First chapter sneak peek – full length novel available on Amazon
TO SPARK A FAE WAR: The Fair Isle Trilogy Book Three
*NOTE: this is an early sneak peek at the ARC edition of To Spark a Fae War. Some changes may be made to the final published edition.
By Tessonja Odette
No one dreams of starting a war.
A revolution, maybe, but never a war. Personally, I’ve never been one for revolutions or warfare, preferring to fight death and illness in the surgery room. Instead of a sword, I once favored the scalpel. Laudanum. Chloroform. All essential weapons against threats to mortal lives.
But that was back when I thought I was mortal. Human.
Before my mentor betrayed me and I used a scalpel not to save a life but to end one.
Before a human shot my mother with an iron bullet and tried to turn the gun on me.
Before I tore out the throat of a fire lizard to take his throne as my own.
After all that, I think I understand warfare. The pursuit of justice.
With the blood of fire fae and ruthless kings flowing through my veins, I admit I was born to inherit a legacy of violence.
I carry that legacy now, feeling it rushing through my blood and veins as I walk down the darkened street—a human street, in the same city my mother was killed. The night is blanketed with smoke and shadows and sounds of evening merriment. I’m in the pleasure district of Grenneith, where brothels, taverns, and gambling halls cluster side by side.
I keep my head held high, trying my best to exude confidence as I walk by a particularly rowdy-seeming pub where several men loiter outside the door. They leer at me, whistling. I pat the obsidian dagger—a gift from Queen Nyxia—strapped around my waist beneath my coat. The blade isn’t iron, like I once carried in the past. But it isn’t iron I need for what I’m about to do. Still, blade or no, I’d rather not deal with any interruptions to my night’s plans.
One of the men breaks off from the group and comes toward me, sending my heart racing. The swagger in his steps tells me he’s clearly had more than his share of drink tonight. I allow my fire to flood my palms, but only enough to keep my mind clear without burning my kid gloves.
The man smirks as he looks me up and down, eyes trailing the modestly high lace neck of my gown to the black and white striped satin hem that brushes the cobblestones at my feet. “What’s an elegant lady like you doing walking the streets unaccompanied this late at night?”
For the love of iron, perhaps I should have come dressed as a man tonight. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off once I reached my destination, but I hadn’t accounted for the perils on my journey there. Now what to do about it? I could brush past him, ignore him, hurry my pace, but that would show fear. Instead, I look him straight in the eyes. “Same as you.”
“Oh, I doubt that, miss.”
I put a hand on my hip, an innocent gesture, if not for the blade sheathed and hidden within reach. “Am I close to the Briar House?”
The man draws back in surprise before a crimson flush rises to his already ruddy cheeks. “The Briar House? You?”
I keep my eyes pinned on his and flash him a dangerous smile. “I have exotic tastes.”
He seems encouraged by this, taking a bold step closer, hand resting on the waistband of his trousers. “I have something exotic you could taste.”
“I doubt that.” A surge of fear leaps in the back of my awareness, but I burn it away. I focus on his eyes on mine, drawing his attention deeper until the imagery of a bird in a cage floods my mind. His face goes slack, and I know that I have him. This is only the third time I’ve glamoured someone, and only the second time I’ve attempted it consciously. The first was an accident with Mayor Coleman, and the second was earlier this morning when I—well, let’s just say borrowed—this dress.
I keep my voice low and even as I speak to him. “You will tell me where the Briar House is.”
He doesn’t hesitate to answer, his tone flat. “Next block over. Right side of the street. Second building from the corner.”
“Thank you. Now, you are going to return to your friends and pay me no heed as I continue on with my business. You will allow none of your companions to harass me either.”
He nods, pointing a thumb at the group of men eyeing us from near the pub door. “I’m going back to my friends.”
“Wonderful.” Now the true test begins. He takes a step back, then another, and turns. Our eye contact is severed. My breath hitches as I watch him walk in the opposite direction. Any moment he could turn back around. As far as I know, most glamours end when eye contact is lost. However, I gave him an active order. Will the glamour last long enough for him to do as he was told? I didn’t stick around the dressmaker’s shop long enough this morning to find out what happened once I left with my borrowed goods.
I remain in place as I watch his unsteady progress back to the group. Only when he rejoins them and lets out a casual laugh do I feel I can breathe again. With a turn on my heel, I continue on my way.
To the Briar House.
I’ve never been inside a brothel—nor outside one, come to think of it—and I’ve never wanted to be. Not until I learned Henry Duveau, the councilman who shot and killed my mother, brings unfortunate fae females to this particular pleasure house after illegal capture. Over the last week since Mother’s death, I’ve thought mostly of two things: killing Mr. Duveau and taking down the Briar House.
If I’m lucky, I’ll do both tonight.
