By Karen Lynch



Copyright @ 2022 Karen A Lynch


This is a sample. The number of pages is limited.

About Queen


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?



Chapter 1


I stared at my father, waiting for him to say something after the bombshell he’d dropped on me. The torment in his eyes was too much to bear, and it was almost a relief when he turned his head away.

My mind whirled as I tried to think of a response to his declaration that the Seelie crown prince was my brother. My brother, who had died twenty years ago, when he was two months old. The only plausible explanation was that the stress of my near-death had caused Dad to have a mental setback.

Guilt pressed down on me. The doctors had warned me this could happen if he didn’t take it slowly. I needed to call them. The possibility of Dad having to go back to the treatment facility gutted me, but we couldn’t risk his health. Fifty percent of recovering goren addicts went back to using within the first year, and my father would not be one of them.

I laid my hand over his. “Dad, you look pale. Maybe you should lie down for a few minutes.”

“I don’t need to lie down. I’ve slept enough in the last four months.”

“But –”

He swung his gaze back to me. “I’m okay, Jesse. It’s a shock and a lot to take in, but it’s not a delusion.”

I stared into his clear eyes. His tone was rational, and he didn’t look like someone on the verge of a mental breakdown. But his claim that a faerie prince was his dead son was the kind of thing that got people admitted to a psych ward. All I could think of to do was hear him out and see where it went.

“Can you tell me about it?”

Dad drew in a shaky breath. “I don’t know where to start.”

I reached over to take his hand. “Why do you think Prince Rhys is Caleb? Did someone tell you that?”

“No. Your mom recognized the prince when she saw Tennin’s photos of him. She said the hair is different, but the prince has my eyes, and he looks like I did when I was twenty.” Dad let out a weak laugh. “I know how that sounds because I thought the same thing at first.”

“Why didn’t Tennin tell me this?”

Dad shook his head. “He didn’t know. Your mother didn’t tell me until we were back in the car. I thought she was imagining the resemblance until she pulled out an old photo of me she keeps under the visor.”

I realized I was holding my breath. “And?”

“If my hair was blond, I could have been Prince Rhys’s twin when I was his age.”

I had to see this for myself. Standing, I went to the cabinet where Mom kept all the photo albums. They were labeled by year, and I pulled out the one for my parents’ late teens. My heart thudded as I carried the album back to the couch and sat beside Dad. I stared down at the cover, afraid of what I would see when I opened it.

“Do you want me to do it?” Dad asked when I made no move to look inside.

“No.” I lifted the cover. The first few pages were of Mom with her high school girlfriends, followed by an 8x10 photo of her in her cap and gown. I turned the page slowly to reveal Dad’s graduation picture, and it was as if someone had punched all the air from my lungs.

“Oh, my God,” I whispered. Whipping out my phone, I brought up one of the thousands of online pictures of the Seelie crown prince. I laid the phone beside Dad’s photo, and my world tilted on its axis. It wasn’t only the eyes that were the same. Prince Rhys and the eighteen-year-old version of my father had identical smiles and the same tiny cleft in their chins. The prince had more refined features, like a marble statue with all its imperfections polished away, but Dad was right. They could have been twins.

I looked at Dad, who was watching me expectantly. Twenty-three years had passed since that photo was taken, and his face was leaner now with crow’s feet near his eyes and lines around his mouth. When I looked past those things, all I could see was the young man smiling up at me from the album.

“How did I not see it? The first time I talked to Prince Rhys, I felt like I’d met him before, but I thought that was because his face was everywhere.” I shook my head. “What about Bruce, Maurice, and your other friends who knew you back then? None of them saw a resemblance between you and the most famous faerie in the world?”

Dad shrugged. “I doubt they would remember exactly what I looked like back then without seeing a photo. That happens when you age together. As for everyone else, people don’t always see what is in front of them, especially when they aren’t looking for it. Who would think to make a connection between me and the Seelie prince? You didn’t.”

I looked down at the two photos. I knew from personal experience how easy it was not to see something that was right in front of your eyes. I still wondered how I hadn’t realized who Lukas was until Rogin Havas had let it slip.

I pursed my lips as I searched for the right words to phrase what had to be said. “Prince Rhys looks like you, but that doesn’t mean he’s Caleb. I mean…Caleb died. You and Mom saw him, and there was an autopsy and a funeral.”

I flinched internally and saw an answering expression on Dad’s face. He and Mom never liked to talk about that time, but there was no way around it now.

He shifted position and glanced away before meeting my eyes again. “The medical examiner said Caleb died from pulmonary atresia, which is almost always diagnosed soon after the baby is born. Caleb was two months old, and he didn’t have any of the symptoms. He looked like a normal, healthy baby. Your mom…” He swallowed. “She didn’t believe the dead baby she found in the crib was ours. She said a mother knows her own child, and that someone had switched her baby for a dead one.”

Dad’s voice cracked on the last word. Tears pricked my eyes, and I blinked them away.

“The baby looked like Caleb, and the M.E. said there was nothing suspicious about his death. I explained that to your mom, but she was too distraught to believe it. Nothing would convince her Caleb was dead.”

“What did you do?” I asked around the rock lodged in my throat. I had always seen the sadness in Mom’s eyes when Caleb’s name came up, but my parents had never gone into detail about his death, other than the cause.

He cleared his throat. “I thought she would come to accept it after a few days, but she refused to even make the funeral arrangements. And then she started going up to strangers with babies to check that their baby wasn’t Caleb.” Dad paused, his face etched in pain. “It was bad for the first year. After a while, she started to be more like her old self, but I don’t think she was happy again until we found out she was pregnant with you.”

“You guys never told me any of this,” I said hoarsely.

“Your mom didn’t want you to know. It was a very dark time in our lives, and she was ashamed of how she behaved.” His face twisted in agony. “No one believed her when she said the baby wasn’t Caleb – not even me. And all this time, she was right.”

Needing to do something, I laid the album on the coffee table and got up to walk around the room. It hurt too much to think about what my parents had suffered back then, so I focused on their disappearance.

“What happened the night you disappeared, Dad?”

He straightened his shoulders as if he was shaking off the pain. “Your mom wanted to see the prince in person. We called one of our contacts at the Ralston and found out he was doing a photo shoot in the small ballroom on the sixth floor. The odds of getting near him were slim, but we had to try.” Dad stared past me as he remembered the events of that night. “The moment we stepped off the elevator, I knew your mom was right. Prince Rhys is Caleb.”

A new wave of shock rolled through me. “You saw him?”

“Not the prince. The ballroom door was open and a group was leaving. There were two male faeries in front, and as soon as they saw us, they came to intercept us. They knew who we were before we could even show them our IDs. One of them said he knew they should have killed us twenty years ago when they took the boy.”

I pressed a hand to my mouth as he continued. “They restrained us and told the prince’s guard to take him to his suite while they dealt with the problem. The next thing I knew, we were in the ballroom and they were calling Rogin Havas to dispose of us. They didn’t want the death of two well-known bounty hunters to draw any attention to Prince Rhys and risk reporters making a connection between him and us. They had no idea Rogin’s sister would intercept the call and save us.”

“You remember seeing her?” I’d told him that Raisa had been the one who gave them the goren to keep them alive. Until now, he had no memory of her part in it.

“Yes. I woke up in her house. She said she would do whatever she could to keep us alive. After that, all my memories are foggy. I can’t tell the real ones from the goren dreams.”

I continued pacing. I couldn’t think about the possibility that my brother was alive or about everything my parents had been through. It was too much for my brain to process all at once. Instead, I focused on the person at the root of it all, the one who had caused my family so much pain.

“What I don’t get is why? Why would Queen Anwyn steal a human baby, convert him, and raise him as her son? Her heir? One thing I know about Fae politics is that they only want the bluest blood in the royal line. I can’t believe any Seelie faerie with an ounce of royal blood would be okay with someone who isn’t even Fae-born being their king someday.”

