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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On The Go!

For everyone who loves reading on the go, Into The Dreaming is available for Android and Apple!

Android users can download Into The Dreaming by using Page Foundry, Inktera, Versent Books, or Asus Vibe aps.

Apple lovers of course can download Into The Dreaming using the iTunes store.

Diesel Independent Booksellers

Into The Dreaming is now available for purchase through Diesel Independent Booksellers and Kobo!  Follow the link below to get your copy today!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Into the Dreaming Prologue

Into the Dreaming
A Story of House Celestia

By Stephanie Brooks


© Copyright 2013 Stephanie Brooks
All Rights Reserved


Polaris often called North, Elite Paladin of House Celestia and head of the House Council strides through the underground tunnels of the Celestial Caverns, home and headquarters of Ember, the Scion leader.  His brother Sirius, known by many as Cy, keeps pace at his side as they make their way to the Council’s private audience chamber.  Both are silent, no words needed between two who’d fought, run, and generally lived in each other’s pockets for centuries.  Wolf shifters the both of them, they are the Elite of their respective Sciles – their skills – and as such have been awarded a place on the Council.
A bloody damn nuisance, as far as Cy’s concerned.  North may enjoy his place at the head of the Council, but he vastly prefers being out with one of his beauties than here in the Caverns attending a compulsory meeting.  Cy didn’t like being complused anywhere, let alone to some Hades-cursed “meeting” that would undoubtedly make him late to his prior – and much more enjoyable - engagement in the city.
He snorts.  “Meeting” his ass.  Gods don’t have meetings.  Hermes probably wants them to run some errand for him now that Ember isn’t there to tell him to fuck off.  How that Cronus-spawned jackass always knows when Ember is off on her walkabouts is the mystery.  It isn’t like she, or they, advertised that the House’s absent their mercurial leader.  Fucking Greeks.
“Any idea what that damned Greek wants this time?”  Cy asks approaching the carving laden arched doors barring entry to the Council chamber.
North scoffs.  As if he’d still be here if he knew ahead of time they were being “blessed” by the winged-manwhore’s presence.  Better to leave the Greek to Alana or Hector, they’re suited for the diplomacy required to tell him to fuck off in the nicest possible way.
But the entire Council has been summoned including the impatient brother wolves.
Damn the Greeks anyway, give him his Goddess any day.  At least She isn’t inclined to meddle.  Not blatantly anyway, he corrects himself.
Pausing before the doors, the brothers share a troubled glance.  Their preternatural senses can barely pick up the screaming match going on inside the audience chamber.  Not uncommon, the Hellspawn Twins usually enjoy a deafening row or five every day.
But one of the raised voices isn’t one of the fraternal twin Pixies.  It sounds suspiciously like Hermes.  The playboy Greek who doesn’t give a damn about anyone or anything, not even his own half-blood children he’s rapidly populating the world with.
Hermes is arguing with Dara?
Icy blue eyes met nearly black.  Whatever drove Hermes to bellows is bound to be trouble.
Throwing open the doors, the brothers take immediate stock of the situation, such as it is.  Dara and Hermes are centered in the room inside the circular inner ring of the massive Council table.  A table that once belonged to a Briton king in the Middle Ages, round, with a cut-out center allowing for a petitioner, or suspect, to be the sole focus of the Council and is presently occupied by the Greek, who using his power of flight hovers over Dara’s head, explaining why she’s standing on a chair screaming into his face.
Small in stature, what the dainty warrior-woman lacks in height she makes up in spirit.  As is expected from one of the Elite, let alone the Sayyida of Weapons, as the greatest of her Scile Dara could summon and create weaponry out of thin air.  Which is always the last thing on anyone’s mind after a single look at her elfin features and silver-spun hair…right up until she exterminates them. It almost isn’t fair to combine that much power with such deceptively feminine looks.  Almost.
Hermes matches her yell for yell, his power making him appear larger and larger as his temper flares out of control.  Normally a tall, wiry sort, the Greek god of travellers, messengers, and thieves is an unpredictable power among the Pantheon.  Probably why he gets along so well with Ember is the unanimous opinion among her people.  Dark of eyes and hair, he isn’t pretty handsome the way most of the Greeks are.  His nose is too large and bladelike.  Alana told North one night courtesy of the wolves’ whiskey that the Greek is compelling in a bad-boy way with the devil’s own mouth, one made for sin.
The brothers split off, circling the two combatants.  Alana is trying to play peacemaker, her Healer’s soul disturbed by the discord.  Honey skin and ebony hair, she looks like the Shamaness Fae she descended from.  Hector is paying the ruckus no mind, seated at the table in his human form.  As a centaur he can’t maneuver through the audience chamber as he likes, preferring instead to stay in his human skin until there’s room to run.  A preference the wolf in Cy sympathizes with.  Ebony skin and eyes with a blinding white smile, the Historian and record-keeper appears nothing like the bookish librarians of today’s society, ripped with brawny strength and long of arm, Hector is every inch a dangerous man.
Coming to a stop flanking Dom, Dara’s twin brother and usual sparring partner, both wolves study him with piercing gazes.  The most reluctant member of the Council could double as an angel, and has a few times on a dare.  His silver tipped hair and lavender eyes combined with the elfish looks of his sister, albeit more masculine, gives him a distinctly divine aspect.  Too bad the women he seduces with habitual regularity could never seem to grasp that while Dom looks like a fallen angel he is more demon than man.
