Clover #2

Fae's Ascent

by Nicole Kilpatrick

Fae's Ascent by Nicole Kilpatrick May the road rise up to meet her.

After barely escaping Alistair’s clutches, Clover struggles to unleash and master her dormant powers as she embraces her merrow lineage while still staying true to her human self. With the Seelie and Unseelie armies on the verge of war, the clock is ticking, but when a centuries-old secret is uncovered, alliances and loyalties are put to the test and both her worlds come crashing down around her.

To defend against Alistair, protect the fate of the Fae, and safeguard her loved ones, Clover must soar higher than she’d ever thought possible.

In this action-packed sequel, the very loss and heartache that could lead to Clover’s ruin could also lead to her redemption. The choice is hers.






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Chapter One

“What are you staring at?” Finn teased as he gently tucked a stray strand of hair behind Clover’s ear.

“I heard you need to keep your eyes on your leprechaun at all times, otherwise he’ll escape,” Clover said playfully.

Finn leaned in for a kiss. “You’ve already got me. Not going anywhere.”

The kiss was sweet, yet intense, as almost all their kisses had been. Clover still couldn’t wrap her head around her life’s turn of events. Not so long ago, she was just a regular teenager—an exceptionally lucky teenager—then, on her eighteenth birthday, all of that had changed. Now, she was having an early morning outdoor picnic with an absurdly good-looking leprechaun.

As first light broke, the grass, plants, and trees surrounding them changed colors, from vibrant greens to muted oranges and reds. Fall Valley. It had become their special, magical place. It was where Finn had first told Clover he loved her.

On her eighteenth birthday, Clover had discovered that her exceptional luck had been a gift and a curse, born from an agreement her father had made with an evil leprechaun even before she was born. Alistair McCabe. The mere thought of him sent shivers down Clover’s spine.

“What’s the matter?” Finn asked.

“It’s nothing,” Clover lied.

Clover hadn’t told a soul, but ever since what happened two weeks ago—ever since Alistair McCabe kidnapped, forcibly married, and attempted to murder her—she’d been feeling a sick, unshakeable foreboding at the pit of her stomach. She may have survived, but the curse remained, and now she felt inextricably linked to him, which was why she knew with certainty that Alistair was coming back to get her. It was just a matter of time.

“I know it’s a lot to take in. Honestly, I’m amazed at how well you’ve held up. It’s perfectly normal to freak out right now. About Alistair. Your mom. Your powers. Us. It’s okay to be a little scared,” Finn said.

It had been pretty tough. Not only had Alistair tried to kill her in an attempt to close the portals between Earth and Faerie forever, she’d also discovered her mom was still alive and had met her for the first time. Her mom who just happened to be a very powerful mermaid.

Everything had seemingly changed in the blink of an eye. Clover’s father, who had been absent for pretty much most of her life, was back in her life, too. Her once estranged father, her newly found mermaid mother, and her half-faerie self, made for one happy family. Sort of.

Of all the sudden and drastic developments of late, there was one that Clover was crazy-giddy and thrilled about: Finn. She never would have imagined having a leprechaun for a boyfriend, if she could even call him that.

“What? Quit staring, will you?” Finn joked.

“Finn Ryan. How lucky am I to have you for a boyfriend?”

“I don’t think anyone’s ever called me that before, Clover O’Leary,” said Finn, his devilish grin endearing as hell.

Clover picked up a strawberry from the picnic basket and flung it at him.

“Easy there, tiger,” said Finn, smothering a laugh.

“If not my boyfriend, then what are you?”

Finn’s expression turned thoughtful. “Does it really matter that much to you? That you can call me your boyfriend?”

Clover felt her cheeks warm, suddenly feeling ridiculously juvenile. Sometimes it was easy to forget that compared to Finn, she had almost zero experience in the love arena. How silly she must have seemed.

