Daniel lifted the glass to his mouth, but the remnants of his shirt sleeve caught his eye before the rim touched his lips. “For the love of…” he muttered before setting his drink on the coffee table and surging to his feet. Lily was startled, Taurin snapped his head around, and Mickey took a quick step forward with a fierce scowl.
“Sorry,” Daniel said, walking around the sofa to retrieve his pack, “but it seems I’m so used to having my shirts incinerated, I don’t even notice anymore.” He returned Mickey’s scowl, then softly asked Lily where the bathroom was. As he passed Taurin, he noted the wary look on the man’s face. “What? You think I’m going to climb out a window?” Daniel shook his head. “Not a chance in Hell, man.”
Lily watched Daniel stride down the hall. No one spoke for a few minutes, each mulling their own thoughts, then Lily took a sip from her drink and turned to look at her grandfather. “How is it you know Taurin, Granddad? I know he comes from…” Hesitating as several thoughts collided in her mind—dreams, intuition, awareness—she took a deep breath and started again. “Daniel told me about his life, and what he does in, ah, the astral realm. I know Taurin is part of that,” she glared at the man lounging on the sofa across from her, “though how he could be here, chasing after Daniel, I don’t understand.” Lily turned back to her grandfather. “Why does he call you Micah?” She narrowed her eyes. “And why are you even here?”
Mickey Donovan held his granddaughter’s gaze, then shared a long look with Taurin before lifting a large hand to his chin, the sound of his palm scraping roughly against whiskered skin was loud in the silence. Before he could speak, however, Daniel was back. He’d cleaned up, and it looked as if he’d dunked his head under the faucet, then finger-combed the unruly tangles, leaving damp patches where his hair touched the shoulders of the black tee shirt. He looked more in control, Lily thought as he sat beside her, and somehow far more dangerous.
“A very long time ago, I was a warrior in a strong, powerful army. With my brethren, we fought demons and demigods, creatures that nowadays no one believes ever existed. The monsters became nothing more than myth and legend.” Mickey tipped his glass, finishing the whiskey in one deep swallow, then, his voice rough with memories, he walked toward the cabinet to replenish his drink. “As the years lengthened and we remained undefeated from all challengers, humans continued to multiply, and we became complacent.”
Daniel said softly, “I was right, you are Tuatha.”
Mickey shot him a glare. Daniel thought the look said it all. “We didn’t realize until too late that when the mortals found other things to believe in, other gods to answer their prayers, their own enemies to conquer, we would fade, become nothing but stories to frighten children at bedtime.” He filled his glass, brought the bottle to the coffee table and set it down with a sharp clunk. “The Formorii, an evil, foul breed of demon spawn, rose from the sea and in that last great battle, I was killed.” For a moment the only sound in the room was the crackle of the fire. “I could have gone with the others, Tuatha who even now are living beyond the Veil, believing the glory of olden times will never truly wither, never die.” His large fist struck the mantel. “They live in a place of dreams, of fairy tales,” he said disgustedly.
Shaking his head, he turned to look at Lily. “My name was Micah Lughan,” his smile turned into a wide grin, “and I was fierce, lass. Oh, but I was fierce.”
Lily grinned back. “Granddad, you still are,” she said softly.
“Thank you, my girl.”
Mickey took a swig of his whiskey, then said, “I was wandering in the mists, certain of only one thing: I was not going to live in a dream world of fantasy and pretense.” His thoughts drifted into the past. “Syrus found me. We talked about the universe, the stars and the moon, love and death, war and turmoil, demons and fiends. Nearly half a century passed before he got to the point, told me his purpose in seeking me out.” Quietly, Mickey added, “I became a Warden, second only to Syrus. He recruited, I trained, and together we built the order.”
“But how did you go from being a Warden on another plane, to being my grandfather in this one?”
“A hundred years ago, or thereabouts, a demon lord escaped from the Ethereal. We knew immediately that a lord had disappeared--there was a jarring sense of wrongness in the very mists--and at first we assumed he had been destroyed in a power struggle with his own. But then we discovered a door had been opened, and we found which lord had done it: Razeph, a lord of immense cruelty and ruthless ambition. He was powerful, one of the True Evil, a breed of ancients who have dwelt in the Abyss for time beyond measure, ruling by torture, torment and agony. We blocked his portal to stop others who might wish to escape as well, though that also meant he was trapped in this realm.” Mickey shook his head, disbelief in his voice, “It is utterly inconceivable that he found a way to leave the Abyss, and we still don't comprehend how he did the impossible.”