“They would if they don’t know he isn’t Fae-born.”

“That’s it!” I whipped my head toward my father. “That’s why her guard tried to have you and Mom killed, and why they don’t want you to remember. I thought they were worried you knew about them stealing the ke’tain, but all along it was about Prince Rhys…Caleb…”

My voice trailed off, and a knife twisted in my gut at the fresh pain in Dad’s eyes. I couldn’t imagine what he was going through. His son had been ripped from him and raised as a faerie with no knowledge of his real parents. Even if Prince Rhys somehow learned the truth and wanted to know his family, we could never get back the life that had been stolen from us.

I went back to pacing. “It still doesn’t explain why she would take a human baby and pass him off as her own. What could she gain from that?”

“I don’t know.” Dad stared down at his hands. “But she went through a lot of trouble to do it and to cover it up.”

He was right. Her guards had done a lot more than steal Caleb. They’d switched him with a changeling made to look like my brother, which required a lot of magic. They also would have had to glamour the medical examiner to make sure the autopsy report confirmed the dead baby was Caleb and that he’d died of a heart defect.

After all of that, the guards couldn’t bring a human baby to Faerie. Their magic wasn’t strong enough to do a conversion, which meant Queen Anwyn had secretly come to our realm to perform it herself.

But why Caleb? Of the millions of male babies in the world, why had they chosen my brother? Had they been looking for something specific, or were we the first family they found with a baby boy? We’d probably never know the answer to that, and I feared it would haunt my parents for the rest of their lives.

Helpless anger flared inside me. The Seelie queen had done nothing but bring pain to the people I loved, and she was virtually untouchable. Not that we had evidence of her crime. The prince’s resemblance to Dad could be passed off as coincidence, and we had no proof of his real identity. Once a human became Fae, none of our human DNA remained. It was one of the things I’d been struggling with this past week.

There was the body Mom and Dad had buried, but it would take a lot more than a crazy story about changelings to get the authorities to exhume it. And something like that would not go unnoticed. My family would be dead before the ink was dry on the order.

A soft whistle drew my attention to Finch, who stood at the end of the hallway. His eyes were wide and worried as he signed, Is Dad okay?

I followed his gaze to where Dad sat with his head in his hands, and then I signed back, Yes. He’s just figuring out something.

Okay. He turned and disappeared again.

Dad moved his head from side to side. “It’s my fault. I should have kept him safe.”

“How can you say that?” I went to sit beside him. “No human is a match for the Seelie royal guard. You know that better than anyone.”

“You don’t understand. I had the apartment warded, but only against the kinds of faeries we hunted. I never thought to protect us from Court faeries. If I had, they wouldn’t have gotten in and taken Caleb.”

“You can’t blame yourself for that. No one would have thought to ward against the royal guard.” I laid my head against his shoulder, lost as to how to comfort the strongest man I’d ever known. My father was a protector, and he’d carry this guilt on his shoulders forever. It was one more reason for me to despise the Seelie queen.

Neither of us spoke for a long moment, and it was Dad who broke the silence. “We need to make a plan.”

“A plan for what?” I straightened. Surely, he wasn’t going to suggest we tell Prince Rhys who he really was. As much as I wanted my parents to be happy, I was terrified of what the queen would do to them.

“To protect our family. If Queen Anwyn learns the prince has been here and met me, she’s not going to take it well. And if her guards find out I have my memories back, they –”

“No.” Fear sent me to my feet. “We can’t tell anyone about this. The Seelie guard will come after you and Mom, and I can’t lose you again. I can’t.”

“Jesse.” Dad stood and put his hands on my trembling shoulders. “I’m not talking about going public with this. But if the prince keeps showing interest in us, the queen will take notice, and her guard will come snooping around. We need to prepare for that.”


He pressed his lips together, and his grip on my shoulders tightened a fraction. “The first thing we have to do is tell Lukas.”

“No.” I shook my head so hard it almost gave me whiplash.

Dad stopped me when I would have pulled away from him. “Listen to me. I know you’re still angry at him, but he cares about you. He’ll protect you.”

I had no idea what I felt for Lukas anymore. At first, I’d been furious at him because he’d made me Fae without giving me a choice, even though there had been no way I could have made that decision. Then I’d hated myself for being unfair to the person who had saved my life. I’d spent the last week alternating between hoping he would come assure me everything would be okay and not wanting to see him. Not that he had tried to see me – or talk to me. The others had been taking turns calling to check on me, but I hadn’t heard a word from him since the day he brought me home.

There was one thing I did know. If we told him about Caleb and what Queen Anwyn had done, he wouldn’t let me stay here. He’d most likely send me to Unseelie to keep me safe, and it could be months or years before I saw my family again. After everything I’d gone through to get them back, I wasn’t letting anyone separate us.

I shared my fears with Dad and waited for several long minutes while he paced the room deep in thought. His face was still pale, but he looked more like himself as he worked out things in his head.

He stopped walking midstride and turned to me. “We’ll tell people the doctor said our memories are gone for good. That usually only happens with long-term goren addiction, but we were given high doses and put into comas, so it will be believable. If the guard is watching, they’ll get wind of it.”

“What about Mom? What if she gets her memory back and tells someone?”

Dad nodded. “I’ll talk to her. She’ll be okay.”

I didn’t ask what he would say to her. If he said he would take care of it, he would. My parents’ marriage was built on a deep foundation of trust and mutual understanding. They were best friends and partners and knew each other better than anyone else ever could. Whatever Dad told her, she would trust him and follow his example without question.

“That takes care of Mom. How do we protect you if the queen’s guard comes around?”

A gleam entered his eyes. “The guard took me by surprise last time, but now I know what I’m up against. I’ll make some preparations and call in favors from a few friends. Don’t worry about me.”

The pressure on my chest eased. “Are you going to tell Maurice the truth?”

“Yes. I’ll ask him to come by this evening.”

Maurice normally didn’t stay in town this long, and I’d assumed he’d be off on another big job now that the ke’tain had been found. He felt guilty that he hadn’t been there for us when Mom and Dad were missing, and he wanted to make up for that by sticking around for another month or so. I’d never been so happy to know he was next door.

“Now what do we do about you?” Dad asked, startling me from my thoughts.

“What about me?”

“It’s you Prince Rhys came to see. Even if the queen believes my memories are gone for good, she’s not going to allow you two to continue seeing each other.” Dad paused. “Especially if she thinks his interest in you is more than platonic.”

My stomach rolled at the mere suggestion that Prince Rhys might have any romantic interest in me. He was raised a Faerie, but he was still my brother. The fact that I’d never been attracted to him didn’t ease the ick factor one bit.

It made much more sense now why Queen Anwyn had sent her guards to warn me away from him. It had nothing to do with me being a lowly bounty hunter and everything to do with me being his sister.

“I doubt we’ll be seeing that much of him anymore. You heard what he said when he was here. He’s Seelie and I’m Unseelie, so it wouldn’t be right for him to visit me.” I let out a breath. “And I don’t think the queen will come after me now that I’m Unseelie. She knows I’m friends with Lukas, and after the whole ke’tain thing, he would suspect her if anything happened to me.”

“That’s true.” Dad smiled, but there was no mistaking the flicker of sadness in his eyes. His focus was on keeping our family safe, but at the root of all of this was the child who had been stolen from him. What turmoil he must be feeling. To protect the rest of his family, he had to pretend he didn’t know his son was alive and well.

He cleared his throat. “I’m going to the office to make a few calls.”

“I’ll make us some coffee,” I said a little too cheerfully. “That is if you haven’t used up my stash.”

“I wouldn’t dare.” He chuckled, and the sound warmed me.

As soon as he left the room, the weight of everything I’d learned pressed down on me again. I moved on autopilot as I put the coffee on and took down two large mugs. The last week I’d wallowed in my misery, thinking about what I’d lost. That was nothing compared to what my parents had suffered and the loss to our family.

