Even with the gauzy curtains enclosing the four poster bed, the light within the room roused Lugh from the exhaustion hangover following hours of carnal exertion. What should have been a pleasant body ache, wasn’t. Frustration cast a pallor over the entire evening. Rhiannon had always been an incomparable tumble, but never once had she left him feeling more agitated than if they hadn’t had sex at all.
As he rolled over, Rhia stirred and glided her thin arm across his chest. Her pale skin possessed the same milkiness. The black tresses of her hair shined like midnight on the water. Her scent teased him with the fragrance of moon flowers like the stillness of the deepest part of the night. As her blue eyes peered at him from beneath sleep laden lashes, there was no doubt that she was the lover he’d relished for thousands of years. And never once had she left him longing.
Before last night.
Lugh raised to his elbows, gazing down at the naked beauty entangled with the sheets and his body. Her clever fingers slipped beneath the sheet to tease and tempt him, but nothing she did could rouse him now that his discontentment had set in.
As the Sidhe of the moon, Rhiannon had always reflected his sun while in his presence, just as she shadowed beneath the dark magic of Crom, who shared her bed as often as Lugh. Each bringing Rhia through the fulfillment of her phases, both full and new. Waxing and waning. Just like the ebb and flow of the tides that danced to her influence, she’d always… always… swayed to Lugh’s influence. To his Touch.
But not this time.
At first, he assumed the dark magic within him, sustaining his life, interfered with their bond. He’d sought after the fulfillment, even at the risk of disturbing the cage in which the beast had locked the Seelie parts of him, as the dark shard of his soul possessed him. Yet, nothing he’d done had brought the echo of magic that always flowed between them when they Touched.
Though they had expended themselves for hours, the unfulfilled expectation of that magic, left him raw.
Only now did understanding unravel and fall open to him. It was not the magic or the beast within Lugh that disrupted their joining.
As she gazed into his eyes, a distant smile on her lips, Lugh prickled at the foreignness within her. This dark enchantment saturating her didn’t just color her, it blocked her from him as surely as silver.
The creature before him was not his Rhiannon. Not the Sidhe he’d longed to find more than any other since the Collapse of the Mounds. He didn’t know this woman at all.
Manannan had done this to her. Fixed her in this obsidian of black enchantment. Trapped her within this illusion of herself. Violated and mutilated her magic for his own ends.
Her tapered fingers traced the muscles of his chest, as her mouth explored his abdomen, but Lugh cast her aside, snapping, “Stop, Rhiannon.”
Tickled by his anger, her musical laughter mocked him.
Lugh jerked back the curtain from the bed and flung himself from it. His druidess, stretched out on the sofa, though dressed and armed, lest some fiend of a Changeling or wolf-kin barge in on them. She lowered her book, then her gaze swept over his nude body.
The beast within Lugh snarled, “Where is Manannan?”
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