Spellbound-Legend by Claudy Conn - Read Online
Spellbound-Legend
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Summary

One was from another world and the other from another time...

In a failed attempt to turn him into an ageless lover, the evil, not-quite-a-vampire Lamia DuLaine poisoned hunky Druid high priest Julian Talbot on his wedding day. The Seelie Fae transported Julian to their realm for treatment and captured DuLaine, but not before she brutally murdered his new wife, Maxine.
Now, nearly two centuries later, the Fae have revived Julian from his coma and returned him to his ancestral estate, where he finds his bride’s many-times-great- grandniece and namesake, Maxie Reigate—who could be his beloved dead wife’s twin. Also there is Breslyn, Royal Fae Prince of Dagda. Because he’d honored the Treaty prohibiting Fae interference in the human world, Breslyn hadn’t been able to prevent Maxine’s death. This time, however, he will do whatever it takes to protect Maxie, rules be damned. It’s not just guilt that motivates him—the sexy immortal has long admired humans, and he is especially taken with this human woman.
While she might look like her ancestor, this Maxine is a modern, spirited woman with emerging Druid powers of her own—and she will not be a stand-in for a long-dead love or a temporary playmate for an immortal prince. And yet, she can’t help but be attracted to these two very different and absolutely mesmerizing males.
Together, the three of them must work to combat treachery from the highest levels of the Seelie Fae Realm, for one of the Seelie queen’s closest confidantes is plotting to unleash Dark and monstrous Unseelie Fae on an unsuspecting human world. If that weren’t trouble enough, Lamia DuLaine has been released from her Otherworld prison, and her obsession with Julian and hatred for the Reigate family are as strong as ever. But now she has even more Dark Magic knowledge at her disposal.
As Maxie’s own magical mana develops, so does her love for one of her partners, but the question remains: will the one she chooses, choose her back?

Published: Claudy Conn on
ISBN: 9781465860873
List price: $2.99
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Spellbound-Legend - Claudy Conn

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so?

~ One ~

MAXIE REIGATE HELD tightly to the wheel of her dark green Mustang. Bumper traffic on the LIE made her roll her eyes, and the growl tickling her throat forced its way up and out of her mouth. That’s it … nothing you can do about it, Max.

Her green eyes scanned the interior of her car just in case there was something there to eat. Her stomach rumbled, and she remembered that she had thrown a power bar into the glove compartment the week before when she had parked her car in long term at the airport. It was going to be a couple of hours before she reached her home on Shelter Island, and she needed food.

Standstill traffic gave her the opportunity to bend and reach for the clasp on her glove compartment. It fell open, and she saw the silver foil. Yes—you don’t look in good shape, but we’ll give you a try. Maxie was already tearing open the wrapper and biting into the aged and unsavory food of the moment. Ah … yuck! She promptly dumped it on the passenger seat beside her briefcase just as the airwaves outside lit up with a group honk. She screwed up her mouth and watched with interest as a burly man stuck his head out of his car window and cursed the world.

No one was moving—she wanted to curse the world. Instead she attempted to amuse herself by looking around. Daydreaming took over, and it was with a start that she realized the cars in front of her had gained some measurable distance. She hit the gas to close the gap and, wop, the traffic suddenly came to an abrupt stop, sending her power bar and her father’s briefcase, which had been beside her on the passenger seat, flying to the floor. The briefcase hit like a ton of weights and popped open, spewing papers all over the place.

Damn! Okay, Maxie, calm yourself. Today was the day she wasn’t going to allow the traffic on the LIE to get to her. She was trouble free, wasn’t she? Oh sure, trouble free and crazy. She was sitting with her family’s ancient journals all over her dirty car floor. Her father would have a fit. A scowl marred her pretty face. She glanced at the traffic as she made an irritated attempt to retrieve her papers and folders. She gave it up and returned to closing yet another gap between her and the parking lot in front of her.

Had it only been a day ago that she had sat dutifully and listened to her dad repeat the family legend to her for the umpteenth time? Her family legend had hovered over her head all her life, and she was sick of hearing—knowing about it.

