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One Blood Ruby

Melissa Marr


  To Youval—somewhere between silent hikes in Scotland, midnight whiskey in Paris, and dipping our toes into several seas, you’ve been a revelation.


  The queen kept her troops safe in solace, until a time came when she finally gave birth to a child. The troops believed that this was the start of a new era, but when the babe was born, her skin broke like glass.

  —Iana Abernathy, The Last of Our Secrets





  One: Eilidh

  Two: Will

  Three: Lilydark

  Four: Roan

  Five: Eilidh

  Six: Lilydark

  Seven: Zephyr

  Eight: Lilydark

  Nine: Creed

  Ten: Violet

  Eleven: Lilydark

  Twelve: Will

  Thirteen: Zephyr

  Fourteen: Eilidh

  Fifteen: Lilydark

  Sixteen: Zephyr

  Seventeen: Eilidh

  Eighteen: Will

  Nineteen: Eilidh

  Twenty: Lilydark

  Twenty-One: Creed

  Twenty-Two: Eilidh

  Twenty-Three: Lilydark

  Twenty-Four: Alkamy

  Twenty-Five: Violet

  Twenty-Six: Zephyr

  Twenty-Seven: Eilidh

  Twenty-Eight: Zephyr

  Twenty-Nine: Eilidh

  Thirty: Lily

  Thirty-One: Lily

  Thirty-Two: Lily

  Thirty-Three: Zephyr

  Thirty-Four: Will

  Thirty-Five: Eilidh

  Thirty-Six: Lily

  Thirty-Seven: Creed

  Thirty-Eight: Will

  Thirty-Nine: Zephyr

  Forty: Will

  Forty-One: Lily

  Forty-Two: Eilidh

  Forty-Three: Creed

  Forty-Four: Eilidh

  Forty-Five: Creed

  Forty-Six: Zephyr

  Forty-Seven: Lily


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  Books by Melissa Marr



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  The air in the theater grew thinner gradually. A few people squirmed. They looked around. Some rubbed their temples as headaches set in; others blinked and yawned. A few put a hand to chest or throat, as if they felt it sooner than the hundreds around them. He figured they were the ones with weaker lungs.

  One of the performers collapsed, tumbling to the stage in a heap of feathered costume. The light that should’ve been on the dancer darted away, but not quickly enough. Some of the audience members, even as sluggish as they were becoming, started to panic.

  Unfortunately, panic resulted in breathing faster. That only accelerated their death. So too did the attempts to stand and walk away. They had so little oxygen left, and they wasted it.

  But, in truth, that’s what humanity was doing every day—turning their atmosphere to poison. He was simply demonstrating the effect of their actions in a shorter time, minutes rather than decades. Nacton was under no illusion that he was doing them a kindness, but it was a choice, and like most choices he made, this one was about getting what he wanted. He wanted war to continue; he wanted them to suffer. Mostly, he wanted the fae to remain separate from the monstrosity of humans. They were, by the very virtue of their births, guilty. If he didn’t kill them, they’d kill themselves slowly. They ate toxic food, inhaled filthy air, destroyed the very water and soil that the whole planet needed—that the fae needed.

  Despite that, the rulers of the Hidden Lands wanted to declare peace. The Queen of Blood and Rage was so desperate for her half-human granddaughter’s acceptance that she was going to end the attacks on humans. For all of his reasons to dislike the woman, he’d supported her guerrilla war against humans. He’d even fathered one of her so-called Sleeper agents, the Black Diamonds.

  At his side, his companion murmured, “Are we simply going to watch them die?”

  Nacton drew more of the air out of the room. There wasn’t anything they could do if they wanted to escape. They sat in their finery and suffocated.

  “No need to drag it out,” his companion said.

  The dancers on stage were still, fallen flowers that were only beautiful for an instant. They, at least, told Nacton that humanity had some qualities worth saving. He felt a sliver of guilt, but at least they had died doing what they loved. It was the most he could give them, a parting gift.

  “Burn it,” he said, and then he walked away. There were others who would die yet this week. And in each case, there would be no doubt that the fae were responsible.



  Eilidh debated going to check on her niece, Lily, but Torquil had only been awake for a few days. She couldn’t yet stand to leave her betrothed for very long. He was healing, but not as quickly as she’d like. Being stabbed made for a slow recovery, and she was trying to stay at his side as best as she could.

  She’d feel better once the crown princess and her cousin Zephyr moved to the Hidden Lands. For now, Eilidh was trying to not let her worries consume her. The growing strife in the Hidden Lands would only increase when her people began mingling with humanity.

  So many things could go wrong. Some inevitably would, no matter how carefully Eilidh planned. She’d been working toward this for most of her life, but no amount of preparation would ensure that everything went perfectly. She stared out from her tower and purposefully set aside her plans for a moment. If all one did was plot and scheme, madness would surely come calling. So every day, Eilidh chose to take a quiet moment to breathe and take in beauty.

  The glass tower where she stood reflected just enough moonlight onto the waves that they seemed to shimmer and wink at her. The sounds of sea and air were a constant soothing symphony in her home, and the sheer beauty of the water from her vantage point was often all she needed to find a moment of peace. There was something in her affinities that made her less and less separate from sea and soil over time. Maybe it was simply being the child of both courts. Maybe it was the way she’d shattered as a child.

