In one horrifying night, Bronwyn Finn lost her family, her kingdom, and the princes who had haunted her dreams for years. Left alone, years pass as she fights for survival and craves revenge against the uncle who took everything from her. But she’s never forgotten her Dark Ones. Now she hides along with her guardian, but the war rages ever closer.
Two dark princes
A tragedy marred Lach and Shim’s lives. The future kings of the Unseelie Fae are obsessed with finding their promised wife—Bronwyn. Lach and Shim have never stopped believing that Bronwyn is their mate. She is the bond that connects the halves of their shared soul.
A destiny that will change a kingdom
With the blessing of the renegade kings, Beck and Cian Finn, Lach and Shim begin a dangerous quest to find their bride before Torin and his hags take her life.
Across two planes, a war will rage. Lives will be lost. Love will be found. And the Seelie Fae will welcome their true kings home.
Release date: October 29, 2019
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment LLC
Print pages: 346
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The dead things of the world loved Lachlan McIver. It was the shame of his life that he couldn’t return the affection.
One half of the heir to the Unseelie throne looked down at the small dog barking and jumping at his feet. He took a deep breath of the forest air and prayed to the gods for patience. He’d walked into the woods behind the palace because he’d looked in all of Shim’s other haunts. His brother wasn’t at the tavern in the village. He wasn’t in the kitchens. He wasn’t sitting in their room staring out the window toward the west, the direction of the door to the Seelie plane. It was where he often found Shim these days, a vacant look in his dark eyes.
He needed to talk to his brother about the morning’s news, but he found himself alone with a dead dog. He wasn’t sure where Shim had gotten off to, but he would more than likely laugh and pet the damn thing. Shim wouldn’t even notice that something had taken half the yipping dog’s side out. Likely it had been a bear or maybe a troll who had been lucky enough to catch it, but not lucky enough to finish its meal.
“Go away.” Lachlan tried to put some distance between him and the now-reanimated corpse of the former terrier. It simply yipped and followed him.
Lach attempted to ignore the creature. It wasn’t the first dead thing to imprint on him. He was coming into his power, and without his bondmate near, it tended to go a bit wild.
Bondmate. He closed his eyes as the thought of her coated his senses. He didn’t need to be near her to feel her. Gods, he’d never been close to her, but she was in his heart. He felt her every minute of every day. But what would he do if he had to stand in front of her? When he and Shim invaded her dreams at night, he was whole, his face as perfect as his brother’s. Would she turn away from him when she saw the real Lachlan McIver? He rather thought she would. She was a beauty, a pure Seelie princess, who would probably run from her beast of an Unseelie prince.
It was, perhaps, better to see her only in dreams, but like many things in his life, he had no choice. He had to find her. His powers were flaring, going wild.
Lach sighed as he realized where his brother was. He turned and jogged toward the beach, praying his idiot brother hadn’t fallen asleep where selkies would take him.
He jogged across the grounds, reaching the highest point. From here he could turn back and see the Dark Palace shining like a jewel in the distance. To the east he could see the road. A small party was approaching. His father’s advance guard had already confirmed that it was his cousin Julian leading the rebel Seelie kings.
Gods, he was going to meet Bron’s brothers, and he hadn’t figured out if he planned to tell them a damn thing. They would scoff and tell him he was bloody insane. His father would shake his head. Only Gillian and Duffy in all the plane believed their secret—that they had already bonded to the Seelie princess. Without permission or even her real knowledge. It had been instinctive, a cry that had crossed two planes, saved her life, and inadvertently ruined Lach’s face.
He shook off thoughts of that terrible day and turned back to the sea. He couldn’t see his brother, but there was a small figure awkwardly moving on the rocks that made up the beach.
