Relentless, p.31
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       Relentless, p.31
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         Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch

  Chapter 21

  “LOOK, DADDY! I can go all the way around without falling now.”

  “That’s great, honey!” Daddy watched as I skated in a wide circle around him. I made my way over to him on wobbly legs, and he caught me just before I fell. “Whoa, slow down there, Gretzky.”

  “I’m cold. Can we go get hot chocolate now?” I asked him hopefully, and he grinned down at me.

  “Of course! When have we ever not gotten our hot chocolate?”

  We sat on the bench, and Daddy blew on my drink for me. “There you go, honey.” I took a long sip, and he smiled. “Be careful, or you’ll burn your tongue.”

  But the chocolate did not burn me, and I drained the cup. I held the empty cup out to him. “Can I have some more?”

  “More? Don’t you want to skate again?”

  I shook my head, shivering in spite of my warm coat and mittens. “Please, Daddy, I’m so cold.”

  “How does she fare?”

  “She is alive, and she is a fighter. That is all I can say.”

  “She looks so human, so fragile.”

  “Aye, but she is stronger than she looks.” A cool touch to the forehead. “Rest now and get well, little one.”

  “I don’t feel so good.”

  Daddy’s hand felt cool against my face. “Hmm, you are a bit warm. Where does it hurt?”

  I coughed and winced. “My throat hurts, and it hurts here,” I rasped, touching my chest.

  He tucked the blankets around me and left my room, returning with a glass of water and some pills. I took the pills obediently and greedily drank the glass of water. “More,” I gasped. I was thirsty, so thirsty.

  “Why does her body resist the healing?”

  “It is the demon blood. It is poisoning her.”

  “But the demon is part of her. How can it harm her?”

  “No, it is the other demon’s blood that was on the weapon. Her body must choose to accept it or reject it.”

  “What will it do to her if it does not kill her?”

  “I cannot say. She is not like any other we have healed.”

  “Can we do something to help her?”

  A sigh. “It is up to her now.”

  “Am I dead?”

  “What an odd thing to ask, honey.” The corners of my dad’s warm green eyes crinkled when he smiled. He patted the sofa beside him, and I curled up happily in the crook of his arm. “I can’t believe it. My little girl is all grown up.”

  My brow furrowed. “I don’t understand. Where have you been all this time?”

  He sighed and gave my shoulders a squeeze. “I never left. I’ve been with you every day.”

  “But I couldn’t find you. I was alone and scared, and you were gone.”

  “You were never alone, Sara. You had Nate and your friends. You still do.”

  Tears burned my eyes. “I messed up so bad, Daddy. I lied to everyone, and I hurt Nate and my friends. They probably all hate me now. Everything I do hurts someone. Even Nikolas. He tried to help me, and I let him down, too. It’s no wonder I died.”

  “No one hates you, honey, and you’re not dead.”

  I shook my head. “You died, and the only way I can be talking to you is if I died, too.”

  He kissed the top of my head. “My sweet girl, you can talk to me anytime you want to.”

  I closed my eyes and laid my head against his shoulder. “I miss you, Dad.”

  Soft tinkling sounds like glass wind chimes pulled me up from the warm cocoon of darkness wrapped around me. My eyes felt heavy as if I’d slept for a long time, and when I opened them, it took them a minute to focus. When I could finally see my surroundings, I knew I must still be dreaming.

  I lay in the middle of a large canopy bed, covered by white sheets made of soft linen and a comforter of the lightest down. The walls of the room were entirely covered in sweet-smelling flowering vines, and the domed ceiling was made of stained glass depicting the night sky. There was no window and no door that I could see, and when I leaned over to look at the floor I saw what looked like hard-pressed earth. On a glass-topped table beside the bed, a small oil lamp flickered softly.

  I fell back onto the soft pillows. I am so not in Kansas anymore.

  The vines parted, and a pretty red-haired girl appeared. She wore a pale green shift with a fine silver gauze overlay, and her delicate face had an almost ethereal quality to it. At first glance I guessed her to be around ten years old, but as she approached the bed I saw that she was closer to my age, maybe a little older.

  “Welcome back, little sister,” she said in a soft musical voice that was oddly familiar.

  “Where am I?” My throat was dry and my voice raspy.

  She moved her hand, and out of nowhere she seemed to pull a glass of what looked like water. Pressing the glass into my hands she said, “Drink.”

