PANDORA Preview – The First Three Chapters of Freya Snow: Book Thirteen

Hey, everyone!

So, the next Freya Snow book is almost here – actually, it’s already here for Patreon supporters, but they get it early – and I actually remembered to put up a preview of the book this month.

This book is actually quite a long one, so instead of putting up just the first chapter, I opted for the first three.

The rest of the book will be available to everyone next week. For now, enjoy!

Caetlin tried to tell herself that whatever was making her feel strange was anything but what she suspected.

That her bleeding was delayed because she was ill, not because…

She wanted to believe that it was impossible for her to be pregnant, but she knew that it was more than a plausible possibility at this point.

She needed to see Anthony. She needed to tell him of what she suspected, and she needed to know if he was the man she thought he was.

If he would stand by her through this.

Of course, her parents had made it clear that she wasn’t to see him again.

As she paced her room, her gaze fell on the jewellery box by her bedside table.

The box that the strange woman had given her on All Hallow’s Eve.

She had said that it was for when all hope seemed lost and Caetlin had tried to open it in the past, but nothing had happened.

It was superstitious nonsense to think that it would somehow know how dire her current situation was and open in response, but she figured that it couldn’t hurt.

She moved towards the box, placing her fingers on the cold, dark wood as she felt for the seam, hidden well within the silver decoration.

She expected it to stay shut tight, refusing to budge no matter how much pressure she applied.

Except, when her fingers reached the seams this time, the box slid open at the slightest touch.

She didn’t know what she was expecting to find within, but it certainly wasn’t a small ball of light, so bright that it was almost blinding.

The light shot out from the box, slamming into Caetlin’s chest, sending her staggering back.

“I…” she managed, trying to make sense of the strange feeling that was now invading her mind.

Not I, a voice corrected, echoing in her head. We.

Caetlin spun around, looking for the source of the voice, but there was no one there.

Not that she had really expected to see anyone.

The voice had been right, she knew, even if it was taking her a while to process it.

She was no longer alone in her own mind. Someone else had taken refuge in her body with her.

Ku, the entity clarified as Caetlin went back to examine the box, which had now closed itself firmly shut. You opened Pandora’s Box and set me free. Though I would not advise opening it again. Not unless you intend to place me back. The box did not hold just me…

Chapter One

“Don’t be so nervous,” Freya’s father told her with a soft smile, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “This is a good plan and the Demons are ready to stand behind you.”

Freya was unable to suppress a disbelieving snort. “It’s an okay plan, and half of the Demons here are just looking for an excuse to tear me down.”

Her father shook his head. “Uther may be working against you, but those working with him have not been so enthusiastic since you returned home. Many followed him out of fear of what would happen when I died, since I didn’t have an heir. Now you’re here, and you’re a Dark Angel, as well as their Princess. Many no longer see the need to follow Uther.”

Freya looked away, knowing that thiswas all just speculation on her father’s part. They barely had any information on who’d been loyal to Uther before, so they had no way to know if those numbers had changed, even if they had been able to recruit more spies among his ranks.

“Even if they currently aren’t as enthusiastic about working with him, that will likely change as soon as I announce this plan of cooperation with the other magical factions. You cannot ignore how unpopular it will be with a lot of the older Demons. Yes, Humans have been the more recent threat, but they still remember a time when they fought other magical factions.”

“Freya, your case for unity is compelling. Don’t underestimate what you’ve put together here.”

Freya nodded, knowing that she wasn’t going to convince him of how likely this was to go sideways.

Or maybe he did know but was simply trying to reassure her above all else, knowing that it was better to try.

After all, that’s why she was here, wasn’t it? To try to make things better, even if it was hard.

“All right, I think I’m ready,” she told him, before checking to make sure that Damon, her husband, was still there.

Still ready to stand at her side as her consort.

She had to admit that it was nice, though still strange, that after so long of working by herself, she finally had people beside her that she could rely on.

Her father nodded before heading out to the hall, with his wife, Queen Persephone, beside him, and Freya and Damon coming behind.

The Demon nobles gathered fell silent, and Freya couldn’t blame them. As affable as her father was in private, when he wanted people to see the Demon King, that’s what they saw. An imposing figure that none of them could even think of challenging.

It reminded her of how she had spent years relying on her own imposing figure as the Dark Angel.

She hoped that it had transferred to her role as the Princess of the Underworld, wanting nothing more than to live up to her father’s legacy.

I call this court to order so that we may begin the business for the day,” her father called, the power of his Royal Blood behind every word to remind the nobles who was in charge here.

The point of this was so that the nobles could come to her father with their problems – or at least, the problems that they didn’t come to him or Queen Persephone about privately – and so that the King could issue decrees to the nobles. It was supposed to be a simple system, but Seph had taught Freya how to see the intricacies of power plays at work. How nobles would carefully choose which issues to bring to court publicly, and which they came to the King about privately. It was all about shows of power and influence and shifting allegiances.

It was enough to give Freya a headache, but she knew that if she was going to one day stand in her father’s place, she would have to get used to it.

Regardless, the petty power plays of the nobles weren’t the important thing today.

Her father nodded to her. “Today, my daughter will be taking my place, as she has something she wishes to announce.”

Freya stepped forward and there was a murmur throughout the hall.

“Be aware that the first thing they will assume is that you are pregnant,” Seph had warned her when they had gone over how they would introduce the idea to the court, but they hadn’t come up with anything better. This needed to be Freya’s idea, not her father’s, which meant that she had to be the one to announce it.

Before Freya could begin, however, Lord Uther stepped forward. “While I am sure that your matter is of the utmost importance,” Uther said, his dismissive tone telling her that he was playing on the same expectation Seph had predicted the other nobles would have in order to paint Freya’s priorities as frivolous.

Freya braced herself for him to steer the conversation to the politics of ruling, hoping that she could at least undercut him when she pointed out that that was exactly what she had been intending to discuss.

“There have been rumours lately that many of the nobles have found quite worrying. Rumours of Light Beings travelling in and out of the Palace. Obviously, we nobles do not wish to put stock in such things, but you can understand that the nature of the rumour is quite worrying, can’t you? We would all sleep a little easier if we had some reassurance that you weren’t cavorting with such beings.”

It took everything Freya had to keep her composure.

She had known that, sooner or later, Uther’s spies would realise her plans.

She had just hoped that he wouldn’t know enough details to disrupt her announcement like this, putting her on the defensive right away when she was supposed to be selling everyone on the idea of cooperation.

Freya focused on straightening her back and lifting her chin as the Demons in the room focused on her.

“Of course I have remained in contact with my friends in other magical factions. You wanted me to, what? Burn political connections as soon as I became the Princess?”

“These are not mere political connections. You grew up with Light Beings. Is it so surprising that we would want some reassurance that you are not loyal to them?”

Freya embraced her fury at Uther’s insolence, allowing wings of Dark light to form behind her, stretching out behind her and absorbing the red light of the room.

I am not loyal to them because I am not Light. I may have grown up with them, but they are not my family. My family is here. My loyalty is here. But I have also fought the Enhanced. I have seen exactly how much damage the Humans could cause us if they wanted to.

“Then why not strike the first blow? You claim to know the danger, and yet you fail to take it seriously.”

Do you truly have such a one-track mind that you cannot see the less reckless routes to success here, or are you so eager for power that you would use the return of the Enhanced as a poor excuse to return to the Age of Eden?

Uther glared at her. “You speak as if your plan is actually less reckless. Anything that relies on the good nature of the Light Beings-”

Demons should rely on no other group,” Freya snapped, knowing that there could be no doubt about her stance here if she wanted to keep the confidence of the nobility as a whole. “But there is no reason why we would end up relying on the others groups through working with them. We are themost powerful, and we are the ones with the army. If it does come to war, theother groups will have to rely on us. But before it comes to that, the other groups have resources that we can use to deal with the Enhanced without exposing magic to humanity as a whole. And they could also help us prevent therise of another version of the Enhanced.

“Subjugating the Humans will do the same.”

