Sorcha Kelly lives her life on the edges of society, allowing her whims to take her where they will, feasting on new experiences as though she is at a sumptuous buffet. But one electrifying night with an intoxicating stranger leaves Sorcha with more than she bargained for – the power to make fire at will and an insatiable desire to find the man who upended her carefree life.
Torin has never planned to take a wife. As part of the Royal Court of the Fae, he’s neatly escaped the confines of marriage by refusing to allow any woman to get too close. And then there was Sorcha. Fiercely beautiful, mercurial and passionate, Torin shocked himself by claiming her as his own the first night they met.
Now, the Fire Fae have staged a revolt, wreaking havoc across Ireland and throwing the natural world out of balance. Torin must choose – find his fated mate – or save Ireland from impending doom?
Release date: August 1, 2022
Publisher: Lovewrite Publishing
Print pages: 258
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Melody of Flame
THE TRUE FATED MATES, Once shall meet. Standing at love’s gate, Their marriage complete. Unknown to both,
Their paths are chosen. They’ve taken the oath, Their hearts now spoken.
GOLDEN EYES, as though lit from within, stared at her through the flames of the bonfire. Sorcha Kelly prided herself on never stepping down from a challenge, so she met the man’s gaze dead on, lifting her chin in acknowledge- ment. A smile quirked his lips, and heat seared her core as he raised a hand and beckoned to her with one finger. Pushing her instant attraction aside, Sorcha raised an eyebrow in disdain. The man had another thing coming if he thought she’d answer to a summons of that nature.
Queen of her own destiny, Sorcha turned away from the
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fire, and followed the increasingly heavy beat of drums that made her insides thrum. The music was impossible to resist and Sorcha bounced to the rhythm as she made her way through the festival grounds, laughing as a random woman grabbed her hand and pulled her into an impromptu series of complicated Irish dance steps. Dance was Sorcha’s love language, and she fell naturally into step, laughing and tossing her cherry red curls over her shoulder. Music, laugh- ter, and creativity were her fuel, and this weekend’s festival for artists filled her soul.
Billed as the “Burning Man” of Ireland, the Ring of Fire Festival encouraged artists of all types to commune together for the weekend to create art that would set souls on fire. These types of events were like catnip to Sorcha, and she’d packed up Betty Blue, her trusty camper van, and made her way to the festival tucked in the Irish hills with her gear in tow. She’d freelanced for years in the performing arts, mainly in dance and acrobatics, but was currently working on a new skill that had piqued her interest – fire dancing.
The art had risen in popularity both with photographers and audiences who wanted live performances at their events. Sorcha had been booked for everything from weddings to photo shoots and was finally beginning to eke out a steady stream of income. For the first time in years, she was allowing herself to embrace her art, and her lifestyle, without the heavy weight of guilt placed on her from her family.
With six sisters, Sorcha was but an afterthought in a long line of disappointments for her father. She’d watched the rest of her siblings try to live up to his expectations and quickly realized it was a game she’d never win. She was fairly certain the only thing that could win her father’s approval would be if she could go back in time and be born
Melody of Flame Sample 3
a male. While she had many talents, time travel was not one of them, and she’d cut her losses and hit the road shortly after she came of age.
Oh, but she loved her life now! Sorcha laughed as the dancing woman plopped a kiss on her cheek, and she gave a small curtsy before wandering back to Betty Blue to fill her insulated cup with wine. Once there, she paused, leaning back against the cool steel of her car, and studied the scene.
The sun had long since descended, and the full moon shone brightly on the bonfires that dotted the hills. Fairy lights were strung up between campsites, and music and laughter rose to the gently sparkling stars above. Everybody here shared a common interest – to create – and the joy and love found among these people made Sorcha feel like she was burning from within. Aptly named, this festival, she mused as she took a sip of her wine.
“You ignored me.”
Sorcha jumped, wine sputtering from her lips, as she turned to see the golden-eyed man standing beside her. He’d approached as lightly as a breeze, and Sorcha took a few seconds to study him more closely to see if she could get a read on him. She’d traveled alone for years now, and her instincts had kept her safe thus far.
“Sure and you can’t be thinking that the way to a woman’s heart is to beckon her with a single finger?”
“Oh? Do you prefer to be the one who makes the demands?” The man gave her a silky grin. The light dancing in his golden eyes told Sorcha this exchange amused him.
“I do prefer to be in charge, thank you very much. Do you have a name then? Or shall I just call you a cheeky lion?”
At that the man threw his head back and laughed, the huskiness causing Sorcha’s toes to curl, and she found
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herself strangely entranced. While dressing in costume was encouraged for the festival, Sorcha got the impression that this man wore his regular clothes. Red leather pants, a fitted long-sleeve black t-shirt, and a tawny head of gold hair with gilded red highlights contributed to her impression of him looking like a lion. It was the eyes though, that made her take a second and then a third look. He must wear color contacts, and the effect his golden eyes had was both star- tling and arresting. Sorcha drew closer. Starkly handsome, with sharp cheekbones and a chiseled jaw, this man carried himself with a confidence that wouldn’t be easy for most men to pull off while wearing screaming-red leather pants.
“That would certainly be a first. My name is Torin. And what is yours, my enchantress?” The words purred from his lips, their heat searing straight to her core.
“Sorcha.” She took a sip of her wine, as her throat had gone dry, while Torin studied her with the same intensity with which she watched him.