Caleb is alive. I wondered how many times I’d have to repeat those three words before they sank in. I thought back on all the years of visiting his grave with my parents, of looking at that tiny, white headstone and imagining what my life would have been like if my brother had lived. Not in a hundred years could I have envisioned a scenario where he was stolen by faeries and raised as the crown prince of Seelie. Or that if I breathed a word of it to anyone, the monster he called a mother would have my entire family killed.

The coffee finished brewing, and I inhaled the rich aroma as I poured it into our mugs. At least some things didn’t change. I made my father’s just how he liked it and then my own. I had been so depressed for the last week I couldn’t even think about food, and the smell of the coffee made me realize how much I’d missed it.

I raised the cup to my mouth and closed my eyes to savor the first sip.

And then I sprayed coffee across the kitchen.

I set the mug on the counter and ran to the sink, ducking my head under the faucet to rinse the awful taste from my mouth. It was bitter and ashy and made me think this must be what burnt dirt tasted like. No matter how much water I gargled, I couldn’t get rid of it.

Raising my head, I wiped my mouth with my sleeve and stared at the coffee left in the pot. Someone was pranking me. They’d switched out my coffee for this horrid stuff and…

Realization hit me like a blast of cold air, and I let out a cry that would have put a banshee to shame. Dad came running into the kitchen, wild-eyed like he expected to find the entire Seelie guard attacking me.

“What’s wrong?” he asked a little breathlessly.

“I hate coffee,” I wailed.

He stared at me in confusion until understanding dawned on his face. “I’m sorry, honey. It was bound to happen.”

I bent my head so he couldn’t see the tears burning my eyes.

“Jesse,” Dad said at the same time the doorbell rang. I grabbed some paper towels and cleaned up my mess while he went to see who else was paying us a visit. The way this day was going, it was probably Queen Anwyn.

I didn’t look to see who it was, but I could hear the murmur of male voices. Seconds later, footsteps approached, and I looked up at Faolin’s scowling face. I would have preferred the Seelie queen.

“Are you crying?” he asked brusquely.

I tossed the wet paper towels in the trash. “I’m just that happy to see you.”

He scoffed, but I caught a glimmer of amusement in his eyes, which only annoyed me more. His sharp gaze moved past me to the coffee machine and the two mugs on the counter. He quickly put two and two together, and in typical Faolin fashion, he said, “You’re crying because you can no longer drink that stuff?”

I glared at him. “It’s not about the coffee.” I didn’t need to add the words “you insensitive jerk” because my tone more than implied them.

“Then what is it?”

“It’s nothing.” He was the last person I wanted to confide in. I hadn’t even told Dad about it. That ever since I’d woken up and learned I was Fae, I had taken comfort in the fact that I still looked and felt human. I had no magic or Fae strength, and iron didn’t affect me thanks to my goddess stone. As long as none of that changed, I could pretend I was the same old Jesse.

I crossed my arms. “Why are you here, Faolin?”

“I brought you some food.” He set a bulging cloth bag on the counter.

I eyed the bag warily. “We have plenty of food.”

“Human food.” He loosened the drawstring and took out various Fae fruits, a few of which I recognized, along with a bottle of green juice and two small, round loaves of dark bread. The juice looked like the same stuff Faris had drunk during his convalescence.

Faolin finished his task and looked at me. “Your father said you have barely eaten since you came home.”

“Did he?” I shot Dad an accusing look. He hadn’t been at the door long enough to discuss my eating habits, which meant he’d talked to Faolin before his unexpected visit.

Dad leaned his shoulder against the wall, not looking the least bit contrite. “You have certain nutritional needs you didn’t have before, and I wasn’t sure exactly what to buy.”

“Faeries can eat human food,” I reminded them.

“Yes, but we also require Fae nourishment.” Faolin picked up something that resembled an elongated pink pear. “Fruits and juice will be the easiest for you to digest until your body adjusts to the change. You can have Fae bread but only in small portions at first.”

“What? No crukk steak?” I quipped. Crukks were the main source of meat in Faerie. They looked like a shrunken version of a wooly mammoth and they were raised domestically like our cattle.

He gave me a mocking smile. “You can eat crukk if you don’t mind it coming back up an hour later.”

I made a face. “I’ll stick to beef.”

“As long as you make sure to include enough Fae foods in your daily diet.” He waved a hand over the food. “You can get any of this at the local Fae market, or you can call us, and we will bring you what you need.”

“Thanks,” I said without much enthusiasm.

“Do you need anything else?” he asked.

Yes. I want to know why Lukas didn’t bring the food, and why he is the only one who hasn’t called me, I thought, but all I said was, “No.”

“Then I’ll be going.”

Dad stepped back to let Faolin pass. “Thank you for coming by. We appreciate everything you and the others have done for us, and when my daughter gets her manners back, she will tell you the same.”

I scowled at my father. What was he talking about? I’d thanked them. Hadn’t I?

“You’re welcome,” Faolin said. His back was to me, but there was no missing the note of laughter in his voice. At the door, he turned to face me. “Don’t think your new status means you no longer have to train. We will resume that after you build up your strength.”

“Oh, joy. I can’t wait.”

“Neither can I.” He flashed me a devious smile as he left. “See you soon, Jesse.”

Dad followed me back to the kitchen. “It was nice of him to bring you food.”

“He’s a real boy scout.” I opened the bottle of juice and sniffed. It was the same stuff Faris used to drink. I capped it and put it in the fridge then grabbed a basket from the cabinet for the fruit.

“You’re not going to eat any of it now?” Dad asked when I was done.

“Not hungry.” I picked up my mug and gave it a longing look before I poured the coffee down the drain. After rinsing the mug, I placed it in the draining rack to dry. “Well, I guess I’ll save a lot of money on coffee.”

He came over to put an arm across my shoulders and gave them a small squeeze. “There’s the Jesse I know.”

I heaved a sigh. “I’m sorry I’ve been so hard to live with this week.”

“You had a good excuse, so I’ll let you off easy this –”

The floor vibrated beneath our feet, and a rumbling sound filled the air as if a plane was flying low over our building. I clung to Dad as the windows rattled, and car alarms started to go off down on the street.

It was over as fast as it had started, leaving the two of us staring at each other in stunned silence.

I was the first to find my voice. “Did we just have an earthquake?”


Chapter 2


Before he could answer, flashes of colored lights outside drew my gaze to the window. I ran over to look up at the sky and saw the familiar light display. We weren’t having an earthquake. It was a Fae storm. Only, this time, it was over land instead of the Hudson.

I twitched as static electricity moved across my skin. That was new and not at all pleasant. Shaking it off, I said, “Dad, come look at this.”

“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 serious 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.”

He made a sound suspiciously like a laugh as he came over to place his hands on my waist. Pale blue magic poured from his fingers, and the uncomfortable tingling sensation disappeared. Seconds later, gravity took over, and I floated back to the floor.

“Thanks,” I said, too happy to be back on solid ground to care about the smirk he wore. “What was that?”

He stepped back and gave me a once-over. “Your body reacted to the storm. Humans can’t feel a storm’s energy. Faeries feel it, but it doesn’t affect us. You, on the other hand, are newly converted, and you have barely developed your magic. That makes you susceptible to it.”

“Great,” I muttered. “I hope I’m not outside the next time there’s a storm, or I’ll be the first faerie in orbit.”

Faolin actually chuckled. “I think we can give you something to carry with you when you go out that will suppress your magic until you can control it.”

“Like a dampening ward?” Dad asked.

Faolin nodded. “We can’t ward Jesse, but she should be able to carry something on her person. It will allow her to feel other magic while not reacting to it.”

Dad folded his arms across his chest. “I thought the storms were supposed to get weaker now that the ke’tain is back in Faerie.”

“It’s taking longer than we expected,” Faolin said. His phone rang, and he walked away to answer it.

