Morgan strode into the Queen’s private audience chamber, sweeping the room with a sharp gaze. It had become a way of life to automatically look for threats.
There was one enemy waiting for him.
The Queen herself.
Isabeau stood with her arms crossed, watching him with the deadliness of a coiled snake. She wore a blue silk dress that matched the blue of her eyes, and her long golden hair flowed in immaculate curls down her back. She was careful with details like that.
A gold chain looped the slender circumference of her waist. The chain was enchanted so that it was virtually unbreakable. She had ordered Morgan to make it. A scabbard made of ancient black leather hung from the chain.
The hilt of a knife protruded from the top, wrapped in the same humble, worn black leather as the scabbard. Deadly Power pulsated like an ebony supernova in Morgan’s mind whenever he glanced at it.
Isabeau never met Morgan without wearing Azrael’s Athame, not since she had captured him. She didn’t dare. Without Death’s Knife to control him, she would become his prey.
How he longed for her to be his prey. No matter how many centuries passed, that longing never ceased. It had become his purpose for existing as everything else had faded away.
He eyed her impassively. While she remained armed whenever he came into her presence, his greatest, most effective weapon against her was calm, bland indifference. It gave him a cold pleasure to know she hated his indifference almost more than anything.
“Shut the door,” she ordered. Raising one eyebrow, he did as she ordered. Private audiences with Isabeau almost never went well, but then he had expected nothing else.
As soon as the thick door settled into place, she grabbed a priceless antique porcelain bowl and flung it at him. Casually, he stepped to one side, and the bowl sailed past him to shatter against the paneled wall.
“I can’t believe you let Oberon’s bastards find a way back to Earth!” she raged. She tore at her own hair, her beautiful face suffused with fury. “How could you do this to me?”
“Because as we know,” he murmured, “it’s always all about you, Isabeau.”
There was no reasoning with her when she got like this. The Queen of the Light Court couldn’t bear to be crossed or disappointed in any way. When everything went the way Isabeau wanted it to, she was all sweetness and flirtatious, pretty smiles.
When things didn’t work out the way she wanted, she flew into uncontrollable rages. She became convinced everything that happened, even the most arbitrary act of fate, was a personal attack against her.
She had destroyed the image of immaculate beauty she had worked so hard to achieve. Her tousled hair parted enough that he caught a glimpse of fury in those lovely blue eyes.
Lunging forward, she raised one hand to strike at him. He strode forward to face her. Pain flared at the sudden movement, and he pressed one hand to the fresh wound in his side.
“Be careful, Isabeau,” he said gently as he looked down into her face. “Remember what happened the last time you hit me.”
She had struck him only once, and in retaliation, he had cast a blight over Avalon’s farmlands and ruined an entire harvest. That had led to a winter so bitterly lean even those at court had felt it, and Isabeau had been forced to dig deep into the crown’s coffers to import enough food so she could still have the luxuries she loved and her people didn’t starve.
She had since forbidden him to take such action against her, but if he had found a way once around the terms of the geas that bound him, he could do it again, and she knew it.
Fear flared in her eyes, and she gripped the hilt of the Knife. She had disemboweled people who had disappointed her far less than he had just now.
But it took a major act of strength to draw Azrael’s Athame, let alone wield it, and she hadn’t done so in a very long time. To the best of his knowledge, she had only drawn it once.
He watched with clinical interest. Did she have it in her to draw the Knife again? In a way, it didn’t matter. The single time she had drawn the Athame, she had struck him with it, and once was all it had taken to trap him.
Her fingers clenched, but the Knife remained in its scabbard. She snarled, “You said it would be impossible for them to reach Earth.”
“Clearly,” he replied sardonically, “I was mistaken.”
“The knights of the Dark Court converged on the old Shaw manor. Even though the house had been built on a broken crossover passageway, somehow Nikolas Sevigny and his human witch found a way through to Lyonesse. They brought hundreds of troops back as reinforcements. I didn’t think it was possible, and I don’t know how they did it, but if they could break through using one broken passageway, they might be able to figure out how to use the other broken passageways as well.”
“Why didn’t you stop them!”
“I tried, but I couldn’t,” he snapped. “I’m not familiar with the magic they used. If the witch has an affinity for passageways, they might even be able to find the ones I’ve shrouded with cloaking spells—including the hidden Light Court passageways. Face facts, Isabeau. Lyonesse is no longer cut off from Earth. The tide of this war has shifted, and it is not in your favor.”
“You should have killed her! Why didn’t you kill her?!”
He raised an eyebrow. “I had no such orders to kill an American.”
“Yet you knew she was responsible for this!”
“Incorrect. I suspected she might be responsible. Much of what I just told you is speculation. I don’t know anything for sure.”
Like a bird of prey, she swooped away to pace the room. Then she whirled and stalked back to him, lifting her rage-distorted face to his. She hissed, “I should tear your heart out for this.”
His lips pulled back in instinctive, feral reaction to the threat. He met her gaze, and she saw something in his expression that made her recoil.
“You could try,” he growled. “And even if you succeeded, see how long you survive in this war you created when you no longer have me to compel.”
She loved the control she wielded over him, but at the same time, she hated that she feared him. She hated the fact that she needed him. It was virtually the only thing they agreed upon, because he hated it too.
He watched her struggle with conflicting emotions. She ran her gaze down his figure, and the expression in her lovely eyes changed. She was one of the most beautiful of all the Fae he had ever met, but her beauty left him cold. After she had trapped him, she had never bothered to hide her true nature around him. He knew all too well the deadly creature that lived behind the charming façade.
Abruptly, she rapped out, “You demanded an audience with your Queen while you’re still filthy and bleeding. What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you healed already?”
He sighed. “I’m not healed because they shot me with silver arrows, and silver is anathema to a lycanthrope. I barely got away as it was. If I hadn’t had a lycanthrope’s speed, and if I hadn’t stowed a car nearby, they would have caught me.”
She gestured at his side. “So heal it!”
“Magic spells don’t work on these wounds, and I can’t heal at an accelerated rate. I can’t shapeshift while the silver is in my system, and my ability to cast magic is dampened.” Gritting his teeth, he added, “And I’m here because you ordered me to give you an update as soon as I possibly could. This was the fastest I could arrive.”
He had to follow her orders to the letter. That was the nature of the ensorcellment she had trapped him in. He had warned her before to be careful how she worded her orders to him, but the stupid bitch never learned.
One of these days her utter self-absorption and impetuous carelessness might very well end his life. He lived in hope for the other possibility—that a carelessly worded order from her might give him the chance to end hers.