“Like stealing from the Library of Souls was deemed impossible?” Taurin asked, his eyes shooting daggers toward Daniel. Ignoring him, Daniel smiled to himself when Lily glared back in his defense.
“I was sent to find him and the hell-spawn dog he took with him. I'd been following his scent for decades, always just one bloody step behind, when my search landed me in Ireland. It was so good to be home again, to see the familiar hills, smell the sea on the wind, stop for a time to remember.” Mickey ran a hand through his hair, a soft smile curling one corner of his mouth. “I was in Dublin, tending bar on a raucous Friday night in a local pub, when the door opened and my woman walked in.” He paused and shook his head as if still amazed at his good fortune. “Some lucky few get to spend many lives together, some spend many lives looking. For my part, I had long given up.” He laughed, eyes twinkling. “But suddenly, there she was. Wide-eyed, travel-worn, and beautiful. She waltzed up to the bar like she owned the place, sat down and ordered a Guinness then confessed with a beguiling smile and a husky whisper that sent shivers down my spine, that she didn’t like warm beer. I gave her a whiskey instead. By the end of the week I knew there was no way I could live without her.”
“How were you able to relinquish your wardenship?” Taurin asked.
“I went to Syrus. We had to do some dancing with the Highers, but I had earned some time off, a reward for centuries of service. I agreed to keep my eyes and ears open for Razeph, to aid when I could, but someone else had to take on the task of finding the bastard.” He smiled gently at Lily. “I also agreed to a mortal life. When it’s time for my beloved Grace to leave this world, we go together.”
Stunned, Lily asked, “Does Gran know all this?”
Mickey snorted. “Lass, this is your grandmother. Do you honestly think I could keep a secret like this from her? She even knows about this.” He reached inside his shirt and brought out a peculiar locket with wings etched onto the center oval, the piece sparkling in the firelight as it spun from a long gold chain.
“That’s how you’re able to travel?” Lily looked across the table to Taurin. “And you? Is that how you can locate Daniel?”
Taurin nodded, exchanged a quick look with Mickey, then pulled his own medallion from under his shirt. “We aren’t sure why it can’t track Razeph, maybe he can block the device somehow, though he's a master manipulator and skilled at disguising himself behind money and power.” Taurin shrugged. “I know the medallion works as I had no trouble finding Valentine.”
“I’m going out on a limb here gentlemen, but if I'm connecting the dots in the right order, do I take it you now think Cantrell is this demon lord Razeph?” He looked from the scowling face of Mickey standing like an avenging god to the betrayed and scornful glower he was getting from Taurin.
“A demon lord you appear to be working for,” Taurin snapped.
“I was not working for him!” Daniel snarled. “I was set up and blackmailed! More to the point, we should be trying to find out why he wanted Lily’s blasted book in the first place!”
“You could have come to me, you knew I—”
For the third time that night, the front door burst open. Lily jerked to her feet, then Daniel shoved her behind him as the door slammed into the back wall. “Can’t anyone just knock?” Lily muttered.
“Lily!” shrieked Katy as she tried to get around the large body that blocked the doorway. Dominic’s livid gaze met Daniel's icy glare. Lily pushed against Daniel’s back, hissing for him to get out of the way while Katy tried to squeeze between the door frame and Dom’s legs. In a rush of determination, both women managed to get within a few yards of each other before the two men strode forward and yanked them back.
“Will you let go, you idiot!” Lily said as she struggled against the rigid arm that held her firmly against his chest. “No,” barked Daniel.
“Dom, it’s Lily! I have to go to her! Stop holding me back!”
“No,” growled Dom.
Taurin had jumped to his feet when the door flew open, and now he and Mickey stood shoulder to shoulder, tensely watching the confrontation. Eyes narrowed, Taurin swept an intent look over the two men angrily facing off. They were evenly matched, in height, stance, attitude and fury.
In a moment of unbelievable clarity, shocking in its truth, Taurin gasped. “By the gods,” he whispered hoarsely, “you’re brothers!”