Right, because Eden didn’t at all fall through a group of Humans developing powers to rival ours. We Demons weren’t in wars with that group on and off from the creation of Earth until the War.

If Freya had been less annoyed, she might have decided that sarcasm was too childish for this situation, but she was still trying to grow out of years of being riled up meaning that she was in the middle of a fight in a back alley somewhere, which was a far more appropriate spot for pithy comments than trying to debate an idea in court.

Though, maybe playing to her linguistic strengths was the better way to go.

Still, she knew that Seph wasn’t going to agree with that logic and prepared for a lecture once they were done.

“The Slayers were only powerful enough to challenge us because they were given power from an Ancient, and the last Ancient died with her holder.”

Freya had to stop herself from disputing that point. As much as Ku was alive, she refused to bond with anyone else, which meant that she might as well be dead. And if Freya did say that she was still alive, it would probably involve admitting that while Ku refused to bond with her, she did reside within her head.

Freya had enough of a target on her back without that becoming common knowledge.

The Enhanced weren’t born from such power, and I am not so convinced that the Humans wouldn’t be able to replicate them within desperate circumstances. Your plan is nothing but risk that there is no reason to take on right now. My plan brings next to no risk to the Underworld and the only reason to not proceed with it is pride. If you think I will allow the pride of entitled old men to endanger my people, then you’re not as smart as people claim.

Uther responded by bowing. “I’m sure that you will be more than capable of protecting your people from any threat they may face, Princess.”

At that, Freya’s father cleared his throat and stepped forward. “If anyone else has anything tosay on the matter of Princess Freya’s plans for cooperation with other magical groups, speak now.

The hall remained silent.

Then let us proceed with other business.

Freya let out a sigh of relief as everyone’s focus left her.

Of course, the plan had been for her to hold court in its entirety, but she was glad that her father appeared to see that she was farfrom up to the task after having to argue with Uther like that.

She turned to Damon and muttered, “I’m not sure if I won that or not…”

He gave her a reassuring smile. “You’ve thought this plan through, Freya. Even if my father tries to rally support against you, it’s going to be a struggle.”

Freya nodded, knowing that he was right, even if it didn’t put her at ease completely.

Seph stepped towards them at that, alerting Freya to the fact that her father was done addressing the room for the day.

“There is something I had been meaning to talk to you about regarding your plan for the council,” Seph said. “Aside from the name.”

Freya sighed. “I told you, if you have an alternative, just change it. I just went with the first term that made sense.”

“A term which is strongly associated with Light Beings.”

“I mean, do they really own the idea of a ‘council’? Do the Upper Council? Do the Jedi?”

Seph folded her arms. “I have told you, if you wish for me to understand you, you should not refer to Human pop culture. And as most never have need to refer to Nature, the term ‘the Big Three’ tends to be more popular for the Upper Council. Especially in the Underworld where we don’t recognise any other Council.”

Freya sighed again. “Okay, so what’s the problem aside from the name?”

“When you provided me with the list of people you wished to invite, you included most factions with a significant presence on Earth, except one.”

Freya frowned. “Who did I forget?”

“The Fae.”

Freya groaned. “Really? You want me to invite the Fae?”

“While they do not usually involve themselves in the politics of other magical beings, and they retreated to Eden during the War, they do have a significant presence on Earth and they are incredibly powerful. Not to mention, they are the type to retaliate if they feel slighted by a lack of invitation, even if they are not interested in participating.”

“You do realise that last time I dealt with the Fae, they cursed me, right?”

“I am vaguely aware of the incident, but you have never gone into detail as to exactly what happened. If you tell me, I could re-evaluate our strategy when it comes to dealing with them.”

Freya folded her arms as she remembered back to that summer. “Well, the Faerie, Peter, was allowing a young girl access to magic and she was using it to force people to live out fairy tales.”

Seph nodded. “Yes, that is usually how the Fae operate. Was anyone harmed?”

“I… I got hit with a sleeping curse that could have only been broken with true love’s kiss and…” She frowned. “Well, at the time, I was sure that I had no way to break it, but…”

Damon smiled. “But the only reason you thought that was because you were somehow oblivious to me returning your feelings. I broke the curse just fine.”

“I don’t see what the problem is,” Seph said with a shrug. “The Fae are pranksters, but they are literal children. They’re usually only dangerous when forced to interact with the world in ways in which they are not yet mature enough to understand, which is probably why they hide away in Eden and don’t often interact with real problems.”

“Umm… I suppose that Peter wanting to protect his great-niece after failing to save both his sister and her mother might count as something that he didn’t understand the right way to go about,”Freya admitted, looking away.

“Is that why you distrust him so?”

“He… He tried to trick me into joining him. He told me that he could…”


Freya sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose as her throat tightened. “He, um… He might have told me that he could bring me home to my father. That my father had been looking for me for years. I… I thought that he had to be lying. When I tried to ask him for proof, he said that I wouldn’t believe him if he just told me, so I had to be shown. I took that as proof that he was lying because Amber… Amber said that he couldn’t betrusted…”

Damon put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and she leaned into his touch, wanting any distraction from the thought that Amber might have deliberately stopped her from finding her father.

She knew that Amber had likely known, but could she have known so early? And could she have pushed Freya away from Peter to stop herfrom going home when she was young?

“Send Peter an invitation to join the council, or whatever we want to call it,” Freya told Seph.

Seph nodded. “I will. Though… Peter may have had your best interests at heart in the past, but if your last encounter with him escalatedinto a fight, that may no longer be the case. And dealing with that kind offailure may fall under an area where Fae become dangerous because they are notmature enough to handle the situation.”

“So, I shouldn’t invite him?”

“No, you should, but be aware, if there is an emotional thread that he can tug on to unravel you, he might. Remember that Fae are powerful in ways that most other magical beings are not. Ifthere is something he can offer you for a steep price – or in a way thatbackfires on you – well, that can be a favourite of the Fae. Just… Be wary.”

As soon as Freya and Damon were in their chambers, Freya closed the door behind them before pouncing on her husband.

“Hey,” he said as he pulled away from her ferocious kiss after just a couple of moments. “Are you okay?”

She frowned at his soft tone. “Of course I’m okay. Can’t I want my husband?”

He sighed. “You can, but… You don’t seem okay.”

“Well, I am okay. Just, you know, if we’re going to get pregnant, we kind of need to have sex. Last time I looked it up, that’s how it worked.”

Damon pulled away further, extracting himself from her grip.“Freya… I’m not going to have sex with you when you’re forcing it despite how you’re feeling. It’s not healthy.”

Freya just stared at him in disbelief. “Damon, I said I was fine.”

“I know, I heard, I just don’t believe you, and I’m not going to have sex with you when you’re like this. I don’t think that’s a good idea for either of us.”

Freya didn’t know how to respond to that, so she turned on her heel and left, storming out of the room and through to the rest of the Palace.

Of course, as soon as she left, she realised that she had no idea of where she wanted to go, but she found herself naturally drawn to her father’s private garden.

It was a secret place in the Palace that only she and her father had access to, so going there guaranteed that she wouldn’t be disturbed. She had taken to using it regularly when she needed a guaranteed escape from Palace life.

She used to also have a spot on the roof, but that now held too many memories of Isabelle that Freya didn’t want to deal with. Not while Isabelle remained cocooned in vines Freya had created with her elemental powers, which were the only things keeping her alive after Uther poisoned her.

Freya also had her private chambers, one room of which she often used when she needed space from even Damon, but it lacked the connection to her elemental powers that being outside gave her.

Freya wasn’t exactly expecting her father to be in the garden, but when she arrived, she saw him sitting on the bench.

Her brain froze on her as he turned to face her, trying to think through all of her options, though it was stopped short by tears falling down her cheeks.

Damn her stupid body and its stupid physical reactions to her emotions…

“Freya,” her father said softly, indicating for her to sit down next to him, “what’s wrong?”

