Hey, everyone! So, the next book out will be the next Engineered Rebel book, but it’s been a bit of an editing nightmare, and it looks like the next Royal Cleaner book – Exiled – will be done soon after. So, I thought I would share a chapter from Exiled. It’s not the first chapter because this book takes place right after the end of the thirteenth Freya Snow book, so the first two chapters
Caroline, thankfully, landed on her feet, looking up to see that she had fallen through a portal.
A portal that Freya had apparently created without Faerie dust.
As soon as she was through, the portal closed behind her.
Sealing her off from the Underworld forever.
A groan drew her attention to the rest of the room and she realised that she was back in her office on Earth.
And Seph was lying on the ground, wincing.
“Are you okay?” Caroline asked as she rushed over to her.
Seph nodded with another wince. “Yes, I just… It’s difficult to land on your feet when you’re wearing a dress.”
Caroline helped her to her feet as another groan came from across the room.
“I’m fine too,” Gregor said, rolling his eyes as he made his way over. Though any attempt at jest faded as he approached, folding his arms. “So… that really just happened. We’re really exiles now?”
Seph frowned, straightening her skirts far more than they needed. “It would appear so. We assumed Uther wouldn’t have a backup plan if Freya survived. We underestimated him. Of course, he would have one. He has likely known the truth about Haven since before his attack on the village, and we didn’t spend enough time thinking of that possibility as a problem.”
“I’m sorry,” Caroline said, pushing any loose strands of hair back into her ponytail. “Uther was only able to implicate the two of you because of me. If I hadn’t told you the truth about Haven…”
“You didn’t,” Seph corrected. “Edric and Freya told me because they were as involved in this as you, Caroline. If not more so. Uther would have always been able to paint you as a traitor because of choices your family made. Choices made before you were even born. Edric and Freya were the ones to work with Haven of their own volition. And… Well, I may not have ever had notions as revolutionary as they did, but even I saw that something in the Underworld had to change. I may not have had a choice in being involved with Haven, but I think I would have chosen to, even if I’d been given that choice.” She looked away. “Even if exile was the eventual price.”
“Still,” Caroline said softly, not oblivious to how much work Seph was putting into keeping her facade of composure, “I know that coming to Earth like this can’t be easy for you. To be shut out of the only realm you have ever called home… I promise, I’ll do everything I can to help you adjust to life on Earth. To help you figure out exactly what you want your life here to look like and help you have it. You can be just as happy here as I am, Seph, I know it.”
Seph managed a weak smile. “Thank you, Caroline. That means a lot to me.”
Before any of them could say anything else, the door to the office opened.
Caroline turned to see Laila, Kara, and Fiona walking in.
Laila, Caroline’s second in command, raised an eyebrow as she approached. “Caroline? You’re back? Does this mean that you’ve stopped Pandora’s Box?”
Caroline sighed. “Freya did, and then proved that Uther was behind it… And then Uther proved that I was a traitor. He also implicated Seph and Gregor. Freya was left with no choice but exile all of us, rather than executing Uther.”
Kara frowned. “A traitor? How did he prove that?”
Laila sighed, folding her arms. “Remember those rogues we helped Caroline sneak into the Underworld?”
“That counts as treason?”
“Well, she didn’t want us to know about it, and she seemed to know their leader fairly well. Do you really think that was the first instance?”
Caroline cleared her throat, her cheeks heating with embarrassment as she turned to Laila. “How long have you known?”
Laila shrugged. “Like I said, the rogues were a dead giveaway. Amongst other things. But, well… I didn’t want to get involved in anything that could risk my citizenship.”
“Which is why I never told you, but I’m afraid it may be too late now. If I have been exiled-”
Laila put a hand up, stopping Caroline as Laila struggled not to wince. “I know, Caroline. Without you to sponsor it, my citizenship application is dead in the water. I will need a new noble to sponsor me before I can even start again.”
