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Page 76

Fionn let go of Andrea’s hands and pulled her into a bone-crushing embrace. “My daughter. I knew you’d come to me at last.” He released her and looked her up and down. “Now, where is the Sword of the Guardian?”

Andrea put her hands on her hips. “As a matter of fact, I came here to ask you about that. Why do you want the sword so much?”

Fionn’s dark eyes filled with fire. “Daughter, that sword has unbelievable magic. It is the original Sword of the Guardian, did you know? The first one forged by a Fae woman and her Shifter mate.”

“Yes, Sean told me.”

“That Fae woman, Alanna, was the daughter of kings, and her magic was great. It runs in the family. Our family.”

Andrea stared. “Our family? What are you talking about?”

“We are descended from Alanna’s brother. He was an evil bastard, I’m sorry to say, but we can trace our line to him through his pure-Fae offspring. Thus, the magic in her family has passed to me, and so to you.”

“And that means what?” And who actually used the word thus? “That I can wield the sword? I doubt that. Sean is the Guardian, chosen by the Goddess. And please don’t tell me I’m related to him, even distantly, because that would just be too weird.” Shifters had an even greater horror of inbreeding than did humans.

Fionn shook his head. “Sean is descended from the Shifter sword-maker’s sons by his Shifter wife, not from Alanna. He is pure Shifter as our family is pure Fae. But it means that both you and Sean are connected through the sword. By magic.” Fionn put a hand on her shoulder. “Think, Andrea. The sword speaks to you, does it not? It connects with you.”

Andrea thought of the way the sword’s threads wove through her fingers, how it seemed to whisper whenever she drew near, how she’d drawn in its power to heal Ely. “Yes.”

“That means it will connect to me too. We will defeat our enemies if we have it.”

Andrea growled. “It’s not for you. It’s Sean’s, and it’s not a weapon of war.”

“I never said it would be. Andrea, our Fae enemies want it. They know its power, and they know its power over Shifters. They want Shifters under their control, and having the sword is one way to get it.”

“Fae want it? But ...”

“Daughter, the enemy Fae clan believes that if they have you and they have the sword, they will gain power over Shifters again. They’d be able to bring Shifters back where they belong, as slaves of the Fae.”

Andrea grew cold. Mist was forming under the trees, and Andrea already missed the dry blue sky of Austin and the wind from the river valley. “Slaves of the Fae? How? Shifters will never let that happen again.”

“Think it through. If they capture the Guardian’s mate and the Guardian’s sword, won’t your Sean come charging in here to find them? And his brother and father will rush in after him, leading an army to best the hated Fae. So there we have it—some of the strongest Shifters on your earth, already weakened by the Collars, now in Faerie surrounded by thousands of Fae. It’s a trap, child, an elaborate trap. The Fae will defeat your Shifters, strengthen the magic of the Collars, and settle down to breed even more captive Shifters. And after that, what wouldn’t they be able to do with hundreds of Shifters forced to fight for them?”

Andrea listened, her heart constricting with each word. She knew damn well it could happen the way Fionn outlined it. If Andrea were trapped here, Sean wouldn’t hesitate to search Faerie to find her, and Liam and Dylan would come right behind him. They’d organize a rescue, and if it came to a fight, they’d fight.

She imagined them, all the friends she’d made in the last weeks—Ellison and Ronan, Connor and Liam, Dylan and Eric, Ely and his sons, the regulars at the bar—surrounded by armed Fae warriors. The Fae wouldn’t have to fight very hard, just wait until the Collars weakened the Shifters enough before taking them captive. Even Liam and Sean and Dylan being able to override the Collars wouldn’t help them for long. The pain would catch up to them all too soon, and then the Fae would have them.

“Holy shit,” she whispered. She wondered whether the Collars had been part of a grand Fae plot all along. A half-Fae human had come up with the concept and the magic for the Collars—what if he’d been employed by the Fae to help weaken the Shifters? The Fae resented Shifters for winning their freedom long ago, and Fae were just stubborn enough to wait centuries for their revenge.

“What makes you think the sword would be safe with you?” Andrea asked when she could speak again.

“Because if I have the sword, the other Fae would have to fight me and my armies. And they’re hesitant to do that. My armies are the best in the world.” Fionn said it without conceit—he was stating a fact. “I’ve been trying to keep you safe, child, from these ambitious Fae. What do you think your nightmares have been about?”

Andrea thought about the bright, white threads that tried to smother her in her sleep, how the voice had said, Fight them!

“The white threads are from those Fae, trying to trap me in my dreams,” she said slowly. “You’ve been there too, trying to stop them.”

“Yes, daughter. When you moved here, so near a ley line, they tried to use your dreams to connect to your Fae magic. And it is my fault.” He looked suddenly ashamed, this tall, proud warrior.

“Your fault? How can it be?”

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