The fourth book in The Royal Cleaner series is almost here!
For those of you who don't know, The Royal Cleaner is an f/f paranormal romance series following Caroline, the demon in charge of keeping magic a secret from humanity, and Mina, the human detective Caroline falls in love with.
Book Four picks up where Book Three left off, with Caroline back in the Underworld to recover from her battle with the Enhanced, and Mina on Earth, trying to figure out how to get rid of the Enhanced without starting a war.
If you need to catch up, you can get the Books 1-3 Boxset from either your favourite ebook store or direct from my website if you want to buy in a way that better supports me. If you want to check out the series with a smaller taste, I offer a prequel novella as a welcome gift to subscribers to my newsletter. And if you're all caught up, you can pre-order Book Four from your favourite ebook stores or start reading now by supporting me on Patreon!
And if you want a preview of Book Four, I've put the first chapter below...
Caroline had never liked parties. And she especially disliked balls. They were crowded and filled with people with motivations she struggled to understand as they wove social riddles that she had to solve at the risk of ostracisation.
The thing was, it had always been this way. Only now, she had her best friend - and fiancée - Gregor by her side, helping her sort through it all.
So why did she feel the need to claw her skin off to stop it from crawling?
As Gregor spoke with his friends, Caroline knew that they were oblivious to her discomfort. She had become skilled at hiding it over the years. All they might think was that she was quiet, but then, Gregor could talk for three people when asked, so she doubted they even recognised that.
“Of course, we do wonder why you have yet to marry.”
Caroline tuned back into the conversation at that, her hackles rising. An engagement period was unusual for Demons. Young nobles in arranged marriages would have to wait until they were of age, but the Demon marriage ceremony was an intimate affair, so there were no preparations to be made. Once a couple decided to marry, they simply did so.
But then, she and Gregor were trying to buy themselves as much time as possible. Once they married, it would be expected that Caroline would get pregnant immediately, as she currently had no heir.
The problem was that while Caroline and Gregor were good friends and the marriage was politically convenient for them, both of their hearts were elsewhere. Or theoretically elsewhere, in Gregor’s case. For Caroline, it was far from theoretical, and while she would marry Gregor in the Underworld to secure her family’s position and have the heir she needed, on Earth, she had her Human wife.
Her Human wife who had wanted another child before Caroline had an heir with Gregor.
If Caroline wanted that with Mina, she and Gregor would have to delay marrying for a while.
Gregor smiled at his friend, whose name escaped Caroline.
“We have both spent a little too much time on Earth,” Gregor confessed, feigning sheepishness. “We have grown used to their customs. Not to mention, we decided to marry just after the Princess returned home to us. It didn’t seem right to steal her thunder.”
His friend smirked. “You mean that you didn’t want the announcement of your marriage to be overshadowed by her return.” He turned to Caroline. “To be honest, I was surprised he waited this long to propose. After all of the late nights spent at your estate... It was getting almost scandalous.”
Caroline forced herself to return his smile. The scandal had been engineered, of course, to draw attention away from the even deeper scandal beneath, but she supposed that her forced smile was an appropriate response to someone bringing it up like that.
Gregor rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe that everyone here still pretends to uphold such outdated views on relationships. Even if we had been together before we formally announced anything - which I am not confirming - that shouldn’t force us into having to announce anything.”
His friend shrugged. “I didn’t necessarily mean it like that, though I am sure that others would have. I more meant that it has been obvious that you cared about Lady Caroline for some time now, so it was only a matter of time before you proposed.”
Caroline wondered how someone could live their life while being so wrong about something. How oblivious could a person get? And she was asking that fully aware of the fact that she often failed to pick up on basic social cues.
Caroline briefly sent a flash of Energy over to Gregor. The two of them didn’t share Energy often, but it was a handy way to communicate without words and Caroline was more than happy whenever she could take words out of the equation.