Finn reached for Clover’s hands and gently pulled her to him, so that she was straddling his lap. The closeness made Clover’s breath hitch in her throat, her face turning a noticeable shade rosier. She expected Finn to kiss her then, but instead he nestled his face against the hollow of her neck and inhaled deeply, seemingly devouring the very scent of her.

Finn came up for air and gave Clover a soft peck on the lips, his silver-gray eyes hazy. “What am I going to do with you?” he asked tenderly.

Before Clover could respond, an unfamiliar sound pierced the air. Heart-breaking in its soulful lament, it reverberated like the cries of the earth itself. Clover couldn’t help but cover her ears; the loud, mournful wails too much to take. It felt like her heart was being emptied of joy and replenished with grief.

“What is that?” Clover screamed.

Finn was ashen and visibly shaken. “When a banshee cries, it means someone has died. When that many of them cry...” Finn shook his head.

“No,” Clover said. “You don’t think..?”

“We have to go. Now.”

* * *

“Bansheeeeeeee,” Cordelia screamed as she flew in and out of every room in Anna’s house in a frightful panic. Day had just broken, and their houseguests had all been asleep in their beds. When the piercing, desolate cries began, Cordelia knew right away that something horrible had happened. “The women of the faerie mounds are keening! Someone of great significance has perished,” she cried.

When Cordelia flew into Clover’s bedroom, her heart stopped. “Where is she?” The frantic flapping of her faerie wings took on an increased intensity. At that moment, Clover’s father and grandmother walked in, confused and clearly affected by the banshee’s ominous cries.

“Where’s Clover?” Nick asked in alarm.

While Momma Ruth shielded her ears from the ongoing screams, Anna entered holding a candlestick. “Shhh,” she chastised Cordelia. “There’s no reason to panic. Clover left early with Finn. They’re probably at Fall Valley. She’s safe.”

“But what does this mean?” Momma Ruth asked, gesturing at their surroundings as piercing wails engulfed them.

“A great death has befallen us,” Cordelia replied dramatically.

Anna shot Cordelia a hard look before responding, “Actually, Cordelia is right.”

Cordelia flapped her wings in smug concurrence.

“We should go,” said Anna, concern plaguing her eyes.

* * *

The entire realm had heard the cries of the banshees. Most of the faeries bolted their doors and weathered the great lament in their homes, keeping death away. Those who knew and loved Queen Helena Roche rushed to the court. The significance of the banshees’ announcements was not lost on Scobert Rott. It meant that someone important was dead, and the most important person in the realm, and to him especially, was Helena, the Seelie Queen.

At the entrance to the queen’s throne room, a group had already gathered. Scobert immediately recognized the concerned faces of Anna, Ruth, and Nick. He wondered where Finn and Clover were and relaxed visibly when he saw them approach hand in hand. When he saw his mother, Mary, Scobert let out an involuntary sigh of relief. If what he feared was indeed true, he would need Mary by his side.

Guarding the door to the queen’s private quarters were Archie and Alfred, the two ginormous gnomes who were among the many loyal protectors of the queen. They both held their hands up, holding back the crowd that began to form, their feet firmly planted on the great oaken trapdoor that was the entrance to the queen’s throne room.

“Listen,” Archie bellowed, “the queen is safe. Nobody has been in and out of here since Scobert left last night.” When Archie spotted Scobert in the crowd, he shouted, “Tell them Scobert!”

Scobert wasn’t the least bit thrilled that Archie had just briefed a bunch of people of his comings and goings. A clurichaun, he was known for his affinity for drink and fiercely independent nature. Although it was no big secret that he and Helena had a special relationship, he still felt uncomfortable at being called out so openly.

“The banshees cry, and I haven’t seen Helena since last night. Open the door Archie, I need to enter,” Scobert said, the look on his face brokering no argument.

“The queen is fine,” called a small voice from seemingly out of nowhere. Queen Helena emerged from the shadows, dressed in a hooded cloak, an intricately carved walking stick in her hand.

