A Grave Inheritance
Book two of Goddess Born
Selah Kilbrid may descend from the goddess Brigid, but her heart beats—and breaks—the same as any human. Yet enduring the scorn of London’s most noble lords and ladies is a small price to pay for a chance at true happiness. Selah would endure much more for love, and her betrothed, Lord Henry Fitzalan, is prepared to challenge anyone foolish enough to stand in their way—even another goddess born.
But when a captivating young gentleman draws Selah into a world shadowed by secrets, she is forced to confront her darkest fears. What if some differences are too great to overcome and a future with Henry is doomed from the start?
With these doubts threatening her impending marriage, a violent attack on an innocent child pushes Selah to the very edge of her power. She must find a way to cross into the Otherworld and regain her strength—or forfeit the streets of London to death and disease.
“Historical fantasy at its finest!” The True Book Addict
“The feeling of Jane Austen and the occult crept over me more than once while reading.”Paranormal Romance and Authors that Rock
“Selah is back and stronger than ever. If you are looking for a tough, stand your ground, yet kind and loving character look no farther. Salah’s world will turn upside down, love and friendship is tested, and her future is uncertain, but she handles it all with perhaps a bit of naivety, but a lot of grace and courage.” Reads All the Books
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“Edgren combines historical fiction, fantasy, paranormal elements, and romance in the Goddess Born series. And she does it with aplomb.” I’d So Rather Be Reading
“A great plot, magical story… It will enchant you…” Hook of a Book
A pistol discharged somewhere in the direction of the carriage. A man’s scream was followed by another shot. Henry jerked his head toward the sound of his men, his sword hand slipping slightly. One of the hounds took advantage and lunged. In a flash, the blade whipped through the air, catching the animal’s side and knocking it into the wooden wall near us.
Ellen cried out and pressed her back against the door. The hound remained motionless, though still alive or its body would have burst into blue flames. Just then, movement caught my eye. Whipping my head to the side, I glimpsed a young girl standing a dozen paces behind Henry in the middle of the lane. Loathing filled me, and I would have recognized the white-blond hair and beggar’s rags even without the benefit of the lantern.
Deri watched Henry and the hounds, her face rapturous. Thinking myself undetected, I studied the disturbingly pale features when her neck slowly swiveled, and our gazes locked.
“So far from home, Biddie girl,” she chirruped in a childish voice. “Did ye like little Deri’s present? Biddie lady got sent away so ye could have it tonight.”
My eyes narrowed. “What present do you mean?”
The girl gave a squeal of laughter that scraped against my spine. “Madness in the head, beat her till she’s dead.”
Her words erupted like thunderclaps in my ears. “Holy mother!” I whispered. “You split that man’s mind apart.” You killed Jenny.
Her pink lips parted in maddening glee, revealing two perfectly formed rows of small white teeth. “Aye, Biddie girl, I muddled his head.” She swept her ragged skirts in a clumsy curtsey.
I made a sudden move toward her, driven by a similar impulse as when a spider comes too near for comfort. Emitting another squeal of laughter, she spun on her heel and skipped into the darkness, snippets of singsong trailing behind her.
“Madness in the head…”
Henry grunted, and I turned just in time to see his sword bite deep into the neck of a hound. Farther down, two men entered the lane, each carrying a lantern and dressed in the Fitzalan livery. They yelled out to Henry, who looked up once the hound hit the ground, its white fur heavily mottled with mud and blood. The other wounded hound had yet to move from where he’d been thrown against the building. The two remaining creatures took no notice of the approaching men as they continued to prowl just out of sword reach.
“Beat her till she’s dead…”
The footmen were now close enough to provide ample light and support for the fight. “Stay here,” I told Ellen.
Gripping the lantern, I lifted my skirts and went after the wretch. The lane twisted and turned like a corkscrew, and I would have soon lost my way if not for her little verse, which she repeated every few seconds.
The lane narrowed even more, and I nearly tripped over a drunken man, who sat propped against a barrel with a bottle resting in the crook of one arm. Regaining my footing, I caught sight of the girl as she disappeared down an alleyway. Her words drifted back to me, the resonance somewhat altered from before.
“Beat her till she’s dead…”
I rounded the corner to discover the cause for the different sound. Two lodgings sat on opposite sides of the alley, their second floors jutting out to create a tunnel of sorts. I darted in without a second thought, determined to stop Deri. My light found the ghostly faces of several ragged young men huddled together in a doorway. They looked like a gang of pickpockets and cutthroats, and any other time I would have been terrified to be so close in the dead of night. The men hardly gave notice as they stared after young Deri, cold fear shining in their eyes.
The alley opened into what appeared to be a large square. Tall wooden buildings bordered the space on all sides with a handful of lanes leading back into the maze from which I had just emerged. Deri had ceased singing the dreadful verses. The soggy patter of her footsteps had also stopped. The tenements were deathly still other than the repetitive drip of rainwater that rolled from the roofs and gutters.
