Wicked Enchantment(10)

By: Anya Bast

In addition to the coolness and detachment, Aislinn, out of all the Seelie who’d watched him enter their tower, was the only one who hadn’t looked at him with some kind of combination of fear and lust on her face. The fear made sense and he was used to seeing it—even from the Unseelie. He was sex and death all in one package.

Even if most didn’t sense the death consciously, it was there. And it didn’t come from his capacity to create sexual addiction in women, either. It was true he could do that, though not to the point where they’d die from want of him. That sort of power had died out in his line long ago, though it was in Gabriel’s best interests not to reveal that secret. Creating sexual addiction in those who came to his bed was not a desirable thing—it made his lovers needy and clingy and that was something he couldn’t abide.

No, the intangible threat of death that people sensed came from something far more powerful. Something only a handful of trusted Unseelie knew about.

Gabriel turned down the corridor toward the Shadow King’s quarters and Hinkley scurried to keep up. The floor and walls here were made of black marble veined through with silver. Framed pictures of some of the historical battles between the Rose and Black adorned the walls above small tables with vases of orchids or bowls of fruit or candy. Those battles had occurred back before the Great Sweep had compelled them all into Piefferburg and the fae courts had been forced into an uneasy peace.

This was the floor where the Shadow King and his advisers lived. Not many of the other Unseelie had cause to be here, so all was silent save for the click of his and Hinkley’s shoes on the floor.

His thoughts turned to Aislinn and he had a moment of uncharacteristic discomfort. “I may need more time with the woman than we thought.”

Hinkley made a choking sound. “You don’t have long. For whatever reason, the Shadow King is most obsessed with bringing this woman over. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this impatient.”

Gabriel stifled a yawn and set to undoing the cuff links on his tux. “I’ll get the job done.”

They came to the double doors that led to the king’s quarters. The Unseelie Court had both daytime and nighttime fae. It was active around the clock, as opposed to the mostly daytime Seelie Court. The king was a night dweller, which meant Gabriel wasn’t waking His Majesty from slumber. Even if he were it wouldn’t matter. The Shadow King didn’t sit on his throne like a half-dead statue the way the Summer Queen did. He moved, fought, danced, laughed, and cavorted with his people.

Though one could never mistake the Shadow King for one of them. Imbued with the power of the Shadow Amulet, he was far more powerful than any of them could imagine. The amulet gave the Shadow Royal eternal agelessness and the ability to call and control the goblin army. You didn’t want to cross him, and you never wanted to disappoint him. When the Shadow King decided you needed to be punished, his ways of doing so were legend. Magickal torture was torture like none could imagine.

That was why Gabriel didn’t want to fail in the task he’d been set. Not even the king’s favorites were immune to his anger. On the contrary, he expected more of them.

The doors opened by themselves as he approached—a handy little bit of magick—and Hinkley fell back, allowing Gabriel to enter on his own. No one was in the waiting room and the doors to the apartment were open, so he walked into the spacious foyer of the residence and passed into the living room.

The room was modern, done in shining silvers and whites. It was a cold room for a friendly king. Gabriel didn’t like it, no matter the lushness of the décor and the obvious signs of wealth that were displayed. The term “Shadow King” was not apt, in Gabriel’s opinion, not when shadows were so dark and chilly.

Aodh Críostóir Ruadhán O’Dubhuir, also known as the Shadow King, stood at the huge window that overlooked Piefferburg Square, a short glass filled with amber liquid in his hand. The long hair that cascaded down his back started out silver blond at the roots—his natural color. From there it faded into dyed hues of orange, then rose, ending at the tips in fiery red. He was many centuries old, but because of the Shadow Amulet, he didn’t look a day over thirty-two. The amulet was a part of him, literally. Once donned by its rightful owner, the heavy necklace sank into the flesh and imbued the royal with magick, leaving only a tattooed image on the neck and upper chest to mark its physical presence.