THE FAE PRINCE OF EVERENNE
NIGHT IN HIS EYES
A war of two Houses. A prince waking from darkness. A woman drenched in his blood.
In the Fae city of Everenne, the Prince is waking. The Court has not felt the full weight of his presence in centuries. It is the soul cry of his fiercest enemy that stirs him.
Aerinne Capulette has led House Faronne in the ground war against Prince Renaud since she was a child. But her people don’t take prisoners, and the secret of the warrior she executed in battle may shred the white flag the warring Houses have finally waved.
The secret will cost her life if Renaud finds out.
As she navigates the cease fire, it becomes clear that terms hinge on an unexpected element.
The dark prince wants her, and is obsessed with having her at any cost, even if he must wield his dark power to claim her against the protest of his Court, the fury of her House, and her own defiant will.
They may be enemies, but her hatred only seduces his darkness.
Night in His Eyes is an adult high heat Fae fantasy romance set on a modern alternate Earth in Book 1. For readers who crave enemies-to-lovers, obsessed dark heroes, murderous heroines and a battle of dark wills.
First in the Fae Prince of Everenne series. Will have a Happily Ever After! Book 2, Blood on His Lips, coming March 2022.
*Rough draft, currently undergoing final developmental edits.
A hush fell over the High court of Everenne city as we walked down the flowered forest path.
Like it’s a realm’s damned wedding.
The fae courtiers stood still, so still they might as well be statues. Though at least actual statues were useful.
They lined either side of the uneven white stone pathway, as lovely as the leafy plants that arched over our heads, obscuring the lingering daylight as evening set. Heady fragrance emanated from blooms that draped down decorative arches, the wild pink vines found in no place other than, but failed to hide the dozens of toxic psychic scents. Malice, lust, amusement mingled with disdain and curiosity.
The scent of moral ambiguity combined with barely checked ambition. Blood and jasmine. The rot of age entwined with semi-eternal youth.
Everenne’s people, mostly the offspring of lesser fae, don’t survive forever. We’re closer to mortality than the high fae who rule, our lifespans commensurate with our hot tempers—fortunately we breed as easily as humans, though during times of peace Houses encourage birth control. Illness won’t kill us, but who needed cancer when you had the high fae and their endless feuds?
Faronne was once a high fae House, but after my mother’s death it fell to the rabble.
Myself and my father being the rabble, of course.
I tightened my fingers around Baba’s wrist, taking in the myriad styles of court gowns, braided hair, jewels, and enhancing glamours. Outside of this forest bower, the Faronne and Montague districts were awash in blood, but one wouldn’t know it from the gilded courtiers or from our warriors, their evening armor as glittering as their false smiles. Faronne guards, Numair and my cousin Juliette, flanked my father and I—merely for our honor, of course.
No, these Everenne courtiers were safe in the bosom of the Prince’s court, where they could eye my human father and I like rapacious vultures.
My infantile power shifted a little, yawned, then settled back into restless sleep. There was no bloodshed to be had, so it wouldn’t bestir itself to actually wake, much less grow. Not that there was much of it to wake, but at my age I’d appreciate a little cooperation. My mother’s—she had been one of the few higher fae in the city—ancient bloodline was enough to eclipse whatever weakness crept in with my father’s human genetics. My two specialized Skills just barely eeked me above the death kiss of being mundane, a lesser with general power good for menial tasks and basic defense.
I’d spent my life training and killing to make up for my lack, and I resented the necessity.
“Breathe,” Baba murmured without moving his lips. He had to say it twice.
His posture was perfect, carriage upright, expression stern without being cruel. He wore the deep sapphire and vermilion colors of our House, bringing out the blue undertones in his night-deep skin, and his calm inky eyes stared straight ahead, faint lines of age and laughter betraying his mortality though he was as beautiful as any fae. He’d aged since my mother’s death, his broad shoulders carrying the weight of our grief with grace and dignity. Other fae wondered how House Faronne could bend the knee to a human Lord, but the answer was simple. He was beloved. Fear and power were not the only tools by which one might rule.
“Tell them to fucking breathe,” I mutter back.
Finally, because I couldn’t put it off any longer, I focused my gaze on the Prince, the most powerful of us all. Not just high, but an old one. A high fae whose immortality was so entrenched, their power so vast, they might as well be the children of gods.
Too bad they tended to go stark raving crazy after a few millennia.
Our poets and scholars never shut up about the ennui of time, a pretty way to say how the accumulative effects of constant trauma, lack of sleep, paranoid anxiety, and too much power and wealth combined with not enough checks and balances could rot one’s mind. The only solution other than suicide was to voluntarily enter a state of hibernation and hope a really long nap helped the old one repair some fried brain cells.
