Artistic Vision

 The Gray Court - 3


Dana Marie Bell


To Mom, who agreed to babysit my little angels while I took Dusty to his first Steampunk Ball. Why is it they’ll follow Nana’s rules without a whimper, but not Mom’s? I want to know what you bribe them with! And do I get any? It’s gotta be some good stuff…

To Dad, who still loves to tell embarrassing stories about me to people I don’t know. You had to know I could hear you, right?

Finally, to Dusty, who looked damn good in his cowboy-steampunk outfit. I only have one thing to say: giddy-up!

Chapter One

Shane studied the statue, currently sitting in the window of one of New York’s finest art galleries, with a critical eye. He gestured toward the assistant in the window to adjust it, stepping back again to view the results. He shook his head, still not satisfied. “The lighting’s wrong.”

One of the gallery’s employees rushed forward and began to change the lighting shining down on the piece. He coughed, trying to hide his amusement as the gallery owner flittered around him like a manic butterfly, breath misting in the chill evening air. The pooka always seemed nervous whenever Shane dropped by. “We’re so sorry, Mr. Joloun. We’ll fix it right away.”

“It’s no problem, Mr. Klaussner. I know this was a last minute addition and I’m just happy you were able to accommodate my request.”

The little man fluttered some more, pleased with himself. Bart Klaussner had been one of the first gallery owners to give him a break, and Shane had made sure he got as many showings as he could handle. Shane was loyal to those who’d helped him along the way, and if his success helped Klaussner, so much the better. “Yes, Mr. Joloun. If I may say, it’s a wonderful piece. Possibly one of your finest.”

Shane allowed his smile to break through. “Thank you. It’s very special to me.”

“It’s a shame it’s not for sale.”

Shane shook his head, his eyes drawn once more to the magnificent flying figure he’d tried to capture in his art. “No. I’d never sell this piece.”

He ignored the way the gallery owner stared at him. Instead, he enjoyed the way the light shown on the gleaming metal sculpture. It came nowhere near how wonderful she actually looked in flight. The graceful curve of her wings, the gleaming gold of her horns, the fire and passion in her every movement captivated him. The cold chrome and brass sculpture was merely an homage to the woman who’d captured him, heart and soul.

“What did you say this piece was called again, Mr. Joloun?”

Shane grinned, not surprised when the gallery owner took a step back. He had a good idea what his expression looked like. It was getting harder and harder to hide the hunger riding him for the woman who had stolen his soul. “Akane.”

The child of Dunne will one day perform an act that will change our world. And with those simple words from the Seer, Akane’s world had been changed, possibly forever. Instead of dancing around New York, Milan, Paris, Monte Carlo and Los Angeles, she was stuck on a farm in Nebraska babysitting one of the most annoying men she’d ever met in her life. Except when her charge chose to disappear on her, that was.

“God damn it, Farm Boy. Where the hell are you? I don’t have time for this shit.” Akane Russo stomped through the slushy New York streets and wished she had time for a little shopping. Here she was in Manhattan, surrounded by luxury, and she couldn’t do crap about it. Shane Dunne had disappeared from his Nebraska farm and the Hob wanted to know where he was—pronto. It was a pretty stupid stunt for Shane to pull, considering the danger his family was in from the Black Court and the Malmayne clan. They’d already kidnapped him once and tortured his sister-in-law to get what they wanted. So what the hell was he thinking, running off to New York by himself? She’d thought better of him, but apparently she was wrong. When most people had the Black Court on their asses they hid behind the Blades like good little boys and girls. Shane, the idiot, just hopped a plane and headed on a merry little jaunt to New York on some kind of lunatic holiday.

The man was a moron. She no longer had any doubts about that.

She turned a corner and snarled. It was starting to snow again, the cold flakes dripping down the back of her neck, below the collar of her cashmere sweater. “Feh. I hate the cold.”

She sniffed the cold air, desperate for a scent of the Nebraskan, but all she got was exhaust fumes and the frustration of every New Yorker stuck trudging through the slush with her. “I’m going to kick his ass when I find him. Kick it and then drag it back home.”

She paused, then shook her head. Home? Since when had the Dunne farm become home? Akane was a city girl through and through. No Green Acres for this Prada-wearing female, thank you very much. Akane crossed the street, glaring at a cabby who dared honk his horn at her.

It was time she “looked” for Shane. She just needed to find a nice, quiet spot to do so, one where she wouldn’t be disturbed for a few seconds. She found it, ducking into a doorway and staring up at the sky like she was hoping for the snow to stop falling. Which, however you looked at it, she sort of was.

Akane allowed her inner eye to open. The pale star in the center of her left iris expanded, granting her that second sight she so relied on in her work. She focused her thoughts on Shane, picturing his striking red-gold hair, his sparkling sapphire eyes, his scarred farmer’s hands that had cradled hers so gently.

A swirl of power filled her vision, that green and gold signifying his mixed blood, leprechaun and Sidhe. Beneath that swirling light was Shane, but whatever it was he was doing she couldn’t tell. The light of his power blinded her to his actions.

Shit. She’d never find Jethro at this rate. She closed down her inner sight with a sigh. She was tired, her feet were cold, and she wanted a latte in the worst way, but if she didn’t find Shane soon her ass was going to be a chew toy for Robin’s hobgoblins.

She stepped out of the doorway and winced as the last of the evening light glinted off of something metal in the window next to her. She turned her head to catch whatever it was that had reflected the light.

Akane gasped. She was staring in the window of an art gallery. There, on a black pedestal, surrounded by black velvet, was a silver and brass sculpture. It rose majestically from some sort of crystal base, seeming to float in the air. It swirled and dipped with ballerina-like grace, dainty and feminine despite the masculine medium of metal and glass. She stepped closer to the window, enchanted, almost breathless at the sense of flight the figure exuded. She could see wings quivering in the lines of the piece as if it just waited for a moment, a breath and it would take off, forever free. It spoke of strength, elegance, and a fierce desire to fly.

She wanted it in a way she wanted very little else. The dragoness half of her blood yearned for the piece in a way not even a diehard chocoholic at the window of a Godiva store could comprehend. She glanced down at the card at the base of the statue, wondering who’d created the piece and if she could afford it. When she read the name of the piece she stopped breathing.

Akane, by Shane Joloun. Not For Sale.

Shane Joloun.

“What the hell?” She stomped into the art gallery. Dear gods, she could smell Shane all over the place, his scent rich and earthy and oh so tempting. She grabbed the first person in a suit she caught. “Excuse me, can I

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