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Zodiac Adademy: Sorrow and Starlight by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti

Zodiac Academy: Sorrow and Starlight

by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti


Book 8 in the Zodiac Academy series

All stars must fall.

Bloody, lost, broken. We live to fight another day. But with so much stolen from us, can the fates ever twist in our favour again?

My sister and I have been torn apart by shadows and despair, and now we each stand alone.

Our sorrow is spun like a web, trapping us tight, and I fear our enemies will soon come to feast upon our souls.

But if I have my way, the merciless sky will have dealt us its final fortune. It’s time for us to take back the power that’s been ripped from our grasp and turn the tide of this war.

All stars must fall, and all Phoenixes must rise.

Long live the Savage Queens.





I can't believe I have waited this long to write this review. This was a big book. So much happens. SO MUCH! Okay. Deep breath. Stretch those fingers .... let's go.

I know there was a lot of upset fans when Caroline and Susanne announced that this book was, in fact, not the last book in the series as expected. While writing the book (and I swear, they left it to just a couple of months before release, which is nuts), they realized that it was really long already, and going to be longer, so they made the decision to split the story up, and release the next half as book 9. Some said they were capitalizing on their fame. After reading the book, I actually totally agree with the authors decision. There wasn't much that could have been cut out. Maybe 2 chapters? Anyways, after 8 books, I'm invested in all the characters, and I want them all to have a well-fleshed out story arc with a satisfying ending. To get that, we need the ninth book. And points to Caroline and Susanne, for making sure their fans get that - even if it upset a few.

To discuss my thoughts on the rest of the book, there WILL be spoilers. Don't read below if you don't want spoilers.

Tory and Darius - Tory's story was the most interesting. The most heartbreaking for sure. Tory is one of the most intense characters I have read. The moment she kissed Darius goodbye, and vowed vengeance for his death, I knew things were going to get dark. And they do. Tory's arc in this book is an interesting one because while it is a personal journey for her, it also furthers the story, and adds more depth to this war ... that began way before Lionel, and started with the Shadow Queen. And while her feelings regarding her sister's choice was aggravating, I could understand it too. Considering how lost she was, and the pain she was in, having her person choose not to leave with her would hurt.

Despite the pain she was in, she still managed to grow stronger, to grow into her right as queen. She made decisions for the rebels, and made sure they were safe and provided for. But most importantly, because of her unique upbringing in the human realm, she was able to see past the prejudice against the nymphs, and come up with a plan to save her people.

And of course, the best part of their journey, is obviously Tory forcing her way through the veil, and bring Darius back with her. I mean, I was expecting it back when he died in the last book, but FUCK it was amazing. Everything about their reunion was amazing. Everyone's reaction to Darius coming back - well fuck. Amazing. A relief. But what are the stars going to do? They are obviously PISSED.

Darcy and Orion - I swear these two can't catch a break. Their time captured was torture to read. Interesting, moved the story along, but sucked, because I just wanted them to be freaking HAPPY! At least they were reunited quickly. And they had some really nice, classic Orion and Blue moments, even when held prisoner. Their journey through the secret passages in the castle, and finding the information they needed, was desperately needed in their arc. For one of my favorite couples, it was a hard read, so any moment we got with just the two of them, I gobbled up.

Their escape with Gabriel - fucking epic. Darcy KICKED Shadow Bitch's ASS, and I loved it! I gave up precious sleep because I couldn't put it down. Along with Darcy just being amazing, we get some Gabriel and Orion humor, and I missed these two together.

I love Orion and Darcy's argument over keeping the Shadow Beast. lol

Geraldine and Max - Geraldine is just a ridiculous as ever, but I can't help but love these two together. I'm glad it seems like Geraldine has finally accepted that she loves him, but that doesn't mean she is going to change for him.

Seth and Caleb - Oh my God. Ohhhhh myyyyyy gooooddddd. Both are so frustrating and yet them together is so hot. I need a happy ending here. Please be Elysian mates!!!

Caleb and Tory: I love their friendship. Their partnership is very much like that of Seth and Darcy, and I love that for them.

The Heirs - I think despite the snarks of them reminding everyone that the Vega's are not their queens, they very obviously, perhaps subconsciously, "bent the knee" a long time ago. Despite my thoughts on this, I think this book proves that the Heirs would make great leaders in their own right. Unlike their parents, they are able to put aside the posturing for power and concentrate on what really matters.

Ruthless Boys - Leon POV's might have been unnecessary, but fuck if they weren't appreciated. Leon's crazy (yet brilliant) plans to cause absolute chaos so Gabriel can't see what the rebels are planning, or where they are, and building the massive nest (which was actually Dante's idea, but Leon insists it was a joint effort). BAHAHAHAHA! What this book needed. And the fact that is worked was amazing!

Orion's mom - wasn't expecting that. She is still a monster, but good for her.

The Council - Sigh. These guys drove me nuts. Totally oblivious to their children's happiness and only trying to get in power again. Until the end, anyway. Of course, Tiberius and Geraldine's bickering and fighting was entertaining, as well as Caleb and Seth's mothers talking about their sexual escapades in the past made me giggle.

The Stars - While at first I felt like the added layer of ********* being added as a bad guy was a terrible idea, considering this was meant to be the last book, but I've changed my stance on this. The stars have been a constant in this series, as well as the long run of the Vega's bad luck - which we know is a curse now. So while we now have a name to the particular star that has done them this wrong, and it feels like a "new" character in the series, it really isn't. I'm curious ... the stars are SUPER pissed at Tory and Darius for defying death. Will they still be mad if Tory and Darcy manage to kill the star that is trying to pass off as Fae? Will it balance things out? I mean, obviously it will work out, but it's killing me not knowing.

Francesca - I think her chapter was the most heartbreaking. I won't lie and pretend I have always liked Francesca, but I can't deny her love for Orion was pure, and she died a hero.

Darkmore Penitentiary - I knew there was a reason we haven't gotten the fourth Darkmore book yet. With the way the sisters churn out books, I knew there was a reason. With everything we learned about Vard and his gross experiments, it is obviously info we need before getting the next book.

Lionel and the Shadow Bitch - As much as I love seeing her torture Lionel with the baby making, I just want them to die. I want Darius, Xavier, Tory and Darcy to just straight up kill Lionel. I want Lionel's reaction to Darius being alive again. But then I want them both dead and gone and forgotten.

Tharix - Not sure what to think of him. Hope he dies though.

News Articles - OMG the comments on the news articles are the best! They had me cackling because I swear, I see these same types of comments of real world news articles.

Minotaur sex - To say I almost died from laughing so hard at the below quote would be an understatement. How do the twisted sisters come up with this shit? lol

"The purity I’d found between her thighs as I drove myself into her had eased the burden on my soul a little. I’d lost myself in the feeling of her body as the bell she wore rang with every thrust of my hips, letting everyone know she’d been claimed at last. And the way she’d mooed as she came for me, loving every inch of me, had made me explode inside her with a bellowing moo..."

Anyways, while this book was a beast, I loved it. It never felt stalled out. There was always something happening. It feels like its getting to a satisfying conclusion.

Hail: “Gwendalina, I wish I could walk through this glass and be there for you in this moment. But know this, you are a Vega. Your blood is royal and more powerful than anything you can imagine. You can move the sky if you want it enough, but you must banish all doubt from your heart, because it will steal that power from you.” Dad: “We love you, Roxanya and Gabriel to the depths of our hearts,”

he said fiercely, the words resounding through the fabric of my being, stitching together some long broken thing.

Mom:“Always and forever,”

my mom confirmed, and tears welled in my eyes.

Darcy: “I love you too. Please stay,” I cupped Darius’s jaw in my hand and found his cold lips for the final time, kissing him softly and exhaling my love for him into the air which surrounded us, as I forced myself to release him.

Tory: “Your soul is bound to mine,”

I breathed against his mouth, even though I knew he was no longer there to hear my words, but a dark and unknown energy seemed to stir the air itself at that vow.

Tory: “And I won’t rest until I make every star in the heavens fall for trying to cleave us apart.” She needed me. This pain, this heartache, this grief, I could bear it for her. And as my mind shifted from the need to find my other half to what else I had to do with the breaths I still drew, I knew for certain that I’d been left in this darkest of places for one reason only. Lionel Acrux would die by my hand. Whatever cost it took. Orion: “Darius Vega is the greatest Dragon who ever lived,”

I spoke loud and clear, making Lionel fall deathly still.

Lionel: “What did you just call him?”

he asked venomously, danger thick in the air.

Orion: “He married Tory. She is more powerful than him, so that made him a Vega,”

I said, relishing this final blow I could land to him, feeling Darius’s defiance humming through the air and knowing Lionel could feel it too. Geraldine: “My lady!”

Geraldine’s voice was probably the only one which could have made me pause and I turned to look as she ran for me, her eyes wide and full of wrath.

Geraldine: “You mean to retrieve the three rapscallions from the clutches of whatever kept them from battle?”

she demanded, and I had to wonder if she had a touch of The Sight to have realised my destination so easily. Her hair, which had been a bland and forgettable colour before, had been dyed a deep, blood red, the furious set to her features letting me know that it was a promise of its own, to see the blood of her enemies spilled in payment for the losses she’d suffered in that battle. It suited her, the colour matching with the fire which burned unwaveringly within her soul, bright and brutal and wholly her.

Tory: “I do,”

Geraldine: “Then I am coming with you. My Maxy boy awaits me, and I shall bay for vengeance on behalf of my dear Daddy while ripping the throats from our enemies as we retrieve him.”

The fire in her eyes brokered no arguments, and I found my chest compressing with relief as I gazed into the eyes of my dearest friend.

Tory: “Well then,”

I said, extending my hand to her as I wrapped her in my air magic and leashed her to me.

Tory: “It sounds like it’s time for us to hunt.” I would claim him this day, and nevermore would I seek the loins of another codfish. For he was my one true salmon, and the rivers of our destiny were wide and flowing toward an eternal horizon. It was time to bathe in our estuary and sup upon the freshwater, and may all those who opposed us perish on my flail. Max: “If you can’t close it in time, you have to run, Gerry. If those Nymphs arrive before you can-”

Geraldine: “I do not recall asking for the advice of a doubtful dogfish. Nor do I recall you having the heart of a cowardly lionfish, Maxy boy. Tell me, did the rift suck out your heart of ice alongside siphoning away your power, or are you simply going all wet in the whistle over me in particular?”

I could feel my father’s eyes on me as I shook my head, but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter anymore anyway, not when I could feel our end closing in on us and the only ray of light I cared to look upon was the woman standing up on that black altar before me.

Max: “Nothing in this world could break me the way you can, Gerry. Nothing could make me falter or blink other than the need to protect you. I can’t watch them lash you to this thing with us. It would rip the last pieces of me free of my body and destroy them more certainly than anything else.” Seth: “I thought we were goners. Real, for true goners,”

Cal: “We can’t die,”

Cal said a little breathlessly.

Cal: “We’re Bitey C, Wolfman, and Fish Fury.” Seth: “Remember that time I peed on you?”

he sighed nostalgically.