She moved to sit next to him, sniffing as she tried to wipe away the still-falling tears. “Nothing,” she managed, her voice cracking. “I just…”

Her father sighed after it became clear that she wasn’t going to continue. “Is this about Peter?” he asked. “It seemed as if you had rather conflicted feelings over how things went when you last spoke to him.”

Freya grimaced. “Yeah, you could say that. It’s not just that I think I made a mistake in not trusting him, though. I… Seph said that it wouldn’t be a good idea to meet him if there was something he could leverage against me, and as much as I do now think that he was telling the truth when he said that he would bring me to you before, it was still an attempt by him to use what I wanted to get me to join him.”

“And you fear that there is something he could give you now?”

Freya nodded. “The thing is… Things have actually been settled since I was announced as the Princess. For the first time in my life, everything is stable, and I have a clear idea of what my future is going to look like. And what has also become clear since I was announced is the fact that… Well, that me being your only heir is less than ideal.”

He nodded in understanding. “You and Damon have been trying to get pregnant.”

“‘Trying’… Yeah, that about sums it up. I just… It’s been months, Dad. Months, and nothing has happened. Not even a late period. I… I know that I should just bite the bullet and talk to Stephan, but…”

“You’re afraid of what he might say?”

Freya nodded as tears pricked in her eyes. “Of course I am. I used to have really bad periods when I was younger. Like, really bad, and while I was never diagnosed with anything, I know enough to know that how bad they were isn’t normal for a healthy body.”

Her father placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “You won’t know until you talk to him. And you definitely won’t know if there is anything he can do to help you until then.”

She nodded again. “I know, I know.”

“I’ll go with you if you want,” he told her, “but to be honest, I suspect this might be a different problem.”

She frowned. “A different problem? How so?”

“Freya, do you know how having children works in the Shadow Realm? Why I couldn’t have any after you?”

Freya shook her head. “I only know that both people need to be present in the Shadow Realm to get pregnant, and people have said that you dying over there injured you in such a way that meant that you couldn’t have any more children, but no one was ever specific as to what that meant.”

“It means that you need to have both halves of your soul working in tandem so that you can create a child on both sides. If by some means I did manage to sire another child, it wouldn’t have a half in the Shadow Realm, Freya. Apparently, a child sired there exists here as well, but it does not work in the other direction. And that means that any child I sired now would have no connection to magic.”

“So why do you think this is a problem for me?”

“I think that you are skewed more towards the Shadow Realm than here. I think that maybe you need to become pregnant in the Shadow Realm for it to take hold, not the other way around.”

Freya hummed in thought, having to admit that she didn’t know enough about the Shadow Realm to weigh in on her father’s theory. Which, now that she thought about it, seemed like a particularly glaring hole in her magical education, given how connected to that realm she was.

“Do you really think that’s the problem?” Freya asked.

“I’m not going to give you false hope by saying that I’m sure, but I do think it’s a possibility that you should consider if Stephan doesn’t have another explanation.”

Freya nodded, equally wary of buying into the false hope, though it did make the thought of facing Stephan a little more bearable.

“I think I’ll go track Stephan down,” she said with a smile as she finally wiped all the tears from her face.

“Do you want me to come with?”

She shook her head. “I think I can handle it on my own. But thanks for talking it through with me.”

“Of course. I’m always here for you, Freya. Never forget that.”

She smiled. “I won’t.”

Freya tried not to fidget as Stephan used his magic to examine her, anxious to hear his verdict.

“Do you take any medication for your periods?” he asked as he finished up.

Freya nodded. “I used to be on the pill, but Sarah whipped up a potion to replace that. When Damon and I first decided to try to have a child, she made a variant that wasn’t a contraceptive but still stopped my periods from tearing apart my insides.”

“Yes, it would appear that she combined a contraceptive potion with a localised healing potion to counteract any damage the tissue may have sustained beforehand. At this point, all of your reproductive systems are perfectly healthy.”

“So… The problem likely is the Shadow Realm?”

Stephan nodded. “There is, of course, also the possibility that Damon is the problem element here. He is the only magic/Enhanced hybrid to exist and that combination may not be stable enough for a second generation. But that is something we can look into if your attempts to get pregnant in the Shadow Realm also fail.”

Freya smiled, unable to conceal her excitement.

After months of worry, she finally had a proactive course of action to take.

“While you’re here,” Stephan said, stopping her from jumping from the examination table she was sat on, “I should also examine your hand. You haven’t been for your regular appointment this week.”

Freya suppressed a sigh as she held out her right arm and removed her glove to show the blackened skin beneath. “You said that you couldn’t do anything more, and we’re past the point of worrying about further damage, so… I just didn’t see the point.”

Stephan shook his head. “Just because I can’t do anything now doesn’t mean that I won’t figure something out in time. And while you have passed the point where I am seriously worried about infection, you still train often enough that checking for damage will likely be continuous. Unless, of course, you stopped trying to train all of the new recruits for every military branch that operates out of the Palace.”

Freya smiled. “Not a chance. After a decade of fighting for my life, it’s not so easy to transition to a sedentary lifestyle. Not to mention, they really do need the help.”

Stephan shook his head. “Well, your arm does actually seem fine, so I suggest you head off before you say something that finally tips my bloodpressure over the edge and gives me a heart attack.”

Freya smiled at the joke, though she briefly hesitated as her gaze fell on the cocoon across the room.

Where Isabelle slept.

Stephan followed her gaze with a sympathetic smile. “If there has been any change in her condition, it is still too slow for me toidentify it. Which means that whether your magic or the poison is winning out,it will take decades for her to either be cured or…”

Freya grimaced as he trailed off. “Well, I suppose it’s a good thing that we Demons are so long-lived, then. We’ve got the time to wait.” She turned back to Stephan, finally tearing her gaze from Isabelle. “Thank you.”

“No problem. This is literally what I am paid for.”

Freya managed a smile as she headed out of the room and back to her and Damon’s chambers, putting Isabelle’s fate from her mind as she instead focused on the hope Stephan had given her.

Luckily, Damon was still there, sitting on a chair in the corner and looking over something on his tablet.

He glanced up as Freya entered the room and frowned. “Hey… You seem… Cheery. Did something happen?”

She nodded, still smiling. “Yes, I finally dealt with the thing that was worrying me.”

“The thing that was worrying you?” Damon asked as he stood up to meet her on eye-level.

“I… I may have been worried about the fact that we hadn’t conceived yet,” Freya admitted with a sheepish shrug.

Damon raised an eyebrow. “Freya, it’s not been that long-”

“It’s been long enough for two twenty-four-year-olds,” she said as she placed her hands on her hips. “But Stephan said that there’s nothing physically wrong, and my father suggested that since I was conceived in the Shadow Realm, maybe that’s where I have to go to conceive a child of my own.”

She stepped closer to Damon so that her chest gently bumped up against his. “So,” she said, her voice breathy and low, “would you like to go on a trip with me?”

Damon smiled. “I think I would really like that.”

Chapter Two

Freya grinned as her memories from Earth synced up with those in the Shadow Realm.

Her Shadow Realm self had been just as worried as her counterpart when Freyacouldn’t conceive, and now she was feeling both of their collective relief.

She turned to her husband, glad that they had arrived in the Shadow Realm when they were alone in their chambers.

Her smile faded just a little as she realised that Damon was clutching his head.

“Are you okay?” she asked as she approached him, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

He nodded, though he was still frowning. “I’m fine,” he managed. “Just… Adjusting to two sets ofmemories.”

“It can be disorienting,” she sympathised. “But you’ll be fine in a few moments. You’ll adjust.”

“I know,” he assured her. “I can already feel it getting better.”

She smiled as she closed the space between them. “Well, if you need some distraction until it goes away completely, we did come here with a purpose in mind, did we not?”

He smiled back. “Indeed, we did.”

Freya grabbed his shirt, pulling him close with more than a little enthusiasm.

“Do you think it worked?”

Freya took a moment to process her husband’s words, with him having spoken them as she had just woken up in their room at the Palace, still wrapped in his arms and having just barely opened her eyes.

“You already asked that in the Shadow Realm,” she said as she turned to face him properly.

