emotion grated on her nerves. If he couldn’t bring himself to care about the Fae, they would never be safe.
Out of habit, she glanced at the Sword of Nuada—the magickal weapon awarded the King of the Enchanted Isles—resting against a thickly muscled thigh encased in form-fitting trews. The golden sword magnified its bearer’s emotions. Not once in the two years since the highlander had been presented the weapon did it indicate the man was anything more than an empty shell. Knowing what he’d suffered in the past, a part of Evangeline understood why he’d shut down his emotions, but it only served to validate her belief that he was unfit to protect the Fae.
A faint glow of red radiated from the blade. Her eyes widened, a glimmer of hope stirring to life inside her. But that hope faded as quickly as the emotion faded from the blade when she jerked her gaze to Lachlan’s ruggedly handsome face. With an arrogant smirk, he said, “Pea-sized, is it?”
Evangeline curled her fingers around the back of the throne before she gave in to the temptation to render him mute.
Rohan reached over his shoulder and patted her hand in an attempt to calm her. “I’m sure Evangeline meant no disrespect by the remark, Lachlan, but she does have a point. Your outright refusal could spark a confrontation with Magnus, encouraging him to take up with Dimtri again. Now, Evangeline and I have spent some time going over the matter.” Rohan glanced back at her. “Perhaps you should give my nephew your opinion of his options.”
Evangeline smiled. Nothing would give her more pleasure.
She wouldn’t need her magick to render him mute.
Oh, aye, Lachlan was certain the bloody woman had an opinion on what he should do. When had she not? Evangeline was a pain in his royal arse. But, he thought, as he met her flashing violet eyes and temper flushed her cheeks a becoming pink, she was easy on the eyes. And if he was honest, the pointed barbs the sultry beauty aimed in his direction were a welcome change from the bowing and scraping to which he’d grown accustomed.
He leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. Mayhap he’d
tweak her temper a bit further. “Aye, Uncle, I’m quite accustomed to her makin’ her opinion known where I’m concerned. Why ye’d think I’d be interested in hearin’ it is what I’m wonderin’.”
It was no secret his uncle set great store in what the lass had to say. Lachlan supposed it was because of her much-vaunted powers. He’d heard she was not to be trifled with. Even Uscias, as powerful a wizard as he was, seemed in awe of her abilities. But it didn’t mean Lachlan was. He was a king, after all—King of the Fae.
He snorted at the idea. He’d held the title for over two years now and to this day found it difficult to believe he’d accepted the role. He’d grown up despising the Fae—the man who he’d thought was his father had seen to that—and hiding his Fae heritage. But Lachlan’s secret had been discovered by a cadre of devil-worshipping aristocrats. They’d held him hostage, tortured him, draining him of his blood in hopes of using his magick to release the lords of the underworld.
Magick, he thought contemptuously. The only magick he possessed came from his sword. Reflexively, his hand closed over the jewel-encrusted hilt.
His uncle cleared his throat. “Evangeline, perhaps you should tell my nephew what it is you’ve learned.”
“Lord Bana and his brother Erwn seek to overthrow you,” she said in that melodious voice of hers. It was bloody annoying that her voice seemed to mesmerize him even when
what came out of her mouth was meant to torment or belittle him.
Lachlan glanced at Uscias, who merely shrugged his narrow shoulders. “Nay, ye’re mistaken, they. . .” He stopped, thinking better of telling her his late father’s trusted advisors were his constant companions. They consumed round after round of ale together while playing cards and enjoying the bountiful charms of the willing women who abounded in his palace. She already thought him a lecherous lout who did nothing but see to his own pleasure. He wasn’t about to add another arrow to her quiver.
In her typical supercilious manner, she raised a perfectly arched black brow.
“Ye’re mistaken,” he repeated. “Besides, how would ye ken? Ye doona come to the Enchanted Isles.” He praised the Lord for small mercies. It was bad enough he had to put up with her during council meetings and at Lewes for family gatherings. No matter how often he asked her not to, Syrena, his sister-by-marriage, never failed to include Evangeline. It was his misfortune the two women were best friends.
