Home > Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)

Dark Harmony (The Bargainer #3)
Author: Laura Thalassa

Chapter 1

I stare down at my hands for the fiftieth time since Des and I returned from the Flora Kingdom, looking for something that indicates that I’m different. Changed.

Immortal.

I press my palm to my heart. Beneath the steady thump of it, I feel something else. Something magical and mysterious.

Something that wasn’t there just days ago.

My connection to Des thrums beneath my touch like a second heartbeat, the two us now magically bound together.

I slide him a coy glance.

Des sits along a thick stone railing, his back resting against one of the columns bolted into the rocky island above us. The two of us linger on the lowest balcony of Somnia, one of the six floating islands of the Night Kingdom and the capitol of the Bargainer’s realm.

“I’m angry at you, you know,” I say, though there’s no venom to the words.

The Bargainer’s eyes are closed, his head tipped back against the column.

“I know.”

I watch him as he sits on the very edge of the world, the dark night beyond him. In the distance, I can hear the chittering laughter of pixies riding the evening wind.

“You never asked me if I wanted to live forever.” My voice catches on that last word.

Technically, I’m not going to live forever, but it might as well be that long. Thanks to the lilac wine Des fed me, I’m now looking at a solid four hundred years of life—if not more.

What will the earth look like by the time I actually kick the bucket? How about the Otherworld?

Need to talk to Temper about how freaking long fairy lifespans are.

The Bargainer’s eyes open, his glittering silver gaze looking fearsome and fae.

He gives me a hint of a smile, though there’s no humor in it. “Cherub, you seem to be forgetting the fact that you were dying at the time.”

I was dying, and he was unwilling to let me go.

He reaches a hand out to me, and his magic tugs me towards him. I frown as I’m ushered to his side.

Des taps my mouth. “Tell me, Callie,” he says, his voice is like honeyed wine as his hands fall to my waist, “don’t you want to spend more than just a few decades with me?”

Of course I do. That’s beside the point.

I’m upset that I never got a chance to decide my fate for myself. And now the future looms endlessly ahead of me.

Des lifts his inked arm into the air. Out of the night, a luminescent blue smoke coalesces, solidifying more and more as it snakes its way to the Bargainer’s hand. By the time it reaches his palm, it’s a glowing cord. I’ve seen this stuff before—spun moonlight.

The Bargainer manipulates it in his hand, working the eerie substance until it’s not just a cord, but an elaborate necklace.

I narrow my eyes as he brings the unearthly jewelry to my throat.

“That’s not fair,” I say as he clasps it behind my neck, even as my fingertips reach for the necklace. “You can’t just pull one of your pretty fairy tricks and buy out my forgiveness.”

But he can, and he has, and he will do so again. These neat little tricks of his have made me forgive a lot.

The Bargainer turns on his perch so that his legs straddle mine. He pulls me in close, my hips fitting snugly between his thighs. “My pretty fairy tricks are what you like best about me,” he says, his lips skimming my mouth as he talks. His gaze drops to my lips. “Well, that and my di—”

“Des.”

He laughs against my skin, his warm breath drawing out my gooseflesh. Slowly, the laughter dies from his features. “I lost you once, Callie,” he says, “and those seven years nearly killed me. I don’t intend to lose you again.”

My gut clenches at the memory. Even now I can feel the ache of his absence; it was a wound that never healed.

Des presses a hand to my heart, “Besides—is this not worth it?”

He doesn’t need to elaborate on what this is.

Beneath his palm, I feel the warmth of Des’s presence—not just against my skin, but within me. It feels like I’m being kissed by pale moonlight, like the stars and the deep night rest under my skin, and I know that makes no sense, but there it is.

His magic even has a sound. It’s a low melody, the faint notes just beyond my reach. It makes me feel the same breathless excitement I used to feel at Peel Academy when evening was coming and Des was coming with it.

We were once mates separated by worlds and magic. Separated no longer, thanks to the lilac wine.

There are other perks that came with the wine. I now have the ability to make my claws and scales and wings appear and disappear at will. And I can sense fae magic in a way I never could before.

Of course, there are drawbacks too—fairy gifts always have drawbacks.

I’m still coming for you. Your life is mine.

The Bargainer catches my wrist, examining my bare forearm.

“Three hundred and twenty-two favors—a lifetime’s worth,” he murmurs.

I follow his gaze. It’s weird looking down and not seeing the Bargainer’s bracelet. The skin there is paler than the rest, and I admit, my arm feels naked without the weight of all those black beads. I’d worn that bracelet every day for nearly eight years … and overnight it disappeared.

It was a lifetime’s worth of beads, but in the end, it was even more than that—it was a life’s worth. Those beads brought me back from the edge of death. And now I have to wonder if from the very beginning Des’s magic somehow knew it would come to this. If all that debt and all those years of waiting were its way of gathering magic so that one day it could prevent my untimely death.

Or maybe I just got really, really lucky.

I lower my wrist so that I can look the Night King in the eye. “Anger aside—thank you.” My words come out rough.

Thank you is a pitifully small show of gratitude for what Des did. Because, in the end, he saved me. Again.

For once I’d like to return the favor.

Des’s hand tightens around my forearm, and he brings my wrist to his lips and presses a kiss there. “Does this mean you forgive me for the lilac wine?”

“Don’t push your luck, fairy boy.”

“Cherub, hasn’t anyone told you? Getting what I want has nothing to do with luck. I deal in favors.”

Chapter 2

“Not a slave anymore, I see.”

My shoulders hike up at that voice.

That voice.

Last time I heard it, I was in the Flora Queen’s sacred oak forest, my life bleeding out of me. And now it’s at my back.

“We meet again, enchantress,” the Thief of Souls says.

I feel the monster’s fingertips trail like velvet up my arm.

“Your wings are gone—” He leans in and breathes me in, “and is that fae magic I smell? Could it be that the mighty Night King gave you the lilac wine?”

“Don’t act like you’re surprised,” I say.

The Thief had deliberately orchestrated a situation where I’d drink the wine and become fae, all so that his power could hold dominion over mine. Before then, his magic didn’t work on me, just as it didn’t for all humans.

“What can I say?” he responds. “Fairies in love can be terribly predictable, I’m afraid.”

The Thief comes around to my front, and I finally get a good look at him.

He’s as I remember him from my dreams and that brief moment in the woods. Jet black hair, inky, upturned eyes, pouty mouth, alabaster skin.

Like all the other fairies I’ve met, he’s beautiful. Almost unbearably so. Not for the first time, I wish that evil looked as it should.

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