Fianni has been looking for love for a while, but for this aspect of Harmony, it's surprisingly hard to find. After ending a relationship going nowhere, she consults Celestial Soulmates Inc, and is connected with one of their love experts.
Lucky for Fianni, they have just the match in mind.
Liam is the shifter king of Nova Solara, and he rules along with his council, Rask and Arron. These three men aren't just drop-dead sexy, they're alpha dragons who happen to be busy fighting each other when they aren't fighting everyone else.
As Fianni finds herself in the middle of a rising insurrection, she discovers that the dragons have to find a single mate or they'll lose the crown.
With so much on the line, she has to wonder: Do they want true love? Or is she their royal compromise?
Fianni swept her fingers along the crystal-clear surface of the viewing pool sending ripples that sparkled, a slight frown creasing her brow. When she needed company, she’d come to this pool. It was small—perhaps three feet across in diameter—but it flowed deeper than imaginable. Sitting on the edge, she waited and considered her emotions.
She was in a mood, but it wasn’t what it should have been. She thought she’d feel broken, but there was only reflective calmness coursing through her veins.
The water splashed and rose up as a swelling tide, and then two slender arms shaped from the water reached from beneath the surface to grab the sides of the pool. The watery shape rested its elbows along the cool tile, and color came forward in patches until the watery form was a lithe, semi-transparent feminine form with pale blue skin and slicked back white hair. Fianni’s best friend, Iona.
“It’s done?” Iona asked.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Iona commented with a hint of sadness. Her dark sapphire eyes scrutinized Fianni. “You were together several years. I thought he’d come around.”
Fianni shook her head at the thought. “Humans can’t always make such a decision.”
“I think I always suspected,” Fianni admitted. “He never asked much about my life here. We were each expecting the other to take the leap. He thought I could leave Sidera Luminis and be a human with him.”
Iona’s mouth quirked. Across the years, she’d often voiced her opinion on such a notion. Unlike Fianni, Iona never saw immortality as lamentable. To even consider giving it up was ridiculous, in her opinion.
“You shouldn’t have to die to prove your worth to a human,” Iona murmured. “But I don’t think you were meant to live that life. Roy sounded fun, and he was certainly cute, but I can’t imagine you settling down on a farm in the middle of nowhere.”
“From beloved aspect to housewife?” Fianni asked, wrinkling her nose. “I know it sounds strange, but I believe I could have been happy.”
“Yet you were just as against moving to Earth as he was with coming to Sidera Luminis.”
Wiping wet fingers dry against her silky dress, Fianni gave a light shrug. She stared at the dark streaks she’d left on the marigold fabric. “It became clear that his family would never accept me. They thought I was strange, short…and fat. It’s like they could almost overlook the whole part about me being an all-powerful fae trapped in a human body, but they didn’t understand why that body looked like this.” Fianni rolled her eyes. “The ridiculous thing is that his mom was my size, and she was the harshest.”
“Humans aren’t always rational,” Iona agreed. “But Roy loved your body. I’ll never forget the time I went to check on you and found you two getting frisky by the pond.” She fanned her face, a teasing gesture since she didn’t have blood to make her blush or grow warm.
“Which is why I was able to ignore his family. But honestly…at some point, I realized I didn’t want to ask him to leave everything he has—the land, the friends, the buckets of cousins and nieces and nephews—for me. And when it came to becoming human full-time, I couldn’t get excited.” Fianni pursed her lips for a moment as her greatest insecurity bubbled up. “Plus, there was one important thing.”
“Oh?” Iona scooted closer to the edge of the pool. “Why do you suddenly sound ominous?”
“When that human…you know, the fire-haired Brook from Earth? When she tied herself to Sidera Luminis, she gave the world a gift. All humans do it, and it’s unpredictable how Sidera Luminis will respond to the human blood oath.”
“I heard. She brought a burst of fertility,” Iona said with a soft sigh. “Probably the best gift we could have expected. Though admittedly, it doesn’t affect me, so I would have been happy with any other number of things.”
Fianni smirked. “Right. Well, there are fae that have been unable to conceive for decades now having luck. Yet…”
The sly joking expression slid from Iona’s face. With sadness, she glanced away. “Oh.”
“I’m as old as the oldest speck of dust in the air, yet I’ve never even come close to being a mother. Humans are obscenely fertile. Kerren and Brook got pregnant immediately, which is usually the case when fae and humans mix. Roy and I were together for three years, and there was nothing. I can feel it, Iona. I would never be able to give him a family.”
“Did he ask you to?”
