Queen (Fae Games 3)
Jesse recovered the missing ke’tain to keep her parents safe, but it came at a high price. In the weeks after her brush with death, she struggles to adapt to her new life, while burdened with the terrible secret she learned about her brother Caleb.
On her first visit to Faerie, Jesse faces new challenges and perils amid the splendor of the Unseelie court. Her relationship with Lukas grows stronger, but her happiness is overshadowed by a threat to both worlds. She might be the only one who can save them if she is willing to risk her own future to do it.
Together with an old friend, Jesse takes on the most dangerous job of her life. She discovers an inner strength she never knew she possessed; one she will need when she confronts her greatest enemy. Secrets are revealed and lives are changed forever. Jesse will make her last play, but will it be enough for her to survive the final showdown of this lethal game?
A loud crackling sound filled the air that felt charged with static electricity and made my hair stand on end. The cemetery was suddenly bathed in a purple glow that caused memories of another storm to flash through my mind. All I could think of was getting my parents away from here.
Behind us, someone shouted. A second later, there was a snap followed by a small explosion. We spun to see pieces of black marble spraying out from where a headstone had stood a few dozen yards away.
“My God,” Mom uttered.
Magic surged around me again. Before I could move, a bolt of purple lightning obliterated a statue, sending stone shrapnel in every direction. I watched in horror as a jagged column of electricity scorched the grass and sped away from the destroyed statue.
“Jesse!” Dad’s voice held a note of alarm that had me spinning to face him. Or I tried to. It’s a little hard to turn when you are suddenly weightless and floating a foot off the floor.
“What the hell?” I grabbed for the window ledge, but it was out of reach as I drifted upward like a helium balloon. My head bumped gently against the ceiling and I put my hands up to brace against it. I fought to keep the panic out of my voice. “Dad?”
He had barely taken three steps toward me when the door opened and Faolin burst in as if he expected to find us under attack. He came up short and his hard expression relaxed into one of amusement at the sight of my predicament.
I glared at him. “Don’t just stand there. Get me down from here.”
I spun and saw Lukas stepping from a portal a few dozen yards away. He looked angry enough to uproot the trees as he strode toward me. I met him halfway, and threw my arms around him.
I was prepared to be yelled at and scolded, and I deserved it. What I didn’t expect was for him to wrap me in his arms and hold me tight against him like I might vanish at any moment.
He murmured something in Fae I couldn’t understand, but no translation was needed to hear the worry in his voice. Guilt wracked me for being for reckless and making him worry.
“We had no idea where you’d gone and there was no way to trace you.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” I said against his chest. “I was stupid and I never should have tried that.”
Lukas released a ragged sigh. “Sometimes, mi’calaech, I don’t know if Aedhna sent you as a kindness or a test of my sanity.”
I smiled. “Maybe I’m both.”
“You allowed me?” I sputtered. “Newsflash, Lukas. You don’t have any say in where I live or what I do.”
“Actually, he does,” said Faolin, causing me to jump. I turned to see him stepping out of a portal.
I scoffed. “Since when?”
“Since you became Fae. You’re Unseelie and Lukas is your crown prince. He can command you to do whatever he wishes.”
“You’re joking, right?”
Faolin shook his head.
“What?” I whirled on Lukas. “No one told me this! If you think I’m going to bow down to you because you’re going to be king someday, you have another thing coming.”
“Females, don’t bow, they curtsy,” Faolin said, enjoying this way too much.
“Shhh, Jesse. You’re safe. Your parents are safe,” said Lukas’s soothing voice.
I flailed against the arms wrapped around me but they were too strong. Didn’t he see that my family needed me? I had to go to them.
Conlan spoke in Fae. He sounded worried. They all sounded worried. Were the storms coming for them too? Suddenly, I was back on the ferry on the Hudson watching people fall into the river. Only this time it was Lukas, Conlan, Faris and the others. I tried to reach for Lukas and screamed as he disappeared beneath the roiling water.
I was vaguely aware of being lifted and cradled against a warm chest. “I’m here, Jesse. I’m not leaving you.”
“Jesse? Jesse, can you hear me?” Violet yelled when I answered. I had no trouble hearing her over the background noise.
“Calm down, Vi,” I said with more composure than I felt. “I’m alright.”
“Oh. thank God! Where are you? I couldn’t get to you and then you were gone.”