“I can’t wait to see how the Agency tries to spin this one with the public.” I glanced out the window and saw that the lights were gone from the sky. The Hudson storm had been passed off as a freak tornado that had happened at the exact same time as the aurora borealis. I still couldn’t believe people had accepted that explanation.

“I don’t think they can.” Dad turned to the hallway. “I’m going to check on Finch and Aisla. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Now that I was alone with Faolin, snatches of his phone conversation reached me. “She’s okay. I was outside when it hit.”

I didn’t need to hear the other person’s voice to guess who it was. Anger and hurt licked at me. If Lukas was concerned about me, why didn’t he call me instead of Faolin? Was the thought of talking to me that abhorrent to him now?

Faolin ended the call and looked at me. “One of us will bring the ward to you later today. It will most likely be a bracelet or something to wear around your neck. Try not to go outside until then.”

“I won’t. Thanks.”

“Thank you for your help,” Dad said, rejoining us.

We said our goodbyes again, and Faolin left for the second time today. Dad and I went downstairs to check on Mrs. Russo and the other residents who were shaken by the storm. As scary as it had been, it was nothing compared to the violent one I’d experienced on the ferry two months ago. I was more rattled by the whole floating thing than the storm itself.

I was unnerved when we checked the news reports an hour later and learned Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo had all experienced similar storms around the same time. It was no coincidence that these five cities were the most popular in the world for faerie portals. Our storm had set off a citywide panic that had prompted both the mayor and the governor to go on the air to reassure people they were safe.

Two hours after the storm, the White House and the Agency did a joint press conference. Without going into too much detail, they informed the country about an artifact that had been brought here from Faerie, causing some instability in the barrier between the two realms. After telling viewers the object was safely back in Faerie, they assured people the barrier was healing, but there could be more storms until the damage was repaired.

“The worst is over,” said the national head of the Agency during the barrage of questions fired at them by reporters.

I looked over at my father. “Do you believe that?”


I rubbed my suddenly cold arms. “Me either.”


* * *

“Are you ready for this?” Dad asked as he reached for the door handle.

I smiled at him. “Are you?”

“Guess we’ll find out.” Grinning, he opened the door, and we stepped into the lobby of the Plaza. It felt like it had been a lot longer than three weeks since the last time I’d been here. I couldn’t imagine what it was like for him coming back after a four-month absence.

There were at least a dozen hunters in the lobby, and all heads turned in our direction. It surprised me to realize I knew everyone there. So much had changed since the first time I’d set foot in this building all those months ago.

A cheer went up, and some of the hunters clapped as they called out to Dad. In the next instant, we were surrounded by his old friends clamoring to welcome him back.

Warmth filled me as I watched him talking and laughing and looking more like his old self than he had since he’d come home. I’d been a little worried it was too soon for him to come here with me today, but this was exactly what he needed.

I spotted Maurice, Bruce, and Trey standing on one side of the room, and I walked over to join them. Maurice dropped by our apartment every day, but I hadn’t seen Bruce or Trey since before the day I’d nearly died from a bullet to the chest. As far as they and the other bounty hunters were concerned, I had been shot in the arm and had taken time off to heal. Outside of my family, the only humans who knew the real story were Maurice, Violet, and the Agency.

“Jesse, good to have you back,” Bruce said as Maurice gave me a one-armed hug.

“It’s good to be back,” I replied lightly. I had been practically floating since I got a call from the Agency this morning letting me know my license had been reinstated. I’d immediately called Levi, who told me to drop by this afternoon.

Trey pushed away from the wall he was leaning against. “How’s the arm?”

“Like it was never shot.”

He gave a slow shake of his head. “I can’t believe you were shot by Davian Woods, of all people.”

My jaw went slack. “How do you know about Davian?” I was under the impression the Agency hadn’t released any details of that day.

Trey smirked. “You should know by now that word travels around here. We heard you found the ke’tain, and Woods tried to take it from you.”

The rumor was close enough to the truth, so I nodded. “Good thing he’s a lousy shot.”

Trey’s eyes widened. “It’s true? You were the one who found the ke’tain?” He whistled. “A hundred thousand dollars. What are you going to do with all that money?”

A hand came to rest on my shoulder, and Dad said, “She’s going to college.”

He moved to stand beside me, and we shared a smile. In the week since his life-changing revelation that Caleb was alive, Dad and I had spent a lot of time talking about the future and making plans. He’d insisted I use the ke’tain bounty for school, which meant I had enough to start college in the fall. Come September, I would be a fulltime student at Harvard University.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about leaving my family after all that had happened. Every time I brought it up, Dad said college was months away and everything would be back to normal by then. I wanted to believe that more than anything.

Trey made a face. “College? I thought you were going to hunt from now on.”

“Harvard,” Dad corrected him proudly. “She’ll keep hunting until the fall.”

Maurice beamed at me. “Harvard? That’s wonderful!”

“You don’t mind her hunting alone?” Trey asked.

“I wouldn’t say that.” Dad smiled at me. “But Jesse’s proven more than capable of taking care of herself. And things seem to have calmed down here now that the ke’tain is back in Faerie.”

“If by normal you mean except for the storms.” Bruce’s voice was laced with resentment. “How could they have kept that from us?”

His anger was justified. Maurice had told Dad and me the bounty hunters were furious they had been left in the dark. They understood why the Agency wanted to keep it from the general public, but this vital information should have been shared with the hunters. The Agency’s actions had created a layer of tension between them and the hunters, who now viewed them with distrust.

Guilt gnawed at me. I’d learned the truth about the storms from Lukas, but I hadn’t told anyone. Thinking back, I wasn’t sure why I’d kept it to myself. And now the Agency and I were keeping another secret from my fellow bounty hunters. How would they react when the news of my conversion came out?

The elevator dinged, and I looked over to see the Mercer twins walk out. When Adrian saw us, he poked his brother, and the two of them headed our way.

“Are those Joe and Leah Mercer’s boys?” Maurice asked. “I think the last time I saw them, they were in middle school.”

Dad nodded. “They’ve been hunting for two years.”

“Lord, I feel old.” Maurice rubbed the back of his neck. Dad and Bruce laughed.

Aaron and Adrian exchanged hellos with us, and then Adrian grinned. “We just landed our first Four from Silas.”

“That’s awesome!” I fist-bumped him.

“We did a few Fours with Mom and Dad, but this is our first since we went on our own,” Aaron said.

“What kind of Four did you get?” Dad asked them.

They puffed out their chests and spoke in unison. “Banshee.”

“No way!” Envy pricked me. Banshees didn’t show up much, maybe one or two a year. I’d read up on them, but I knew I’d never be assigned one because they were not a one-person job. It took at least two people to capture a banshee.

Adrian looked at Maurice with something akin to hero worship. “Any advice?”

“If it’s your first banshee, partner up with another team,” Maurice said.

Bruce nodded. “Don’t let your guard down for a second. They’re slippery even when they’re in shackles.”

“And don’t look her straight in the eyes when she’s wailing,” Dad added. “She’ll be able to control you, and you do not want a banshee in your head.”

A shiver went through me at his words, and Aaron and Adrian shuddered as they exchanged a look. They did their weird twin communication thing before they turned to me with identical earnest expressions.

“Jesse, you want to help us catch a banshee tonight?” Aaron asked.

“Are you kidding?” A grin split my face until I remembered what Maurice had told them. “But I don’t have a partner.”

Trey quietly cleared his throat. Aaron and Adrian ignored him, but I made the mistake of meeting his hopeful eyes. Ah, hell. I didn’t want to work another job with him, but I’d feel like a total jerk for leaving him out.

“If Bruce doesn’t need Trey, I guess he could be my partner for this one,” I said without much enthusiasm.

“Sure,” Trey blurted.

Bruce shot me a grateful smile. “He’s all yours.”

The twins looked less happy about it, so I added, “Trey and Bruce did bring in a banshee last year.”