I should probably be more sympathetic, but realms, I couldn’t stop the rush of hatred that enveloped me.
Renaud waited at the end of the walkway in a small circular courtyard, the forest gardens pressed on its borders, standing on the first step of a sweeping staircase. The stairs lead to the lower level of his open air throne room, a hall of forest and light during the day, shadows and screams during the night.
Or so I’d heard.
We lesser fae, especially halflings like myself, steer well clear of the palace at night. During the day it’s dangerous enough.
He never went into full stasis, but had been sleeping for close to two hundred years. Able to walk around and speak in simple sentences when addressed. Able to perform basic self-care routines, but little more than a stoned-out statue his House propped up at events.
Only this stoned statue shimmered with the power of a nuclear reactor. It was why we walked very carefully around the sleeping ones.
Until he began to wake five years ago, and until days ago where he mentally touched down in the realm of the living for the first time since before I was born, remaining lucid for at least a day before fading again.
I’ve heard his House wasn’t happy with me. Like it’s my fault. If only they knew.
My fingers itched to grab the iron dagger strapped under my gown as we walked the gauntlet. No one would be expecting it. One breath, two, and it would fly, embedding itself in the Prince’s eye so quickly it would reveal my skill with a blade was truly a Skill—keeping that little secret had helped keep me alive. As long as my opponents underestimated me, I was able to use my secondary Skill to get the drop on them.
Fae never learned.
You’d think after the kill count I’d racked up over the years, the other Houses would start to think something was up. . .nope. I was a halfing, and therefore barely worth notice.
I was good with that.
If I struck Renaud now, I could easily evade a retaliatory attack. I was hard to kill considering when desired I was hard to see. But my father would be cut down a second later. If it were just my life on the line. . .
It would almost be worth it.
Baba doesn’t know about the little vow hanging over my neck. The vow I made to Renaud’s face to kill him or die trying. Looking at the Prince, I wonder if he remembers. Or was he too out of it that day?
I took another deep breath, exhaled. No, it wouldn’t be worth it. I glanced at my father. He’s worth more than every polished pigeon in this court, and we must hold the House until my brother returned and took up the mantle.
So I met the Prince’s gaze when it drifted to me, his pale, ancient eyes windows to his cold soul. He descended from one of the golden-brown hued Lines, his skin speaking of the Mediterranean rather than the cold vastness of our northern Canadian clime, but it’s still as if he hadn’t seen the sun in decades. And though he wore an expertly tailored modern suit, there’s nothing modern about the savagery of his bone structure, the cruel mouth, and the fall of black hair down his back, pointed ears peeking from underneath.
No one wore their hair that long anymore except for the old ones. Someone needed to drag him kicking and screaming into this century.
I volunteer as tribute.
Gods of my mother, he was beautiful, and I wanted to stab him just for making me admit it to myself. Lethal sexuality, albeit muted, cloaked broad shoulders and the soul dark pale eyes that stared at me so freely were a touch too knowing, seething with banked shadows. Was I the only one who observed the subtle quirk of his mouth before it settled back into a distant, thin line? It’s like he’s taunting me.
So. . .he probably did recall my vow. It just didn’t concern him.
It drove me insane. If my enemy feared me, truly feared me, this war would had been over years ago. But once my older brother Danon, my mother’s true Heir in strength and power, was captured, Montague renewed their attacks. Because Faronne was then ruled by a human and his mundanely powered halfling, our commander a lesser fae.
“Aerinne.” My father warned me again, the tone of his voice slightly harsher.
He saw the look on my face, but damn it, I wasn’t good at this game. At masking what I felt behind blank eyes and a smooth smile. Killing people never required it, and I lost the emotional energy for it years ago. My skin was too thin for pretense now.
I failed at hiding that I danced on the blade’s edge and if the male in front of me gave me the slightest excuse, I’d throw everything away just for the chance to wrap my fingers around his neck and squeeze.
From the shadows in his remote eyes, he’d probably like it.
I took another deep breath, exhaling, because my therapist said deep breathing helped regulate my sympathetic nervous system. Or something like that, which justified the money we paid her. My father had trained me better than this. And in the end, I’m a soldier, and he’s my Lord. I would obey.
“Lord Étienne Capulette,” an orderly droned, “Regent of House Faronne. Aerinne Capulette, of House Faronne.”
How incongruous, a human nobleman and his commoner halfling in the Everenne Court. I gritted my teeth at the subtle insult in how I was announced. Everyone here was playing games, they never quit.
I should correct the orderly’s oversight with my fist, wouldn’t that add a bit of color to the proceedings.
When we halted in front of the Prince, I realized something unsettling.
