Updated: Jan 19
by Jennifer L Armentrout
Published by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated
Novella 2 of 3 in A Wicked Trilogy
As Caden and Brighton's attraction grows
despite the odds stacked against a happily ever after, they must work together to stop an Ancient fae from releasing the Queen, who wants nothing more than to see Caden become the evil Prince once feared by fae and mortals alike.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy #UrbanFantasy Emotional
The King by Jennifer L Armentrout is the second of three novellas set after the events of A Wicked Trilogy. The King starts up a couple of weeks after the end of The Prince, where it is revealed that Caleb has ascended, and is now king of the Summer Court. Despite this, the attraction grows between the forbidden pair as they try to stop an Ancient fae from both their past from releasing the Queen from the Otherworld.
This book was CRAZY.
I literally couldn't put it down. Currently suffering after only getting a couple of hours of sleep.
So much happens in this novella, and I can't say ANY of it, because it will spoil it for you. All I can say, is that it is action packed, emotionally gripping, and well written. The story grabs onto you right away, and will not let you go until you finish. It ends in a cliffhanger, which I think Jennifer Armentrout takes pleasure in.
The most important character in this book is Brighton herself. Without going into a lot of detail, she goes through something horrific for a long time, and it changes her. She is probably the strongest character in the series, and that's saying something. Caden also goes through a bit of an arc, even though we don't see him too much. By the end of the book, he seems pretty determined to ... spoiler alert, sort of ... be with Brighton, and screw the consequences.
For other characters, the big bad, Aric, is probably one of the most psychotic characters I have read to date. He truly disgusted me. Ren and Ivy are back from their special mission, and I was slightly disappointed in their reaction to finding out Brighton has been hunting. That being said, it's nice to see them again, married and happy. We get less of Tink. WAY less. He ends up going to Florida with his boyfriend Prince Fabian for a couple of months, and his humor is greatly missed.
Wow. This is one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, mostly due to the fact that so much happens in a freaking novella, that I can't say anything and not spoil it for you. I mean, look at the book description above. It barely says ANYTHING to what goes on in this little book. Seriously, you need to read this novella series. The King pulls you in, and I won't be surprised if, like me, you read it from cover to cover.
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Tink: "The black knee-highs would complete your I-charge-a-lot-for-sex look."
Caden: "You want to know about Aric. I think you're being this way because of us."
Brighton: "There's no us."
Caden: "You're right."
The sharp slice of pain returned, cutting through me as if he'd jammed a knife into my chest. His nostrils flared, and he took a step toward me.
Damn it, he was sensing what I was feeling. There were a lot of things that annoyed me when it came to Caden, but this was probably in the top three. The King looked away, jaw hard.
Caden: "I'm -"
Caden: "I'm sorry."
Brighton: "I don't care."
Caden: "But you do."
Brighton: "And that's the problem, right? You know, I do have something to say to you. You led me on. Bit for what reason? That's what I don't get. What did you have to gain by pretending you ... wanted me? Were you just bored and decided to mess with me head?"
Caden: "That was not it."
A deep, hidden part of me wanted to be hunted by him.
And that was so wrong.
Caden: "Go home. There's nothing here for you."
I flinched at the double meaning.
Brighton: "Don't tell me what to do."
He folded his arms
Caden: "I'm not. I'm giving you a choice."
I laughed as I mimicked his stance, crossing my arms
Brighton: "Really? Sure doesn't sound like it."
Caden: "Oh, but it is. I'm telling you to go home, and I'm giving you the choice to do so all by yourself. Or, I could pick you up, put you in my car, and drive you there."
My mouth dropped open.
Brighton: "I would love to see you try to do that. Seriously."
His head cocked to the side, and then he unfolded his arms, taking a step forward.
I threw out my hand
Brighton: "If you so much as touch me, I will cut off your nuts and stab you in the face."
Caden: "Damn. That's aggressive."
Brighton: "I'm feeling really, really aggressive."
Caden: "Hmm. Normally when I touch you, you want to do other things to my balls."
My lips parted on a sharp inhale. A dozen different things I could do to his balls danced like really weird sugarplums in my head, and none of them included kicking him.
Then I saw the way his jaw had softened and noticed the curve to his lips. He was ... amused. Fuck that.
Brighton: "You know what? You're right. There was a whole lot os things I wanted to do to them. Kiss them. Lick them. Suck them."
His humor vanished as his gaze sharpened on me. An almost predatory glint filled his eyes, making them luminous.
Brighton: "I wanted to get so familiar with them that we were on a first-name basis. But that was before. Not anymore. Now, I'd rather cut them off."
Caden: "You sure about that, sunshine?"