“And isn’t that the perfect name for a woman of your nature? I find you impossibly beautiful.”
The words, simply delivered, struck Sorcha with their sincerity. Tears threatened, and she forced herself to break his gaze and look over at the festival for a moment. Quirky? Yes. Interesting. Most definitely. But beautiful? No, Sorcha had never fallen prey to those types of compliments before. While it might be just another line to get her into bed, the conviction with which his words were delivered resonated deeply within her.
“Are your eyes real?” Sorcha turned once more to Torin.
His lips quirked, the sulky half-smile that had captured her interest across the fire before, and he reached out a hand.
“Dance with me?”
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“See if you can keep up,” Sorcha said, raising her chin in a challenge once more. Downing her wine, she tucked the cup behind the wheel of Betty Blue and grabbed Torin’s hand. A shock of heat rippled through her, and she gasped when his hand tightened on hers instead of releasing. Turn- ing, she met his eyes in the moonlight and read the invita- tion held there.
Sorcha swallowed, not ready for the question he posed, and instead pulled him into a circle of people who danced around a large bonfire to a haunting Celtic melody. The pipers stepped forward, increasing the speed of the song, and Sorcha closed her eyes to catch the beat. Torin’s hands circled her waist, and then he pulled her into his arms. Sorcha floated along, allowing herself to be pulled into a fluid dance, the heat of his touch invigorating.
Time seemed to slow, as they fell into an ancient rhythm where music propelled them forward, twisting and turning, their bodies brushing, their gazes caught on each other. Torin matched Sorcha step for step, challenging her with his movements, his tawny eyes searing hers. As the night drew long, Sorcha found herself caught in whatever spell he was casting.
The flames will dance,
Fire lights the dark,
To give love a chance,
Takes only a spark.
His voice husky, his eyes clouded with lust and some-
thing much more tender, Torin traced a finger over her lips as he sang. Intoxicated with him, Sorcha accepted his hand when he drew her back to Betty Blue, where she found herself pulling him onto her bed, twining her body around his as sinuously as they had danced together. Caught in a spell, the two feasted on each other’s bodies, the pulsing of
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the drums mirroring the pulsing of their hearts, as lust and fire drove their most intimate of dances. Flames licked through Sorcha’s veins, desire all but smothering her, as she met Torin’s appraising gaze as he took her mouth once more. Light flashed, and Sorcha started, but Torin took her under once more, drawing her attention back to his touch. Only near dawn, once sated, did they fall apart, gasping for breath.
Sorcha blinked at the ceiling of her van, where she’d tacked up a hauntingly beautiful print of the sun slashing her fiery rays across a stormy sea, and turned to speak to...
Torin was gone. Gasping, Sorcha sat up and clasped her shirt to her naked chest, a trickle of sweat slipping down her back. Had she imagined the whole encounter? Her mind scrambled to make sense of the last few hours, for every- thing in her screamed that her meeting with Torin had been real.
Heat spread along her palm, to the point of pain, and a deep-rooted urge compelled Sorcha to open her hand. When a single flicker of flame, no larger than that from a small candle, winked to life and hovered over her palm, Sorcha closed her eyes against the panic that threatened.
Had she danced with the wrong man that night?
THE SIGHT of Mother Jones Flea Market always made Sorcha’s heart sing. When she had time, she loved nothing more than an afternoon filled with digging through stalls to find a curious trinket or a vintage outfit to be used in her act. With her schedule, Sorcha found she only made her way through Cork about once a month these days, but she always made time for a stop at Mother Jones. A smattering of cheerful posies framed the dark blue entryway, and familiar excitement welled as she entered the building. The scent of cedar mixed with vanilla from a candle burning cheerfully on the front counter hung in the air, and Sorcha beamed at one of the regulars who worked there.
“Hi, Sorcha. Have a new gig you’re working then?”
“Hiya, Talia. I’ve got a wedding booked for later tonight. But I am working on a new routine. I’m not sure what I want to add to it yet...but I’m thinking either a hoop or a baton...” Sorcha pursed her lips and tilted her head as she thought about it. Idly, she reached out and ran her hand over a wool scarf that hung around the neck of a fake stuffed sheep.
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“And you’ll be lighting a perfectly good piece of art on fire? Is that what I’m hearing?” Talia mock glared at her.
“No, no...I promise. I would never light a vintage piece on fire.” Sorcha raised a hand as though she was taking an oath. “I’m thinking more for the acrobatics side of things. Tonight, I’ll be working with fire but also doing various poses...I believe in a life-size martini glass? I have to scope it out when I get there. They wanted a circus-themed wedding. Something about how the last moment the bride had with her father was at the circus. I believe it’s their way of incorporating him in their special day.”
“Well, that certainly sounds fun now, doesn’t it then? Imagine that...” Talia shook her head. “A circus wedding.”
“I’m happy so long as I get paid,” Sorcha chuckled. “But I do like performing at weddings as the mood is generally a pretty happy one.”
“Well, a fresh lot just came in yesterday and was unpacked this morning. I haven’t gotten around to catego- rizing it all yet, but a few of the sellers are wandering around and placing their bits and pieces in their stalls. Let me know if you find a showstopper in there – I’d love to see what your ideas for it are.”
“Sure, and I’ll do that. I have a good feeling about today.” Sorcha rubbed her hands together in anticipation. Thrifting was a sport to her, and a steady hum of adrenaline filled her as she began to wander the narrow rows among the stalls. The market was set up so that individual sellers could each have their own space to showcase their wares, and it created a jumbled – and happy, in Sorcha’s opinion – space filled with all sorts of treasures.