He was looking at me, not just staring through me as if I was the ghost of someone he hadn’t murdered yet. Though it’s not like he hadn’t tried to end my life several times already—he or Lord Baron, regent of Montague. There’s no hatred, no anger. Just this chilling calculation, as if he’s weighing the worth of my life against the trouble it would took to end it, a creeping tendril of malevolence swimming deep as he stared with the focus of a demi-god contemplating the annihilation of an ant.
When the color of his eyes, a bright blue backlit with the faint glow of his personal power register, I still, a punch to my gut stealing my rage for a moment. Why hadn’t I noticed it before? I know these eyes.
I saw them staring up at me, as the male they belonged to said, “Please.”
As the male they belonged to died on my blade.
For a moment, I feared I’d vomit. I should really be tougher than this, but that kill—that kill haunted me.
Shadows seemed to accumulate as Renaud studied my face. Something stirred under the intensity of his attention, a perverse part of my psyche unravelling and leaning towards him as if the forgiveness and peace I’d been seeking was hidden in the secret of his eyes.
Horrified, I stomped those feelings into the ground.
What the fuck?
My power startled awake like a kitten roused unexpectedly from a nap, and hissed at him. Then sniffed, curious, bunching itself as if in preparation to leap onto his shoulders.
I flattened it back down with a suppressed snarl. I didn’t know any other lesser fae whose power presented as an avatar, and I didn’t talk about it much considering there were already enough rumors concerning my mental state. I was just glad it didn’t talk to me, since I already had enough voices in my head.
Speaking of. . .Dark Angel? Get me through this alive, please. He doesn’t respond though, silent these days. I sighed mentally. Can the old bull even speak, or just stare? Do I wait until he talks first?
You know protocol, was the disapproving reply. Try not to embarrass me.
Hello stranger, nice of you to join the party.
He faded away.
My father shifted my grip so his fingers wrapped around mine, and tightened. I was stronger than him and had probably almost cracked his bones. Seconds passed in our eye stabbing contest before Renaud moved his attention to my father, and an emotion like displeasure swam behind the Prince’s eyes.
Then his gaze caressed my face, taking in each of my features. Memorizing. “Aerinne.”
My entire body seized when I heard his voice. It’s deep, surprisingly quiet for a man who possessed the power he did, cultured with only the faintest hint of an accent from the old realm. The way he spoke my name was intimate, rolling each syllable over his tongue, drawing it out into something musical.
He said my name like he knew me, like I was his, but the first time we met he grabbed my throat and I threatened to kill him. The cadence reminded me of Numair when his possessiveness was triggered. Only he knew better, knew that I had no intention of allowing a warrior to claim me.
Renaud looked at me as if I was already claimed, a disconcerting dagger of territorial maleness under the clinical perusal. To say I was taken aback was an under exaggeration.
Behind him the shadows shifted and I felt an impression of great black wings, an invisible glacial breeze and the eye of a beast slowly opening, fixing on me. Shocked, I recognized the avatar for what is was even as my kitten mewled at it. I had no idea what this meant, and I wasn’t stupid enough to ask. The more the higher fae think you knew, the more inclined they were to end your life.
Beads of sweat dotted my temples as I held the Prince’s gaze. I would not flinch. I would not be the first to look away. I was probably walking dead anyway, so defiance couldn’t kill what’s already buried six feet deep.
Maybe Renaud’s never actually seen my face before? Was that the fascination? I wouldn’t put it past him to have ordered my death without even asking to read my file.
I had a picture of him in my office. The picture had seen better days, but it’s there. I loved my goals-visualization board, it kept me focused.
Killing Renaud = Goals.
The Prince still hadn’t looked away from me. “Lord Étienne, I’m gratified you were able to accept my invitation. You, and your daughter.”
As if we had a choice.
“I’m pleased to have accepted it,” my father replied in his smooth, warm voice. “I’m equally pleased to present my daughter, Lady Aerinne, Heir Presumptive of House Faronne.”
It’s these words, spoken with a complete lack of accusation, that caused everyone around us to stiffen just a little. Heir Presumptive because the true Lord of our House, my mother’s first son from her first marriage, was lingering in Renaud’s dungeon. Alive, presumably. But no one would know since the Prince had denied us access to Danon for ten years.
“I am delighted to finally meet you, Lady Aerinne,” the Prince said, managing to truly sound delighted. A feat since he otherwise looked and sounded like a ghost. “Though we had already met.”
The exaggeration was also one of the reasons why I hated the Everenne High court; the sick, lying fuckers. Oh, they didn’t tell literal lies. That’s impossible. But they could drive a semi through a loophole the size of a pinprick.
“You could drop the lady,” I said. “Considering your House tried to have me killed at least three times that I know of, we’re probably on a first-name basis.”