Her flash had communicated heavy sarcasm and exasperation, the unspoken question being, “How do straight people live?”
She felt a flash in return, telling her that Gregor was now having to put all of his efforts into not snorting aloud.
Caroline decided to step in to save him, given that she was the reason he was currently struggling to speak. “Well, I was hardly an ideal marriage prospect before I helped Princess Freya return home.”
Gregor’s friend shook his head. “Only someone who started as high as you did would think that you weren’t ‘ideal’ before that point, Lady Caroline. Even if you hadn’t helped return the Princess home, the damage to your reputation isn’t something a century or so couldn’t fix. All your husband would have had to be is patient.”
“Well, I am not a patient man,” Gregor said with a shrug.
“I’m not sure any man I know would be brave enough to admit to his future wife that he would only marry her as long as her reputation was favourable.”
Caroline smirked. “If he had tried before that, I would have considered him a fool and therefore rejected him. While you may believe that all my reputation required was patience, I didn’t hold such an optimistic view.”
“Then I suppose it is a good thing that you found the Princess on Earth. I wonder, will that good fortune lead you to return there? Most assume that you will choose not to.”
Caroline raised an eyebrow. “Good fortune? I will return to Earth in time because it is my duty as the head of the Royal Cleaners. There is no point in trying to keep magic a secret from Humans in the Underworld, given that there are no Humans here.”
He frowned. “Surely you can manage your people from here. Forgive me, Lady Caroline, but I heard about your encounter with the Enhanced. To want to return to the realm where they still reside...”
Caroline clenched her fists around the fabric of her skirts as her jaw tightened. She wanted nothing more than to smack the ridiculous, pitying look from this man’s face until he stopped looking at her like some fragile doll that might break in a light breeze.
Dark Energy crackled just beneath her skin in response to her anger.
She realised what was happening just a moment before she released it and sent a brief flash to Gregor, knowing that he would be able to make excuses for her as she shifted away.
If being Litcorde was good for something, it was that people were used to her fleeing from balls when it became overwhelming.
Of course, the fact that she had just fled after someone had brought up the Enhanced...
Even someone as oblivious as Gregor’s friend seemed to be would probably be capable of putting two and two together.
She shifted to the Palace training grounds, unleashing her Energy as soon as she materialised in a barrage of black lightning as she screamed with frustration.
“What were you saying about being able to handle this?”
Caroline spun around as her Energy dissipated, leaving her panting at the exertion, only to see her friend, and ex, Vera approaching with her hands on her hips.
“I’m fine.” Caroline glared at her. “What are you even doing here? Did you crash a Royal ball just to keep an eye on me?”
Vera looked over the smouldering remains of the training dummy. “Someone who was fine wouldn’t be lashing out in the training grounds now, would they?”
Caroline looked away, her throat tightening. “So, what? Are you here to tell me how stupid I’m being? To tell me that I’m not ready to be out in the real world again? That I should just stay locked up with the Wardens forever?”
Vera gave her a sympathetic smile. “No, Caroline, I’m not here to chastise you, or bring you back against your will. I simply came here so that someone would be there for you if you stumbled. To remind you that stumbling isn’t the same thing as failing.”
Caroline frowned, at a loss.
“You did well tonight,” Vera clarified. “You should give yourself credit for that.”
Caroline huffed, folding her arms. “Well, now you just sound condescending. Like you said, I had to bail.”
“Yes, but you did bail. You didn’t unleash your Energy in front of everyone else. That’s important.”
“So, you’re not here to tell me I should go back to the Wardens tonight?”
“Do you think that you need to?”
Caroline sighed. “I don’t want to, but...”
Vera shook her head. “Caroline, we both know that when you’re upset, you can retreat into your worst beliefs about yourself. That you’re not good enough and that the people around you would be better off without you. That’s not true, and you know that it’s not true in your rational mind, but that doesn’t stop the thoughts from creeping into your decision-making process when you’re too worked up to pay attention.”
