Feverborn (Fever #8) - Karen Marie Moning Page 0,1
& Baubles, which was so much more than it appeared to be.
Somewhere down there where gutters routed streams of water to a vast underground drainage system riddled by long forgotten catacombs, Fae walked the streets both openly and hidden, and neon signs cast fractured rainbows on the pavement, was the prior owner of that bookstore, if such a place was ever owned; his Machiavellian ruthless brother; and an invisible woman who, like the building to which she now laid claim, was far more than she appeared to be.
Farther to the left down winding rural roads, if one traveled a solid hour of stark desolation through a second hour of Faery-lush vegetation, was another of those ancient places that could never be owned and the brilliant, powerful woman determined to command it.
Barrons, Ryodan, Mac, Jada.
The possibilities were enormous, dazzling, and he had a fair idea how things would go…but these moments were unpredictable, unscripted.
He threw back his dark head and laughed.
As was he.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it…”
I grew up believing in rules, thanks to my parents, Jack and Rainey Lane. I didn’t always like them and I broke them when they didn’t work for me, but they were sturdy things I could rely on to shape the way I lived and keep me—if not totally on the straight and narrow, at least aware there was a straight and narrow I could return to if I got to feeling lost.
Rules serve a purpose. I once told Rowena they were fences for sheep, but fences do more than merely keep sheep in a pasture where shepherds can guide them. They provide protection in the vast and frightening unknown. The night isn’t half as scary when you’re in the center of a fluffy-butted herd, bumping rumps with other fluffy butts, not able to see too much, feeling secure and mostly normal.
Without fences of any kind, the dark night beyond is clearly visible. You stand alone in it. Without rules, you have to decide what you want and what you’re willing to do to get it. You must embrace the weapons with which you choose to arm yourself to survive.
What we achieve at our best moment doesn’t say much about who we are.
It all boils down to what we become at our worst moment.
What you find yourself capable of if…say…
You get stranded in the middle of the ocean with a lone piece of driftwood that will support one person’s weight and not a single ounce more—while floating beside a nice person that needs it as badly as you do.
That’s the moment that defines you.
Will you relinquish your only hope of survival to save the stranger? Will it matter if the stranger is old and has lived a full life or young and not yet had the chance?
Will you try to make the driftwood support both of you, ensuring both your deaths?
Or will you battle savagely for the coveted float with full cognizance the argument could be made—even if you merely take the driftwood away without hurting the stranger and swim off—that you’re committing murder?
Is it murder in your book?
Would you cold-bloodedly kill for it?
How do you feel as you swim away? Do you look back? Do tears sting your eyes? Or do you feel like a motherfucking winner?
Impending death has a funny way of popping the shiny, happy bubble of who we think we are. A lot of things do.
I live in a world with few fences. Lately, even those are damned rickety.
I resented that. There was no straight and narrow anymore. Only a circuitous route that required constant remapping to dodge IFPs, black holes, and monsters of every kind, along with the messy ethical potholes that mine the interstates of a postapocalyptic world.
I stared at the two-way glass of Ryodan’s office, currently set to privacy—floor transparent, walls and ceiling opaque—and got briefly distracted by the reflection of the glossy black desk behind me, reflected in the darkened glass, reflected in the desk, reflected in the glass, receding into ever-smaller tableaus, creating a disconcerting infinity-mirror effect.
Although I stood squarely between the desk and the wall, I was invisible to the world, to myself. The Sinsar Dubh was still disconcertingly silent, and for whatever reason, still cloaking me.
I cocked my head, studying the spot where I should be.
Nothing looked back. It was bizarrely fitting.
That was me: tabula rasa—the blank slate. I knew somewhere I had a pen but I seemed to have forgotten how to use it. Or maybe I’d just