Little gnome. Big axe. That was Duffy. And where Duffy was, his brother couldn’t be far behind. The gnome hefted the axe Shim had given him months before on the date they had mutually decided on for the celebration of Duffy’s birthday. Duffy had wanted an axe. The damn thing was nearly bigger than the gnome, and more than once he’d fallen on his ass from trying to swing it. The year before, Lach and Shim had bought their lifelong friend a set of custom-made armor. The blacksmith had laughed the whole time he’d made it.
It wasn’t that no one had told Duffy that gnomes weren’t warriors. It was that Duffy was terribly hard of hearing when he wanted to be.
The dog at Lach’s feet yipped and panted as though waiting for the fun to begin.
“Go away.” Lach started down the trail that led to the beach, the dog at his heels. He tried to give the dog the command to stay, but it wasn’t a well-trained thing. More than likely his lack of discipline was what had led to his untimely death. “Duff!”
Lach yelled at the gnome the minute he hit the beach. Now he could see Shim, lounging with his back against a boulder, one hand over his heart. His legs and feet had sunken in the pebbles beneath, telling Lach that he’d been there for a while. No sandy beaches here in the Unseelie plane. Everything here was hard and deadly. He’d been to the Vampire plane with its tropical beaches. He’d stood looking over the peaceful sea in someplace his cousin had called Hawaii, and he’d wanted to bring Bronwyn there. He’d imagined sinking into the soft sand and reveling in her body. Bonding time, the vampires called it. First bite. Oh, that first bite would be amazing. First blood.
His fangs descended. The damn things did it at the worst times, but he’d gotten used to it. And he’d gotten used to ignoring the hunger. When he wanted real blood in his mouth, he would go hunting and gorge himself on predatory creatures. The hunt fed him as much as the blood did.
His brother had another coping mechanism.
Shim lay with his eyes on the ocean, but Lach knew damn well that wasn’t what his brother was seeing.
The dead dog barked, warning Duffy of their approach. The gnome shrieked, and his axe came down on the pebbled sand, barely missing his feet.
“Lachlan. You scared ten years off me life.” Duffy leaned over, resting his hands on his knees and dragging cool air into his lungs.
Lach narrowed his eyes, standing over the gnome. At six feet five inches, Lach knew he was intimidating to the four-foot gnome. “And what do you think you’re doing to me, Duff?”
Wide blue eyes looked back up. “Ain’t doing nothing but protecting Shim.”
Lachlan pointed out at the sea. Not forty feet off the shore was a telltale froth of water. That white churning proved how reckless his brother had become.
“Were you going to use that axe on the mermaids?”
Duffy turned quickly, his hat falling off his head. “Mermaids? Bloody hell.”
“Yes, bloody is the key point. It’s going to be your blood and then Shim’s that’s going to be all over this beach and all because my brother here can’t deal with reality.” Lach nearly growled when he turned back to his brother and rolled his eyes. Shim had a smile on his face, his eyes blank. He didn’t even notice that half a dog was licking at his chin.
“What the bloody hell is that?” Duffy asked, staring at the dog.
“A straggler.” Lach wasn’t sure what Duffy was so squeamish about. It wasn’t the first time some dead thing had followed him around. “Try to wake Shim up. We have trouble coming.” He walked to the edge of the water. The icy tide lapped at his feet as he faced the creatures who would one day be his subjects. If they didn’t manage to eat his other half… “I don’t need this shit!”
A shimmering presence rose from the foam. Gorgeous and deadly, the mermaid smiled, shrugged, and then dove back down to the depths.
Everything, it seemed, was coming after them. There wasn’t a creature on the plane who couldn’t sense their weakness, and every single one of them was ready and waiting to pounce.
He turned back and saw his main problem. They were weak because Shim had stopped fighting.
“Where is he?” Lach asked, staring at his brother, the other half of his soul.
“He was mumbling something about fields and wheat.” Duffy came to Lach’s side, his mouth turned down in a flat line. “I think he feels her more clearly here.”
