INIMICAL: Sample Chapter
September is coming, and with it the next novel in THE CIRCUIT FAE series! This one's INTENSE as the Fae Court drama heats up, and Syl and Rouen find themselves pulled apart--almost literally--by their warring Dark Faerie and Fair Faerie realms.
Part of both worlds
Belonging fully to neither
- Glamma’s Grimm
Being a Faerie sleeper-princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, you’d think being Fae royalty, I’d be automatically excused from certain things: doing chores, working afterschool, detention, eating Brussels sprouts.
“Miss Skye, I’m waiting…” Miss Mack taps her shiny black pointer against the equation on the board as all the other kids in class snicker. “Solve for X, please.”
Easy for you to say. You weren’t up half the night.
I look up at the board, at the algebraic equation. It’s simple enough, but my vision blurs, and all the numbers and symbols run together like gibberish.
These shouldn’t be a problem for Syl Skye—high school junior, science geek and mathlete. I should be able to do these in my sleep. But sleep’s been the problem lately. The same nightmare playing on a constant loop the second I close my eyes—my people dying, my lands in ruins.
And the only way to stop it is for me to kill my girlfriend.
Even the thought is a knife to my heart, but I shake it off. It’s just a nightmare. Besides, me and Rouen have a plan to save our people, and it doesn’t involve killing anyone.
I might be a powerful fair Fae princess, but I’m also a live-and-let-live kind of girl.
The snickering gets louder, and my face gets exponentially hotter and redder. Exponentially. See? I think desperately. I can do math! I push aside my closed laptop and tap my pencil against my bottom lip. You can do this, Syl. But nothing comes to me.
Next to me, Roue shifts in her seat, her concern for me shooting down the soul-bond we share.
Did I mention I’m dating the princess of the dark Fae, my mortal enemy? And that my nightmares want me to kill her on Midsummer Day?
Well I am, and they do.
Joke’s on them, though, cuz me and Roue are going to ninja our way into our opposing Dark Faerie and Fair Faerie realms and set things to rights. Problem is, the kings of both realms are dying, and since they’re magically bound to the hearthstones, the source of power for each realm, they’re sucking everything into death with them.
Which means: Faerie’s going to go kaboom if we don’t stop it.
Our current plan involves three major points: sneaking in to each Faerie realm, healing the hearthstone with our combined powers, and getting out in one piece. We’re just waiting for Mom’s contacts to finish up one key ingredient—two black-iron railroad spikes.
Iron’s harmful to the Fae. It suppresses a lot of our powers. As the last sleeper-princess, I’m immune, though, so I’ll carry them to protect us in case either king gets squirrely. (Fae kings are touchy, and they do not like anyone messing with their hearthstones.)
Once the hearthstones are healed, the kings will be healed, too, and so will the realms.
And that’s our Faerie plan, as I call it.
It’s way more complicated than this summer school deal, let me tell you. But even the best Faerie plan is no help against Miss Mack.
“Maybe if someone hadn’t skipped school for six months”—Miss Mack looks pointedly at me over her crescent-moon spectacles—“she’d know about quadratic equations, hm?”
“Yes, Miss Mack,” I mumble, shrinking in my seat.
The summer school teacher tap, tap, taps her pointer on the board. Miss Mack is one of the youngest teachers at Richmond E, even if she doesn’t look like it with those witchy white streaks in her black hair. She stares me down for another long moment before moving on to her next victim. I slouch deeper.
The real truth is—I didn’t skip school, and neither did Roue.
We got trapped in the Dark Faerie realm. Her dad went to the dark side, imprisoned us, and used the Dark Faerie hearthstone to turn his subjects into zombie-slaves. As princess, Roue was forced to sever his connection to his dark self, which freed her people, crippled her father’s power as king, and pretty much dethroned him.
He didn’t like that too much, so he tried to imprison us and drain my blood.
All of it. Talk about overkill.
It took us two days to escape—two days in Dark Faerie time, which as it turns out, is very different than in the mortal realm.
By the time we escaped, we’d missed half our junior year.
And the worst part?
It’s not summer school.
It’s the fact that we messed up, did the wrong thing.
The nightmares are just part of Faerie’s early-warning system that we’ve kind of set the Fae apocalypse in motion.
Turns out, we didn’t actually sever her dad from his dark side.
We severed his connection to the hearthstone.
That wouldn’t be the worst thing, except for one fact: Fae kings need their connection to the hearthstones to live, and vice versa. When we severed King Reinghûl from the Dark Faerie hearthstone, we sealed the fate of the realm.
Now the king and the hearthstone are both dying. And if they do?
All of Dark Faerie will die, too. And it’s our fault.
“Since Miss Skye seems to be unable to enlighten us…” Miss Mack sets down her pointer and picks up her chalk. She solves the equation in two seconds flat.
All the other kids laugh and snicker, and Cory Johnson, football jock extraordinaire, stage-whispers, “Who ever heard of a mathlete who can’t math?”