I didn’t mention they had worked with Phil Griffin on that one, and that Trey had been more of a bystander. He had witnessed a banshee capture in person, which was more than the rest of us could say.

The twins did their silent look again and nodded at the same time. Was I the only one who found it a little creepy when they did that?

“Okay,” they said together.

“Great.” My excitement built up again. “Where and when?”

Aaron took out his phone. “I’ll send you the details.”

I texted him my number since I already had theirs. Trey and I agreed to meet up at my place and drive together since it made no sense to go separately when we lived a few streets apart. He and Bruce headed out, leaving me with Dad and Maurice.

Amusement sparkled in Dad’s eyes. “Didn’t you tell me working with Trey would drive you insane?”

“I said I’d go insane after a week of working with him. I think I can survive a few hours.”

Maurice chuckled. “The question is, will Trey survive?”

I let out a puff of air. “I make no promises.”


* * *

Three hours later, Aaron, Adrian, Trey, and I stood across the street from a twenty-five-story high-rise in the Upper East Side as Aaron explained the situation to us.

“Here’s what we know. A woman committed suicide here in January. She jumped from her apartment on the top floor. Last week, contractors started renovations up there, and a few days ago a banshee appeared. She’s been sticking to the top level, and so far, she hasn’t hurt anyone, but she has been keeping everyone off the floor.”

“Was the woman’s name Claire…something?” I asked because the story sounded familiar.

Aaron glanced down at his phone. “Claire Parker. How did you know that?”

“I remember seeing it on the news.” I’d watched a lot of TV when I visited my parents during their first two weeks in the hospital. The story about Claire Parker had been all over the local news the first week of January. She had been an up-and-coming model, who had recently signed a contract with one of the big cosmetic companies.

“Good memory,” Adrian said.

I craned my neck to look up at the top floors of the building. “Maybe the police were wrong about it being a suicide.”

Trey nudged me. “What makes you say that?”

“A banshee only haunts a place this long after a death if it’s a violent death like a murder.” I lowered my gaze to meet his. “And that means –”

“This banshee is going to be angry,” he finished for me.

I nodded grimly. “She is not going without a fight.”

Banshees appeared for two reasons. The most common one was when someone, usually a female, was dying. No one knew why they were attracted to some deaths and not others, but they would wail mournfully every night until the person was dead.

The second reason was to lament the violent death of a female. Faeries said the banshee was drawn to the angry, restless spirit of the deceased, and her keening forced the spirit to sever its final ties to the mortal world. The banshee could feel all of the spirit’s grief and rage, which made her angry as well. And an angry banshee was a dangerous one.

“Great,” Trey muttered.

I looked at Aaron and Adrian. “Let’s do this.”

We crossed the street and entered the building. As we rode the elevator up, we talked strategy. There weren’t many options when dealing with a banshee, so it didn’t take long to plan our attack. It was the execution of the plan that would be the hard part.

On the twenty-fifth floor, the doors slid open to a dark cavernous space. Most of the interior walls were gone, leaving support beams, hanging electrical wires, and sheets of thick plastic that fluttered like wraiths in the cold breeze whistling eerily through the empty floor.

I opened the small backpack I’d brought with me and pulled out my headlamp as the others went for theirs. The second I flicked mine on, a high-pitched wail came from somewhere on the floor, making the four of us jump. I’d seen videos of banshees before, but none of them had prepared me for this. The sound was so mournful and angry it raised gooseflesh on every inch of my body. Shouldn’t I be immune to this now that I was Fae?

I waved my hand to get their attention and pointed in the direction of the sound. They all nodded, and we started toward it with me in the lead. I wasn’t sure how I had somehow become the unspoken leader of our mission, but I didn’t mention it. I was more comfortable leading than following.

We maneuvered around piles of debris and building supplies, following the growing volume of the banshee’s cry. The closer we got, the colder the air became until our breaths were clouding the air around us.

The wail ended abruptly. I froze mid step, and Trey collided with me. He grabbed my shoulders to stop my fall, and I mouthed a silent thank you.

Covering my headlamp so it didn’t blind them, I pointed two fingers at my eyes and at the space around us. They nodded, and we started moving again but at a slower pace.

A sheet of plastic to our left suddenly billowed like a sail in the wind before it was split down the center. I spun toward it as two gnarled hands with pointed fingernails shoved the pieces of plastic aside, and the stuff of nightmares came through it.

It resembled the corpse of an old woman with dead, milky eyes and gray skin hanging off her sunken cheeks. I averted my gaze from hers, but it was her mouth that made a scream rise in my throat. It gaped open impossibly wide until it took up half her face, and the shriek that poured out of it was so horrible I was sure it had pierced my soul.

The creature flew straight at me, her ghastly maw stretching as if to swallow me whole. I tripped backward over a piece of lumber and got tangled in some dangling electrical wires. I struggled to free myself, but I was a fly trapped in a spider’s web.

“Get her,” I shouted above her screeching.

The banshee veered away from me toward Aaron and Adrian. One of them howled in fear, and then came the sound of running feet. The banshee gave chase, her angry wails mixing with their screams.

Something grabbed me from behind, and I let out a small scream, whirling to strike out at it. My fist hit flesh, and it staggered back a step.

“Ow! Damn it, it’s me.” Trey rubbed his cheek. “You nearly took my head off. Where did you learn to punch that hard?”

“Sorry.” Apparently, my Fae strength was starting to kick in. I freed myself from the wiring. “Let’s go.”

We ran after Aaron, Adrian, and the banshee. It wasn’t hard to track them with all the noise they were making, and we found the twins cowering in a corner with the banshee shrieking her rage at them.

I tugged on Trey’s sleeve and held up my shackles. He nodded, and we rushed in at the same time. I grabbed onto one of the banshee’s arms, and he went for the other one. The intent was to shackle and hold her long enough for the twins to gag her. Shackles could slow down a banshee, but the only way to subdue one was to silence her. This was why it took multiple people to bring one in.

I almost had the shackle on her wrist when she screamed so loud it was like needles pricking my eardrums. I lost my grip and fell to my hands and knees, and she disappeared into the darkness.

It took a minute for my ears to stop ringing enough to hear Adrian calling his brother’s name. I lifted my head and saw Aaron lying on the floor while Adrian bent over him. A few feet to my right, Trey sat on the floor, shaking his head and looking a little dazed.

I crawled over to Aaron, who had a bloody gash on his forehead. “What happened?” I asked too loudly.

“I think he ran into a two-by-four.” Adrian shook his brother gently. “Come on, bro. You’re scaring the shit out of me.”

I checked Aaron’s pulse and breathing and opened his eyes to look at his pupils. They reacted to the light, which was a good sign. I was debating what to do next when he blinked and let out a low moan. My breath left me in a relieved whoosh, and I sat back on my heels.

A few seconds later, he put a hand up to feel the goose egg on his head. “Did anyone get the license plate of that truck?”

From the far end of the floor, the banshee keened. Aaron sat up and nearly fell over, clutching his head.

“Take it slowly,” Adrian told him.

Aaron looked at his brother with haunted eyes. “Did you see her? It was Emmy but not.”

Adrian nodded sadly. “I saw her.”

I didn’t say anything. Emmy was their sister, who had been two years behind me in school. She’d died from leukemia a year and a half ago.

“Do you guys want to keep going or come back tomorrow?” Trey asked from behind me.

“Keep going,” Aaron, Adrian, and I said together.

Aaron stood, pressed his mouth into a hard line, and tossed away his busted headlamp. “That bitch is going down.”

We headed back toward the other end of the building where we’d heard the banshee the first time. Halfway there, she started up her keening again, and a shudder went through me. I reminded myself it was all in my head, and she couldn’t hurt me if I didn’t let her. A glance at the other three told me they were dealing with their own fears. I didn’t know what Trey had seen, but our visions couldn’t have been anywhere near as bad as seeing a dead sister.

