Lullaby of the Lilitu mood board
What's it about?
“I don’t remember who I am. All I know is that I’m His and nothing else matters. But He’s got secrets and something within me burns to know the truth. How much am I willing to sacrifice to get it?”
For centuries, gods have walked the earth besides humans. Now, a young woman awakens to find she’s one of them.
Full-grown and with no memory of a life before now, Rio is content to be counted among the world’s elite and follow the path her father, Kaien, has laid before her. That is, she’s happy until her memories start to return, accompanied by increasingly dangerous nightmares.
Soon, more than nightmares plague her. A mysterious woman Kaien knew long ago has returned–and she’s determined to destroy everything he loves.
Unfortunately for Rio, that includes her. Scores will be settled, blood will flow, and a family will be tested.
Excerpt from the book
Noir Lurette tossed a bundle of lavender and motherwort into her new fireplace and settled back onto the couch, relishing the aromatic warmth. She smiled as her daughter led a pack of stampeding eight-year-olds into her bedroom. They had just demolished a tub of strawberry ice cream and an entire birthday cake. She supposed they were going to go work off the sugar rush.
Noir snuggled into the couch and cracked open the latest Wes Steele Steamy Romance. Her husband Marcel cleaned in the kitchen, collecting the remnants of horse-adorned wrapping paper and plastic forks and shoving them into a white garbage bag.
The family of three had lived in the Irish town of Oranmore for a few weeks. After years of running, it already felt like home. Their daughter was making friends at school, though she’d never had any trouble with that. Noir and Marcel had both landed jobs at the local pub; she tended bar, he cooked. Once or twice a week, their boss let her take breaks to read cards in the corner for curious customers. She was beginning to love this little place.
Burning heat spread across her chest and tapered into a tightening in her belly. The book clunked against the wooden floor. She gasped, trying to call for her husband, but her voice came no louder than a whisper. In the next moment, her body stiffened and her eyes rolled upwards until the white orbs beneath reflected the flame in the fireplace. She gripped the couch, resisting the electric convulsions tearing through her body.
Marcel ran to her. “Noir!” He grabbed her shoulders and turned her onto her side, stroking her hair until her breathing slowed and she stopped quaking.
When he looked up, he saw his daughter standing behind the couch. She stared at him with the same glazed look that overcame Noir’s eyes after every episode.
After pressing his fingers against Noir’s pulse for a beat and assuring himself she was stable, he scooped his daughter into his arms.
She shivered, covered in sweat with tears pouring down her round cheeks. The bottom half of her pajamas were soaked through with urine.
The other girls poked their heads out of the little bedroom down the hall.
“It’s okay, girls.” Marcel tried to keep his voice pleasant as he spoke in his best English. They must have been frightened when the seizure hit both mother and daughter.
The girl’s episodes weren’t as violent as Noir’s, but they weren’t by any means pleasant. The little one in his arms remained silent, as she always did afterward, and he affected a smile for the girls.
“Sometimes, they get a little sick, but they’re going to be fine. Go on and play, and I’ll call you when dinner’s ready.” The girls went back into the bedroom, but they stayed quiet.
He sat on the couch and wiped moisture from his wife’s forehead while still cradling the small girl. With his other hand, he stroked the beaded braids on her head.
She gazed into the fireplace, its flames reflecting in her deep brown irises. Her voice barely a whisper, she said, “Don’t use it, Daddy.”
Marcel followed her gaze to the wide, silver blade glinting beside the fireplace—the old machete he kept near at all times. He looked into the small girl’s eyes. “Do you remember what happened sweetheart?” She shook her head, but her tears told him otherwise.
He squeezed his daughter to him. He hated watching her go through these episodes, but there was nothing he could do to help her. Just as he could never help Noir.
After a few moments, Noir lifted her head. She groaned as she pushed herself up and gazed at her husband and daughter. Without a word, she pulled the trembling girl into her arms and stared at the fire in silence until Marcel reached for her hand.
She jumped. She’d forgotten he was there.
“We can’t stay here.” She shook her head as though to clear it of whatever she’d seen. “Tell the girls we aren’t feeling well. Call their parents. We leave tomorrow.”
She stood and carried their daughter towards the master bedroom. At the door, she stopped and looked back at the home they’d come to love. Noir shrugged and took her daughter into the room. She changed and laid the now sleeping girl down, then pulled her old, worn suitcase out of the closet.
Back in the living room, Marcel stared at the door Noir had just passed through. She would tell him what she saw once the house was clear and the girls sent home. Until then, the all-too-familiar anxiety gnawed at him.
Their daughter’s visions had started a year ago. Noir endured the episodes her whole life, but it didn’t help her protect their child; the visions nearly traumatized the girl each time they came. They always struck mother and daughter at the same time as though the two picked up messages on the same psychic radio channel. But from what little they could gather—as the girl hated talking about them—their daughter’s visions seemed different from Noir’s.
He turned his attention to the task of clearing the house. He corralled the visiting girls and called their parents, offering hearty apologies and assuring them that what ailed his family wasn’t contagious.
Once the last child left, he headed for the kitchen to clean and make sandwiches for travel. He stopped as a loud knocking came through the door.
Was a girl still hiding somewhere in the house? He thought he’d gathered them all in the living room, but maybe one had given him the slip. He wasn’t focused at the time. He peeked into his daughter’s room once more. When he was sure no children remained hidden, he peered through the small hole in the front door.
A tall man in a blue-velvet suit waited outside. He adjusted the old-fashioned brooch at his collar—a small metal bauble with a seven-pointed star engraved in its center—and knocked again. Marcel didn’t recognize him. He reached for the knob.