“Freya would take you,” Caroline assured her. “I would actually hope that, as my exile means that I can no longer be a part of the Royal Cleaners, she would have you replace me.”
Fiona’s eyebrows shot up. “Replace you? So, what? You’re just leaving?”
Caroline sighed. “I’ve been exiled, Fiona. The Royal Cleaners may mostly operate on Earth, but they are still an organisation that works for the Demon Queen. I can no longer be a part of it.”
Laila frowned. “Then what will you do now?”
“I’m not sure, but…” Caroline turned to Seph and Gregor. “If Uther has been exiled to Earth as well, he’s still a threat. We know that he won’t stop working against Freya. Not as long as he still lives. And she is limited in how she can fight him by the Council of Light’s restrictions on Demons being on Earth. But as we are now unaffiliated Demons…”
Gregor smiled as he realised what she was saying. “We’re not bound by the Council’s rules. We can stop Uther on Earth without the Council being able to get in our way.”
Seph hummed in thought for a moment before nodding. “Yes, I believe that we would be in the best position to stop Uther from gathering his forces on Earth. If we can thwart him here, Freya and Damon will never be in danger from him again.”
“We’ll help too,” Fiona said.
Kara nodded in agreement. “Yeah.” She turned to Caroline. “I was only ever here to pay back for my crimes, and I don’t trust your successor to agree that community service is an acceptable punishment for the things that I’ve done. Not to mention, I only stuck around because you’re bearable to work for. I wouldn’t want to give anyone else a chance.”
Caroline shook her head. “It’s not as if Freya will replace me with some stranger. She knows that Laila has been running plenty of things here for years, it would make no sense for her to hand things over to anyone else.”
“It would if I leave to help you as well,” Laila said, folding her arms.
Caroline frowned. “Laila, you don’t have to do that. You’ve wanted to move to the Underworld for as long as I’ve known you. Don’t throw away all of your hard work now.”
Laila rolled her eyes. “Caroline, I wanted to move to the Underworld because I wanted a place to fit in. And then you went and gave me one here. If I left to pursue Underworld citizenship, I would be walking away from the very thing I was searching for when I snuck into your apartment to try to kill you.”
Caroline smiled. “Well, if you’re sure – and only if you’re sure – I suppose we’ll need all of the help we can get.”
Kara frowned, looking around the offices. “We’ll probably have to move out, won’t we?”
Caroline shook her head. “Actually, I’ve been quite particular about my finances over the years. I live a dangerous life, and I didn’t want a situation where everything I had was tied up in the Underworld. Given the circumstances under which I first came to be in charge of the Royal Cleaners, it was originally a way to protect myself if… Well, if this exact situation ever happened. If the truth about my past was exposed and I was exiled to Earth. Then it became a way to make sure that Mina and the kids were financially protected if anything ever happened to me. But the point is, I own these offices. No one is going to kick us out of here.”
Caroline turned to Seph. “Speaking of owning places on Earth, do you have anywhere to go tonight?”
“I… No,” Seph admitted with a frown. “I never visited Earth often enough to need dedicated resources here.”
Gregor sighed. “Which means you don’t have money, ID, or anywhere to go.” He gave Seph a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, sis. Like Caroline, I have always kept a safety net on Earth. It should be more than enough for both of us.”
Caroline also gave Seph a reassuring smile. “For tonight, you can stay in my spare room. We’ll figure out a more permanent solution in the morning.”
Seph looked away. “Actually, Caroline, I… I think I would prefer to stay here, if you don’t mind. Assuming it will be empty for the night. I think I would prefer to be alone. Not to mention, I can go over anything you have on Uther’s activities on Earth so that we can get started on putting a stop to them.”
Caroline frowned. “If you’re sure, then I don’t mind at all. But I also wouldn’t mind you coming home with me.”
“I know, I just… Like I said, I think I need to be alone right now.”
“Okay then. I’ll show you where everything is and how to access the files on our computers.”