Brighton: "He's done terrible things to you. To me. He's dangerous, and he's evil. But I've always known that about him. I know that I -"
Caden: "That you will most likely die seeking vengeance? A slow, most definitely agonizing death? Is revenge truly worth that?"
Brighton: "I think you of all people know the answer to that."
A muscle flexed along his jaw
Caden: "Brighton, please -"
Brighton: "There's nothing you can say. Nothing you can do -"
My words ended on a sharp inhale as he moved too fast for me to track. He was suddenly over me, his arms caging me in against the headboard. I inhaled, drowning in his citrusy scent. My heart thumped against my ribs as his warm breath coasted over my lips.
Caden: "I won't do it."
Brighton: "Do what?"
I whispered, shivering as he lifted a hand, placing his palm against my cheek.
Caden: "I won't do it."
He repeated, sliding his thumb over my lower lip. I gasped. His hand slipped down my throat and over the bare skin of my shoulder.
Caden: "I too am capable of just about anything. And I will not let you get yourself killed."
My eyes flew open, but the King was already gone.
Brighton: "You son of a -"
Tanner: "Ms. Jussier. He may not be your King, but you will respect him while you're here."
Brighton: "And when I'm not here? Can I disrespect him then?"
Ivy: "You're out there, but yourself, without anyone knowing what you're doing?"
Brighton: "Obviously, the King of all douchebags knows."
Brighton: "Did you forget how to button a shirt?"
Caden: "Actually, I was going to change it. However, I was interrupted by someone banging on my door like a madwoman."
Brighton: "Oh, I am definitely a madwoman. How could you do that?"
Caden: "Do what?"
Brighton: "Don't pretend like you have no idea why I'm here."
Caden: "Is it because I outed you? For your own safety?"
Brighton: "My own safety?'
Caden: "There seems to be an echo in here."
Brighton: "There's about to be an ass-kicking in here."
Brighton: "Oh my God. Do you think this is amusing?"
Caden: "How mad would you be if I said yes?"
My nostrils flared
Caden: "Very mad, I see. I can't help it."
A full smile appeared.
Caden: "You're ... adorable when you're mad."
I stomped my foot
Caden: "See. Just there. It's cute."
Brighton: "I am going to physically harm you."
Caden: "Verses mentally?"
Caden: "You left me no choice. You would not stop. I thought maybe they could talk some sense into you."
Brighton: "Guess what? They didn't."
I smirked when his jaw tightened.
Brighton: "And I'm going to repeat this for, hopefully, the last time. You do not get to tell me what I can and cannot do. Even if you and I were thing, which we're not, you still would not get to tell me what to do. I don't know who you think you are -"
Caden: "The King?"
Brighton: " - but you have no say over what I do. Stay out of my way and out of my life. I mean it. There is no reason for you to interfere."
The king looked away, a muscle thrumming in his temple. Having said my piece, I started toward the door
Caden: "Has it ever occurred to you that I am trying to protect you? That I'm trying to keep you safe?"
Brighton: "No. It hasn't. For a multitude of obvious reason. And besides that, I don't need you to keep me safe or to protect me."
Caden: "Everyone needs someone to protect them."
He tipped back his head, his eyes closing.
Brighton: "Even you?"
Caden: "Even me. I do not want to see harm come to you. I do not have to be with you to want that."
Caden: "If you knew that someone you ... you looked fondly upon was doing something that would surely lead to their demise, would you not try to stop them?"
Brighton: "Are you saying you look fondly upon me, King?"
His head tilted, and then he looked away.
I laughed, but the sound lacked any real humor.
Brighton: "Yeah, okay. But to answer your question, I wouldn't stop you, even if I knew it was dangerous."
The King's gaze cut back to mine
Caden: "But you'd still look fondly upon me."
I gave him a tight-lipped smile.
Brighton: "No. Because it would get you out of my hair."
Caden: "Now, Brighton, you and I both know that's a lie. If something were to happen to me, you'd be devastated."
Brighton: "You value yourself a little too highly."
Caden: "And you don't value your life enough."
Brighton: "I've said what I needed to say. You don't have to lie that I'm out there, but you can't stop me. If it ends with me getting myself killed, then so be it. And I don't say that because I don't value my life. I say that because at least I would die taking back what they stole from me."
Caden: "I can ... I can respect that. But I won't."
Brighton: "You won't?"
He shook his head as he approached me
Caden: "I will watch you. I will have others watching you. Every time you step foot on that street in some silly disguise or near any location where Neal has been sighted, I will intervene. I will become your shadow, always present. That is what I'll do."
Brighton: 'You ... you are ..."
Caden: "Determined to keep you alive? Yes."