A sigh escaped her and then another. The Reigate Legend—so what, she told herself, it wasn’t as though she were a werewolf or anything. It wasn’t as though she were some kind of sorcerer out to conquer the universe. What she wanted to know was what a story—true or otherwise—that took place in 1814 had to do with her in the here and now. She had to put it aside and keep it from overshadowing her life … if her father would let her do that.

Druids, Fae, and an evil vampire-type woman? Come on! She had listened to her dad, she had taken the journals he handed her and insisted she read and re-read, and she had promptly put it all out of her head. Growing up with her … er special qualities had been difficult enough. Having her date bring her home because she had blacked out with a vision, and then never getting another call from him again, had been a death-defying experience at sixteen. To have this incident repeated when she was out with a guy she really liked in college had been embarrassing and tortuous. Seeing their wide-eyed, ‘let me get out of here’ expressions had made her slightly gun-shy. A serious relationship after that had been impossible.

Now, what did her parents want from her? She had just spent a wonderful Christmas week with them in England at their luxurious ancestral home, Reigate Grange. She’d thought she would escape without one sentence about their damnable legend. She was thrilled whenever they were at Reigate. The family was able to enjoy their ancestral home only during the months of December through April and she only during Christmas. The rest of each year, it was registered on the list of historic homes in the tour guide.

Traffic was moving again, and Maxie tried to think of something else, but her mind wandered back to her father’s voice. He just wouldn’t give it up. He had been so intense when they had been at Heathrow airport. Something in his eyes—and the tone of his voice—had disturbed her. Maxie’s didn’t want to hear it. She didn’t want Druids and Fae in her life, and now he was telling her about some impossible vampire-type woman who was going to come after her? What?

Maxie saw an anguished look come into his eyes when he spoke to her about her immediate future. It hadn’t made sense. Thinking about it now, she was sure he believed that she was going to be in danger. Someone was honking. Others were picking up the frenzy. Drivers were frustrated.

In truth, she told herself, she had so much to look forward to. She was twenty-one, with university life for the time being behind her. She was an aspiring writer and had sold her first short story to a well-known national magazine. It was one of the things they had celebrated during their holiday week together. The other was her dad’s fiftieth birthday.

All at once sharp pain shot through her eyes and into her brain. An agonized cry escaped her, and she made an attempt to steer into the right lane. A driver saw that she was trying to get to the shoulder and waved her through. She could barely see through the rocking pain in her head.

Yes, some people called them premonitions—others clairvoyance. Maxine had never been able to control them. She thought of them as ‘visions’, but they’d never before brought her this level of pain. She had been having them since she was a child too young to understand what they were.

Usually they came as disjointed images, but now and then they blasted her with reality and she saw entire scenarios. Her mother got by pretending the visions weren’t real. Her father wanted her to work on the skill, hone it, refine it, and make it her own. He believed that one day when she became an adult, she would be in grave danger. He wanted her to expand her abilities so she could protect herself. He had always said her innate skills were a part of who and what she was.

Pain pulsed through Maxie’s head. This one was different. It was as though her head were splitting in half and she couldn’t focus on the road. She managed to drive her Mustang onto the shoulder, stopped on the tall, dry grass, and shut off the engine. Her head felt like it was exploding!

Everything around her vanished.

No traffic, no honking, no cars. Everything was gone as her vision took her to another place. She found the pain subsided as she moved through a gray mass of clouds, and suddenly, as though a curtain had opened, it was clear, and there they were.

She could see her parents laughing together. They were in a small charter plane, on the last leg of their journey to Africa. Africa because her mom, an animal rights enthusiast, always said it was up to people like her—like her family who could go the extra mile to do just that.

What is this? Maxie was worried in spite of the fact that they looked pleased and happy. She knew something was off. An uncomfortable fear pinched her brain. She had left them at Heathrow airport and had hurried on to catch her own flight home. Why was she having this vision of them?