  I took the glass and put it to my lips, too parched to question what it was or how it had appeared from thin air. When I took my first drink I discovered the clearest, most refreshing water I had ever tasted. With my second drink, flavors exploded across my tongue like the smell of grass and flowers and rain and sunshine. It reminded me of standing in a meadow after a spring shower. I drank it all then looked forlornly at the glass, wishing for more. Like magic, the glass filled again, and I drank that down, too, before my thirst was quenched.

  “Am I sick?”

  She smiled sweetly, and her emerald green eyes sparkled. “You were very ill. I am delighted to see you have recovered.”

  I studied her face. I’d never seen her before; that much I knew. So why did I feel like we’d met before? “Do I know you?”

  Her laugh was airy, musical, and something stirred at the edge of my memory. “We have met once, but I have been watching you for many years now.”

  “Who are you?”

  The air around her began to shimmer, and a small breeze tossed the leaves covering the walls. Before my eyes, the girl faded and morphed into a small spinning column of air. “I told you we would meet again,” said a whispery voice I would know anywhere.

  My hand flew to my mouth. “Aine?”

  The air shifted, and the smiling girl stood before me again. “It is good to see you again, Sara.”

  “I don’t understand. Why are you here, and why have you been watching me?”

  She laid her pale slender hand over mine where it lay on the comforter. “We always watch over our own.”

  Their own? I shook my head, thinking I knew exactly how Alice had felt down in the rabbit hole. “I’m not a sylph. I’m Mohiri.”

  “You are correct. You are not of the air, and you did inherit your mother’s demon side.” Aine nimbly hopped up to sit cross-legged on the bed beside me. “But you inherited something from your father as well. I know you have always wanted to know where you got your power to heal. That comes from your great, great, great, great grandmother.”

  “Are you saying that my dad wasn’t human?” I refused to believe that. Nate was very human, and my dad had been, too.

  “Oh, he was human. Your ancestor’s gifts can pass only to females of her line.” Aine’s eyes danced. “Do you know you are her first female descendant? As you can imagine, we were very excited when you were born.”

  I struggled to keep up with her. “What are you saying?”

  “Forgive me. In my eagerness I have confused you. Let me explain.” She took one of my hands in her smaller one, and I felt a peaceful calm flow into me. My power surged in response, and a soft gasp escaped me when I sensed energy coming from Aine that was so similar to my own. It was like finding a piece of myself that I did not know was missing.

  “Your great, great, great, great grandmother was named Sahine, and she was of the water and one of my dearest sisters. One day, Sahine fell in love with a human male and she chose to leave this life for a mortal one. It happens sometimes.” Aine smiled wistfully. “We were sad when she left us, but she was so happy for the rest of her days. I was glad for her.

  I rubbed my eyes and felt my forehead to see if I was feverish. But my face was cool to the touch. Maybe I’m drugged. What else could explain the things I was hearing?

  “So I’m like a mermaid or something? Because if you tell me I’m going to start growing a tail, I’m going to freaking lose it.” I moved my feet under the covers to make sure they were still there.

  Aine gave another tinkling laugh. “You are undine. And I don’t think our cousins would appreciate your sentiment.”

  “Undine?” I tried to remember what I knew about undines. Water elementals, always female with beautiful singing voices. Obviously not all of their talents were passed on. All elementals could heal, which explained my power. Undines were supposedly born without souls and marrying a human was one way to get a soul. I felt a moment of fear. I was already half demon. Did this mean I had no soul either?

  Aine’s brow furrowed. “I thought you would be happy, but you look troubled.”

  “Do I… do I have a soul?”

  “Only those born in the water are full undine and have no souls. You were not born to the water, so you are not full undine.”

  I had a soul – that was something at least. But what did this make me? God, a month ago I was just another human, or so I thought. Now I was what – one-third human?

  An ache started behind my eyes. This was too much to process. One minute I’m falling off a cliff, and the next I’m in a strange room with a sylph telling me I’m part elemental. If this was someone’s idea of the afterlife, it was pretty messed up.

  Aine slid off the bed. “I am sorry. You are weak from your illness, and I am upsetting you.” She touched my forehead with her cool palm. “Go to sleep. I will be here when you wake up.”

  My eyes immediately began to droop, and I fought to keep them open. “Wait, I have more questions, and you didn’t tell me where I am.”

  “You are in Seelie. Your injuries were grave, and this was the only place that could heal you.”

  Seelie! I thought before sleep claimed me.

  When I woke again, I felt well rested and surprisingly serene, considering everything Aine had told me. True to her word, the sylph reappeared as soon as I opened my eyes. She brought me a pale yellow dress similar to her green one, and I marveled at the fine fabric as I slipped it over my head. Barefoot, I followed her through an archway behind the vines to a courtyard overlooking a glassy lake. We sat at a small glass table set with food and drink that made my stomach growl, and I reached for a pastry, wondering how long it had been since I’d last eaten.