Brighton: "You are out of your mind!"
Caden: "You drive me insane."
He growled, sliding his hand down my throat
Caden: "And even worse, I think I like it."
Brighton: "There is something wrong with you."
Caden: "You haven't been with someone in a while, and I wasn't ... particularly gentle."
Brighton: "It was . .. you were perfect."
Caden: "What? Is that a compliment? From you? The same person who threatened to cut off my balls?"
Brighton: "Can I take that back?"
Caden: "The cutting off my balls part?"
Brighton: "No. The compliment part."
Brighton: "You don't think you deserve to be King, so you? Because of what you did while under the Queen's control."
Caden: "There are a lot of things I don't think I deserve because of that, but the kingdom is not one of them."
Brighton: "But -?"
Caden: "But, this?"
His hand slid around to my ass. He squeezed, wringing a gasp from me.
Caden: "I don't think I deserve this either. Knowing that hasn't stopped me."
He shifted suddenly, and I felt his hardness against my hip a moment before he rolled me onto my stomach.
Caden: "And knowing what I do, it isn't going to stop me now."
My fingers dug into the sheets as I felt his mouth on my spine. He trailed a path of kisses down to my ass before he lifted my hips.
Caden: "I'm selfish. I don't think you realize that.
Caden: "What else did they take from you that night?"
Brighton: "Ivy and Ren don't think I'm capable enough to be out there hunting. Like, at all. Not even run-of-the-mill fae. They just want me to be the Brighton I was before, one who was content to be on call doing research. I was happy that way."
Caden: "And that changed?"
Brighton: "Yeah. They took that. My contentment. My happiness with the way things were. I saw value in my purpose before, and they took that, too. And they stole what I thought I knew about myself."
Caden: "Were you happy before? Truly?"
I opened my mouth, but I found I couldn't answer that question
Caden: "You were afraid. You were afraid of me before. You helped my brother, but you were afraid of him, too. Even Tink. You blended then. Or at least tried to. You didn't want to be seen. You just wanted to exist in your own corner of your world. Afterward, you were no longer afraid. You stopped trying to blend in. Now, you're seen, and you're heard. You stand up for yourself. You're living. They did take a lot from you, Brighton. Your mother. Your contentment. But it also seems you gained a lot. Not from them, but from yourself."
Tink: "By the way, I think that's the first time someone said 'the King' around you where you haven't muttered 'asshole' under your breath. Turning over a new leaf?"
Brighton: "No. He's still an asshole."
Tink: "He is trapped by duty. That is what he is."
Brighton: "What kind of duty?"
Tink: "Lite Bright, there is not enough time to talk about all his duties. But suffice it to say there are a lot of things that he has to do and say because of that. He had to sacrifice what he cherished most to become King."
Brighton: "What would that be? Freedom to do as he pleases?"
A faint, almost sad smile appeared on Tink's face.
Tink: "In a way, I suppose."
Brighton: "I want to tell you I hate you. I want to tell you that I despise you, bu you would know that it's not true. I never once thought you were terrible for all the things you did while under the Queen's spell. I hated that you held yourself responsible for things you had no control over. It killed me a little, but this ... You did this. You led me on the first time, and you did it again. No, you didn't make me any promises, but you know me better than most. You knew before yesterday that it was going to mean something to me. And you turned around and made me the other woman. You made me feel shame and regret, and for all of that, I think you're terrible."
The King closed his eyes.
Aric: "I didn't know you had such a mouth on you."
Brighton: "I'm not done with you."
His mouth opened, but all that came out was a gurgle of blood.
I gripped the top of his hair, yanking his head back.
Brighton: "You're fucking quiet."
Caden: "Brighton? Brighton?"
I tried to open my eyes, but it was no use. A moment passed and then I felt warmth against my cheek. Fingertips. Warm hands smoothing back the matted strands of hair -
Caden: "Dear God."
The two words sounded as if they took the speaker to their knees. My eyelids fluttered. Finally, I was able to open both of them halfway. The blurry image of a man dressed in black formed.
He was on his knees.
I knew him. I knew I did, but I couldn't remember his name.
Blond hair shielded his face. He wasn't looking at me, but instead reaching for the strap of my dress, pulling it back and then fisting a handful of the skirt, tugging it up and over one leg. I didn't want him to do that. I knew I didn't want him to see what had been done to me. That much I knew.
Caden: "Fucking Christ. Fucking Christ. I'm going to fucking kill him."
Dropping the dress, he reached for me, and every muscle in my body locked up. I closed my eyes, waiting for the pain that was sure to follow.
Caden: "Brighton. It's okay."
The warm touch returned to my cheek, brushing my hair back. He seemed to freeze, and then he spoke again, the words hoarse.