They were crowded close to one another in the small plane. Something was wrong. Her father was holding her mother’s hand. He looked concerned, and then suddenly the plane banked sharply—too sharply—and Maxie could see them lurching to the left of the cabin. She could hear the horrific sound of the spluttering engine. Wrong … this is all wrong. She wanted it to stop, but the scene switched to the cockpit and she felt sick to her stomach. Maxie hugged herself because she saw the pilot’s eyes widen. Maxie’s throat constricted as she watched him playing with the controls. He called on his radio—they were in trouble … going down. In the close quarters of her car Maxie screamed as the plane went into a dive.

Maxie’s arms extended as she reached for them. No, no, this can’t be happening. The plane was nosing into the jungle. She saw her father holding her mother tightly in his arms, but—he looked directly at her.

He sees me?

His thoughts came through to Maxie as clearly as though he were speaking. Maxie, love … you know who you are. Be who you are and protect yourself. She is coming.

The plane met earth with the sound and effect of a bomb exploding. It crashed into the trees and burst into flames.

~ Two ~

Four months later

MAXIE HAD WALKED around in a state of devastation. Her parents had been wrenched from her life, and that loss shadowed her. Family and friends surrounded her, however, and she managed to pull herself up and out after those first couple of months.

Maxie opened the gate, noting that the latch was broken. The stone steps led to the beach below, but she didn’t stop to put on her sneakers yet. She wanted to feel the sand beneath her feet. She had made a decision. She would give her friends a call and tell them she would join them that evening for a night in East Hampton. No more gloom.

She only hoped she wouldn’t get one of her visions while she was with them. They were used to it. Early on she had explained them away as ‘blackouts.’ They were good friends and had always been there for her. However, lately those visions had taken over her life. She was having them all the time.

If that weren’t enough, the secrets that had haunted her all her life were demanding attention. Her sleep was constantly bombarded by memories reminding her just who she was, who she was supposed to become. Earlier that morning, the vision had been so real it had made her shake. It was the memory of her father holding her by her shoulders to say, That’s what you are, Maxie-girl … a Druid priestess from a long line of pure Druids … all of us Reigates—pure Druids.

She had pulled a face at him. Whatever.

She had blown him off—her father … and now he was gone. Pure Druid? She grimaced to herself. How does that happen? Someone or something had to have manipulated the fates to accomplish that.

Maxie hadn’t wanted to be a Druid. Being sixteen had been difficult enough. It had freaked her out. They had told her over and over that she was a Druid priestess, and she told them, Like come on, and get real … I haven’t even had my first kiss, and now you are telling me I am a bona fide priestess?

Her parents were gone, and now she needed to know. What did it all mean? Did this mean she had power? What kind of power? Perhaps it was curiosity, perhaps it made her feel closer to her lost parents, but Maxie had taken up the old leather-bound journals and started devouring them word for word. They explained a great deal. At first she found them difficult to believe, but Maxie’s instincts moved the lie detector needle into the ‘true’ zone very quickly.

Her nightmares and dreams plagued her. The visions became more intense and took on a sequence. Every night the same people were there, and it was as though she knew them. Every night a different scene was enacted as though it were live on stage. Scents and sounds accompanied the visions, and Maxie walked though the scene as though she were a ghost amongst them, seeing, but unseen.

The other evening blasted her with the most vivid dream of all. She felt as though she were experiencing the sensations of the strangers in her dream. She heard their thoughts as she walked as an invisible observer between them. Walked? It was more like she glided as she drifted between them, beside them, stood right up in their faces. And the past totally unfolded for her: it was 1814, and there was a woman—not quite human—and she was threatening Julian Talbot, whom Maxie recognized at once, and his bride, her namesake, Maxine Reigate. The woman’s name was Lady Lamia DuLaine.

DuLaine was a powerful and obsessed being who wanted Julian Talbot for herself.

Julian knew his bride was in danger. He knew Lamia wanted to kill her, and he believed he could put a stop to Lamia’s machinations. He believed he was the only one that could.

Maxie had always known this story, but it had never been enacted out for her as it was now in her dream vision. She had known Julian Talbot immediately because his life-size portrait hung in her father’s study. She had always had a schoolgirl crush on him, and as she moved through her dream vision she came up close to him and reached out to touch. Nothing. It was a vision of the past—no touching.