“Don’t open the door!” Noir grabbed her husband’s hand, but it was too late. The door swung back and a large grin spread across the stranger’s face. He straightened the ruffled cuffs peeking out from under his bell-shaped sleeves, before bending forward in a sweeping bow.
“Noir, how nice to finally meet you,” He spoke in an old French dialect, one that had gone out of common use centuries ago, but Noir understood perfectly.
Noir raised a palm to her face and blew white powder in the direction of the door. A yellow light passed across the doorway and the stranger took a step back. He chuckled, his voice rich and low, almost a growl, and he looked up at her from under thick, black lashes.
His eyes flashed like emeralds catching fire as he raised one hand and stepped forward through the doorway. The barrier hissed where it touched his skin and covered his flesh with tiny pustules which faded the instant he broke through.
Marcel and Noir looked at each other, eyes wide.
The stranger grinned and sauntered towards the living room. “I do not come to harm you,” he said, leaning back against the couch. “I come with an offer.”
Marcel stepped in front of his wife, his muscles tensed. “We want nothing from you.”
“Don’t you want to know who I am?” The stranger grinned at Marcel.
Noir grabbed Marcel’s hand and replied in the old language. “We know who you are. And you know the Vagari people want nothing to do with Lilitu.”
“The Vagari are no more. Besides don’t you want to save your daughter?” The stranger pouted his lips. He smirked at the couple and surveyed the small living room.
Noir and Marcel exchanged a look. Noir stepped forward. “We will protect our daughter. Especially from your kind.”
“You won’t.” The stranger’s voice hitched as he dug his nails into the back of the couch. “The two coming for her are far worse than I. They will rip you and her to shreds. Frankly, you’re already more trouble than you’re worth, but I won’t let them have her.”
A knot formed in Noir’s stomach and she fought back a wave of nausea. She shuddered as the vision replayed in her mind. “Leave us.” She looked at her husband and softened her voice. “Whoever’s coming, let us fend them off ourselves.”
The dark stranger laughed and pushed himself off the couch. “You are a fool, young Vagari. Your weak magics will do little to stop ones as old as they. And they won’t stop me.” He sighed. “A thousand years ago, your people were far more agreeable.”
He gazed into Noir’s eyes, the green and gold irises of his own swirled and shimmered. “You will hear me, Noir Lurette. In your heart of hearts, you know my words to be true. You and your family will come live on my private island, and I will keep all of you safe.”
Noir spit. “We are warded from your eye, abomination. Now, go.”
The stranger’s jaw clenched, but he smiled and tilted his head, looking over Noir’s shoulder. He waved, wiggling his fingers.
Noir turned to see her daughter’s little head peeking out of the bedroom and her chest tightened. She couldn’t let this monster near her child. She ran back and scooped the girl into her arms and into the room, slamming the door behind them.
“It’s okay, petite,” she whispered, rubbing the child’s shoulders. The girl snuggled on her lap as Noir sat on the edge of the bed. She rocked back and forth, humming a tune into her daughter’s ear.
She began to sing the soft folk tune her mother and grandmother had sung to her whenever she’d had a particularly frightening vision. Now, she sang it to her child in feverish repetition, praying as she did that it would imprint itself on the girl’s subconscious.
“Quand elle est le sommeil, le monde est calme. Quand elle se réveille, les rideaux se ferment. Le soleil meurt pour les dieux, comme le frère pour sa sœur.”
Outside, Marcel’s heated voice told the visitor again to leave. The two men stood in the middle of the small living room. They circled each other now, both taking slow, careful steps.
“I am trying to reason with you, you stupid animal.” The stranger sneered and bared his teeth—six thin, pointed teeth protruded from his gums.
Marcel leapt over the couch and grabbed the silver machete. He swung it over his head and in a quick display of skill, brought it down with a vicious swoop, aiming for the visitor’s head. The blade whistled through the air as Marcel looked up to find his target gone. He spun around and a hand gripped his throat, lifting him off his feet.
The stranger threw Marcel across the room and through the kitchen wall. In a flash of impossible speed, he stood over Marcel and pressed his foot to his chest.
“Pray to me,” the visitor growled.
Marcel groaned as the foot on his chest pushed into him. Blood pooled in his lungs, exploding from his mouth. He coughed, spitting at the beast above him.
The stranger sneered. Marcel’s ribs cracked, crushed under the inhuman strength, and he screamed the gurgling scream of a poor soul drowning in his own blood.
His screams carried across the small house and Noir jumped into action. She wrapped her daughter in a thick winter coat and pulled the girl to the window.
“Listen to me, petite,” she said, rubbing her daughter’s shoulders with trembling hands. “You must run far away from here. Go to the river and call for Lucinda Barlow.”
“Go now!” She embraced the girl before lifting her up and through the window. She waved her away, took one last look, and ran out of the room.
When she turned to run for the front door, the stranger appeared centimeters in front of her face, causing her to skid to a stop.
Noir raised her chin to look him in the eye. “She will never be yours. She’ll remember us, and she’ll stop you.” Her voice wavered, but she narrowed her eyes and planted her feet.
“I see.” A brief smile flashed across his face before he lunged forward and plunged his teeth into Noir’s throat. He pulled her down and drank until the light flickered from her eyes. When he finished, he snapped a silk handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at the blood around his mouth.
He dropped the handkerchief onto Noir’s lifeless body as he sauntered out. “I suppose I’ll need to change her mind.”