A war of Fae Houses. A Prince waking from darkness. A woman drenched in his blood.
The Prince, my mother’s killer, is waking. The Court has not felt the full weight of an Old One in centuries, and it’s my fault.
I am Aerinne Capulette, Lady of House Faronne, and I will have my vengeance against House Montague and Renaud. But despite the ground war I’ve led since I was a child, we remain locked in bloody stalemate.
If the Prince takes the field against us, he will rip from my mind the secret that will shred any hope for peace, or victory.
He will kill me if he discovers the truth. . .
. . .sweet, foolish child. Your death is not what I desire. I have not waited, watched, and planned for centuries to let something as petty as a halfling girl’s vengeance keep me from claiming what is mine.
To protect you, and to ensure my reign, I will bend you to my will. I will slake this obsession with your blood and tears, and I will yield you to no one.
Let your House protest. Let my Court look aghast. They are nothing.
And you—you are my anchor.
We may be enemies, but your hatred only seduces my darkness.
NIGHT IN HIS EYES is an adult high heat, slow burn Fae fantasy progressively darker romance, first in the Fae Prince of Everenne series. This not a standalone and ends in a cliffhanger.
For readers of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Michelle Sagara, Kathryn Ann Kingsley, N.K. Jemisin, and Laura Thalassa—bend a knee to our goddesses. If you desire submission to morally gray (the darker shade of gray) Fae Princes, murderous heroines yearning for redemption and coming into their great power, this series will seduce you.
Take heed, Mortal Reader. . .a High Court is no place for the faint of heart. Dark deeds are done by day, and even darker by night. The Prince may have you fooled for now. . .
You are warned.
THE MIDNIGHT BALL
Tonight I’d submit to Prince Renaud, or fight.
I glimpsed the Prince, High Lord of House Montague, my enemy. My mother’s killer, my brother’s jailor. The thief of my childhood and the potential usurper of my future.
His wintry moonstone gaze scythed through the crowd, staring through me as if I were the ghost of someone he hadn’t murdered yet.
There was no anger, just chilling calculation, as if he was weighing the worth of my life against the trouble required to end it, a whisper of malevolence as he stared with the focus of a demi-god contemplating the annihilation of an ant.
He wore stark court attire; black, white and silver, nearly modern. Though there was nothing modern about 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 almost lifted my hand to volunteer.
My breath faltered, then steadied as I forced my spiked heart rate to calm.
“Are you ready, Aerinne?” my father asked, offering me his arm.
We paused outside the arched entrance to the lush forest bower of Everenne City’s soaring white palace, a tourist attraction for the trickle of humans we allowed to visit from all over the world, including the United States. I slid my hand into the crook of his elbow, anchored by his unflappable bearing, though nothing could subdue my seething fury and beneath it, fear.
My father wore cobalt, House Faronne’s secondary color, enriching the blue undertones of his deep brown skin. Faint lines of age and laughter betrayed mortality in a face crowned with dense, tightly coiled curls. I wore a simple sheath of vermillion silk that bared my golden-brown back and shoulders—the secondary color of my House, incidentally a similar shade to fresh blood.
“Tonight is going to end in disaster,” I said.
The letter the Prince had sent me after our second volatile meeting—telling me I was his but welcome to dispute his claim, though in the end my submission was inevitable—still infuriated me past the point of caution.
I curled my upper lip, staring at him through the crowd, filling my eyes with every unspoken thought. Defiance, anger, contempt, rebellion. A promise that any attempt to take me would be met with violent resistance.
The expression in his eyes shifted, the swirling blue in their depths brightening as a subtly cruel smile bloomed, daring me to retreat, to refuse his claim. . .but to do that I must first step forward. The avatar of my infantile power stirred, reacting to apprehension I couldn’t quite disguise.
Beads of sweat dotted my temples. Behind him shadows shifted with an impression of great, black wings only I could see, the eye of a beast slowly opening, fixing on me as if by will alone he could drag me those remaining inches across the threshold into his personal domain.
My thigh muscles tensed as I stilled an urge to either run, or attack.
Drifting eddies of Fae courtiers in overwrought evening garb obscured him a moment later, their glamours the origin of human fantasies.
“If you have doubts,” my father said, “we can turn back.” He was human. He could lie, even to himself. But I appreciated the sentiment.
“My doubts are centered mainly around his sanity. You can’t end a five-hundred-year feud you mostly slept through with dancing and wine.”
