Erin here. Fey Touched is my first novel release from Turtleduck Press. It's science fantasy. Here's a short teaser from chapter 1.
A bit of background: Fallon is a Hunter looking for some very important information and discovers something she never thought possible.
Warning: some explicit language.
“Come on, is that the best you can do?” I asked Declan as we circled each other outside the compound, ignoring the other Hunters around us. He was close to staking me. I loved riling him up.
He pulled me closer to him until we were close enough to kiss. “How about now?”
I arched a brow and ducked, feinting right, flaring my wings out for balance.
He growled and lunged at me. I blocked his attack with my forearm, knocking the stake out of his hand.
“Well, looks like I win. Again.” I picked up the iron stake, wincing at the pain it caused me. I held it out to Declan.
“How do you move so fast?” Declan asked, his eyes dancing with mirth. He knew the answer to that question.
I grinned. “'Cause I'm special.”
“Everyone, take it from the top!” shouted Robbie. He had put us through our paces today. Every muscle in my body hurt, including muscles I didn't know I had. And I was sweating. Good thing we were only practicing.
Tommy rolled his eyes. “Not again!”
“Yes again!” Robbie said. “Don't worry, we're nearly done for today. I'm not that cruel.”
We spun and lunged, attacked and parried. Over and over and over again. Arms and legs performing instinctive movements, minds racing, trying to stay one step ahead of each other.
My mind drifted. I thought about the dreams I'd been having about a woman who seemed so familiar to me, but that was impossible, as I'd never met her. Who was she? Could she be related to me somehow? But that couldn't be. I had no family –
“Fallon?” Declan's voice brought me back to reality. “Earth to Fallon...”
“I'm here,” I said. “I was just thinking.”
“Don't think too hard. You might sprain your brain,” Anthony called out.
I flipped him the bird.
Just as we were about to drop, Robbie said, “Okay, that's enough.” Thank Artemis.
Robbie moved to the middle row of Hunters. “Meditation and movement.” Two Hunters parted quickly for him to join them. Everyone gave him the respect due to him. He was one of our oldest and strongest Hunters.
A chilly wind gusted through, and I shivered.
Meditation and movement was just what it sounded like: the combination of a deeper state of consciousness and light, graceful movements to get into sync with the body. It had been developed by Robbie himself, and we ended our sparring sessions with it every time.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing deep.
I moved through a series of lunges and spins, light as air, the world falling away, leaving nothing but my slow inhales and exhales and the movements of my body and wings.
“It's a wrap,” Robbie said, coming out of his meditative trance. “See ya at the meeting.”
“Fallon,” Declan said as he caught up with me. I was on the move, my stomach a bag of anxiety. “Wanna do some hunting before the meeting?”
I smiled. It would be fun. “Sure. It'll be a great distraction.”
Declan arched a brow. “Distraction from what?”
My brain played tug-of-war with itself: should I tell Declan about the dreams, or should I keep quiet about them? They were making me crazy, and I suspected something was up, but I'd just worry him.
Then again, I'd opened that fucking door, hadn't I?
“Just some weird dreams I'm having. No biggie,” I said quickly. “You've had vivid dreams before? The kind that seem real?”
Declan nodded. “Sure. Don't we all?”
“But these seem different somehow, and it's making me cuckoo trying to figure it out – ”
Declan grinned. “Nothing like a good hunt to make you forget.”
I tried to relax. Honestly, I did. But I couldn't forget her face, so pale and cold, or her lips moving in silent pleas. If I didn't find out who she was, she would haunt me forever.
I gripped my iron stake in my fist, even though it fucking hurt.
Declan and I stood in a small forest, hidden by a group of large trees. We were tracking a few rogue Fey that had come through here. Rogue Fey were Fey who turned, feeding off humans indiscriminately (and often killing them) to get their mana instead of following the law and using donors.
“Anything?” Declan asked softly.
I cast out my senses like a net, hoping to catch something I had missed. Fey called to Fey.
Nothing stirred. Nothing moved.
“Fuck,” I muttered. “They were here, I know it. Come on, you bastards. Show yourselves!” I spun around, my eyes and ears picking out things – the thick shadows that surrounded us, branches swaying in the breeze, birds calling to each other.
Come on, Fallon. You're better than this.
Yeah, but shit, I was distracted in a major way. The woman's fucking face was seared into my mind.
“Wait, I think I found something,” Declan whispered. “That way.” He pointed north, and I cast my senses in that direction.
What came back was a fucking miracle. Three fucking Fey. I tightened my grip on my stake. “Get ready to die, bitches.”