  My hand stopped halfway to the plate when I remembered where I was. Rule number one in Faerie: don’t eat or drink.

  “You are not mortal, little sister. The food is safe for you.”

  That was all I needed to hear. My appetite had always been good, but I’d never tasted food like this: pastries that melted on my tongue, fruit so sweet I licked the juice from my fingers, and cold, frothy milk flavored with mint. It was like pure bliss, and I sampled it all – twice – before I finally leaned back in my chair, sated.

  After my meal, Aine took me for a stroll around the lake. Everything here was incredibly lush and vibrant, from the thick green grass to the sky so blue it almost hurt my eyes to look at it. The air was the sweetest I had ever smelled, and brightly colored birds sang to us from the trees. A few times I spotted tiny faces peering out from the underbrush and heard what sounded like giggles. When I asked Aine about them, she smiled and said the sprites were curious about their new cousin but they were too shy to come forward. I shook my head in wonder. The more I saw of this place, the more unreal it seemed and the harder it was for me to believe that part of me belonged to this world. I still was not entirely sure I wasn’t dreaming.

  We reached the far side of the lake, and I looked back expecting to see a building, but all I saw was the small courtyard nestled among the trees. I didn’t need Aine to explain that it was Faerie magic at work.

  We made our way back to the courtyard and walked through the hanging vines into a sunny room with comfortable couches and a low table set with a pitcher of juice and two glasses. Aine poured me a glass of juice, and I took a sip, savoring sweetness the likes of which could never be found in the human world. I leaned back on the soft cushions with a contented sigh. There was something about this place, a sense of tranquility that seemed to soak into every pore and lift every worry and fear from my mind. For the first time since my world had shattered ten years ago, I felt no fear or loneliness, just a deep sense of belonging.

  I wasn’t sure how long we sat there talking. Aine told me how a pair of selkies had rescued me from the ocean and called for her when they recognized me as one of their cousins. I told her I vaguely remembered hearing voices while I was unconscious, and she said the faeries had tended to me because nothing but their magic could have saved me. I had been stabbed with the same knife I used to kill Eli. To a Mohiri, vampire blood was just blood, but to a Fae, demon blood could be lethal. Aine said the faeries believed it was my own demon side that allowed me to finally absorb Eli’s blood harmlessly into my body.

  I asked many questions, and she answered them all. She told me about undines and how rare it was to find a female descendent of an undine/human mating. Because undines were female, only their female descendents inherited any of their powers. I was relieved to learn I would not get the sudden urge to take up residence in the nearest pond.

  “Was it my undine power that let me control my Mori all these years without training?”

  “Yes. Demons fear earth magic not only because of its strength but because of its purity. For that reason demonkind has hated us since time began. But you may be the first of your kind, half-Fae, half-demon, and your power is not like any other. It seems almost impossible for you to exist, but here you are. You are still so young. Only time will tell us what that means for you. You are something of a curiosity, even to us.”

  “Why would you or any Faerie help me? Aren’t you afraid of my demon blood?”

  Aine smiled, and her red curls bobbed when she shook her head. “Your Fae blood is stronger than your demon blood, or you never would have been able to hold back the demon in you. You are more one of us than them.”

  I didn’t like talking about my demon half, so I asked her to tell me more about undines. She was happy to comply. She told me that all elementals had certain abilities in common and some unique to their element. Elementals lived forever unless they chose to give up their immortality. They had the gift of healing and could draw on the magic in the earth itself. They were the only beings in existence that demons truly feared. Undines could also manipulate water and create or control storms. Being only half undine, there was no way to know exactly what elemental abilities I had inherited until they manifested – if they did at all. She did say that if my healing power was any indication, there could be others and she would help guide me when the time came.

  In addition to their elemental powers and angelic singing voices, undines – pure undines, not half-breeds like me – possessed an unearthly beauty that had a dramatic effect on humans. Females felt threatened and an instant dislike for undines, whereas males could be driven almost insane with desire. Such intense emotions affected males in one of two ways: they either became completely enamored and protective or they were driven to darker impulses that resulted in violence.