“I know, I’m just wondering if your answer is still the same.”

She sighed with a slight smile. “I’m probably about as sceptical of her answer as you are. The idea that she could ‘feel’ that it had worked… I know biology was my weakest science subject in school, but I’m almost certain that that’s not how pregnancy works. Like, I think it needs a little more time than that to take hold, you know?”

“Well, the Shadow Realm does operate under different rules.”

Freya nodded. “I know. And I hope that she’s right. But still, I’m not spending time trying to dissect whether or not she was serious. We’ll find out soon enough.”

“I hope she’s right too,” Damon told her with a smile before they were interrupted by a knock at the door.

Freya sighed. “That’s probably important, isn’t it?”

“It feels like my aunt.”

“Yup, definitely important…” Freya forced herself to sit up. “Come in,” she yelled as she disabled the wards on the door.

Seph entered the room with a bow, which frustrated Freya to no end. She appreciated that she was the Princess now, but Seph was still the Queen.

But Seph insisted that it was proper and getting Seph to let go of the proper thing was nigh impossible.

Even when Freya was in her fuzzy Star Wars pyjamas.

“I apologise for intruding so early in the morning,” Seph told her, “but there is an urgent matter that I thought you would want to be kept apprised of.”

“It’s fine,” Freya assured her. “What is it?”

“The Fae responded swiftly to our message. A messenger has arrived to deliver their response.”

Freya raised an eyebrow. “Just a messenger?”

Seph shrugged. “He refused to give his name.”

“Which leads me to believe that it might actually be Peter… Give me five minutes to get dressed.”

Seph nodded before leaving the room as Freya clambered out of bed and headed to her wardrobe to search for an appropriate dress.

Damon also got up and dressed himself in formal attire befitting the consort to the Princess and a member of the Kingsguard. It was simple and black, as most men’s clothing in the Underworld was, with silver and crimson detailing around the few pieces of armour he wore.

Freya, on the other hand, wore no armour, though she wished that she could. It wasn’t completely unheard of, but Seph had warned her that as a Dark Angel, most were already afraid of her, so Freya’s attire should be focused on softening her visage, not toughening it.

Freya wished that weren’t the case – that she could just stay within her armour at all times and deal with her problems by glaring at them menacingly – but it seemed that she still had things to learn when it came to actual negotiation and diplomacy, despite how often Seph had tried to teach her over the years.

She could handle being friendly and she could generally articulate her ideas eloquently enough for them to stand on their own merits, but with Uther constantly trying to get her to slip up… It was harder than it should have been and beyond Freya’s skill level.

She hated being out of her depth…

She steeled herself before leaving her room, however. Whatever skills she had managed to learn in the negotiation department would likely be vital even if this really was just a messenger of the Fae, and not Peter himself.

The Fae were notoriously tricky, after all, and she had struggled to deal with them in the past.

Though, she still wasn’t sure that Amber hadn’t escalated that situation further than it had needed to go. Freya pushed that thought away, not wanting to dwell on ‘might-have-been’s. Not when Peter had been promising to take her home to her father. A home that it had taken her almost anotherdecade to find on her own.

Seph led Freya through to one of the meeting rooms, only for Freya to see a familiar boy with brown hair and leaf-green garb, though he had at least dressed in a tunic and trousers that weren’t completely dissimilar to how the sons of noble houses dressed.

“Peter,” Freya greeted, more than a little cautious, expecting him to start yelling at any second. To call her stupid for her past mistakes and say that her not trusting him had screwed up any futurecooperation between their peoples.

Instead, he just smiled. “Freya. It has been too long.”

She gave a sheepish shrug. “You didn’t exactly leave a phone number after we last spoke.”

Peter grimaced. “I suspect Amber wouldn’t have let me. I did consider contacting you after she had passed on, but we had had such trouble communicating before, and that only tends to get worse as people grow up and I do not.” He moved his hand up to show her a small, green box with a flower on the lid. “Here, I brought this for you. A gift befitting a princess.”

Freya took the box hesitantly before opening it to reveal a jewel-encrusted bracelet that glittered like fire under the red light of the room.

“I charmed it with a protection spell,” Peter told her. “It’s not as strong as anything I’m sure you could cast yourself, but I hope that the thought is at least appreciated.”

Freya smiled. “It is. Thank you, Peter. I… I am sorry about how distrustful I was of you in the past.”

He shook his head. “No, I should have figured out a better way to approach you. I knew that Amber would always have been distrustful of me and kept you away, so I thought drawing you into a situation where you were forced to deal with me was the best way to go about protecting you.” He smiledas he looked around the room. “I am glad that you managed to make your way home without me. I just wish that I had been able to help you. That protection spell will do you little good now that it’s about to begin.”

Freya frowned. “What’s about to begin?”

“Her plan for you.”

Before Freya could ask what he meant by that, a portal appeared behind him, just the right size for him to step through.

As soon as he was through, it sealed shut behind him, preventing anyone from following him.

Freya sighed as she looked down at the bracelet in her hands.

“What do you think he meant by that?” Damon asked.

Freya shook her head. “I… Peter was as paranoid as Amber about what Fate’s plan for me would be. They might not have trusted each other and had different ideas of how to protect me, but both of them feared that I would end up fighting battles like the ones that destroyed my mother and grandmother.” She frowned as she turned to Seph. “I thought fighting Uther was the plan Fate had for me.”

Seph sighed. “That would be the most obvious battle for you to fight, yes. I will double check with our intelligence to see if Uther has been up to anything we have missed. And I will also see if I can get a broader look at Fate’s plan for you, but I doubt I will be able to. My Seer abilitieshave always been confined to the immediate future, and only looking down one possible branch of the future at a time. Without information on what my brother might be up to, it will be difficult for me to pick out his branches.” She frowned, finding the idea of having such limitations obviously distasteful.

“It’s fine,” Freya assured her. “We should focus on gathering any information that we can. Including checking in with Caroline to make sure that he hasn’t been doing anything unusual on Earth.”

Seph nodded. “Of course, I’ll contact her right away.”

Chapter Three

Freya knew that the more time passed without finding any indication that Uther had some large-scale plan in the works should calm her anxious mind, but it only made it worse.

If he was the danger that Peter warned her about, then the fact that they had gone weeks without finding anything more than his usual, little plots that couldn’t be definitively traced back to him was worrying.

If he wasn’t, then the idea that there was another danger out there that Freya had yet to face turned her stomach. She had only ever faced one enemy that had scared her as much as Uther did, and as much as she knew that the Enhanced had informed the governments of most countries about magic, she also knew that their numbers were too small to put up a real fight when she had the entire Demon army behind her.

“You know, worrying as much as you do can’t be good for you,” Damon told her softly as he came over to where she was working in the library, going over various bits of intelligence on Uther’s activities, hoping to find a pattern that Seph had somehow missed. “I’m pretty sure my aunt has been getting more sleep than you this week, and she’s usually still here in the early hours of the morning.”

Freya gave him a tired smile. “That’s because she works late into the night, and I seem to remember going to bed with you last night at a reasonable hour. Or did I imagine our little trip to the Shadow Realm?”

In fact, they went to the Shadow Realm together every night now to attempt to ensure that if it was the way for Freya to get pregnant, thatthey actually succeeded. Her Shadow Realm self found it particularlyamusing, attempting to assure Freya that it had, in fact, already worked. Butshe didn’t suggest that Freya actually stop her trips with Damon, so Freya keptat it. Just in case.

“I remember that as well,” Damon conceded, “but I also remember waking up alone this morning.”

Freya cringed. “Sorry, I just…”

“You woke up early and couldn’t just lie still?”

She nodded. “Jean sent Amanda by yesterday. I think Jean has become wary of meeting me themselves in recent months… They keep sending Amanda in their place. Not that I mind, Amanda is a little less rough around the edges. Anyway, Jean had given her more intel that Haven has gathered on Uther, and then when I woke up in the middle of the night, going over it again seemedlike a good distraction.”

