From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Thea Harrison comes the final story in her spellbinding Moonshadow trilogy…
King Oberon reigned over his Dark Court in Lyonesse for centuries, until an assassination attempt laid him low. Now he lies unconscious in his snow-bound palace, while his Power battles the enchantment that threatens to end his life.
A skilled trauma surgeon and magic-user, Dr. Kathryn Shaw reigns at the top of her profession in New York. Then comes a challenge she can’t resist—she is asked to cure the uncureable. Just getting close enough to try healing Oberon is a dangerous proposition. When she does reach him, he awakens too soon.
Roused from darkness by Kathryn’s presence, Oberon confronts the beautiful stranger who claims she wants to save his life. But the enchantment has frozen his emotions. How can he learn to trust her when he can’t feel anything?
Oberon’s desire is icy, devoid of all tenderness. Not only must Kathryn match wits with him, she must also fight her reaction to his touch, because there is so much more at stake than her own endangered heart.
For the Dark Court faces its most deadly peril yet. Its ancient enemy Isabeau, Queen of the Light Court, is obsessed with its annihilation, and Oberon must be brought to remember his loyalty and affection for his people.
Because if he won’t fight for them, Lyonesse itself may very well be destroyed.
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It was day four in this frozen hellhole. Day four. And it was freaking freezing everywhere.
Nothing stayed warm. Since their arrival, she had tried a new bedroom every night and had stocked it beforehand with plenty of firewood. Each night she had built a blazing fire, but they all burned without warmth. She could run her fingers through the flames without getting her skin singed.
The only way she survived was by wrapping herself up in coat, cloak, and blankets and then tucking the Mylar emergency blanket around the entire bundle so that it captured ninety percent of the heat she managed to generate. She felt like a giant foil-wrapped burrito.
Water didn’t boil. Food never warmed. There was plenty of food in the cavernous palace kitchen and pantries, but it was all frozen hard as rocks. For every swallow of water, she needed to suck on a piece of ice until it melted.
In order to eat, she either had to do the same thing, or carry frozen bits of food around in her pocket so her body heat would eventually help it to thaw. She had a hardy constitution, but all the challenges were frankly wearing.
The hand and body warmers were lifesavers. She used one a day and got ten glorious hours of help with combating the cold in the form of a single miraculous little packet. But she had only two left. Soon she was going to have to rely solely on her own body’s resources.
And Robin was no help. First, there was no way in hell she would suggest sharing blankets and body heat when she barely trusted him enough to turn her back while they were together in the same room.
Second, she couldn’t suggest sharing body heat anyway, because after shadowing her obsessively for two days and listening to her constantly explain every little thing to him—which meant she frequently had to offer background medical lectures so he understood what she was saying, including drawing sketches in lieu of PowerPoint slideshows—he disappeared without warning or explanation.
She had no idea if he was off running some errand that he considered vitally important or if something had happened and he had gotten himself into real trouble. He had simply vanished.
Kathryn wrote “4” on a piece of parchment paper and propped it in one corner of Oberon’s room within easy sight.
Day four meant Annwyn and her troops would be arriving in about ten days. Then, according to Robin, Kathryn would need to shelter in place as they entered the city.
Unless Robin had changed his mind and had gone to fetch them? But that didn’t sound likely, so she had to plan for other contingencies. Probably the best place to shelter would be with Oberon in his bedroom, because presumably his Power wouldn’t have any self-destructive tendencies when it rampaged the city.
After she had finished her morning ritual of straightening her possessions that had gotten strewn all over Oberon’s furniture, she braced herself and turned to face the man lying on the bed. Every time she looked at him, she felt the same gut punch as the first time she had laid eyes on him. At least now she knew to prepare for it.
Yes, he was Wyr. According to his scent, he was some kind of feline. He was a big damn cat.
On the night of their arrival, when she discovered what Oberon was, she had exclaimed, “How come nobody told me he was Wyr? I thought the Daoine Sidhe was a community of mixed breeds from the Elder Races!”
She had always liked the idea. It sounded warm and inclusive, with none of the walls that people erect to keep out their perceived “other,” so she felt a little shock of betrayal to discover the truth.
Robin had given her a thoughtful look. “He was mixed Dark Fae and Wyr for a very long time. It was only after Morgan’s attack that he threw everything he had into trying to shapeshift. He thought it might help dislodge the magic. After he finally changed into his Wyr form, it did seem to work—for a while. He appeared to be healed for another two years, until the spell awoke again.”
Robin described the reality of what every half-Wyr faced. They couldn’t completely access many of the health and physical attributes of the full Wyr until they were able to successfully shapeshift into their animal forms. Most who were part-Wyr never managed to achieve that transition.
She couldn’t imagine how Oberon had managed to shapeshift on his own without the assistance of an older Wyr. It spoke of a towering will and determination to survive. When she had met with Morgan, the sorcerer had confessed he was astonished Oberon had survived so long. As scary as Oberon’s Power felt, she had tremendous respect for his will to live.
But this situation was maddening. Even though he appeared to be perfectly warm, the cold was so bitter she had draped blankets over his lax form before leaving that first time.
The next morning, when she had walked into the bedroom, everything she had done to him had been reversed. He lay back in his original position, and the blankets were tucked back in the closet.
The room lay in deep shadow, only flaring with light when she and Robin stepped back inside. Her possessions were the only things left alone… possibly because they were new to Oberon’s unconscious mind and he didn’t know what to do with them?
Who the hell knew? She could say only one thing for certain. In all her many years as a doctor, this was the most unique situation she had ever been in. And she hated to admit that it wasn’t going well.