As with before, the banshee went silent when we drew near. This time, though, we were expecting her attack. We stood together with our hands over our ears as she flew screaming at us out of the darkness. She circled us a few times and took off when she saw she wasn’t going to scare us away.

We resumed walking. She kept returning to the same spot, and I suspected it might be where Claire Parker’s apartment had been. If so, that was the best place to corner her. She was drawn to it, and she would make her stand there.

I could hear the howl of the wind the closer we got to our destination, and the sheets of hanging plastic danced like ghostly figures. For a moment, I imagined one of them was the ghost of Claire Parker, and I quickly shook off the thought. The banshee was terrifying enough without me scaring myself more.

Trey touched my arm and pointed at something up ahead. I squinted through the gloom and spotted a figure standing in front of a window, or the place where a window used to be. Her gray cloak and long gray hair fluttered wildly, and she had her head bent forward, her hands clasped as if in prayer.

“Same plan as before?” I asked as we approached her.

Aaron didn’t take his eyes off the banshee. “Yes.”

I swallowed dryly and moved ahead of them. The plan we’d come up with was for me to distract the banshee. While I took the brunt of her anger, the three of them would subdue her. It had sounded like a great plan before I’d experienced her wrath firsthand.

She started a low keening when I was ten feet from her, but she didn’t lift her head to look at me. My heartbeats pounded in my ears as I slowly closed the distance between us. She didn’t move.

I glanced over my shoulder at the others, and Adrian shrugged. They couldn’t sneak up on her if she stayed where she was, but she didn’t seem inclined to leave the spot.

Then it hit me. If this had been Claire’s apartment, the banshee was probably standing exactly where the woman had fallen from. I shivered at the realization.

None of the books I’d read had mentioned what to do when a banshee just stood there like this. Dad had said she would go after whomever got close to her, which was me in this case.

“Hey,” I said to her, feeling stupid talking to a banshee. Could she even understand me? Too bad becoming faerie didn’t give me command of their language. That probably would have come in handy.

She didn’t move, so I spoke again. “Hey?”

Still no response. I took a breath and tried a different tactic. “Claire?”

Her head shot up, and she fixed her dead eyes on me. I backed up as her face twisted in rage, and her keening grew louder. In the blink of an eye, she was so close I could feel the cold emanating from her. She began to circle me, and I moved with her until I was now the one with my back to the windows. Her mouth gaped, and I clapped my hands over my ears before the shriek came.

I couldn’t hear the others moving, but suddenly, the banshee whirled away from me. The twins grabbed her arms, and I caught the glint of metal in Trey’s hands. I didn’t breathe as they wrestled her to the floor.

The banshee exploded from the tangle of bodies with an earsplitting screech. I flinched at the thud of two bodies hitting the wall as she rounded on me. She flew at me so fast there was no time to evade her attack. I pitched backward, but there was nothing to grab onto. Terror slammed into me as I fell through the opening and into the night.


Chapter 3



Trey’s frantic shout sounded a long way off as I flailed wildly, reaching for anything to stop my fall to my death. The fingers of my right hand touched the lip of the opening, and I grabbed it, holding on with everything in me. I swung helplessly in the wind as I reached up with my other hand.

It took four tries for my hand to latch onto the raised edge. Above me, the banshee screeched and Trey shouted. I couldn’t hear Aaron and Adrian, which meant Trey was on his own against her.

I tried to climb up, but there were no footholds, and the more I moved, the more the metal edge bit into my fingers. I didn’t dare look down. This was nothing like hanging from the ferry. I would have survived hitting the river. There would be no surviving a twenty-five-story fall, even for a faerie.

An agonized scream came from above. Trey.

Strength surged through me. I pulled my body upward with such force that I cleared the bottom of the window and flew through it. I hit the floor in a roll and came to my feet in front of the banshee and Trey. He was on his knees facing me, and she was behind him with her gnarled, hands on either side of his head.

Her head snapped up, and her dead eyes locked with mine. I felt a frisson of fear until I realized her stare had no effect on me because I was no longer human. I rushed at her, and she released Trey as she backed away from me.

“Jesse! Jesus, I thought you were dead,” Trey said between gasps. “How…?”

The banshee whirled to flee, and I leaped, tackling her. We went down in a tangle of limbs, and she shrieked so loudly in my ear it sent needles of pain through the side of my head. I managed to clamp a hand over her mouth, but even my new strength wasn’t going to hold her for long.

“Trey, shackles,” I grunted. I heard movement behind me, and it seemed to take forever before Trey appeared holding a pair of shackles.

The banshee screamed against my hand and bucked viciously to throw me off her. I lost my grip, and one of her arms flailed, hitting my cheek with such force that I saw stars.

Trey dived into the fight, and between the two of us, we finally managed to pin her down. Looking around, I found the shackles three feet away, and I was the closest to them. I moved my hand so Trey could put his over her mouth, and then I went for the shackles.

My head jerked back violently when the banshee’s bony fingers snagged my hair. Tears pricked my eyes as I pulled out of her clutches and felt my hair coming free from my ponytail. Ignoring the pain in my scalp, I reached for the shackles and snatched them up.

Waves of cold nausea slammed into me, and I swayed on my legs, which were suddenly unable to bear my weight. I fell to my hands and knees, gasping for air and fighting not to pass out.


Trey’s shout penetrated the roaring in my ears. I lifted my head to see him staring at me as he struggled with the banshee. I tried to push up off the floor, but I was like steel stuck to a powerful magnet.

It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of strands of red hair in the banshee’s fist that I realized what was wrong with me. When she’d grabbed my hair, she had pulled the goddess stone from it as I had done with the kelpie.

A horrifying thought hit me. The goddess stone was the only thing protecting me from the iron in this world. What if the stone passed to her now? Without it, I didn’t know how long I could last.

Fear propelled me forward, and I crawled the few feet to Trey and the banshee. It took supreme effort to reach up and catch her hand, but as soon as I made contact with her fist, energy flowed into me like rainwater into parched soil. I forced her fingers open, and there on her palm was the stone in the exact same shade of red as my hair. I touched it, and it disappeared. The strength flooding my body told me the stone was back in my hair where it belonged.

“The shackles,” Trey shouted.

I snatched up the shackles from the floor and made short work of securing the banshee’s wrists. Her thrashing stopped, and she lay weakly in Trey’s hold while I pulled off my backpack and found the muzzle I’d stuffed in there earlier. Trey took his hand off her mouth, and I fitted the muzzle in place, ignoring the hateful glare she shot me. She might have been scary when I first saw her, but she was no danger to anyone now.

Sitting on the floor, I stretched my jaw to relieve my ears that still ached from her wailing. My fingers touched the cold head of a hammer, and I jerked my hand away as if the metal had burned me. A shudder went through me, and I tried not to think of what it must feel like for the banshee to wear those shackles.

I stood. “Watch her. I’m going to check on the others.”

Trey grabbed my arm before I could leave, and I met his eyes, which were round with shock. “You… You’re a faerie,” he whispered. “But how?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Trey.” I pulled away from him.

He scowled at me. “I know I’m not as smart as you, but I’m not an idiot either. I saw what just happened to you, and the banshee didn’t affect you at all when you looked at her.”

I shook my head, intending to deny it, but his expression told me it wouldn’t work. Any explanation I came up with would sound lame after what he’d witnessed.

“You can’t tell anyone about this,” I said.

His eyes grew even wider. “You’re really a faerie? When? How?” He paled as he connected the dots. “You were shot. Oh, Jesse…”

One of the twins groaned somewhere off to our left.

“Yes,” I hissed at Trey. “Can we not talk about this here?”

His look was incredulous. “It’s not like you can keep it a secret.”

“I will for as long as I can. And you are not going to tell a soul, not even your dad.”


I leaned in to whisper, “If you breathe a word of this, I will tell the whole Plaza about the time you were so afraid of the clown at the neighborhood Halloween party that you peed your pants.”