  At my look of dismay she assured me that only a full-blooded undine could affect males to that extent and my mixed heritage diminished the attraction considerably. That made me feel only slightly better. It did explain, though, why I had no female friends. It also made me analyze every relationship I had ever had with males, and what I found did not make me happy. Both Roland and Peter had confessed to having crushes on me at one point, and they’d let me know that all the boys at school liked me that way when I first moved there. Scott was one of those boys, and his feelings toward me had definitely turned dark after I rejected his friendship. Then there was Greg, who for
some reason chose to befriend me and who, according to Roland, had threatened every boy in school, effectively keeping them away from me. And I could not forget Francis, who despised me for no other reason than my existence. Was it actually my undine nature that made him feel such animosity for me?

  And finally there was Eli who had been so obsessed with me after one brief conversation that he had died trying to claim me. I shivered even though I knew he was dead and could never threaten me again. I asked Aine if vampires could be affected, and she nodded delicately.

  “Vampires were once human, so they are susceptible as well, but they can feel no love, only a dark desire to possess and inflict pain, not that they could act upon those desires with an undine.”

  Great where did that leave me? “Can a vampire tell I’m half undine? Eli said something about me having no idea what I was.”

  “If he tasted your skin or your blood – yes. A vampire would not face a full elemental, but you are very young and weak compared to one of us.” Her smile faded. “Even though they fear us, our blood is like a drug to most demons, causing heightened infatuation.”

  “What?” I almost jumped out of my chair. “You’re telling me my blood is a frigging aphrodisiac to demons?” Could this get any worse?

  “In a manner of speaking,” she answered bluntly.

  “What about other half demons like the Mohiri? Please don’t tell me I’m going to have to fight them off, too?” I thought about Nikolas and how overly protective he was for a guy who was just doing his job. I hated to think that it might be nothing more than my Faerie DNA driving him.

  “No, the Mohiri were created to be the perfect warriors and are immune to most forms of compulsion and weakness.”

  “Good,” I breathed, settling back onto the couch.

  Thinking about Nikolas made me remember how I’d felt when he fought all those vampires and demanded my release. I remembered his rage and him shouting my name when I fell. After this, he’d probably try to lock me in my room forever, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Nate helped him. My lips curved into a small smile. They could try.

  Oh God, Nate has no idea where I am! I couldn’t believe I had spent the entire day hanging out here with no thought about what my uncle must be going through.

  I jumped to my feet. “Aine, I need to go home.”

  “This is your home now, if you want it to be,” she replied. “Don’t you like it here?”

  “I love it. But my real home is with my uncle back in the human world. He’s all alone, and he needs me.”

  Her happy smile faded a little. “But there is so much evil in that place. Why would you want to return to that?”

  “The world isn’t evil, even if there are bad things in it. I have friends and family there, and I couldn’t imagine leaving them. Plus, out there I can help animals and the People. No one needs my help here.”

  She studied me as if still trying to understand why I would prefer that world over this perfect one. Her smile was sad when she finally nodded. “For you to wish to leave here this much means you really do not belong here yet. No one who truly belonged to Faerie could ever call another place home.” She stood and held out her hand. “Come. I will take you to your human home.”

  I hugged her happily then took her hand. In seconds, the air around us began to shimmer and grow warm and the room started to fade. There was a terrifying moment of blackness where I could feel and hear and see nothing, and it felt like I was alone in a void between the worlds. But before panic could set in, the light returned and I found myself standing at my front door and looking down at Nate’s car.

  Aine let go of my hand and wrapped me in a gentle hug. “Good-bye for now, little sister. It made me happy to get to know you. You will always have a home with us if you ever choose to return.”

  Tears welled in my eyes as I hugged her back. I’d never been so happy to see my front door, but I’d only just discovered my new family and it felt like I’d lose that part of me when Aine left. “I’m glad I got to know you, too. Thank you for everything you did for me.”

  She pulled back, and her expression grew serious. “Sara, do not forget what I told you about demons and our kind. I fear there are many who will not be happy to learn of your existence. I have done what I could over the years to keep you safe, hiding you from those who sought you. Go to your Mohiri family, because you will not be safe on your own. I will find you and visit you no matter where you go.”

  Her words made me remember what David had said about how someone had wiped out all documents and trails that would lead to me and Nate, making it impossible to find me. All this time, Aine had been watching out for me and I had no idea.

  “Stay safe, little sister.”

  “I will. Thank you, Aine, for everything.”

  Aine’s only reply was a small smile before she quickly faded from sight. I found myself alone, barefoot, and shivering in a thin dress meant for the perfect warm, sunny days in Faerie. It was colder here than I remembered, but despite my discomfort I took a long moment to look around at the place I never thought I’d see again when I drove away from here a few days ago. I was home.


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