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Mortal Heir (The Thief’s Talisman #1)
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Changeling. Thief. Mortal heir in a world of treacherous immortals.
Raine Warren, half-faerie changeling and master thief, wants nothing to do with the family who abandoned her in the human realm as a child. But when Faerie comes knocking, claiming she’s descended from Sidhe nobility, she’s handed an unexpected legacy. One catch: it comes in the form of a sceptre containing dark power coveted—and feared—by every faerie court, and no instruction manual.
Now her name’s on every hit list in Faerie, and the other Sidhe will do anything to take her off the playing field… permanently. Her last hope is to strike a deal with a charming thief with his own agenda and his own plans for the sceptre. On the run from assassins and hunted by the most powerful faeries in both realms, embracing the dangerous magic of Faerie might be Raine’s only means of survival.
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With feet lighter than a human’s could ever be, I crept down the corridor, following the enticing scent. Like a kid raiding their parents’ liquor cabinet in the middle of the night. Except I’d never had a childhood like that, and if I got caught, I’d face a more severe punishment than being grounded.
But I never got caught. Good thieves don’t.
If I had the ability, I’d have used a glamour to make myself invisible. But my weak faerie blood wasn’t strong enough even to make my pointed ears look like human ones, so I had to rely on keeping as quiet as possible. My feet barely made a sound, trained to avoid creaky floorboards and noisy steps, to tread gracefully and not leave an impact. This was a human establishment, so they’d never know I was here. I’d slip in and out like a ghost. A handkerchief wrapped around my head covered my bone-white hair. I had a number of handkerchiefs, but I saved the rose gold one for special occasions. It was my birthday in less than an hour, and that counted as a special occasion in my book.
I paused as I found what I was looking for—a chocolate cake, fresh, icing dripping onto the work surface. I stuck my finger in the icing and licked it, tasting the sweetness on my tongue. Apparently such things used to be commonplace before the rationing kicked in after the war with Faerie. Now luxuries were only for the elite. I’d spent weeks packaging them for rich humans when I’d worked here. Before the ‘incident’.
Finders, keepers. I closed the box carefully to make sure the icing didn’t leak out. Slipping the box inside my coat—a thick fur-lined winter one I’d swiped from a clearance sale in the local market—I retraced my steps to the window.
Climbing out was my favourite part. It was also the riskiest. My feet fit carefully onto the windowsill, and I hung on with one hand, the other keeping the box from falling out of my coat. I shimmied across the sill to the drainpipe, and began the three-floor climb one handed. Maybe a particularly athletic human could do this, but not as easily as breathing like it was for me. Faeries were typically built like dancers, or athletes, and could move infinitely more gracefully. Even in a thick coat concealing a birthday cake. If not for my cumbersome load, I’d have thrown in some acrobatics. As it was, when my feet touched the ground, I turned to face the shop and gave it a rude gesture. I’d lost my job here after a particularly vindictive human colleague had decided to put pieces of iron in my pockets as a prank, and then laughed when the shards burned my hands to blisters. I’d had no magic to curse the bastard, so I’d punched him in the nose and got myself fired. Stealing a cake was a petty form of revenge, but a delicious one.
The cold breeze did its best to tear my handkerchief loose so I held it down with my free hand, lowering my gaze to hide my too-bright blue eyes, which marked me as part of a Court I’d never set foot in. I picked up speed, heading for my least favourite part of the walk home. The contraband in my pocket sat heavily and the first drops of rain had begun to fall.
Noises followed me as I walked alongside the hedge bordering half-blood territory, shrieks and growls and whispers from the beasts in the forests that had once been small patches of woodland and had now grown to cover a huge section of the city. It was pretty much a replica of the Summer and Winter Courts, minus half the magic and with a few added rules like don’t kill anyone, half-bloods and humans included. Such rules didn’t apply in Faerie—one of many reasons I thought staying here was the better option for everyone. I didn’t quite get how the faeries had ended up invading this realm in the first place, but they were here to stay, and so were we.
As I prepared to pass by the gate, a horse rode out into the road, bearing a tall elven knight. At first, I thought it was one of those half-blood guards who liked to play dress-up as nobles. Then I saw the insignia on the banner.
This was a legit, pure-blooded faerie from the Winter Court itself.
I kept very still. I wouldn’t get into trouble for stealing, but pure faeries are well-known for being cruel and capricious, and they show us no more respect than they do regular humans. I held my breath as the horse halted, and a second rider came out through the gate. Then another. What was the Winter Court’s messenger patrol doing here of all places? There might be more travel between here and Faerie than there used to be, but it was an unusual occasion that required true Sidhe to show up. Something big was happening. Unfortunately, it was between me and my way home.