Port Lewis, a coastal town perched on the Washington cliffs, is home to Crescent Cafe, a slew of micro-breweries, a downtown packed with antique boutiques, and violent, ancient storms. Thunder shakes rooftops and lightening cuts through dark skies, but Liam Montgomery has never been afraid.
One night, Liam hears the scream of a kelpie, a Water horse whose cry foretells the beginning of a prophecy. Kelpies have not set foot on shore for decades, but as Liam digs into his magic and his family?s history, he uncovers a mysterious secret that could ripple into the lives of everyone around him.
Liam?s tea-leaves spells out murder. The life of someone he loves is on the line. An unwelcome kelpie speaks in riddles. The Queen of Water demands a sacrifice.
The Montgomery name is soaked in blood and secrets. Liam?s fate is sealed, but he?ll do whatever it takes to change it?even if it risks his circle, his magic, and his life.
Brooklyn Ray ? 2018
All Rights Reserved
The ocean swept around Liam?s ankles. Night hovered over the water, turning what was left of the day into a washboard of dusty rose and deep violet. Sea foam dampened his calves. He rolled a smooth, gray stone in his palm.
Magic made itself known, a current wound tight in his core, churning blood and flexing bone. Uncertainty misted his cheeks, stung his eyes, and even when he willed it away, it clung to him. All magic was different?Fire, Earth, Air?but Water was something else entirely. It waited for no one. When it took, it took completely. When it gave, it gave until it hurt. Liam wasn?t used to being volatile, but tonight his magic thrashed within him, whispering lies about power and promises about the deep.
Storm Wielder, the ocean said. Come closer.
Port Lewis was a beautiful, awful place full of beautiful, awful things?the ocean and beaches, the unyielding storms, and wet weather-beaten sidewalks. Liam Montgomery often wondered if he was one of those beautiful, awful things too. Full of rage and antiquity; powerful and unknowable.
Warm fingertips followed the ridge of his knuckles and slid over the stone he kept worrying in his right hand. Ryder?s energy blistered and taunted. Its darkness had an unmistakable heartbeat, a tantalizing, insidious taste that Liam still wasn?t quite used to. A hot breath hit Liam?s neck and he closed his eyes.
?You?re still out here,? Ryder said. His lips touched the shell of Liam?s ear and Liam was reminded that unknowable was a useless label with Ryder Wolfe, who knew him like clouds knew rain and foxes knew forests.
Ryder was one of those beautiful, awful things. He might?ve been the most beautiful. The most awful.
Liam leaned back until his spine met Ryder?s torso. ?Where else would I be??
?I can think of a few places.? Ryder?s lips curved into a smile against Liam?s neck. A long, pale index finger traced the veins in his wrist to his thumb, over his knuckles and back again. ?Labradorite.? He touched the smooth surface of the stone and hummed appreciatively when Liam let him pluck it from his palm. ?The stone of transformation??
?Yeah, figured it might be worth a try.? Liam tilted his head until Ryder?s lips were close enough to catch. He kissed him gently, a soft press and nothing more. ?How?s Jordan??
?Ruthless,? Ryder said through a groan. ?I didn?t think being a necromancer would be this difficult or require a fuck-ton of studying. How?s the ocean??
Liam smirked. He flicked his gaze to the sea and said, ?It?s ruthless too.?
?Anything new out here?? Ryder?s chin settled on Liam?s shoulder. ?Merfolk stealing babies in the night?? he mused playfully. ?Selkies and sirens arguing over meals??
?Selkies don?t eat people,? Liam corrected. ?And no, there?s nothing new out here. Not yet, at least.?
?Not yet,? Ryder teased. His mouth dusted Liam?s jaw, following the line of it to his cheek. ?C?mon, Water witch, we?ve got a circle meeting.?