Personally, North thinks the Pixie must have a death wish.  It’s the only explanation he could come up with for why the Isha of Dreams constantly tempts the fates with his shenanigans.  A scar, hidden by his regular glamour, crossing over one eye and down his cheek is the memento of a pissed off god whose wife’s charms Dom once sampled.
 “What set them off?”  Cy asks wearily when the screaming match gives no sign of abating at their entrance.
Dom takes a bite of an apple held in one long-fingered hand, then motions to Hector.
“It’s his fault.”
“Is not,” he counters without looking up from the tome before him on the table.
Rolling his eyes, Dom explains.
“Hector is researching something for Ember with Dara’s help.  When Hermes called the Council, she was somewhat…perturbed.  And she didn’t fail to hesitate to let Hermes know that he’s a spoiled brat.  Hermes took offense.  Now here we are.”  He pauses.  “I’m still going with Hector’s fault.”
Slamming shut the text, Hector rises to his full six-eight height.
“How, exactly do you figure that one, fairy boy?”
“Easy,” he says, refusing to jump at the slur.  The scholar has him by a good fifty pounds.  He’s occasionally suicidal, not stupid.  “Dara was helping you.  If she hadn’t been, she wouldn’t’ve cared about Hermes using us as his own personal errand-runners…again…ergo, your fault.”
Rubbing his eyes at the deteriorating scene North debates with himself.  A potential smiting over breaking up the fight or the time wasted and subsequent headache from allowing them to yell themselves out…and judging by the two still going strong that’ll be awhile.  With a speaking look at Cy, he throws back his head and howls, letting his wolf free in his command for silence.
Dara and Hermes whip around in unison.  The god gathering wind in one glowing hand as Dara palms a dagger from thin air.  Nothing like the hint of a mutual threat to stop a fight in its tracks.
North raises his hand in a commanding gesture that has Hermes raising an eloquent brow.  Few beings ever attempt to command a deity.  No matter how old or powerful said beings are in their own right.
“Lord Hermes,” he acknowledges.  “To what do we owe this…honor?”  Finishing quietly, the leader of the Scion Houses, in Ember’s absence at least, avoids a long drawn out debate over first, whatever those two are on about, and second, his less-than-diplomatic method of distraction.
“Ember is missing.”  Hermes says with a shrug.
The Council trades glances.  This is hardly news.  Their volatile leader has a tendency to…wander.   Information such as this scarcely requires a visit from a god for confirmation.
“We know.”  Dara says, smugly happy to spike her adversary’s guns.
“Not on walkabout missing, missing-missing.”  He clarifies.  “Normally I can find her as an often traveller, much the same way I can find Cy or any other Ranger.  Early this morning she dropped off the edge of my consciousness completely.  I’ve spent the day trying to reconnect or find her in any of the usual and unusual places.  She’s gone.  Vanished without a trace.”
“Alana?  Cy?”  North asks quietly in the silence following the god’s announcement.  As one of Ember’s Elite Rangers, Cy possesses the closest bond to the original Ranger.  Alana on the other hand, has healed her so many times that she long ago acquired an internal sense of whether trouble stalks the dangerously foolhardy creature.
Answering first, Cy shakes his head.  It is as if she, or someone, blocks the cord binding Ember to her Captain.
“Blocked but not severed.  She’s alive at least.”
“Alana?”
Reaching inside herself, Alana calls upon her Scile for Healing searching for her most common patient.
“He’s right.”  She says finally.  “Blocked, not severed.  Not in danger.”  She frowns pausing.  There is something odd.  It was as if…
“I think she’s asleep, dreaming so deep none of us can reach her.”
“Lord Hermes, is Morpheus still aligned with Zeus and his brothers?  Or has he switched sides?”  Hector asks.  The Pantheon is constantly at war, both with themselves and their Titan parents.  Alliances are fragile and fluid with minor godlings constantly changing sides at whim.
Taking a breath, Hermes looks past the room into the Dreaming.  Here is kept a record for those who know, or care, to look.  A record that shows the state of affairs among the various powers that be…with an exception or two for neither the Goddess the Scions and their Houses follow, nor the One God are ever listed.  Nor would they ever be, being laws unto themselves as deities go.
“Morpheus still allies with the Pantheon founded by Zeus.”  He answers, eliminating the obvious choice for an untouchable sleep.
“Who or what else would be able to conceal Ember?”  Dom asks confused.  As followers of their Goddess they’re immune to the powers of the other gods.  She shields them from both good and ill cast by any power but her own or that of the One God.
“Now that’s a damn good question.”  Without his usual theatrics, Hermes vanishes.
“Huh.”  Dara grunts, there goes her fight, just when she was about to get really into it.
“So…what were you two arguing about?”  Cy asks, trying to distract himself from the reality of his missing commander.
Tossing him a peeved glance over her shoulder at his question, she storms from the room.
“What?  What did I say?”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Big News!

Into the Dreaming is also going to available in paperback format for those of you (like me) who enjoy having books on your bookshelves instead of random knickknacks.  Check back here over the next couple weeks for information regarding where you can purchase your paperback copy of Into the Dreaming.

Thank you,

Stephanie

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Forever After

Hi Everybody!