He stared at me aghast. “I was a little kid, and he was dressed like Pennywise.”

“You were fourteen.” I gave him an evil smirk. “I have the pictures to prove it.”

I left him sputtering and went to check on Adrian and Aaron. That clown incident was Trey’s most embarrassing secret, and I had happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness it. I wasn’t lying about the pictures, but I would never humiliate him that way. He didn’t know that, though.

Adrian was out cold, but Aaron was coming to when I found them. It took half an hour to get them both on their feet. I suggested they go to the hospital, but they wouldn’t hear of it. Neither of them was happy when they saw the bound banshee and Trey’s smug look. We’d all get credit for the capture, but this was going to leave a bad taste in their mouths for a long time.

We gathered our stuff and got into the elevator with the banshee between Aaron and Adrian. It was their job, so it was only right for them to bring her out of the building. Trey grumbled under his breath until I shot him a warning look.

Out on the street, we got plenty of stares from passersby who gave us a wide berth. Bounty hunters were common, but it wasn’t every day you saw a real live banshee.

“Our van is around the corner,” Aaron said. “Do you guys want to follow us to the Plaza?”

“Not unless you need us to go,” I said, speaking for Trey and me.

Adrian shook his head. “We can handle her from here. We’ll leave your shackles and muzzle and your share of the bounty with Silas.”

“Sounds good.”

We said our goodbyes, and they limped away with the banshee between them. Aaron looked like he’d gone a few rounds with a prizefighter. Adrian hadn’t fared much better than his brother. Trey was sporting a black eye, but that was from me, not the banshee. He’d gotten off the easiest among us. I didn’t have any facial bruises, but my ribs felt like they’d been kicked by a kelpie. I’d soon find out if faeries healed as fast as I’d heard they did.

“Hey, isn’t that one of the faeries who was at your apartment on Christmas Eve?” Trey asked.

My stomach did a little tumble as I followed his gaze to the other side of the street where a lone figure stood outside a restaurant. I let out my breath when I saw it was Faolin, not Lukas.

Faolin’s head turned slowly as if he was doing a sweep of his surroundings. His eyes met mine, and he frowned. I couldn’t tell if it was from displeasure or surprise.

I gave him a cheeky grin and a little wave that was sure to annoy him. I was rewarded with a scowl as a large black car pulled up in front of him. He made no move to get in, and I realized too late that he was waiting for someone.

The door behind him opened, and a couple walked out. The man was handsome, in his thirties, and he looked a little familiar. A celebrity maybe? His companion was blonde, beautiful, and Fae.

Another person appeared behind them, and my gut clenched when I saw Lukas. The female faerie turned to say something to him, and he laughed.

The day after Faolin’s visit, I had summoned the nerve to call Lukas and thank him for what he’d done for me. I’d gotten his voice mail instead of him, and I’d left him a short, rambling message to which he’d never replied. I had been telling myself that the reason I hadn’t seen or heard from him in the last two weeks was that he was busy dealing with the barrier problems. Apparently, I was mistaken.

Faolin leaned over to say something to Lukas. Seconds later, Lukas’s head swung in my direction, and his gaze locked with mine. His smile was gone, but that didn’t stop the quickening of my heart or the physical pull toward him. It felt like months, not weeks, since I’d last seen him, and I was relieved for the traffic that prevented me from giving in to the urge to go to him.

The female faerie said something to him. When he didn’t respond, she followed his gaze to me. She clearly wasn’t happy that someone else was stealing his attention from her, and I could feel the hostility she directed at me. If not for the street between us, her glare might have reduced me to cinders.


I tore my eyes from Lukas to look at Trey, whom I realized had said my name a few times. He glanced between Lukas and me, and I could almost see the light come on over his head.

“Was he the one who…?”

“I’ll tell you about it on the way home.” Pasting on a smile, I hooked my arm through his. I don’t know what compelled me to do it. Maybe I wanted to show Lukas that I was doing fine without him, too.

I cast one last glance across the street. Faolin now sported a knowing smirk, but Lukas’s mouth had formed a thin line. I might have allowed myself to believe he was jealous if he hadn’t avoided me for two weeks. My anger flared. He had been ignoring me, and now he looked annoyed that I wasn’t sitting at home waiting for him to finally have time for me. He couldn’t have it both ways.

I turned my back on him and tugged on Trey’s arm. “Let’s go.”

“Do I want to know what that was about?” he asked as we started back to where the Jeep was parked.


We walked in silence for a few minutes before he spoke. “Why don’t you want anyone to know about… what happened to you?”

“Because the media will go nuts, and I can’t put Mom and Dad through that.” Dad had been doing well this week, but I’d seen the strain around his eyes a few times when he thought I wasn’t looking. It had to be killing him to know his son was alive but to not be able to reach out to him. I’d never been a vengeful person, but every time I saw what this was doing to my father, I wanted to hunt Queen Anwyn down and make her pay for what she’d done to my family.

Trey stopped walking and turned to face me. “I swear I won’t tell anyone – even without the blackmail. I like your parents, and I wouldn’t do anything to hurt them.”

“Thanks.” I smiled. “I wouldn’t have told anyone about Pennywise.”

He laughed. “I know. Otherwise, you would have done it back in school.”

We started walking again, and we’d barely gone ten steps when he asked, “Can I have those pictures?”

“No.” I grinned, feeling lighter.

He sighed heavily. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”


* * *

Finch whistled, pulling my attention from the spreadsheet I was working on. I looked up as he sat on a stack of books on the corner of the desk.

I thought we were going to see Mom today, he signed.

“We’re going when Dad gets back.” I glanced at the time on the computer monitor. “He’s only been gone an hour.”

Finch’s big eyes sparkled. Do you think he’s getting your present?

“Probably.” I laughed. Finch was more excited about my birthday than I was.

A series of soft whistles came from the top of the shelves where we kept our gear. Aisla had started coming into the office with Finch, but she was still too timid to sit on the desk.

“What’s she saying?” I asked Finch.

She said maybe Dad will bring Gus home. Finch gave me such a hopeful look that my chest squeezed in response.

I cleared my throat. “Gus went home to Faerie to live with all the other drakkans, remember?”

Finch’s eyes grew sad. We miss him. Do you think he misses us?

“Of course. How could he not miss you?” I couldn’t tell my brother that Gus had most likely forgotten all about us and his time here. Faris had said that would happen once he was among the wild drakkans.

The doorbell rang, and I jumped up. I had no idea who could be calling, but I was glad for the interruption.

I peered through the peephole, but all I saw was a wrapped box sporting a large, blue bow. Dad. I rolled my eyes at his antics as I opened the door.

“Happy birthday!” shouted a voice that was definitely not my father’s.

I gaped at my visitor. “Violet! What are you doing here?”

“Some welcome home that is.” She threw one of her arms around me and hugged me while awkwardly holding the present. I pulled her into the apartment, took the box, and tossed it on the table. Then I hugged her until she grunted that I was crushing her.

I let her go. “Sorry.”

She pretended to shake out her arms. “I see the faerie strength is finally kicking in.”

“It comes and goes.” I couldn’t stop smiling. “You’re home!”

“You didn’t think I was going to miss your birthday.” She took off her coat and hung it over the back of a chair. “Where is everyone?”

“Finch and Aisla are in the office, and Dad had to run out. He should be back soon.”

She walked into the living room and sank down on the couch. “Perfect. That gives us time to catch up before the birthday festivities begin.”

“Tell me everything about the movie. What was it like being on an actual movie set?” She and I had texted every day, but she hadn’t gone into a lot of detail.

“It was exciting at first, but it gets old fast. This movie has a ton of CGI, so there’s a lot of green screen shooting. I was able to get away for a few days because they won’t be shooting the rest of my scenes until later.” Her face lit up. “Oh! I’m doing two extra scenes I wasn’t supposed to have. The director thought there weren’t enough females in them, so they’re switching out a male actor for me.”