Shim chuckled, but Lach knew damn well he wasn’t laughing at anything he heard on this plane. He got to his knees and put both hands on his brother’s shirt, hauling him up.
“Wake the fuck up, Shim.”
Dark hair covered half of Shim’s face as he shook his head. “No. Don’t want to.”
Lach groaned. It had been so much worse in the last year. Shim had started to sink into a world where he could see her, feel her emotions. Lach could only do that in his dreams, when an invisible thread tethered him to his bondmate. Sometimes he envied his brother the deeper connection, but this wasn’t one of those times. Shim had begun to seek the connection to her instead of living his damn life. Their life. His brother was slipping away, and Lach couldn’t allow it.
He wasn’t ready to give up yet. He wanted a real life with her, not some half life where he only held her in dreams. She was his, damn it. He would prove it to her when he found her. Ruined face or no.
“Do I have to punch you again?” Lach asked.
Shim’s eyes focused. “Bloody hell, no. Why would you do such a thing?”
Finally, a wee bit of sense. “Because you’re acting like a drunk. I can’t wake you anymore. It’s harder and harder when you give in during the day. Hell, it can be hard enough to wake you at night. You can’t go looking for her in the day.”
A smile crossed Shim’s face. He’d seen that smile on the face of many a man who had too much whiskey. “She’s here, Lach.”
“No, she’s not.” That was the problem. She wasn’t here, and they hadn’t been able to find her. “But her brothers are.”
Shim sat up on his own. “What are you talking about?”
Duffy leaned in. “Is it true, Lach? Are the Seelies coming?”
Lach nodded. “Julian’s bringing them in. The Vampire plane has declared for Torin. Beckett and Cian Finn are on the run.”
“A sad day when the Seelie kings come looking for a place to hide here,” Duffy said with a frown.
Lach lightly smacked the side of his head. “Don’t be talking like that. It’s talk like that got us in trouble in the first place.”
Duffy rubbed his head. “Well, it’s not normal. They hate us.”
“Not more than we hate them,” Lach shot back.
“I don’t hate them.” Shim seemed to be coming out of his fog. “I don’t hate anyone.”
Duffy leaned in. “Gods, Shim, don’t let your da hear you saying crazy shit like that. He’ll beat you for sure.”
Lach rolled his eyes. Despite his father’s rather intimidating presence, he’d never once beaten them. Not that they didn’t know how to take or give a sound thrashing, but it had been part of their training, not at their da’s hand. King Fergus of the Unseelie was a ruthless bastard. He wouldn’t have remained king if he wasn’t, but he cared for his sons.
“Da was the one who sent Gilly in there in the first place, Duff. He wanted a treaty with the Seelie. And given what we’ve seen is going on there in the Seelie plane, it’s no surprise he’ll support Beck and Cian Finn in taking back the throne.” It went unsaid that, after all, they were family. Beck and Ci Finn didn’t know it, but the future queen of the Unseelie was still on the Seelie plane, trapped and in constant danger. Only her death had saved her from, well, death.
“Do you think they know, Lach?” Shim asked, struggling to his feet.
“No.” Lach straightened his tunic. He should change, but there wasn’t time. “Julian would have warned us if they had any suspicions.” He put a hand out to steady his brother. “Even if someone told them and they brought the rumor forward, our father would let it be known that we’re crazy. They won’t believe us. They won’t believe until the full and true bond is in place, and we can’t do that until we’re in her presence.”
“It feels full and true to me.” Shim stretched and looked down at the dog at his feet. “Lach, why is that dog’s guts on his outside?”
The dog sat and panted, his tail thumping.
“Don’t worry about the dog. Worry about the kings. They’ve brought the queen along.”
“Is it time then?” Shim asked, his voice getting serious.
Every muscle in Lachlan’s body clenched. It was almost time. They would find their bondmate or they would die trying. And their plane would fall… “It’s time.”
It had to be.