I just wanted to let everyone know that Into the Dreaming will have an exclusive excerpt from Sweet Enemy one of two novellas that is being published in a duology later this year.  It's titled Forever After and will contain Ajax & Allyce's story in Sweet Enemy as well as Forever and a Day which is Cy and Desi's story.

Don't forget to pick up a copy of Into the Dreaming for your exclusive first look at the next chapter in the House Celestia Series!

Thanks for your support!

Stephanie

Don't forget to Like my Facebook page here: Stephanie on Facebook
and Find me on Twitter: Follow Stephanie on Twitter

Teaser Chapter

Enjoy a teaser chapter excerpt from my upcoming novel Into the Dreaming. (Note: to prevent confusion about special language, etc. regarding this fantasy world read the Into the Dreaming Sneak Peek first before reading the Teaser Chapter Excerpt.)

Into the Dreaming
Teaser Chapter Excerpt
Copyright 2013 Stephanie Brooks

Cy struggles up the long drive to the house guarding the entrance to the Caverns.
                His body aches, the explosion and subsequent injuries taking their fiendish toll.  Dawn peaks at the edges of the mountains, throwing their outlines into stark relief again the inky black sky.
                Stark.  That is a good word, a meaty word.  It has heft and meaning.  Maybe too much meaning for him at the moment.
                His mind and spirit hunch in on themselves.  The loss of one-who-could-be-mate is a terrible thing.  That he, the greatest Ranger of his House and people had been there and unable to prevent her taking, such a thing is – or should be – unthinkable.  Centuries have long passed since one not a Scion – or his brother – bested him in battle.
                He’s hunted.  He’s stalked.  Following his query, they passed from the bustling Seattle streets to a quiet, stately building hidden like a secret pearl in the heart of a little hill strewn city on the southern tip of the Puget Sound.  All this time the Danae hadn’t been in some foreign shore or far away land.  No.  They’d stayed a stone’s throw away, close and quiet.  Always keeping a wary eyes on House Celestia, the most powerful of their enemy Houses and self-appointed watchdogs.
                She hadn’t been held there, in that fortress by the water.  Soon after their arrival, and his, his Other senses warned him that a doorway was opening between this world and another.  All he managed was a single glimpse of where she’d been taken.
                That one look sent spears of icy-barbed fear and dread shooting down his spine.  If what he’d seen is true, and he is hoping that somehow he was wrong, they are royally fucked.
                Gaining the dooryard, Cy staggers a bit then leans on the concealed palmplate.  Rather than speaking the password which would allow him entrance, he gives a command that guarantees Healers will be on their way to him.
                Alana’s going to be pissed.  With this last thought he sinks into an unconscious lump on the cold ground.