We walked, not ran, toward the Fey. We knew they'd sense our approach, but I hoped they were distracted and didn't sense or hear us. Yeah, totally not gonna happen, but I could hope, right?
There was nothing wrong with hope, my friends.
By unspoken agreement, we ducked behind another large tree to assess things.
Minutes seemed to go by like eternities. I barely breathed. Declan had his Look of Concentration, a look that he got when he was in the zone.
“They're up ahead. And I believe they have a human with them,”Declan said, his voice a soothing caress.
“Fucking assholes,” I said. “We gotta save that human.”
Our eyes met and we shot out of our hiding place, adrenaline pumping.
I noted things as I got closer: lit by diffused sunlight, there were three of the bastards overpowering the aforementioned human. A dark stain of blood on her neck stood out in stark contrast to her pale skin. Her mana was low but not depleted. The soul suckers seemed to be arguing about who was next. How fucking juvenile.
I moved into position. I wanted to see everything. Declan went to the opposite side in case they ran.
But damn, that was why we had wings.
Wings that I snapped out and released to their full span.
One Fey heard me and swiveled around. He was pretty – the Fey usually were – with long, glossy hair and piercing, almost hypnotic eyes. Oh, boy. I had to be careful around this one.
“Look who's joined the party,” he said, his voice like a physical caress. I shivered. Okay, I really needed to focus. He moved toward me, a smile on his perfect face. “You're welcome to join us, Hunter. But I'm not sure you'll agree with our idea of fun.”
“I don't really care whether we agree or not,” I said, getting into fighting stance, stake ready to do serious damage. “My idea of fun? Watching you die. Right here, right now.” I crooked my fingers in a come to me gesture.
“Really?” Another Fey, a woman, sized me up. “I don't think so.”
She shot out from her place in the back and came to me, fists raised. Her green eyes screamed with lethal fury. Yeah, they got a bit irritated when we tried to take them out.
But alas, I wasn't afraid.
One thrust of my stake into her and she would be done.
Still, I liked a challenge.
Before she touched me, I shoved her as hard as I could. She swayed, fell to her knees, and somersaulted up.
My lower lip curled in derision. So she fancied herself a gymnast, huh?
I went airborne, beating my wings, catching the slight breeze. She watched me with wide eyes.
“Don't antagonize her,” the male Fey said. “She likes to toy with her prey.”
“Who's first?” Declan said as he strode forward.
The other male Fey, who had been silent until now, threw a punch that Declan dodged effortlessly. Ooh, I loved watching him fight.
Declan spun around in a roadhouse kick that sent the silent Fey flying. He arched a brow. “Who's next?”
The female Fey shouted at me. “Come on down and get me, bitch!”
“My pleasure.” Grinning, I swooped down until I was almost touching the ground in front of her. I pulled my arm back and got ready to stake her –
I saw the woman from my dreams. Standing in front of me, her eyes filled with pain. Wordlessly pleading –
Something sliced through my wings, and white-hot pain flared. I dropped to the ground.
Damn it. Sunlight!
As I tried to catch my breath, the Fey female advanced on me. “Not so invincible now, huh?” she purred. She opened her hand, drawing the sunlight into her body, where it pooled and flared everywhere it touched until she glowed with the fucking stuff.
I crouched, trying to get my bearings. The world swam in a liquid haze.
“Fallon, don't move,” Declan said from somewhere to my right. “I got this.”
I gripped my stake hard enough to leave marks. It felt as if my hand was fucking broken and crushed, but I just increased my grip.
I let the pain guide me, spur me on.
I could do this.
A shadow hovered over me. A stinking Fey shadow.
Before Declan could reach her, I lunged upwards and drove my stake into her heart. And then twisted it for good measure.
Her body smoked, raising thick and pungent in the air. Smokin' Fey never smelled so good.
After a few seconds, she caught fire, flames shooting high and amber into the sky.
I reached out toward the non-burning part of her and yanked my stake out. It dripped with Fey blood.
“Who's gonna be next?” Declan asked, flanking me on the right.
“Or do you wanna turn tail and run? Either way, we'll get you. Now or later, it doesn't make a difference.” I tapped my opposite hand with my stake. “You're gonna die anyways, ladies.”
“We'll get ya,” Declan said, low and threatening. “We'll get ya before you even know what's coming.”
As by some unspoken agreement, we launched ourselves into the air.
Two things happened: the morons fled. We gave chase.
They were too stupid to live.
We chased 'em. We staked 'em. End of story.
As I watched the fire obliterate their bodies, I gave thanks for the gift I was given. I might have some of those fuckers inside me, but I would never be one of them. Never.
I would die a horrific, gruesome death first.