I grimaced at the panic in her voice. “I’m upstairs in the VIP section with Tennin and Prince Rhys. Can you meet us up here?”
She huffed loudly. “Yes. As soon as I give these asshole paps a piece of my mind. They don’t know who they’re messing with.” There was a slight scuffle and I heard Violet’s muffled “That’s right. I’m talking to you.”
I rubbed my temple. “Vi, please don’t start a fight with the paparazzi.”
Conlan didn’t hide his smirk as he extended a hand to me. “Let me see you back to your rooms.”
“I think I can find my way without getting lost,” I replied irritably, which only seemed to heighten his amusement.
He shrugged. “You never know when some creature might come and whisk you away. Or you might run afoul of one of Vaerik’s jealous admirers. There are dangers everywhere.”
“Funny guy.” I curled my lip as I walked past him. “And to think you used to be my favorite.”
“I am?” he said brightly. “Wait. Used to be?”
Opening the door, I looked back at Lukas. “Have a good meeting.”
I was halfway across the court yard when the door opened behind me and Conlan called, “I took a bullet for you. I am definitely your favorite.”
I kept walking as a grin crept across my face.
“Josie, how lovely to see you again,” Dariyah said with a self-satisfied smirk. “Welcome to Unseelie?”
I turned up my smile a notch. “Thank you, Delilah, it’s great to be here.”
Her blonde friend made a sound and pressed her lips together.
Dariyah’s smile slipped a fraction. “It’s Dariyah, Vaerik’s friend.” She said it like she was a lot more than that to him.
“My bad.” I made an oops face. “I guess I forgot because he doesn’t talk about you to me.”
This time it was her dark-haired friend who could barely keep a straight face.
Dariyah’s smug look vanished. “We heard you were very ill last night.” She lowered her voice to a stage whisper. “Vomiting all over yourself is nothing to be ashamed of.”
I gave her my sweetest smile. “That’s what Lukas said when I woke up this morning. He stayed all night to take care of me.”
Faris escorted me back to Lukas, who leaned in to say, “You have never played for me.”
The teasing note in his voice, sent my stomach into a mad flutter. “Ask nicely and I might.”
Lukas laughed softly and my breath caught. Was I flirting with him? And was he flirting back?
We continued our walk and I spotted a bookseller’s stall. “Oh, Lukas, we have to stop there.”
A gasp nearby alerted me to my faux pas and my face grew warm. I lowered my voice. “I keep forgetting you’re the crown prince.”
“You might the only person in Unseelie who does,” he whispered.
I couldn’t tell if he was disappointed in me or not. “I’m sor–”
“I like it.” His mouth curved. “That’s between us.”
I smiled back. “My lips are sealed.”
I followed Fayette’s gaze to the entrance and my gut hardened when I saw Lukas with Dariyah at his side. She was radiant in a white form-fitting dress and her haughty smile told every female in the room that Lukas was hers. We’d see about that.
My gaze moved to Lukas, who paid no attention to his date as he scanned the terrace. When his eyes locked with mine, he smiled. For a few seconds, no one else in the room existed. With one look, he said it was me he wanted by his side, and he didn’t care if the whole room saw it.
He shifted his stare to Joreth and his eyes narrowed slightly. Warmth burst in my chest and I had to bite back a stupid grin. Lukas was jealous of my date.
Dariyah tugged on his arm and he turned his head to look at her and they continued to their table. I wondered if she had seen our silent exchange and I got my answer when they took their seats at the head table beside his mother. Dariyah’s smile was a lot less smug but the glare she shot me promised I hadn’t won, not by a long shot.
I smiled at her. Bring it.
“It’s such a lovely day. I thought we could ride to the river and have our lunch there.”
“That sounds great,” I said before the rest of her sentence sank in. “There’s one tiny problem.”
Roswen took the reins of the tarran Parisa led to her. “What’s that?”
“I’ve never ridden a tarran.”
“Then you will have to ride with me,” Lukas said from behind me.
I turned to find him astride a glossy black tarran. He smiled devilishly and leaned down to extend a hand to me. My heart gave a little flutter as I walked over and took his hand. He lifted me with ease, settling me in front of him.
“Comfortable?” he asked as his arms encircled me to take the reins.
“Uh-huh.” I glanced around at the other riders, most of whom were watching us curiously. Even Roswen was openly staring, but she looked pleased, too.
I licked my dry lips. “Are you sure it’s a good idea for me to ride with you like this? Won’t people talk?”