Seth: “Who would have thought we’d end up here, Wolfman and Bitchy Flame Eyes striding into yet another adventure side by side with Fish Fury and Batty Betty bringing up the rear-”

Tory: “Remember the time I punched you in the dick because of that time you peed on me?”

I asked in return, and he frowned in confusion just before I swung my fist towards his crotch. Seth: “How are we supposed to get through that?”

Seth asked in a hushed voice.

Seth: “It looks thicker than my cock on a full moon.”

Max: “Surely nothing is thicker than that,”

Max replied with mock horror and Seth grinned.

Seth: “Only this door,” Long live the motherfucking Queens. Tory: “There isn’t a depth I won’t fall to for this,”

she warned me, and I nodded.

Caleb: “Then I’m ready to fall at your side.” Orion: “Listen to me, Blue. I loved you when your soul shone with all the starlight in the night sky, and I’ll love you now when your soul is the blackest you’ve ever known. I will love you whole and I’ll love you in pieces. It doesn’t matter, light or dark, I am here. That is what mates are for. It’s what I’m made to be for you by the stars themselves, so stop trying to shut me out.” Darcy: “You’re a fool to scoff at love. It’s the only thing that can fill the void in you. You try to fill that space with all the riches and control you can possess, but it will never be enough. Only family is capable of that. And you cast yours aside. I love your sons, and I love Catalina; they’re the greatest treasures you ever had, and you lost them. Thank the stars you did, because they escaped the monster who tried to bend them to his will. They cut out all the pieces of you that were left in them too. They’re free of you now. Dead or alive. They’re fucking free. And you can never take that away from them. So live your hollow life, and enjoy your hollow death. At least wherever I end up, there’ll be warm arms waiting to greet me.” Lionel: “And that is why I rule the world and you do not.”

Darcy: “One kingdom, not the world,”

I reminded him, and a bellow of anger left him. My twin was my other half.

My brother my wings of guidance.

My mate my soul-bound love. Orion: “She can’t have anything more from me than pain. I’m all yours. She can’t touch my soul; it’ll be whole and waiting for you when this is over. So let me bleed for you, my Queen. It would be a fucking honour.” Orion: “You are no Orion. Family loves without condition. I’ve forged my own family through determination, sacrifice, and dedication. They aren’t my blood, but they are bound to me deeper than you will ever be. You don’t just get to love me and expect that to be enough. True love is built on everything that exists outside of the word. It’s showing up when you’re needed, no matter the inconvenience. It’s knowing someone, truly knowing them, and accepting everything they are even where you differ or clash. It’s making effort despite the differences, it’s apologies when they’re owed and forgiveness even when it feels impossible. And it took me so fucking long to become a man capable of those things, in part because of you. But mostly because of him. This false king you claim to love. A man who stole everything away from me and is still keen to take more. If you can love a monster unconditionally then that makes you a monster too. So don’t you dare, don’t you fucking dare come to me on your knees, begging for forgiveness, because you won’t find it. You’re not a part of my family, and there’s nothing here for you in my heart but hate.” I cleared the mud, and a charred skull came loose in my hand, black hair still sticking up from the top of it, the rest of it all burnt away by fire.

Leon: “Gabriel?!”

I looked into the empty eye sockets of the skull, then to that black tuft of hair on its head, stroking it as grief welled in me.

Leon: “What if this is Gabe?”

I cried and Dante dropped down in the mud beside me, reaching for the skull. I didn’t let him touch it, hugging it to my chest and cradling it softly as I sobbed.

Leon: “Shh, shh, I’ve got you Gabe. We can fix this. We can put you back together dude,”

I promised. Dante pressed his air Element into the soil, carving out the ground and digging up the rest of the body. In seconds, we’d know the truth, we’d see a piece of his clothes, his sword still valiantly in his hand. Oh man, I just knew he died valiantly.

Leon: “Ga-hay-hay-be,”

I cried, rubbing my face on the skull as tears ran down my cheeks. I couldn’t say goodbye. He was one of the best Fae I knew. My winged friend, my angel man. Dante eased Gabe’s body from the ground, laying down the pile of bones which still had tattered, burnt clothes clinging to its shoulders. He tugged off a scrap of red material which was branded with the crest of the Dragon Guild and my sobs immediately died in my throat. Dante: “It’s not Gabriel,”

Dante confirmed with a sigh of relief before I realised I was hugging some gross, dead creep.

Leon: “Ergh!”

I slammed the skull down on a rock, then again and again and again, pieces of bone shattering beneath the force.

Leon: “Double, triple, quadruple die, you devil dick,”

I snarled through my teeth. Leon: “I’m coming, I’m here, I got you dude.”

I cleared the area around the pipe, the wind from the frantic whistling puffing against my face, and I wrinkled my nose at the strange scent coming from it.

Leon: “What the-”

Dante: “Dalle stelle,”

Dante cursed as he moved closer and I gazed at what I’d unveiled in shock, my mind not able to decipher the leathery, orange-toned skin. It was definitely part of a body, some spandex torn open around it and the silver pipe clutched between what looked like-

Dante: “Is that a bare ass?”

Dante whispered, confirming my worst fears as the pipe continued to whistle and the air expelled from it puffed into my mouth.

Leon: “Ah!”

I reared backwards, spitting on the ground and wiping my tongue over and over against my sleeve.

Leon: “Why is there a whistling ass in that pile of rocks?!”

I picked up a stone, lunging at it in a bid to kill it for the ass-flavoured air which I would never forget the taste of. Dante knocked me back, wielding his air Element and unveiling the man within the rocks. He was on his knees, ass up and pretty much naked apart from the slip of spandex that was wrapped around his cock and balls.

Leon: “I’ll kill you, you ass whistling monster!”

I dove forward, but Dante knocked me back again, looking me in the eye.

Dante: “He’s on our side, fratello. That’s Brian Washer.”

Leon: “I don’t care who he is, his ass whistled in my mouth,” He placed his hands on his hips, rocking side to side as he limbered up. My gaze slipped down to his Speedos and I inhaled sharply as I spotted a smooth, waxed ball hanging out one side of it.

Dante: “So, did you see anyone else down here?”

Dante pushed. I tugged on his sleeve, trying to get his attention and draw it to the ball that was looking me right in the eye.

Leon: “Dante,” Washer: “Gabriel? As in Gabriel Nox?”

Washer balked.

Washer: “Are you saying he was Merissa’s son? That he is the half-brother of the Vega twins?”

Leon: “Yeah, duh,”

I said, and Dante rounded on me

Dante: “That was a secret, Leone.”

Leon: “Ohhh,”

I said in guilty realisation.

Leon: “Well, it’s still a secret, right bro?”

I looked to Washer.

Leon: “Or I’ll smash your nuts in with a hammer. Nuts that might be more accessible than you even realise.” I’d grown up in the roughest city in Solaria, I’d survived gang fights, psychotic, power-hungry Fae trying to rule my life and everyone else’s, and I was not going to let a small-dicked Dragon steal away my Gabe and live to tell the tale. Tory: “Are you unable to control your Order form or are you purposefully trying to rile every person in this room with your gifts?”

Tiberius: “I think we would do better to question your capabilities of controlling your gifts after witnessing that outburst of them at the Acrux Manor,”

he replied in a level tone.

Tory: “A controlled outburst. A control which I have never once let slip the way you’re allowing your power to burst from its dam right now. If I had, then there would likely be a lot of dead corpses smouldering in my wake at all times.” Leon: “He tries not to see some things,”

Leon agreed as he came to sit beside me on the throne intended for Darcy, as if he hadn’t even realised it wasn’t meant for him.

Leon: “Like he doesn’t like to see visions of my sex life, but they still force their way in. Unless of course that’s because he really does want to see them. But then I’d imagine he’d get performance anxiety so he probably doesn’t want to know how many times I can make-”

Dante: “Not relevant, Leone,”

Dante growled, giving him a kick beneath the table which Leon cried out at. The tension between us was unbearable, but I didn’t know how to fix it. Was I supposed to just walk right up to him and say, hey man, maybe we should talk about how you made me come so hard I nearly blacked out the other night? Or, hey bro, remember how I said we were BFF BJ buddies, well I’m actually so in love with you that I wanna tattoo your name on my cock, and I know you won’t ever feel that way about me, but hooking up with you is slowly breaking my heart because I know I can never truly, really have you. Tory: “I think it’s…Justin,”

Tory said in shock.

Tory: “Shit, do you think he’s been stuck in that thing since the battle?”

Caleb: “Why is he even in it at all?”

I asked and Tory grimaced.

Tory: “He saved my life, but then we were surrounded by Nymphs, and I knew I needed to be able to fight without having to worry about accidentally burning him to a crisp. So, I sort of…made a parachute for him, shot him into the air and totally forgot about it until just now. I may be an asshole.” Mom: “Seth,”

Mom hissed, stepping closer and whispering to me.

Mom: “This isn’t the time to try and prove the size of your wee willy winky-”

Seth: “Go,”

I barked at her, an Alpha tone ringing through the word, and she flinched, almost submitting before she bared her teeth and growled in anger. By the moon, I can’t believe she brought my winky into this. Leon: “We have to move!”

Leon’s voice made us all turn, weapons and hands raising defensively. He was running towards us down the mountainside with a backpack on, weaving left and right between the tents.

Leon: “We’re being far too predictable.”

He picked up a rock, throwing it at an unsuspecting rebel and it bounced off the guy’s head, his cry of pain cutting the air.

Leon: “Pack your bags, or burn your bags, for the love of the stars, don’t tell me what you’re gonna do with your bags dudes, we just need to go!” Tory: “Okay then, tell me how Joseph killed the Long-Horned thing,”

I gritted out, another spear forming in my free hand while I twisted my head to look for the other monsters in the gloom surrounding us.

Caleb: “He didn’t,”

Caleb said, frowning at me.

Caleb: “He found its cavern, stole one of its eggs and when the Long Horned Ergut discovered him, it ripped him apart and swallowed the pieces. His family never discovered what happened to him, and the moral of the story was to never venture into the dark places of this world without being prepared for the beasts that lurk there.”

I gaped at him, my magic vibrating as the tentacles lashed against my shield from behind, and the third beast reminded us that it was still very much here too.

Tory: “What the fuck kind of kids story is that?”

Caleb: “The only kind that matters,”

he replied with a shrug.

Caleb: “What did you expect? A happy ending?”

Tory: “Yes, I expected a happy fucking ending,”

I snarled.

Tory: “I expected a tale where the beast was defeated, the treasure was claimed, and everyone lived happily ever after.” I fell to my knees as he sealed us into the small space once more, the water lapping over my hands while I coughed and trembled at his feet.

Caleb: “Happily ever after my ass,”

he muttered and it was so fucking funny that I laughed. Xavier: “One day,”

I whispered to the image of his bloody corpse.

Xavier: “I will stand above you, and you will beg for a mercy I won’t offer. I’ll reap the pain from you that you offered my family, and revel in the moment your heart stops beating. The clock is ticking, old man.” Tory: “Look,”

I began, picking a lump of tentacle from my arm and tossing it to the floor just in front of the librarians’ feet.