“No way,” Sorcha breathed, bounding to a clothing rack. A sequined motorcycle jacket hung on a padded hanger, and Sorcha immediately slipped her purse and her coat off
Melody of Flame Sample 9
and dropped them unceremoniously on the floor. She slid her arms into the sleeves of the jacket and turned to stand in front of a dusty full-length mirror. The jacket fit her almost perfectly, though the arms were a little slouchy. Sorcha shoved the sleeves up, rolling them a bit, and turned back and forth to study it from various angles. Rose-gold sequins covered the sleeves and the back of the jacket, and the trim was made of worn grey leather. Sorcha fluffed out her hair – still the brilliant cherry red from the dye job she’d done herself – and studied her reflection. She was a tiny thing, with nary an ounce of extra fat on her due to long days of dance and acrobatics training. If she cut her hair short, Sorcha was certain she’d pass for a boy. Straight up and down, with the smallest hint of curve at the waist, Sorcha was slim, all muscle, and always bouncing on her heels. Energy always seemed to crackle through her, and she greeted life with enthusiasm and a smile, doing her best to bury the tough parts that would steal her joy.
“I wouldn’t normally go with this pink color with my hair...” Sorcha said out loud.
“IT WORKS,” Talia called to her, sealing Sorcha’s decision. With a peek at the price tag, the heavily discounted coat was quickly added to her bag. Thrilled with the find, though she hadn’t gone in to look for jackets, Sorcha grabbed her coat and purse from the floor and wandered to the back of the market where the doors to the storage room were. There, several people milled about, cutting open boxes and unwrapping items.
Sorcha turned at the words, a ripple of awareness moving across her skin, her pulse kicking up. She’d never
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learned Irish, skipping out on the summer classes that her sisters had attended, so the meaning of the word was lost on her. A man stood in a shadowy corner, by a stack of half unpacked boxes, wearing a woven emerald-green cloak. Perhaps this man was a gamer, for his getup had a live action roleplay feel to it. He looked like he was about to embark upon an epic quest, and Sorcha’s lips curved. She truly loved weird people, and proudly categorized herself as one, so she was more than happy to wander to his area.
“I didn’t catch what you said, sir.” Sorcha tilted her head, trying to see the man’s face, but his hood was pulled so low that she could only catch a glint of silvery eyes. The items on the table beside him didn’t seem to match his vibe, and Sorcha squinted at the rose-patterned tea set on the antique side table.
Looking back up, Sorcha’s mouth dropped open at the staff the man held out to her. Excitement thrummed through her as she reached for the staff...or was it a walking stick? No, it was definitely a staff – like the one a wizard would brandish high up on a mountain cliff as he over- looked his village far below. Intricately carved with stunning Celtic knot-work, the top showcased a worn gold heart the size of her hand, which also incorporated the same delicate knot-work design. Sorcha’s mouth went dry.
She needed this staff. Already her mind was bouncing ahead to all the ways she could use it in her performances, and the heart at the top would be particularly nice for when she was performing at weddings. Yes, this was exactly the item she’d been looking for today, and her smile widened.
“Absolutely brilliant. What a beautiful staff. How much is it? Is it quite expensive? I suppose it must be for this craftsmanship.” Sorcha pressed her lips together as her
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hands closed around the staff. Two things happened simul- taneously – the lights blinked out and heat raced up Sorcha’s arm as though she had put her hand on an electric fence. Okay, perhaps that was a bit dramatic as she didn’t go flying across the room or anything like that, but she did get a sharp shock.
“Och,” Sorcha said, transferring the staff to her other hand. She shook her palm. “Sure, and that’s some nasty static electricity here.” Voices rose across the room and Sorcha blinked in surprise when the light returned. The man in the green cloak was gone.
“Well now, where’d he get on to? I didn’t even hear him leave.” Sorcha looked over her shoulder to scan the room. A few people glanced around in confusion before returning to unpacking the boxes. Unsure if she should put the staff back, or if she should take it with her, Sorcha paused and considered.
She leaned the staff against the table and let go of it – deciding that she would go ask Talia about this seller. However, the minute she turned, she was hit with a wave of dread so awful, that her stomach twisted, and she held a hand to her mouth for fear of vomiting. Turning back, she eyed the staff. Taking a step closer, Sorcha noticed the sick- ening feeling lessened. When she reached out and trailed a finger over the intricate carvings, the sick feeling dissipated completely.
“Right, then.” Sorcha closed her eyes and steadied her breathing. The last man to disappear in front of her had forever changed her life – opening her mind to new worlds and possibilities – and now she wondered if this was connected to her chance meeting with Torin.
She still dreamed of him.
As time passed, Sorcha’s dreams about Torin had inten-
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sified, instead of lessening, to the point where either she looked forward to sleep each night to see him once more or she drank herself into oblivion to escape the clutches this man had on her heart. The dreams were...well, it was like she was being wooed in real time. They picnicked together, they spoke of their interests, they traveled, they danced in dimly lit night clubs. It was as though she knew this man – what made him laugh, what made him wince, what annoyed him...and yet, he wasn’t real. Not really. Because she couldn’t find him, could she? Which was why some nights, she drank just a little too much so that she could escape Torin’s visits in her dreams. Not only had he master- fully seduced her in a way that no other had, but he’d left her with an ability that she’d yet to find an explanation for. Even now, holding this staff, Sorcha could feel the thrum of power cascade through her body – like an inner river of light – and she’d honed her skill over the past two years to be able to produce fire at will.