                Pounding at the door to his – their – rooms wakes North.  He is okay with the waking up part.  It is the pounding he has issues with.  The scent of his mate has him aroused and ready long before waking and that goddess-be-damned pounding means there is nothing he is able to do about it.  Rude.  Annoyed he disentangles himself, grabbing his pants and clothing himself while stalking to the door.
                Jerking the solid rock slab wide, he glares at the unfortunate messenger.  Someone, Dara probably, is trying to get a Pixie killed.
                Dom raises a brow at his nominal leader’s disheveled state.  With his power he could feel the emanations vibrating from the room.  And something else tingling at his active power.  The Dreaming is off somehow.  Shaking his head he saves the puzzle for later, more vital problems are running amok this dawning.
                “Rough night?”  He teases lightly, testing North’s control.
                The wolf just growls, his rank and power rumbling in the sound made irritable from being taken from his mate’s arms.
                “What is it?”  Comes the sleepy question as silken arms wrap around him from behind.  She feels so groggy, as if she’d barely slept.  She had, she knows she had.  But that strange dream bothers her.  It is fading now, more impression than anything.
                The half of the Hellspawn before them stares at those arms.  He’d not noticed it before.  The difference.  But in the wake of the day it shone clear to him, more brilliant than the powerful stone hanging from the woman’s neck.  You could only see it in her scars.  Scars that brand her arms in intricate patterns and as she rests her head beneath the wolf’s arm, he sees others crossing her face and neck.  Dom would bet a godly favor – a rare gift traded among the Scions and their Elite the only prize worth wagering after centuries sent amassing fortunes – that the wolf hadn’t truly noticed the scars, nor had Alana or Dara or any other being who should notice and recognize such things.
Another favor would go that had he not woken her from a sound – and probably enchanted sleep courtesy of her stone – even he would never have questioned them.  Part of her glamour must go to concealing both her powers and her scars.  Entirely unconscious on her part by now, she doesn’t even realize she appears before them without it.
“Just a nosy friend, esti.”  North says, meeting her eyes.  She looks delectable, all rosily flushed and sleep tousled.  Heat pulses through him at the thought of truly Claiming her, finishing the nexus feminam – their version of marriage only without the option of divorce…ever.  Last night had been comfort for both of them in raw physical form.  Not the bond his wolf demands.
An unobtrusive sound of a voice being cleared draws them both back to the Isha.  He dons a serious demeanor, looking North steadily in the eye assuring him that whatever came next is no prank.
“Cy returned a few minutes ago.  Alana’s with him in the Audience Chamber.”  He pauses, testing his link to the wounded Ranger.  “It’s bad North.  Really bad.”  Finished with his duty, Dom turns back the way he came knowing the Alpha, for it is the Alpha they need, will be right behind him.  Already he is making plans to visit the Library.  The answer to North’s Genevieve has to be there.  If it is to be found anywhere.  After the demonstration of her powers last night and those scars…he isn’t sure an answer exists for her.  And that never bodes well.  Creatures like Ember are by their nature unknowable.  Never mortal humans.
                Closing the door, North takes Genevieve in his arms.  Giving her a quick but tender kiss, he rests his forehead on hers, looking into her eyes.
                “Any regrets?”  He asks quietly, guarding his expression.  It will kill him if she says yes.  There is no going back once he takes his mate.  He is hers; an immutable force in her life now.  Whether it will be as an overt presence in her life or one hidden and watching in shadow is her only choice in the matter.  Knowingly or not, she’d agreed to his claim.
                She studies her wolfman.  She wants more answers, more information about just what she’s gotten herself into.  She’d put this world of mysterious beings and magic powers long behind her and never had any intention of returning.  Her father’s death without other issue changed that more drastically than being kidnapped – for her own safety or not – by Pixies and wolf shifters.  Her full powers are returning – with a vengeance – the decedent’s curse dying with him.  Who better to teach her what she’s forgotten than an entire stronghold filled with mystics and casters?
                In that respect, no she doesn’t regret where she finds herself.  On the other hand…there is last night.  Her instincts are screaming there is more to sharing herself with this wolf than anyone seems inclined to tell her.  Pieces of conversations between the twins and the wolf, and the cop’s avoidance of looking directly at her, none of it adds up in a way she understands or likes.
                “I’m not sure yet.”  She says finally.  It isn’t the answer she knows he wants but it is an honest one nevertheless.
                He nods, accepting that she needs more time.  “I have to go.”  He murmurs.  “Go back to bed – in the bed this time – I’ll be fast as I can.”  Seeing her hesitation and guessing the cause, North cradles her face in his hands, speaking confidently.  “I’ll tell you whatever I learn about your friend.  Cy will be more open without an unknown presence.”
                She sighs.  With that last point at least she can agree.  Lord knows she tells Desi things she’d never say before another person.  It is reasonable then that Cy and North will be the same, or even more so as brothers who’d been each other’s shadows for years – possibly centuries if what she knows of wolves is accurate.  Glancing at the huge bed, she nods, acquiescent for the moment.
                With a quick kiss and smoldering glance North leaves her to rest, striding from the room and grabbing a shirt along the way.
                Alana and the audience chamber don’t speak well for his brother’s condition.  That chamber resonates for all the councilmembers, amplifying their powers, even Ember’s already considerable skills whatever they actually are.  For the great Healer to treat Cy there, his state isn’t just serious, it’s dire.
                Entering the room he grinds to a stunned halt.  Despite being mentally prepared for the worst, Cy’s condition staggers him.  For thousands of years they’d fought, together and separately, and he’d never seen a more mangled body yet breathing.  Pure will must sustain him, buoyed by Alana’s Scile for healing, hopefully it will be enough.