  When she’d been born, the touch of air against her skin had literally fractured, like a spiderweb crack through a pane of glass, like dry earth in a drought. Every bit of flesh and bone had tried to separate, but vine and soil enclosed her in their embrace, and the fire that lived deep in the core of the world had surged to her so that she was as a phoenix. Water rushed to quench fire as fast as it burned, and her infant body was reborn of the elements. Born of fae, of Seelie and Unseelie both, and born again of nature.

  Eilidh didn’t remember, of course, but sea, soil, and fire were a part of her in ways that were more than fae. She was unable to go very long without giving herself over to the elements. The king and queen knew. They alone held her secret. Neither spoke of it, and so Eilidh knew that it was to be unspoken—even as it changed and grew within her.

  She would sacrifice anyone or anything, including the truth of her nature, for the courts. It was why she’d been born: for them. It was not a decision greeted well by many of the fae. Her Seelie brothers were among those in protest. They and many of their kind saw only the maze of scars that covered her skin. They knew only that Eilidh lived in a tower built for the daughter the queen had truly wanted and loved—the child that had died—and that Eilidh was a replacement. They couldn’t understand that the tower was a prison that her father was afraid to enter and in which her mother saw only ghosts.


  The voice that lifted to her tower from the rocks wasn’t loud, but the glass walls ha
d been enchanted to let her hear as if there were no barrier. She walked to the edge of the vast circular room where she’d been pacing and glanced to the sea.

  She’d hoped that making it possible for LilyDark to become the new heir of the Hidden Throne would be enough to ease sentiment against her, but there were continued rumblings of discontent. Her Seelie brothers were embarrassed that they’d been bested by half-humans, and the younger fae who’d been born after the courts had withdrawn from contact with the human world were nervous at the idea of being among humans once again. The fae weren’t a people known for accepting change gracefully, and it seemed that suddenly everything had begun to change.

  After Eilidh checked to see that her injured fiancé was still resting, she descended the steps and went to do as she must.



  Will stared out at the sea while Roan got dressed. It wasn’t about modesty. When his boyfriend swam, he did so as a seal. That transition back to humanity was sometimes an adjustment for Roan. Will often carried a bag with Roan’s things, and tugging on wet clothes took a few moments so Will marveled at the sea within the Hidden Lands while Roan dressed.

  They’d come together, falling into the sea and swimming through a gateway into the Hidden Lands. There was a kind of trust required to simply drop into the inky black water, but Will trusted Roan with his life.

  That didn’t mean that he trusted the faery princess. He had whispered her name upon arrival and yet he was afraid. Anyone raised by the Queen of Blood and Rage was worthy of fear.

  He wasn’t shocked when Roan had told him they had an errand. He wasn’t even alarmed when Roan revealed that they were going to the Hidden Lands. Not much surprised him at this point. He’d been to the Hidden Lands in secret a few times, but this time, it was the princess who had summoned him. Will had never met her, nor had Roan. Three of the others had.

  Of the seven Black Diamonds only Alkamy hadn’t gone to the Hidden Lands at all.

  “Will?” Roan’s voice made him turn away from the sea. It was then he saw the princess approaching.

  She walked across the jagged rocks as if they were sand. They seemed to move out of her way or simply melt as she touched them. The waves, on the other hand, reached out for her. The sea rushed past their feet, climbing higher until it soaked them to their hips. They were, of course, already dripping from the trip across the water, but the urgency of the sea’s reach was disquieting.

  Roan whispered, “She doesn’t even notice, does she?”

  Will shook his head.

  The wind had picked up, gusting toward them as if it too had to touch the fae who walked over an earth that moved to accommodate her. Sea, earth, and air were all attuned to the fractured princess.

  She walked in the way of the Unseelie prince who was Zephyr’s father. Rhys had the same disconnectedness that Eilidh had. Perhaps it was a result of having lived their whole life with the Queen of Blood and Rage. Will was fairly sure having her as a mother would make every parent he’d known—except possibly Lily’s father—seem relaxed.

  “You stare,” Eilidh said.

  “You are the princess,” Roan replied.

  “And we’ve never been summoned,” Will added, not mentioning the way the elements were buffeting them. “Your mother sent tasks but . . .”

  Eilidh met his eyes. “You lie well.”

  “The queen has never summoned us. Nor have you.” Will didn’t look away, didn’t change his posture. He felt Roan tense at his side, but that was to be expected. Wind and water were battering them, and he was lying to Eilidh.

  She smiled before saying, “You’re very Seelie. No wonder my father likes you.”

  “The king doesn’t know us,” Roan said carefully.

  Will knew that his boyfriend was trying to draw the princess’ attention. He also knew that things were going to be tense when Eilidh pressed her lips together in a disapproving way. There were times for silence, and there were times for admissions. The princess knew the truth, and Will disliked keeping secrets from Roan anyhow.

  “Roan?” he said. Will didn’t add more, but they didn’t typically need a lot of words between them. His confession was in his tone.

