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A Discovery of Secrets and Fate (Hardcover)

A Discovery of Secrets and Fate (Hardcover)

An epic romantasy saga

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1,050+ 5 Star Reviews

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Life as I knew it ended the day I accepted my fate.

In its place is an existence even the wildest imagination could never fathom.

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Strange creatures walk among us, plotting our demise, and I’ve come to find that the fate of our world rests squarely on my shoulders. We’re all in danger and I’m trying to figure out how to make it through each day.

The key to my survival is a man I can’t figure out. As dangerous as the darkest fae, I have no choice but to work with him to stop the prophecy that’s foretold to be the ruination of mankind.

Carrick Byrne continues to be my only source of information, but he doles it out as he sees fit. He intrigues and scares me in equal measure, yet I can’t help but be attracted to him. And the more I discover about him, the more it becomes clear he feels the same.

As we travel to Faere in search of answers, we find that every piece of information leads to more questions, that every question leads to a new piece of the puzzle, and that, most importantly, no one can be trusted.

The more secrets we uncover, one thing is certain— if we have any chance of saving the world, we have to do it together.

A Discovery of Secrets and Fate is book two of the Chronicles of the Stone Veil series and is best enjoyed if read in series order.

Read Chapter One

Finley

I’m numb, and I can feel myself sliding further into some sort of protective oblivion. Carrick and Zaid talk quietly across the room, but about what, I’m not sure. I’m too fragmented to use my hearing ability. Frankly, I’m not sure I want to know what they’re saying. Glancing down at the two fingers of bourbon Zaid pressed into my hand, I take a sip and note that I don’t even feel a burn as it slides down my throat.

I think I might be broken.

Because no more than half an hour ago, at my twenty-eighth birthday party, I watched my twin sister, Fallon, die right before my eyes.

If that sounds dramatic, it’s not. One moment, she was my occasionally frustrating, annoying, and overbearing sister whom I loved more than anything in the world, and the next moment, she was gone. In her place was a Dark Fae drenched in evil.

My sister was dead.

Of course, maybe not.

Perhaps Carrick and Zaid know what the hell is going on, and there’s some form of magic that can turn her back. The thought makes a tiny kernel of hope flare within my chest, but as I focus on their expressions—so grim and worried—it fizzles into nothing.

A lone tear falls from my eye, sliding down my cheek. I don’t bother to wipe it away. It’s too much effort.

I haven’t reached the point of breaking down into full-out sobbing—probably because I’m still too numb. Perhaps I’m in denial. I have a feeling when it finally comes, it’s not going to be pretty. If it happens while sitting here in Carrick’s condo, they have plenty of tissues ready, I’m sure.

After Fallon morphed before our eyes, Carrick ushered me out of the home my sister shares with her fiancé, Blain, and into a waiting car down the street. The entire ride, I curled into myself, bending at the waist with arms folded tightly around my stomach. I just rocked back and forth as we made a beeline for Carrick’s place.

Carrick was quiet and didn’t attempt to touch me. When we arrived at The Prestige, he put an arm around my waist as I stepped free of the car and kept it there the entire ride up to his penthouse. He didn’t do this out of affection, but rather because I’d almost fallen a few times on the way out of Fallon’s condo. I guess one’s legs turn to jelly when they watch their sister turn into a Dark Fae, but that’s only supposition on my part. Never had it happen to me before.

On the elevator ride up, Carrick even pulled me into his side so I’d lean against him and I couldn’t even be appreciative. I just wanted to sink to the floor in the froth of shimmery gold material that was my evening gown and be left alone.

Zaid was waiting for us as the elevators opened, and Carrick handed me off to him. It was the first time Zaid—a daemon who was neither obviously light nor dark—had ever actually touched me, but again, it was merely to hold me up. As he moved me toward a nearby couch, I glanced back to see Carrick doing something at the elevator doors. He was holding his arms up, palms out, and his lips were moving, but I couldn’t understand his mumblings.

Zaid deposited me rather gently on the couch where I merely slumped back into the cushions. I noticed that one of my strappy, sandaled heels was gone, and I have no clue where I lost it. To be honest, I didn’t even realize I was limping along without it. Moments later, Zaid thrust the bourbon in my hand with a harsh, “Drink this,” and went to join Carrick near the elevator doors.

There’s nothing to do but go over every horrid detail of the night. I recall that moment when I got hit with a bolt of dark malevolence, causing my intestines to feel like they were being jerked out. My twin, Fallon, doubled over as I had, clearly in the same pain. I knew it had to be related.

