Richelle Mead - Czarna Łabędzica 04 - Shadow Heir

Tytuł Richelle Mead - Czarna Łabędzica 04 - Shadow Heir
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Strona 1 Strona 2 SOMETHING IN THE SNOW Outside, darkness had fallen, with only well-placed torches to give us light. The terrible screech sounded again, echoed by smaller, terror-filled cries from the Palm residents as they scurried for shelter. A flash of red caught my eye, and I grabbed Rhona’s arm as she ran past. “What’s going on?” I demanded. Even in the flickering torchlight, I could see she was as pale as the snow around us. “The storm,” she cried. “The storm is coming.” She tugged desperately against me and I released her, more confused than ever. “What’s going on?” said Rurik, com- ing to my side. “Are they being raided?” “I don’t know,” I said. “They keep saying that—” Strona 3 3/932 I heard the roar again and this time its owner came into view. My jaw dropped. “That’s the storm?” I asked. If you could take every stereotype and caricature of the abominable snow- man and roll them into one archetypal snow monster, you’d have what was standing before me. It was about twenty feet tall, covered in white shaggy fur. Three curved horns—one on each side and one in the fore- head—protruded from its head. Its eyes were large and black, as were the six- inch claws on its hands. When it roared, I caught a glimpse of a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth.... Strona 4 Books by Richelle Mead The Georgina Kincaid Series SUCCUBUS BLUES SUCCUBUS ON TOP SUCCUBUS DREAMS SUCCUBUS HEAT SUCCUBUS SHADOWS SUCCUBUS REVEALED The Eugenie Markham/Dark Swan Series Strona 5 5/932 STORM BORN THORN QUEEN IRON CROWNED SHADOW HEIR Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation Strona 6 SHADOW HEIR A Dark Swan Novel Richelle Mead Strona 7 7/932 ZEBRA BOOKS KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP. All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected. Strona 8 Table of Contents SOMETHING IN THE SNOW Books by Richelle Mead Title Page Dedication Acknowledgments Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Strona 9 9/932 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Strona 10 10/932 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Copyright Page Strona 11 For my brother Steve, who helps keep our family on track. Strona 12 Acknowledgments Bringing Eugenie’s story to a close is bittersweet. She was my first real ac- tion heroine—and a fellow redhead to boot. I’ve had a great time writing her series and am grateful to all the friends and family who have loved me, suppor- ted me, and helped me come up with new and terrifying monsters for her to take down! Many thanks go to editor John Scognamiglio at Kensington, who took the chance on Eugenie and helped bring her story to print. Thank you also to my amazing literary agent, Jim McCarthy, for guiding these books every step of the way. And finally, I can’t say enough how grateful I am to all the fans that have followed Eugenie on her journeys in both worlds. Your enthusiasm is what continues to make writing such a joy for me. Strona 13 Chapter 1 I’m sure Ohio’s a perfectly nice place, once you get to know it. For me, right now, it was akin to one of the inner circles of Hell. “How,” I demanded, “can the air pos- sibly contain this much moisture? It’s like going swimming.” My sister, walking beside me in the late-afternoon sun, grinned. “Use your magic to push it off you.” “Too much work. It just keeps com- ing back,” I grumbled. Jasmine, like me, had been raised in the dry heat of Arizona, so I couldn’t understand why she didn’t have the same revulsion I did to the monsoon conditions of high summer in the Midwest. We both wiel- ded weather magic, but hers was Strona 14 14/932 focused primarily on water, so maybe that explained her blasé attitude. Maybe it was just the resilience of youth, seeing as she was about ten years younger than me. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because she wasn’t nearly five months pregnant and haul- ing around an extra ten pounds or so of offspring who seemed intent on over- heating me, sucking my resources, and pretty much slowing down every god- damned thing I did. It was also possible hormones were making me a little irritable. “We’re almost there,” said a polite voice on the other side of me. That was Pagiel. He was the son of Ysabel, one of the bitchiest gentry women I knew—and she didn’t even have excess hormones as an excuse. Pagiel hadn’t inherited his mother’s personality, Strona 15 15/932 thankfully, and possessed a knack for crossing between the Otherworld and the human world that rivaled mine and Jasmine’s. He was roughly the same age as her, and the fact that I had to have a teenage escort to get me to my doctor’s appointments only added in- sult to the many injuries I’d endured these last few months. A block ahead, the Hudson Women’s Health Clinic stood among its carefully pruned pear trees and neat rows of geraniums. The business was right on the line of the commercial and residen- tial zones of the city and tried to give the appearance that it was part of the latter. It wasn’t the pretty landscaping that made me keep coming back to this sauna, walking half a mile each time between the Otherworldly gate and the clinic. It wasn’t even the medical care, Strona 16 16/932 which was fine as far as I could tell. Really, when it came down to it, this place’s biggest appeal was that so far, no one had tried to kill me here. That cursed wet heat had me drip- ping with sweat by the time we reached the building. I was used to sweating in the desert, but something about this climate just made me feel sticky and gross. Fortunately, a wave of air-condi- tioning hit us as we walked through the door. As glorious as it was for me, it was a miracle for Pagiel. I always liked seeing his face when he felt that first blast. He’d grown up in the Other- world, where fairy—or gentry, the term I preferred—magic could work won- ders. He wouldn’t blink an eye at ma- gical feats that would make a human gape. But this? Cold air produced by a Strona 17 17/932 machine? It blew his mind every time. No pun intended. “Eugenie,” said the receptionist. She was middle-aged and plump, with a kindly, hometown air about her. “Back with your family I see.” We’d taken to passing Pagiel off as our brother, for simplicity’s sake. Really, though, it wasn’t a stretch to imagine us all being related. Jasmine’s hair was strawberry blond, mine a light red, and Pagiel’s a true auburn. We could have done advertising for the Na- tional Redhead Solidarity Group, if such a thing existed. No one at the clin- ic ever seemed to think it was weird that I brought my teenage siblings along, so maybe that was normal around here. We took seats in the waiting room, and I saw Pagiel shift uncomfortably in Strona 18 18/932 his jeans. I hid a smile and pretended not to notice. He thought human clothes were crude and ugly, but Jas- mine and I had insisted he wear them if he wanted to be part of my obstetric se- curity detail. Normally, the gentry favored silks and velvet in their cloth- ing, with flourishes like puffy sleeves and cloaks. Maybe he could have gotten away with that on the West Coast but not here in middle America. Both he and Jasmine stayed behind when the nurse came to get me. Jas- mine used to go in with me, but after an embarrassing incident when Pagiel had tried to attack someone with a Milli Vanilli ringtone, we’d decided it was best if he wasn’t left alone. Al- though, I admit, it was hard to fault his actions. Strona 19 19/932 I went to see an ultrasound tech first. As the mother-to-be of twins, I was knocked into a high-risk category and had to have more ultrasounds than someone with a “normal” pregnancy would. The tech situated me on the table and slathered gel on my stomach before touching it with her paddle. And just like that, all my crankiness, all my sarcasm—all the feelings I’d so haught- ily walked in with—vanished. And were replaced with terror. There they were, the things that I’d risked my life—and the fate of the world—for. To be fair, the images still didn’t look like much to me. They were only sketchy black-and-white shapes, though with each visit, they became in- creasingly more babylike. I supposed this was a marked improvement, since for a while there, I was certain I’d be Strona 20 20/932 giving birth to aliens and nothing hu- man or gentry at all. “Ah, there’s your son,” said the tech, gesturing to the left side of the screen. “I was pretty sure we’d be able to spot him this time.” My breath caught. My son. As she moved the paddle to get a better angle, his profile flashed into stark relief, small arms and legs and a rounded head that looked very human. This tiny creature, whose beating heart was also clearly visible, hardly seemed like a conqueror of worlds. He seemed very small and very vulnerable, and I wondered not for the first time if I’d made a mistake in continuing this pregnancy. Had I been tricked? Had I been taken in by this innocent façade? Was I even now nurturing the man who

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