Ugh. My cheeks burning, I fiddle with my pencil, trying hard to focus as Miss Mack moves on to the next equation. Nope. No good. My brain’s officially gone on a tangent. Before I know it, I’ve opened to a fresh notebook page, and I’m puzzling out my and Roue’s Faerie equation for the gajillionth time.
Here’s the trouble. Hearthstones are hugely powerful, but they’re untamed, wild energy. They need a king to control them and siphon off the excess energy. If the king’s connection is severed, the hearthstone’s power will build and build until the whole thing goes totally supernova.
Roue and I didn’t know it at the time, but the nightmares have been clear that… I scribble it down.
No king + uncontrolled power = Dark Faerie realm goes kaboom.
Add that to the fact that the Fair Faerie king is supposed to die if there isn’t a new king and queen on the throne by Midsummer…
I scribble that down, too.
Dark Faerie king dying + Fair Faerie king dying = apocalyptic hearthstones = lots of death and destruction = the end of Faerie.
A slow shudder of dread rolls down my spine. For me and Roue, this equals a lot of pressure riding on our Faerie plan. I glance at her, sitting across the aisle from me. She’s pretending to pay attention to Miss Mack, but her hand’s gone still on her paper, and I feel her thoughts touch mine.
“Are you all right?” Her voice, deep and smoky-sexy, gently prods my mind, sending shivers of the good kind through me. Ever since we committed to each other (with rings and everything) and became soul-bound, I can hear her thoughts and feel what she feels. We can talk telepathically, too.
A part of her soul lives in my heart, and mine in hers.
Maybe that’s why she and I are both having nightmares about killing each other for our crowns?
Because both our Faerie realms want us as queens—but not together.
We’re each supposed to marry a prince. Long story, but can I get a “hell no”?
I want to make up for our mistakes, but there are limits.
“I’m okay.” I try to tamp down on my anxiety. I’m still learning how to control the bond so I don’t send everything, even the embarrassing stuff, right down it, 24/7. “I’d be better if we didn’t have to be at summer school.”
We could use more time to work out the kinks. Like exactly how we’re going to heal the hearthstones. Last time, when the Dark Faerie hearthstone nearly died, we both sort of felt our way through healing it.
I’m hoping we can duplicate the process.
Roue’s nonverbal agreement flashes down the bond. Ever since we first met, she’s been masquerading as a normal high school student, but we both know our days as normal high schoolers are numbered.
Our rival realms have been pulling on each of us, calling us home. Apparently, the Fae kings aren’t going to be any help.
Saving Faerie is a job for us princesses.
If only we could do it without having to kill each other…
I scribble down my current Faerie equation, the one about us combining powers—my white flame and her violet lightning—and push it toward her. “Any ideas yet?”
Roue leans in, her face thoughtful. “Hmmm…” Her hum is just as smoky-sexy as her singing voice.
I can’t help but take a sec to check her out. My beautiful girl’s tall, dark, and broody, five-foot-seven inches of curvy, cunning snark wrapped in black leather, her powers all things Winter: cold twilight, thundersnow and lightning, storms and snow squalls.
As a fair Fae princess of the Summer Court, that should scare the pants off me, but really what I’m thinking is, Maybe she could use her Winter power. A freak snow squall in May would get us out of summer school, buy us some time to work on our Faerie plan.
It’d only take two inches, and every school in Richmond would be closed for a week.
Roue’s chuckle rumbles in my mind, turning my insides electric-gooey and warm. “You mean like this?” She twiddles her fingers, and a teeny snow tornado the size of a soda can swirls on her desk, all white and wintry.
I jerk upright in my seat, but then notice the shimmery glimmer blanketing my girl’s actions. Whew! A Glamoury. It’s a type of Fae magic that hides what we really are from mortals.
I glance around quickly, but Wakeful mortals, the few who can see through Fae magic, are super rare.
In my mind, Roue’s chuckle rolls like syrupy thunder. “Relax, princess.” She waves a hand, dispelling the snow tornado into tiny crystals. They melt on her desk in Richmond’s seventy-degree spring day.
“I’ll try.” I lounge back into my seat. But really, it’s hard for me to relax.
Today’s May 1st. We’ve missed five and a half months of school.
Plus, the second we got back from Dark Faerie, we got pulled out of regular classes and put into these special “bridge to success” sessions in the old section of Richmond Elite High—just me, Roue, and a handful of other kids in the library. Bridge to success? Yeah, right.
Call it what you want, it’s still summer school.
I look wistfully out the window as Miss Mack moves on to her third victim.
Being cooped up is hard when it’s spring going on summer. As a fair Fae, my powers come from the Summer Court: heat, sunfire, and steamy breezes. Right now, I’d do anything to be out in the late spring/early summer afternoon, sun on my face, the breeze in my hair.
Maybe my mortal-world stress is why the nightmares are getting worse?
But I know the truth. I scribble it in my notebook again: 0 kings = trouble x 2.
“The dreams were bad last night?” Roue asks gently.