Shim smiled, his whole face lighting up. “We’re going to find her. I know it deep down. I have all the clues we need. Surely the kings will know the place I keep seeing.”
Shim slapped Duffy on the back and handed him his axe.
“I bet the queen is going to be crying by now,” Duffy said, his chest puffing out. “I can’t imagine a sweet Seelie queen having to deal with us rough Unseelie. If she lasts the night, I’ll be shocked.”
“We have to be on our best behavior, Duff,” Shim said seriously. “And we might want to clear the goblins out. They could scare the queen. And the trolls. You know, we might want to clear the whole palace.”
Duffy and Shim started up the road, talking about all the things that might frighten the gentle Seelie queen.
Lach stopped. The dog was dead again, his body lay across the rocks, a symbol of all that was wrong with Lach’s life.
He should be as thrilled as his brother, but what would their own sweet Seelie wife think of him? What would happen when she saw his decimated face? What would she think when she learned of his power, the power she would make stronger by bonding the two parts of his soul together? Would she be able to live with herself knowing she would be responsible for unleashing a powerful necromancer?
Lach stared down at the dog who had briefly flared back to existence. Shim could offer her life and fire and a perfect face. All Lach could offer was death.
And still he turned and followed his brother. He knew it would be disastrous, but he couldn’t resist. After a lifetime of longing, he would see her.
Perhaps then and only then he could be free.
* * * *
Shim stared at the sweet Seelie queen and had to admit that he was slightly afraid of her.
“Look, you little shit, I know you have coffee. I can smell it.” She was small but she showed no fear of the goblin. Shim had heard the rumor that she was from some backwater plane called the Earth plane, but she looked sidhe to him. Short, though she was curved in all the right places.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Your Highness. I have no idea what this thing called coffee is.” The goblin flashed a mouthful of sharp teeth before trying to hide a silvery flask behind his back.
A young woman dressed in simple but expensive clothes walked up behind the queen. She was pretty, a slender, innocent-looking thing. Then she started sniffing the air. There was something almost feral about her when she scented the world around her. “He is lying. He has the coffee.”
Queen Meg threw her an affectionate look. “Yes, I believe so, Kaja, since he’s drinking it right in front of me.”
She drank goblin whiskey? Most sidhe avoided it, but Shim rather liked the stuff. He preferred it the way the goblins prepared it. Hot and sweet. Someone, a gnome if he remembered correctly, had cooled the liquor, but Shim had thought it vile in that form.
A Seelie queen who drank goblin liquor? And whose handmaiden appeared to be a bit feral? The slender woman was again scenting the air.
“The food here smells good. And the small ones look easy to catch.”
The queen sent her a pointed look. “Dante told you not to eat the brownies.”
Kaja wrinkled her nose. “Dante tells me not to eat anything. It’s sad. Don’t eat the brownies. Don’t eat the pixies. Don’t eat the trolls. He would not even allow me to eat our enemies.”
Queen Meg shrugged. “Well, he was definitely right about the troll. It smelled bad. You would have had a tummy ache for days.” Her eyes narrowed, and she leaned forward. “What did Dante say about eating selfish goblins who won’t even share a drop of their coffee?”
The goblin took another drink. “I ain’t scared of no Seelie women. Seelie women are trophies, nothing more.”
Kaja growled, a low, menacing sound that seemed to come from the back of her throat, and Shim could have sworn she suddenly had a mouth full of sharp teeth. “I am not Seelie.”
Damn, he was going to lose a few goblins if he didn’t start to fix this.
“Is that the queen?” Lach asked, walking up behind him.
At least he had an answer for this particular question. So often he didn’t. So often he drifted away, his mind seeking Bronwyn’s and melding in an odd way. He was the plane’s worst peeper. He shook it off. It was always there, that slight invisible tie that bound him to his wife. Well, the woman who didn’t even know she was his wife. Years had passed since the single act that had bound them together, and as far as he could tell, Bronwyn hadn’t gotten the message that she was a married woman. Not that she was playing around. Shim always managed to fix those problems. A nice fire bolt tended to make would-be suitors think twice about fucking around with his bride.