It still astounded her, but this newfound ability had also served to make her one of the most sought-after performing artists in Ireland. Sorcha was careful not to reveal her gift or her curse...depending on how one looked at it. But after coming to terms with having, well, magick, she’d quickly decided to use it to her advantage.
“That’s a beauty, isn’t it then?”
She jumped as Talia spoke from behind her.
“It is. The seller is an odd fellow, isn’t he then? What
with the cloak and all?” Sorcha turned, staff in hand.
“Not sure who you’re meaning, doll. But I’ll ring it up for
you. I’m certain we’ve got a record of it somewhere.”
“He told me it was a gift.” Sorcha surprised herself with her words. She was honest to a fault, never wanting to take advantage of someone. But she knew that she wouldn’t be
Melody of Flame Sample 13
able to afford the price on this staff, and it absolutely needed to be leaving the shop with her today.
“Did he? Well, isn’t that generous?” Talia shrugged. “Well, let’s mark it down anyway and I’ll get your phone number just in case there’s any issues, yeah?”
“Sure and that’s grand. I was surprised myself,” Sorcha admitted, carrying the staff to the front of the flea market. Even when she leaned it against the counter to dig in her bag for the sequined jacket, Sorcha found she didn’t like taking her hands off the cane.
“That jacket is to die for. Great finds today.” Talia pulled out a notebook and made a few notes before tapping away at the computer. “I don’t see a listing for the staff, or frankly, a seller’s name. But that sometimes happens when we get a fresh lot of items in. Can I grab your phone number?”
Sorcha hesitated, surprised that she wanted to give a fake number, but then forced herself to give the right phone number. She wasn’t a liar, and if this belonged to someone else, well, that was just the way of things. She’d have to accept it. But for now? It was coming back to Betty Blue with her.
“What will you do with the stick? Twirl it like a baton?” Talia asked, after she’d given the change to Sorcha.
“I’m not yet sure, to be honest. It’s just too pretty to resist though, isn’t it? I’m thinking I’ll have to watch some videos of dancers with a cane and see if I can incorporate it.”
“Is that what you do then? To get new ideas?”
“Oh, for sure. I YouTube everything. There’s so much history in dance and performing arts. Remember, there’s no new story lines – not really. They’re just told in different ways. It’s the same with dance and performance. I look to the past and then put my own spin on it.”
“Well, it sounds fab. Have fun!” Someone called to Talia
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from the back of the market, and she scurried away with a little goodbye wave for Sorcha. Sorcha grabbed the staff and all but ran from the market, feeling both elated and nervous over her find.
A part of her heart – the part she tried to ignore – hoped that maybe it was a gift from Torin. A man whom she’d never really gotten over – and one that she still searched for.
One day she’d find him again – and, when she did – he’d have some explaining to do.
“DONAL, I don’t have time for this. We’re needed. The Fire Fae are revolting, and we have to figure out why before they torch all of Ireland.”
“Sure and we have a bit of time for fun now, don’t we?” Donal, Torin’s right-hand man flashed a grin from around a thin cigarillo. The acrid smoke hovered in the air, heavy with the promise of rain, and the lingering threads of twilight cast a warm glow over the arched red door of the pub. Torin had found Donal there, regaling the locals with tall tales, and making eyes at more than one pretty lady who’d wandered through the doors. Torin’s impatience grew as he waited his friend out, knowing full well that he needed Donal’s support in subduing the Fire Fae.
“Fun? You’ve been having fun for weeks now. I’ve barely had a minute with you in months. I can’t say you’ve been particularly on point with your duties, either.”
Wounded, Donal brought a hand to his heart, but the cheeky glimmer in his eyes showed Torin he wasn’t too bothered about the criticism.
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“You’re always on about ‘duty this’ and ‘duty that’ – when do you ever relax?”
“When the world isn’t burning down around us?” Torin threw up his hands. “Sure and you know that I’m always up for a bit of a party when I can. But now’s not the time. I need your help, Donal. The Domnua are near, and they are stir- ring up trouble with all the Elemental Fae. I don’t think this is the time to be treading lightly.”
“So? Go on, then.” Donal shrugged, and dropped his cigarillo to the ground, tamping it out with the sole of his leather boot.
“What’s with you lately?” Torin asked. As Royal Court Advisor to the Fire Fae, Torin was in charge of overseeing all aspects of the Fire Fae’s world, making sure they followed the rules set forth for the Elementals by the Danula, while also ensuring their needs were met and provided for. In doing so, the Danula Fae were able to keep a healthy balance to the natural order of the world and the humans were none the wiser for it.
Until the Domnua, also known as the Dark Fae, had decided to crawl out from their pitiful realm and cause trou- ble. Now Torin was faced with making sure the Fire Fae didn’t switch allegiances from his people to the Dark Fae, and – oh right – stop them from burning down Ireland in the process. Donal was almost as powerful as Torin, though he lacked some accuracy in his magicks, and had proven through the years to be an adept and helpful addition to his team. But lately? He’d been gone more often than not, and Torin had allowed the absences because he understood that everyone needed to blow off steam from time to time.
“Don’t you ever get tired of being at the beck and call of the queen?” Donal surprised Torin by asking.