“Lots of wine,” Juliette muttered behind me. “If we’re lucky.” My cousin guarded my back as always, her tension akin kitten claws clambering up my spine.
“Your job is to keep Aerinne and Lord Étienne alive,” Numair said, “not drink.”
Numair shielded my father tonight, though he was my personal guard, sworn into Faronne service once he came of age—one of the few who wasn’t a relative. His hazel gaze picked apart any person who ventured too close, an unsheathed threat in his eyes he didn’t water down with words. Vermillion trimmed cobalt cloaks softened Numair and Juliette’s black leather evening armor, the engraved silver hilts of blades their only jewelry.
They weren’t my only guards tonight, but Darkan didn’t count.
Why not? My dark angel’s voice, cool and amused in my mind, a subtle presence since childhood rarely absent. I am of far more use than these children you call guards. There was no need to bring them, especially not the boy.
True. Darkan had saved my life only weeks ago. A feat from someone my therapist insisted was a figment of my imagination, or a fragment of my personality created to help me deal with the trauma of growing up immersed in guerrilla warfare.
When will you stop calling Numair “the boy?”
When he is fit to protect you. If he survives until then.
“We’ll argue about that later,” I said. “Let’s get this over with.”
A hush fell over the Courts as we walked up the flowered forest path toward the male who had reached out his bloodied hand in peace—a hand I must take, or watch my House burn.
The Prince waited at the end of the walkway in a small circular courtyard, forest gardens pressed against its borders, standing on the first step of a sweeping staircase. The stairs led 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.
Courtiers drifted to either side of the uneven white stone pathway, as lovely as the blooms that arched over our heads obscuring the lingering daylight as evening set. Their heady fragrance failed to hide the Fae’s 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.
“Vultures.” The word slipped out of mouth. I didn’t bother to catch it. None of them had graced the white stone courtyard with their blood or burned under the scorch of wyvern fire.
“Manners,” Baba said without moving his lips.
“Tell them to stop fucking staring.”
He’d aged since my mother’s death, his broad shoulders carrying the weight of our grief. He could have returned to his hometown northwest of Nairobi, or even to his family in New York, but he’d remained for me.
Others wondered how House Faronne bent the knee to a human Lord. Simple. He was beloved. Fear and power were not the only tools by which one might rule.
“Lord Étienne Capulette,” an orderly droned once we were halfway down the path, “Regent of House Faronne. Aerinne Capulette, Lady of House Faronne.”
Each step brought us closer to the Prince, the most powerful of us all. Not merely a High Fae, but an Old One, immortality so entrenched, power so vast, our people considered those like him to be demi-gods.
Too bad the ascension from High Fae to Old One was usually marked by going stark raving mad.
“Does anyone think his two-century nap actually repaired any brain cells?” Juliette asked, not bothering to whisper. Since she was behind me, Baba couldn’t give her A Look.
“If two centuries is enough to repair five thousand years of trauma, insomnia, paranoid anxiety, and the rot of unlimited wealth,” Numair murmured.
“The rot otherwise known as entitlement.”
And yet here I was, walking towards him.
My fingers itched to grab the iron dagger strapped to my thigh as we traversed the gauntlet of Fae. If I drew it, the blade would fly, embedding itself in the Prince’s eye—but unleashing now would reveal at least one of my Skills. I’d survived because my enemies underestimated me. Assuming the strike would even kill him.
He descended the step as we approached, his remote gaze sharpening. I suppressed an instinctive flinch. I’d neither earned nor wanted this male’s interest.
“Lord Étienne, I’m gratified you accepted my invitation,” he said. “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. A diplomat’s voice. “I’m equally pleased to present my daughter, Lady Aerinne, Heir Presumptive of House Faronne.”
Because I knew him, I heard the thread of hope in his voice. My father wanted peace; he’d be pissed when I confessed the Vow tightening around my neck.
The Vow to kill the Prince or die trying? Darkan said.
I struggled not to cringe at his tone. He and the infernal Prince should co-write a book: Shades of Icy. I make one little rash Vow, and you don’t stop lecturing me about it.
If it were the only rash thing you have done, I might spare us both the lecture.
The Prince shifted subtly, as if aware he didn’t have my attention. “I am delighted to formally meet you, Lady Aerinne.”
I doubted that. I doubted that very much. It couldn’t be a blatant lie, but trust a High Fae to drive a semi through a loophole the size of a pinprick.
“You can drop the lady,” I said. “Considering your House tried to have me killed at least three times that I know of.”
Silence pregnant with a hundred violent possibilities, each one unfolding into death, destruction.