“Not directly, but there were signs. And it’s not like that was the only problem with our relationship, but Roy is the type who is meant to be a dad. He’s meant for mountains of children.” Fianni tapped her fingers along the water-spotted ledge separating her from Iona.
Iona reached out, covering Fianni’s hand with hers. Fianni shivered as the cold spread across her hand, but the strange sensation didn’t take away from the comforting gesture. Being an undine, an ancient water spirit, Iona was barely able to embrace a physical form for long. They’d rarely touched over the course of their life-long friendship.
“Now what?” Iona asked.
“Desperation, I suppose,” Fianni joked.
Iona gave her an unamused look. “You don’t need someone.”
“Maybe you don’t. I do. When my family formed the final peace between the Pure and the Virtuous courts, we knew it meant never again taking sides.”
Fianni closed her eyes. She could remember those days like a storybook, as if she wasn’t there. But she was, and she could still feel the heartache. It was a pivotal moment when the fae divided themselves. Not good and evil, just different in beliefs and aspirations.
After that it was only a matter of time until they began to fight. They wanted the aspects to pick sides, but that would never happen. Instead they worked on brokering peace, though it still took hundreds of lives for either side to cooperate.
Her brothers and sisters—the aspects of fae—all retired to the Fade after the decision. They needed a break. Fianni had rested too, but after several hundred years she woke only to be disappointed in finding that the rest had remained sleeping.
“I’m alone,” she said with a sigh.
“Everyone loves you!”
“Revered and honored and all of that…it’s empty. I can’t join a court. I can’t participate more with one side than the other. I am in this world—I put my blood and sweat into making it—but I’m not a part of it anymore.” She couldn’t keep the frustration from her voice. “I don’t want to return to slumbering. I want to live a real life.” She lowered her voice and added, “I want to love again.”
“Few lost more than you,” Iona said quietly.
“War is never without loss,” Fianni replied, swallowing back the tremble in her voice. Remembering the past always brought her to one place, and it was dark. “Sidera Luminis will always be my heart. But I have to leave.”
The wind blew across a stark grey background of sky and wispy clouds. A woman in a tailored navy dress and open khaki trench coat walked towards Fianni, her hands tucked into her pockets as if on a mission.
“Fianni?” she asked upon meeting up, narrowing her dark eyes.
“Yes.” Fianni held out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you and thank you so much for making time to see me, Mrs. Harris.”
“Call me Geneva,” the woman replied with a grin. “I’m not sure if a ‘thank you’ is enough. It’s quite brave of you to track me down while I’m on vacation.”
Fianni blushed slightly. “I have a condition—”
“Yes. So full of magic that technology makes you weak and sick. I’ve heard of it, I was simply surprised to be so stubbornly bombarded with communications in the most rural parts of Scotland,” Geneva said looking Fianni over. “But one really can’t ignore one’s name being called from every puddle, every sink and tub, and even the droplets of rain gathering on a window pane.”
“Undine tend to be persistent, and Iona doubly so.”
Geneva chuckled. “Then let’s get down to it. Your friend gave her opinion of what sort of match you need. I’m not sure how much you know about Celestial Soul Mates, Inc. We work independently, and each have different techniques and specialties. Iona came after me specifically.”
Fianni walked with Geneva along a gravel road towards the small, secluded country home where Geneva had been staying.
“You’re an Oracle, Fianni said.
“We all are at Celestial Soul Mates.” Geneva glanced up at the sky as a strong breeze caught her black locs and whipped them away from her shoulders.
“Right, but you’ve got fae blood and come from a long line of witches, many of which were also Oracles. You’re a legacy, of sorts.”
Geneva’s shoulders straightened somewhat. “You’ve done your research.
She chuckled. “I’m acting blasé but I’m honestly flattered at this opportunity. I’ll be boasting forever about this. Tell me what you want, and I’ll see what I can glean.”
A surge of excitement ran through Fianni. “First off, my match can’t be fae. I heard what happened with the Duke, Kerren. I won’t be tricked into staying on Sidera Luminis somehow.”
“That wasn’t my doing,” Geneva clarified. “One of our other Oracles, Euphrasie handled that match. She’s eccentric but not a trickster. From what I’ve heard, a lot transpired. Mostly fae secrets and plotting.”
Fianni didn’t know everything that had transpired between Brook and Kerren, but “fae secrets and plotting” was something she was familiar with. “Fair enough.”
“No fae. That’s not a problem. Mostly I work with shifters. Though your condition makes it tricky. I’m sure Earth is filled to the brim with men who would gladly cater to a woman of your caliber—an aspect of Harmony isn’t something to ignore,” Geneva said seriously. “But while many of the shifters I know are fine with seclusion, the planet is more or less overrun with electronics and such. Everyone has a cell phone. Cars have computers in them. Then there are towers everywhere.”