Torin studied his friend, sensing something deeper
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lurking beneath the question, and took his time answering. Leaning back against the stone wall of the pub, Torin glanced up as a few fat drops of rain splattered to the street in front of him. Relief filled him as he scanned the murky clouds that hung low on the horizon. The Fire Fae, while magick, still couldn’t break the rules of Elemental Law. Which meant that a solid rain would put out many of the small fires they’d begun in protest just that morning. If they continued to light fires in protest, Torin would be forced to call on Nolan, the leader of the Water Fae, in a counterat- tack, and soon they’d have an all-out Elemental war on their hands.
Which is exactly what the Dark Fae wanted, Torin mused. It was just their style. Create chaos, wreak havoc, and in the middle of said confusion, make a play for power. The Danula needed to stop this uprising before it exploded into something that the Goddesses would weep over.
“She is chosen by the Goddess Danu to lead our people and she does so with a firm and fair hand,” Torin said, returning to the conversation.
“Sisters.” Donal made a small tsking noise with his mouth, before drawing his eyes up to the sky. “So much fighting because two sisters couldn’t get along.”
Torin raised an eyebrow at that. The complicated history of Goddess Domnu and Goddess Danu was rife with legends, betrayal, and centuries-old curses that were forged in the beginnings of their worlds. To sum it up as something so simple as two sisters having an argument was...well, it was concerning to say the least.
“Goddess Danu has shown herself time and again to be on the side of the light. She wants our people to thrive, as well as to protect the humans from the harm that could come to them if the Dark Fae infiltrate this world. She trusts
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us with enforcing that the natural balance of both worlds is not upset or used for evil. Think how many lives have been saved because of Danu and the Danula Fae who follow her.”
“Maybe it would have been wiser to just let everyone fight it out and fend for themselves.” Donal straightened, and pulled another cigarillo from a small leather pouch, glancing around before lighting it with a small flame from the tip of his finger. He shot Torin a devilish look. “You know...survival of the fittest and all.”
Torin released the breath he’d been holding, seeing now that Donal was just winding him up a bit.
“Maybe. I, for one, am grateful that is not how it has played out. We’ve lived a nice life, relatively free of dark days, and I can’t say that would be the same if the Dark Fae roamed freely here, as they wish to do.” Torin circled a finger in the air at the street. “While we find humans endlessly entertaining and resilient, I fear the Dark Fae do not. And then where would you be without the pretty lass with the wistful eyes who was smiling at you this evening?”
“Sure and that’s a point in our favor now, isn’t it? The ability to come here at will when we like,” Donal grinned.
“Not all of us, as you know the Fae can become addicted to humans. But enough of us slip through to monitor the way of things. The Dark Fae do as well. We need to find their portals, but they move them so frequently.”
“Look...” Donal raised his chin at where a stream of cars pulled into a parking lot across the street. People got out and, with a glance to the sky, raced inside, as laughter and shouts carried on the wind to them. “It’s a wedding. The blonde lass with the mournful eyes is singing at it tonight. Shall we go? I do love a good party.”
“Donal. We’re needed...” Torin trailed off as the skies opened and rain exploded from the clouds in an outpouring
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that could only be described as violent – or exuberant – depending on how one thought about rain. Torin would choose exuberant, because that was exactly how he felt, knowing that the rain would quench the fires that the Fire Fae had set in protest.
“Come on, mate. I need this. One night of fun and then I’m all yours. I’ll go with you to talk the Fire Fae down. You know they love me and I’m sure that whatever is upsetting them is something that can be remedied easily.”
Duty warred with friendship, and Torin paused as he thought it over. It had been a while since he and Donal had spent any real time together, let alone a night where they weren’t discussing anything that had to do with their royal duties. They’d been friends longer than he’d been a Royal Court Advisor, and there was something to be said for that deep-rooted bond. Because Donal hadn’t been as present as of late, and had seemed a touch off, Torin decided that tonight friendship would win out. If anything, it would make their royal duties easier moving forward if he could reconnect with Donal and strengthen their bond once more.
“Alright, mate. One night. Let’s have ourselves a pint or three and maybe you’ll get the moody-eyed one to sing just for you.” Torin slung an arm around Donal’s shoulders, relieved to see a genuine grin widen his friend’s face.
“It’s not me who has trouble making the ladies sing,” Donal elbowed Torin in the side and Torin fake doubled- over before darting with Donal through the rain. Laughing, Torin cloaked them in Fae magick as they slipped through the doors and into a large reception room decorated with thousands of string lights, dangling metal discs, and minia- ture disco balls that caused light to dance across the room in an almost dizzying array of sparkle.
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“It’s amazing what the humans can do without magick,” Torin said.
“Right? Their ingenuity is fascinating to me. A whiskey for us then?” Donal spied the bar.
“Let’s.” Torin followed Donal through the throngs of people who were moving around the room, finding tables, and grabbing food from waiters passing by with trays in their hands. The mood was lively, as befitted a wedding, and more than one woman gave Torin an appreciative smile which he ignored. Donal could have the lasses tonight, as Torin didn’t really have the time nor inclination for women in his life at the moment – not when the Dark Fae were stir- ring up trouble. But, if he was being honest with himself, something he rarely tried to do and was relegated to the deep hours of the night after several rounds of whiskey, only one woman would do for him.