“I’ve heard rumors,” she said by way of explanation, avoiding his gaze when she did so. He knew then that she lied. But before he could question her, she said, “Has Syrena not told you of the difficulties she had with them?”
His brother’s wife, who at one time Lachlan had thought to be his half sister, but turned out to be his cousin, had once ruled the Enchanted Isles. “Nay, but even if she did, I doona understand what Bana and Erwn have to do with me marryin’ Magnus’s sister.”
She sighed in a manner that suggested she thought she dealt with a slow-witted child. “They question your ability to rule without magick. You need someone with magickal abilities to stand at your side. Magnus’s sister would be a good choice. Another benefit to the union is that the king of the Far North would no longer feel compelled to join Dimtri in his bid to gain access to the Seelie Hallows.”
Dimtri and Magnus were jealous of the powerful Hallows the Isle Fae held—Lachlan’s sword, the stone, the cauldron and spear—asserting they had as much right to them as they did. Dimtri even went so far as to claim they’d been stolen from the European Fae.
“I have my sword. ’Tis all the magick I require. And I’ll no’ let Magnus force my hand. If I decide to wed, ’twill be me who chooses my bride.”
Lachlan was certain he could hear Evangeline grinding her teeth before she opened her mouth to give him another of her opinions. “It’s not enough. You are responsible for the safety of your subjects. You leave yourself as well as them vulnerable without magick.”
Gabriel tipped his goblet in Lachlan’s direction. “I’ve fought with him a time or two, Evangeline, and I can assure you your worries are for naught.”
Lachlan smiled his thanks. He hadn’t spent much time in Gabriel’s company, but he was an affable sort despite his startling good looks. Gabriel had been there the night Syrena and his brother Aidan had rescued Lachlan from Glastonbury. The pity he’d glimpsed in the other man’s eyes had made Lachlan uncomfortable, but over the last year they’d developed a friendship of sorts.
“I agree. As always, you overstate the danger, Evangeline,” Broderick said. The dark-haired king was more reserved than Gabriel, but Lachlan had grown accustomed to his brusque manner and had come to respect his opinion. Now more than ever, he thought, grinning at Evangeline’s baleful expression.
“I have to disagree, Broderick. I think her concerns hold merit. Lachlan, I have asked Evangeline to put together a list of prospective brides for your perusal.”
“She’ll be wastin’ her time. I—”
Rohan held up a hand to stem his heated protest. “You are half-Fae, nephew. The best way to dissuade those who seek to overthrow you is to take a full-blooded Fae to wife. As for Magnus, I shall send a missive advising him you’ve had a change of heart and his sister Jorunn is among the women you are considering. That will give us time to find another way to retain his loyalty should you not choose his sister.”
“Ye canna force me, Rohan,” he gritted out between clenched teeth. He didn’t wish to marry and he’d damned if he’d let anyone tell him to do so. The last thing he needed was a woman demanding his attention, his affection.
“As High King, I most certainly can.”
A smile played upon Evangeline’s lips, her fine-boned features glowing with pleasure. Lachlan was tempted to strangle the meddlesome wench. Her gaze shifted to his sword and her smile widened. He glanced down at the blade glowing red and frowned. What the bloody hell was so interesting about his sword? Whenever he journeyed to the Mortal realm, Syrena did the same thing, then he’d catch a look of sorrow in her eyes before she turned away.
Daft, that’s what the two of them are.
“Rohan, is it a requirement that the prospective bride be of royal blood?” Uscias asked. A thoughtful expression on his weathered face, his mentor stroked his knee-length silver beard and looked from Lachlan to Evangeline.
Lachlan’s blood ran cold. Marrying was bad enough. Marrying Evangeline was out of the question. The woman would never give him a moment’s peace. If he ever wed, it would be a marriage of convenience. And there’d be nothing convenient about marrying Evangeline.
Before Lachlan could disabuse his mentor of the notion, the wizard Morfessa burst into the chambers. Black robes swirling about him, he stalked to the table pointing an accusatory finger at his daughter. “Guards, arrest her. Now!” he yelled when the two men who followed behind him hesitated, their uncertain gazes seeking out Rohan.