The silence of a male struggling to leash a temper rarely provoked because no one dared defiance.
I gathered my strength, what little of it there was in comparison to him, and—
The Prince laughed. Softly, a sliver of sound that nonetheless filled the courtyard, surprisingly warm for someone with winter night in his eyes, who stood so still he put the trees to shame.
“I didn’t realize I was a comedian,” I said, speaking evenly as if unaware of how close I hovered on a precipice, his hands poised to shove me off. “I must have missed my calling. Slaying enemies, telling jokes.”
Congratulations, Darkan said, managing to sound both weary and sour, you opened your mouth, with predictable diplomacy. Which is to say, none.
That’s what you get for leaving me alone.
You will have to grow up some time, Aerinne. I can’t always be here to save you from yourself.
You are me.
Think that if it comforts you.
The dark tone of his mental voice hinted at secrets I feared, threads I shied from pulling. I didn’t want to unravel the carefully woven cloak of comfort he offered me only to find it concealed a monster. Or worse, a lie.
“Indeed,” House Montague’s High Lord said, the caress in his voice silk and dripping candle wax. Pleasure and pain. “You may address me as Renaud.”
“No thanks. Though if you invite me to call you ass—”
“My daughter is honored,” Baba said. He glanced at me with a gentle smile, but the warning in his eyes made the expression a lie.
I shut my mouth, bracing to endure the train wreck of sepulchral amusement in the Prince’s eyes.
“Lord Étienne, may I take your daughter in the dance?”
Those were the wrong words. The normal way to ask would be, May I ask your daughter for this dance?
I couldn’t stop the rush of hatred that enveloped me. The Prince thought he could have whatever he wanted, and evidently he wanted me.
Fair warning. I mean for you to be mine. You may fight me if you choose—I would relish it.
But in the end, submission is inevitable.
I’d burned his letter. I’d burned his letter dreaming it was his palace.
My hackles rose. “I’m right here, you can ask me yourself. If you manage to speak to me directly, I might say yes.”
Because yay diplomacy.
My father widened his eyes the way he did when he wanted to slam them shut and go bury himself in his darkened office for hours. I’d owe Baba several apologies for breaking my promise to restrain my natural impulses.
“Lady Aerinne, will you honor me with a dance?”
I bared my teeth in a smile. “Since you’ve been a good boy and asked nicely, I can’t say no.” Could I? That might be fun.
I danced around the hard wall of Darkan’s no. I know, I know, I’m already skirting the lines of the sort of manners that can get me killed.
Killed faster, you mean.
You need to learn to be more positive, I said.
This is actively painful.
Well. . .slink off into the misty place then. An icepick pang in my temple—the misty place. . .
. . .White stones, scarlet blood turning black under the half moon, shrieking wyverns dragged from the sky by the power of one male. The flash of a silver blade, and moonstone eyes boring into mine. Black and gold scaled arms trapping me against a broad chest—
Prince Renaud’s colors were white and silver. Why was I remembering black and gold?
He offered a hand once the brown of desert climes, paled by sunless centuries. “You will enjoy yourself in my arms. Warriors train to dance the way they train to kill.”
I dragged my mind back into focus, disguising my disorientation with a spun sugar smile, as false as honey was sweet, answering his innuendo rather than his literal words. “Then it’s a wonder House Montague manages to reproduce at all.”
Sliding my fingers onto his palm, I almost swore when crackling energy seared the skin where we touched. Like electric static, but ten times more painful. The Vow reminding me of my sworn purpose? Or the Prince giving warning? His eyes glinted in his emotionless face.
Fine. The Prince giving warning. I’d behave. For now.
Really? Care to wager? Darkan asked. I ignored him.
The Prince led me down another flowered forest path to a stone clearing big enough for dancing, the courtiers falling behind us in procession. An early evening breeze lifted notes of lavender and smoke into the air.
He stopped in the center, one hand clasping mine, the other sliding onto my waist. He pulled me too close, breaking every half-hearted Fae rule regarding personal space and etiquette.
No male had ever pulled me with such casual command against his body. He settled a hand on the small of my back, above the curve of my bottom. Lavender burnt to displeased dust in my nostrils the moment he touched me.
I stiffened. “Be careful where you put your hands, Prince. I am not yours.” I tried to draw away and his fingers pressed into me, a silent refusal.
Prince Renaud lowered his mouth to my ear, his voice a breath of sound. “Do not run from me.”
“And if I do?”
“Run, and I will give chase, my halfling.”