The human had passed out during our little party. When she came to, we assured her that yes, the fuckers were dead, and yes, we would take care of her.
I hovered my hand over her chest, now coated in her own blood. Her mana pulsed dimly but it was enough.
She wouldn't be going insane or rotting today.
“Thank you,” she murmured. “They made me beg for it. Their hands...their teeth...I'm going to have nightmares.”
“Shh,” I said, gathering her into my arms, heedless of the blood. “No one's ever gonna hurt you again, okay? We'll make sure of that.”
“They're dead,” Declan said, patting her on the shoulder. “We'll get you looked at and into a safe house.” His eyes met mine. “They'll never hurt you again.”
I palmed my stake. “Never again.”
Once we'd called for backup, Declan took me aside. “What's going on with you? You wouldn't let a fucking rogue get close enough to hurt you.”
I sighed. It seemed so silly now, letting myself get distracted by a ...what? A vision? A hallucination?
“Fallon,” Declan said in a warning tone. “Come on. We're best friends. Best friends share things, the good and the bad.”
Could he read me that well? Fuck.
I fiddled with my hair so I'd have something to do with my hands. “I'm not feeling so hot. It was a stupid mistake. An avoidable one.”
His hand on my arm felt right, soothing. “We all make mistakes, you know.”
I met his gaze. “But I haven't been as sharp as I usually am. I'm distracted and tired and I'm seeing things – ”
Oops. I hadn't meant to say that, but shit, my mouth had a mind of its own today.
Declan's eyes widened. He studied me for a few moments. “You're seeing things?”
You opened the fucking door, moron.
I didn't want to tell him. He'd think I was crazy, or sick, or fucked up. But he was my best friend, and that trumped everything. “Okay, fine. I thought I saw the woman in my dreams out there. Right before I was hit. It fucked with my perception.” I shifted from one foot to the other, acutely aware that Declan could report me. Would he do that? I didn't think so, but it was for the good of the tribe, so who really knew?
“So it was a hallucination? Maybe you should see Michelle. Get it looked at. Just in case.”
“I'm just really tired. I'm sure it's nothing,” I said. No, I didn't think Michelle could help me with this.
But I knew who could. And I had the means to make it happen.
It was very simple. Bloodline tracking was the latest and greatest technology. Using an extensive database of Fey and Fey Touched, they could pinpoint my bloodline.
A drop of blood held the answers I sought. And my destiny.
The people inside the small reception area stared at me as I signed in. I supposed it was my leather, or maybe my perpetual scowl.
The too-perky, too-blonde receptionist smiled. “Dr. Howard will be with you shortly.”
I returned the smile, nodded, and took a seat in the far corner of the spacious, brightly-lit room. It was decorated in warm tones, from the sage green sofas to the deep red throw pillows. The coffee table was glass that shone so bright, I wasn't sure if it was real.
This was Howard and Sons, the best of the best when it came to bloodline tracking. They were the pioneers of the method and they were discreet.
The door on the side opened, revealing a short woman dressed in neon pink scrubs. Way to hurt the eyeballs. “Heather Abraham?”
That was me. No way was I giving my real name out here. There were all sorts of people I didn't want to know what I was doing.
I stood, took a breath, and followed the retina-straining trail of pink through a hallway filled with paintings and pictures.
We turned a corner, and then another, and we stopped in a sterile room that reminded me of the dentist, chair and all.
Neon Lady held out her hand. Her nails were painted, you guessed it, neon fucking pink. “I'm Amy. I'll be assisting Dr. Howard during the procedure.”
I just loved the way they talked 'round here. Procedure. Assisting. As if this were more than a prick of a needle and a computer readout. Crazy. But that was why I was about to pay them big bucks.
The door opened and a man entered the room. He was tall and thin and looked to be about twenty. He was clean-shaven and wore his long black hair in a ponytail that hung halfway down his back. That didn't exactly scream scientist and genius to me, but what did I know? Maybe he had a rebellious streak.
He held out his hand, grinning. “Hi, I'm Gregory Howard. And you are..?”
“Heather,” Amy supplied.
I put my hand up to stop her from saying anything else. “Actually, my name is Fallon, but I was being – ”
“Dishonest?” Dr. Howard asked. But there was no judgment in his voice, just curiosity.
I couldn't look him in the eye. “Uh, discreet. I'm a Hunter, and I didn't want anyone to know about this.”
Dr. Howard nodded as if it made perfect sense. “Ah, I understand. We get that a lot around here.”
He then launched into a long, overly complicated explanation as to what they would do for the procedure, most of which went flying over my head. But I tried to understand, I really did. The only thing I got was that they'd take my blood, run it through the database, and then Dr. Howard would interpret the results. Easy peasy, huh?