“Are you still with me?” Lach asked.
Shim groaned. “Sorry. I was thinking about her. Yes, I think that’s the queen, and she’s not what we thought she would be. And the one named Kaja mentioned Dante. Gods, did Julian really bring Dante Dellacourt here? Shouldn’t he be in a strip club on the Vampire plane?”
“I think she heard you.” Lach nodded toward the women.
The slim one was watching him with narrowed eyes. “Explain this stripping club to me. I do not like the sound of it. It sounds like a place my husband should stay far from.”
Queen Meg smiled. “It sounds like a place Dante more than likely used to frequent before he got married.”
“Bloody hell, Dante Dellacourt is married?” Duffy walked up, two big mugs of goblin whiskey steaming in his hands. The gnome belched a bit. “Is it one of the crazy women from the DL we all watched? That was fun. We made it into a drinking game. Every time that idiot would say ‘hey, baby,’ we would all drink. I never been so drunk in all me life.”
Shim was about to apologize when the queen’s laughter rang through the hall. The goblin she’d been accosting ran like a demon was on his heels. Queen Meg laughed it off. “We drank every time he took off his shirt or got into a hot tub. I got pretty drunk myself. And yes, Dante Dellacourt took a consort. This is Kaja Dellacourt. I would tread carefully, Your Highnesses. She’s a little bitter. We passed many an interesting creature on the road here, and her husband would let her feast on nothing.” She got down on one knee. The Seelie queen was dressed in informal clothes, but there was no doubt she was a queen. There was an air of authority to the woman. But there was also a pleasant smile on her face. “Hello, wee one. What’s your name? I can make a guess as to who those two are, but I was unaware there were gnomes on this plane.”
Duffy stepped forward. She’d gotten down to his level. It was an unexpected sign of respect. Shim was starting to like the Seelie queen. “Me name is Duffy, Your Highness. I was a foundling. Me mum left me on the road, and the Unseelie queen, rest her soul, took pity on me. She brought me to the palace, and I was raised here.”
“A third brother.” Queen Meg nodded his way. “It is good to meet you. I was wondering, Duffy, if you might have a bit more of that delicious brew?”
Duffy shoved that mug in the queen’s hand quicker than Shim had ever seen him move before. He looked back at Shim, apologies on his small face. “Sorry, Shim. I meant that for you, but she’s prettier.”
Queen Meg winked at the gnome and then took a shockingly long drink of the goblin brew. “Thank god. We’ve been on the run. I haven’t been able to find any. Don’t worry, I’ll trade for it. Anyone here ever heard of cupcakes?”
The doors to the king’s room opened, and a silence fell across the hall. King Fergus entered, followed by their cousin, Julian Lodge, a royal vampire named Taggart who served as Julian’s bodyguard, the Seelie kings, his father’s chief advisor, a vampire Shim didn’t recognize, and the infamous Dante Dellacourt.
None of them looked happy, and it gave Shim a damn good idea of what his place was. He’d been left outside of the meeting. He’d been left with the women.
Queen Meg gave him a wisp of a smile. “If it helps at all, we were a bit earlier than we expected. I don’t think your father intended to leave you out.”
But his father was overly protective. His father still thought they were children, not thirty years old. He understood why. His father was still waiting for them to fade, to die because they refused to take a bondmate. King Fergus of the Unseelie didn’t believe it was possible that his sons had bonded with a woman on another plane. No one believed they had bonded with Bronwyn Finn as she lay dying.
They certainly wouldn’t believe that Shim and Lach had been the ones to bring her back to life, giving a piece of their soul and half of Lach’s face in return.
“Father isn’t interested in our counsel.” Shim was well aware of the bitter flavor to his words.
Lach stared down at him. “Well, it doesn’t help when half of us goes down to the beach and no one can find us.”