“Jaysus Christ, woman,” Scobert cried in relief. He went to her and scooped the petite Helena up in his arms, indifferent to the stares from the crowd. With Scobert’s considerable girth and height, she almost disappeared into his cloak as he hugged her tight, her feet dangling in the air. He knew then that Helena had used the magical walking stick to leave her quarters without anyone knowing. The shillelagh had once belonged to him, a handheld portal with the ability to transport its bearer anywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. He didn’t really care where she had been, all he cared was that she was safe.

Archie and Alfred looked like they’d either just seen a ghost or a brilliantly executed magic trick. The rest of the group was just as happy to see the queen alive.

“You had me worried,” Scobert whispered as he gently released Helena from his fierce hug.

Helena blushed slightly. “When I heard the banshees cry, I took it upon myself to investigate.”

Scobert couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You took it upon your wha—”

Helena shot him a pointed look. “I am quite capable of taking care of myself.”

Scobert bit his tongue. He had little doubt. The woman would be the death of him.

“As I was saying,” Helena said, “when I heard the banshees cry, I feared what a lot of you perhaps suspected, that a person of great importance had gone. I took it upon myself to go to the dungeons and check on our VIP prisoner, King Boris of the Unseelie Court. My suspicions were confirmed. The King of the Unseelies lay dead in his cell, while the Sorceress Iekika was nowhere to be found.”

* * *

After the shocking news, they had assembled in the queen’s throne room below ground. Clover sensed the uncertainty and apprehension in the air. It wasn’t so much the fact that King Boris was dead that caused the stir, it was the breach in the Seelie Queen’s security that posed a bigger problem. A prisoner and king who was under Queen Helena’s power and protection had been murdered, his throat slit from ear to ear, his head nearly decapitated.

Finn stood in the corner with some of the queen’s soldiers. They whispered about increased security measures, justice, and revenge. Revenge against whom? Clover wondered. Who would want to kill King Boris? The King of the Unseelies had banded with Alistair McCabe and was instrumental in the attack on the Seelie Queen and her army. He had played a part in the attempt to kill Clover and offer her up as sacrifice on Midsummer’s Eve. Clover’s blood turn to ice. Truth be told, if there was someone who had something to gain from King Boris’s death, it would be her.

Could Iekika have killed Boris? Clover wouldn’t have been surprised. That woman was another level of creepy. She still recalled the wedding ceremony straight out of a horror movie: Clover in a white dress, her collar soaked with blood, Iekika playing priestess, binding her with magic to Alistair. For the spell to work, they’d needed the blood of a half-Fae bride, and Clover was the perfect pawn to further Alistair’s plans. She had to shake the memories away. That she was married to Alistair McCabe made her sick to her stomach.

Clover spotted her grandmother, Momma Ruth, and her dad, Nick, in a tight huddle with Anna and Mary. All of a sudden, all she wanted to do was hug them both. The past month had been surreal, to say the least, and she wasn’t sure if she could have withstood any of it without them by her side. She walked over to their group and surprised her grandmother with a hug.

“Clover!” Momma Ruth shrieked. “I’m so glad to see you here. Are you okay?”

“I’m good, Momma,” Clover said. She gave Nick a kiss on the cheek. “Hi, Dad.”

“Hi sweetie,” said Nick as he ruffled Clover’s hair a tad.

At that moment, Queen Helena entered the room and took her throne. Liz, Finn’s ex-girlfriend and the Queen’s courtier, was at her heels as usual. She stood by the queen’s throne looking as beautiful and resplendent as ever and Clover felt a gnawing urge to choke her out.

Helena, as was her way, got straight to the point. “We will need to send an emissary to the Unseelie Court. King Boris’s remains will be returned to the Unseelies so they may pay their proper respects and grieve. The Unseelies must be assured that we will make every effort to find out who killed him. Who will volunteer to do this task?”