                Crouching by his brother’s side, careful not to disturb him or Alana any more than necessary during this precarious time, North ignores the other councilmembers who carefully observe them.  Reaching out, he touches the only undamaged spot he can find, the curve where neck and shoulder meet, where one day a wolf shifter might wear a mating mark.  He gathers his power, sending it spiraling through him, coiling it and trebling it back until it is a solid length of chain.  At his thought, it shoots from him: racing throughout his body it blasts down his arm finding the place he connects to his brother in a flash of heat.
                Eyes opening, Cy stares at North as his brother’s gift roars through him like wildfire.  It controls him, forcing his change.  A new agony flogs through him as bone fissures and reshapes, sinews tightening and muscles contracting.  All together it is both familiar and bizarre.  Most shifters only feel pain at their first change sometime around sixteen.  Feeling it now is a severe sign of how close he’d brushed with death – this time.  He’d damn near felt the scissors on his life thread.
                Rolling to his paws, the last lingering dregs of desolation flee as he gives himself a great canine stretch and shake.
                Change back.  His brother’s voice is pure Alpha.  Canine mouth opening in a yawn, Cy revels in his Other self a moment longer.  He isn’t looking forward to the coming inquisition, imperative information or not.  Shifting, this time the transition painless from one form to the next much like shedding a coat.
                Again the Council meet in their audience chamber, still less their leader.  This meeting’s atmosphere is much more in keeping with ancient traditions than is customary under Ember’s rule.
                Dom and Dara sit each flanking Alana, nursing her with their natural stores of energy by way of linking hands and minds.  What she’d done, keeping Cy alive and breathing until North came to force a change, is beyond most Healers.  Hector watches Cy in consternation, perhaps rankled by a glimpse of some future thus far unrevealed by his inactive power.  The centaur Historian hates partial fragments of visions worse than a prankish Dom mucking about his Library.  North stands at the head of the table, waiting for Cy to begin with half his mind on his esti left alone in his rooms.  He hopes she’s no intention of backpedaling, he won’t allow it.  The feisty woman can out argue Ares himself – the war god loves argument and deals, they so quickly turn into battles.  He wouldn’t put it past her to escape while he is otherwise occupied; her seeming meekness makes him that much more paranoid.
                “What happened?”  Hector prods, he is in no mood to let things plod along leisurely, he’d not lived the longest of anyone present by being timid in the face of a challenge.
                Cy takes a breath.  The excruciating injuries are healed from a combination of Alana’s power and North forcing his change, but ghosts of it remain.  Ghosts that will haunt him all his days right alongside Desi’s bloodstained face lying insensate on her favorite rug.
                “Danae planted a bomb spiked with wolfsbane at Desi’s apartment.”  He starts, carefully organizing his thoughts.
                Hector makes a motion as if saying “we know that already” but is cut off by Dom’s question.
                “How did they know you’d be there?”
                “They didn’t.”  North says.  “The dagger recovered by Rafe is a House design.  We have a traitor.  They prepped for a wolf…expecting me.”
                “Makes sense.”  His brother agrees.  “From what I managed to gather they knew one of the women from the party was a possible mate.”  He shrugs.  “Desi appeared the more likely choice and more malleable.”  A smile ghosts across his face, more shade than expression.  “They don’t know her like I do and assumed she’s North’s, who would think I’d let my mate go unclaimed?”
                The councilmembers avoid each other’s gazes.  None can dispute his question.  Cy is known for being the devil-may-care brother and alpha, not exactly the sort to obey another’s sanctions.  That he had, for perhaps the first time ever, and lost his mate as a result…it doesn’t bode well for pack relations or cooperation among the council.
                “It’s a clusterfuck from there.”  He laughs mirthlessly.  “The Danae are on our doorstep.  I tracked them and Desi to a building in Olympia of all places.  They’ve been here the whole fucking time.  Ember’s scent was around the place but wasn’t fresh.”
                “Hermes might be able to cast a trail for her from there.”  Dara comments from her place beside Alana.  Seeing their incredulous gazes she blushes.  The men trade confused glances.  She gives a haughty sniff, disregarding their looks.
                “Pillow talk, sis?”  Dom asks, hazarding a guess at the change.  He is…concerned.  Hermes runs through women the way Zeus throws lightning bolts, with typical predictability.  Although legend tells of a time…but that is a true myth.
                “I was feeling…amorous after the fight.”  Dara retorts giving him a speaking glance and a kick to the shins.
                North draws them back to the topic at hand, prickly at delving into another’s choice of bedmates, before they can descend into the day’s first screaming match.
                “Did you see any Herans?”
                Shuttering his eyes, Cy coils in on himself, rallying his power.  As a Ranger, he often doubles as a spymaster, reporting events that are usually unpopular.  One of the first things he’d learned as a pup was how to project memories.  Raising his hands, a scene played out between them, similar to how Dom can reveal Dreams.
                An unconscious human, presumably Desi, is carried by the Danae through a realm doorway.  What realm exactly is impossible to determine by the grayish architecture of both locations.  A single form however, moves into the frame, embracing the lead female Danae.  Gasps rise all around from the councilmembers.  None of them ever tangled with that particular Heran themselves, but his banishment to what supposedly is an empty realm is pictured in every House.  With soulless yellow-white eyes and an enchanter’s smile it can be no other than Kraken, King of the Heran.
                “Zeus preserve us.”  Hector whispers breaking the stunned silence.
                “We have another problem.”  North says.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Into the Dreaming" Sneak Peek

