A Trace of Moonlight by Allison Pang
Book Three Abby Sinclair series
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date of Publication: October 30, 2012
Number of pages: 400
Drinking from the waters of lethe and offering herself up as Faerie’s sacrificial Tithe …these just might be the least of Abby Sinclair’s problems.
Abby’s pact with a demon—whether or not she remembers making it—is binding, so she’d better count herself lucky that (in the words of a daemon who knows better) there’s nearly always a loophole. But her friends’ reckless attempts to free her, well intentioned though they may be, set off a disastrous chain of events. In no time at all, Abby turns her incubus lover mortal and gets herself killed, cursed, and married to an elven prince whose mother wants her dead. She might have even been able to recover from all that had she not lost the Key to the CrossRoads to her mortal enemy, who promptly uses his restored power to wreak havoc on the OtherWorld and put its very existence in jeopardy.
Only one person can make things right again, but to find her, Abby must place her trust in allies of mixed loyalties, and conquer her nightmares once and for all.
- Where did you get the idea for the novel?
It’s a continuation of the story arc from the previous two books – so I just sort ran with it from there. The overall idea was inspired by the True Thomas poem, Thomas the Rhymer.
- Your title. Who came up with it? Did you ever change your title?
I came up with it from a list of titles my publisher and I put together.
- Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel. Titles are easily changed.
- Since becoming a writer, what’s the most exciting thing to ever happen to you?
Getting on a panel at NYCC
- What book are you currently reading or what was the last book you read?
The Shattered Darkby Sandy Williams
- What was your first book that you ever wrote (very first one you wrote, not published)?
The first book I ever wrote was the first book I published. (A Brush of Darkness)
- What is your writing process?
Panster – I just make it up as I go.
- Who are your favorite authors of all time?
Jacqueline Carey, Kate Elliott, Lynn Flewelling, Robin Hobb, Charles de Lint (honestly, there’s a pretty large list…)
- At a book signing, do you just sign your name or do you write a note? How do you come up with stuff to say?
Depends. Some people just want a name. Some people want a note. If I know them, I try to personalize it a bit. Otherwise, I just make up something silly.
- What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I used to have an 80 gallon salt water reef tank.
- How do you react to a bad review?
Privately? Honesty, I don’t usually spend much time on reviews. People like what they like – it’s not up to me to react a certain way or not. Reviews are for readers, not authors.
- How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
Went out for a nice dinner with the family. J
A marine biologist in a former life, Allison Pang turned to a life of crime to finance her wild spending habits and need to collect Faberge eggs. A cat thief of notable repute, she spends her days sleeping and nights scaling walls and wooing dancing boys….Well, at least the marine biology part is true. But she was taloned by a hawk once. She also loves Hello Kitty, sparkly shoes, and gorgeous violinists.
She spends her days in Northern Virginia working as a cube grunt and her nights waiting on her kids and cats, punctuated by the occasional husbandly serenade. Sometimes she even manages to write. Mostly she just makes it up as she goes.
Copyright 2012 ~~ Allison Pang
The fog eddied from the darkness to cocoon me in a soft haze. Something niggled at the back of my mind as I glanced down at my bare feet. They were swallowed below my calves by the mist, but the crunch of sand under my toes felt familiar. The hiss of waves slapped against the edge of a nearby shore.
The rolling scent of brine slipped past on a tattered breeze. Drawn toward the sound of water, I pressed forward, an uneasy chill sending clammy fingers skittering over my skin.
Wrapping my arms around my shoulders, I realized I was naked.
And yet a moment later, a silk dress draped over my limbs, falling to midcalf. It should have felt strange, to know the merest of thoughts took shape here . . . but it didn’t. My feet brushed the edges of the wet sand and I paused. I could see nothing beyond the darkness, but the warmth of the water lured me, beckoning with a soft whisper.
Flickers of memory flared up and slid away, the barest hint of scales and a cradle of blue luminescence taking form, but I shook my head and the thought swirled out of reach. Ridiculous idea, anyway. I’d never even seen a mermaid.
Another step and the foam crested past my ankles.
Abby. A name, whispered upon the breeze. The waves rushed forward, the sudden undertow sucking me into the sand as though it might drag me into its depths. I stumbled, only to be pulled back by a hand upon my wrist.
I glanced over my shoulder, frowning as I made out the features of a man. Ebony hair whipped about his pale face; he gazed down at me, eyes haunted and aching and terrible. I didn’t recognize him, and yet his presence radiated like a beacon of comfort in the darkness.
Immediately the waves receded, leaving us in guarded silence. He stared at me a moment longer. When I said nothing, something like grief creased the corners of his mouth.
“If you enter the sea you will be devoured,” he said finally.
“Devoured?” I could only watch as the fog lifted at the slight motion of his hand. I saw fins cutting through the surf; the moonlight shattered the darkness to reveal the sharks, shining like living blades in the murk.
I swallowed hard at my own folly. “Thank you,” I murmured, my fingers finding his in the shadows to squeeze them. Abruptly he pulled away, his breath hissing as though I’d burned him.
“Who are you? Do you know where we are?”
“You’re dreaming, Abby.” His lips pursed mockingly. “And I am but a shadow.” At my puzzled look, he sighed. “It will be safer for you away from here. Follow me.”
Before us lay tall cliffs and a worn path of sand and sea grass, a series of rocky switchbacks leading to somewhere.
“Do you have a name?” The words slipped out before I meant them to, but I dutifully trailed in his wake, bunching the dress at my hips to climb up the bluff.
“If you do not know it, I cannot tell you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know,” he muttered, a hint of irritation in his voice. “Believe me when I tell you this is not the way things were supposed to have been, but we have no other choice.” He glanced over his shoulder at me.