  “And you never told me?” Roan’s temper wasn’t as bad as Creed’s or Zephyr’s, but he was of the sea, and anyone who thought the sea was calm, had missed two thirds of the moods that water could have.

  “We all have secrets,” Will pointed out gently.

  It was no time for a petty argument. Things were changing. The fae were about to declare peace—and sometimes a declaration of peace was scarier than a continuation of conflict.

  The princess made a noise in her throat, drawing their attention back to her.

  “I have need of information,” she said when they were staring at her. “The coronation is coming soon.”

  “When?” Will asked.

  Eilidh ignored him. “There are troubles in Lily’s father’s business. I don’t know if they’ve reached her yet, but I know that fields are burning. There are officers watching her because of her father. I know, too, that someone of our blood is killing humans.”

  “What are we to do?” Roan asked.

  Will hoped that the task she was going to set for them was more in line with those set by the Seelie King. It was the queen who had made them killers. Gathering information was far easier than ending lives. What he knew of the princess so far wasn’t encouraging.

  “Whatever necessary,” she said. “LilyDark must not be arrested. Make use of whomever you must to see to it. Find out if the troubles are connected. Keep LilyDark safe.”

  The seriousness of that order made it worse. The queen’s orders created chaos and fear; she sent the Black Diamonds to kill or destroy things. The king sent Will to discover things or transmit information.

  This was . . . different.

  “We’re not investigators,” Will pointed out as calmly as he’d ever said anything, using the tone of voice he often had to employ when Violet was in a mood.

  “No, but you know LilyDark and Erik. You have resources in your reach through your parents. You can walk where the fae cannot . . . and where your frequently photographed friends aren’t able to pass unnoticed.” The princess reached a hand out to the sea, as if it were an animal to pet.

  The waves lifted toward her, seeming for a moment to take the same shape as hers. Arms, legs, and a torso formed. Rivulets of water streaked upward until the sea had a face as well. It smiled at her before dropping again to its rightful form.

  The sight of it made Will uncomfortable. So, too, did Eilidh’s seemingly vacant eyes in that moment where the sea smiled at her. He would say she was asleep if she’d been anyone else, but she was the daughter of the two strongest living fae. Who knew what passed as commonplace for such a one?

  Roan was staring at her. Perhaps being a water affinity made him hear or feel things Will couldn’t. All Will could understand just then was that Roan was afraid.

  “We’ll go then,” Will said to the princess.

  Eilidh nodded and turned away. She didn’t offer words of kindness or benediction. She simply walked back across the rocks as if she was a sleepwalker.

  Once she was gone, Will and Roan exchanged a look. Will touched a finger to Roan’s lips. Here was not the place to speak. The princess might seem to have drifted into a fugue state, but every element here was attuned to her. There was no privacy.

  Roan nodded and took his hand. For the first time in all of the years they’d know one another, first as friends and then as more, Roan looked at the sea with a sort of misgiving.

  “There are other ways back,” Will said.

  Instead of answering, Roan shifted forms and stared up at him. The site of his boyfriend as a seal didn’t seem odd after all this time. Will had seen it the first time it happened, and although none of the rest of the diamonds had another form, this was normal for Roan.

  Will scooped up the clothes that Roan would need on the other si
de, and tucked them into the bag he wore on his back. That the sea felt sentient was enough to make him hesitate, but when Roan dove into the waves, Will followed. Together, he was sure they could handle whatever came, and if not, he’d rather be lost together than survive apart.



  The sky was still dark when Lily’s phone rang twice and stopped. Then it rang once and stopped. When it rang again, she answered. That was the pattern last agreed upon with Daidí. They switched the code up periodically, but the use of a ring pattern was a constant.

  “I’ve sent Hector to bring you home,” Daidí said when she answered his call.

  “You know then,” she said.

  Her father’s silence at the other end of the line wasn’t one of denial. For most of Lily’s life, they’d practiced the art of silent speaking—gaps while they both figured out the proper words to say what they must, yet those which could not be translatable to others who might be listening. Being the most notorious of crime lords meant that Nicolas Abernathy was often being recorded, spied upon, or otherwise scrutinized. Lily had learned the tools of dissembling and misdirection before she’d learned her letters.

  “I know some things,” Daidí admitted.

  “From?” Lily closed her eyes.

  Creed sat up and pulled her to him, not speaking but offering her the silent comfort of his touch. She leaned back into Creed’s arms. It was a strange thing, how much safer she felt simply because his arms encircled her. He didn’t need to speak or do anything. His being was enough.

  She felt like a plant with roots sinking deep into pure soil. Stronger. Safer. Nourished. There wasn’t a word she knew that was enough to explain that feeling. Love was the closest one, but it was small in comparison with the size and depth of the emotions she felt.

  Daidí’s voice was more guarded as he said, “Your . . . aunt.”

  “No one else, though? You didn’t need to ask Cerise for help with any other guests?” Lily used their old euphemism for handguns, thinking back to the number of times police officers had asked who Cerise was instead of what she was when they’d arrested Daidí. They might listen in on Daidí’s conversations, but they were still clueless.