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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,”