Her name alone caused heat to throb through his veins. He’d left her that morning – that fated night sealing their bond – not out of callousness but out of sheer self-preserva- tion. Torin had been wholly and thoroughly unprepared for what had transpired between them. Since then, he’d searched for her, often hearing her song call to him in his dreams but had never been able to find her when awake. That also annoyed him. Torin had strong magick and tracking a human – particularly one he’d claimed – should have been no issue for him. And yet. Sorcha must not have wanted to be found.
The single fact that he couldn’t find her after all this time made Torin think that perhaps Sorcha wasn’t human like he’d first thought. Perhaps she, too, danced in another realm and evaded him with ease due to her own powers. He had questions, and someday, Sorcha would provide answers.
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In the time since, however, his attraction for other women had become all but obsolete, and Torin had been with no other women since her. Not that he’d tell Donal that partic- ular fact, or he’d be the brunt of his jokes all night.
Humans had a tendency to naturally gravitate toward a Fae, whether they were aware of the Fae being a magickal being or not. Most weren’t, as the Fae didn’t reveal them- selves lightly, and instead the humans were granted a night of passion they’d remember forever. In some ways, Torin likened it to cats pouncing on toys with catnip inside of them. There was something about Fae magick that entranced the humans, and Torin would be lying if he said he hadn’t enjoyed the benefits of that a time or two in the past.
“One for down the hatch, one for mingling...” Donal held up a glass of honey-colored liquid to Torin. They tapped their glasses.
“Sláinte,” Torin said.
“What is the folly of humans that they toast to their health while they drink poison?” Donal asked. Alcohol had a different effect on the Fae. While they enjoyed the benefits of it, rarely would it cause extreme drunkenness and their bodies were better suited to processing the toxin than humans.
“I suppose it is the same as those who dance while the world is burning...” Torin shot Donal a heavy look, but his friend merely threw his head back and laughed.
“Och, mate, we need to find you a lady tonight. You’re wound too tightly. Let’s mingle.”
Torin replaced the empty glass with a full, smiling his thanks at the bartender, and followed Donal as the first notes of music filled the hall. A cheer rose as the bride and groom walked out onto the dance floor, the bride in a cotton-candy
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poof of a dress, her joy evident on her pretty face. Something about the way the groom looked at his bride tugged at Torin’s heart, and he turned away, uncomfortable with this display of affection. It wasn’t love he sought anymore, it was relief from the dreams that plagued him. If he couldn’t have Sorcha, at the very least, a good night’s sleep would do. Instead, she invaded his dreams each night, leaving him aching each morning, and he had grown bitter toward the possibility of new love.
An hour later, even Torin had to admit that the couple’s happiness was infectious. Almost the entire party had stayed on the dance floor, and even though he wasn’t inclined to take a lady home with him that evening, Torin had danced with almost every woman in attendance. He loved to dance, as did most Fae, the beat of the music moving through him so naturally that he barely had to think about his next step as he did his best to keep up with Donal who fed him a steady stream of drinks. The night had taken on a warm glow, and the hanging lights sparkled over the crowd when the music stopped.
“And for a special surprise...” The band leader’s voice fell away. Time slowed. A shiver of awareness rippled across Torin’s skin, and his gaze narrowed onto the one thing he ached for but could not have. Until now.
She walked confidently onto the stage, as though she was born for it, an inviting smile on her lustrous face. Light exploded from her, reflecting off her sequined costume, and her flame-red hair dropped in long coils down her back. She looked like a candle that had lit itself. She needed no man to give her light – for she was her own flame. Torin was halfway across the room before he even realized he was moving.
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Her words at the microphone were lost to the thrum- ming in his ears, and he only stopped when Donal moved in front of him, his friend’s face filled with awe.
“She’s magnificent,” Donal said and Torin’s lip curled.
“You’ll not touch her.” It was but a whisper and lost to the music that swelled in the room as Sorcha stepped forward and performed a complicated dance maneuver with a large hoop before swinging herself inside of it. The crowd gasped as Sorcha whirled on stage, a spinning delight of sparkles and elegance, and when the hoop erupted in fire the crowd gasped. Still, she twirled, her lithe body hung suspended in an endless loop of flames and flashing sequins, and Torin couldn’t pull his eyes away. She was everything. His madness. His future.
His fated mate.
Torin barely restrained himself from jumping on stage and carrying her away that instant. Ignoring Donal, he wound his way around the dance floor and through a small side door that led to the back of the stage. He needed to speak with her as much as he needed his next breath, and Torin couldn’t be sure how she would react when she saw him.
He owed her an explanation. One he wasn’t sure he even knew how to give.
Sorcha swung through the curtains, a smile lingering at her lips, sweat caressing her brow. Her mouth dropped open when she saw him.
“Torin,” Sorcha gasped.
“Wife.” Torin shocked them both by saying. Wife? Where had that come from? Mentally kicking himself, Torin made to step forward as confusion slid across Sorcha’s stun- ning face.
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A scream tore through the crowd as Donal burst through the stage door.
“Domnua,” Donal panted, his eyes landing on Sorcha. A gleam entered Donal’s eyes, causing the hair at Torin’s neck to stand up, and he stepped in front of Sorcha.
“Go. We must protect the humans.”
“And what of this one?” Donal’s eyes were still trained over Torin’s shoulder on Sorcha.
“I’ve got her.” Torin’s voice held a warning, one which Donal heeded, before disappearing through the same door which he’d first come through.
“Fire!” Another scream from the crowd, and Torin turned to grab Sorcha and drag her to safety.