Watching her face flicker, disappear, and turn into a horrifying yet beautiful creature I inherently knew was filled to the brim with evil—my world splintered into a million pieces. I don’t see how it will ever be right again.

My gaze drops to the glass, and I raise it to my mouth. No delicate sip I can’t even feel. I toss it back, swallow hard around the large amount of liquor, and feel it settle into my belly with a sizzling burn. It’s the first thing I’ve really felt in a while, and it causes me to hiss.

Carrick and Zaid whip their heads my way and I hold the empty glass up, rocking it back and forth. “Think I can get some more?”

“In a minute,” Carrick replies in his erudite voice that’s neither European nor American, and it doesn’t hold a hint of worry within. He moves my way, Zaid following.

Taking a chair opposite me, he perches on the end and rests his elbows on his knees. I stay slumped in the same position I’ve been in since arriving. Zaid stands a few feet back from Carrick, his arms crossed. Instead of his normally grumpy face, his expression is filled with concern.

His daemon face, that is, with protruding brow, sunken cheeks, and black eyes. I don’t even see his human countenance anymore.

“How long did you know Fallon was a Dark Fae?” Carrick inquires in a clipped tone, the accusation heavy in the air.

My mouth parts in surprise. “What?”

“How long have you known your sister was a Dark Fae?” he repeats.

“The minute I saw her face morph,” I snarl. “Are you accusing me of hiding it?”

“She’s your sister, Finley,” he replies softly. “It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think you would try to protect her.”

My gut is burning. Not from the bourbon, but with white-hot fury over his inference. I push up from my slump, straightening my spine. My fists clench hard into the diaphanous material of my skirt. “That’s ridiculous. You saw my reaction to her. It was physically painful to be near her when she changed. And since you can see fae as well, you know damn well she changed right there. When she… when she… died right in front of my eyes.”

If I weren’t hurting so badly, I might be ashamed, but I bend over with my arms over my stomach and the tears come forth in earnest. Free-flowing, hot, and salty. They drip onto the material of my skirt, creating more translucency. I take in a breath, which is a mistake because then I start sobbing. Wracking, painful sobs of misery and grief that don’t stop until I start to hyperventilate.

I can’t get the image out of my mind… the creature Fallon turned into. For someone as dark and evil as she’d become, she was so white all the way around. Pale skin, platinum hair, and almost colorless eyes. She looked like some kind of sinister ice queen and was terrifying to behold.

A weight settles on the couch beside me, then large hands come to my shoulders to pull me up straight. Carrick murmurs, “Take some deep breaths, Finley. Come on… inhale deep.”

Without question, I do what he asks, drawing as much air into my lungs as I can and holding it until it burns. It takes my mind off my loss for a moment, and I’m able to let it out in a quavering rush. I do it again, and again, and one more time, until Zaid is squatting in front of me with another glass of bourbon.

Not a lick of empathy on his face, eyes still cold and detached, yet that singular thoughtful action of bringing me liquor touches something in me. A tiny hiccup comes out and I give him a watery smile. “Thank you, but no.”

Zaid rises, then sets the bourbon on a table to the side of the couch. My breathing evens out, and I wipe my cheeks with the back of my hand. A linen handkerchief is produced out of nothingness, yet it’s Carrick holding it out for me to take. I do, dabbing at my eyes and then realizing my nose is completely stuffed up, so I blow hard into it. I ball the snot rag up in my hands and grip it tight, my gaze going hazy as I stare at the pretty silver-and-gray rug beneath my feet—one with a sandal and one without.

“It’s clear something happened right then to cause Fallon to change,” Zaid points out. By the firm nature of his tone, I suspect that’s what he and Carrick were talking about by the elevators.

Angling his body toward me on the couch, Carrick asks, “What time were you born?”

My eyes snap to him, and I’m confused by the question. Why does it matter?

But then it hits me… some catalyst caused the change and it happened on her birthday. “Fallon was born at 8:28 PM.”

“I wasn’t looking at the clock,” he murmurs thoughtfully, gaze going to Zaid. “But that’s about the time it happened.”

“But what does that mean?” I ask.

Lips pressed flat, Carrick just gives a helpless shake of his head. “I don’t know. But she wasn’t always a Dark Fae, then suddenly she was near the time of her birth on her twenty-eighth birthday. That has to be significant.”

Bitterness wells up within me. “So you believe she wasn’t a Dark Fae before? And that I wasn’t hiding it?”

“I was fairly certain,” he admits blandly, rising from the couch. “I sensed nothing about her in the times I’ve been around her, and I don’t know of any fae or daemon that can hide their nature from me. But as you’ve proven to be a human who sees fae, I still have to consider all possibilities.”