Tory: “I’ve had one hell of a time recently. I’ve been captured and tortured, brutalised and traumatised. I’ve been married and widowed, fought and defeated. And to top it all off, I have been without the other half of my soul for over a week now. To put it lightly, I’ve reached my limit. So I’ve come a long way in search of this place and the knowledge you hold here. I’ve made that journey – and helped you out with what I would call a considerable monster infestation in your lake by the way – and now I’m standing here before you, covered in fuck knows what, my power depleted and my tether on my temper running dangerously short. I have absolutely no intention of letting you simply shut that door in my motherfucking face. So, I’m posing that you need to think again on the subject of that invitation.” Tory: “Good to know you aren’t all as dumb as you look then. Because I just so happen to be one of those so-called monsters, so I guess the question is whether or not you’ll be offering me that invitation, because option B involves me burning my way inside with Phoenix fire.”

Caleb: “You make a wonderful politician,”

Caleb drawled as the librarians all recoiled in horror at my words. Caleb: “Why do I get the feeling you want to go in there?”

Caleb asked as I took a step closer to the narrow gap.

Tory: “Because I’m a fearless badass and you know it,”

I suggested but he just snorted.

Caleb: “More like reckless to the point of idiocy, but sure, let’s squeeze through a creepy gap in a wall where anything could be waiting to drag us into the depths of this place, never to be seen again.”

Tory: “That’s the spirit.” Tory: “Do you think he knew he’d die on that battlefield?”

I asked. We stopped before the book and Caleb stilled in that unnatural way only Vampires could manage, almost like he had turned to stone at the mention of the man whose death had destroyed us both.

Caleb: “I don’t think he would have willingly left any of us unless it was the only choice remaining to him. And the one that would save those he loved,”

Tory: “This doesn’t feel like he saved me,”

I replied, releasing my hold on the ruby pendant bitterly, severing any imagined connection I felt to Darius’s spirit through it and slamming those walls back up around my heart before I could feel any more of the agony which was threatening to consume me.

Tory: “It feels like he destroyed me one final time. Like this was all some big joke, leading up to the annihilation of everything I was and ever could have been.”

Caleb: “You’re still you, Tory,”

Caleb said, reaching for my hand but I shrugged the contact off and reached for the book instead.

Tory: “No. I’m not. I’m just an echo left behind, a malignant spirit set on revenge, and I’m far beyond the point of salvation. Which means there isn’t anything in this book I won’t use if that’s what it takes to right the wrongs which have been done against me and mine. The librarian who hadn’t wanted to let us into this place stood there, a hand on his chest and a silent scream on his lips as he sagged against a shame-faced Minotaur called Arnold.

Tory: “Thanks so much for your hospitality,”

Tory said brightly, striding past them towards the exit where she gave a gobsmacked Laini a salute and struck the call button for the elevator which would return us to ground level at last.

Tory: “We’ll be sure to visit again soon.”

Librarian: “By the light of the ever-waning moon,”

the librarian breathed, and I tossed him a wicked grin as Arnold continued to try and hold him upright.

Tory: “Oh, and Arnold?”

Tory added, backing into the elevator which had arrived behind us.

Tory: “If I ever see your cowardly, abandoning face again, I’m gonna cut your horns off and shove them up your ass. Got it?”

Arnold mooed weakly and I gnashed my teeth at him to back up that promise right as the doors closed to the sound of the librarian protesting us leaving with a bag full of books.

Tory: “Bite me,”

Caleb: “Don’t forget we need to stop for a bone of your enemy on the way back,”

I said, grimacing at that lovely idea.

Tory: “Your dating game has really picked up recently, you know that?”

she said sweetly and the memory of our utter failure of a date flashed through my mind, making my grimace deepen.

Caleb: “You really would have preferred grave robbing and fighting those monsters to karaoke and sushi, wouldn’t you?”

I asked and her eyes flashed with what looked like amusement for a moment as she shrugged.

Tory: “Definitely.” Tory Vega was one hell of a friend to take on a night out, but our destiny had never been meant to merge in the way I had once thought it might, and I found that there was no sting left to that truth anymore, no lingering hurt or resentment. Me and her were a train wreck waiting to happen as a couple, but as friends we worked out pretty damn well. Seth: “Love you, bro,”

I added, and his face softened.

Max: “Love you too, asshole,” Leon: “It’s to distract Gabe. Because his Harpy brain is obsessed with nests, isn’t it great? When he tries to see us, all he’ll see is this amazing nest and he’ll go all pigeon brain on it, cooing happily while he examines every bit of it. We’ve hidden all kinds of fancy sticks inside it, so it’ll keep his mind super distracted, and he won’t be able to see too much of our war plans.”

Seth: “That’s dumb. No way is that gonna work,”

I said, folding my arms.

Leon: “Pfft. It’ll work. This nest is like the best Harpy porno ever made. It doesn’t matter how hard he tries to resist it, his brain is gonna tiptoe back here to look at it with lube in one hand and tissues in the other. Besides he won’t want to look away – he’ll understand the cunningness of my most cunning plan and keep looking at this, so if Lionel sneaks into his head for a peek at our future all he gets is the nest. It’s pure genius.” Seth: “Ah!”

I yelped in panic, pressing the stone back to my skin.

Seth: “Give it back, you nipple stealing rock of doom!”

Max: “Maybe you should eat a bit more. It’s never a good idea to get too hung-”

Tory: “One more word, Max Rigel, and I’ll kick you in the balls and leave you wheezing on the floor while I go talk to Miguel alone,” Max: “You know you’re not my queen, don’t you?”

I growled as I stalked after Tory.

Max: “And I wanted some of those bagels you just handed out to the rabble-”

Tory: “Shh.”

Tory pushed one of the bagels she’d just taken into my mouth, cutting off my rant, then handing me the other.

Tory: “You’re really bitchy when you’re hangry.” Geraldine: “You cannot look at me thus and not expect to dive deep into my lady waters,”

I panted.

Geraldine: “Avert your eyes or make true on the vows that shine within them like the star you are named after, Max Rigel.”

Max: “Is that code for ‘please fuck me’?”

He smirked, and gracious, that smile was a mountain which I wished to climb, to bury my flag in its peak and announce it as mine.

Geraldine: “I could not be clearer. ake me to Davy Jones’ Locker, and plunder my treasure chest with your sea cucumber.” A growl rumbled through his chest, sending a shiver of desire through me.

Orion: “Whatever happened to you being obedient, Miss Vega? It could be dangerous in here.”

I smiled, stepping closer and tiptoeing my fingers up his bare chest until I tapped him on the nose.

Darcy: “I think you’re to blame for that, Professor. You taught me that the punishment for being bad, is so very, very…good.”

I ducked around him again, racing off into the dark on bare feet with his laughter following me. The sound lit me up inside and I held onto that feeling, not letting it slip away too soon. He caught me again, this time pinning me to the wall face first with his hand pressed to the back of my neck.

Orion: “You’re asking to be spanked, Blue.”

His other hand ran over the curve of my ass and my back arched like a cat at his touch.

Darcy: “No, I’m asking you to tell me about the bean man.”

His hand clapped hard against my ass, and I gasped at the delicious pain, the way it sizzled through my skin and reminded me I was still here, still fighting for another day.

Orion: “Then ask nicely,”

he commanded, the pressure on the back of my neck increasing, and holy hell, I’d missed being held at his mercy. I bit my lip, tasting a rare smile on my mouth and figuring I was going to enjoy this tiny moment of wildness. I let myself believe we were back at Zodiac Academy, playing the game of push and pull that always drove me into a beautiful kind of insanity.

Darcy: “Please, sir,”

I said, my voice laced with lust, and he hmmed in approval of that. Darcy: “That was horrible. Why would anyone tell children that story?”

Orion: “To try and scare them so they won’t do reckless shit. Do you have any idea how reckless Fae kids are? I snuck off and went cliff diving with Clara when I was five years old. My dad fished us out of the water and grounded us for a week. If we ever have kids, I will never let them out of my sight.”

A smile lifted my lips at the image of that.

Darcy: “You’d be a seriously protective daddy.”

Orion: “I’d be the asshole parent, but I’m good with it,”

he said, only making my smile grow.

Orion: “They can hate me so long as they keep breathing.”

Darcy: “You really think about that stuff?”

I asked, trying to picture a future where any of that was possible now. It was all so out of reach, just pretty dreams stitched from our imagination.

Orion: “Only since you,”

he said quietly.

Orion: “Is that what you want? Marriage, kids, some fairy-tale house? It doesn’t have to look like that, I can paint our picture with whatever brush you choose, and make it look however you imagine.”

I released a breath of longing.

Darcy: “I just want to be back with our family and friends, preferably with a jade green Dragon head mounted on the wall next to an ugly hat and boots made out of a shadow bitch.”

He barked a laugh.

Orion: “That’s a future I’m banking on, beautiful.” Darcy: “I can’t watch her torture you much longer,”

I said, flashes of what she’d done to him playing through my mind and holding me hostage. Even if by some miracle we got out of here and the curse was broken, were we ever really going to be the same again?

Orion: “It’s just blood.”

Darcy: “So you keep saying,”

I growled.

Darcy: “But it’s the most precious blood in the world to me. Darcy: “Are you messing with age-old magic? That’s not very professorly of you.”

Orion: “Well, it wasn’t very professorly of me when I took a student to my bed either, was it? Or when I had you over my desk, at the Fairy Fair, in the archives-”

Darcy: “We don’t talk about the archives,”

I jibed, and he nodded seriously.

Orion: “Great night, shit morning,”

he said matter of factly.

Orion: “It all worked out in the end though, right?”

Darcy: “Yeah, now we’re Lavinia’s prisoners and the whole world is doomed.”

Orion: “Exactly. It’s all coming together, beautiful,”

he said with fake enthusiasm, and I didn’t let my smile fall, wanting to play this game of feigning safety as long as I could. Orion: “Blue. Were you just about to touch The Untouchable Egg?”

Darcy: “Of course not. That would be crazy,”

I said with a grin, lifting my other hand and reaching for it with that one instead. He caught that wrist too, going all grumpy teacher on me.

Orion: “This isn’t a game. You don’t know what could happen. It could be cursed.”

Darcy: “I’m already cursed. I can’t be double cursed.”

Orion: “By the moon, are you trying to give the stars ideas?”

Darcy: “Lance, it’s Phoenix fire. I can definitely touch it. Move aside.”

I jerked my wrists back, but he didn’t let go, gazing at me with his jaw ticking.

Orion: “You don’t have your Phoenix anymore,”

he said, and I tried to ignore how much those words hurt.

Darcy: “I know. But I just feel like I can touch it. I’m sure I can.”

Orion: “It could be a trap,”

Darcy: “Do you want me to pull the ‘obey your queen’ card, because I’m not above using it right now.”

His frowny features lifted a little.

Orion: “You know I get hard over you ordering me about.”