All the soldiers’ hands, including Finn’s, shot up.

“Kean, you will go to the Unseelies,” said Helena.

The choice was expected; Kean Mackey was the queen’s favorite. Kean stood a little bit taller, evidently proud for having been selected. He was the poster boy for the perfect soldier–extremely loyal, indisputably deadly, and pretty darned handsome. Not too long ago, Kean had professed his feelings for Clover, and admittedly she had been flattered. But in the end, she chose to be with Finn.

Kean glanced in Clover’s direction and offered up a small smile and a tip of his head. Clover waved clumsily, hoping she didn’t seem too awkward. Of course, Finn had noticed and raised an eyebrow in inquisition. Busted.

“If I may, Queen Helena,” Scobert called from the back of the room. “Kean shouldn’t go alone. I volunteer to go with the lad. Besides, he’ll need someone to help with the corpse, won’t he?”

It was plain to see from Helena’s reaction that she did not think this was a good idea. Clover totally got it. She would have hated to have Finn in harm’s way too.

The queen pursed her lips. “Fine. You and Mackey will go.”

Scobert nodded. “Thank you.”

Clover admired Helena’s stoic resilience and strength, always a queen first before anything else. At the battle with the Unseelies, King Boris had caught the queen unawares and had almost killed her, but Clover had seen him. Before she knew what was happening, Clover had unleashed her dormant, untapped powers on King Boris. One moment Boris was about to attack the queen, the next moment he was carried off by a giant tidal wave that sprang from the tips of Clover’s fingers. The queen had not forgotten that. After the battle, she had promised Clover a favor. Clover demurred, insisting that it was an honor to have helped at all. The queen simply nodded and said, “I never forget a debt.”

Queen Helena continued, “While Scobert and Kean liaise with the Unseelies, we shall be on high alert. A faerie was killed in my realm, in my court. We will do everything in our power to safeguard the Seelie Court, and the friends under my protection.”

Suddenly, all eyes were on Clover and her family.

“Clover,” said Helena, “How are your lessons going?”

Clover wished she could disappear into the stone walls of the queen’s throne room. Her lessons hadn’t really been going great. Her self-defense trainings with Finn went smoothly enough. Wrestling had never been quite so stimulating. It was the lessons with her mom, Meara, that she worried about. Ever since the day she first used her powers, Meara had been trying to coax her abilities out of her again, but to no avail. Several times, Meara had tried to take her to the Land Beneath the Waves to meet the rest of her kind, but she couldn’t get herself to breathe under water. It was useless.

“Uhm. They’ve been going pretty well.”

“Now, more than ever, you need to be able to defend yourself. More importantly, you need to be able to go beneath the waves. The merrow-folk’s territory is foreign even to most of our kind. Use this to your advantage. You will be well hidden there.”

“I understand, Queen Helena. I’ve been trying, but I can’t hold my breath long enough to enter their realm. Maybe it’s just not possible. Maybe I’m too human.”

“Try harder. My army will do their best to protect you, but you must do your part.”

At that, the queen chose to end their conversation. She continued addressing the rest of her army, but Clover barely heard her. She was mortified. As if she hadn’t caused enough trouble for the realm, now she was turning out to be a mediocre faerie, barely able to defend herself. With trouble lurking beneath the shadows, all she’d really been able to do the past two weeks was canoodle with Finn. As she tried to slip away from the gathering unnoticed, her dad caught up before she could make her escape.

“Hey, kiddo. Don’t let the queen get to you. Woman’s so uptight, if you stuck a lump of coal up her—”

Clover shushed him. “Dad! You’ll get us into trouble.”

Nick eyed her intently. “What’s the matter, sweetie? Is it just the lessons? You’ll get better, believe me.”

“It’s not just that. It’s pretty much everything right now. So much has happened, and I feel like I don’t know where I fit anymore.” Clover exhaled. “Does that even make sense?”