“I can handle a good deal in small doses,” Fianni added. “And maybe I’ve developed a slight tolerance over the last few years from visiting.”
Geneva glanced sidelong at her. “Visiting?”
“Let’s not analyze that,” Fianni replied with a quick wave of her hand. “A casual thing, nothing more. But it should help to prove that I’m okay with leaving Sidera Luminis and immortality. Living out a shorter existence, not having my magic…I’m okay with that.”
“And your appearance? I don’t think any of my clients have to go through as much physical change when traveling. I’ve heard not all are comfortable with it.”
Fianni shrugged. On Sidera Luminis she had wavy petal-pink hair and matching pink eyes. Her ears had the gentle points common of high fae, and if that wasn’t enough of an indicator of her status, her skin had the luxurious sheen of an ivory pearl. On Earth, she had golden brown hair, blue eyes, and plain pale skin with a smattering of freckles across her face. Change occurred naturally to all fae after drinking the water of reflection—a draught required to leave the magical atmosphere. The change was necessary to keep from standing out, though the fae had no choice in the appearance the water chose.
“I can look in the mirror and see myself, regardless of my reflection. I’ve lived so long I’ve even changed names across the centuries as it suited me. Besides. Earth has hair dye and contacts if I feel the need.”
They came to a small country house. The subtle hum of electricity sent a warm tingle along Fianni’s arms. She could guess that there was only the bare minimum inside. Geneva’s vacation seemed to mean no television or computer, but there was a microwave, certainly. Probably a coffee pot.
“Are you okay to go inside and sit? Get a break from this dreary weather?” Geneva asked.
“Of course. Unless you have a secret laboratory that’s about to power on somewhere, I’m fine.” Actually, Fianni thought the weather perfect, particularly the way the rain helped enhance the natural clean scent of the grass. Fresh and sweet. The rural country had an atmosphere unmatched by what she’d experienced on previous trips to Earth.
Geneva grinned and opened the door, welcoming Fianni into the quaint comfort of the modest home. “There’s a breakfast nook we can sit in and have some tea.”
Fianni followed Geneva to the kitchen and sat in a chair by the bay window while Geneva prepared everything.
“What kept your casual relationship casual?” Geneva asked.
Not surprised the topic wasn’t already forgotten, Fianni crossed her legs and settled more comfortably in her seat. “It wasn’t meant for more. I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly, but everything between us hit a plateau and we were both happy on our sides and in the middle, but we couldn’t cross it. It’s not like we fought or anything like that. But it was never going to be more.”
“You didn’t love him?”
“No,” Fianni admitted. “I thought I did, up until it was over. I guess I loved what I thought we would have. I loved him as a friend.”
Geneva paused from digging through a cabinet. “That’s usually a good start. What happened?”
“Roy was sweet and perfect to talk to, but the longer we were together, the more I felt like I was taking someone else’s spot in his life. We met when I was feeling lost, and he took care of me. But I think once I was found, we no longer needed each other.”
“That sounds like quite a story you’re leaving out,” Geneva said pouring the hot water into two ceramic cups.
“What I had with Roy is far from what I want now. I know love. Kerren and Brook have it, and I can see that fire in their eyes. That’s what I want. I had familiarity and comfort and contentment. I want passion. I want to be engulfed and consumed.”
Geneva set a steaming cup of tea in front of Fianni and sat across from her with her own carefully held cup. “Passion is something I can do, certainly. First, we have to dig a little deeper.”
“I’ll answer anything,” Fianni promised, though inside she cringed. There were certain things she didn’t want to talk about. Possibly being cursed and unable to have children wasn’t a topic she was ready to explore with a stranger, even if that stranger was doing her a massive favor.
Equally off the discussion table was her earlier love life, pre-Roy. The past needed to stay where it belonged.
“Tell me what you liked about your relationship with…Roy, was it?” Geneva offered.
“Yes, it was Roy.” Fianni traced her thumb over the floral pattern of the tablecloth in thought. “He was caring. Protective—and that’s not something I can say I’ve encountered much in my life. I’m an immortal aspect—very rarely did anyone ever worry about my safety. Though in this case, he was more protective of my feelings.”
“A lot of his immediate family were old-fashioned and particular. He always ran interference. It wasn’t like he could hide me away, but he always did what he could to keep our interactions as civil as possible.”
“Why did he have to do such a thing?” Geneva inquired.