Darcy: “Well, you don’t want to get a boner right here in front of The Untouchable Egg, do you?”

He pressed his tongue into his cheek as he tried to hide his amusement, releasing me, but not stepping aside. Orion: “Okay, you’re holding The Untouchable Egg. Are you happy now?”

he asked, his expression telling me he really wanted me to put it back.

Darcy: “Very,”

I said lightly as I turned the egg in my hands to examine it.

Darcy: “What do you think is inside it?”

Orion: “Nothing good. I don’t think you should mess with ancient Phoenix artefa-”

I threw the egg on the floor, and it smashed into fifty pieces.

Orion: “Darcy!”

he barked as a swirling, glittering coil of red and blue smoke twisted up from the burning pieces of the eggshell. I noticed a glittering white crystal among the shattered egg and dropped down, picking it up and waving it at Orion in triumph.

Darcy: “See.”

Orion: “Don’t you ‘see’ me. You are looking for trouble today.” Orion: “I’m not trying to command you. I’m trying to protect you. You are my mate.”

Darcy: “That doesn’t make me your possession,”

I snapped. He leered over me, and I was swallowed by the menacing existence of him, his power an aura I could feel wrapping around my lungs and squeezing tight.

Orion: “Not a possession, no. But you are mine. You were mine before we met, and mine the minute we locked eyes. You are mine in this life, and every life we may experience from this point forward. You are mine in every reality you exist, and mine in every reality you don’t. And I am yours in kind, in every way you can imagine. I will gladly be your possession, but I will also be your guardian, your keeper, your protector. And I will do whatever I can to turn you away from danger, because it is impossible for me not to.”

Darcy: “God damn you and your pretty words,”

I whispered, lost to him as always. Orion: “Do you have any idea how rare of an event that is, Blue? There are only a handful of Fae in the world who have seen it. Most of our kind would give anything to witness a Donum Magicae. I, myself, have studied it in countless books, but never have I had a true imagining of what it would be like to stand in the power of one of the celestial creators. What was it like?”

Darcy: “It was…shiny,”

I murmured, my mind still distracted by the memories.

Orion: “Shiny,”

he deadpanned, his eyes narrowing, and I snorted, my shoulders dropping as I let go of the tension in my limbs.

Darcy: “It was pretty cool, I guess.”

Orion: “Pretty cool. You guess,”

he echoed flatly, and I broke a small laugh. Orion: “You’re staring,”

he murmured, his mouth hooking up at the corner and revealing his dimple.

Darcy: “It’s hard not to stare when you look this cute,”

I said, and he glanced over at me with a dry look.

Orion: “Cute? Dogs are cute, like your little lap dog, Seth, but I’m-”

Darcy: “Ohmagod,”

I gasped, cutting over him.

Darcy: “You just said Seth is cute.”

His eyes widened in horror.

Orion: “No,”

he hissed in warning like I was to blame for the words that had come out of his mouth, but I most definitely wasn’t.

Orion: “I meant it objectively. Of course I don’t think the mutt is cute. But I suppose I can see, from afar, if I were someone entirely else, that that someone might find him marginally endearing when he isn’t being aggravating. To me though, he is entirely aggravating at all times. And that will never change.”

Darcy: “Mmhmm,”

I hummed sarcastically, and his gaze narrowed. Orion: “Don’t cry,”

I breathed, her pain the worst kind of curse to bear.

Orion: “Don’t shed tears for a man made of stone.”

Darcy: “You’re not made of stone,”

she said, kissing me again.

Darcy: “You have a beating heart, and it loves me, remember?”

She lifted my palm, pressing it to my chest, and sure enough, I found a heart there, beating slow but hard.

Orion: “Of course it loves you. How could it not?” Orion: “Now we just need your Phoenix to wake the fuck up.”

I pressed my face against her chest.

Orion: “Get out here, you little shit.”

Darcy: “Why don’t you try one of your motivational quotes of the day on it?”

Darcy teased.

Orion: “You’re a useless bird that couldn’t light a match, let alone start a forest fire,”

I growled, jabbing her in the side, and she laughed again.

Orion: “Your Phoenix is almost as stubborn a student as you were.”

Darcy: “Hey, I was a delight to teach,”

she said with a grin.

Orion: “You were a delight to punish,”

I corrected darkly, and she bit down on her full bottom lip.

Darcy: “A delight’s still a delight,”

she said airily, and I laughed, dragging her down into my lap and nipping at her throat. Tory: “Diego will be remembered when this war is over. For so many things, but maybe most importantly of all for showing us that the Nymphs don’t have to be our enemies. That you shouldn’t all just be painted with the same brush because of the brutality some of your kind have enacted against ours. I know the power you all hold is terrifying to Fae, for valid reasons. But I’m a Phoenix who can level a village with a blast of fire which burns hot enough to melt stone. My husband was a Dragon large enough to swallow men whole, Vampires hunt other Fae as part of everyday society, and the list goes on and on. The point is that all of us are monsters in our own rights, and I don’t think any of us would choose to be anything else. And so long as we control the power we were born with, then why should we? If we can live in peace and harmony, then isn’t that for the best?” Darius: “Come for me, Roxanya,”

Darius growled.

Darius: “Come for me so prettily, the way you always do.”

Tory: “I still fucking hate you half the time, you know that, right?” I gave myself to the heat roaring between Darius Acrux and the Vega princess who he was forbidden to love. Gave myself to the ties I had made between him and myself in life and in death, through marriage and the destruction of our Star bond, through hate, betrayal, vengeance and violence. I was his and he was mine. And as the ghost of him wrapped his hand around my wrist and tugged me closer, I gave up any attempt to remember that this was just a memory playing out in my mind. Tory: “It’s you,”

I murmured, my fingers tracing the length of his jaw, savouring the bite of his stubble as I devoured the sight of him and drank it all in.

Tory: “Only you.”

He gave me a smile which cast my heart to ashes, his fingers roaming over the tattoo on my thigh which echoed that sentiment and my gaze dipping to the one which wound around his hip. There is only her. I should have known I was his that first moment I saw him, lounging on that red couch, draped in arrogance while he stole the air from every inch of the room. I should have known it when he was taunting and tormenting me, should have known when his eyes trailed me everywhere I went, and when I dreamt of him despite myself night after night. I’d been so fucking blind and so fucking stubborn, but I had been his throughout it all.

Darius: “By the stars, I love you,”

Darius groaned, his big hands squeezing my ass as he drew me down onto him more firmly, savouring the connection of our bodies while we both panted through the moment of resistance.

Tory: “I love you,”

I replied, my fingers moving over his pec, skimming the ink which stained his bronze skin until I could feel the thundering of his heart beneath them. It was a lie, a beautiful, tempting, lie. But I didn’t care. There was only him. Mom: “Oh, Cally,”

my mom’s voice made me flinch away from Seth, snatching my hand out of his waistband so that the elastic snapped against his taut abs, making him curse.

Mom: “You always were a messy eater.”

Caleb: “Gah, stop it.”

I tried to bat her off as she licked her thumb and made a move to swipe at the corner of my mouth where I was guessing some of Seth’s blood was showing on my skin.

Antonia: “What have I told you about letting your chums feed on your magic in public, Seth Capella?”

Antonia barked, clipping him around the ear like he was a naughty pup and making him snarl as he tried to escape her too.

Anthonia: “Do you want the whole world to see pictures of you submitting for an Altair? Do you want them to think you let him push you down beneath him and have his way with you day and night, at his each and every whim, plunging his huge-”

Seth: “Mom, what the fuck?”

Seth cried but she continued regardless, managing to clip him round the ear again.

Antonia: “-teeth into you whenever the urge arises?”

Seth: “Ugh, you make it sound so weird,” Tory: “Oh, you know. I went to some creepy cave and met these three witches who practice dark magic-”

Caleb: “No such thing as witches, Tor.”

I gave her a nudge and she rolled her eyes at me.

Tory: “Well, they were Nymph witches who called themselves oracles. And they looked like goddesses given flesh. I swear to fuck, I almost wish I was gay for the sake of those women alone.”

Caleb: “Almost?”

I teased.

Tory: “Well, I have a pathetically prevalent obsession with cock, but aside from that…” Tory: “Fine.”

Tory turned to look up at the ceiling, expelled a harsh breath, and said,

Tory: “I may have spent an entire day and night engaging in what could objectively be called a memory orgy where the three of them all lived through a hell of a lot of mine and Darius’s sex life by bringing my memories to life and watching me fuck him repeatedly until I blacked out.”

Caleb: “What the fuck?”

I spluttered, and she groaned, throwing an arm over her eyes so she didn’t have to look at me. He may not have loved me as I’d hoped, but he had loved me all the same. His smiles in those memories reminded me of that, his laughs, his light, all the good we’d shared long before darkness had crept into his life and blotted out the brightness in him. And I realised we’d possessed something far more valuable than what I’d been trying to gain from him all along. He was my friend, and I was his. And there was no truer love in my life than that. Orion: “Your death is coming, I swear that to you. It will be so bloody and terrible that it will be imprinted on the minds of all who are there to witness it forevermore. And I pray, I fucking pray, I am one of them.” Geraldine: “Maxy boy?”

I asked, and that scoundrel of a sea lion looked my way with a frown on his brow.

Geraldine: “If I were in mortal peril, would you risk all to save me, throw yourself between me and death, give up everything just to see me survive?”

Max: “Of course I would, Gerry,”

he said, his eyes softening like the wet kipper I had suspected he was.

Geraldine: “Thank you for admitting that most crippling weakness. As such, I shall be in a differing group to you, ensuring that the mission is put before anything else and nothing is risked on account of my worthless existence.”

Max: “Wait just a second-”

Max tried to interrupt, but I cast a silencing bubble around him so subtle that he didn’t even notice, his nonsensical tirade trapped within, allowing the rest of us to finalise the plan. Caleb: “The plan seems solid to me, and the longer we wait, the more time there is for Lionel to see these decisions. Let’s just go with it,”

he urged, and Seth narrowed his eyes.

Seth: “Oh sure, let’s just go with Tory’s plan. She’s so pretty and has such perfect hair and has magical tits that can-”

Leon: “Dude, are you in love with your dead best friend’s widow?”

Leon hissed in a whisper so loud even the clams in the distant sea could surely hear him.

Leon: “’Cause that’s fucked up.”

Seth: “No,”

Seth blurted, looking horrified while Tory wrinkled her queenly nose at the suggestion. Caleb twirled his twin blades in his grip before sheathing them, one on each hip, and pushing his fingers through his gold curls, looking like a movie star ready for his close up. Just beyond him, Max brushed his hand over the metal bow strapped to his back then folded his arms, the blueish tint of his scales rippling across them and an arrogant slant to his lips that could have melted panties from fifty feet away. I turned my face to the wind, letting it tousle my half-braided hair as I glowered into the distance, ready to take on the damn world and win.

Geraldine: “Are you all quite done posturing like a bunch of peacocks at a tea party?”

Geraldine snapped, looking between us Heirs with narrowed eyes. Xavier and Tory shared a smirk at our expense, and I scoffed.