Enjoy this sneak peek at Into the Dreaming available for eBook purchase beginning next week!


Into the Dreaming
A Story of House Celestia

By Stephanie Brooks


Copyright 2013 Stephanie Brooks

Chapter One
                Genevieve McClaine stares at the design before her, intently ignoring the incessant pounding on her condo door.  Hoping desperately that whoever took it upon themselves to disturb her will give up and shove off.  The din slowly tapers off then quits altogether.  She allows a faint smile to cross her lovely face at her regained peace and quiet.  Applying herself once more to fine-tuning her latest design, she hums happily under her breath before cursing the air blue at the sound of a key turning in the door lock.
                Springing up from her reclining position, she dashes over and throws her slight body against the door, her inherently meticulous mind reminding her of a promise wrangled from her while she was preoccupied by her closest –okay only – friend…and the only being on Earth possessing enough brass to use the single copy of her key to encroach upon her much-needed solitude.
                Desi.
                Nobody else, not even her sociopathic-inclined father-figure, has the balls to disturb her sanctuary.  Let alone on her only real day off.
                The little voice inside her, the same one constantly aware of the nature of time and is suspiciously similar in tone to her father-figure, keeps telling her to step away from the door and stop being childish.  He was perpetually telling her to grow up among other “gems” of wisdom while attempting to beat the independent spirit out of her, until she finally did and got a court-order.  Blocking Desi this way isn’t just rude; it is completely and utterly juvenile, something she used to do with great regularity when she lived with Desi’s family as a teenager.  She doesn’t care how ridiculous her behavior is, some things should never be outgrown.
                Give Desi access to her and her home and she’ll insist on charming, or dragging, her outside.  Forcing her to stomach whatever asinine social gathering of the illustrious set Desdemona Griggs frequents along with her eminent Seattle family.  She thinks it’s some “Save the blue-bellied eel” or comparable snooze-fest.  Save something anyway, causes ware Desi’s raison d’être while her striking clothing label is her guilty pleasure.
                Desi tries to share her enthusiasm for saving all and sundry, whether they want saving or not, with Genevieve.  Except Gen doesn’t particularly care for anyone or anything, except Desi.   Accordingly there is no cause convincing enough for voluntarily allowing utter boredom plus – shudder – people being forced upon her when writing a check is quicker and relatively painless.
                She is perfectly content to stay in her little garret with its view of the Sound, working on her designs, surrounded by the comfort and quiet of her home.
                “Come now, cher.  Must we do this every time?”  The exasperated voice in its velvet and honey Southern tones is an excellent match for Desi’s sabertooth-bunny personality.
                Yes, yes they do, Gen thinks desperately.  “Give me one good reason to go with you to Models and Mayhem or whatever tortures you have slated for tonight.”  She says uncooperatively.
A put upon sigh traversed the oak door.  “It’s a charity golf pro-am and banquet following.  Not a fashion show.”
“Might as well be,” she mutters.
“There’s cheesecake.”
Gen lets her head fall back with a thud and reaches for the dead bolt.  Damn sneaky, that’s what Desi is, her talents are wasted in fashion.  She should’ve joined the CIA instead of the Fashion Institute.
Desi’s peaches and cream face is clear of any trace of smugness as befits one who’s outmaneuvered her best friend with the dexterity of wartime generals.  Her betrayed glance bounces right off the impenetrable armor of the consummate socialite.
“Fuck you and your cheesecake.”  Genevieve says irritably while Desi glides into her inner sanctum.  Before she flops bad-temperedly back onto her plush couch Desi studies her from head to toe.
Rolling her eyes at the vulgarity, Desi mentally tallies the time it will take to transform the grubby-slash-halfway-homeless fashion statement before her into the ethereally beautiful successful business woman Gen seems determined to hide.  “I brought you clothes; we should have time…barely.”
Dragging herself from her perch lest Desi latch onto her with her python-hands-of-doom, Genevieve protests the coming ordeal – and it will be an ordeal.  “Why don’t you ever let me wear my own clothes to these things?  I’ll be just as depressed either way.”  Despite her own feelings about dressing up and being dragged to an event which will lull her into a catatonic state courtesy of cheesecake overdose and egocentric conversation, Desi’s premier-designer-fashion-sense refuses to allow her stepping one foot out the door wearing something less than marvelous.
Rattling the bag over one shoulder, Desi precedes her into the sole reason she coughs up the mortgage on less than a thousand square feet every month – an en-suite bathroom the most devout hedonist would covet.
“Because no matter how delightfully decadent your shoe designs are, your clothes – except the one’s I give you – are better suited for a fifty-year-old spinster schoolmarm or a homeless waif than a brilliant designer associated with my family.”  Desi answers absently, unzipping the bag she set on a hook.  Inside rests a confection of whimsical perfection.
Gen takes a peek and groans.  She’ll look like a grown-up, albeit sexy, fairy.
“Where’s the rest of it?”  She questions skeptically.
Blowing a raspberry at her greatest critic, Desi unhooks the second hanger from behind the flowing top, showing off the thin leggings which while brief, will pacify her modesty.  Several layers of translucent and smoky opaque silk shimmering in the light makes up the mid-thigh top.
“You’ll look stunning…mysterious.”  Desi says firmly, heading off her opposition.
“As long as I’m not a stunningly mysterious hooker, I’ll still speak to you tomorrow.”  She cracks, taking the hangers with a hesitant look and turning for the changing screen.

                Walking into the gala following the pro-am, Genevieve comes to an abrupt halt grabbing Desi’s arm and hissing into her ear.
                “You said dinner?!”  Her voice ripe with this newest betrayal, she struggles to keep from panicking.  Maybe there is some mistake.  Desi wouldn’t knowingly subject her to abject torture from socializing with a group containing hundreds, would she?  Oh, God…would she?
                “Oh…did I?”  The betrayer says, airily waving off her underhanded tactics.  “I meant gala.”
                “I’m not speaking to you.”  Turning, Genevieve makes for the crowded doorway, avoiding so much as a glance at the packed mansion’s ornate ballroom and the hundreds it contains.  Only to be brought up short by a firm hand grasping the silken Satan’s garment Desi’d shoved on her.  She’s certain a fun-filled hospital visit is in her near-future due to hypothermia…please God soon, if it means escape.
                “You won’t.”  She whispers, knowing her friend’s borderline obsession for her designs.  Not that she is any better about either of her own fields…but still.
                “Yes, yes I will.”  Desi says in that annoying sing-songy voice she gets when certain of events going her own way.  Two things about Gen she’s learned in twenty years of friendship.  First, cheesecake bribes are better than solid gold stilettos, Gen being categorically unable to bake.  Second, she will never, under any circumstances, bare her “lady-parts” in public after the Mardi-Gras-in-New-Orleans-arrest incident.
                “I hate you.”  She says spitefully, shoulders falling hopelessly at the threat of public indecency charges.  There are enough high-ranking cops here to insure an interesting phone call to her attorney.
                “Relax, cher.”  Desi says patronizingly.  “You’re wound way, way, too tight.  This’ll be good for you.”
                Flipping her one discreetly raised finger Gen makes for the dessert buffet in the hope that an imminent cheesecake overdose will ease the sting of being so perkily outflanked.