Suddenly Julian was riding off on his horse. Why? This was his wedding day, and she sensed he was full of purpose. What was he doing? Maxie saw her ancestor, her twin in appearance and name, looking out a window at his retreating form.

The curtain of her vision closed. She had slept after that. She didn’t need to see anymore—she knew the legend.

Salt air filled her lungs, and she breathed in and then out. The pleasant breeze swooshed at Maxie’s clothes and blew her long, black hair around her face. She reached up to sweep it away from her eyes and lips and clipped it at the nape of her neck. The damp sand beneath her naked toes felt good, and she remembered how nice it was to be alive—if only she could banish the visions.

Aaaaah—a bolt of pain went through her, and she bent over as another sharp blade sliced through her gut. Maxie went to her knees on the sand, and her hand went out to the boulder at her side. She collapsed and screamed, Enough!

The pain subsided and then vanished. A vision remained, and it was horrendous, but the pain was gone. Had she done that? Had she managed to control and then rid herself of the pain?

No time to think.

Lamia’s amber eyes were glowing red. She was doing something to Julian. Lamia’s long blonde hair fell loosely over her shoulder and hung over Julian, who was lying on her Oriental rug. There was blood. It was his blood—her blood … on his white shirt sleeves. She was screaming. It had all gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Julian was a powerful Druid priest, but he hadn’t been able to stop Lamia DuLaine, and she had erred. He was fighting the blood she had poured down his throat—her blood. His body would not accept it, and he was slipping away.

Her diseased blood ravaged Julian Talbot’s system, and he went into a coma. DuLaine raised her fists towards the Druid Realm she hated, and her scream filled her house.

Maxie knew what was coming next. Again, she didn’t need to see it. She didn’t want to see it. She knew the next scene would show DuLaine tricking her ancestor to ride and meet with her. She knew DuLaine would have someone pull a rope across the bridle path and that her ancestor would go down. She knew that DuLaine would take a rock and with deliberation smash it down on her ancestor’s head—killing her. She didn’t need to see that. She didn’t need to see—wait … who was that—someone else was in the vision. She couldn’t see who it was. This wasn’t part of anything she had read in the journal—and then it was gone.

Maxie leaned heavily against the boulder at her side. She needed help. Hurriedly she shoved her hand into the pocket of her sweat jacket and pulled out her cell phone.

~ Three ~

UNCLE KENNET SILBURY was not just the man of the hour, he was the one Maxie had always turned to ever since she could remember. He seemed to understand her so much better than her parents did. They shared a solid friendship, but he had become her lighthouse in a storm over the last four months. Grief had ignited the bond that was already theirs.

Kennet Silbury had been her dad’s best friend and business partner. The family connection went back to the 1800s when Maxie’s namesake’s brother, Daniel, came to New York and started a shipbuilding business with Kennet’s ancestor. Kennet’s family was a part of the Reigate Legend. Maxie knew that while he questioned hocus-pocus, Kennet believed the truth behind the Legend.

In the past she had found that strange. After all, Uncle Kennet was a computer genius. He was a man who dealt in science and facts, yet she discovered that he had a healthy belief in the existence of the Fae, in the Druid Realm, and in things that boggled the imagination. That was something Maxie did not understand but adored about him. He was a wonderful contradiction of himself.

Kennet’s home was just outside Wilmington, North Carolina, where the two families had, for many years, maintained their shipbuilding company, which had been started by Daniel Reigate in 1814. Some years ago, Maxie’s father and Kennet had started up a software company that blossomed into a billion-dollar industry. They had sold everything including the shipbuilding company just before her parents’ deaths.

This time, Uncle Kennet didn’t do what he always did when they spoke on the phone. He didn’t try to calm her down. He did quite the opposite: he made her even more jittery than she already was.

Listen to me, Max. Your dreams are actually the real thing. It is time for you to realize you have skills, and you are going to have to improve upon them.