Seth: “It’s not our fault we’re naturally radiant,”

Tory: “Naturally arrogant, you mean,”

Tory corrected, arching a brow at me. She was wearing leather pants, plus a scowl deep enough to cause real bodily damage, and was looking all kinds of badass herself – she just needed to work on her signature pose and she’d be good to go. I could see it now on the front of a magazine. Bitchy Flame Eyes in beast mode.

Seth: “That too,”

I agreed with a sideways grin, and she almost cracked one in response. Caleb: “Enough, we need to go,”

he said firmly, and I fell under the spell of that deliciously dominant voice he kept using with me lately. Or maybe it was just that my cock was paying more attention to it these days. I’d have butted chests with him and gone Alpha Wolf on him in the past, but now…fuck, I always thought I was an unwavering Dom in the bedroom, but when it came to him, I could play Sub sometimes. Though the idea of having Cal beneath me, showing him exactly how much fun two guys could have together was seriously appealing too.

Oh my stars…I’m a switch. Seth: “That’s the spirit, Twinkle Stud.”

Xavier: “What did you just call me?”

I just smiled, knowing he’d heard and that he definitely loved it. You’re welcome, Twinkle Stud. Geraldine: “IMBECILES!”

Geraldine crowed, diving between us and slapping a hand to each of our foreheads as Caleb came at me from the front. She looked from me to him with her teeth bared and eyes wild.

Geraldine: “You two have danced the four-legged mongo long enough! It is as clear as a summer’s day on a Tuesday morn that each of you are twitterpated with the other like bucktoothed rabbits gazing into the lambent glow of a thousand Faeflies. My eyes may be open, but if they were welded shut with the solder of sun steel, I would still perceive it as plainly as an unbuttered bagel. Seth Capella, you resemble a bloated cagafrog when you gaze upon this toothsome behemoth before you, and Caleb Altair, it appears as though your jaw might fall from the corners of your face and shatter against the flagstones every time you glance yonder at your merry mutt. So stop this unendurable foxtrot and lay your truths upon the chantry of each other’s fervour this instant!” I moved to open the door, but Geraldine karate chopped my hand away from the handle with a ‘yah!’.

Seth: “Ow,”

I cursed, narrowing my eyes at her.

Seth: “Was that really necessary?”

Geraldine: “Your unworthy paws cannot handle the intricacies of opening such a door.”

Geraldine moved forward, raising a hand in a theatrical movement then slamming it down on the handle and opening the door like a normal fucking door.

Seth: “How was that intricate?” Seth: “Fine, I’ll just stand here like an unwanted almond,”

I said loudly, but they ignored me.

Seth: “No one likes an almond.” Darcy: “Tory, you have to leave us here,”

she said, her eyes full of pain and heartbreak.

Darcy: “Lance made a Death bond with Lavinia to break the curse on me. He can’t leave for two more months, when their deal will end, and I can’t be trusted among the rebels until then either-”

I blinked at her in confusion, the words tangling in my mind before finally aligning into a horrifying truth.

Tory: “You fucking idiot,”

I barked at Orion as those words sank in, my fist snapping out and punching him straight in the balls. Orion doubled over with a curse, stumbling away from the bars and wheezing out a breathy, “Why?” but I just glared at him.

Tory: “What is it with the self-sacrificing bullshit you men keep throwing at us? We’re fucking princesses born to the most powerful bloodline in the whole of Solaria, the first Phoenixes born in a thousand years, and we claimed all four motherfucking Elements just to put the icing on the cake. We aren’t damsels in distress, we didn’t ask you to do any of this shit, and I’m so fucking sick of having to clean up the mess your knight-in-shining-armour routines keep causing!”

I yelled, punching the bars which separated us and letting him know with a glare that if he’d been standing closer to them then that it would have been aimed at his balls again.

Darcy" “Shit, Tor, I’ve missed you so much,”

Darcy said, a half laugh, half sob escaping her as she shifted her grip on my wrist to my fingers and squeezed them tight. Tory: “Darcy,”

I barked, like I was scolding a naughty pet.

Tory: “You know me, you hairy asshole.”

Darcy roared, whirling on me and charging again, forcing me to retreat around the throne, keeping the enormous stone-built chair between us.

Orion: “I don’t think insulting her is helping,”

Tory: “Stop it,”

I snarled, wrenching my blade aside and knocking her hooked claws from it before whirling away from the snap of her jaws.

Tory: “This is like the time I borrowed that little black dress you’d been planning to wear to the school dance and got it all oily down at the bike shop. You tried to bite my head off then too – though not as literally. Do I need to sneak you into the movies to see an overrated chick flick this time too? This was between me and her. No matter how far either of us had ever fallen before, there had never once been a time when the other couldn’t drag us back to ourselves. She was it for me and I was for it for her. That one, immovable thing. That tether to the here and now. Max: “The so-called youngsters in this room have fought and bled for this war. We’ve seen death and mayhem unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in your cushy office jobs. We’ve fought alongside friend and foe alike and lost more than just those we loved along the way. We’ve sacrificed our souls to this cause, pieces of us fracturing and breaking off with every heinous act we are forced to commit in the name of fighting against Lionel’s tyranny and oppression. Meanwhile, the three of you spent years sitting across tables from him, turning a blind eye to any signs of what he was up to behind closed doors. He didn’t just seize this opportunity when the Shadow Princess crossed over into our realm – he’s been plotting this for years. He was Dark Coercing your fucking king, the man you were all sworn to serve and protect at all costs, and you didn’t even see it. So don’t try to talk down to Roxanya Vega now that she is standing there before you, bloodied and broken from everything that has been stolen from her thanks to all of those failures. You should be on your knees begging her forgiveness.” Rosalie: “He’s the only Wolf I’ve ever met who might stand a chance – but I think I’d have a good shot at winning if it really came down to it,”

she replied cockily and I eyed the tattoo crawling up the side of her neck, the rose vines echoing her name, yet I got the feeling there was more to them than simply that.

Tory: “Why’s that?”

Rosalie: “Because I fight dirty,”

she replied with a feral grin.

Rosalie: “And for all his Alpha bullshit, Seth Capella is a clean-cut rich boy when you get to the bones of him. All the Heirs are - even Darius was, beneath that rough, inked exterior of his.”

My heart hurt at his name, but I didn’t let that stop me from thinking of him, refusing to balk from the pain of his memory and risk losing him altogether.

Tory: “Oh, I know. I gave him shit for it relentlessly.”

Rosalie: “Woman after my own heart,” Rosalie: “I have never felt anything like the connection I felt between you and Darius Acrux,”

she breathed, shifting closer to me so that all I could see was the beauty of her features, the full lips which seemed designed entirely for seduction and the cunning glint in her brown eyes letting me know that nothing ever got past her.

Rosalie: “The power of your love and hatred burned hotter than the sun itself, the constant tug and pull, a war unending and a passion unyielding. You were two stars always set to collide and cast the world on fire because fuck the consequences.”

Tory: “Why are you telling me this now?”

I asked, my voice weak as the loss of him surrounded me, the memory of that love we’d felt echoing in all the empty places of my soul and making them ache with longing. The ruby necklace I wore seemed to heat at her words too, the echo of his hand slipping through my hair, a memory that was somehow tangible like his ghost was leaning in to listen.

Rosalie: “Because that fire hasn’t gone out yet,”

Rosalie breathed, taking a lock of my ebony hair and winding it around her finger until it pulled tight, like she’d known I’d imagined his touch there too.

Rosalie: “I feel a chord of it straining to remain in place. And I think it’s time you tugged on it.” Geraldine: “Seth Capella, I command you with the task of presenting our noble Tyler Corbin with that ring, can you manage such an important mission?”

Seth: “You mean, just take this ring to Tyler?”

I asked dryly.

Geraldine: “You’re right,”

she sighed.

Geraldine: “It is far too much for your simple mind to handle.”

She reached for the ring, and I slapped her palm away with a growl, picking it up and pocketing it.

Seth: “I can handle it. And my mind is very complex by the way.”

She tittered at that, and I glowered at her. I crawled fully into his arms, my bulk making him grunt as I slammed down onto his lap and hugged him tight enough to choke him. Just a friendly little choking. Seth: “I saw…something,”

I said, pushing to my feet.

Geraldine: “Well, bravo, young whippersnapper. Your vivacious description doth bring a tear to my eye,” Geraldine said dryly. Washer: “Sorry to ding on your dangler,”

Washer cried, starting to do some lunges on the grass below the treehouse. He was in some skin-tight yoga pants that he’d gotten from the stars only knew where, and his chest was bare, the light blue scales of his Order form hugging his sun-baked flesh.

Washer: “Some of the rebels are gathering down on the north beach for a little celestial wangle. It’s going to be a full moon tonight, and as it’s December, it’ll be a cold moon! And better than all that, Venus is going into retrograde. That sexy, sultry mistress of a planet will be thrusting some of her sauce deep into our crevices, and while everyone is feeling a little blue, it should go some way to getting our spirits nice and limber again, all supple and warm inside us. How’s that sound, boys?”

Seth: “I dunno…you made something kinda awesome sound gross.” Washer: "Tonight, we can delve into the crannies of our minds and find the answers that will help us win this war. Venus in retrograde is also the perfect time to reflect on the loves of the past, the mistakes we’ve made in relationships, and it is a chance for rebirth. A time to start anew in matters of the heart. As an added bonus, we’ll all feel a little bit horny.”

He laughed loudly, lunging deeper and making his pants tighten even more around his crotch so that we could see the clear outline of his cock and balls.

Caleb: “By the stars.”

Caleb shoved to his feet and looked down at me.

Caleb: “Get drunk with me.” Seth: “What are you doing, Cal? Declaring your undying love for me?”

I asked jokingly, a small part of me whimpering inside as I cut myself on my own words. He snorted.

Caleb: “In your dreams. My dreams are saved for more interesting scenarios,”

I said lightly, acting as if I gave no shits. When I really gave so many shits. He finished posting and tossed me my Atlas, and I caught it out of the air. Caleb shot behind me in the next second, flicking a silencing bubble around us and speaking in a low voice close to my ear.

Caleb: “Like fucking one of your best friends?”

My throat tightened, threading itself into a knot, and I turned to him with a growl. He stalked around me, coming eye to eye with me with some dark emotion flaring in his gaze.

Seth: “If we fucked, you’d fall in love with me,”

A bang sounded beyond the door, and I tossed the Darius sex toy set out of my hands as if it had burned me, the box thumping to the floor face down just as the door was flung open and Rosalie Oscura half threw Seth into the room.

Rosalie: “Here’s what you were looking for, cucciolo sciocco,”

she growled, flicking her ebony hair back over one shoulder as Seth stumbled against the wall and scowled at her. He was shirtless, his half-shaved hair dishevelled and trailing over his face in a way that made me want to brush it back so I could see the warmth of his brown eyes better.

Seth: “I should challenge you for that shit,”

he snarled, barely even seeming to notice me.