Holding the lantern straight out, I slowed my gait to a cautious pace. A stone well came into view, the foundation circled by tufts of grass and weeds. Thick brown rope trailed down from a rickety windlass to the slated bucket that sat upright on the rough stone ledge. A shadow shifted from behind the well, moved toward me with an eerie lightness of step. The air turned frigid, and my skin prickled with cold.
Deri stopped just out of reach. The threadbare shawl had slipped from one shoulder, and the loose end trailed in the mud behind her. “There yeh be Biddie girl,” she chirruped. “Did yeh like our skip along? Poor Deri had to creep like a tortoise for yeh to keep up.”
Poor Deri was a cold-blooded killer, and at that moment I wanted nothing more than to wrap the shawl around her scrawny neck till the pale skin turned dark as a plum. And I may have regardless of the inevitable burns if the girl weren’t so quick on her feet, and almost sure to escape.
“Can’t recall when I’ve had a pleasanter time,” I said, matching her tone in an attempt to buy more time. “Do you often skip through the rookeries? Or is tonight a special occasion?”
She shrugged and twisted a toe in the mud. “The folks in here is weak from need, and little Deri likes to play with the children.”
“Like you played with Jenny?”
A malignant grin curled on her mouth. “Aye, she be the most fun of all.”
Hatred twisted in my gut. So far as I cared, every last layer of skin could burn from my hands if it meant ridding the world of this devil. Leaning a bit closer, I waited for the opportunity to pounce. “You’ve a powerful gift. Why not go after the healthy and strong? Surely they would offer more sport for someone like you.”
“Oh, I’ve longed to get yeh, Biddie girl, to muddle yehr brain or give yeh the plague.” She made to snatch at me, only to withdraw her hand at the last moment. “But yeh know the rules—yeh get what yeh give between us. Ain’t no sense plucking a hair from yehr pretty head if it means losing one of me own.”
I moved back with a jerk. You get what you give… The meaning struck hard—to stop her heart would have stopped mine. Merciful heavens! A few more seconds and we both would have been dead.
Frustrated by this new barrier, I opted to stall for time. “Why are we here, Deri? You’ve obviously gone to a great deal of effort to get me alone.”
She twisted her toe deeper into the mud. “Mam needs something, and sent me to fetch it.”
“Why not come herself if it’s so important?”
Her face tightened to a pout. “Didn’t say it were important.” One hand remained at chest level, and the fingers moved with nervous agitation. “’Em hounds want yeh, too, Biddie girl,” she said, almost wistfully. “For all Mam knows, yeh could be dead already. No one can blame little Deri then—”
“What does your mam want from me?” I interrupted.
The lantern light glinted from her pale blue eyes. “King Bres locked her under the trees but she’s ready to come out now, and I’m to bring the key.”
“And you think I have it?” The girl was crazy as a loon. I had no key and King Bres hadn’t locked anyone up since his reign ended over three thousand years ago.
Deri gave a burst of laughter. “Not in yehr pocket. This key—” Henry’s voice came from the alleyway, drawing her gaze over my shoulder. “This key be carried deep in the heart.” She flexed her fingers and gazed at me longingly. “Oh, how I wish to kill yeh. Me fingers itch for it.”
My face turned to stone. “You’ve no idea.”
A chill ran straight to my hairline. The night air turned to ice and I shivered as a low growl passed over me. A hound stepped into the light, and brushed up against the girl’s side. “Maybe I can’t kill yeh, Biddie girl,” she said, gently stroking the sleek white fur. “But he can. And he shan’t tell Mam I’ve been naughty.” She patted the hound’s head one last time before turning to skip away, accompanied by the lines of a new verse. “Little Biddie girl, no bigger than a squirrel. He tore her apart, and ate out her heart…”
The hound lifted its muzzle and sniffed the air. I dropped to a crouch to keep him from lunging, and waited for the first opportunity to strike. Footsteps pounded across the muddy ground behind me. The hound moved closer, a low growl vibrating in its throat. Teeth snapped in hungry anticipation, and a puff of foul breath froze my cheeks. We were almost nose-to-nose when I slammed a hand into the white fur, sending an inferno straight to its heart.
A sword flashed overhead just as the beast dropped to the ground. The metal blade sliced the air in front of my face, coming to a sudden stop mere inches from the thick white neck. I looked up to find Henry towering above me, breath ragged and a warrior’s lust blazing in his eyes.
With grim satisfaction, I nudged the blade away. “This one was mine.”
A flood of emotion crossed his face. Surprise…anger…fear…pride… Sheathing the sword, he pulled me to my feet, and together we watched the hound vanish beneath a blanket of blue flames.