“Gee, thanks. That was the worst apology ever,” I grouse.

Carrick ignores that and starts pacing while Zaid just stands by placidly with his hands folded before him. I bend over to remove the remaining sandal from my foot. For a brief moment, I wonder where the other one is and since things can’t be any crazier, I also wonder if maybe my Prince Charming will find it and bring it to me. Whisk me away from all of this on his white horse so we can live happily ever after.

I snort, realizing my thoughts are bordering on insane.

And then a horrific thought strikes me, filling me with hysteria. I practically screech as I pop off the couch. “Am I fae? Have I changed?”

Carrick stops mid-stride, turning to face me with a scowl. Zaid’s expression doesn’t change.

I pick up my skirt, round the coffee table, and put myself right before Carrick as I demand, “Look at me. Am I a fae? A daemon?”

“No, Miss Porter,” he replies drolly. “You are as you ever were.”

“It’s Finley,” I snap angrily, because it irritates me that he is back to formality with my name. “And how can you be sure? You’ve been taking me to different people trying to figure out if there’s something other than human in me, which means you can’t know everything.”

“That is true,” he replies smoothly. “But as you are standing here in front of me now, I can tell you that, as of this moment, you are not fae or daemon. Now, whether that remains true five minutes from now, I have no clue.”

He could not have said anything less reassuring to me, but, then again, Carrick has never tried to spare my feelings or sugarcoat things.

“We need to talk,” Carrick says, and this time his tone is something I’ve never heard before. It sounds regretful, and I know he has some bad news to impart.

“So talk,” I reply, crossing my arms over my chest.

His gaze runs down my body and then back up again. “Go change into some of your workout clothes. I know that dress can’t be comfortable.”

“I’m fine.” I lift my chin, showing him that he can’t order me around.

His lips don’t move, but something bursts inside of my head… an invasion of words that seem to bounce around on the inside of my skull like an echo. Go change your clothes.

Without giving my body permission to do so, it starts walking past Carrick toward the hall that will lead toward the gym. I try to push against the force, and easily stop in my tracks.

“What was that?” I ask as I whirl to face Carrick, my voice a mere whisper because I’m so stunned by what just happened.

“Compulsion,” he replies without any further explanation.

It’s the first time Carrick has ever exhibited any type of supernatural ability other than being able to see fae and daemons. It chills me to my bones as it means I know nothing about this man.

I can feel that my body is my own and the need he instilled to walk to the gym is gone. But I also know, that if I don’t do as he says, he’s going to make me do it.

So I go. Right to the gym where I pull clothes out of the cabinets without much thought. I don’t even bother going to the bathroom to change, but disrobe right there, kicking my beautiful dress that I’ll burn later because it’s now forever associated with the death of my sister aside.

I put on a sports bra and a long-sleeved t-shirt first. Picking up a pair of dark gray workout leggings, I first put my left leg in while balancing on my right. I pop my foot through the end, then pull the stretchy material up a bit before planting it on the floor and lifting my right leg.

Just as it rises, my gaze catches on the outside of my right calf. At first, it doesn’t penetrate what I’m seeing, perhaps because my psyche just can’t handle one more horror tonight.

But I stare at it hard before blinking several times to see if it will go away, hoping perhaps it’s a figment of my overused and battered imagination.

Glowing white, even against the paleness of my skin, it remains, and panic fills me. “Carrick,” I scream, flopping to the gym floor on my butt. I turn my right knee inward, drawing my ankle closer to me so I can get a better look.

Right there, about three inches down from my knee, is a white outline of a feather. With a shaky finger, I reach out to touch it, but I’m distracted by Carrick bursting into the gym, Zaid right on his heels.

Carrick’s eyes are alight with something ferocious as he scans for some threat before spotting me on the floor. Relief washing over his expression, he takes long strides my way as he asks, “What’s wrong?”

I point the finger that’s hovering just above my skin, stabbing downward toward the outside of my calf. “Look.”

He squats beside me, and Zaid comes to do the same right beside him. They both peer hard at the feather on my leg.

“What the fuck is that?” I wheeze, feeling like all the air in my lungs has been squashed.

Without any hesitation or fear, Carrick is the one who touches it. His finger starts at the quill, which is closer to my ankle. Gently, he glides it up my skin, following the long flow of the feather.

His head lifts, eyes coming to mine as he asks, “Did this just appear?”

“I don’t know.” The hysteria in my voice is not abating. “It wasn’t there when I got dressed for the party.”