Caroline gave a humourless smile. “Like thinking that tonight was so much of a failure that I would have to return to the Wardens without seeing Mina... Am I really so predictable that you saw that coming?”
Vera smiled. “Your aunt saw it from a mile away. Literally, the first thing she said to bear in mind about your treatment is that you would push yourself too far, too fast in an effort of self-sabotage.”
Caroline sighed. “Well, it’s good to know that someone apparently knows my mind.”
Vera shrugged. “To hear her talk, it seems as if you get it all from her side of the family, so...”
Caroline smiled. “You know, you would think that growing up Litcorde, I would have a better understanding of my own screw-ups.”
“Well, you do seem to know your limits to some degree. As I said, you got out of there, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
Before either of them could say anything else, Gregor shifted to the training grounds.
Caroline sighed. “That predictable, huh?”
He shrugged. “You’re a creature of habit.” He turned to Vera. “I didn’t realise you were here tonight.”
“That was the point,” she told him. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to play the role of protective friend here. I was just assuring Caroline that her plan to go home tonight is still a viable one.”
He nodded before turning back to Caroline. “Speaking of, should we head off? I think I’ve had enough of the Palace for tonight.”
Caroline smiled, knowing that he was feigning exhaustion to help her feel better about heading home. “Yeah, I think we should. Mina’s due to arrive back any moment now, after all.” She turned back to Vera. “Thanks.”
Vera shrugged. “What are friends for?”
Caroline smiled as she and Gregor shifted back to her estate.
She sighed as soon as she arrived back home, her frame crumpling down onto a sofa as if it had been held up by an invisible force that had suddenly let go.
“Are you okay?” Gregor asked.
Caroline nodded, unable to bring herself to speak aloud.
Gregor looked as if he were about to point out that she wasn’t exactly being convincing, but before he could, they heard the familiar hum of a portal opening in the other room.
Caroline immediately bolted upright, leaping to her feet and rushing through to the other room.
She grinned as she arrived to see her wife stepping through, dressed in a beautiful, deep blue dress that was cut low to accentuate her chest.
Caroline ran over, sweeping her up into her arms to spin her around.
“Ah, my shoes!”
Caroline raised an eyebrow before looking down at Mina’s shoes, careful to keep her held up off the ground.
“Heels?” Caroline asked as she saw that one of Mina’s shoes, an identical blue colour to her dress, had fallen to the ground.
Mina gave her a sheepish look as Caroline put her down gently, noticing that her makeup also matched her dress.
Caroline’s grin widened. Had Mina dressed up all for her?
Now she felt a little bad about the fact that she was going to tear the dress off her in the next ten minutes.
Not enough to change her plans, however.
“I missed you,” Mina said as if it explained why she was wearing heels.
“I missed you, too,” Caroline admitted before bringing one hand up so that her fingers trailed gently beneath Mina’s chin, guiding her lips to hers.
Mina was not so reserved, one of her hands threading through Caroline’s hair, knocking out the pins that held up her golden locks and causing them to cascade down her shoulders as Mina’s other hand went to her waist, keeping her close.
“How are you?” Mina asked as she finally pulled away, her voice low as she stayed close to Caroline, her breath tickling her cheek. “I take it from your outfit that you went to the ball.”
“And it was fine. More than fine. Boring, even.”
“So, your recovery is still going well?”
“Faster than we could have anticipated. I’m strong, Mina. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“I’m your wife. Worrying about you is my job.”
Caroline simply smiled before letting her hands trail down Mina’s body.
The other woman’s grip on her tightened as Caroline’s hands went further and further down, eventually reaching her thighs and hoisting her up.
Mina instinctively wrapped her legs around Caroline’s waist as her arms went over her shoulders.
“And as your wife, I believe my job involves something along the lines of getting you knocked up.”
Mina grinned, shaking her head. “You’re incorrigible.”
Caroline simply shifted them to her bedroom.