Rosalie: “I should come for you and take your pack and make them mine, and then they’d have to listen to all of my wonderful advice and wouldn’t be held back by your wily ways.”

Rosalie growled, her eyes flashing silver as she stalked towards him, and I shot to my feet, getting in her way.

Caleb: “What’s going on?”

I demanded. She fell still, that hunter’s gaze sweeping over me like she might just go for my throat instead, before she relaxed and shrugged, the picture of innocence all wrapped up in sin. That girl was trouble with a capital T, and I was beginning to think that neither Seth nor I had the first clue on how to handle her, let alone figure out her next moves.

Rosalie: “Your boy decided to invite himself to the orgy my pack is indulging in down on the beach,”

she said, curling a finger around a lock of ebony hair as she leaned back against the door frame.

Caleb: “He…what?”

I asked, my throat tightening on the word as something sharp twisted in my chest.

Seth: “They needed me,”

Seth snapped behind me, but I couldn’t bear to look at him, my teeth grinding as I fought to hide my feelings even as they were crushed in his fist and scattered across the room on a wind as savage as he was.

Seth: “I can’t help it if Venus demanded my involvement.”

Rosalie tutted loudly.

Rosalie: “They would have welcomed your involvement, stronzo, but you weren’t offering them your cock, were you?”

Caleb: “What the fuck was he offering them then?”

I demanded, my words practically a shout even as I tried to contain myself.

Rosalie: “Advice,”

Rosalie sneered, her narrowed eyes flicking over my shoulder towards Seth who huffed loudly.

Seth: “They needed it. They were thrusting out of rhythm, and I only saw one guy who was touching more than one other person – you can’t call it an orgy if it’s just a bunch of couples fucking in a line. You need a level of crossover that they weren’t achieving. I wanted to see a cock in the ass of a guy whose cock was eight inches deep in a third guy whose mouth was on a girl while she took it in both holes, while another two girls finger fucked each other and played with some side balls. It was a shambles!”

Rosalie gave me a flat look which seemed to say that this was my problem, and I finally turned to look over my shoulder at Seth.

Caleb: “So you…weren’t joining in with them? You were just trying to direct them?”

I asked, piecing his words together.

Seth: "Yeah, I was trying to be an orgy conductor, I waved a stick and everything to make it easier for them to follow my orders. And they might have gotten somewhere if they hadn't all started bitching and crying, then calling their Alpha over to help them. I was helping them, Cal! They needed me! Their Alpha wasn't even joining in! They said she'd already gotten what she wanted from them, but what true Alpha doesn't stay balls deep until the final orgasm rolls through the group, Caleb? The Alpha should be the first and last to come with countless more orgasms in between, not just some starter to the feast who ducks out after six measly orgasms!

Rosalie blew a breath out of her nose and gave me a pointed look.

Rosalie: "He told my pack that the reason I wasn't joining in was because they weren't performing to the necessary level. I don't need the headache of trying to console my entire pack while they all go ultra-sub for me in some pointless attempt to get me off, but that's what he's given me - I'll be dealing with the fallout from this for months." Seth: “I’m the only one making you come tonight. So keep your fucking hands to yourself or on me.” Seth: “Any regrets?”

I asked him roughly, reaching back to fist my fingers in his curls, and he nipped at the swell of my bicep as he drew me onto my back.

Caleb: “I do have one,”

Seth: “Oh yeah?”

I asked, tone casual, heart hammering painfully.

Caleb: “I left the butt plug in,”

he snorted, and I burst out laughing. Seth: “We’re a bad idea,”

I voiced part of my fears, feeling the rising sun gilding my back in gold.

Caleb: “The worst,”

he agreed, and a sharp lump rose in my throat.

Caleb: “Now get over here and kiss me, Capella.” Mom: “My Seth can never control the whims of his winky,”

Mom laughed, and heat flooded my cheeks. I couldn’t look at Caleb. Possibly ever again. Why did she have to say winky? Mom: “Pup,”

Mom pushed, a warning in her voice.

Mom: “I’m going to count down from three, and if I get to zero and you haven’t told me, then I’m going to ban you from running with my pack for a week, and I’ll tell that strapping Oscura Dragon to refuse to let you run with the Oscura pack too.”

Seth: “Mom! That’s not fair, I don’t have any other Wolves to run with.”

Mom: “Well you should have thought of that before you boinked your friend,”

Seth: “Don’t say boink,” Seth: “Hey,”

he said as he arrived, placing a hand on my shoulder before taking hold of Tyler’s shoulder too and nodding to Sofia.

Seth: “I need to talk to you all in private. I have a secret in my pocket you all need to see.”

Sofia: “Ew, are you hitting on us?”

Sofia wrinkled her nose.

Seth: “Stars, no. I’m in love with-”

he half choked on those words.

Seth: “The moon.”

Well, that checked out. Sofia: “Are we absolutely, one hundred percent sure he isn’t about to get his dick out?”

Sofia whispered to me.

Xavier: “With Seth, we can never be a hundred percent sure. But I’m like eighty percent convinced.”

Seth took his hand from his pocket, his fist tight around something and he cast a Faelight above us, turning the colour of it purple so an eerie glow filled the room.

Seth: “Xavier Acrux, Tyler Corbin, and Sofia Cygnus,”

Seth said mysteriously, waving his free hand above his fist like he was about to do a magic trick.

Seth: “I’m about to set you a task that could change the fate of this war. It’s the most important thing you’ll ever do. In fact, once it’s done, you may never truly feel satisfied by anything in life again. Even each other.”

Tyler: “Dude,”

Tyler laughed, and Seth reached down, pinching his cheeks so Tyler’s lips pursed out awkwardly.

Seth: “I’m not your dude. I’m the master of fate, the weaver of destiny. What’s about to happen in this room will go down in history forever.”

Sofia: “He’s definitely about to get his dick out,”

Sofia whispered, and another snort escaped me.

Seth: “Silence, mare!”

Seth crowed, releasing Tyler, and pointing a finger at Sofia.

Seth: “Don’t cheapen this moment with your dick mutterings.” Seth: “By the moon, you don’t even know anything, do you? Darion. As in Darcy and Orion. Dar-ion. It’s their couple name. Like you guys would be…Xavylia. And Tory and Darius are Torius-”

His expression grew tight and he barrelled on.

Seth: “Geraldine and Max are Maxaldine. And well, obviously we’re not a couple and never would be or anything, but just for shits and giggles as we’re the only ones left out, Caleb and I would be Saleb. Everyone caught up now?”

he asked in frustration, and we nodded as one. Darcy: “You know what, Lance?”

Orion:“What, beautiful?”

Darcy: “Sometimes you’re an asshole.”

Orion: “Don’t sell me short, I’m an asshole all the time.” Orion: “Can I help you, beautiful?”

I asked through a smirk, and she rolled her eyes at me, turning away. She fell into her own workout routine, which was all bending and stretching, the shadows barely concealing her nakedness as she ignored me completely. I watched with rapt attention as she did the downward dog and I cocked my head to one side, my gaze riveted to her ass, my cock twitching happily. When she was back on her feet, swiping up one of the water bottles we’d been given this morning, she raised a brow at me.

Darcy: “Can I help you, beautiful?”

she parroted me, and I pressed my tongue into my cheek.

Orion: “You can, actually.”

I beckoned her closer, but she just tossed her hair and placed her bottle down before kicking up into a handstand. I moved behind her and she rested her feet on my chest before kicking hard to flip herself back upright. I prowled forward before she could escape this time, capturing her waist and yanking her flush against me, my pulse rising. The shadows receded from her body and I smiled at the feel of her warm skin against mine, so perfectly soft.

Orion: “How about you lie down and spread those pretty thighs for me like a good girl and I’ll use my tongue to make you like me again,”

I offered.

Darcy: “How about get fucked,”

she said airily, and I growled, my hold on her tightening.

Orion: “How about you watch your mouth, or I’ll stop playing nice.”

Darcy: “Maybe I don’t want you to play nice,” Orion: “You sure you can handle this, little mortal?”

I taunted, aiming to rile her and she tried to stand up, but I moved my hands fast, one locking in her hair, the other forcing her to stay down as I splayed it over her back.

Darcy: “I’m not a mortal,”

Orion: “Are you sure? You look like an angry little mortal to me.”

Darcy: “Asshole.”

She twisted sharply, trying to get free but I yanked on her hair and held her down, laughing cruelly.

Orion: “What did I say about watching that filthy mouth of yours?”

I spanked the side of her ass cheek hard enough to make her spine arch and a string of curses fall from her lips, only causing me to spank her again.

Orion: “Manners, Blue.”

Darcy: “I hate you,”

she hissed, that fire in her only burning hotter. She was a wild thing today.

Orion: “Are you sure?”

I asked, slowly sliding my fingers between her legs.

Orion: “Because I’d bet you fifty auras you’re soaked for me, beautiful.”

Darcy: “I’m dryer than your humour,”

Orion: “Liar.”

I slid my fingers over her wet pussy, grinning at my victory.

Orion: “You owe me fifty auras. Though I’ll take payment in other forms seeing as you’re fresh out of cash. Why don’t you get on your knees and open those silky lips for me?”

Darcy: “I hear mortals give shit blowjobs. You might get your dick bitten off,”

she said, and I broke a laugh, spanking her again, making her cry out in pleasure and pain.

Orion: “I’ll take the risk.”

Darcy: “Pass,”

she said lightly. Fuck, she was being difficult. Well, being poisoned officially sucked. But I was sure it would work out okay. Like sixty-five percent anyway. Ferryman: “What is selfless and selfish. Kind and cruel. Endless and fickle. Priceless and without cost. The harbinger of war and the one thing which can end it just as surely?”

the ferryman asked, his words a taunt as the riddle washed over me and I just shook my head, having no idea what he meant.

Ferryman: “What is excuse and reason. Validation and violence. Need and demand?”

Tory: “I don’t know,”

I replied, and his laughter was cruel and cold.

Ferryman: “Yes, you do.” Orion: “No,”


I retorted, and Gabriel got up, stepping between us.

Gabriel: “This really isn’t the time for marital bickering,”

Darcy: “It’s not marital if we’re not married,”

I pointed out.

Orion: “We will be married,”

Orion said in a growl.

Darcy: “Says who?”

I balked.

Orion: “Says me. I will wed you the moment this war is over.”

Darcy: “Oh you will, will you?”

I narrowed my eyes at him.

Darcy: “We’re already mated, why would we get married too?”

Gabriel: “Again. Really not the time. We need to go.” I hurried down the corridor at his back with Orion beside me and he leaned low to speak in my ear.

Orion: “You will marry me.”

Darcy: “You know, people usually ask someone if they want to marry them, not just command it,”

I whispered.

Orion: “You’re already mated to me by the stars, what’s there to ask?”

Darcy: “Just because we’re mated doesn’t mean you get to skip a proposal.”

I shot him a sharp look.

Darcy: “So you’d better ask really, really nicely the next time you bring this up. And I am making no promises that I’ll say yes.”

Gabriel: “Or that I’ll agree to it,”

Gabriel tossed back over his shoulder.

