Changeling (Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon #2)

3,235
05.03.2019

As Trenyth probed my energy, I linked to him, and a sudden flare revealed his hidden heart to me. He was in love with the Queen. He loved her beyond desire, beyond any hope of being with her. He worshipped her as a goddess, and she was his moon and star.

Overwhelmed by the rush of emotion, I tried to retreat quietly so he wouldn't realize that I'd managed to stumble onto his private thoughts, but his eyes flew open. He paused, then merely said, "You have all the makings of an expert empath. Did you know that you contain two faces, both linked to your soul and both part of you, that are neither human nor Fae? You're a twin, correct?"

"What? What do you mean?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

He sat back, letting go of my hand. "Delilah, twins among Weres seldom occur. And even rarer do the Fae have twins who both develop Were tendencies, but it happens on occasion. Especially with a mixed parentage. You had a twin sister who died, didn't you? And she was a Were like you, correct?"

Huh? I blinked, thoroughly confused. Surely Mother would have told me if I'd had a twin sister. "As far as I know, no. What makes you think that?"

He looked surprised. "Because you have twin shadows within you—one hiding in the darkness, the other out in the light. Were shadows. I assumed your twin sister died. Often, when that happens, the surviving twin inherits the other form. Effectively, the survivor becomes a two-faced Were, able to shift into two different forms."

I jumped up, my stomach flipping as I retreated to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water. As I stood at the tap, staring bleakly out the window, Chase joined me, resting his hand on the small of my back.

"Is something wrong?" he asked.

"I don't know. What Trenyth said… Chase, in my dream I was in Were-form, but I wasn't a tabby cat, and every time I try to remember what I was, I blank out. Could he be right? Could a new form inside of me be trying to work its way free? And what about the convulsion I went into? What the hell was that all about? I've never had anything like that happen before."

"When did all of this start?" he asked.

I thought back. "Since the Autumn Lord marked me. Something's changed, and I can't put my finger on what." I turned to look at him. "I'm scared," I confessed, not wanting to admit it but no longer able to shove the fear aside.

He kissed my forehead gently, then lingered on my lips, teasing them gently with his tongue. After a moment, he pulled me to his chest and held me close. "It's okay. It will all be okay. Do you think your parents would have hid it from you if you had a twin? Sometimes human parents keep news like that quiet for one reason or another."

I tried to put myself in my mother's place but failed miserably. I might be a lot like her, but in this matter, I had to be honest and admit that I had no idea what she would have done.

"My mother was human; maybe she didn't want me to know—didn't want me to feel survivor's guilt. But surely Father would have told me. Or Camille. That is, if she knew about it." I broke away from him and sat at the table, resting my head in my hands. "I don't know what to do. If I do have a second Were nature, when will it manifest itself? And will I be able to control it?"

Chase sighed and joined me, pushing a plate of cookies toward me. "Eat something. As for your parents, well, I have no idea. You should ask your father next time you talk to him. And if you do have a second Were-form… I suppose you'll just have to wait and see what happens."

He was right, and I knew it. There was no sense in worrying it like a bone, though that was easier said than done. At that moment, the front door slammed, and Camille bustled in, Morio and Smoky behind her. I stared at them.

"That was fast," I said, glancing at the clock.

"We were almost to the Renton turnoff to SR 167 when who should we see meandering along the road but Smoky himself."

He just smiled with a self-satisfied smirk. "As long as our contract is in effect, I know when you're thinking about me," he said mildly. Camille blushed and stammered, but he held up one hand. "I thought I'd save you part of the trip and meet you partway."

"Are you telling us you can trace Camille's whereabouts as long as she still owes you that week of debauchery you're so happily planning?" I asked. While it smacked slightly obscene, it could also be a very useful tool if anything ever happened to her.

He shook his head. "Not quite. She has to be thinking about me in order for me to pick up on it. Today, she was thinking about coming to get me, and I was able to tune in on her location and save you all some time." He winked at her. "I can't exactly read your mind, but I wish I could."

She shook her head. "You're incorrigible."

"I'm a dragon. For you to expect anything less would be foolhardy." His words seemed to fill the room with the slightest edge of a warning—a hint that he didn't mind playing, but the rules were his to change as he would.

"I suppose so," Camille said softly. "I guess I'll find out, won't I?"

"All in good time," Smoky said, relaxing. "All in good time."

I quickly filled them in on Ronyl and the mirror and Zach's condition. "With Zach out of commission, we're one man down. Meanwhile, before we question our spy, I need to ask Camille something in private."

Chase stood up and motioned to Morio and Smoky. "Come on, boys, let's go check on Zach and the medics." They took the hint and scrammed.

Camille gave me an odd look. "What's going on? Chase cleared them out of here in a hurry."

"I have something important to ask you, and I want a straight answer."

She blinked. "Of course. What is it?"

"Did I have a twin sister or brother? One who died when we were born?" I held my breath, both hoping for—and yet hoping against—a yes. Yes would mean my parents lied to me. Yes would mean Camille had held a secret from me all of these years. Yes would mean that I'd lost a part of myself, in a sense, at birth. And yet yes would mean that I carried part of my twin with me, that part of her still lived.

"Did you have what! Where did you get that idea?"

"Just answer yes or no." I wanted the truth straight, with no pussyfooting around.

"How about I don't know! I don't think so, but I can't say for sure. Nobody ever told me anything about you having a twin, anyway." She wasn't lying, that much I could tell. "Now, how about telling me what this is all about?"

I told her what Trenyth had said, and her expression turned from puzzled to worried. "So I guess my questions are, what is this second nature I've got bottled up inside of me, and did I have a twin?"