“And we have very little time left.” As though to emphasize the point, he reached to take my hand, helping me over a piece of driftwood. Now his fingers entwined with mine. A wash of heat swept through me.
“I don’t ever remember having such a lucid dream before,” I said.
His grip tightened, but he said nothing in return, leading us up the cliff and down a winding path until we came to an iron gate. It was overgrown by high weeds, shut tightly with a lock.
My inner voice was strangely silent. If it knew something, it clearly wasn’t planning on saying anything. I frowned at the gate, reaching out to stroke the rusted flakes with a curious finger. The metal chilled my hands to the bone and I got a sense of unhappiness
Which was ridiculous. This was a dream, wasn’t it? Inanimate objects didn’t have feelings.
“Knock it off,” I told it, blinking when the gate snapped open, letting out a long-suffering creak.
“One problem solved.” The man’s eyes slid sideways toward me as I gazed up at the dilapidated house.
A once-stately Victorian construct, the place had seen better days. The shutters hung haphazardly and the paint peeled from the siding like strips of tattered paper. The rotting steps made a dubious whimper as we mounted them and headed for the outer porch.
“What a dump,” I said.
The stranger flinched, releasing my arm, and an unexplainable sorrow lanced through me.
“I just meant as far as dreams go,” I amended hastily, somehow wanting his approval despite myself. “I mean, I live in a friggin’ tree palace right now . . . you’d think I’d be dreaming with slightly higher standards.”
“You’d think,” he retorted. Abruptly he turned toward me. “Who are you?”
“You already know my name. You said it back there. Which reminds me, how do you know who I am?” It seemed like a fair enough question for a dream.
“Name tag.” He pointed to my chest. Sure enough, I glanced down to see it—a simple little plastic rectangle, the letters spelling out ABBY SINCLAIR in lopsided relief.
I frowned. “That wasn’t there before.”
He gestured about us. “Dreaming, remember? Shall we go inside?”
I shrugged, intrigued. “I guess.” I doubted there would be anything of interest in this rundown piece of crap, but I couldn’t remember another dream taking hold of my mind so vividly. Might as well let it play out.
The door opened beneath my touch and I crossed the threshold with a slight twitch of nervousness. For all my brave thoughts, it was still a creepy old house, not counting the stranger, who shadowed my steps with an aura of expectancy.
Inside was nothing special—hardwood floors and dusty shelves, lights flickering as though they might go out at any moment. “I wonder if there’s a fuse box somewhere.”
“I doubt it.” He glanced at me with a ripple of amusement and I flushed.
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered. Ignoring him, I continued walking until I stood in what looked like a family room. The fireplace was choked with old ashes, the dying embers banked into dull sparks. A record player perched on a narrow table in the corner, a stack of records before it. Something about them seemed so familiar, but I dismissed the albums when I read the titles. Who the hell still listened to Tom Jones anyway?
Snorting, I circled the rest of the room, noting the tattered quilt on the faded sofa and the bowl of strawberry potpourri. The man leaned in the doorway, his arms crossed as he watched me.
“This is all very lovely,” I said finally. “But there’s nothing here for me. It’s so . . . empty.”
He didn’t speak, but his gaze strayed toward the mantel of the fireplace. “Who are you?”
“I thought we already established that.”
“I told you what your name was,” he countered. “I never heard it from you.”
“Abby . . . Abby Sinclair.” I tugged on the name tag. “For all that this is apparently some sort of Alice in Wonderland moment.” A smile drifted over my face. “I’m a princess, you know.”
His voice darkened. “A princess? Surely that seems like a lofty achievement.”
He brushed past me to the mantel, taking something from the top and tossing it to me. I caught it without a second thought, staring down at the bundled pair of pointe shoes bemusedly.
“Ballet slippers?” My brow furrowed. “What am I supposed to do with these? I’ve never danced a day in my life. Hell, even my betrothed admits I have two left feet.”
He halted as though I’d slapped him. “Betrothed is it?”
“Of course. To be handfasted, anyway.” I stroked the satin of the slippers. They were no mere decoration. The well-worn toes were proof enough of that. “I’m not really a princess, though. Not yet. But I will be. A Faery princess, in fact.”
“Oh, a fine thing, I’m sure,” he said sarcastically. “It seems your fiancé neglected to mention that particular detail when he asked me to come here. Typical elf.” He fixed me with a thin-lipped smile. “I suppose you truly have forgotten, though the Dreamer in you
“Forgotten what? You talk in riddles.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He sighed. “I had hoped things might be different here. This complicates things immensely, but I will make the best of it.”
I threw the slippers onto the couch. “You can try, you mean. I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but I think it’s time I left or woke up or whatever.” I glanced up at the ceiling as though I might will it to happen.
“Stop,” he whispered, taking my hand. “Don’t leave yet.”
Slowly, I turned toward him, a flare of heat sliding up my arm like a welcome friend. I knew this touch. This feeling. His finger brushed my cheek, tipping my chin toward him. A dull thrum beat in my ears, the blood pulsing hot with sudden desire. A hint of gold encircled his pupils, flaring into a brilliant nimbus.
“I . . . know you,” I said hoarsely, my knees going weak.
“Yes.” And then his mouth was upon mine, and I knew I wanted him. Dream or not, stranger or not, the wanting of him burned the edges of my skin, flooding my limbs like liquid fire.
“What is this?” I gasped, letting him wrap his arms around me, his hand snaking down my hips to cup my ass.
“A gift. The last I can give you.” He kissed me again and my eyes shut against the intensity, even as his tongue swept deep. He captured my soft groan. “Look at me, Abby.”