Wicked Enchantment

Discover Piefferburg -- the world behind Wicked EnchantmentWicked EnchantmentBerkley Sensation
A Dark Magic Novel
ISBN-10: 0425232018
ISBN-13: 978-0425232019
Release Date: January 5, 2010

Best Book of 2010 Nominee - The Romance ReviewsWicked Enchantment has been nominated by TRR reviewers for Best in Paranormal Romance for 2010 at The Romance Reviews (“TRR”).
You can vote for it here.

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When you’re a half incubus, your reputation precedes you…

All eyes are on Gabriel Mac Braire the day he makes his first appearance in the Seelie Court, including those of Aislinn Finvarra. Despite deep bitterness over her last failed relationship, Aislinn cannot help but be curious about the half incubus who is known to possess dark magick, both lethal and sexual in nature. Rumors abound of the women who have become enslaved to his irresistible charms.

So when the Summer Queen of the fae orders Aislinn herself to act as his guide in the court, she is understandably on guard. She’s fallen under the spell of far less persuasive men before. In addition, Gabriel might be more than he seems and his true mission is far from innocent.

This time, Aislinn must protect not only her heart, but her very life…

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Excerpt

Chapter One

“Sex incarnate,” the women and men around her whispered. “Half incubus.”

Aislinn didn’t know if it was true, but she did know the man was Unseelie in a Seelie Court. That didn’t happen very often, so she stared just like everyone else as he passed down the corridor.

Dressed head to toe in black, wearing Doc Martens, a pair of faded jeans, and a long coat over a thin crewneck sweater that defined his muscular chest, he seemed to possess every inch of the hallway he tread. He walked with such confidence it gave the illusion he took up more space than was physically possible. Seelie nobles shrank in his wake though they tried to stand firm and proud. Not even the most powerful ones were immune. Others postured and drew up straighter, offering challenge to some imaginary threat in their midst. Not even the gold and rose–bedecked Imperial Guard seemed immune from his passing, as if they sensed a marauder in their midst.

And maybe this man was a marauder.

No one knew anything about him other than that the dark magick running through his Unseelie veins was both lethal and sexual in nature. The court buzzed with the news of his arrival and his meeting with the Summer Queen, High Royal of the Seelie Tuatha Dé Danann.

According to gossip, Gabriel Cionaodh Marcus Mac Braire had been welcomed past the threshold of the gleaming rose quartz tower of the Seelie Court because he was petitioning the Summer Queen for permanent residence, a subject that had received a huge amount of attention from Seelie nobles. Predictably, most of the people against it were men.

Gabriel, it was said, held Seelie blood in his veins, but the incubus Unseelie part of him overshadowed it. The rumors went that he was catnip to females and—when his special brand of magick was wielded at full force between the sheets—he possessed the power to enslave a woman. The afflicted female would become addicted to him. She’d stop eating and sleeping, wanting nothing more than his touch, until she finally died from longing and self-neglect.

Just the thought made Aislinn shudder, yet it didn’t seem to deter his female admirers. Maybe that was because no one had ever heard of any woman who’d suffered that fate. If this man could use sex like a deadly weapon, apparently he never did.

Yet some kind of sexual magick did seem to pour from him. Something intangible, subtle, and seductive.

Watching him now, so self-assured and beautiful, Aislinn could see the allure. His long black coat melded with his shoulder-length dark hair until she wasn’t sure where one began and the other ended. A gorgeous fallen angel whose every movement promised a night filled with the darkest, most dangerous erotic pleasure? There was nothing to find uninteresting. Even herself, jaded and pride pricked by “love” as she currently was, could see the attraction.

That attraction, of course, was the stock-in-trade of an incubus and Gabriel was at least half, if court gossip was to be believed. But for all his dark beauty and lethal charm, and despite that odd, subtle magick, he didn’t entice Aislinn. To her, he screamed danger. Perhaps that was because of the very humbling public breakup she’d just endured. All men, especially attractive ones, looked like trouble to her now.