                North sprawls beside his brother at their House table.  What he can’t figure out is what exactly they are doing here.  Instead of staying at the Celestial Caverns and, let’s see, leading, they’re at some charity event Cy promised to attend.  He is, however, sure it has something to do with the vapid brunette his brother is trading sizzling looks with.  He isn’t sure why his younger brother’s penchant for women still surprises him.  After two thousand years one would think he will get used to it.
                More it is Cy’s dragging him along that is a switch.  After speaking to the other Council members following Hermes’ earlier anticlimactic departure, Cy disappeared with one of Dara’s soothsayers only to reappear and nag North into going with him to a gala of all things.  He’s trying to not let that worry him.  Anytime Cy teams up with one of the powerfully skilled true Sciles things tend to go downhill fast, leaving North to clean up the mess.
                Despite himself, he managed to find something other than House matters or his troublesome brother to entertain him.  He is quite thoroughly enjoying both the smoky undertones in his glass of prime Scotch, and the minor drama being put on a few feet away.  Two women, one clearly at ease and the other just a clearly not, carried out a vicious game of tug.  One that has been conducted so smoothly on each end that it is clearly a routine of long practice, much like Cy’s archery or his swordsmanship.  So much so in fact that if he hasn’t been waiting on the pair, it would’ve passed by completely under the cover of the packed house.
                He chuckles as the mini-show concludes with the diminutive redhead shooting the bird to her leggy blonde friend.  Those two must be friends or sisters who look nothing alike.  Nobody can get under your skin in the two-point-three-seconds it took them to go from smiling comrades to skirmishing enemies and back to smiles.
                “What’s got you in such a cheery mood?” His brother asks, startled by the break in his stoic public mask.  Cy hadn’t expected to see North smile again until Ember is back at the helm of the House.
                “You missed it.”  He answers sardonically.
                Cy arches an elegant brow.
                “Would it have anything to do with the Titian-haired little beauty who’d clearly rather endure the tortures of hell than attend a high-society function you’ve been watching like our father stalking a wounded baby deer at the last three events I’ve hauled your cranky ass?”  Cy guesses shrewdly.
                Startled, North turns to look at his smirking brother.  He shouldn’t be surprised.  For all Cy’s seeming indifference to any and everything other than his next conquest, he is the Elite Ranger, a more observant, or deadly, wolf is yet to be born.
                “I didn’t think you cared for redheads.”  He says reluctantly.  “And it’s more a cinnamon color.”
                The smirk becomes an all-out grin.  Just because he prefers blondes doesn’t mean he’s blind – especially when big brother, by all of five minutes, is showing interest in a female for the first time in over a century.  He’d begun thinking North is made of stone, and not in a good way.
                “You wanna meet her?”
                Now it’s North’s turn to smirk.  “Naturally, I suppose she’s one of your legions of ladies?”
                Tsking, Cy laughs.
                “I wouldn’t say legions, a company or phalanx maybe, and my ladies are usually a little more…”
                “Easy?”
                “Sweet,” he corrects.  “That female has some serious armor…and a tongue that can strip a man’s hide at thirty paces.”
                “Her friend then?”
                Shrugging, Cy stands.  “Friend’s sister, close enough.”  He tosses over his shoulder as he begins making his way through the crowd.  Although…that isn’t entirely true.  Cy does know her friend.  Desdemona.  Beautiful by any measure, to him it is like she’s been rolled in the wolf equivalent to catnip.  Not that it matters.  Wolves are forbidden human mates.  Always have been, always will be.  Fucking elders.
                Joining Cy as he makes his way through the crowd, North leaves him to his thoughts.  Where others struggle through the crush, the brother’s progress is unchecked as their fellow guest part before the chestnut-haired pair.
                Desi watches their approach from the corner of her eye, nonchalantly keeping the flowing conversation going while she thinks hurriedly.
                She knows who they are.  Anyone involved in business in this city did, except maybe her stubbornly hermitic friend, aside from her own weak connection to Cy.  Add in her sister’s torrid, brief but torrid, affair with one of the brothers, and Desi is well acquainted with their reputations.
Polaris and Sirius: a pair of the wealthiest, and most mysterious, playboys in the country and named for two of the brightest stars in the sky.
                Although to be fair, Cy works to earn the playboy tag while North is simply mysterious.  Their looks don’t help either.  At well over six feet, with bodies sculpted from pure muscle and faces that combine chiseled features, lush mouths, and kissable honey skin, they are lethal to a woman’s good sense.  And they know it.
                Coming to a halt slightly behind and to one side of the statuesque blonde’s foursome, Cy gently clears his throat.
                “Desdemona?” He says quietly.
                Conversation grinds to a halt at their approach with Cy summarily dismissing everyone but Desi.
                So that is how he wants to play it.  Turning, she frostily arches an eyebrow.
                “Have we met?”
                Plastering a stoic look on his face to cover imminent laughter, North watches his lady-killer brother flounder a moment before his ingrained arrogance rolls past her chilly reception.
                “Sirius,” he says accompanied by a sarcastic little bow.  “I know your sister Lillian.”
                “Yes.  Mr.…Sirius.  What can I do for you?”  She asks mock-servilely, frosty brow still arched.