Uncle Kennet—what skills? She buried her feet in the sand and looked down the long stretch of lonely beach.

You have them. You sense them. You have to be ready.

Ready? she squeaked at him. Ready for what?

I’m not sure, Maxie, but something … His voice took on a hushed tone.  … big and bad. He paused and then continued because she was too shocked to speak. Maxie, you don’t really know what you are. You don’t really know just what you can do … and you have to find out … soon!

Max didn’t like the sound of that, and she told him so, but that was all she got out of him at that moment. She pushed herself to her feet, stood on the sand, and brushed herself off. She put on her sneakers and made the three-mile walking loop she had plotted out years ago.

Later, at home, she showered, dressed, and got ready to call one of her girlfriends to say she was meeting them for a night on the town. Sighing after she left a phone message, she went and got a diet Coke from the fridge, noting there wasn’t much else there, and suddenly got a sense of spatial distortion. She knew she was about to get another splattering of history.

Maxie could see an exquisite creature. She was tall and ethereal, and there was a golden glow all around her, like an aura. Maxie knew this was Aaibhe, Queen of the Fae. Beside her was a magnificent warrior with dark blonde hair. He stood in leather pants and, other than a gold torque around his neck, nothing else. He was magnificent. He also had a golden aura although not quite like his queen. Maxie knew he was the prince of Dagda, Breslyn. That much was written in the journal.

Give her life, my Queen—do not allow this to stand. His teeth were gritted as he seethed with fury.

I may not. She has been gone too long. It is too late, and the fates have decreed otherwise. Aaibhe’s gentle voice was tinged with sadness.

May the fates be damned! Breslyn spat.

Her eyes became sharp slits, and her body took on a frosted appearance as she held herself aloof. You forget yourself, my Prince.

It is our fault that she lies there … we should have done more.

We tried. You will consider—if Julian of Talbot had not gone to see the DuLaine, he would not now be in the throes of the bloodlust. His dear but naïve bride foolishly sacrificed her life when she made a deal with the devil. The queen was shaking her head, and her expression was grim. We had matters all neatly arranged within the limits of our boundaries. They were scheduled to leave for Scotland and relative safety. Yet, they each chose a path that brought us here to this moment.

I cannot bear it! Breslyn’s obvious distress surprised Maxie, as she had been led to believe the Fae were aloof, dispassionate, and without deep feelings.

Nonsense! the queen rebuked him. Don’t speak in human terms. Had the child waited, given the situation more thought, more time, we would have brought her with Julian to Tir, where they would not have aged, and eventually he would have recovered from the diseased blood. However, they are human, they are unpredictable, and now there are only a few things we may do to alter matters without disrupting the core of destiny.

And what are these things that we may do? The prince bent and stroked the young bride’s cold cheek.

The queen paused and put up a delicate, long finger. Ah … Breslyn, her family has discovered her missing. They are on their way … we must hurry.

Watching this, Maxie felt breathless, as though she really were right there and a part of all of it. She reached out to touch the woman who could have been her twin, but of course, her hand went through the image. She shook her head and reminded herself she was just a passenger on a dream train.

The scene changed suddenly, and Max watched as Breslyn retrieved Julian’s body from Reigate and transported him to the Isle of Tir. Maxie stared at the scene in astonishment. She was looking at the Realm of Faery.

She knew it at once. Everything about it was vibrant with color and scent. Everything about it was magical and inviting. She watched Breslyn deposit Julian of Talbot on a bed of many shades of blue and stand away from him. Breslyn was still angry.

The curtain to Maxie’s dream came down, and once more she found herself standing in her kitchen, diet Coke in hand. She took a sip if only to return to reality. She had to ask herself, Am I losing it? Has everything been too much for me? Am I creating another world to escape this one?

No. Uncle Kennet is as logical and sane as they come, and he believes everything I told him. Why is that? Because he knows something, something I don’t know, she answered herself. Huh, so that was what happened on her ancestor’s last day.