So I settled in to wait for Amy to get the vampire gear. In the dentist chair. Staring out the window at the bright blue sky.
“We don't get a lot of Hunters here,” Dr. Howard said. “Don't you guys have a thing about keeping the bloodlines pure?”
I nodded, glancing at him. “Yeah, we do. But I think I have a missing relative somewhere.” I smiled. “So I'm investigating. It's what I do best.”
“I bet,” Dr. Howard said with a grin. “I bet it's an interesting life, chasing down the bad guys.”
I let my eyes widen just a little bit. “Very exciting. Except the part where they get punished. That I could happily never see again.”
Dr. Howard arched a brow as Amy reappeared. “Punishment?”
I leaned in. “It's top secret,” I whispered. “If I told you, I'd have to kill you. And Amy. That would be way too messy.”
Amy blanched. “Um, I've got the stuff. Let me see your arm.”
She did the pokey thing while Dr. Howard fiddled with a small laptop computer. She took the blood and handed the vial to him.
“Come over here and have a seat,” Dr. Howard said, gesturing to the seat that sat next to him.
My stomach clenched with nausea as minutes ticked by so slowly I'd thought time had stopped. That I was forever perched on this moment, waiting, dying. Not knowing.
“Here's what I'm doing. See this slide? I'm going to place a drop of your blood on it.”
I watched, transfixed, as Dr. Howard took an eyedropper and sucked some blood into it. A drop of blood...
Then he dropped the blood onto a clear slide that was attached to a huge, scary-looking machine.
Amy took the eyedropper from the doctor.
He turned to me, smiling warmly. “Now the machine will analyze the blood, query the database, and come up with something.”
On Dr. Howard's laptop screen, a bunch of words scrolled down. I squinted, but couldn't read them.
“It's thinking,” Dr. Howard said. He typed. Changed screens. Consulted a tiny datapad I just noticed beside the computer. At one point, he glanced at Amy, who frowned at him.
“This is very interesting,” Dr. Howard said. “The database pulled up something very...odd. I'm in the process of double checking and running the query again.”
I felt as if all the oxygen had left the room. “Are you sure you're using my blood?”
Amy chuckled. “Straight from your vein to Dr. Howard's hand.”
“Wow, I've never seen this,” Dr. Howard said a few moments later, facing me. “Are you sure you want to know what I've discovered?”
My gut twisted. Was it bad news? “What's wrong? I'm not like, an alien or something?”
Dr. Howard smiled. “No, but it's just about as puzzling. Look.” I moved closer, my stomach churning.
He pointed to some numbers and a picture of a DNA strand. “The machine pulls up a bloodline name based on the DNA. You see this name here? This should be your family name.”
I blinked. “That's not my family name.”
“I think I can explain why,” Dr. Howard said.
I wasn't getting it. “Huh?”
Dr. Howard glanced at Amy, who shrugged. He looked at me dead in the eyes, and I tried not to flinch. “You know – and I know – you're Fey Touched. But this here shows that you come from a Royal Fey bloodline. But what's most interesting is that it's not a full match.”
Clearly I wasn't hearing right. My legs collapsed under me. Dr. Howard and Amy jumped to catch me, guiding me back to the dentist chair. The room spun. “Okay, what are you saying? I don't understand.”
Dr. Howard pointed to a list of numbers on the screen. “This shows us that your DNA has been altered.”
“Well, no kidding. I'm Touched.”
Dr. Howard shook his head. “No. These weren't the modifications for the Fey Touched, at least according to the official records.”
I glanced at Amy, who shrugged helplessly.
Dr. Howard went back to the computer and pulled up something else. “Your family tree, based on your DNA.”
I stood even though the room pirouetted around me. “My family tree?” I looked at the screen and this time, I almost fainted for real.
The family tree I was looking at was not the family I belonged to. And the bloodline name he'd shown me wasn't the one I'd grown up with...
Which meant...holy fuck, was I adopted? Who's family did I belong to?
My stomach dropped to the floor and suddenly I couldn't breathe.
My mother and father weren't my mother and father. In fact, according to this, I was part of the Royal Fey bloodline.
No fucking way.
I scanned the family tree again, looking for a mistake, anything that I could grab a hold of, anything that would give me reason to not believe this.
Off to the side, there was an unnamed, deceased female. But that barely registered.
“This is a mistake,” I said, and my tongue felt like sandpaper. My fingers twitched.
“Bloodline tracking is ninety-nine point nine nine percent accurate,” Dr. Howard said gently. “I take it this wasn't what you expected?”
Hell no. Understatement of the year.
It was wrong. It had to be.