Caden: "It's going to be okay now. I'm going to get you out of here. I'm going to ..."
He trailed off as a chain rattled. A wave of heat entered the room, stirring the material of my dress.
Caden: "It's okay. It's okay."
His hand moved -
I croaked, recoiling out of instinct, managing to draw back a few inches.
Caden: "I'm not going to hurt you. I could never hurt you. Open your eyes for me Brighton. Please. Open your eyes, baby. See me and know I'm not going to hurt you. Open your eyes for me, sunshine."
Drawing in a shallow breath, I cracked open my eyes and found him in the darkness and he ... He couldn't be real. He couldn't really be here.
Caden: "There you are."
Brighton: "I ... I did it."
Caden: "Did what?"
Brighton: "I killed him ... I killed Aric.
Caden's eyes widened slightly, and then he looked to his left, over his shoulder, to the stain on the floor. He refocused on me, an a long moment passed as what looked like awed pride filled his gaze. It quickly gave way to despair.
I still loved him. I was still in love with him, and even though he was promised to someone else - could already be with someone else - and had failed to mention that on top of all of the other stuff, my feelings for him were still there.
I loved him.
I just didn't like him.
Strange how one could feel those two conflicting emotions, but love was odd like that.
Caden: "How do you feel?"
I thought about the way he'd held me in the car, trying to calm me as I screamed.
Brighton: "A lot better."
Caden: "You look better."
Brighton: "I bet I look a mess."
Caden: "No. You look beautiful."
I rolled my eyes - well, one eye.
Brighton: "I don't need a ... mirror to know that's not remotely true."
Caden: "You don't need a mirror at all."
Caden: "I feel I need to be honest. After a certain point, I was no longer sure what would be worse. That you were live and with him, or that you were gone."
My grip tightened on the glass
Caden: "You being ... you being gone would be far worse. It would be like losing the sun."
Brighton: "Thank you."
Caden: "For what?"
Brighton: "For ... for looking for me. For finding me. I would've died there if you hadn't found me."
Caden: "You never have to thank me for that, Brighton. Ever."
Brighton: "Well, I just did."
A sound of frustration rose from him, and for some reason, it made my lips twitch.
Caden: "I wish you never had to doubt that I would come for you."
Brighton: "Caden -"
Caden: "I wish for you that you never had to spend a moment thinking that no once was coming for you. That you were never put in the position to feel s if you were no wanted or cherished or loved enough that people would not come for you."
Brighton: "He's ... he's going to be so mad when he finds out you all lied."
Caden: "Yes, he is."
Brighton: "Going to be mad at you."
A small, lopsided grin appeared
Caden: "I'm the king."
Brighton: "Doesn't that make you an even bigger target for people to be mad?"
Caden: "Not in my world."
Caden: "Plus, he loves me. So, I figure he will direct is anger at Ivy and Ren."
Caden: "Did you forget that I can scent your emotions? That I know what you're feeling? That I knew the whole time I was in here earlier?"
Brighton: "Okay. Do you want a gold sticker or something? The kind with a little smiley face on it?"
He cracked a grin
Caden: "God, how I missed your attitude."
Brighton: "Fine. Whatever. You can help me."
Caden: "You sure?"
I shot him a dark look that promised murder. He smiled at me and it was a real one.
Caden: "Would you like me to help? I'm actually quite accomplished at combing the knots out of ornery females."
Brighton: "I have so many questions, starting with how in the world you have that experience."
Caden: "Duty should never supersede what is right. No matter the cost."
Brighton: "He said I was your mortuus. That through me, he could've forced you to open the doorway and free the Queen. What does that mean?"
His gaze lifted to mine. He was quiet for so long that I didn't think he'd respond.
Caden: "You are my mortuus. It means you are ... you are my strength. My sun. You are my heart."
My entire body jolted
Caden: "You are also my greatest weakness. It is not an object or anything tangible. It is the source of my power and my weakness. Through you, complete and utter control of me is possible. That is what mortuus means. There was only one before you. That was Siobhan."
I drew back, shaking my head.
Brighton: "I don't understand. How is that possible? You ..."
Caden: "I love you."
Those three words were like a bomb.
Caden: "I love you, and that is why you're my mortuus. My everything."
Brighton: "I love you. I'm in love with you."
A half-grin appeared.
Caden: "I know."
Brighton: "Excuse me?"
Caden: "I can sense it. I could feel it."
Caden: "I need you to know something. I am here. I know you need time, and if it takes a hundred years, so be it. I'll wait. What I feel for you is not going to change. Not today. Not next year. Not fifty years from now. You tell me when you're ready, and I'll be there."
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