Orion: “And since when do I have to ask your permission?”

Orion asked in shock.

Darcy: “I second that question,”

I called to him.

Gabriel: “Since I’m your brother, it’s my duty to look out for you,”

Gabriel replied, taking a sharp left down a short hallway and we hurried after him. I scoffed, but Orion frowned, looking like he was taking his friend’s words super seriously. Which was ridiculous because as much as I loved Gabriel, I sure as shit wasn’t going to be waiting for his permission to marry Orion if I wanted to.

Orion: “Darius didn’t ask your permission to marry Tory,”

Gabriel: “I know. And I’ll be taking it up with him beyond the Veil, but as we’re currently on two different planes, and I don’t plan on dying anytime soon, he’ll have to wait for the ass kicking I plan on presenting him with in the afterlife. You, however, don’t get to escape me via death, so you’d better be nice as pie to me if you’re determined to marry my sister.” Darcy: "And don’t act like you’re not dying for a Seth snuggle,”

I said with a hint of a smirk around my lips.

Orion: “Actually, I think I’ll go back to the cage,”

Ferryman: “Look into the depths of the pool again. See the truth of what you are.”

Tory: “I did look,”

I replied, my voice a brittle, ravaged sound as I thought over all I had seen of myself, of the savagery, the endless, formidable power and of how furiously I had turned that upon my enemies.

Tory: “And I saw something which you had been hoping I’d forget.”

Ferryman: “What is that?”

the ferryman asked, the water beginning to churn beneath us, the ferry bucking precariously, making my gut swoop as I fought to keep my balance.

Tory: “The reason I became that creature.”

I pointed to the burning monster who raged across that battlefield without turning my head to look at her again. Because I had already looked, I had already seen, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.

Tory: “Love.”

The ferryman hissed like a wildcat as I answered his riddles with that word, my skin erupting into flames as my wings tore from my back, shredding through my jacket and making my pack thump down on the raft as I let him behold the creature of nightmares that resided within my soul.

Tory: “Love makes a monster of me,”

I continued, stepping towards him, the print of my boots burning themselves onto the wood of the ferry which hissed and spluttered in useless protest.

Tory: “I have tasted the depths of love born from the embers of hate and I have lived through every emotion between the two. I have sobbed and raged and begged and cursed the stars themselves, but none of that made the slightest bit of difference. So I let that love turn to vengeance, I let it fester and blaze inside of me, and I found a way to defy the stars themselves. You’re standing in the way of that path, which means you must have been hoping to meet with this monster yourself."

Ferryman: "Love is pure."

the ferryman denied, backing up a step as I advanced.

Ferryman: "Love is sacrifice."

Tory: "I have sacrificed!"

I shouted, and the flames which lit my body blazed like a beacon for all to see.

Tory: "I have given everything I was and everything I am to this fight. I have cried and raged and pleaded for the heavens to favour us just once, but they turned their games on us instead and took all I had to offer. I never promised to give them any of this. I never agreed to the price they chose, so let my love be unbreakable and brutal and cruel and endless, the harbinger of war and the summoner of violence. Let it be all those things and more because I am done sacrificing myself for the stars and their entertainment. I am done being a puppet in their games. They took from me too many times and now they will have to face the monster they made when they incited me because I. Have. Had. Enough!" For a moment I was paralysed there, caught in that memory, in the pain which had carved out a piece of me ever since. In some ways, I was still there, on that battlefield, holding his cold hand in mine and begging fate to change its mind. I hadn’t left him. Not for one moment. I hadn’t released his hand even when I’d taken the dagger which had killed him and sliced my own flesh open with it. I hadn’t let go. And as that scar tingled along my palm, and the scent of smoke and cedar seemed to billow around me and my own vow to him buzzed through the air, I knew I never would. He was the destroyer of me. The ruination of the girl I’d been and the creator of the woman I had become. He was my one true love, without any help or hinderance from the stars. He was more than my Elysian Mate. He was more than my equal. He was my end. And I was ready to keep the vow I’d made to him all those weeks ago. Gabriel: “Let’s get into the sky so we can see better.”

I moved behind him, hooking my arms beneath his and drawing him tight against my chest.

Orion: “Is this our Titanic moment?”

he murmured, and I sniggered before kicking off the ground and carrying him high above the treeline. Orion: “Damn,”

Gabriel: “Do not get a boner over my sister while I’m touching you,”

I warned.

Orion: “Too late,”

he muttered, and I cursed, flying us towards Darcy as fast as I could. Gabriel: “I’ll get up above him. I’ll strike at him from above with Hail’s sword while you distract him on the ground. At least the fucker can’t fly.”

Tharix leapt into the air and a shift tore through his body that made me stagger back a step in shock, an enormous black Dragon shredding through his skin and taking off into the air on leathery wings that stole away the light of the moon.

Orion: “Oh yeah, by the way Noxy, Tharix can shift into a shadow Dragon,”

Orion deadpanned, then shot towards me, giving me a shove in the only direction that was open to us between the trunks. Gabriel: “I hear the Veil is lovely this time of year,”

I said, leaping upright and pulling Orion with me, ignoring the echoing pain in my side as we kept sprinting away through the trees.

Orion:“Fuck you,”

He sighed.

Orion: “Alright, let’s go take on the unkillable asshole,”

Gabriel: “Love you, Orio,”

Orion: “Likewise, Noxy,” The next Nymph made it to me, and I severed its probed hand from its wrist with a bellow of determination. It made a noise of anguish that sounded an awful lot like the word Gabe and I slammed my sword into its heart with a snarl.

Gabriel: “Don’t. Call. Me. Gabe.”

I yanked the sword back out and it turned to ash before three more took its place. I drew the glimmering sword from my hip in a fluid movement before placing its tip against the ground between us and dropping to one knee in front of her. A tremor rumbled through the Veil as my knee hit the ground and I clasped the pommel of my sword as I bowed my head before her, my limbs trembling with the magnitude of this action, of what I had known and should have admitted for a long time now.

Darius: “I pledge myself and all that I am to you, my Queen,”

I breathed, emotion wracking my core as those words tumbled from me at last, my place in this world somehow fixing there as if I had found the truth of my own destiny, and all that I had ever needed to be.

Darius: “I would be your sword to fight your enemies, your shield to protect your people, your monster to own and to wield. I would be yours in any and all of the ways I could be, and I should have told you that a long, long time ago. I am your creature, your servant…yours.”

Darius: “My father,”

I rasped but she shook her head, ebony hair tumbling over one shoulder from the movement and taking the edge from that warrior’s visage so that I could see the girl she was beneath it. My girl.

Tory: “He has no place here. And he is not your father. He bears no responsibility for the man you became despite him. He can’t have a single piece of credit for that. He can’t even have your name anymore.”

Darius: “My name?”

I asked, a frown furrowing my brow and she nodded as she traced the back of her hand along my cheek, the metal of her wedding ring brushing my skin and filling my chest with more pride and love than I had thought anyone capable of.

Tory: “You’re Darius Vega now. And you weren’t built to bow to anyone.”

Darius: “You know I can’t leave this place.”

Tory: “You can,”

she said fiercely, trying to pull back, but I held her tightly, refusing to let go. Our moments were slipping by one by one, and I knew as well as she did that there was no after. The song would end and so would this, the two of us slipping apart like grains of sand divided by an ocean. There was no power on earth – even one as great as hers – which could deny the laws of all.

Darius: “Fuck, I wish I could,”

I swore to her, drawing her tight against me and inhaling the summer and winter scent of her. It was all things and nothing at all. This essence of immeasurable power which hummed with so much of everything that I was little more than a mortal kneeling before a goddess.

Darius: “I wish I could come back with you more than any man has ever wished for any fate in all the history of all the world. I’m yours, Roxy, heart and soul and everything beyond, I’m yours. But even that can’t free me from this place. What I lost can’t be returned. There is no healing the body I once owned and there is no returning through the Veil now that it has closed at my back.”

There was only her. It had been no false declaration. She was my light when I had been so lost in the dark. She was the mirror she made me face, the truth I needed to see. And still she’d loved me. She’d been the only one who ever could have looked at all of the darkness in me, who could have seen beyond what I had done and found something worth loving within it. She’d been forged for me by something so much more powerful than fate. And the only regret I had in death was that I had broken her heart in the end. I hadn’t been able to keep my promise.

Orion sat beside me, but Gabriel seemed distracted by something, picking up a stick that was resting against the wall by the fireplace.

Gabriel: “Oooh, look at that,”

he cooed, cocking his head to one side as he examined it.

Gabriel: “That’s a real nice stick. The grain is just perfect. And look at those nodules…”

He ran his fingers over them then tucked the thing into his waistband possessively before moving to sit on my other side.

Darcy: “Got yourself a nice little stick, did ya?”

I questioned teasingly.

Gabriel: “Yes, and I’m going to give it to my wife when we get back to the rebels,”

he announced, puffing out his chest.

Orion: “She’ll love that, brother,”

Orion said encouragingly, neither of them seeming to think Gabriel’s stick was amusing. Or cute. And it was definitely cute.

Darcy: “You did great, boy,”

I praised.

Darcy: “Or…girl.”

The Shadow Beast got up, heading outside and cocking a leg to pee on a tree while Orion frowned at it.

Darcy: “Definitely a boy. And he’s housetrained - yay!”

I smiled at Orion who gave me a cool look.

Orion: “You’re free now,”

he said, wafting the Shadow Beast away as he padded back inside.

Orion: “Off you go.”

I elbowed Orion in the ribs.

Darcy: “He’s staying.”

Orion: “He is not,”

Darcy: “Hush, I need to focus.

Darcy: “Do you think you can fit in here in your smoke form?”

I asked the beast and intelligence brightened his eyes. He turned to smoke and rushed into the space I’d created for him, turning the clear gemstone grey inside. I turned to Orion triumphantly and he gave me a dry look that said he wasn’t pleased I’d just found a solution to a problem he didn’t want me to solve.

Darcy: “Looks like he’s coming with us,”

I said brightly.

Orion: “Joy,”

Orion said sarcastically.

Tory: “You and me weren’t a story that was ready to end,”

Darius: “I don’t think that you’re my hero, Roxy,”

he said, his hand shifting from the rock beside me as he took my jaw in his grasp and ran his thumb down over my lips before shifting his grip to my throat.

Darius: “I think you’re my villain too.”

Darius: “Don’t,”

he snarled, somehow dominant even while he was on his knees with my legs wrapped around his neck, and I bit my lip as I looked down at him.

Tory: “Why not?”

Darius: “Because this dress is a reminder of the day when you gave yourself to me entirely. It is a reminder of the day when I died trying to fight for you and you cursed the stars themselves as you swore to undo that wrong. This is the dress of the Queen who owns me heart and soul, and I want to be able to see you in it as often as I can. I want to be able to dress you up in it then peel it back off again to claim you with my tongue and my hands and my cock.”

Tory: “Who knew the big, bad Dragon Heir would be into wedding roleplay?”

