After returning from the outer planes, Zoey expected a joyous reunion with family and friends. She couldn’t be more wrong. Her kingdom is in the hands of Myrddin, her friends are on the run, and her children are being hunted by the supernatural world. But that isn’t the worst of it. They aren’t just outlaws—they are fully grown adult outlaws.
In the four days that passed while they were gone, twelve years have passed at home. Now Zoey, Danny, and Dev find themselves in the middle of a new war where they are hunted by old foes and former allies…some they could never have imagined would turn against them.
As Myrddin’s plan becomes clear, Zoey realizes she just might hold the key to stopping him for good and reclaiming their kingdom. Doing so means risking it all to steal back an artifact out from under the wizard’s nose. The fate of everyone on the Earth plane hangs in the balance, and one wrong move could cost Zoey everything she loves.
Release date: April 20, 2021
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment LLC
Print pages: 351
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The Rebel Queen
“Zoey, are you all right, sweetheart?”
I was aware of my husband moving in behind me, knew he was touching my shoulders and that his voice had gone soft. But I couldn’t feel Devinshea. All I could feel was a numbness descend because this couldn’t be happening. Not to us.
I stared at the poster in my hand and the ones in neat stacks on the desk in front of me.
“Of course she’s not all right.” Kelsey Owens stood by the door as though she was waiting for it all to go wrong.
The day had already gone firmly to hell.
This was supposed to be our homecoming. We’d been away from the Earth plane for days, trying hard to find our way back. We hadn’t meant to leave. Devinshea had been missing, along with our long-time friend Marcus Vorenus. We’d sent the Nex Apparatus to find them. It had been the day after Kelsey’s wedding, and she’d had to put her honeymoon on hold.
She’d gone missing, too.
In our search for them, Daniel and I had gotten sucked into a magical painting and sent to a far-off plane with no means to get home to our children and the supernatural kingdom Daniel reigned over. Yeah, it’s that kind of life, but it’s ours. And as so often happens, getting sent to another plane had ended in something wonderful.
Daniel and I had found our daughter Summer. Our first child. She was happily married to Marcus now, and it turned out she’d been born to balance the outer planes. She was a powerful source of energy, and with her king at her side, she would ensure the outer planes stayed powered with her unique magic.
As we’d left that incredible place, I had mourned the fact that it could be years before we saw our daughter again, but I was eager to see our other children. Rhys and Lee are our twins, and Evangeline is our sweet daughter. They’re eleven and five.
At least they had been when we left. The posters in my hand—the wanted posters—showed my children all grown up.
Wanted for crimes against our good King Myrddin
Lee Donovan-Quinn, outlaw, traitor and thief
Dead or alive
My baby boy. My human child. He was staring at me from the poster with his one good eye. His left eye was covered in a patch, a jagged scar crossing his face. He wasn’t a boy anymore. He was a man. A grown man.
Twelve years. Somehow we’d lost twelve years. Only four days had passed for us, but twelve years had gone by on the Earth plane, and it seemed Daniel’s old mentor, the wizard Myrddin Emrys, had decided to use that time to take his crown.
The wizard, who was also known as Merlin, had been the power behind all the kings who wielded the sword most famously known as Excalibur. Now he’d taken the crown himself, and it was obvious he had a problem with what was left of the royal family.
“I think we should move out as carefully and quietly as we can.” Kelsey put down the poster that proclaimed Trent Wilcox was wanted for sheltering enemies of the king. “We need to get out of this building and try to find our people.”
Our people. Our families. Our children, who’d been on their own for twelve fucking years. Who’d apparently been on the run for a while.
“We need to figure out what’s happened here,” Daniel was saying. “We know we’re in the Council building. In what used to be the armory. We’ve apparently been gone for twelve years, and something’s happened with our kids. Could it be a misunderstanding?”
“Do you mean could Myrddin have tripped over your crown and oops, it’s on his head and he can’t get it off and wouldn’t it be fun to play a prank and put a bounty on the royal kids and their friends?” Kelsey kept her voice down but every word dripped with sarcasm. “I thought we got the thrall stone out of your head. How about you, Quinn? You want to march up to Myrddin and ask him if he wouldn’t mind giving you back your kingdom?”
