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Title: Iron Ember
Series: Skye Druids #1
Release Date: October 11, 2022
Delve into the thrilling first installment of the all-new Skye Druids series by New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant, where magic reigns and danger abounds.
Skye isn’t just an island. It’s a home. A refuge. But not to Elodie MacLean. Not anymore. Tragedy tore her world apart and then took the one thing she felt made her whole. She vowed she’d never return, but that’s exactly where she ends up. Now, surrounded by the ghosts of her past, Elodie must navigate her version of Hell and try to make peace with herself and her family. But someone or something doesn’t want her on Skye, and she finds herself attacked—and this time not by her personal demons.
Scott Ryan has a mission: uncover who has been killing Druids and why. When his quest takes him to the beautiful Isle of Skye, he doesn’t think anything could captivate him more than the land itself—until he lays eyes on the breathtaking and confident beauty his leader sent him to find. However, it’s clear that she has trust issues, and he can’t reveal his plans—at least, not yet. But he’s always been sure of his ability to sway a person, and she’s a challenge he's more than happy to accept, especially when he finds he will do anything to protect her.
With so much history and so many secrets, victory is anything but guaranteed for the couple and their allies. And the forces at work, those who wish to rule the Scottish isle and all those who reside there, have a plan that nobody will see coming.
Also in this series:
She was back.
It was the last place she wanted to be but the only place she had to run to.
Elodie threw open the curtains. Dust danced in the air, the sunlight catching it. She stared out the dirty window to the sea beyond. Skye. The home she’d proclaimed she would never leave because she loved it so fiercely.
It was also the place she had sworn to never return to.
And yet, here she was.
“Bloody hell,” she murmured as she turned her back to the window and looked over what remained of the furniture from her parents’ cottage.
Her gaze slid to the hearth where echoes of children’s laughter clung to the stones. Her mother had made the best hot cocoa. After playing for hours outside in the winter, Elodie, her elder sister, Edie, and her brother, Elias, would sit before the fire with steaming cups of cocoa and her grandmother’s strawberry scones.
Elodie squeezed her eyes shut. She wanted to hold onto the lighthearted memories, but the other ones were always on their heels—the ones that had altered all their lives, throwing them into chaos.
She blew out a breath and focused on the clutter and mess before her. The dust was so thick that she knew she would end up with respiratory problems for days if she didn’t take precautions. And it wasn’t as if she could use magic to prevent it.
Returning to Skye was like walking through one of Dante’s nine circles of Hell. Elodie didn’t know how she would survive being back on the island. If only she’d had somewhere else to go. Anywhere else. If she still believed, she would think Skye had interfered and brought her back.
“If that’s the case, then my magic wouldn’t be gone, now would it?”
It was hard not to be bitter and angry about her life. She owned her decisions, but she had been on a different path. Then, everything had imploded with the force of a nuclear explosion.
When she looked around after, everyone just went about their lives as if her family hadn’t been rocked to its core. As if she and her siblings hadn’t had their blinders ripped off with such force that it’d changed all three of them in one heartbeat—their innocence gone in the blink of an eye.
Corann had tried to help, but the old Druid hadn’t been able to reach any of them. And Elias had left. Elodie still hadn’t forgiven him for leaving her and Edie to navigate the churning waters of their society. Elodie might have been the youngest, but she was the one who’d ended up taking care of Edie. Her sister had the kind, gentle spirit of their mother. Elodie had lashed out and turned to drinking and drugs, but Edie had gone into herself.
Elodie walked through the main area of the cottage and past the kitchen to the hallway. Pictures of their family still hung on the walls. Snapshots of a happy life that had hidden the rot beneath. She stopped at one where Edie smiled brightly with a cake and lit candles before her. Maybe Elodie hadn’t been the one to take care of Edie. They had leaned on each other, clinging to one another and struggling to keep their heads above water. It was only because of her sister that Elodie hadn’t sunk too deeply into the hard life. She’d known she had to be there for Edie. And in the end, they’d kept each other afloat.
Until Elodie hadn’t been able to stay another minute on Skye.
Fifteen years. It seemed like a lifetime, but it was much too soon to be back. Nothing would keep her on Skye longer than necessary this time. Not her sister. Nothing. Skye had annihilated her family. It had destroyed her. How Edie could remain on the isle was a mystery. And Elias? All Elodie could hope for was that her brother had found some semblance of happiness. They all deserved it.
Elodie forced herself to walk to each room, but she couldn’t manage to go inside her parents’. She stood before the closed door as screams and shouts from that horrible day filled her head. Elodie backed away and turned on her heel. How in the world would she stay in the cottage? Sleep just feet from where it’d all happened.
“I can’t,” she stated with a shake of her head.
Elodie grabbed her purse and the single bag that held her measly belongings and started for the door. Then she remembered why she was on Skye.
“Fuck!” she yelled and fought the sudden urge to release the scream of frustration that welled up.
She wasn’t a crier, but everyone had their breaking point. She forced the tears back and dropped her bags. The only way to get on with her life was to take her sister’s offer. All Elodie had to do was clean up the cottage so they could sell it. It was a good deal. Elodie had the place to herself instead of sleeping on the sofa at Edie’s crowded house with her sister’s kids and husband. And all without having to pay any sort of rent.
Since Elodie was homeless and jobless and had less than two hundred pounds to her name, it really was a blessing. At least she’d thought that until she arrived on Skye. Even driving around the island had made her chest constrict. Her anxiety rose with every mile. Then she’d arrived at the cottage. It had taken Elodie half an hour to work up the courage to actually walk inside.
“Maybe I deserve this torture,” she said aloud. “I didn’t exactly live a good life.”