I teased and he grinned at me, this feral, wicked grin that promised to destroy any scraps of virtue I might have had left.

Darius: “Oh, Roxy. You have no fucking idea.”

Tory: “Make me come,”

I snarled at him, managing to fist his hair in my hand and dragging him northward, his dark chuckle letting me know that he was getting exactly what he wanted from me.

Darius: “Is that an order from my queen?”

he teased, the deep rumble of his voice against my core almost sending me over the edge.

Darius: “The first she ever gave me. What will the citizens of her kingdom think of that?”

Tory: “They’ll wonder why you weren’t capable of doing it without command,”

I snarled back at him, then cried out as he shoved my thighs even further apart and descended on me at that challenge.

Darius: “I’d kill a thousand enemies if it brought me to this,”

Darius rumbled in my ear, like he could tell what I was thinking without me needing to voice it.

Darius: “I’d paint myself in blood and stain my soul beyond repair. Anything to bring me here, anything to have you in my arms like this.”

Tory: “So would I,”

I replied, looking over my shoulder at him and as our eyes met, I knew we were thinking the same thing. That that was wrong. That we shouldn’t have been so willing to sacrifice the world for the sake of this, but it didn’t change the truth. Darius and I had been bad news from the first moment we’d laid eyes on one another, we were toxic, hateful, and limitless. But we were still here, and we wouldn’t be turning from each other now or ever.

Darius: “I’m going to hear that sound every fucking day from now until the end of time,”

he promised me, his cock so deep inside me that I could hardly draw breath.

Darius: “And when you come for me, when I own and destroy your body, you will know right down to the core of you who you belong to, won’t you, Roxy?”

Tory: “Yes,”

I panted, the time for mocking and teasing long past as he fucked me deep and hard, his fingers moving expertly against my clit.

Tory: “I’m yours. Always,”

I swore, and he growled in approval of that.

Darius: “Mine,”

he agreed in a dark promise, his grip on my hip tightening as he thrust deep inside me.

Darius: “Always.”

Darius: “Before the stars ever got to have a say in it, I would have picked you for my own,”

he told me, his words interspersed with kisses to the side of my face, my jaw, my neck.

Darius: “My obsession with you has been tormenting me from the moment we met and will continue to torment me for the rest of time. I can’t get enough, won’t ever get enough.”

Darius: “I love you, Roxanya Vega,”

he growled, hands roaming up my sides as he withdrew enough to part our bodies and I instantly missed the feeling of him inside me.

Darius: “I love this freckle right here…”

His mouth dropped to my shoulder as he placed a light kiss against it, and I breathed a laugh.

Darius: “And I love this one, just here…”

He moved his mouth lower, placing it against my shoulder blade where my wing would burst from my skin if I shifted, making the sensitive skin there tingle with pleasure.

Tory: “What else?”

I teased and he grabbed me suddenly, tossing me over his shoulder and slapping my ass hard enough to make me curse.

Darius: “I love that filthy mouth,”

he admitted before throwing me down on the mossy bed. My hair tumbled around me where I fell, and I scowled up at him as I pushed myself onto my elbows, but that only seemed to urge him on.

Darius: “I love the way you call me an asshole,”

he said, beating me to it before I could utter the word.

Tory: “Well, that’s handy, because I’m forced to do it a hell of a lot,”

I quipped and he grinned, stalking closer.

Darius: “I love the way you look right now, just fucked and furious, utterly sated and yet panting for more.”

Tory: “You have a seriously high opinion of yourself,”

I said, but his grin only grew as he placed his hands onto the bed either side of my feet and moved onto his knees at the end of it.

Darius: “I love these little toes,”

he teased, kissing my instep, and snatching my ankle into his grasp when I tried to jerk away.

Tory: “That tickles,”

I protested, but he just did it again.

Darius: “Look at these feet,”

he purred, nipping at my instep again and making me moan as he hit some unknown nerve there which sent a spark of energy racing straight to my core.

Darius: “How do they stomp so loudly and furiously through the kingdom when they’re so small?”

Tory: “My feet are average sized,”

I protested, though I guessed compared to his Dragon feet they were fairly small. But that didn’t count.

Darius: “Mmm…”

Darius seemed to consider that before moving on with his inspection of me, and I couldn’t help but notice the thickness of his cock, already hardening again as he gave my body so much attention. It should have been uncomfortable having him look at me like that, I should have felt exposed or uncertain or at the very least vulnerable, but it just felt…right. I had given myself to him entirely, and that meant all of me, flaws included, insecurities be damned.

Darius: “Well, I may have found my favourite freckle,”

he said, placing a kiss to the side of my left knee then raising his eyes to the tattoo on my right thigh beside it.

Darius: “But the prize for my favourite mark on this sinfully tempting skin of yours, would have to go to that.”

Tory: “Am I expected to give you a similar assessment when you’re done with me?”

I taunted and his eyes flashed gold with his Dragon once more.

Darius: “Well, that’s a problem, Roxy, because I won’t ever be done with you,”

he swore and goddamn him, I fucking blushed.

My lips twitched in amusement, and I reached up to trace my fingers along his jaw.

Tory: “How bored you must have been before I came along to torment you.”

Darius: “Just a little. Anyway, like I said: the tattoo has nothing to do with you. So stop being so conceited and thinking my whole life revolves around you.”

I slapped his arm and he spanked the side of my ass in reply, making me moan unexpectedly and his eyes darkened with lust.

Tory: “So you’re just going to stick to your belief that you waking up on my birthday and heading out to get your biggest tattoo with no pre-planning at all, had fuck all to do with me – even though it depicts my Order and yours in a dance which looks one step away from violence and another away from love?”

Darius: “Just a coincidence,”

he agreed, shrugging infuriatingly and I scowled at him.

Tory: “I hate you again,”

I muttered, and he smirked at me.

Darius: “No, baby, you never quite managed to hate me.”

Tory: “Asshole,”

I bit out, that infuriating smile only widening at the insult.

Geraldine: “What-ho, dear Pegobrother?”

Xavier: “Er, no ho. Just waiting to go,”

Max came running down the stairs with a strained expression as he hooked his bow over his shoulder.

Max: “Gerry, I need a word,”

Geraldine: “Have a hundred words, Maxy boy. I shall not silence your luscious lips,”

she said, waving a hand to beckon him into the middle of our group.

Max: “In private,”

he said through his teeth.

Seth: “Is there really a bagel stuck on your cock?”

Seth jogged over to Max, resting his chin on his shoulder. Max batted him away, glancing around like he really wished we weren’t all here to witness this.

Geraldine: “Bandicoots,”

Geraldine laughed.

Geraldine: “Are you blushing, you sweet salamander? There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Maxy boy. We are an adventurous duo, you and I. And a little rumpus with a bagel is hardly a shock to the ears of an orgy-bound Wolf such as Seth Capella, and we all know Caleb Altair enjoys a public Pega-pounding-”

Caleb: “I do not,”

Caleb barked, eyes flashing in rage.

Washer: “I shall rouse the whole legion with my Siren power, sending it deep into their dreams and tugging on the shafts of their souls, squeezing and pulling until they are primed and ready to blow, to spray our enemies with the seed of rebellion,”

he swore. I grimaced and Caleb took a pointed step away from Washer before our old professor turned and ran back upstairs.

Geraldine: “Well, he shall do the job, even if he does it disturbingly so,”

Max: “Wait. I can’t go yet. I…”

He looked to Geraldine in desperation.

Geraldine: “There’s no time, my dear dolphin. Ignore the crumbles along your codwhacker and I shall free you of the bagel’s grasp when the fight is done,”

Geraldine said, jogging towards the door.

Max: “Gerry!”

he snapped at her, and Seth gave him a pitying look.

Seth: “Can’t you just, break it off?”

he whispered, but we could all hear him easily.

Max: “No, she’s done something to it, so it feels as soft as butter, but it’s as hard as stone if I try to break it,”

Max hissed.

Seth: “Let me take a look.”

Seth reached for Max’s pants, but he knocked his hand away.

Max: “No,”

Max growled.

Max: “Just leave it.”

Tyler: “What’s going on?”

Tyler asked curiously and Max’s back straightened.

Max: “Nothing. Let’s go.”

Max marched to the door, walking a little awkwardly and if I hadn’t been so worried about the attack on Zodiac, I would have laughed.

Seth: “You can’t go to war with a bagel on your cock. As your bestie, I can’t let you.”

Seth ran at Max, Pitball tackling him to the ground and shoving his hand down his pants.

Max: “Seth!”

Max shouted, a wave of anger crashing from him into everyone around him and I stamped my foot as the emotion took hold of me. Seth did some weird twisting motion within Max’s pants then lifted the bagel above his head with a smug look on his face.

Max: “How’d you do that?”

Max gasped in relief.

Seth: “Believe it or not, this isn’t the strangest object I’ve jangled off a guy’s cock, Max,”

Seth said, pushing to his feet and pulling Max after him.

Seth: “You wouldn’t believe the things some Fae stick their dicks in. Packs of crayons, flower pots, cakes, Pegasex dolls.”

He threw a look at Caleb whose expression turned volcanic.

Caleb: “Fuck you.”

Orion: “Ready yet, Blue?”

Orion asked with a teasing smirk.

Darcy: “Lemme just check my Shadow Beast ring.”

I twisted it around on my middle finger then raised it to swear at him as I joined them.

Darcy: “Yup. All good.”

Orion: “You’re gonna be in trouble for that,”

Orion growled in my ear as Gabriel took a pinch of stardust from the pouch.

Seth: “Oh my stars!”

he yelled, but instead of slamming into me, he went flying past me, then started circling us all as fast as he could.

Seth: “By the moon – awooooooo!”

Darcy: “What’s he doing?”

I laughed.

Caleb: “I think he’s got the zoomies,”

Caleb said with a smirk, and Seth continued to race around us until he was panting and pulling Gabriel into a firm hug.

Seth: “Oh I missed you so much, Gabriel,”

Seth said with a choked sob.

Gabriel: “We don’t really hang out, like ever,”

Gabriel said, patting him on the back.

Seth: “We’re gonna,”

Seth said, releasing him and giving him an intent look.

Seth: “Every day. Morning, noon and night.”

Gabriel: “O…kay,”

Gabriel said with a chuckle then Seth took another dive at Orion, but he shot away this time instead of being trapped in second hug.

Darcy: “No. Don’t walk away from me, Tory. We may be different but we’re the same where it counts. We’ve always found a balance between us, light to each other’s dark and dark to each other’s light, just like the stars said. We make room for each other and show up for each other, and when peril comes knocking, we stand and take on death itself together. Don’t let the world ruin us. We may be different trees but we’re growing side by side, our branches intertwined forever. You support me and I support you. That’s how it’s always going to be. Because that’s what sisters do.”

Tory: “Ready?”

Darcy: “What’s that saying the Oscuras use? A morte…”

Tory: “E ritorno,

she finished, and we thrust the heart of the star into the hole, fixing it back in place.

#mates #alpha #chosenfamily #cursed #friendstolovers #touchheranddie #grieving #royal #trauma #unrequited

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