One of the good things that had come from our journey had been figuring out how Myrddin had easily manipulated my husbands for years. He’d planted thrall stones in their brains, and they had allowed him to influence both Danny and Dev.
“I know exactly how dangerous Myrddin is,” Daniel growled back. “I’m merely saying maybe we shouldn’t overreact. Maybe we should figure out what happened. Twelve years is a long time. We have to ask ourselves some questions. Are we on some alternative plane?”
“We’ve obviously come to the wrong place,” Devinshea was saying. “Something went wrong when we came back through the painting.”
“Or this was exactly what Myrddin wanted for us.” It seemed to me he’d done everything he could to get rid of us. This could have been his fail-safe.
“I don’t think so.” The newest member of our party was standing beside me, looking down at the poster of Lee. “I dream about him at night. I think this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
Dean Malone was a twenty-three-year-old wizard we’d picked up along the way. According to Kelsey, he had something to do with the prophecy about Myrddin. Kelsey was carrying a book that she claimed held the prophecies of the witches of Arete—a plane where witches ruled. It was in the pack on her back, and she’d vowed to do anything to keep it in her possession.
This particular prophecy foretold that two people in all the planes held the power to kill Myrddin Emrys. Myrddin had avoided one by having his pregnant mother kidnapped and sent off plane. If Kelsey was right, that young man was Dean Malone. Myrddin had manipulated the other man into a situation where he’d been killed.
Where I’d held him as he lay dying. Kelsey’s father, my guard, Lee Owens. He’d been the one who the prophecy identified.
Myrddin didn’t know that the Heaven plane had offered me a gift—Lee’s soul in my child’s body, the chance to give one of the best men I’d ever known an easier life.
“Is there any way to use the painting to get back to where we came from?” Dev was asking. “If we can get back, we can talk to Summer. She might have a way to get us to the proper time.”
“I can’t go back.” Dean stood up taller. He was a young man with stark white hair and crystal blue eyes—a sure sign that he wasn’t entirely human. The magic he wielded was another clue. He was at least a foot taller than me, almost as tall as my faery prince husband. “This is where I’m supposed to be. The wizard has conquered the supernatural world—the world I was born to defend. I need to find Lee Donovan-Quinn.”
“But you don’t,” Daniel said in that annoyingly soothing tone he used when the world had exploded and he was trying to keep everyone calm. “If we go back to the proper time, I can end whatever coup Myrddin was planning. I’ll know what’s happening going in, and I’ll kill him myself.”
Danny might be using a calm tone, but his fangs were out. The King of All Vampire took his crown seriously. After all, we’d fought a war for it once. We could take care of a minor battle this time.
I was all on board with this plan. I let the poster drop from my hand. I never wanted to see it again. I wanted my sweet little boys and girl. I wanted Fenrir, Kelsey’s son, to be the baby werewolf he was, the kid who didn’t like to wear pants. “Let’s do it. Dean, Dev is right. If we can get home, we’ll take care of the problem and then you won’t have to do anything but enjoy the Earth plane.”
It was that moment that I was reminded I hadn’t come through the painting alone. There was a butterfly attached to my hair, a ruby-red pixie, the queen of her kind. She had been a constant companion for years, as I was also known as Her Grace when I was in Fae society. Devinshea was the High Priest of Faery, and I his acknowledged goddess.
Arwyna fluttered her wings and flew for the door Kelsey guarded.
“That’s not what the prophecy says,” Dean replied stubbornly.
I didn’t care about prophecy. Prophecy had gotten us into this clusterfuck in the first place.
Kelsey looked at me, a grave expression on her face. “The world will fold and bend in on itself and you will be left on the wrong side.”
I felt anger rise quick and true. She wanted to throw that at me now? “I don’t want to hear anything about a trick or a trap. Gray’s been peddling that nonsense for years. I’m not going to let it stop me from trying to fix this.”
Grayson Sloane was one of two prophets who walked the Earth plane. He was also Kelsey’s other husband. Like me, she had two. Trent, one of the strongest werewolves in the world, and the dark prophet, Gray. For the last several years he’d warned us of a coming evil—a trick and a trap.
I was not going to allow myself to be trapped here.
