by Lucy Monroe
Children of the Moon Novel #4
Berkley Sensation - September 2012
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Her legs dangling over the stone edge, Ciara waited atop the lower bailey tower. One of two in the lower half of the wall surrounding the Sinclair fortress, it was the perfect vantage point for her first glimpse of the newcomers that would join her adopted clan. She was not supposed to be here, but it was a favored spot for her to find both privacy and peace.
Most of the clan had gathered in the lower bailey both yesterday and today for the same purpose, but Ciara did not like the crush of so many around her.
There was no crowd now. The humans and other Chrechte had gone home, disappointed once again when night fell with no sign of the newcomers. But Ciara waited as the moon rose, unable to return to the keep — her need to see these new clanspeople too strong to deny.
As a member of the Faol, she had been told those coming were Chrechte; she strongly suspected they were Éan.
Her dreams were not all nightmares and she had seen the birds in the sky shifting back to human form and donning the plaid of the Sinclair.
Were these Chrechte refugees like her, looking for a new life among the Sinclair?
Ciara hadn’t actually been looking toward anything when she came to live with Laird Talorc and his lady, Abigail. Numb with grief after her mother’s death so close on top of her dear brother Galen’s grisly demise, Ciara had simply done as she was told.
Laird Barr had informed her she needed a new life without so many memories around her and Ciara had accepted his instruction in action, if not in her heart. She’d come to live among his former clan, the Sinclairs, without a single argument.
What had there been to argue? Ciara had no family any longer, no loved ones to hold her among the Donegal.
She had spent the past seven years doing her best to serve her new clan, though her old one would not recognize her. Gone was the stubborn girl who loved her family and people with every passionate fiber of her heart.
Ciara did her best to feel as little as possible; she had no desire to love with a devotion that could so easily destroy her again.
Laird Barr’s hope that she might forget painful memories more easily away from all that was familiar had proven fruitless, but she did not blame his plan.
The memories were burned into Ciara’s mind with a dragon’s flame; it was impossible for her to ever forget or feel completely safe again. That fateful day in the forest and what followed lived inside her in a maelstrom of grief, awe, confusion, disbelief and sometimes utter terror.
Not that she ever let these feelings come fully to the surface, but Ciara often woke in the night to her brother’s final scream, only to realize it had been her own. She dreamt of blood soaked walls and a waxen faced woman searching their cottage for son and husband that would never again be there.
Ciara was grateful for the stone walls that kept her nightmares private, but she was even more thankful that far from forcing Ciara to marry when she came of age, Laird Talorc and his second, Niall, frightened off any prospective suitors. Chrechte and human alike.
Laird Talorc and Abigail treated Ciara like a cherished member of the family, to be protected and watched over. She knew they thought she was broken.
Too broken to be forced to mate.
She did and said nothing to dissuade them of that belief.
She wanted no true family to lose again; she had no desire to ever marry or have children that could be taken from her by that undefeatable enemy, death. She hoped she never met her mate, or that he was already committed to another.
Helping to care for Abigail and Talorc’s twins, now in their fourth summer, was difficult enough. The boys did their best to worm their way into Ciara’s heart. It took all her stubborn resolve not to let herself love them.
And deep inside, in a place she refused to acknowledge, she feared she already did...even more than she feared the dragon that had killed her brother.
Shaking off her thoughts, she peered through the moonlit night, seeking out her first glimpse of the Éan soon to join their clan. She wasn’t supposed to know about the Éan at all. No one, but a select few were. And Ciara, better than most, understood why.
However, it was not her fault she knew many things she should not. Even without the eavesdropping. Her dreams and visions had grown more frequent since she had seen the scarlet dragon breathing fire from the sky.
And of late, the Faolchú Chridhe called to her even more insistently than her dead brother’s screams and mother’s spilled blood. Ciara rarely slept, and when she did sleep it was to dream, each dream growing more fraught with urgency than the last. She could not eat because that urgency followed her into wakefulness, making her stomach tight and filling her with dread she did not understand.
Ciara did not know what to do.