Half-daemon Envy Starr is destined to die on Midsummer’s Eve, still a virgin, on some crappy cult’s live-stream feed. With thirty days left to live, the chance to escape her fate and get some action compels her into her absentee father’s world of beautifully cultured cruelty.
Once there, she’s the object of a deadly game, slated to alter the Fae realm’s power structure. Worse, the rules keep changing, and everyone has an ulterior motive, including her dae-licious guide, Brennan. Under a geas he’s desperate to break, she can’t trust him, or herself.
Stupid Stockholm syndrome.
But unless she can come to terms with what lies in her heart, her unlikely survival will be a fate worse than death. For her, and the rest of Fae.
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FLAME & SHADOW
A Dae Diaries Novel
© 2023 AK Nevermore
I sat up, pulling the airy duvet around me, then dangled a foot to the floor. It landed on the softest sheepskin rug you could imagine. I scrunched my toes in it, staring through the window to the blue-green water spreading out to the horizon. I sure wasn’t in Vel City anymore.
Taking the duvet with me, I crossed the goldstriated marble floor. There was a door that led to a wide, white, stuccoed balcony with clusters of big, leafy plants in turquoise pots. I was surprised to find it unlocked. Sad, huh? Outside, it was just water and sky.
The sun was magic on my skin, and I raised my face to it, soaking it in with my eyes closed. It was a balmy, wet heat. The kind that makes you feel like you’ve got a steamed towel wrapped around you. That, the blistering sun above… I dropped the duvet and gave a huge sigh, letting it beat down on me. The steady breeze flicked my hair against my backside, and I smiled, wondering at my luck waking up in paradise.
“And I’d thought that view couldn’t be improved.”
I spun at the cultured European drawl, scrabbling up the duvet and clutching it to my chest. My heart was going gangbusters, and I’d flushed scarlet. The daemon that’d taken me sat at a small breakfast table tucked amidst that potted jungle of greenery. No wonder I hadn’t seen him. Asshole could’ve let me know he was there before I’d dropped trou.
His ankle was crossed over his knee, and he was reading the paper. He wore charcoal slacks and a crisp white shirt, the sleeves rolled up and the collar open. A large gold watch was on his left wrist. There was no trace of gray in his jet hair. The top was long, and it’d been slicked back. He was clean-shaven, and let me just say, holy freaking drool. I swallowed, and he grinned an impossibly white smile.
“Good morning, Lovely. Come, sit. Have something to eat.” I didn’t move, and he slid out the seat next to him with an oxford-shod foot. “Please, I promise not to bite.”
His smile said something totally different.
Jerk was playing with me, and my temper jumped. The dimple in his cheek deepened, and the last thing I felt like doing was eating, but you don’t just tell a fae to piss off and expect to walk away. They had a thing for manners. I sat, trying to dig mine out, and a small woman in a uniform came over with a plate of crepes.
She set it in front of me. I stared at her pebbly skin. Her smile had too many teeth, and they were super pointy.
Not a woman, an imp.
She nodded curtly and left, toe talons tapping. I paused before picking up my fork. Taking anything from a fae was dicey—
“You have my word that nothing offered in my home will indebt you to me.”
I made myself meet his eyes. “Is this your home, and will it indebt me to anyone else?”
“Clever girl…it is, and no debts will be claimed by any other. I offer no promises beyond that…unless you’d care to bargain for more?”
“Pity.” He snapped his paper back up, and proceeded to ignore me while I ate.
I tried to study him from beneath my lashes as I did. He was too young to be the one I’d seen with my mother, but what were either of them doing? Fae in general were high rollers, living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. They didn’t slink around Priories and in undercity pubs. I could write off my mother with one given her past, but me? I was a nobody. It didn’t make sense. Neither did the golem. I started to feel weepy, and that made me mad. So did the daemon’s eyes crinkling at me over the edge of the paper as my stigmata flared with my temper.
I stabbed a stupid crepe, trying not to think about Kyle and Berk back in Vel. I was sure they were okay. I just wasn’t sure I’d ever see them again. Who was I kidding? They, and everyone else in the pub, would’ve written me off, and they’d be right to. I told you, getting snagged by a fae had a survival rate of zero. At least, nobody I’d ever heard of had come back to tell the tale.
Despite my cheery thoughts, I won’t lie, the crepes were just about the best thing I’d ever eaten. I figured I could die happy with them in my stomach. The imp seemed pleased when I said so and asked for seconds. As soon as I’d finished, the daemon tucked away his paper and lit a long, gold-filtered cigarette. The imp came back with espresso. I was feeling fancy and had mine with a twist.
“Thanks for that with the golem… I mean, it was a golem…?”
He blew out a long stream of smoke. It was a gross habit, but he made it look worth taking up. “Yes, and you’re welcome.”
“Uh, any idea why it was there?”
“For you, otherwise it wouldn’t have revealed itself.”
He didn’t seem particularly concerned, but my mouth went dry. Had he been watching me? Did he have anything to do with the dae Calista had been screwing? And more importantly:
“Are you going to eat me?”
He took another drag and raised a gorgeous eyebrow at me. “Would you like me to?”
Yeah, I just about died. That totally wasn’t what I meant.
AK NEVERMORE enjoys operating heavy machinery, freebases coffee, and gives up sarcasm for Lent every year. A Jane-of-all-trades, she’s a certified chef, restores antiques, and dabbles in beekeeping when she’s not reading voraciously or running down the dream in her beat-up camo Chucks. Unable to ignore the voices in her head, and unwilling to become medicated, she writes Science Fiction and Fantasy full time. AK pays the bills writing a copious amount of copy, along with a column on SFF. She belongs to the Authors Guild, is an RWA chapter board member, volunteers for far too many committees, teaches creative writing, and on the rare occasion, sleeps. Her first novel, Flame & Shadow, will be available November 13th, 2023, and the second in the series, Air & Darkness, is slated for publication in late 2024.