I know damn well it wasn’t because I’d shaved my legs, which means I had an eagle-eye view. There was no white tattoo there.

I know I should feel ridiculous, sitting on the gym floor, one leg in my pants, the other out, and my panties on full display, but there are more urgent matters pressing upon me.

Both men rise, giving each other concerned looks.

“It must have happened at the same time Fallon changed,” Zaid says.

“More than likely, at the same time Finley was born,” Carrick corrects.

“8:34 PM,” I murmur as I stare at the feather, knowing the exact time of my birth in relation to Fallon’s. “My mom died three minutes later.”

“Get dressed,” Carrick says gently in a timbre I rarely hear, and it causes my head to lift so I can see him. His return gaze is troubled, but for the first time ever, I see a touch of sympathy in his expression. “Come into the living room when you’re done. We have a lot to talk about.”

***

It takes me fifteen minutes to get dressed, which is a long damn time seeing as how I only had to thread one more leg into my pants. But I sit on the floor long after Carrick and Zaid leave, finally getting up the nerve to touch the feather.

I expect to feel a jolt, perhaps even a tingle, but I get nothing. The lines of the feather aren’t raised, my skin smooth in texture thanks to good moisturizing and a morning shave. The feather itself is wide and long, and definitely not the type that would be used as an inking quill. It narrows only slightly at the tip, curving into a blunted edge. The individual strands can be seen with clarity. I have no clue what type of bird it might belong to, but it’s not delicate looking at all. Rather, it makes me believe it would belong to a large species known for strength of flight, like perhaps an eagle.

The coloring is odd, all one shade of bright white so it shows up like a beacon against my pale skin. Sometimes if I stare at it too hard, it seems to glow, but I know it’s my eyes merely playing a trick on me.

I try to think back to when Fallon was changing, and if it was indeed at the time she was born, it stands to reason the feather showed up on my skin at the time I was born. Except I didn’t feel a thing.

One could argue I didn’t feel anything happening on my leg because I was too busy being doubled over in pain from Fallon’s change.

I suppose there’s a small chance the feather could coincide with my mom’s time of death, but it’s more probable these events match our birth times.

A wave of grief washes through me yet again, a stark reminder that coping with what Fallon has become is going to be a process. I don’t even know what she is to me. If she’s truly a Dark Fae, does she even remember me? If she does retain her memories of Fallon, does that mean she still holds love for me, or has that been obliterated by her evil?

And make no mistake… she’s evil. It’s a knowledge that’s settled not only in my heart, but also in my bones.

Worse yet, what if Fallon was fae all along and is so powerful she managed to keep it hidden? I mean, I have the ability to see fae when I shouldn’t. Maybe she has the ability to cloak herself from me. What if she’s been stringing me along and playing me all this time, and that could possibly explain why we never had a deeply developed twin bond?

That thought is almost too abhorrent to consider.

Eventually, I finish dressing, including a pair of socks and tennis shoes, and make my way back to the main living area, except I don’t find Carrick or Zaid there. I glance in the kitchen, find it empty, and decide to make my way to Carrick’s office.

Sure enough, I find both men there. I’m not sure what it says that when I look at them, in my mind, I call them “men”. Zaid is a daemon, but is he also a man? Technically, he’s not. When I look at him now, I don’t see his human face. But still, despite knowing he is not of the human race, I consider him a man above all else. Does that mean I’ve developed a fondness? Or perhaps I’ve gotten too comfortable around him, accepting him as being more like me than not?

As for Carrick, he appears in every sense to be a man, yet I know he’s something different. When he said we needed to talk, it inferred he knows more than he’s let on before. If that’s the case, I’m not accepting any more half-truths or partial stories. I’m going to insist on knowing everything.

Carrick sits officiously behind his desk, although he’s removed his tuxedo jacket and tie, as well as rolled his sleeves up to mid-forearms. On more than one occasion, I’ve thought he has great forearms, but they do nothing for me in this moment.

Zaid sits in one of the two guest chairs across the desk from Carrick and I see a tea service set for one on Carrick’s desk. As I take my seat beside Zaid, he rises and pours me a cup.

For a moment, I consider it could be poisoned, but, deep in my gut, I know I’m too important to be expendable at this point. It’s with gratitude I accept the drink, inhaling the soothing blend of chamomile and orange, before taking a sip.

Zaid resumes his seat, and my gaze moves to Carrick. I lean forward, set my cup on his desk, and settle back into my chair. “You wanted to talk. So talk.”

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Product Release Date: March 2, 2021

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