“That’s amazing!”

She lifted a shoulder. “I would rather have gotten them because of my awesome acting skills, but this will give me twice as much screen time.”

“And it will give everyone more time to see how awesome you are,” I added.


I threw up my arms. “My best friend is a movie star!”

The two of us squealed and jumped up and down like we were thirteen and I’d gotten a valentine from Josh Warren, the cutest boy in our class.

We fell back onto the couch, laughing, and I reached over to take her hand. “I missed you.”

Her smile waned. “I wish I could have been here with you. The timing for this movie could not have been worse.”

“I wasn’t exactly a fun person to be around for the first two weeks. It’s good to be hunting again because it keeps me busy.”

“You must have been desperate to hunt if you went on a job with Trey.” She snickered. “I wish I’d seen his face when you blackmailed him with the clown story.”

I laughed with her. “He’s been pretty cool about it, actually, and he kept my secret.”

Violet tucked her legs under her and fixed me with a searching look. “Soooo?”

“So, what?”

“You’ve been texting about hunting, Harvard, and the fact you can no longer drink coffee – which is tragic, by the way.” She gave a sorrowful shake of her head. “But one thing you haven’t said a word about is a certain Unseelie prince.”

I ignored the tiny pinpricks of pain in my chest. “Because there’s nothing to tell you. I haven’t spoken to him since he brought me home. I’m starting to wonder if he regrets making me Fae.”

“You don’t believe that, and neither do I. I saw him at the hospital, and I think he would have attempted the conversion even if your dad hadn’t said yes.”

“Then why haven’t I heard from him?” I asked glumly.

She pursed her lips. “Have you tried calling him?”

“Once.” I puffed out a breath. “I left him a message, but he never called back.”

Her brow furrowed. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“I’ve given up trying to make sense of it,” I lied. I wouldn’t admit that his absence consumed my thoughts every night when I lay in bed. I could have asked Faris or Conlan about it, but my pride wouldn’t let me. If Lukas wanted to ghost me, I wasn’t going to chase after him.

“You know what? We should go out one night before I have to go back to Utah.” Violet’s eyes gleamed with mischief. “We can meet up with Lorelle at Va’sha or go somewhere else.”

“I don’t know.” I bit my lip. Except for work, I hadn’t gone out much lately. I didn’t know if I was ready to be around a lot of people.

My phone rang, and I was grateful for the reprieve until I saw Ben Stewart’s name on the screen. My stomach tightened. The only time the Agency’s head of the Special Crimes division called me was when he had bad news.

“I don’t suppose this is a social call,” I said.

He chuckled. “No, although I do believe a happy birthday is in order.”

Of course, the Agency knew everything there was to know about me – except for a few closely guarded secrets. “Thank you.”

There was a brief silence on the line, and then he said, “I’m calling to give you a heads-up. There’s been a leak from someone at the hospital.”

“A leak?” My pulse leapt.

“We got a call today from a reporter asking about a Fae conversion that supposedly happened there. They didn’t have any names, and they wouldn’t give us the name of their source. We’re looking into it, but I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. All they have is a rumor, but even a hint of a conversion is too much for them to pass up.” He paused to take a breath. “The network is going to run the story. I didn’t want you to be blindsided by it.”

“Thanks for letting me know,” I said as a cold knot formed in my gut. The truth was going to come out eventually, but I’d hoped I would have more time before the media got wind of it. It didn’t matter that it was only a rumor. That was enough for the paparazzi and the reporters to start digging until one of them found something.

“Why do you look like someone kicked your puppy?” Violet asked when I ended the call.

I picked up the remote and turned on the television. I flipped through the channels until I found a local news station with a picture of the hospital in one corner of the screen. The words DEVELOPING STORY were displayed across the bottom.

My fingers gripped the remote as I listened to the two anchors discussing the information provided by an unnamed hospital insider. The details were so vague that if it had been about anything other than a conversion, it wouldn’t have gotten air time. It had only been a few months since Jackson Chase’s death, and another conversion so soon would send the media into a feeding frenzy. Already they were speculating about the identity of the new faerie and why the conversion was being kept hush-hush.

“Jesse,” Violet said sharply.

I tore my eyes from the television. “What?”

She tugged at the remote in my hand. “Unless you want to buy your parents a new one of these, hand it over.”

I opened my hand to reveal two cracks in the remote’s plastic casing. “Crap.”

She took it from me and studied the damage before she turned off the television. “Remind me not to hold your hand the next time you’re upset or angry.”

“This new strength takes a while to get used to.” I flexed my fingers. “I accidentally crushed a carton of eggs the other day. What a mess.”

She snickered. “Bet it comes in handy when you’re hunting, though. Wait until you have Fae strength and magic.”

I made a face. “Faris said it’s different for every new faerie. Some wake up one day, and they have their magic. Others get it in spurts, and it can be unpredictable at first. I appear to be in the latter group.”

Violet’s laugh warmed me. She set the remote on the coffee table and faced me. “You’re good at everything you put your mind to. Before you know it, you’ll be throwing around glamours like a pro.”

“I would never glamour someone!”

“Wrong choice of words.” She smiled sheepishly. “But you know what I mean.”

I sighed heavily. “Sorry. I’m a little sensitive about it.”

She let out a mock gasp. “Really? I never would have guessed.” She fingered the ends of her hair, which was back to its natural shiny black. “You know, pretty much every actor and model in the world would love to have your problems if it meant never aging.”

I gave her a pointed look. “Every actor?”

“Well… except for Paul Rudd. The guy never ages.”

I tapped a finger against my chin. “True.”

“I think he is a faeman,” she said.

“A what?”

She grinned. “Part faerie and part human. I know they say it’s impossible for a faerie and a human to make a baby, but you have to wonder about him.”

I snorted, and a laugh slipped out. She joined in, and I suddenly felt lighter.

“Was that someone from the Agency on the phone?” she asked.

“Ben Stewart.” I filled her in on what he’d told me.

“All they have is a rumor. They don’t know it was you.”

“Not yet, but they will.” I slumped against the cushion. “I need a distraction. Tell me more about the hot actors you worked with.”

Violet rolled her eyes. “You hang out with the Unseelie prince and his royal guard, and you want to hear about a bunch of actors?”

“I don’t hang out with them,” I replied grumpily.

She opened her mouth to retort just as the doorbell rang. I hopped off the couch and went to answer it with her trailing behind me. Peering through the peephole, I wasn’t all that surprised to see Conlan and Faris. It had been a few days since any of them had dropped by to check on me.

I opened the door, and the two faeries greeted me with smiles and arms full of wrapped presents.

“Happy birthday,” they said together.

I frowned as I stepped back to let them in. “I thought faeries didn’t celebrate birthdays.”

“We don’t.” Faris set four presents on the table. “But we know it’s an important human tradition, and we wanted to help you celebrate yours.”

My heart constricted. “Thanks.”

Violet caught my eye and gave me a look that said, “You don’t hang out with them, huh?”

Faris pointed to two boxes wrapped in shiny blue paper. “Those are from Faolin and me. The other two are from Iian and Kerr.”

“And these are from Lukas and me,” Conlan said, drawing my attention to the large wrapped rectangular box he carried. He handed a smaller wrapped gift to me. “This one is from me.”

“Thank you,” I said thickly, deliberately not looking at the large box he propped against the table. “You guys didn’t have to get me anything.”

“We wanted to. Not every day our li’fachan has a birthday.” He wrapped an arm around my shoulders like he’d done the night we met. Unlike that time, I didn’t shrug him off.

“You’re not starting the party without us, are you?” Dad said from the doorway, startling me. “Sorry I’m late. It took longer than I thought to pick up your birthday gift.”

“Dad, you didn’t have to get me anything,” I protested.

He only smiled and moved to one side.

A red-haired woman stepped into view and smiled at me. “Happy birthday, Jesse.”

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