The Siren

By: Meg Xuemei X

Laments of Angels & Dark Chemistry, #1





PROLOGUE





In the atrium courtyard of the Lam complex in the suburbs of Chicago, eighteen-year-old Kian McQuillen watched Lucienne Lam writhe in her nanny’s arms. The rusty red leaves of the oak tree he leaned against drifted down in the wind, caressing the black shirt that stretched over his muscular chest.

“Look, sweet girl,” the nanny coaxed, pointing at a mansion across the courtyard, “the Red Mansion.”

The dawn’s light painted the ceramic tiles of the mansion the color of blood roses. On the roof stood a marble statue of an immortal ruler—the Siren riding a phoenix (凤凰) with two xiphos swords strapped across his back.

“Your grandfather, the Siren, lives there,” the nanny continued.

The baby didn’t look impressed. When she couldn’t wrench free from the nursemaid’s arms, she raised her small fists and pounded the nanny’s face.

“The girl’s got fire!” The nanny turned the baby around to steer clear of her fists. Waving her hands in vain, the baby screamed. A number of the Lam family, who dwelled in the homes of Chicago suburbs situated on the opposite of the Red Mansion, began gathering in the courtyard. Lucienne had awoken everyone.

“The poor child is probably afraid of this new place,” the nanny murmured, “away from her parents.”

That was only half the truth. Kian was among the men who had accompanied Jed Lam—the Siren—to retrieve the baby from her father, who had holed up in San Francisco. The baby’s mother had mysteriously disappeared right after giving birth. Her father gave up his daughter after he got a big paycheck out of her. Kian understood why Jed took his granddaughter to Chicago to be raised in the Red Mansion. The Sirens’ line never produced a female offspring. Lucienne Lam was the first in thousands of years.

“Her mother is Russian trash,” spat a haughty seven-year-old as he approached the baby. The boy was the most promising candidate to be Siren.

“Your half-sister also has the Siren’s blood,” the nanny said.

“She’s an abomination!” the boy shouted.

“Be nice, master,” said the nanny.

The surrounding family members looked surprised that the timid nanny stood up to defend this baby to the candidate. Kian watched the little scene with his usual blank mask. He wouldn’t take sides. He had stayed neutral and turned down all offers to support any of the twelve candidate clans. They wanted his resources, military skills, and influence with the Siren. Kian’s stony expression shifted to relief when he became aware of Jed’s arrival. He moved like an arrow. In mere seconds, he was at the Siren’s side, amid three of his guards.

At sixty-one, the Lams’ leader exuded power and control and could easily pass for forty-five. Some said the Siren’s power preserved him as it had all Sirens before him.

The courtyard quieted, except for the baby’s outraged cries.

“Hey,” Jed stood before the girl and clapped his hands to get his granddaughter’s attention. “You were fed, weren’t you? So what’s the matter, Lucienne?”

Lucienne snapped her attention to the powerful man. Wearing an encouraging smile, Jed opened his arms. She regarded him a moment longer, then brushed his hand aside. She locked her brown eyes on Kian, probing him, and stretched her chubby arms.

The parents of the candidates could barely contain their glee—the girl had ruined her chance to bond with the Siren by openly rejecting him.

Kian felt sorry for the baby, but she wasn’t his responsibility. His shoulders stiffened and he was about to make a quick exit. But the nanny immediately passed the squalling infant to him. As soon as Kian took the girl, she stopped sobbing.

“Why didn’t you take her earlier,” Jed asked, expressing his obvious displeasure toward his surrogate son, “so she would stop screaming like a hellion?”

“How could I know she’d want me?” Kian said.

“Kian believes children fear him,” the nanny said in a small voice. “Most people do.”

“Children are afraid of Kian, or most people are afraid of Kian?” Jed asked.

“Both,” said the nanny.

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