Because she didn’t just have Morgan’s sophisticated assassination spell to fight. That would have been difficult enough on its own. She had to fight Oberon himself.
And she wasn’t winning.
She had run out of the jerky and trail mix. In an effort to keep her caloric intake high, she had taken to eating butter and other fats from the kitchen pantries because they melted easily after being in contact with her body heat.
Still, she had grown tired all the time, and while the Wyr didn’t suffer from colds like humans did, her lungs felt raw from constantly breathing in the dangerously frigid air.
Also, her throat was sore. She was suffering from voice strain from all the damn talking she’d done over the past several days. She could cast a pain-relieving spell on herself, but she didn’t want to do permanent damage to her vocal cords, and the only thing that would help them was to rest her voice.
She had started out with explaining every little thing to Robin, but then she found that if she didn’t keep talking to Oberon every damn moment while she scanned him or did anything else, his Power would gather in the room like a black, malevolent thundercloud. And black, malevolent thunderclouds never boded well for anybody.
The only way she made headway was when she talked nonstop while she tried the various spells and techniques she had worked out with Morgan. Oberon didn’t fight her when she was talking to him. When he lay acquiescent, she could sense the icy needle pressing against his heart. It was so close to taking him, so close.
But after long, careful work, she had only managed to wiggle that needle back a millimeter, then another… just as long as she kept talking. As soon as she paused to take a breath, or her voice faltered, his Power snapped around him like a clenched fist and she couldn’t get back inside his body without doing damage, either to him or to herself.
What she wouldn’t give for a warm, cooked meal and something hot to drink. Broth, coffee, tea. Anything. A whiskey toddy with lemon and honey sounded like heaven.
In the meantime, the bastard just lay there on his bed and looked like he could sit up at any minute. Even though he was shirtless in the wretched, unnatural cold, he was warm to the touch. Other than the few precious remaining packets of body warmers that remained, he was the only heat source in the entire city.
He was warm to the touch.
When the idea hit, it was filled with such simple brilliance her shoulders sagged—partly from relief at the thought and partly for how far and quickly she had fallen away from any semblance of keeping appropriate boundaries between her and her patient.
But he was warm to the touch, and her stiff muscles and tired mind needed some real rest before she expended more energy on trying to wrestle another round of healing spells into him. So she did the practical thing. She went down the hall to her latest bedroom and retrieved her Mylar blanket.
She was already wearing her fur-lined cloak over her coat. With two people under the Mylar blanket, she thought the cloak would be more than enough covering. And she had already gone to the kitchen for provisions. She’d hacked some ice chips into a tankard, and gathered frozen nuts, dried fruit, a small tub of butter, and a wheel of cheese, both as solid as blocks of ice.
Back in Oberon’s room, she set the tankard on the mattress next to his hip and carefully propped it up with the food. Then she lay down on his other side, shook her cloak over them both, food and all, and then over that she spread the Mylar blanket, talking hoarsely the whole time.
“Look, I don’t like this any more than you do—or any more than you would if you were really cognizant of what a monumental pain in the ass you’ve been. But until I break through to you or…” Or conclude I can’t do anything for you. Something in her chest tightened at the thought. “…or you stop creating such terrible winter conditions, we’ve got to do whatever it takes to make this work. Understood?”
He said nothing, did nothing. Most importantly, his Power did not coalesce menacingly, so she eased down beside his long, hard form and eased her head down on the pillow next to his.
Soon she was more than warm. She quickly grew too hot. Eureka. Unzipping her coat, she shrugged out of it and let it fall by the bed. Deep exhaustion followed the wonderful warmth as her tense muscles finally unknotted for the first time since crossing over.
As she lay back down beside him, she murmured drowsily, “That’s all that’s coming off, buddy, so relax, you’re safe.”
She was even halfway convinced she was safe, at least for the moment, but she wasn’t comfortable with the situation, not by a long shot, and she tried her damnedest to keep from coming into direct contact with his bare skin.
Yet she couldn’t help but notice he smelled pretty good for a guy who hadn’t bathed in fifteen and a half years. All clean and über-male, even if he was some kind of damn cat.
He was actually shockingly sexy, when she thought about it.
Stop thinking about it.
“We’re never going to speak of this again,” she informed him before she fell asleep.
Mmm. Sometime later, she inhaled the scent of sexy male as she rubbed her cheek against her pillow, which was made up of smooth, bare skin wrapped around solid, heavy muscles.
Sexual images played through her mind. Soon they would really wake up and entwine together, she and… and…
Just exactly who had she taken to bed?
What the hell. She couldn’t even think of his name, and here she was, wrapped around him like a creeping vine—and she never had sex with a total stranger.
Bolting to a sitting position, she stared around wildly.
Oh right. Gotcha. King. Bed. Witchlights burning in their globes, lighting every detail in the palatial room.
She couldn’t really say there was malevolence to the presence in the room, but it was definitely full of dark, heavy Wyr alpha male. It felt like melted dark chocolate against her skin, and she wanted to bathe in it.
The thought disgusted her. For fuck’s sake, Shaw. Pull yourself together.
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Thea Harrison resides in Colorado. She wrote her first book, a romance, when she was nineteen, and had sixteen romances published under the name Amanda Carpenter. She took a break from writing to collect a couple of graduate degrees and a grown child.
Thea writes in a variety of genres, including the award-winning paranormal Elder Races series and the Game of Shadows novels, and is currently at work on various new projects in sci-fi fantasy, paranormal and contemporary romance.
She adores animals and currently resides with two small dogs that have very large personalities.