This was supposed to be her chance to start over. To travel the path she’d been on before she got derailed.
“Fine. Let’s do this.”
She opened the door, then went to all the windows and opened them despite the frigid temperatures and the threat of rain. The dust had to go somewhere, and the sooner she got it out of the house, the better. Elodie started in the bedroom she had once shared with her sister. She carefully folded the bed linens from each twin bed and dumped them outside.
Thankfully, Edie had given her fresh sheets, pillows, and blankets.
Next, she found an old towel and used some cleaner to wipe down the walls and window, sweeping the cobwebs from the corners before vacuuming the carpet. Only then did she bring in her bag and purse.
Elodie wiped her face with her arm and made her way to the main area. Someone had placed sheets over the furniture. She slowly and carefully folded them, but there was so much dust that some still escaped. The pile joined the bed linens outside. On her way back inside, she smiled as she saw the dust wafting out the windows. Hopefully, most of it would land outside instead of back in the house.
The smallish living area didn’t take long to wipe down. The windows would take more than one cleaning. She didn’t want to touch the outside yet. That was a whole other matter entirely. Her first priority was to get the inside clean enough that she could locate any repairs that needed to be addressed. Only after she did that would she tackle the outside.
The old cottage was too quiet. Elodie pulled out her phone and put on her favorite playlist as she went back to cleaning. She kept moving, which helped to keep her warm. There was a brief shower, but she didn’t bother closing the windows. The house needed to be aired out to get rid of the musty smell. She suddenly froze, the hairs on the back of her neck lifting. Slowly, she straightened from scrubbing the bathroom counter and looked at the doorway. No one was there. At least no one she could see.
A chill raced down her spine. With the sponge still in her gloved hands, she walked into the hallway. She glanced at her parents’ room, then looked the other way. Elodie slowly made her way to the kitchen. Her gaze landed on a tall, gorgeous man with black and silver hair, standing next to a pretty female with red hair.
The man was a Fae. It seemed there was no escaping them anywhere, but they hadn’t been allowed on Skye in decades. At least as far as she knew. What was he doing back?
“Hi,” the woman said.
Elodie swung her gaze to the female. She looked close to Elodie’s age, and something about her seemed familiar.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” the woman asked with a smile.
Elodie shook her head. It was unnerving that people already knew she was on the isle. Worse that they remembered her when she had done everything to forget Skye and everyone on it. “I don’t.”
“You’ve been gone awhile. I’m Rhona.”
In an instant, Elodie remembered Rhona and her cousin, Sorcha. They used to come over occasionally. She had always liked both girls. Elodie glanced at the floor, slightly embarrassed for the harsh welcome she had given them. “Of course.”
Rhona looked at the man beside her, love shining in her eyes. “This is Balladyn.”
“A Fae,” Elodie said before she could stop herself.
Balladyn inclined his head of long hair. His eyes were silver, but she saw a ring of red around them. “Reaper, actually.” His voice had an Irish lilt.
Reaper. Elodie wasn’t sure what that meant.
“We wanted to welcome you back and see if you needed anything,” Rhona said.
Elodie shifted her feet nervously. Did they know she’d lost her magic? “That wasn’t necessary.”
“You’re one of us,” Rhona said with a soft look. “We look after our own.”
Resentment threatened to choke Elodie, and she had to remind herself that she shouldn’t direct her anger at Rhona. She hadn’t been any older than Elodie back then. Corann was a different matter. “Corann sent you?”
A frown moved over Rhona’s face so quickly that Elodie almost missed it. “We lost Corann. I’ve taken his place.”
“Oh.” Damn. She should’ve had Edie bring her up to date on things. Then again, Elodie hadn’t wanted to talk to any Druids, so she had made sure not to take an interest in anything. “Honestly, I won’t be here long. As soon as I get the place fixed up and sold, I’m leaving.”
Rhona’s green eyes narrowed slightly. “That’s a pity. We could use you.”
No one ever had use for her. Elodie glanced at Balladyn to see that the Reaper’s gaze hadn’t moved from her. It was unnerving to have him watch her in such a way, and yet she didn’t feel threatened. “It’s for the best.”
“Why don’t you come for tea later this week? We can catch up,” Rhona said.
Elodie’s plan to keep to herself was rapidly disintegrating. She liked Rhona—or at least the person she had once been. It wasn’t in Elodie’s nature to be outright rude, but Rhona would likely ask questions that Elodie wasn’t prepared to answer. And she was tired of lying. “I’m no–”
“Please don’t decline. Think it over.” Rhona smiled. “Please.”
Well, bugger it. “I’ll consider it.”
Rhona’s smile was huge. “Great. And if you need any help, we can get this place together quickly.”
The offer was so tempting that Elodie nearly took it. If they did, she could leave Skye that much quicker. However, if she agreed to Rhona’s offer, it would inevitably lead to those pesky questions she was intent on dodging. “Thanks, but I’ve already made good headway today.”
“At the very least, let me fix the leaking roof,” Balladyn said.
Her gaze snapped to him. The roof was leaking? She glanced around but didn’t hear any dripping. Then a drop landed on top of her head. This might be a bigger project than she’d thought. She faced him and forced her tight lips into a smile as her stomach churned with anxiety. “I would appreciate that.”
“It’s done,” he said with a bow of his head.
Rhona flashed another smile. “It’s good to have you back. I hope you’ll consider the tea.”
Elodie held her smile until the two of them suddenly disappeared. She blinked and frowned. Balladyn must have teleported them out. At least the leak was fixed. She looked up at the ceiling and spotted the water damage.
“I’m going to be here forever,” she grumbled.