“I know this one by heart,” Kelsey continued. “Years will pass. Your wolf will howl but he will remain steadfast.” She pointed to the wanted poster featuring Trent. “My wolf has protected your pack. This is the event Gray foretold, and we now have parts to play. You know Gray’s prophecies can’t truly be altered. They can only guide us.”
Arwyna was flying around the room, seeming to look for something. We stood in the room that used to be the armory. It was in the lower levels of the building, under Ether, the club my Fae husband ran. Now it seemed to be some kind of office and storage area.
Daniel paced the floor, his jaw going tight even as he spoke. “Wasn’t there something in that prophecy about a magician?”
Kelsey nodded. “The magician will rule but you can win. Take back the plane.”
I didn’t want to take back the plane. I wanted to go home and be with my children. I wanted to be their mom and have fun with my husbands and…
I was pregnant. I was pregnant with Daniel’s child.
While we’d been on that distant faery plane, our daughter’s magic had taken my vampire husband and turned him briefly human. It had been a terrible change since we’d been in danger and Daniel had been the vulnerable one for once. But we’d taken the chance we had, and our faery prince had overseen fertility rites for us.
I was pregnant. Kelsey was pregnant. She had to understand. “Kelsey, if this is true, you’ve been away from Trent and Gray for twelve years. Fenrir is grown now. You lost all that time with your son. You have to want those years back.”
“Of course I do, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, and we need to consider the fact that we’re now standing in enemy territory. We need to find a way out,” Kelsey insisted.
For the first time in our acquaintance, Kelsey’s steadiness bugged me. “How can you be calm? Your son is on a wanted poster.”
“Yeah, but he’s wanted for something I would do too, so I can’t judge him.” Kelsey opened a metal cabinet and quickly went through the contents. She sighed and closed it again, not finding what she wanted. “I’m calm because I have to be. I have to get us out of this building. And honestly, that freaking prophecy has been haunting me for years. Now I understand it. There’s a little peace in that.”
I shook my head because I didn’t get her logic at all, but the painting was nothing but a blank canvas now, and none of us understood the magic behind it. We weren’t going to be able to jump back through it and get a do-over. Dean wouldn’t be willing to do it even if he understood how.
Kelsey was right. We needed to move.
Arwyna flew up and disappeared into the air vent.
I went on my toes because I couldn’t scream at her. “Hey, we don’t know that’s not dangerous. Come back.”
Daniel went still. “Devinshea, maybe you need to see if that sonic weapon you stole is working.”
Kelsey shook her head. “If it’s anything like the one I stole, it’s out of charge. It’s the first thing I checked.”
Dev had a small sonic gun in his hand. He’d taken it from some vampire mercenaries we’d had a run-in with on the outer planes. “Mine’s dead, too. But it had a full charge when we came through. How could both of them fail?”
Daniel moved to the door, cocking his head and likely opening his preternatural senses. “Are there plants you might be able to use? Someone’s coming. I don’t recognize the scent.”
Dev brought his hands up, sending his power outward. Devinshea is a Green Man, and in addition to his fertility powers, he could call all things green to our aid. It might seem like a soft power, but Dev could do a lot of damage with vines and roots.
Kelsey picked up the nearest object she could find. It was a stapler.
“What are you going to do with that?” Daniel asked, his brows rising.
Kelsey shrugged. “I’ll probably throw it and then use my fists, but I feel better with a weapon.”
“Zoey, I think you should move to the back.” Daniel was tense, his shoulders straight and claws out.
I didn’t want to move to the back. I wanted to go through that painting again and restart the damn day. Once it had been a slow-moving scene of a beautiful woman running through a field. Summer. Now she was in her rightful place and the painting was empty.
Dev moved at Daniel’s barked order. He placed himself in front of me, and I could practically feel the frustration rolling off him. “I can’t use my magic. Something’s blocking me.”
Dev crowded me, sending me further back, and I caught sight of another stack of wanted posters.
Wanted for Espionage and Sheltering Enemies of the King
The Vampire Known as Sasha
Bounty paid only on a live recovery
Sasha. His real name was Oleg Federov. At least that had been his human name. He was the only new vampire to rise in the last few years, and Daniel had turned him on the night of his death in Munich. He’d stayed in Europe. At least he had been in Venice at Marcus’s home when we disappeared.