“Of course, it makes sense. None of this is normal, sweetie. It’s a huge adjustment for all of us. I went from being a convict to a guest in the Seelie Court. Not to mention, my ex-wife is a mermaid, and my daughter, well, my daughter’s the bravest person I know.”

Nick’s words warmed her heart. “Dad—"

“It’s true. You’ve been amazing. None of this is easy. I mean, imagine how Aquaman must have felt,” Nick said earnestly.

“Aquaman, seriously?”

Nick doubled over in laughter, and Clover couldn’t help but laugh alongside him. No matter how unreal everything had been, she had her dad back, and that made all the difference.

* * *

Helena called Finn and Scobert into her private parlor. Of course, Liz was there, which made for quite an uncomfortable scene. Finn hadn’t really talked to her much, not since he realized his true feelings for Clover. He and Liz had been together for a very, very long time, but Finn had never really considered her to be his partner. Sure, they had a strong, physical connection, but had it been love? Finn didn’t think so. All he knew was that he’d never felt for anyone the way he felt for Clover.

“Finn,” Liz greeted him curtly. “Scobert, good to see you.” Then to Helena, “My Queen, if all is well here, may I please be excused?”

“Of course. Thank you, Liz. You may go.”

Helena raised her eyebrow at Finn after Liz left the room. “I suggest you fix that, soldier.”

Scobert thankfully changed the subject. “Clover should be farther along in her training by now. This is serious. Alistair will come back for her.”

“Ease up on her, will you? She’s going through a lot,” Finn countered. “I’ll protect her from Alistair if he comes for her.”

“Your feelings for her are clouding your judgement. You can’t be everywhere at once. Remember that you’re still a soldier in the Queen’s Army. You’re no good to us if your only focus is the girl,” Scobert said.

“That’s not fair and you know it.” Finn bristled at Scobert’s comment. How were his feelings for Clover different from Scobert’s for Helena?

“We’re only thinking of her safety,” Helena chimed in. “If she’s in the land of the merrows, she’ll be safe. We’ll be better equipped to fight Alistair if we know she’s safe.”

Finn raised his voice. “I know this. But—”

“You can’t bear to be apart from her, not after all that’s happened,” Scobert continued.

Finn raked his fingers across his head in frustration.

“She needs to be able to fend for herself, Finn,” Scobert said. “She is, after all, Fae.”

Helena had the final say. “I will ask Meara to fast-track Clover’s training. The sooner she’s able to hone her powers and go beneath the waves, the better for us all. It’s settled.”

* * *

Liz was in a rage. It was bad enough that Finn chose that horrible half-human girl over her, but he didn’t even have the decency to look at her in the queen’s parlor. What had she seen in him, anyway? She listed all of Finn’s shortcomings. He had left her for Clover. He was a sub-par soldier. That second part wasn’t true. Finn was a superior soldier. None in the Queen’s Army could ever rival him, not even that snot-nosed wannabe, Kean. Alistair was his only true match, but Finn was way hotter than he could ever hope to be. He was kind, too. At least, he was, before he’d decided to break Liz’s heart.

“Aargh!” Liz struggled to contain her frustration. She could name dozens of Fae and humans alike who would jump at the chance to be with her. She was, after all, so irresistibly beautiful. Yet, Finn cast her aside and chose to be with an eighteen-year-old mutt. She had every right to be angry, every right to hate him, but despite everything, she couldn’t stay mad. She couldn’t help herself. Finn was the best thing she’d had in her life, and she still loved him.

She didn’t have a choice, really. When the sorceress, Iekika, telepathed a message to her, it had been clear. If she wanted to get rid of Clover, she had to help Iekika and King Boris escape. Down to the dungeons she went, and in the cover of darkness, she unlocked the enchanted restraints keeping Iekika’s powers at bay. When she heard the banshees’ cries the following morning, she’d thought her prayers had been answered. She hadn’t expected Iekika would kill King Boris instead.

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