Damon sighed and made his way over to her, gently placing his hand over hers. “You know, if you need distraction in the middleof the night, you can wake me. I’m sure I can think of something far moredistracting than intelligence reports.”

Freya gave him a rueful smile. “I’m sure that you could, but… It’s probably best that only one of us is mildly sleep deprived rightnow.”

He didn’t respond to that with words. Instead, he simply drew her into his arms and held her tight.

“I promise,” he eventually muttered into her hair, “whatever is going on, whatever Fate’s plan for you might be, we will face it together. We’ll make it through whatever it is. You’re not alone in this.”

“I know,” she assured him as she returned his embrace.

After a few moments, she pulled away, forcing herself to  smile. “Well, it’s getting on, I suppose I should find my father and Seph.”

“Have another day of shadowing them planned?”

“You ask that as if I ever do anything else these days. If I’m going to take over from my father, this is the fastest way to learn.”

Damon smiled. “I know, I was asking mostly in jest.”

Freya sighed, shaking her head. As she played his words backin her mind, she could hear the playful tone to them, but she had completely missed it in the moment. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m just…”

“Tired because you’re working yourself up into a worry about what Peter said.”

She nodded. “Yeah. Sorry. I’ll try not to. It’s just easier said than done.”

“I know,” he assured her. “Now, come on. Your father will be waiting for you.”

Freya nodded before heading through to her father’s office, where he was already waiting with Seph.

“Good morning, little one,” her father said with a smile as she entered, and she returned the smile at the nickname he had started using for her over the past year.

“Good morning,” she replied before turning to Seph. “I don’t suppose there’s any more news?”

Her father shook his head before Seph could answer. “You’re still so worried about this?”

“Of course I am,” Freya said, folding her arms. “If Fate does have something planned for me, I want to be prepared. And the fact thatPeter warned me suggests that preparing is something I can do, I just wish he’d given me more to go on.”

“Yes,” her father said, his tone flat, “you would think if he actually knew what he was talking about that he would have something moreconcrete to offer, wouldn’t you?”

Freya simply turned to Seph, having had this discussion a thousand times since Peter had left. “I take it this means that there’s nothing?”

“Nothing that I can trace back to Uther, but there is something concerning happening on Earth. Caroline sent me several news reports, and none of them are pleasant. She also sent me crime statistics. Over the last month, violent crime has skyrocketed all across the realm. There is, of course, a worry that this might have a magical cause. Though there is also the concern that, regardless of the reason for the increases in violence, an increase will mean an increase in magical beings being drawn into violent situations with Humans, which means an increase in the number of instances where magic is likely to be exposed.”

Freya grimaced. “Yeah, there’s no way that ends well… Can you send Caroline some more support to try to keep things civil when magical beings are involved? Or at least help in catching any of those instances before they make it to the news.”

Seph shook her head. “We’ve already increased how much help she has so that she can better handle both Uther and the Enhanced. When the exposure of magic was reversed, we signed agreements with all of the other magical factions to prevent another exposure. Part of those agreements was a cap on the number of Demons working for the crown or the nobility who are allowed to be on Earth at any one time. We’ve already hit that limit, with the exception of a few Demons worth of leeway I left so that someone going to visit a relative on Earth doesn’t accidentally violate the agreements. I could send a handful more, but then we really would be at the absolute limit, and if the agreements are violated, even by accident…”

Freya shook her head. “No, a handful more aren’t likely to help, and I would rather not cause an incident with the Council of Light. They’re probably just waiting for me to screw up.”

Seph nodded. “Of course. I can attempt to look at the troops I have sent with Gregor and see if I can replace newer recruits with more experienced soldiers or figure out how to make the whole operation more efficient so that we can do more with what we have. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get started on that right away.”

She left the room and Freya turned to her father who was giving her a sympathetic look.

“You don’t look like you’ve been sleeping.”

She rolled her eyes. “Thanks.”

He smiled. “Well, it’s true. As I said before, you’re clearly stressed about this whole thing with Fate’s plan.”

She looked away. She hated reminding him of her mother’s death, but she could hardly talk about her worries here without bringing it up.

“Well, her plan didn’t work out well for my mother, did it? Or my grandmother. Or her mother. Or her mother…”

“You’re not them,” her father reminded her.

“I know, but I’m enough like them to spot the pattern. They were all the most powerful beings around. All Angels. And Fate doesn’t bring Angels into the world without a plan for them.”

“Well, technically, I think it’s Life that makes those decisions.”

“You mean the only member of the Big Three that I am tied tobut have never actually spoken to? Who hasn’t been seen in decades? I can’t say that gives me more confidence…”

“Freya, I appreciate why you’re worried about Fate having similar plans for you, but you have something none of them did.”

She forced a small smile. “I know. I’m not alone.”

“You know that one of my biggest regrets was not figuring out where the Enhanced held your mother. Of not being able to be there for her… If I had, she wouldn’t have died. You have people here. You have friends, and a husband, and everyone that cares about you.”

She nodded. “I know. And I appreciate that. As worried as I am about this, Dad, I can safely say that just being here and knowing that you’re here for me helps. It truly does.”

“I’m glad,” he said, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Though you do know, little one, that even when I’m gone, you’ll still have people here who care about you. Seph, Gregor, Caroline… And of course, you have Damon.”

She rolled her eyes, hating when he brought up the fact that he was dying. “You’re not going anywhere right this second.”

He didn’t respond to that, getting quiet as he looked away.

She frowned. “Is something wrong?”

Before he could respond, there was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” her father said, and a servant opened the door, bowing.

“Your Majesty, Princess, there is an Oracle here to see you.”

“An Oracle?” the King asked, but Freya already figured that she knew who it would be.

“Send her in.”

The servant nodded, and a moment later, Alice entered the room, wearing her now-usual black suit, with her short black hair slicked back, out of her dark brown eyes.

“Alice!” Freya greeted with a smile as she rushed forward, though she didn’t go to hug her adoptive sister. “What brings you here?”

Alice smiled. “I have come here to tell you that your mandatory separation has come to an end.”

Freya blinked. “My what?”

Alice sighed before handing her a tablet with a map on it. She had highlighted an off-licence at the corner of the street.

“Go there,” Alice told her. “You have about a minute.”

“I…” Freya turned to her father. “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Before he could respond, Freya had already shifted down to the Palace’s portal.

She had no idea what was waiting for her on Earth, but she trusted Alice, and she figured that her sister wouldn’t steer her wrong. If she said that Freya had to be somewhere in a minute, then Freya figured that’s where she had to be.

Once Freya had stepped through the portal, she used Alice’s map to visualise the street she was heading to before shifting there.

She arrived on the innocuous looking street and looked around, wondering just why Alice had told her to head there.

There didn’t appear to be anything particularly special about it. In fact, it could have been any of hundreds of streets Freya had seen in the past.

But she stopped wondering as her gaze fell on a familiar figure across the street.


She didn’t look much different from when Freya had last seen her, still keeping her inky black hair long and tied up, and still keeping herwardrobe plain and practical.

But she was there, and she seemed fine, standing with a group of others.

Was that what Alice had meant about a mandatory separation being over? Was it finally safe for her and Alex to see each other again?

Freya’s heart leapt to her throat at the thought and she went to cross the street to alert Alex to her presence.

But then one of the men Alex was talking to doubled over.

A moment later, he exploded, bone and molten hot flesh hurtling through the air to injure passers-by.

Freya threw up a wall of air to stop anything from hitting her, but her thoughts quickly turned from her own peril.

“Alex!” she cried out as she looked over the carnage to see Alex had been knocked to the ground, as had the man who had been standing nextto her, the latter having a large chunk of bone sticking out of his eye.

Freya quickly checked to see that the other man, presumably also Enhanced, was definitely dead before turning her attention fully to Alex.

Freya breathed a sigh of relief as she realised that while Alex had been knocked out from the blast, the wounds she had seemed superficial. Though she didn’t want to take her to a Human hospital fortreatment, so, without thinking, she shifted Alex back to the portal, bringingher through to the Palace.