Sasha had once been a spy, a member of Russian intelligence, and then he’d worked with a group of former military men for a long time.
Where would my children have fled in those early days? Would they have gone to Venice, hoping it was safe? Was that where they’d found the Russian warrior? I glanced around and discovered whoever ran this office loved to make wanted posters. “Sasha has a poster, too. And Albert and Hugo and Henri.”
“What about Eddie? And Gray?” Kelsey asked, and I could hear the worry in her tone.
Because at least if there was a poster, it meant they were probably still alive. “I don’t see one for them.”
Daniel held up a hand, a sure sign that he wanted me to be quiet. I took a long breath, trying to picture where we were in the building. If it hadn’t changed, we wouldn’t have a ton of choices for how we would escape. There was a stairwell and the elevators. Those were our options, and by options I really meant we would need to take the stairs. If they were guarded, there would be no way out of a fight.
Dev tensed in front of me, and I held my breath.
That was when I noticed Dean. He was standing to the side, his hands up and head down. There was a bluish tint to the air around his hands, a sign of the power he was funneling through them. After a moment, his head came up.
“There was a male coming down the hallway. He’s coming this way. I can easily get in his brain. He’s remembered something he forgot,” Dean explained. “Or rather, he thinks he did. He’s going back to his apartment.” He stared down at his hands. “I’m more powerful here.”
“And I have no power at all,” Dev complained. “Something is blocking me. I can feel the plants beneath the ground, but I can’t call them.”
Dean looked around, moving like he could see something the rest of us couldn’t. “The whole place is warded against certain magic. Fae is one of them, and very likely it is warded against you in particular, Your Grace. There’s also some dampening magic. It’s against death magic.” Dean frowned. “I would bet it dampens the power of vampires.”
Kelsey moved beside her new ward. “How can you tell? I don’t see any wards.”
Dean placed a hand on the wall. “It’s not a simple ward. It’s the building. It’s in the paint, I think. It feels like it’s everywhere.”
“You can use your magic,” Daniel pointed out.
Dean shrugged. “My magic is based on witchcraft. I don’t feel anything that would dampen spellcraft from a witch. If anything, I would bet there’s something in the building that magnifies our power.”
“Myrddin had a dark temple built,” Daniel explained. “It’s a direct portal to the Hell plane, and it does magnify the darker magic. It feeds that side of his nature and anyone practicing black magics. Dean, I’m going to need you to be ready to do whatever it takes to get us out of here.”
That temple had been built shortly before we’d disappeared through the painting. I had known nothing about a portal to Hell being built in my home until it was already completed. It only struck me now how much Myrddin had prepared for his moment. He’d done it behind my back and with my husbands’ help, since Daniel had known exactly what was going on. I would assume Dev had as well. He’d likely helped pick out what curtains went best with the Hellscape and never once mentioned it to me.
I couldn’t even yell at them because now I knew it was the thrall stones that had influenced them. I was sure that under the influence of those stones, Myrddin had convinced them a dark temple would be a lovely surprise for me.
I grabbed the painting. Well, the canvas. It wasn’t a painting now, but I couldn’t leave it behind. It had been a portal once, and perhaps it could be again. Perhaps it could take us where we needed to go because I didn’t intend to lose twelve years with my children.
“Zoey, you can’t take that.” Kelsey was frowning my way. “It’s too big. We’re going to have to try to make our way up to the street level and then over to the eastern wall of the building. There’s a window we can use. That canvas is too wide to fit. I’m honestly afraid the king is too wide.”
Daniel’s brow arched. “You want us to try to make it out of the laundry room? Is that how you got out of the building that first time?”
When Kelsey had first come to live in the Council building, she’d gotten good at evading any attempt at Daniel monitoring her. I’d long thought she’d had help in the form of the only other person who was as good as Kelsey at dodging security.
Lee. My son had a deep connection to Kelsey, and they’d both felt it even before they’d known Lee’s soul was recycled. Lee Owens had been Kelsey’s father. His soul—despite the fact that it was now housed in my son’s body—still reached out for his daughter.
“Yes,” Kelsey replied. “There’s a window we should be able to get through. It leads us to the street outside, and from there we run until we get to a safe place. I’ll find a phone and call Trent.”
“Kelsey, it’s been twelve years,” Dev pointed out.