The silence in the room muffled my thoughts as I waited for her to say something. As the seconds ticked by on the clock, I thought about my childhood, straining to remember if I'd ever felt like someone was missing. Granted, I'd always felt out of place, but we all had. I'd dreamed of the day when I'd fit in somewhere. But being a misfit and missing a sibling were two entirely different situations. As hard as I tried, I couldn't place my finger on any inborn evidence locked deep within my cells that I'd been born a twin.

Finally, Camille shook her head. "Delilah, I don't know. I can't remember all that clearly before you were born. Oh, vague images of our parents and of home… of a few holidays… but when Mother went into labor with you, they sent me to stay with Aunt Rythwar. Mother had a hard time with all of her pregnancies due to the mixing of her blood and ours through the placenta."

"I just hope that whatever this second form is, it doesn't jump out and surprise me at the wrong time." I pushed myself out of my chair. "I suppose I'll have to ask Father next time we talk to him."

Camille wrapped her arm around my waist and leaned her head on my shoulder. "And I just hope we're able to talk to him again," she said, breaking the silence that bound both of our fears.

I glanced at the clock. "Another ninety minutes, and Menolly will be up. We'd better prepare a list of questions to ask the spy. I have a feeling tonight we're going to be battling more than a handful of spiders, and we might be able to gather some useful information from him."

Sobered by the thought, we joined the others in the living room. The night ahead promised only bloodshed and killing and all the things that made me want to slam the door and lock out the world.

Zach was awake when we entered the living room, and Sharah and Mallen were about to head out. "Keep him quiet, feed him lots of soup and juice and liquids, and don't let him get bitten again. Next time, it could be fatal."

I waved them out, glancing at the sky. Camille peeked over my shoulder.

"We're in for more snow," she said.

"Are you sure?" I looked at the snow piled on the ground. "We already have four inches."

"Seattle may be famous for its rain, but trust me, I can smell it in the air, and I can feel it in my bones. We're due for a storm that will leave the city stranded for a few days. It's coming in, and it's coming fast. I'm glad that Iris didn't go in to the bookstore after all."

"If you're right, we'd better get ready to roll the minute Menolly wakes up," I said. As I turned around, the technomage came quietly down the steps and joined us in the living room.

"Your Whispering Mirror now connects to Trenyth's office," he said, nodding at the Queen's messenger. "No one should be able to tell the difference unless they examine it directly, at which point they'd discover elfin magic and know something's amiss. If your city tries to contact you, they'll probably just think the mirror's out of order." He glanced at Zach. "Ah yes, the spider problem. I'll work from outside. It won't take but a moment."

When Camille moved to follow him, he shook his head. "Thank you, but I work alone," he said in a voice that edged on snotty.

"Fine," she said. I could tell she was biting back a snide remark. Not good to make allies mad, even if they did snub you. Thankfully, the phone rang at that point, and she went to get it.

As Ronyl took off outside, I turned to Zach, who had pulled out his cell phone and was quietly speaking to someone. When he hung up, I sat down near him and took his hand. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I was just about to become spider soup. While you were in the kitchen, Trenyth, Sharah, and Mallen checked the room. They found the spider who bit me and squashed it flat."

"We have a spy tied up in the kitchen closet," I said. "The spider probably came in with him. Who were you calling?"

"The compound, to let them know I'm safe." He gave me an almost apologetic look. "And they told me Rhonda's on her way here."

I stared at him, my heart starting to pound. What would she be like? Would she be beautiful? Stronger than me? Had he told her about me? And why the hell did I even care? As I sat there, a smile plastered on my face, Chase knelt down beside me, and I could feel him sizing up Zach, gauging my reaction. I had no idea what in the world I was going to do about either of them.

CHAPTER 17

"Okay, let's drag Horace out of the closet," Camille said as we trooped back into the kitchen.

"Before I do that, any bright ideas on how to make him talk? There's no reason he should." I glanced at the closet, keeping my voice low.

Trenyth and Iris stayed in the living room to watch Zach and Maggie. Just then, Smoky and Chase joined us. Smoky leaned on the end of the table.

"Bring him out. I'll help you find out what you want to ask. Trust me," he said when I gave him a quizzical look.

I dragged Horace's chair out from the closet. He was awake, and the scent of fear filled the air. It was coming directly from him. I was pleased to see that my knots had held—I'd been practicing on Camille ever since we'd had the run-in with Wisteria.

Horace struggled, but mostly he just looked worn down from being tied up for so long and from the clunk on the head Iris had given him. Smoky leaned in and gave him a fierce smile.

"We have some questions for you. Before you refuse to answer, I want you to consider this: we won't kill you if you remain silent. I'll take you home and make you my toy. I can think of lots of games for us to play. And before you ask, you should know that I'm a dragon. Now, are you going to cooperate?"

It was a threat that would have worked on me, that's for sure. Horace took on a decidedly green tinge, and he shifted in his seat.

Smoky continued. "It's your choice. Talk now or later. Either way, I guarantee you will speak. Spill your guts here, and I promise, it will be far less painful."

One beat. Two. Three. Horace slowly nodded. Smoky reached for the gag as the front door opened. Camille, who was closest, yelled out, "Who's there?" but at that moment, Trillian popped around the corner. Before he was free of the gag, Horace began to panic.

Smoky paused, cocking his head to one side. He looked puzzled. Then, with a quick glance over his shoulder at Trillian, he said, "Come here." His voice was so imperious that Trillian obeyed before he had a chance to think about it.

As Trillian entered the room, Horace began to shake and make urgent pleading noises from behind his gag.

Smoky took in the situation immediately. He held up his hand and looked at Trillian. "Hold on. We'll wait a bit before letting you take a crack at him."

Trillian was no slouch in the brains department. He shrugged and stepped back. "Fine, but if he doesn't cooperate, I'd be glad to help out." He tapped Camille on the shoulder and motioned to the living room. "We need to talk."