“She’s recovering,” Stephan told Freya after he had finally finished looking Alex over and tending to her wounds.

Freya had stayed out in the corridor while he’d worked, not wanting to be in his way. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been there when Damon arrived. Though, once he’d seen Alex, he hadn’t pressed Freya for answers, just waiting with her. Freya assumed that he remembered enough about what Freya had said about the other woman in the past to recognise her.

After a little while more of waiting, Freya’s father and Seph had also arrived, though Damon had fended off their questions by simply telling them that Alex was a friend of Freya’s and leaving it at that.

They had apparently taken the hint, not pressing any further.

“Thank you,” Freya said to Stephan. “Will she be all right?”

He nodded. “She’s a tough one, your friend. Almost unusually tough for a Human… Some of the scarring will likely stay, but no real damage was done.”

Freya sighed with relief before turning to the others, assuming that they would have questions for her that wouldn’t wait, now that she wasn’t so obviously distraught about her friend.

“So… That’s what Alice was telling you about?” her father ventured. “Your Human friend being in danger?”

Freya nodded.

Seph sighed. “Having a Human here in the Underworld… If anyone finds out that you brought her here, it will cause no end of problems.”

“I know,” Freya said, folding her arms. “But I couldn’t just leave her there.”

“It’s okay,” her father assured her. “We’ll sort things out.” Before he could say anything else, his words were cut off by a coughing fit.

Stephan sighed, moving over to him. “You shouldn’t be on your feet, Edric. You should be resting.”

Freya’s father gave him a rueful smile. “We both know that rest isn’t going to do me much good at this point.”


Freya’s father ignored Stephan, turning back to Freya. “As I was saying, we’ll make sure that your friend is well looked after, even if she is Human.”

Freya bit her lip, not wanting to tell them, but also knowing that they would figure it out eventually. “Even if she’s Enhanced?”

Her father blinked at her.

“I mean, she’s a friend, and she’s been working against the rest of the Enhanced, so that has to count for something, right?”

“Her being Enhanced will make things harder,” her father admitted, “but I’m sure that we can figure something out.”

Freya turned to Seph, knowing that she would be the one doing that figuring.

Seph pinched the bridge of her nose with a sigh, looking exhausted. “If she’s your friend, then I promise that we’ll figure something out. It’s a good thing you’re a Dark Angel… You could probably get away with murder.”

Freya gave a tight smile. “I’m pretty sure I already have on several occasions. But I take your point. I’m sorry for the mess.”

Seph shook her head. “It’s fine. She’s your friend, and if she really has been working against the rest of the Enhanced, she will be a valuable ally. Though I suppose I should start making arrangements to keep her arrival quiet.”

“And you need rest,” Stephan said firmly to the King.

He just turned to Freya. “Will you be all right?”

She nodded. “Yeah, I will be. Alex is fine, so… I’ll just wait for her to wake up. She should probably have a familiar face to explain to her where she is.”

“I’ll just be in my chambers if you need me.”

Freya nodded as Stephan finally ushered her father away and Seph followed, leaving Freya alone in the corridor with Damon.

She opened the door to Alex’s room, looking over to her sleeping form, though she stayed in the doorway, hesitant to step any furtherinto the room. As if the sleeping woman might object to the intrusion.

After a few moments, Freya realised that her fingers were twirling the engagement ring that she wore on a chain around her neck so that the chain tightened. Freya only realised what she was doing as the chain approached breaking point.

She turned to Damon to realised that his gaze was on the ring.


“I know.”

She raised an eyebrow, about to ask what Damon meant by that, but he closed the space between them, kissing her softly.

“You should go to her,” he said as he finally moved away. “Be there for her when she wakes up.”

Freya frowned. “Really? Are you really okay with…?”

“With the fact that you’re still in love with her?”

Freya folded her arms tight, looking back over at the sleeping woman. “I’m not even sure that I know her anymore.”

“Then you should see, without worrying about me.”

Freya hesitated, and Damon sighed.

“We talked about this, remember? With everything with Isabelle…”

“Everything that happened with Isabelle is why I’m worried that you changed your mind.”

Damon folded his arms. “Look, Freya, that was… That was a different situation. We hadn’t known Isabelle for that long, but you knew Alex for years. I don’t think she’s going to hurt you, so I’m not worried. It’sfine.”

“Are you sure?”

He nodded with a smile. “I am.”

She wrapped her arms around him before kissing him once more, sharing her Energy to reinforce just how much she loved him.

“I love you too,” he said with a smile as she finally pulled away. “Now, go on.”

Freya nodded before heading into the room, the door closing behind her as she made her way over to the bed Alex was sleeping in.

There was a chair next to the bed and Freya sat down before moving one of her hands over to Alex’s, wanting to make sure that she wasactually there.

That she was real.

As soon as her fingertips brushed over Alex’s skin, she felt a familiar warmth spread through her, and her skin started to glow with Angelic power.

Healing power.

She took a hold of Alex’s hand, allowing the healing magic to spread through her. Her skin lost some of its grey pallor, returning to the dark shade of golden brown that Freya remembered as her eyes fluttered open.

Alex bolted upright after a moment, staring at Freya with warm, brown eyes as stray strands of inky black hair fell across her face.

“It was you,”Alex whispered after a moment of staring, her voice tentative and cautious as if unsure if she was actually awake. 

“It’s me,” Freya assured her, her voice just as quiet.

Alex surged forward, moving to a kneeling position, her hand threading through Freya’s hair to keep her in place as their lips crashed together.

Freya grabbed Alex by the waist on instinct, her familiar taste awakening feelings that Freya hadn’t been sure even still existed, confirming to Freya that she truly never had stopped loving Alex, she had just pushed the feelings down and attempted to forget about them in their separation.

Freya could have sworn that she felt the familiar warmth of her elemental magic flaring to cause flames to cover her skin, but Alex didn’t move away or attempt to dampen her magic to keep herself from burning.

No, her hand went to the small of Freya’s back, pulling her even closer.

But a moment after that, Alex did pull away, her cheeks flushed and her lips ruby red from their kiss as she attempted to catch her breath once more.

“Sorry,” she said with a sheepish smile. “I shouldn’t… It’s been years, you probably don’t even still car-”

Before Alex could finish her thought, Freya used the fact that her hands were still on her waist to pull her close once more, kissing her again.

“What was that you were saying?” Freya asked with a cheeky smile as she finally pulled away again, Alex gazing back at her with a combination of heat and disbelief. “Some sort of ridiculous apology?”

Alex smiled back, shaking her head a little, though she stopped as her gaze fell on the engagement ring on the chain around Freya’s neck.

“You… You kept it,” Alex said softly as her fingers gently brushed the metal.

“Of course.”

Alex continued to stare at it for a moment, her hand going to her own neck, though it stopped dead as it brushed up against nothing but her skin.

“I…” Alex started quickly, staring at Freya like a deer in the headlights. “I didn’t lose your pendant, I swear, I just… I would have kept it. Obviously, I would have kept it. It was the only thing I had of you.But… Well, when I found out that Gus and Hell had elemental magic, it madesense to give it to them so that they could use it to train. If I knew how toget another, I would have, but… They needed it more than me. Though, God,maybe I need it now as well, given that I can apparently access Gus’ magic, butI have no idea how that works-”

“Alex,” Freya said gently, completely lost. “You might want to take this from the top.”

Alex nodded as she leaned back tiredly in the bed she was sitting on. “Right. The top… Well, after we split up, I met back up with Gus.You remember Gus, right?”

“Your brother? Yes, I remember him.”

“I didn’t trust anyone else, so I wanted it to be just him and me, taking on the rest of the Enhanced. That… It didn’t go well. We got into a fight and I was knocked out. Gus worried that I was dead, and when he was checking my pulse, his fingers brushed up against your charm. That was apparently enough for him to tap into his magic. He attacked the Enhanced with a barrage of flame and then shifted us away. Of course, he didn’t think to actually tell me how we got out of that fight until much later when we’d recruited others and they’d seen him use his powers in a fight. We looked into it and it turns out that they spliced Dragon genes into our entire batch. Not much, but enough for some of us to get powers. And… Well, when Gus next used his powers, the only other of our siblings we had recruited was Hell. The others…”

She looked away, her eyes glazing over with tears. “Once the Enhanced knew that Gus had magic, they tried to push the others into accessingtheir own. They… None of them survived…”

“Alex, I’m so sorry.”