Kelsey shook her head. “He won’t have given up his phone. He might not keep it on him, but it will be someplace where he can access it. He’ll have a way for me to reach him. He’ll have a plan. We just have to get out of this building for it to work.”
Because her wolf was faithful. “I do believe that Trent would have a plan in place. If he thought there was a chance for us to come back, he’ll have prepared a way. And we have to know that Myrddin will likely have a way to block him as long as we’re in this building. He’ll have it on lockdown.”
“He might even have a way to know we’re in the building.” Dev looked around as though still praying for a weapon.
Daniel nodded. “Which is precisely why we should get out of here as soon as possible. If Myrddin’s had years in this building, he’ll have all sorts of alarms and security. Zoey, that canvas won’t fit through the window Kelsey’s talking about.”
I held on to it like it was a lifeline. “Then I’ll find another way out.”
Dean stepped in front of me. “Your Highness, there is no magic left in this object. It’s served its purpose and it’s dead now. There is no reason to bring it with us.”
I couldn’t believe that. The idea made my gut churn and my heart threaten to seize. “It has to work. There has to be some way. It brought us here. It has to be able to take us back.”
“No.” Dean’s tone was not without sympathy. “It was a tool that’s burned out. I’ve studied magic for years. There is no more magic left here. We can leave it behind and try to find another way. I’ll look for you, Your Highness, but for now, we must run. I sense a dark presence coming toward us. I sense anger and hate and so much rage.”
That got Daniel’s attention. He pulled the canvas from my hands and picked me up before I could protest. “Kelsey, take the lead. Dean, can you persuade whatever is coming to go another way?”
“No. I won’t be able to influence this one.” Dean had gone even whiter than normal. The kid was fair skinned but usually had an odd luminous quality to him. Now he turned the slightest bit sallow.
“Are you all right?” I didn’t fight Danny. He could overpower me, and honestly, in that moment I was so overwhelmed I wasn’t sure I could move on my own anyway. All I could think about was getting through that painting, making it come back to life so it could return me to mine. But something about the way Dean had paled broke through that need.
Kelsey eased through the doorway.
Dean seemed to try to shake something off. “Her presence is quite overwhelming. It’s unlike anything I’ve felt before. I don’t even need to get into her head to read her intent.”
“Her?” Daniel asked as he approached the door.
“The hallway’s clear,” Kelsey said quietly.
Dev took our back, with Dean behind him. “Turn to the left and we can skirt around the edge of Ether to get to the stairwell.”
“Yes, I sense a female witch.” Dean’s eyes had gone a bit glassy, though he continued to move with us. “She’s filled with dark energy. She’s given up much to gain her power, and she won’t let anyone take it back. She’s been powerless before, and now she’s a queen. She’s projecting quite loudly. I think she wants me to know she’s here.”
“She senses you?” Kelsey picked up the pace, starting to jog down the long hallway.
It had to be Nimue. She was certainly a queen, and I knew there had been times when she’d felt powerless. I was almost certain she also had a thrall stone in her head. It was the only thing that could explain the change in my once dear friend.
“She senses all of us,” Dean replied. “She’s stalking us. We’re her prey, and when she brings us all to her master, she will be able to take her proper place at his side. She knows I can sense her. She likes my fear. It makes her feel powerful. Wait. There was a moment. She felt one of you and she had a moment of weakness.”
“Nimue and I were close once,” I explained. Maybe I could get to her. The thrall stone should only influence her. It shouldn’t cause her to throw out all of her morality.
“She cares about one of you. She never thought she would see you again. God, she doesn’t want you to see her like this.” Dean put a hand on his heart, like it ached and he could ease it. “But she is resolved. She chose this path and she will see it through no matter what. She belongs to the darkness now.”
Kelsey had turned down the second hallway, the one that would lead to the stairwell we needed, and she stopped.
Standing there, blocking our path, was Kelsey’s best friend, Olivia Carey. Liv. Once she’d been one of the kindest souls I’d known. She’d been a witch who used earth magic to help her friends.
The woman who stood in front of us only vaguely resembled the woman we’d known. Now she was all witch, and she was going to kill us.
“Welcome home, Your Highnesses,” she said, the air crackling around her with power.
It was not the homecoming I’d been expecting.
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