“The worst.” I doodle over the equation, stalling. Roue and I don’t keep secrets. We both know about each other’s nightmares, but stabbing your girlfriend in the heart with a magical Faerie blade, even if it’s not real?
It’s next-level relationship stuff. And not in a good way.
Just the thought of it sends my heart into freak-out mode.
Roue reaches across the aisle and puts her hand on mine. Her skin is the perfect combination of cool and silky-soft. Electric zings shoot through me.
“This thing with Faerie…” Roue meets my gaze, her eyes so deep blue I could get lost in them. “We’ll figure it out, tackle it together.”
My breath catches in my throat. Okay, can I just say that no matter how many times she says things like this, it always, always gives me good-kind shivers?
And when she looks at me like that, her sapphire-blue eyes all glowy and intense, I can only think of how we’ve been talking about taking the next step in our relationship. It’s scary, but a good kind of scary.
Truth be told, I want to do more than kiss her.
But for right now, I’ll settle for kissing.
“Right now?” Roue’s sexy smirk makes my insides leap. “As in, right now in class?”
“Umm…” Do I say no? Even my sending is breathless, and my brain turns to gooey mush. I’m drawn to her the way opposing magnets are, lured in by her beauty, her strength, her darkness calling to my light.
I lean in. She leans in.
Her lips barely brush mine—
“Miss Rivoche! Miss Skye!” Miss Mack’s voice rings out like the Horn of Gondor, killing the moment deader than a doornail. Roue and I jerk back into our seats like naughty schoolgirls.
Whoa. That was…intense.
“Soul-bond, baby,” Roue sends.
Yeah. Wow. Every day, it gets stronger and stronger.
“Do I need to separate you two?” Miss Mack has to shout to be heard over all the snickering, jeers, and whispers that erupt around us.
“No, Miss Mack,” Roue and I chorus dutifully.
But my girl’s smirking her face off. We’ve faced down hell-hounds and Hunters, Circuit fiends and Circuit Fae, Ouroboros, even the deep wards that protect Dark Faerie.
Mortal teachers don’t really scare us.
Well, except Miss Jardin.
Then again, the redheaded school librarian isn’t mortal at all. She’s a pocket púca, a type of shifter dark Fae who’s under a powerful geis to help me.
Still, my mom will officially kill me if I get into any more trouble. She was not keen on me having to go to summer school. Roue, either, considering she lives with us and Mom’s her guardian.
As much as a dark Fae princess can have a mortal guardian.
To be fair, Mom’s not 100% mortal, either. She was a sleeper-princess before I was.
“Laptops open, everyone,” Miss Mack barks like a drill sergeant.
“Maybe we should…” I glance at Roue as I fire up my laptop.
“Right.” She pulls hers out, too, and we settle into actually paying attention to class.
Only…I’m super not good at that right now because, between the nightmares and working on our Faerie plan, I’ve had about two hours’ sleep and a whole lot of worrying. I’m exhausted. No sooner do I start following along with the lesson than I also start nodding off.
My head’s heavy, my eyelids a million pounds. The sun’s slanting in the windows now, warming my legs. I slump down, letting my mind drift. No worries. I’ll tackle quadratic equations later, maybe get my bestie Lennon to help me. She’s a fellow mathlete, but she’s good at everything.
Miss Mack drones on and on about values and sums and equations. I prop my laptop up. Maybe I can take a quick catnap behind it.
My eyes close halfway, my head gets heavier and heavier…
Yoink! A small tug jerks inside me, a snag in my stomach, like tiny hooks digging in. Not again. Along with my Roue-killing nightmare, I’ve been feeling this…pull toward the Fair Faerie realm.
It’s because the king is dying, my inner killjoy whispers. You’re supposed to marry a fair Fae prince, become queen, take your crown, kill Roue.
Yeah, this is not something hiding behind my laptop can fix.
Because the realm of Fair Faerie, the half of Faerie that governs all things sun and Summer, has been calling me nonstop.
Like an ex that won’t stay broken up with.
I groan, trying to fight off the weird pull. Now is not the time.
Roue and I just need a few more days to get the black-iron spikes and figure out the healing-the-hearthstone equation. But it’s like Fair Faerie’s grabbed hold of my insides and won’t let go.
I poke at my stomach. Quit it, you.
We’re not even on speaking terms, me and Fair Faerie.
It wants to break up me and Roue.
I might be new to this fair Fae gig, but even I know that the princess of the Summer Court should not be dating the princess of the Winter Court. In fact, I should be dating Aldebaran, Prince of OverHill so we can get soul-bound and take the place of our dying king and queen before all of Fair Faerie dies a horrible death.
And hey, the last thing I want is for my realm to die. But three things: one, I’m into Roue; two, I’m not into guys; and three, I’m definitely not into being forced to date anyone—or go back to Fair Faerie, for that matter.
Because, according to my nightmare, if I go back to Fair Faerie and take my crown, Roue’s as good as dead.
And I’m the one who kills her.
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