“Wow,” said her friend Carina, coming to stand beside her. “I see what everyone was talking about. He’s really . . .” She trailed off, her eyebrows rising into her ebony hairline.

“He’s really what?” Carina’s husband growled, coming up from behind them to twine his arms around his wife’s waist.

“Really potent,” Carina answered. “That man’s magick is so strong that even standing in his wake a woman feels a little intoxicated, but it’s false.” She turned and embraced Drem. “My attraction to you is completely real.” Her voice, low and honey soft, convinced everyone within hearing range of her honesty.

“Do you think he’s ‘potent,’ Aislinn?” Drem asked, curving his thin lips into a teasing smile.

She watched the man disappear through the ornate gold and rose double doors leading into the throne room at the end of the hallway. The last thing she saw was the trailing edge of his coat. Behind him scurried a cameraman and a slick, well-heeled commentator from Faemous, the annoying human twenty-four-hour “news” coverage of the Seelie Court that the Summer Queen found so amusing. “A woman would have to be dead not to see his virility, but if he’s got any special sex magick, it’s not affecting me.”

Drem shifted his green eyes from her to stare at the end of the hallway where the man had disappeared. “So detached and cool, Aislinn?”

She shrugged. “He doesn’t make me hot.”

“You’re the only one,” Carina muttered. Her husband gave her a playful swat on her butt for punishment. She gasped in surprise and then laughed. “Look over there. He’s the reason no men are making you hot right now.”

Aislinn followed Carina’s gaze to see Kendal in all his glittering blond glory. He stood with a couple of friends—people who used to be her friends—in the meet-and-greet area to socialize outside the court doors.

Ugh.

Kendal locked gazes with her, but Aislinn merely looked away as though she hadn’t noticed him. She’d wasted too much time on him already. She could hardly believe she’d ever thought she’d loved him. Kendal was a social climber, nothing more. He’d used her to further his position at court, for the prestige of dating one of the queen’s favorites, and then tossed her aside. It had worked for him, too. That was the truly galling part.

“I have nothing to say to him,” Aislinn said in the coolest tone she could manage.

Carina stared at him, her jaw set. “Well, I do.” She began to walk across the corridor toward him.

Aislinn caught her hand and squeezed. “No, please, don’t. Thank you for being furious with him on my account, but that’s what he wants. The attention feeds his ego and Kendal doesn’t deserve it.”

“I can tell you what that weasel is deserving of.”

Aislinn laughed. “You’re a good friend, Carina.”

The doors at the end of the corridor opened and a male hobgoblin court attendant stepped out, dressed in the gold and rose livery of the Rose Tower. “The queen requests the presence of Aislinn Christiana Guinevere Finvarra.”

Aislinn frowned and stilled, looking toward the doors at the end of the corridor through which Gabriel Cionaodh Marcus Mac Braire had recently disappeared. Why would the queen wish to see her?

Carina pushed her forward, breaking her momentary paralysis. Aislinn moved down the corridor amid the hush of voices around her. She’d grown used to being the topic of court gossip lately. The Seelie nobles didn’t have much to do besides get into each other’s business. Magick wasn’t a valuable commodity here, practiced and perfected, like it was in the Unseelie Court.

She entered the throne room and the heavy double doors closed behind her with a loud thump. Caoilainn Elspeth Muirgheal, the High Royal of the Seelie Tuatha Dé Danann, sat on her throne. Gabriel stood before her, his back to Aislinn. The Imperial Guard, men and women of less pure Seelie Tuatha Dé blood, lined the room, all standing at attention in their gleaming gold and rose helms and hauberks.

It always gave her shivers to stand in the throne room before the queen. Arched ceilings hand-painted with frescoes of the battle of Cath Maige Tuired, depicting the Sídhe taking over Ireland from the Firbolg, who were humans in their less evolved and more animalistic form, instilled a sense of awe in all who entered. Gold-veined marble floors stretched under her shoes, reaching to rose quartz pillars and walls. It was a cold place despite the warm colors, full of power, designed to intimidate and control.