He knew he hadn’t helped things, but he hadn’t been able to resist. He’d woken this morning and he’d felt sunshine on his face. He’d smiled because it was a cloudy day here. But Bron could feel the sun, and he could feel her delight in it. He was suffused with her unique energy as she’d run through the fields.
He never got words, only images and feelings. But if he concentrated, if he went deep into himself and caught hold of the invisible thread that was always there in his brain, he could see through her eyes. It was how he’d known his sister was still alive.
His father didn’t believe that either.
“I’ll tell you about the men you don’t recognize if you’ll give me the lowdown on your party,” the queen offered.
Kaja had joined her queen, their closeness obvious. “I would like to know their names as well.”
Lach reached down and grabbed the mug from Duffy’s hand, taking a drink before handing it back. Again, if the queen was shocked that his brother would share with a gnome, she didn’t show it. What had she called Duffy? A third brother. The queen, it appeared, might make an interesting ally. Lach caught his eye and gave him an almost imperceptible nod. He was fine with sharing information.
“The man on my father’s right is named Maon. He’s been Da’s advisor since long before we were born. He’s been arguing that we should go to war with Torin the Pretender since we got the news of the coup.”
“Torin the Pretender?” Lach chuckled gruffly. “More like Torin the Fucking Asshole.”
Meg turned to Lach. “I rather like you.”
Lach shrugged. “Give it some time. I can probably change your mind.”
“Well, at least I know which one is which. It’s nice to meet you, Prince Lachlan.” She turned to Shim. “Prince Shim. Julian explained to us how the two of you split. I was told you’re the sweet one, and he’s the big ball of insecurity.”
Lach’s jaw dropped. “What?”
Kaja laughed. “He did not use such words, Meg. He spoke of Prince Shim’s gentle soul and Prince Lach’s gruffness.”
The queen sighed. “Yeah, well, I’ve been here and do this on a daily basis. Trust me, Kaj. The gruff one is always hiding his own insecurities. I bet that one there thinks his scars make him unattractive.”
Lach went a brutal shade of red. “I don’t talk about that. It’s rude for you to mention it.”
Queen Meg studied Lach for a moment, not a hint of distaste on her face. “See, I told you. And they don’t. They’re actually quite interesting. They give you character. What do you think, Kaj?”
A sly smile came over the brunette’s face. “I think he looks like a warrior. I find him very attractive. He is the First in this group. He simply hasn’t taken his place.”
But Shim needed to get back to something else that had been said. “I’m not gentle. For the gods’ sake, woman. Don’t be calling me such names. Do you want to insult me?”
“You are gentle, Shim.” Lach had a smile back on his face.
“I bloody well am not.”
“I got to agree,” Duffy added. “The last time you killed an ogre, you didn’t even eat the heart. Soft.”
“Ogre gives me indigestion.” He wasn’t soft. He fucking wasn’t. He just had trouble with his gut at times.
Kaja’s eyes went wide. “See, Meg, he got to eat the ogre.”
“No one’s eating ogres.” Dante Dellacourt slid an arm around his wife’s waist. “Put it out of your mind. And if I see you chasing the brownies, you’ll be over my lap.”
Dante Dellacourt was a celebrity in his world. Shim and Lach had spent some time on the Vampire plane. They had spent time being educated in more ways than one. They had gone to what the vampires called University, and they had been trained by their cousin, Julian, in the dark arts of Dominance and submission.
A vision of beautiful Bronwyn tied up and trussed for their pleasure crept over him.
“Don’t.” Lach leaned in, his harsh whisper pulling him out of his thoughts.
Sometimes having a twin who could practically read his mind was irritating.
“Come along, Kaj. We need to settle into our rooms. We’re going to have dinner in a bit. Your Highnesses, I look forward to meeting with you.” Dante led his wife away, but Kaja turned, giving them both a smile.
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