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Hidden Wings by Ana Raine (Dreamspinner Press)
Kanji is the last royal Kuro swan, an ancient race who once served the demonic Sidhee. The Kuro were betrayed and given as slaves to the Dryma fairies. When a Dryma is born, his soul attaches to a tree and to sustain their lives, the Dryma conscript the Kuro to protect their woods. In their servitude, the Kuro are languishing and dying off. Kanji is desperate to reunite his people with their stolen wings, but the task seems impossible.
When Kanji discovers a plan to unite the Sidhee and the Dryma, he tricks the Sidhee prince and attends a masked ball in disguise. There he meets Prince Tristan, who is nothing like the other fairies. Kind and compassionate, Tristan has a plan to free the Dryma from their dependence on the trees—and their need of the Kuro’s protection. It could mean freedom for Kanji’s people, but it might also mean choosing between them and the life of the fairy who is—impossibly—his mate.
When Tristan is wounded in battle and left for dead, his survival depends on the success of his experiments. Can Kanji dare to believe, or must he come to terms with the loss of his mate?
Long ago, the Kuro Swans had been friends with the Sidhee and had offered their wings in service when the soul stealers needed to come to the human world. I tried to make sense of what Christophe was saying and stuttered a response, “Y-you, I mean, you can’t expect us to steal them a soul.”
Christophe played with the buttons of his immaculately tidy shirt. “No, I do not. I simply expect you to deliver this,” he reached into his pocket and produced a white envelope sprinkled with colorful flowers. “They will be arriving the night before the party on the South side of the forest. You will meet them there and present them with this. Afterwards, you will escort them to the Castle De Mar. The envelope contains instructions so should they have questions, they will know who to consult with.”
I swallowed, my lungs dying from a lack of oxygen. “May I ask why you are not meeting them yourselves?”
Christophe stared at me for so long, I thought he was going to tell me to go to hell and reach for his whip looped through his belt. To my surprise, he said, “Ivan, Seth, why don’t you go downstairs and see if Nicolai needs some help. I’m sure Kanji won’t mind speaking to me…alone.”
Zain tensed beside me, but I gave him a nod. Sensing they didn’t have much of a choice, Joel and Zain followed the two guards from the room, the door swinging shut with a soft click.
The music floated up the stairs and the scent of fried food wafted through the floorboards. I rubbed my sweaty hands on my pants and waited for the assault to begin, just like it always did.
“Did you know the Dryma fairies have a long history of deception and trickery?”
My jaw clenched, “I can imagine so.”
“So naturally, we would decide to host a masked ball to celebrate one of our great Prince’s birth.”
“I suppose it does seem fitting.”
“Your kind are not the only ones adverse to forming an alliance with the Sidhee. Having a masked ball where my kind can congregate without fear is the perfect way to introduce the Prince of the Sidhee into our community without opposition.” Christophe paused to pour himself another drink from the crystal pitcher before taking a step towards me. He took a swig of the drink and then set it down on the table. Circling me, I could smell his cologne mixed with the alcohol on his breath. “Sidhees can be ruthless and tend to regard all life as little more than wrongs of a ladder.”
“So why unite with them?”
Christophe parted my hair with his hand so my neck was exposed, my silky strands falling just above my shoulder. He trailed his hands down my back, resting on my shoulder blades and gently manipulating the muscle so a forced relief washed through me. “Kanji, you should know what it can take to survive.”
I flinched as he snaked one of his hands around my stomach and pushed his cool fingers up underneath my shirt and jacket so he could touch my skin. “So you need the Sidhee now?”
“Everything is changing,” Christophe whispered in my ear. “Your lives are tied to the trees just as surely as ours are. So why not stop pretending? I can feel your power in every breath you take. With every movement you make, you are trying to maintain control.”
“That’s not true.”
“You were born to be a Prince,” he said softly, stroking my abdomen and working his way up to my chest. “You’re father was tricked by the Sidhee and yet you bear the burden for him. You don’t even know what occurred.”
“I don’t need to,” I spat. “The fact they betrayed us is enough.”
Christophe made an indifferent noise before wrapping his other hand around my neck and tangling my hair in his fingers so I was trapped. “What do I have to do to get you to give in? I can provide for you, give you things that would make even Dryma fairies jealous. All you have to do is become mine.”