The Unseelie, Gabriel, seemed utterly unaffected. In fact, the way he stood—feet slightly apart, head held high, and a small, secretive smile playing over his lips—made him seem almost insolent.

The Faemous film crew had been allowed within. They stood near a far wall, the light of the camera trained on the Summer Queen and Gabriel. Though now the camera turned to record Aislinn’s entrance. The silver-haired female commentator—Aislinn thought her name was Holly something—whispered into her mike, describing the goings-on.

Ignoring the film crew, as she always did, she halted near the incubus, yet kept a good distance. The last thing she was going to do was fawn like most women. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him do a slow upward appraisal of her, the kind men do when they’re clearly wondering what a woman looks like without her clothes. He wasn’t even trying to hide it. Maybe he was so arrogantly presumptuous that he felt he didn’t have to.

Aislinn was seriously beginning to dislike this man.

She curtsied deeply to the queen, difficult in her tight Rock & Republic jeans. If she had known she was going to be called into court, she would have worn something a little looser . . . and a bit more formal. Today she was wearing a gray V-neck sweater and wedge-heeled black boots with her jeans. She’d twisted her hair up and only dashed on makeup. This was not an event she’d planned for.

The queen, as always, was dressed in heavy brocade, silk, and lace. Today her color theme was a rich burgundy and cream, her skirts pooling at her feet like a bloody ocean. The royal’s long pale hair was done up in a series of intricate braids and heavy ruby jewelry glittered at her ears and nestled at the base of her slender, pale throat. She wore no makeup because she didn’t need it. Her beauty was flawless and chilly. Her style, as ever, old-fashioned. It worked for her.

Caoilainn Elspeth Muirgheal gestured with a slim hand, the light catching on her many rings. “Aislinn, please meet Gabriel Mac Braire. He is petitioning the Seelie Court for residency, in case you hadn’t already heard. It seems word has spread through court about it. I am still considering his case. As you know, we don’t often grant such requests.”

Yes, but there were precedents. Take Ronan Quinn, for example. He was a part-blood druid and Unseelie mage. He’d successfully petitioned the Summer Queen for residency in the Rose Tower over thirty years ago because he’d fallen in love with Bella, Aislinn’s best friend. Gabriel, like Ronan, was exceedingly good-looking. That would weigh heavily in his favor. The queen couldn’t resist a virile, highly magicked man.

“He’ll be staying here for the next week and I have decided you shall be his guide and general helpmeet while he’s here.”

“Me?” Aislinn blinked. “Why me?” The question came out of her mouth before she could think it through and she instantly regretted it. One did not question Caoilainn Elspeth Muirgheal; one simply obeyed.

The Summer Queen lifted a pale, perfectly arched brow. “Why not you?”

“With all respect due you, my queen, I think—”

“Do you have a problem with my judgment?”

Oh, this was getting more and more dangerous with every word the queen uttered. The room had chilled a bit, too, a result of the Seelie Royal’s mood affecting her magick. Aislinn shivered. “No, my queen.”

Gabriel glanced over at her with a mocking smile playing on his sensual, luscious lips.

Nope, she didn’t like him one bit even if he did have sensual, luscious lips.

“That’s a good answer, Aislinn. Do you have a problem with Gabriel? Most women would kill to spend time with him.” The queen gestured airily with one hand. “I thought I was doing you a favor after your . . . unfortunate incident with Kendal.”

Oh, sweet lady Danu. Aislinn gritted her teeth before answering. “I don’t have a problem with him, my queen.”

The queen clapped her hands together, making Aislinn jump. “Good, that’s all settled then. You’re both dismissed.”

Aislinn turned immediately and walked out of the throne room, Gabriel following. She didn’t like having him behind her. It made her feel like a gazelle being stalked by a lion. He’d soon find out this gazelle had fight. There was no way she was going to lie down and show him her vulnerable, soft stomach . . . or any other part of her body.

Sweet Danu, what had the queen thrown her into?