Her hoop lay on the floor, a few rogue sequins from her costume glinting in the dim light, the space where she once stood now empty.
IT WAS ONLY INSTINCT that had Sorcha turning and running at the first screams, for if she had allowed her brain – or her heart – to catch up, she’d have been frozen to the spot.
The shock of seeing him once again, after countless nights of dreaming of him, his taste still fresh on her lips, had caused her heart to spill open. Desperate with need, she’d wanted nothing more than to cross to him and throw herself in his arms. It was as though an invisible thread connected the two, and the force with which she wanted him stopped her from crossing to him. That and the complete pandemonium that erupted in the reception hall.
What was he doing here?
Sorcha dashed into the crowd instead of away from the building, following her natural instinct to help others. She coughed against a wall of smoke that hit her, thick and vile, and automatically she covered her mouth with her hand. Sweat dripped down her brow and her eyes widened at the sight that greeted her.
The curtains of the stage she’d just performed on raged
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with flames, and one side had already dropped to the stage, covering the band equipment and causing a loud pop to shake the room as sparks flew from an exposed electrical cord. The crowd was cut in half, clustered around the exits, and several people shouted for calm as people rushed to escape the inferno. Tears flooded Sorcha’s eyes as she scanned the room searching for anyone left who might need help.
They would think this was her fault.
She’d been the one to use flames on stage, hadn’t she? It was the only explanation, and likely a viable one. Though Sorcha was exceedingly careful when performing with fire, who was to say if a rogue spark had landed upon the curtains? There was no other explanation really, and fear gripped Sorcha as she simultaneously realized two things.
Her career was over.
And evil was near.
Her lungs seized as she gasped for another breath
through the smoke, but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from where sinuous silvery beings slid through the crowd, hunting for all intents and purposes, knocking over tables and grabbing terrified humans before tossing them aside like bags of trash. Sorcha gasped as one woman skidded across the floor and banged her head against the bar, going limp. Without another thought, Sorcha raced past the silvery beings and crouched to where the woman lay huddled on the floor.
“You have to get up,” Sorcha gasped, shaking the woman’s shoulder. Turning the woman, Sorcha gasped to see she was easily eighty years old, and blood trickled from a cut on her forehead. The woman moaned, blinking up at her, and Sorcha did the only thing she could do. Crouching, she gathered the woman into a fireman’s hold and pulled
Melody of Flame Sample 27
her over her shoulder. Many people underestimated Sorcha’s strength, because she was just a little thing. But years of training had filled her slim body with sleek muscles, and she used those to her advantage now, hurrying to the door with the woman over her shoulder.
By some stroke of luck, she made it through the now empty doors and into blessedly cool night air, where people huddled in groups in the parking lot.
This, a shout from the bride, and soon Sorcha felt the weight of the woman removed from her shoulders. Straight- ening, she gasped, welcoming the night air like a soothing balm into her burning lungs.
“You saved her.” The bride wept openly in front of Sorcha as a group carried the woman away.
“I couldn’t leave her. I need to...” Sorcha struggled with her words, glancing back to the reception hall. She took a few more shaky deep breaths. “I have to go see...to make sure...”
“You can’t be going back in.” The bride grasped her arm. “That’s madness.”
“I have to make sure that nobody else...”
“You can’t. You’ll die.”
“But what if I...if it’s my...” Sorcha couldn’t even say the
words, but the bride saw the pain in her eyes.
“It’s an accident. The fire brigade is almost here. Listen
to the sirens...”
“I’m sorry. I can’t stay. I have to know.” Sorcha wrenched
her arm from the bride’s grasp and raced back inside, ignoring the shouts of warning behind her. She’d never live with herself if someone were to die this night because of her own mistakes. Grabbing a napkin from a table by the door, Sorcha doused it in a pitcher of water and tied the dripping
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fabric over the bottom half of her face. She dropped in a crouch to the floor of the smoke-filled room to try and see any bodies that might be lying on the floor. Slowly, she crab- crawled across the room, trying to see under the tables, hoping not to spot anyone else left behind.
“Oh!” Sorcha exclaimed as the sprinkler system kicked in, water exploding from the ceiling, instantly drenching her as sirens wailed. Had it only been minutes since she’d run from the stage? Either there was a delay in the fire safety system, or the seconds had felt like hours. Straightening, Sorcha wiped at the water that blasted her face as she tried to make sense of what was happening on the dance floor.
A group of men – the same men who had darted through the crowd – surrounded Torin. Fear clutched Sorcha, its icy claws digging in her gut, and she moved to take a step forward when an arm circled her waist. Turning to wrench herself away, Sorcha froze when the arm tight- ened, and a hand covered her mouth tightly.
“Shh, darling. You’ll distract him.”
Sorcha slid her eyes to the face that hovered near hers. It was the man who had burst onto the stage seconds before she’d registered that the room was on fire. Torin had spoken to him as a friend, hadn’t he? She relaxed slightly, under- standing his words to be true. Sorcha knew as well as any how the slightest distraction – or miscalculation – could result in injury. It was why she forced herself to train in a room full of other athletes, teaching herself a level of focus that wouldn’t allow for mistakes.
Mistakes like lighting a wedding on fire.