The brothel’s foyer is a mass of scarlet silk, maroon velvet, and gold lace as far as I can see. The lights are dim; no electricity, only several lanterns with red or gold glass covers. Plush couches line the walls, strewn with pillows bearing an ungodly number of tassels. Partitions that look like dressing screens separate certain corners and alcoves, and I can hear tittering laughter behind at least two.
I try not to allow discomfort to show on my face as a stately woman in a dark pink gown steps into the foyer from one of the halls. The cut of her dress is modest like mine, her gray-streaked brown hair arranged in a neat pile on the top of her head. My auburn tresses, on the other hand, are hidden beneath a wide white hat decorated with black peonies. Anything to keep me from being immediately recognized should I come into contact with Mr. Duveau. Hence my human state of dress.
“I am Madame Rose,” the woman says. A false name, obviously, considering it fits a little too neatly in with Briar House. Nonetheless, she’s whom I came here to see. Her posture is confident, her eyes are keen, and her smile is welcoming. “What can I do for you? Have you come seeking companionship tonight?”
“I have, Madame.” I take a step closer to her, lowering my voice. I repeat the same thing I said to the drunk man outside, use the same term I once overheard Henry Duveau use when mentioning the Briar House. “I have…exotic tastes.”
She nods, a knowing twinkle in her eye. “And might I ask how you came to know of my wares? I do not recognize you as a regular patron.”
I know she’s testing me, but I have my lie prepared. “I was referred to your establishment by a colleague of my father’s. We are visiting from out of town, and I needed to sate my unusual appetites, if you know what I mean.”
She eyes me with scrutiny, although her smile remains on her lips. “How did you sate these…unusual appetites before? The Briar House is the only of its kind in all of Eisleigh.”
It takes no small effort to hide my giddy relief. If this is the only brothel peddling fae females as merchandise, then what I’m about to do will be far more satisfying than if I’d learned there were several more establishments like this. I hide my relief behind a conspiratorial grin and lower my voice further. “I have my ways.”
She gives me an approving nod and extends her hand toward a velvet divan strewn with gold satin pillows. “Then tell me more about your tastes and I will see if I can find something to satisfy you.”
We take a seat on the divan and I pretend to ponder. “I like them to have a tendency to put up a fight.” My voice remains steady as I say it, but my words make acid churn in my stomach. I can’t help but recall how similar they are to what Lorelei had said about Mr. Osterman. I think he liked his prey to put up a fight. Mr. Osterman was one of the two men who’d captured me and Lorelei and tried to do unspeakable things. The other man was my mentor, who I apprenticed under during my training to become a surgeon. Both men are now dead.
“You like a fight, do you?” Madame Rose’s lips quirk at the corners.
“A little,” I say. “I prefer if you have someone who has remained a bit…untamed, shall we say? Feisty.”
She assesses me from head to toe. “Now, you are a surprise, aren’t you? Who did you say referred you to me?”
I lean in, my voice a whisper. “I dare not say his name, but he is a well-respected councilman. You do know who I speak of, do you not?”
“Ah,” she says. “Yes, I know exactly who you mean. He is my establishment’s prime patron. One would even call him a partner in my business. Although, I’m hurt he’s never mentioned you to me before.”
Is that suspicion I’m sensing? I hardly falter, continuing my feigned conspiratorial air. “Like I said, my father and I are on business from out of town. Father’s acquaintance with the councilman is new, but I must say it has grown quite intimate. This won’t be the last you see of me here.” I end that with a wink.
“I should think that’s the case, for I’m confident once you sate your appetite, you will hardly be able to keep away.”
“That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Madame Rose rises to her feet. “I think I have the perfect specimen in mind. Give me just a moment and I will prepare her for you.”
“One more thing,” I say, standing before she can turn away. “Father was under the impression his colleague would be here tonight. He has an urgent message he’d like me to pass on to him. Could you arrange a meeting for us?” I have no grounds to assume anything I’ve just said. No intel that Mr. Duveau is here, only the barest hope.
She cocks her head slightly to the side. “The man you speak of is not here tonight, so I apologize that I will not be able to satisfy that request.”
Damn. Still, there’s one more chance. I lock my eyes on hers, pulling her attention to me, drawing that imaginary bird into the cage of my hands—
Nothing. There’s no give in her attention, no sway in pulling her gaze. I adjust my hat as an excuse to break eye contact and glance at her wrist. There I see what I should have sought before: a hint of red beads around her wrist, barely visible beneath the lace cuff of her gown. Of course she wears rowan. In a brothel full of enslaved fae, it would be idiotic not to. Still, I had to try.
Try and fail.
Even though I went into this knowing the chance of finding Mr. Duveau was slim, I can’t stop the crushing disappointment. However, my mission is far from over.
I plaster a false smile over my lips. “Never mind that. I’ll seek him out myself.”
That’s a promise
Thank you for reading this excerpt of To Spark a Fae War! The rest of the story will be released on December 31st. You can find it here on Amazon.***
©Copyright 2020 by Tessonja Odette. This work may not be reproduced or redistributed in any way.
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