                North thinks it might very well be the first time Cy was greeted with anything less than gushing approval – by a mortal female at least.  Ember and the rest of the Mythkyn are a different beast altogether.  Literally in some cases…
                “Have you met my brother Polaris?”  He stalls her, finally acknowledging to himself the reason he is undergoing her icy company to begin with.
                “Charmed,” she murmurs, offering a limp hand.
                As he accepts it, North gives a clipped nod.  One interrupted by a five foot whirling dervish layered in silk…and an overwhelming – beguiling – scent.
                “Oh, I’m so sorry!”  Gen gasps as she stumbles right into her target.  The towering muscle mass holding Desi’s hand, splashing the other behemoth – the kingly if scarred one – with her full glass of red wine while she’s at it.  If she is going to make an ass of herself, she might as well revel in it.
                “No need to apologize.”  North says, gallantly catching her and keeping a steadying hand at her elbow.  His wolf likes her scent.  He likes her ass and blatant bravado.  Up close, the tidy little bundle of femininity looks like a Pixie – and he knows Pixies, well the Dara kind as opposed to the fairytale variety.
                Sparking violet-blue eyes dancing with mischief are matched with a cute little nose and an aristocrat’s cheekbones.  Her cinnamon hair with its glints of hidden fire, combine with a widely sensual mouth grounding her from completely elven looks.  A cunning eye paired the fine-boned body with a billowing silk…thing which heightened the effect of a creature more than human.
                A muttered curse draws his attention from his pleasant little fantasy of carrying her off to his den where he can keep her plied with delicacies and sex - lots and lots of sex.  Her aim was dead on; Cy’s hair is plastering his forehead while drips of wine fell from his nose and lashes.
                Gen takes advantage of his temporary distraction to stead nerves set a-dancing by his absorbed perusal.  He is glorious of that there is no question.  But something about his midnight-dark eyes shout – Not Tame!  There is a hint of something…else, something…wild in his quick reflexes and gliding gait.  She blames her habitual people watching for bringing to light the little “off” things about the infamous Heavenly brothers.  Oh yeah, she knows who they are.  Anonymity isn’t their style…well Cy’s style at least.  Desi’d filled her ears about them last year when the playful Cy was seeing her snotty tramp sister, Lillian.
                They simply don’t move like other men, she decides watching the byplay as North laughingly teases his wine doused sidekick.  Frankly, she is slightly surprised she’d managed to hit Cy with her liquid arsenal.  The two are always in sync with each other’s movements, like they can anticipate or instantly react to a flicker of movement.  It is eerie, uncanny.  Even among identical twins, she’s never seen anything like it.
                “Don’t be a prat, Cy.  You’ll live.  You’re just a bit soggy.”  North admonishes, turning back to the ladies.  “You’ll have to excuse him; he gets testy when his hair gets a wee bit mussed.”  He mocks.
                “Ha.  Ha.”  Cy says peeved at his suddenly gregarious brother.
                Smiling at North, Desi is absolutely willing to gain a friendship with anyone who can take Sir Sirius down a peg.  Nodding sagely, she agrees.
                “Children can be like that.”
                Cy chokes at this mortal piece of fluff’s ready dismissal, turning a putrid shade of purple.
                Deftly turning the tide of the conversation before it becomes even more absurd, Gen interrupts.  She is well aware, although it seems the others have forgotten, of their rapt audience caught up in this little comedy, and knows that while Desi is uncaring in the moment tomorrow her mother the eternally gracious Southern belle will ring a peal over her daughter’s head at her behavior towards one of the most eligible bachelors to grace the Emerald City.  Little ripples of awareness regarding the incident are already making rounds of the room.
                “I’m Genevieve McClaine.”  She says to the stranger who still gently holds her arm just above the elbow.  His thumb is moving in faint little arches against her skin.  A nearly imperceptible movement, it sets off tiny fireworks tingling up and down her spine…and other places.
                “Polaris,” he says smiling at her diplomatic timing.  “You can call me North.”
                “Yes, I know.”  She motions to Desi with a faint tilt of her head.  At her signal, Desi breaks her stare-off with Cy.
                “We’d best be going.  I have a show next we I need to prepare for.  Nice to meet you North.”  Words tumbling from her lips one after another like a babbling brook, Desi extricates them from the pair and bolts for the door, Gen at her side.
                Watching toned legs under that silky almost-dress, North glances at his drenched – and speechless – brother.  It is worth the inevitable brawl later, oh, yes indeed.  That not-nearly-as-delicate-as-she-looks Gen is worth a couple bruises from his pissed brother.
                Clamping one hand on a sodden shoulder, he looks brightly around at the trying-not-to-stare-crowd that they’ve gathered.
                “I’m off then.”  Whistling, North saunters away for another drink, leaving Cy cursing him silently and heading for the coat check.

                In a deep, dream-filled sleep, Ember tosses and turns, lost in her visions.  A dream is one thing.  This is something else…something not right.  Her dreaming mind is unable to sort what is true from what is dream.
                She sees many disturbing things in her sleep…many things.
                An ancient place, long lost, now found.
                An unsolvable riddle undone by a woman not quite human, yet not Mythkyn, Outlander, Danae, or Heran, as much an enigma as the one she solves.
                And other things…wrong things.
                The Herans freed from their unending punishment to roam the Earth.
                And a race long forgotten by most…returning to Earth.
                Whimpering in her dark sleep, she tries to cry out only to be silenced by a rough hand clamping harshly over her mouth.