?Joy.? Liam would?ve stayed at the beach with Ryder and the ocean for hours if he could?ve. He would?ve stripped down to nothing and dragged Ryder into the water with him, touched and been touched, let moonlight drape over their skin. But the ocean sang too loudly tonight, and if Liam let it have him, he might not make it back to shore. ?Are we at least eating??
?Yeah, of course. You think I?d agree to a circle meeting after training with my sister if Tyler didn?t promise to bring pizza?? Ryder stepped in front of him, the fine angles of his face sharp and pronounced. His shaved head was covered by a beanie that slouched over the back of his neck, and a black peacoat was snug over his broad shoulders.
It had been weeks since Ryder decided to become a necromancer. Since his Fire magic battled with the darkness inside him, since a King of hell took residence in his body, since he died and came back as this?a powerful, wicked darkling. It?d been weeks since Liam and Ryder cut through the red tape wrapped around their friendship and fell into bed together.
Everything still felt new, somehow.
?Are we going to the house?? Liam asked.
Ryder laced their fingers and tugged. His palm radiated heat. ?The barn, actually. But yeah, we?re going to Tyler?s.?
They walked toward the banks at the edge of the beach. Roots sprouted from the dirt, tickling the sand. Giant trees that had fallen years and years ago littered the place between beach and forest, home to crabs and critters, overgrown with odd teal moss and sprinkled with beige mushrooms.
Somewhere far off, an owl hooted. Somewhere closer, a creature screamed.
It echoed from the water, a gurgled, awful howl, torn and pained, as if it?d ridden the backs of waves for miles and miles. The sound looped through gusts of wind, splintering around them.
Liam had heard it before. Once. He whipped around at the same time Ryder did, fingers buckled in Ryder?s iron grip. Ryder?s magic surged. Heat blistered the air, lashing out at the unknown.
?What the fuck was that?? Ryder shifted in front of Liam. Black tendrils snaked over the ground beneath his heavy combat boots.
?A kelpie,? Liam whispered. He watched Ryder carefully, the way his jaw tightened, the way black drifted over his eyes like ink on a canvas. ?Chill out, Ry. Put that shit away.?
?Fuck off,? Ryder hissed. ?I don?t need some water horse biting a chunk out of my neck tonight, all right? Since when have they come this close to shore??
The shrill, sudden call of the kelpie echoed until it faded, replaced by waves crashing, wind careening through tree branches, and Ryder?s steady breath beside him.
?They don?t?they haven?t in a long time,? Liam said. He squeezed the heel of his shoes in his free hand. ?It?s unusual. It means??
?It means we?re leaving,? Ryder snapped. He tugged Liam?s hand until Liam stumbled along, glancing over his shoulder as he went.
The ocean looked back at him, whispering, wanting.
The kelpie?s call meant something was coming for him.
Liam swallowed hard. He kept hold of Ryder?s hand and listened for another scream, for the sound of hooves, but they never came. He climbed into the driver?s seat of his old Subaru and stared out the windshield, hand tight around the steering wheel.
Mist clouded the glass, but he could still see the black ocean yards away, the white foam on dark sand and the moon?s smile rippling on the water.
Ryder climbed into the passenger seat. ?Hey,? he rasped. ?Princess.?
Liam tore his gaze from the sea. Ryder?s sharp eyes melted back to their jungle green and picked him apart, long eyelashes sweeping up and down. His lips thinned, and he reached over to brush his knuckles over Liam?s thigh.
?Don?t call me that,? Liam mumbled. ?I?m fine. It?s just the moon.?
Ryder scoffed. His hand stayed put on Liam?s thigh, and Liam was grateful. ?It?s just the moon,? Ryder parroted sarcastically.
The car rumbled to life. The headlights cut a path through the darkness as they drove to the canyon outside the Port Lewis woods.
Liam watched the ocean disappear in the rearview mirror, but he knew it would follow him.
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Brooklyn Ray is a tea connoisseur and an occult junkie. She writes queer speculative fiction layered with magic, rituals and found families.