As she contemplated the past and wondered what it had to do with her future, she moved into the sitting room her mother had redecorated only a year ago. Her mother’s face came to mind. Maxie felt her all around her. She was in her heart, and in her head whispering—telling her that she should forget all these things and go out with her friends …

People believe blindly in the teachings of their religions. People believe in angels, in Saints … in devils, but talk about Druids and Fae, and they think you’re crazy. So weird, she told herself. She had to get a grip and just go … go out with friends and leave this behind. She was trying to make a decision when all at once the room filled with the scent of pine, vanilla, and an herb she could not name. It was intoxicating. She stood perfectly still and looked around. This was not a dream, a waking one or otherwise. Something very real is happening!

The room seemed to fill with a soft glow, and then it was as though the air moved in waves around her. She stepped back, feeling as though she were in a desert looking for an oasis. Maxie was certain she could almost make out another dimension. The thin air gave her distorted vision a blurry sense of floating and then, wop, all clear and back to normal. Well, not quite normal. What was normal anymore? Nothing in her life felt like it would ever be normal ever again. All at once, she felt a parting of those same distorted airwaves, and someone was stepping through. Her eyes had to adjust to the sudden glow.

A male, yet not a man, stood before her. His body spelled warrior, yet his facial expression clearly said, ‘art—magic … science, and lover!"

It was the male Fae—the royal Fae she knew as Breslyn, Prince of Dagda. Oh yes, indeedy, she told herself, right here, flesh and blood—that is if the Fae are flesh and blood?

She realized he was cloaked in the Féth Fiada—the ability of Fae to go undetected by humans—but Maxie was able to perceive him without any difficulty. Thinking himself safe from human detection, he hadn’t bothered to use human Glamour to tone down his Faeness as he boldly occupied space and looked her over.

Max remembered the last vision she’d had with him standing in furious resignation over her ancestor’s murder. She had been surprised by the depth of emotion he radiated. Do Fae have hearts? she asked herself as she stared at him. He was staring back at her. In fact, he was letting those sparkling eyes linger all over her body. She sucked in air, because when she opened her mouth, and in spite of her determination to speak, nothing came out!

You have her look. The big, hunky Fae breathed softly. He realized from her gaping stare that she could see him, but he didn’t remark upon it as his eyes opened wide for a fleeting moment before he continued, Your hair is a touch darker, a shade blacker, and it is thicker—shorter. You wear it very differently than she did, but I like it. In fact, it is most … appealing. He was making no attempt to hide the fact that he was studying Max in a thoroughly sexual fashion. He seemed to take it as his right. His bright eyes lit upon her full breasts, and he bit the corner of his bottom lip.

Maxie felt his eyes peel away her black sweater, and she felt a wave of heat as she realized her nipples were reacting very perkily to his gaze. She felt herself burn right up into her cheeks, but she still couldn’t speak. She also couldn’t stop doing the very same look over, taking in every incredible inch of him.

His dark blond hair was thick and shiny as it fell about his handsomely chiseled face and rested on his broad, tanned shoulders. Around his neck was a gold torque. Around his naked arm was a wide gold band, as well as a tattooed braid of Celtic knots and runes. His eyes, which at first she thought were a blast of colors, seemed to meld into silver. His smile tickled a response from her, made her want to reach out and touch his sensuous lips, as his mouth captivated her with its winsome curve.

His accent was Old World enchanting and sexy beyond belief. Maxie admitted silently to herself that when her eyes took in his firm, naked mid-section she wanted to devour him. Her eyes continued the journey and found his trim waist—and discovered that his dark brown leather pants held a bulge that would boggle any woman’s mind. Speak? Impossible! Breathe, she told herself—she had to keep on breathing or she would definitely pass out.

The prince was grinning, and Maxie could see that he was pleased with her reaction to him. He came closer, and his dangerously sensual accent tickled her senses into high gear. "Ah, you do have her look, but you are not very much like her. Your name is the same, but I think I will call you Lia."

Why? Maxie squeaked.

Lia Fail is our Sacred Stone of Destiny. Destiny is what brought us together. He moved, and in one fluid maneuver had Max tightly in his arms. You … like she … are able to see through my Fae cloaking. You have her gifts, but yours are somehow different.

