Feral Blood (Bound to the Fae #2) by Eva Chase

Chapter One





Talia





Three men lie sleeping on the red-and-gold rug that stretches the length of the grand entrance room. Their bodies form a loose circle around the spot I recently left. They look totally relaxed now, but vicious claw marks gouge the polished floorboards on either side of them.

I suspect that the floor has seen worse on previous occasions, and that fae magic will heal the wood easily enough. In spite of those signs of violence, the warm midday light beams cheerily down from the windows high above and no sound reaches my ears but the soft, rhythmic rasp of the men’s breaths. The scene should give me a sense of peace.

I braved my deepest fears for these men-who-aren’t-really-men, the three who freed me from years of cruel captivity and offered me a real home. With a taste of my blood, I brought them out of the curse that turns their wolf forms mindlessly violent under the full moon. I watched them bring the chaos of their wild pack into some kind of order, and then I nestled in the middle of the ring of their bodies to sleep in perfect safety.

But that safety was an illusion. They can’t protect me from everything in this strange, savage faerie realm—and I’ve just seen one of the gravest threats this realm poses lurking in sight of the keep.

I hesitate in the doorway, regret twisting through my chest. I don’t want to wake them up to bad news. I’d give anything for a few more hours by their sides, basking in the joy I woke up with. But that joy has vanished. However serious this threat turns out to be, Sylas will want to know about it right away.

It turns out I don’t even have to wake them. With my first uneven steps, the wooden slats of the brace around my warped foot tap against the floor, and Sylas stirs. He pushes himself into a sitting position and rolls his shoulders, his head turning so he can watch me approach.

The fae lord who rules over this keep and the pack that lives alongside it looks every inch the stalwart commander even in the simple shirt and slacks he wore for last night’s transformation. He studies me with one darkly penetrating eye and one gone white with the scar that bisects his tawny skin from eyebrow to cheekbone. The purple-brown waves of his shoulder-length hair part around the high points of the ears that mark him as one of the few “true-blooded” fae, a status that gives him his authority over his cadre and his pack.

Even sitting, his tall, well-muscled frame exudes authority. So do the multitude of arcing black lines supernaturally tattooed on his body, everywhere from his temples to his neck to his forearms and, I know from past experience, the sculpted planes of his chest beneath that shirt. Each one of those marks represents the true name of some plant or animal or material he’s learned, that he can bend to his will through his powers.

As recently as a few days ago, I found him intimidating. Now, the warm welcome I can recognize in his gaze and the reserved smile that curves the corners of his lips offset his imposing aura. Sylas was a little frustrated that I ignored his instructions to stay locked in my room to release them out of their wild state, but he also appreciated the dedication I showed with the gesture. The greatest thank you he gave me wasn’t those words themselves but when he referred to me to the others as “our lady.”

I don’t belong to these men, but I belong with them, standing beside them. I proved it last night, to all of us.

And now I might be bringing a new threat down on their heads, after everything they’ve already risked for me.

That last thought must show on my face, because Sylas’s smile fades. As I reach the edge of the rug, he stands, looming more than a foot taller than my slim—not long ago half-starved—figure. The movement rouses his cadre. Whitt rolls onto his back with a muffled groan and a stretch of his brawny arms; August swipes his hand over his broad, boyish face and aims a bright if slightly groggy grin at me.

Sylas’s attention stays focused on me. “What is it?” No “Good morning” or inquiries about how I slept. How does he see so much with only the one working eye? Sometimes I feel like he looks straight into my head.

I come to a stop a few feet away from him, the news I have to deliver forming a lump in my throat. I force it out. “I think I saw one of the men from Aerik’s cadre on the hills past the houses, watching the keep.”

Sylas’s lips pull back from his gleaming teeth with a restrained snarl. I thought of him as a grizzly when I first met him, and he’s never fit that impression better than right now. August leaps to his feet with surprising nimbleness given his strong but stocky frame, his gaze darting to the door, his posture tensed as if ready to lunge straight into a fight. Whitt draws himself up at his typical languid pace, as if he’s not particularly concerned despite the others’ reactions, but his ocean-blue eyes have turned stormy.