Her gut churned, sickness rising in her throat, as the oddly glowing men circled Torin. What was this trick of the eyes that made them glow that way? Was it the smoke that still hung heavy in the air? Sorcha stiffened when one man
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darted forward and Torin caught him in the side with a dagger, already moving forward to handle the next man who jumped at him. It was a fluid and effortless dance, or so it seemed to Sorcha, as Torin dodged blow after blow, twisting and turning so that his knife did more damage than she’d ever seen before. She choked against the man’s hand, trying to pull her face aside so she could drag more air into her screaming lungs. The men...their blood.
Their blood was silver.
Surely she was hallucinating by now – an aftereffect of smoke inhalation perhaps – as the men would explode in bursts of silver liquid when Torin impaled them. She must have inhaled more smoke than she’d realized, as surely her mind was playing tricks on her. There was no way a man would just disintegrate on sight, not from a single blow to the body, which meant...
A warning cry had her eyes darting to the left, where a slew of silvery men poured from the backstage door.
“No, no, no,” Sorcha gasped, finally managing to wrench her mouth away from the man’s hand. “He’ll be killed. There’s too many.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. He’s got strong magick, our Torin.”
Magick. The words landed dully in her mind, as though her brain was fuzzy from sleep and still trying to decipher dreams from reality. A shiver of anticipation rippled through her as the man’s words fully registered and she remembered Torin’s comment before all hell had broken loose.
Wife. He’d called her his wife. The surprise on his face had likely mirrored her own, and now Sorcha’s mind scrambled to keep up with the pandemonium that erupted in front of her as well as the implication of what the man holding her had just said. She wished she could process all of this at her own pace,
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because it was as though her brain had locked up, refusing to accept, refusing to move forward, so all she could do was stare at the battle that raged between one man and hundreds of...
“What are you?” Sorcha whispered.
“You don’t know? I’m surprised by that, darling. We’re Fae, of course.”
The truth of it slammed into Sorcha so hard that little spots danced in front of her eyes, and she had to force herself to take shallow breaths to calm her racing heart.
“Though she be but little, she is fierce.” Sorcha whis- pered her favorite Shakespeare quote to herself, a phrase she’d contemplated getting tattooed on her wrist. The words calmed her, forcing her to take stock of the situation. Panic wouldn’t save her this day, but her own street smarts could. “We need to help him.”
“I don’t think he’ll need it. Maybe. We’ll see how this plays out.” The man seemed wholly unconcerned about the possibility that his friend might get hurt.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Donal, Torin’s fellow advisor. We’re Royals, well, he’s Head Advisor to the Fire Fae.”
“The...Fire...” Sorcha’s words were but a whisper as she looked down at her own hands. Fire. Torin had gifted her with fire the night they’d been together. Never once had she considered using her newfound power to harm another, but now she might. Her teeth clamped as the new wave of silver men...well, Fae, she guessed, surrounded Torin and attacked. This time, he didn’t rely upon his dagger, instead unleashing a wave of magick that disintegrated the inner circle immediately in an explosion of silvery blood.
“Why didn’t he do that before?” Sorcha demanded.
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“Magick requires a give and take. When you pull from the universe, you have to be careful how much you use and how often. It can upset the balance of things.”
“But...if it’s necessary?” Sorcha pressed her lips together, worry for Torin filling her.
“Who gets to say what is necessary? What is just? Do you think the Dark Fae don’t have families? Don’t know how to love?”
“I can’t say, as until about a minute ago I didn’t know any Fae existed, let alone all different kinds.”
“That’s foolish of you,” Donal said, causing Sorcha to snap her head around and meet his dark eyes.
“You’re Irish, aren’t you? It’s not uncommon for talk of the Fae to run through Irish stories.”
“Myths,” Sorcha insisted, turning back to where Torin blasted through another wave of Dark Fae. “They were supposed to be just myths.”
“There’s always truth in legends, darling.”
The way he called her darling sent a shiver through Sorcha and she moved to step away, but his arm stayed tight at her waist.
“Let me go. I’m over my initial shock.”
“You’re safer here.”
“You should be helping him. We both should be.”
Sorcha tugged at his arm, but it was like a vice across her waist. Fury at being restrained rippled through her and Sorcha reached for the power that hummed through her. Closing her palms around his arms, for the first time ever, she used her power to harm.
“Damn it.” Donal dropped his arms and Sorcha darted away, putting space between them. Sirens sounded from
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outside as the Fire Brigade arrived and shouts from the parking lot carried as the doors to outside opened.
The Dark Fae turned in unison, the shouts alerting them to humans, and their gazes landed on Sorcha at once. She could feel the moment they shifted their intentions, moving as though they were of one mind, bearing down upon her. Sorcha lifted her arms, calling upon her power once more, only to gasp when she was grabbed from behind.
“Donal! Protect her!” Torin yelled over the din of commotion and the shouts of the Fire Brigade, as the Dark Fae advanced.
But Donal did nothing, instead allowing the Dark Fae to swirl around them, surrounding them. As one, the circle of silvery men turned their backs to Sorcha, looking out to Torin, and a sickening feeling filled her stomach as she real- ized what was happening.
“Torin. Run.” Sorcha didn’t know if she screamed it with her mind or out loud, but Torin heard her. For a second, she saw the pain of betrayal flash across his face as he looked over her shoulder at Donal before disappearing into thin air as the Dark Fae sent a wave of magick across the reception hall, shattering glasses and splintering tables.
“Why?” Sorcha demanded, raising her hands, but a strange sucking sensation pulled at her body. Dizziness overwhelmed her, and then she knew no more.
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