Yes … different. She sounded a fool even to herself. What would he think? Max was totally enthralled. She contemplated this, as she didn’t enthrall easily. Already twenty-one, and never before had she been enthralled!

And you are not given … he said into her ear. She had a weak moment when she wanted him to do much more than whisper there.

No, nope—not given. Her voice was hoarse as she idiotically shook her head.

You have not yet been properly tasted and satisfied, but, my beauty … I mean to correct the situation. He bent his head as he gently molded her body to his. His mouth sweetly covered her full lips, and his tongue invited hers to a spellbinding waltz.

He was sending sparks through her body, and she suddenly knew what it meant when they wrote about burning blood—oh yeah, burning all right.

He raised his head, and she had a job looking up that high. He had to be well over six feet tall, and Max was not much more than five foot four.

I had to see you for myself, the prince said quietly. Our time is now, he added with more feeling, and then he took her hand to lead her to the sofa.

Yes—our time. Oh, I’m good, really good at spontaneous conversation. She grimaced to herself.

Things will start to happen now—too quickly for you to waste anymore time reading your journals. And I promise you, Lia, the queen will not tie my hands with useless rules this time!

Max could see the fierce glint in his silver eyes, and she tried to collect her thoughts as she put a finger to his hard, broad chest. Prince … Maxie’s voice was cautious and not much above a whisper. … useless rules? What rules?

He tipped her chin up. the Treaty between Man and Fae requires us to refrain from interfering in your lives.

Yes, that is a good rule. Whenever Captain Kirk landed on a new planet they had this directive … Now she was babbling like a baby.

He touched her cheek and chuckled. Ah, my Lia, it is a very exasperating rule. However, forget it for now. Breslyn shrugged. My queen is busy with other matters at the moment. At any rate, this time, I am given the right to use my discretion. So, I have decided to exercise it and make you aware of a few facts. First … I will tell you this—Julian of Talbot is awake in Tir nan-og. He has been busy with his educator.

All at once Max found herself. She jumped to her feet. He really is alive and well in Faery, and now he’s awake? Why, this is wonderful … isn’t it? Why are you frowning? What do you mean—educator?

He laughed. Which question shall I answer first?

All of them.

He brought her back down to the sofa with a soft pull on her hand, and then he kissed it as though it were the most precious thing in the world. It sent shivers down her spine, and her eyes lingered on his fingers before coming back up to his face. He was saying, We shall start with your last question. Someone versed in the niceties of your modern world is teaching him how to be a twenty-first-century man. Indeed, if he is to survive he must be brought up to speed. He began grinning wickedly again, obviously pleased with himself for already possessing that education. And if I frowned, it is because that is not the only thing I must tell you.

Right, ha! My vision was real. I saw you take him to Faery—that was real … Max looked at him hard. That is … if you are real?

Oh I am real—you knew me at once … did you not, my Lia? But shall I convince you how real I am. He had somehow gently pulled her into his strong arms, and a definite two thirds of her wanted to be right there. However, she was made of sterner stuff. Her brain battled with her body and with the hungry wild woman inside wanting to play if only for fun. Go for it, girl. The other part of her mind was weaving its customary protective shield and telling her to calm down.

She pulled out of his arms and sat away from him, demanding, Tell me the rest. You said something you have to tell me was what made you frown—what was it?

He laughed. Remember, I am a royal prince. I do not respond well to anyone’s … commands.

The queen commands you.

The queen has many ways to … shall we say punish those of her court who disobey her direct orders. I, however, am her favorite, and I am allowed much leeway.

Maxie laughed. He was so damn proud of himself but somewhat endearing as well. Okay then, Prince, how about telling me the rest, if you please?

He looked into her eyes, and said softly, Well done, Lia. I like your manners, and I like the warmth in your green eyes. Their glow is like the emerald lake I have on one of our isles. And like my lake, your eyes offer warmth. I will take you there, to this lake of mine, and we will enjoy a picnic together—soon.

It was tempting. He was tempting. She was just so damn tempted! She licked her lips while she considered