Alex shook her head. “That was a while ago now. But as I said, Gus and Hell both accessed their own magic, so I gave them your focusing charm to help them control it. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologise,” Freya assured her. “I’m glad it was useful. But you mentioned being able to access Gus’ magic yourself. Whatdid you mean by that?”

“I… I’ve only really done it once but…” Alex brought her hand up before closing her eyes and frowning slightly.

A moment later, magical flame danced across her palm.

Freya stared, using her own magic to sense what was going on. She sensed a magical signature that she’d never felt before.


But alongside it was another that Freya found harder to recognise, though she was fairly certain that it belonged to Gus.

A moment later, the flames died, and Alex’s magical signature disappeared as if it had only been activated by Gus’.

“It turns out Gus and I are connected,” Alex explained. “I might not have magic of my own, but I can draw on his. And it doesn’t poison me, like when that Guide infected me with magic, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s Gus or because something changed when Hell went through that initiation ritual…” Alex sighed. “Sorry, I’m trying to condense down years’ worth of news. Caroline was supposed to explain all of this to you…”

Freya frowned. “Caroline? How do you know Caroline?”

“Gus kind of stumbled across her team, and then she met with the rest of us… What day is it?”

“Tuesday, I think.”

“I met her yesterday and she said that she would come to the Underworld to tell you everything… Well, today, I guess. It’s been a hectic week.”

Freya smiled. “Yeah, I’m more than familiar with those kinds of weeks.” She took a moment to process everything Alex had told her before something clicked into place. “You’re an Enhanced with magic…”

Alex shrugged. “Well, Gus has magic, I just kind of borrow his. And I have no idea how it even really works.”

“I might know someone who you should talk to about it,” Freya said, looking back over at Alex only to see that she was staring at her. Freya’s cheeks flushed at the scrutiny. “What?”

“Nothing,” Alex said, shaking her head. “It’s just… You look different.”

Freya became suddenly very aware of the intricate dress she was wearing, not to mention the glove covering her right arm up to the elbow and the tiara on her head.

“Good different?”

Alex nodded with a smile. “Yeah. Like you finally found a place to belong.”

Freya frowned in confusion before Alex explained, “Caroline told me about you finding your father and that he’s the Demon King.”

“Yeah, I think both of us have had a hectic few years. Speaking of, what exactly were you up to that got you caught in that explosion?”

Alex stared at her for a moment. “God, the explosion, I completely… The Enhanced that was with me, did he…”

Freya shook her head. “It looked like one exploded out from the inside. His bones became shrapnel. Your friend took an unlucky hit.”

Alex looked away, her hands gripping the bed sheets beneath her as smoke rose from under them. “I… I was going to say that I couldn’t believe that the Enhanced would go as far as to use our own bodies as weapons against us, but… The problem is that I do believe it.” She shook her head. “I never should have let Jay come with me. He was so damn insistent, but I should have known better.”

Freya put her hand on Alex’s, hoping to stop her before she set fire to the entire bed. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be, it’s my fault. I wanted to trust Kim so bad, I walked right into a trap. A trap that I probably wouldn’t have survived if you hadn’t gotten me out of there. How did you know I would even be there?”

“Alice. She told me that it was safe to come and get you. Probably because as much as the Enhanced could use me to track you down on Earth, they can’t track me in the Underworld.”

Alex nodded as a knock sounded at the door.

Freya turned, and before she could answer, a Demon with stiff posture and a permanent frown entered.

Freya suppressed a sigh as she recognised Rodrick. Freya had been told his official job title more than a few times, but he annoyed her enough that she refused to remember it, thinking of him only as her father’s messenger-boy.

“Princess Freya,” he greeted, his voice as stiff as his back.

Damon followed him in with a sigh. “Sorry, Freya. I tried to get him to wait outside, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Rodrick sniffed, otherwise ignoring Damon’s words. “The King said he needed to see you urgently.”

Freya nodded. “I’ll be right there.”

Rodrick only left the room after she shot him a warning glare, wanting to have just a moment with Alex and Damon.

Once he was out of the room, Freya turned to Alex. “This is Damon. He’s my, um…”

Alex’s cheeks tinged crimson. “Your husband… I might have just kissed your wife. A few times, actually.”

Damon just smiled. “It’s all right, Freya and I already talked about this. I was never going to make her choose between us.”

“Huh… You know, that’s exactly what my fiancée said about it.”

Freya blinked at her. “Your what now?”

“My fiancée. And you don’t get to be surprised, you’re married.”

“Fair point,” Freya said with a shrug before refocusing. “I should really go and see what my father needs, but Alex, you should show Damon your magic.”

“It’s not mine,” Alex reminded her. “And I feel bad for drawing from Gus so much. I don’t want to exhaust him. But… I suppose a little flame couldn’t hurt.”

She brought up her hand and produced a flame as Damon stared at it.

“I… I’m not the only one,” Damon finally managed as Alex let the flame die out.

Alex frowned. “Not the only what?”

“The only… Hybrid, I guess. My father is a Demon, but my mother… She was Enhanced. I was raised here as a Demon, but I do have Enhanced powers.”

Alex stared at him. “You… Did your father clear out an entire base to get you?”

Damon nodded, looking away. “I believe that was the case, yes.”

“I’d heard rumours that you existed, and I’d seen the old base. I wondered what had happened to you.” She shook her head. “Though I’m not exactly a natural-born hybrid. And I’m not sure that I class as one at all. Dragon DNA was spliced into my batch. Some of my siblings manifested powers, including my brother, and since the two of us are connected, I can access his powers, even though I don’t have any of my own.”

“I… um…” Damon started, but he looked away, fidgeting with the edge of his shirt.

Alex gave him a reassuring smile. “You know, if you want to know anything about the Enhanced, I can tell you. I might even be able to track down some info on your mother, if you want.”

Damon was apparently speechless at that, and Freya figured that she had done her job introducing them. “I should go,” she told them. “But I’ll be back in a bit.”

Freya arrived back at her father’s office to see her father and Seph there as expected. Alice was still there, and Freya wondered if she had moved since she had told Freya where Alex was. Beside Alice stood Caroline, and Freya figured that she had just arrived as Alex had said she would.

“Caroline, Alex says you’ve been involved with the Enhanced.”

Caroline nodded at Freya’s words, but her features were stone. “I have, but we can discuss that later. For now…”

Alice stepped forward. “For now, we have more urgent matters.” She handed Freya her tablet, a news article loaded up.

An article about the explosion Alex had been caught in.

An article that detailed how the man who had exploded had been genetically modified.

How he had been engineered from the ground up to act as a terrorist weapon.

“How in the hell did they figure this out?” Freya asked. “How did they even know to look for enhancements? Don’t the Enhanced have safeguards against this? Haven’t they been working with national governments? There’s no way this story should have gotten out…” She turned to Alice. “Is this part of Fate’s plan?”

Alice shook her head. “None of this mess on Earth is part of her plan.” She pulled up the rest of the news and Freya’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline. She was used to the news being dark, but as she scrolled down the stories, Seph’s words about violence increasing seemed a lot more real.

“So, if it’s not Fate’s plan, what the hell is going on?”

“We don’t know,” Alice confessed as Freya passed her tablet back to her. “It’s as if Humans are giving in to their worst impulses. Fate’s plan is derailing, Freya. If Oracles can no longer predict how Humans will respond, we cannot do our job.”

Freya wasn’t exactly upset at the idea of Fate’s plan being disrupted, but… “If it keeps on like this, it’s only a matter of time before magical beings are drawn into the fight and magic is exposed. We’ve got to stop it. You know, assuming we can figure out what’s causing it.”