Fianni gave a crooked smile and stirred a spoonful of sugar into her drink, sending the herbal notes into the air. It smelled like chamomile and worked to ease some of her anxiety. “In a nutshell, his parents were tormented to see their only son attached to a freak. They didn’t believe I was fae. They didn’t believe in other planets. They know shifters, but fae? They thought it was a lie to attract attention. To them I was just delusional, manipulative, and you know, the worst of all faults—fat.”
“Disgusting people,” Geneva muttered. “I swear if everyone would stop judging for such a thing. I’ve matched countless perfect couples and plenty of beautiful curvy women such as yourself. Shifters appreciate curves, I can promise that.”
“A relief, certainly. Everyone expects Tinker Bell when they hear fairy. I’m so far from that…I’m happy in my skin, though I definitely wouldn’t mind being taller,” Fianni joked.
“It’s all about presence. Your height has nothing to do with how much you affect a room when you walk in.”
Fianni nodded, though it seemed easy for Geneva to say something like that. She wore heels, but even without, she was tall for a woman. Fianni was barely five feet tall.
“I can’t say I’ve thought much about that. I’m used to being recognized and getting the awe associated with being an aspect, unless I was on Earth. On Earth, I can hide in a crowd. Which has perks. But it’s definitely a world built for taller people.”
“A true statement. It’s quite annoying going shopping and being unable to see over shelves or racks,” Geneva agreed.
“Anyway. Roy was just a nice guy. I’m sure he’ll find someone new in no time at all.”
“Hmm. But what do you think he did wrong?”
The question made Fianni frown. “I wouldn’t say he did things wrong. Except that he was limited in how open he could be about his feelings. I took it as a human male thing. One glance at their popular culture makes it clear that men aren’t supposed to be emotional.”
“It’s a tricky line, I suppose, for some men.”
“I could tell he cared about me from his actions, at least. Like I said, he was extra careful when his family was around.” Fianni took a sip of her tea and glanced down at the honey-colored liquid. “But at the same time…maybe he could have done more than always fending off comments he knew were coming. He could have been steadier about not tolerating the behavior at all.”
“Hard to solve the problem without confronting it. I think I’m more furious about that than you are. Trying to negotiate with unpleasant family is generally a messy business. It happens more often than it should.”
Geneva placed her hand on her chin and narrowed her eyes on Fianni. “Is there more?”
Fianni grimaced somewhat. She didn’t like to think of the negative aspects of her relationship with Roy. She didn’t hate him. She wished him well. Speaking about his flaws felt wrong, yet she’d held it in for long enough. The admissions felt therapeutic.
“The other thing that tended to come up was that he was never curious about Sidera Luminis. He didn’t want to visit. He didn’t wonder about it in the slightest. He found a way to be politely uninterested.”
Geneva hummed under her breath. “I could go on and on about how wrong that is, but let’s not let this become one of those conversations,” she said tactfully. After a moment, her face lit up, as if a brilliant idea had struck her. “I imagine you’ll want the opposite though. Someone interested in every part of you, not just what you present openly? Someone not afraid of confronting the messy side of love? And someone who will tell you what you need to know about what’s going on inside? It’s difficult to love someone who cages their heart.”
Fianni nodded. “Definitely.”
“How do you feel about non-traditional relationships?” Geneva asked out of the blue. “The fae are fun and lusty. Have you ever considered pairing up with more than just one man?”
“Like a threesome?” Fianni arched a brow. “The fae have often indulged—and the word monogamy is a loose boundary by any stretch—but personally, I've never had the desire.”
“But would you entertain it?”
Fianni sipped her tea and pondered this. She enjoyed romance, but she liked things simple. Two men would mean more work on her part, wouldn’t it? Still, if it meant she had true love…
“I've been bringing balance to the world since I was birthed from stardust. I think I can handle that.”
Geneva tsked under her breath. “I hint orgy and you think diplomacy. I love when my job is made so easy.”
Fianni coughed and blushed furiously. She hadn’t thought about that aspect. “I certainly appreciate sex… I suppose I’d just see what happens?”
“That’s not enough of a commitment. Be honest.”
Keeping her eyes down and ignoring the heat rushing to her cheeks, Fianni shrugged. “I enjoy sex. I’ve never tried much outside the box but that’s more due to lack of ability, not necessarily lack of interest.”
“Oh dear. You’re thousands of years old and still staying inside the lines?”
“I’m always up for trying new things. That particular new thing has never come up before. I haven’t exactly played the field, as humans put it. My relationships over the span of my lifetime have been few and far in between.”
“Mmmhmm. Well you’re going to be in over your head with new things if the match I’m thinking of will line up. Multiple sexy mates, check. Fiery passion, definite check. And a need for some magical harmony? Triple check.” Geneva said with a mischievous grin.