Shadow Bound

PROLOGUE

A light in deepest Shadow.

The fae lord pulled his cloak around his face to dampen the intensity of the glow. Futile. The woman was still there, in his mind, shining like molten gold. The heat of her soulfire penetrated the veils between the mortal world and Twilight and slid across his skin in a caress. She, the sun, powerful enough to quicken even him.

From his dark vantage, he peered into her room. Her bed was made, pillow undented. He’d come too early to ride the rough waves of her dreams, to mellow her sharp knocks of pain and worry so that she could rest. He’d done as much since she was a child. It pleased him that the detritus of the sickroom huddled in a corner, unused. Oxygen in a tank. Machines dozing, their cords wrapped and waiting.

She sat on a stool in front of her easel, brush in hand, facing into a deep triangle of darkness cut away by the fall of light from the bedside lamp. She gazed into his Shadow world, just as he marveled at hers. On the canvas before her, she painted a fairy-tale landscape: lush hills lit by star shine, a border of black forest, and the wide gray sea beyond.

Her heart hitched, and the veils between them thinned as her time drew near. He both welcomed and braced against the sudden ache of her pain as it echoed through him—something of her to feel.

She paused for breath, hands falling to her knees. The tip of the brush made a drop of green on the skirt of her dress. He wondered at her strength of will as she gritted her teeth and forced her body back into a steady rhythm. Strange how she clung so fiercely to life, yet bent her skill to an image of Twilight.

He crept closer, into the variegated grays of her room, until he could just catch the scent of her—the bright smells that danced on her skin and clung to her hair, the musk of the paint on her fingers that never quite washed away, and something denser, darker, that was woman and mortal.

He sensed her grim resolve, tainted by desperation, in a concentration of spirit that kept her young heart beating, commanding its exercise long enough for her to embrace life, to make something that would last, a legacy of herself to the world. Though her emotion coursed over him like a wild river, he could not unravel her structured thoughts, the building blocks of her intellect, of motivation and creation as she changed her world in ways both subtle and great. Such was the beauty and power of mortality. If she only knew.

She mastered herself. Picked up her brush, put tip to canvas, then paused, head tilting.

“Are you there?” she called, her voice barely above a whisper.

Her sister was in a room beyond, out of earshot, staring into a silver window of moving lights and laughter.

“I know you’re there,” she said, though she regarded her painting. Her brush resumed its stroke. “You might as well come out and talk to me for once.”

So. She seeks me. It’s come to that at last, and yet, still too soon. A small flame sparked to life in his chest, but he forced himself to pull back into Shadow, drawing his cloak around his shoulders.

She sighed. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She paused again to scan the room, her gaze touching on this corner and that empty chair, glancing off him, only to peer more keenly into the deepening grays to her other side.

She laughed, short and full of irony. “Fancy you