Seph folded her arms, drawing Freya’s attention to the fact that her posture was tight, her jaw clenched so hard that Freya was surprised that she could speak. “There is only one thing I have heard can cause such an effect, but it has never been opened before, so we have nothing to compare it to. Still, the warnings seem clear. This appears to be the work of Pandora’s Box.”

Alice nodded. “It would make the most sense.” She turned to Freya. “The box was built to contain Ku, but she was not the only thing it held. If it has been opened now that she is no longer held within, the other contents have likely escaped.”

“Okay, so is there a way to put it all back into the box?”

Alice nodded. “Most likely, but as the box is tied to Ku, the task will probably require Ancient power, and we’ll have to find the box first.”

“Then let’s go to Earth and find this box.”

“You can’t,” her father said sharply. “You cannot go on such dangerous adventures anymore, Freya. You are needed in the Underworld.”

Freya rolled her eyes. “I’m not needed right this second. There is time before I have to take the throne.”

Whatever she was expecting, it wasn’t the stern look father gave her. “No, Freya. Part of being Queen means delegating, and like it or not, that is a skill you will have to learn.”

Freya frowned. “I don’t mind delegating things, but when it comes to the fate of the world, that is kind of why Angels exist. As much as I am the Princess of the Underworld, I am also a Dark Angel. That means that I am supposed to protect all Dark beings, including those that live on Earth. I could send others to stop this, but we both know that they won’t have the same chance I will.”

Both Seph and Caroline stepped forward before Freya’s father could argue further.

Caroline placed a hand on Freya’s shoulder. “Perhaps now isn’t the time for arguing.” Her voice was soft, and Freya had to wonder what exactly she meant.

“What has any of this got to do with the time?”

Her father shook his head. “It’s nothing. Just… Something we can discuss in the morning.” All of the fire from his tone before had gone, and now he just seemed tired. “Perhaps tomorrow we can have a day off from work. With everything that has happened over the past few months, we haven’t had a day to just spend together. We can regroup and decide what to do about the box after that.”

Freya nodded, not wanting to argue when it was obvious that her father’s illness was taking its toll on him. Especially not when his plan did actually sound like a good one. He was right in saying that it had been a while since they had spent some time together, just the two of them.

Her father managed a weak smile. “Perhaps you should return to your friend. I imagine the two of you have a lot of catching up to do.”

Freya nodded again. “Yeah, we do.”

Alice looked between them all for a moment, and Freya wondered what exactly she was thinking as she seemed to evaluate the situation in front of her. Whatever it was, she didn’t elaborate, instead just turning to Freya. “I will be here when you call.”

At that, Alice disappeared, and Freya turned back to her father. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

He smiled. “I’ll see you then.”

Freya headed out of the room, back to the healing chambers where she had left Alex and Damon.

Alex seemed to have perked up from her previous, slightly rattled state, and Damon was sitting on a chair by her bed, talking with her.

They both turned to Freya as she entered the room.

Damon waved her over. “So, what was the matter?”

Freya groaned as she dropped down at the end of Alex’s bed. “Well, apparently Pandora’s Box is real, and it has been opened.” She sighed, brushing a few loose strands of hair from her eyes. “I mean, I’m assuming that by ‘Pandora’s Box’ Seph means that this is the box that inspired the old myth, not that it works exactly the same way. No, nothing would ever be that easy.”

Alex gave her a wry smile. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually been around for any of your huge, world-ending magical adventures.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

She shook her head. “No, not at all. I’m just saying, I’ve heard stories about how you stopped Faeries from destroying the world and helped your sister rebel against Fate herself…”

Freya sighed. “Yeah, but I think that those examples are about as extreme as anything got before I met you.”

Alex raised an eyebrow. “You say that as if those things aren’t extreme.”

“Yeah… I guess when the most extreme thing you can possibly face is the end of the world, it gives you a weird perspective on things. Speaking of, I don’t think we actually have any guarantee that this box won’t end the world tomorrow, so we should probably head to Earth in the next couple of days to deal with it. Assuming it’s on Earth. That’s the only realm that appears affected, so I’m gonna run with that assumption for now. Anyway, despite the urgency, my father is insisting on having a couple of days to gather together as much information as we can. Plus… I think his illness is getting to him and I’m not going to push if he wants an extra day with me here. He’s not wrong to say that having the time to allow Seph to look into things isn’t a bad thing.”

Damon placed a reassuring hand on her knee. “Not to mention, you could use a day to try to catch up on your sleep. Or at least attempt to rest in some way, shape or form.” He looked over to Alex and then back at Freya. “Of course, I said that and then immediately realised that there is no way that you will be sleeping tonight.”

Freya rolled her eyes at the insinuation. “Oh, I don’t know, I guess it depends on what you have planned for tonight.”

“I actually made plans when you were speaking with Alex earlier. Aaron’s back in town, and I figured that I would go catch up with him.”

Freya grinned. “So, I won’t be the only one not sleeping tonight.”

It was Damon’s turn to roll his eyes. “Well, we were just planning on playing videogames and hanging out. Maybe getting some pizza from Earth… But I do have to admit, the best way to beat Aaron at any videogame is to distract him.” He winked, leaving no question as to what he meant by that.

Freya shook her head. “Well, whatever you two get up to, have fun.”

“You too.” He turned Alex. “It was nice meeting you finally.”

Alex smiled. “You too.”

Damon left the room at that and Alex turned to Freya with a raised eyebrow. “So, you two were doing the polyamorous thing before I even showed up?”

Freya shrugged, looking away. “It’s… Well…” She sighed. “We knew someone. Her name was Isabelle, and we both… We both liked her, and she liked us, so we…” Freya struggled to continue, her throat tightening.

Alex leaned over, placing her hand over Freya’s. “If something happened and you don’t want to talk about it…”

Freya shook her head. “It was about six months ago now. Uther was blackmailing her, trying to get information on me and Damon, but she was going to betray him. She was going to tell us everything and give us enough evidence to act against Uther.”

Alex winced in sympathy. “I take it he didn’t like that?”

Freya shook her head. “No, he didn’t. He poisoned her.” Freya nodded over to the corner of the room, where Isabelle’s cocoon was still kept. “My powers are keeping her in some kind of stasis, but without any way to cure the poison, it’s the best I can do.”

“I’m sorry.”

Freya shrugged as she turned back to Alex. “A while after that, Aaron was back in the Underworld, and I had been so busy working with Seph on how to bring the idea of working with other magical groups to the nobles… Damon didn’t say anything, but I could feel through our bond that he was lonely. He’s not exactly someone who does well without people around him. But he felt weird spending too much time with Aaron, given his lingering feelings for him. They only ever broke up because at the time, Aaron figured that Damon was too torn between what he wanted and his duty, and he would have to make a decision either way. But in a situation like this, where I was saying that it was okay for him to keep dating Aaron, there wasn’t that conflict. So, I told him it was fine. But he wasn’t exactly comfortable with it as long as I wasn’t also seeing someone.”

Alex smiled. “Well, you have me now.”

Freya returned her smile, though it was a little muted. “Are you really fine with just jumping back into our relationship?” she asked, finally voicing the question that had been at the back of her mind ever since Alex had woken up in the healing chambers. “I mean, I know that I still feel strongly about you, but it has been years…”

Alex gave her a reassuring smile. “I still care about you, Freya. I want to see where that leads again.” She leaned over and gently took the engagement ring that Freya still wore around her neck in her hand. “I’m not suggesting that we get married tomorrow, but I am also not asking for this back.”

Freya leaned forward, closing the gap between them as she gently brought her lips to Alex’s.

The kiss was soft and sweet, though Freya made sure to pull away after a couple of moments so that it didn’t evolve into anything more while they were in a very public location. “Perhaps the best thing for us to do would be to catch up.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Well, I have had kind of a busy day. Dinner or something sounds good about now.”

Alex grinned. “Dinner sounds great.”

Okay, so, that’s the end of the preview! The rest of the book will be up next week, or Patreon supporters can get it now.

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