Morgana MacKerran sent the icy deluge squarely into Collum’s face. Her useless cousin bolted upright, sputtering. He shook his head and inhaled, she guessed, more water than air. Collum roared his displeasure, then ruined the effect with a fit of wheezy coughing.
His bedmates had gotten a good dose of ice water as well. The lasses floundered about, flashing naked limbs and breasts. By all the ancestors in Oblivion! Their shrieks were like icepicks in Morgana’s ears. She waited by side of the bed, empty bucket in hand, for the stramash to subside. Eventually, Collum caught his breath and blinked up at her, resentment plain on his handsome face.
“I might’a known.” His blue eyes regarded her balefully. “You perishing besom. Only you would assault a man in his own bed, and wi’ a bucket of ice, no less! Damn it, woman, isn’t Scotland cold enough for ye?”
He climbed out of bed naked and reached for his robe. He had sixty years if he had a day, but he cut as fine a figure as any human thirty years his junior. If Morgana had a taste for men, she supposed she’d be tempted. Thankfully, manly bits left her unmoved.
“Morgana,” Collum said as he cinched his belt. “I know you disapprove, but—” He cut off as the two females in his bed, having presumably gulped some fresh air into their generous lungs, renewed their caterwauling.
He winced. “Lasses! Please! Silence!”
The blond immediately shut her mouth. The brunette made a few more squeaking sounds before she subsided. Morgana very much doubted Collum even knew their given names. The man wasn’t much for such details.
She set the bucket on the floor. “Lasses,” she said quietly. “Gather your clothes and go.”
They pair of them did, and quickly. Hurried along, no doubt, by Morgana’s expression. The blond paused to blow Collum a kiss on her way out the door. Morgana rolled her eyes.
When they were at last alone, Collum turned to face her, arms crossed over his substantial chest. “Damn it, Morgana. Why can’t you just let me be?”
“Why can’t you let those human lasses be? How old were they, anyway?”
“Of age,” he said succinctly. “Not that it’s any of your business.”
“And they weren’t even witches.” It was unnatural, her cousin’s penchant for magicless human lovers.
He shrugged. “You might be happy with a witch in your bed. I prefer otherwise. It’s my business, innit? Just because I live in your bleeding castle doesn’t mean…”
He must have taken a closer look at her expression, because his complaints died on his lips. His gaze sharpened. “Something’s happened,” he said. “What?”
Morgana drew up her sleeve. An oaken cuff, carved in the form of a dragon, encircled her upper arm. An emerald had once formed the dragon’s eye, but for the last seven years, a ruby had taken its place.
The gem was aglow.
“Holy shite,” Collum muttered. “First demons swarming th’ skies, now this.” Turning abruptly, he rooted around on his nightstand. He lifted a silver chain, from which dangled a disc of apple wood. The ruby in the center, a matching gem to her own, shone like blood.
“Mab,” he muttered. “What could the bitch be about after all these years? We’ve done as we were told. We’ve neither of us set foot out of Scotland since that terrible day. She should let us be.”
“She’s the clan alpha,” Morgana said grimly. “She owns our fealty. She can command us as she wishes.”
“What do you suppose the bloody besom wants?”
“I cannot imagine.”
Collum’s fingers closed on the disc. The light shone through his fingers. “We could ignore her summons.”
“Are ye daft? She’d kill us both. She came within an inch of it seven years ago.”
“If she wanted us dead,” Collum said. “We’d be dead. Like—” He looked away.
Morgana swallowed past the lump in her throat. Like Magnus, he’d been about to say. Morgana’s twin had challenged Mab, and had given his life in the effort to defeat her. Morgana felt the loss as if it had happened yesterday, rather than seven empty years ago. At least, she told herself yet again, Magnus had died during the duel. If he hadn’t, Mab would have taken him as a thrall.
“If only,” she began. “If only Tristan had—”
“Stop.” Collum held up his hand. “Dinnae go there, lass. It’ll only upset you. There’s no sense in dwelling on what’s over and done.”
Lass, he called her, though she was barely a decade younger than he. As for his advice, it was fine and true, Morgana was sure, but she’d never been able to take it to heart.
“Damn Alwen for her weakness,” she spat. “How could that Alchemist bastard have cozened her so completely? She was a disgrace to Merlin’s line. ‘Twould have been better had she died during her Ordeal.”
“So you’ve said,” Collum reminded her. “Many times. Over, and over, and over—”
“And the lad.” The loss of the lad, the last of Merlin’s direct line, had been a crushing blow. “Arthur would be almost of age now, had he survived.”
“Well, he didn’t survive,” her cousin said flatly. “He died. Accept it. Forget it.”
“If only I could,” Morgana murmured.
She knew it would not happen. Not on this side of Oblivion.
Summoned: Morgana is a Beyond the Books short story in The Nephilim Series romantic urban fantasy by Joy Nash.
Hunted by vengeful archangels and zealot demon annihilators, the descendants of fallen angels play a deadly game on Earth with magic stolen from Heaven.
“A sharp biblical tale bursting with action and character development.” ~Publisher’s Weekly
“A unique and exciting paranormal romance, The Night Everything Fell Apart brings angels and demons to life, all the while blurring the line between good and evil.” ~Booklist Starred Review
Other flash fiction in this collection: