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Phantom Assassin Sneak Peek!

Enjoy the first chapter in Phantom Assassin, the first book in my brand new series!

CHAPTER 1.

 

 

ZENEVIÈVE

 

Every 5,000 years, a Star of Prophecies is born in the Fae Realm. The day I first opened my eyes, the clock reset itself...

My body jolted upright on the bed, eyes snapping open with the strangled breath that escaped me. The same scene I had witnessed a million times invaded my mind.

The dream was always the same. It had plagued my nights since I was old enough to scream, but the treacherous sweat still clung to my skin. My heart still stammered against my chest in both sorrow and anger, blue strands plastered to my neck, and the sheets tangled between my legs.

No matter how many times I watched it, the ending was always the same.

Every time, I lost her.

Trembling hands lifted from the mattress, trails of blood sliding off the cold silver hilt between my palms, effortlessly dripping down my fingertips. Rays of moonshine bounced off the dagger’s blade, illuminating the depths of the crimson crystal—the only one the universe able to kill a Starlight Faery.

Horror rushed through me at the sight of the bloodied weapon, but as I blinked, the illusion dissipated from my eyes, proving to be only the remnants of my nightmare… of my future. Struggling to catch my breath, I desperately rubbed my palms over the sheets, trying to wipe away the blood that no longer clung to my skin, though the feeling lingered.

Shutting my eyes tightly, I regained control, forcing my heartbeats to slow. I took long, settling breaths, reminding myself that it wasn’t real. It didn’t matter how many times I witnessed it. It hadn’t happened.

Not yet.

When my eyelids lifted once more, my gaze settled on the window that overlooked the royal gardens, and the world of mystical wonders that extended below us. The one we called Arhana—our Faeryland. Its sight brought lightness back into my soul.

Wings infused with the purest light in all nine realms burst from my back, lifting me off the bed, and taking the remnants of the prophecy away as easily as the bedsheets slipped from my body. The pads of my feet landed on the lush carpet, wings retracting while I walked towards the large windowpane.

Smooth moonstone walls gleamed all around me, rhythmically pulsating while the Nayisa Ethasae infused the palace with its flawless power. A beam of raw energy steadily flowed from the great moon above us, imbuing her magic into us, and making the Moonlight Kingdom the most powerful in all of the Wynossa Osfar Arhana—the Realm of the Fae.

My small hands pressed against the frame while the blue glow of the great moon bathed me—the same hue that colored my crystalline eyes, long tresses, and magic, telling the entire realm what I was with only one look.

A Starlight Faery.

The single most revered race within Arhana.

Pushing against the ornate silver frame, I opened the window fully, and before I knew it, I was falling. My sleeping gown fluttered all about with my jump, hair whipping along my body as the wind swept me into its sweet embrace. I closed my eyes, letting gravity have its way.

Like an autumn leaf, my body danced on its way down, carried by the playful strength of nature as I sank past our floating kingdom—approaching the forest floor of the world below at a dangerously lethal speed.

It didn’t matter. I felt free. In that moment, nothing else existed but the eerie song of the wind and me.

Light wings snapped out of me a moment before I hit the ground, and I opened my eyes, swerving up once more.

“Yes!” I screamed euphorically. “Woohoo!” My shouts echoed in the night as I flew up, mixing with my careless laughter, and the sounds of the animal life that surrounded me. Adrenaline and unabashed exhilaration pumped wildly through my veins with the stunt, erasing the clingy darkness my prophesies always left behind—threatening to drown me.

Grandma always said that we couldn’t fight fate. Destiny was a tricky thing, but what was meant to happen would always find a way, no matter how hard we fought it. All we could do was to let go.

I supposed this was my way of letting go.

Some might have called me a dare devil or an adrenaline junkie; others might have thought I was just insane. Yet, jumping off a hovering castle in the middle of Arhana and falling to what could very well be my death, if I used my wings a second too late, was liberating for me. It reminded me I was still in control, even when everything about this life was chosen for me before I was born.

The echoes of my laughter danced over the land, and I righted myself, feeling my long hair whip my body once I stopped spinning. Nothing would ever make me feel as free as flying could. Flapping my wings, I suspended myself mid-air, taking a moment to appreciate the land that stretched both above and below me.

Two extraordinary worlds that formed one.

The Moonlight Kingdom was unlike anything any world had ever seen. It floated thousands of feet above the ground, as though Goddess Danu had scooped it off the earth with her own hands, and left it in the sky to oversee the rest of her realm.

We belonged neither to the Seelie nor the Unseelie Court. We bowed only to the Nayisa Ethasae; the Night Goddess that shone directly above us each night, giving us strength, hope, and supremacy. The moon and Danu were our only deities, and the sole reason for our existence.

Brightly gleaming, the beam of light and life that surged from the blue moon travelled down, reaching the highest point of the palace of a thousand spires, and infusing it with undiluted magic.

My eyes glazed over with pride and adoration as I watched its luminous presence envelop my home’s every surface—the earth, flowers, and the villages that surrounded it. The power overflowed from our castle, its shimmering, milky stream turning into a slim waterfall that poured from its center.

Pure magic flowed as a river that coursed through our land until it spilled over the side of the floating lot, trickling down onto the realm. The mystical river of Starlight extended below, curving and twisting while it cut through the grass and trees, travelling the breadth of Arhana and imbuing every creature, king, queen, and servant with mystical abilities.

The source of all Fae magic.

I loved my kingdom. Our purpose. Our origin, and everything that made us who we were.

Starlight Faeries were Goddess Danu’s first creation. The essence of this realm. The birth of all magic and life. The very reason we were worshipped, admired, and respected.

Yet, it was not the reason we were feared.

Glancing all around me, I attempted to decide which way to fly. Then I snorted—as if there was even a question. Angling myself, I shot forwards, allowing my wings to take me into the Winter Court. My Kingdom hovered over the center of the realm, precisely between the Winter and Summer Courts, but I hated the heat more than anything in this life. I was a creature of the cold.

Frost began to cover the grass and trees as I flew over the boundary line they had so expertly drawn to keep their sworn enemies at bay—otherwise known as the Summer Fae.

Only a few minutes later, I reached my destination. A place no other being knew about, a place that was only mine. Tiny blades of frosted grass weaved between my toes as I walked towards the massive waterfall on the side of the mountain. Hues of blues, greens, purples, and pinks painted the land, gleaming with the enchanted energy that coursed through them.

From the exotic flowers, to the trees the river nurtured, and even the animals that drank from its narrow and crooked bend, everything near the silent waters shimmered and pulsed like our moonstone castle. It was a glow in the dark paradise that began to fade the farther away it got from the source.

The frost turned to thick snow the closer I got to the water; I was only at the edge of the Winter Court, but the temperatures swiftly dropped. The frozen, cascading water welcomed me, forming an archway of crystalized icicles of all widths and sizes, and a small smile curved my lips when my breath began to expel in puffs of white fog. Grinning, I stepped onto the frozen lagoon it created, a shiver rushing down the length of my spine as my bare feet touched the ice.

Poisonous blizzard fish freely darted below the hardened surface, my gaze following their erratic movement as frosted-white scales beamed under the moon—the only reason I could see them within the dark lagoon. Its shadows were as black as the small passage between the icicles.

Lucky for me, I was a Starlight Faery, which made me… petite.

Slightly crouching, I crossed over to the other side of the cascade, and followed the tunnel almost blindly, until a brilliant gleam began to illuminate my path. I didn’t need its guidance. I had come here so many times since I was a child that my every step remembered the way. Before long, the trickling sound reached me, and a large pond extended before me—formed from the water that seeped through the rocks along the cavernous wall. I was now right under the mystical river.

Unlike the waterfall outside the mountain, this pond didn’t have blizzard fish, only fresh, magic-infused water. The same moon magic that blessed my kingdom.

This was the place where I’d endured many internal battles, and many physical ones as well.

My attention went to the wall of weapons I had collected over the years. The sharp swords, deadly spears, venom laced daggers, serrated whips, and iron tipped arrows I had trained with since I was a child. They represented the shadows that obscured my soul. The other side of me that no one knew. One I might never be able to escape.

Carelessly, my nightgown fell to the ground, and I entered the glowing pond that illuminated the large grotto. Invigorating energy rushed through me when I submerge myself, and a strange warmth clung to my skin. Although cold, a certain heat swirled within its depths. The mixture of the two caused a delicious temperature that eased its way through my bones, relaxing my muscles.

Now, I was truly home.

 

After swimming for a while, I pulled myself out, eyes focusing on the primitive cabin at the end of the grotto. Sometimes I lied to myself, thinking no one but me had ever been here, but the cabin was proof that someone else had once felt safe here. They had called this place home. I often wondered who it had been, how and why they had sought refuge in this place, but I supposed it didn’t matter. They were gone, and it was mine now. My sanctuary.

The nightgown became drenched the instant it covered my body again, but I ignored it, walking towards the wooden structure that had awakened my interest many times, although I had never found the courage to go inside. Curious fingers reached the ancient latch that held the door closed, and I clung to it for several seconds, glancing at the rocky walls and roof that formed the majority of the cabin’s structure, but just as I always did, I let go.

I couldn’t open it. I didn’t know why, only that there was some kind of force keeping me from it, making me back away. One day I would though. One day I would cross the threshold and finally discover all the secrets it held.

Someday when the darkness of my future didn’t loom over me, stealing my every breath…

The question was, would that day ever come?

~*~

As I headed back to my kingdom, I noticed the last ray of moonlight drop onto the receiving spire before the sun began to rise in the horizon. I shot upwards, flying as fast as I could, and lunged into the light beam. What felt like deliciously raw electricity surged through me, and I flipped in the air, diving into the castle through the open spire skylight.

“What in Danu’s name?” the queen gasped when I swooped down through the moon ray, shamelessly stealing the light only meant for her to channel. A moment later the gleam receded, disconnecting from her throne and returning to the blue moon. “Zeneviève, stop.”

“My pleasure.” I descended onto the second landing of the staircase that led to her, glancing up at my queen while the water still dripped from my hair, and every other inch of me. My hands settled on my hips, and I gave her my most innocent grin, toes curling on the stone floors. “What’s up, Grandma?”

With an arched brow, Noreen, Queen of the Starlight Faeries, took in my state of disarray. “Dear Goddess, you are drenched from top to bottom. What on sweet Arhana have you been up to now?”

“Nothing, my queen.”

Not believing me for a second, she shook her head. She knew me too well to buy into my innocent act. She was my grandmother after all. “Zeneviève…” The warning laced her voice.

“What? I just went for a flight around the kingdom, that’s all.”

“You went flying in your nightgown, barefoot, in the middle of the night? It’s not even light out.”

“It is now.” I winked at her as the first rays of sunlight began to filter through the glass tip, and Grandma sighed, rolling her eyes. I loved making her do that.

With a wave of her fingers, she signaled the guards below us, and they immediately walked towards the large gears on either side of the hall. Slowly turning them, they closed the skylight on the spire just as they did each morning, securing the moon’s power within our palace.

My gaze returned to the queen. Grandma’s backless throne sat at the very top of the stairs, making her seem like she belonged in the sky. Made of artfully spun silver, the armrests depicted curved wings, leaving the back open not to obstruct her own. As the queen rose from the silver throne, luminous threads twinkled along the membranes of her delicate wings, which extended behind her like diamond-sprinkled webs.

She began to descend the stairs, the feathers at the edges of her white nightgown caressing each step until she stopped at my side. Her gaze lingered on mine for a moment, trying to decipher the secrets I held, but there was no need. She knew me better than anyone ever could.

“How was your night, sweetheart?” she asked kindly, taking my hand in hers. The sympathy enveloping her words made my gut tighten. She already knew.

“Average.” I offered her a nonchalant shrug, hoping not to talk about it.

“I can see that.” Her lips twitched in amusement even as her eyes narrowed, taking in my state once more. “I often wake up drenched from head to toe too. What a coincidence.”

Chuckles drifted around the room from the royal knights, and she lifted from the stairs, flying to the main floor of the grand hall. I let her pull me along, landing next to her just as her ladies walked towards us with Grandma’s robe.

“So, are you going to tell me what incited the bathing under the stars urge?” Her blue cerulean eyes twinkled with humor as the ladies draped the fabric over her, and she tied her robe closed.

Pretending to be annoyed, I crossed my arms over my chest. “Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, Grandma.”

“Oh, I highly doubt that, sweetheart. Most say everything looks good on me.” Smirking, she glanced at the knights. “Isn’t that right, boys?”

“Yes, my queen,” they gladly answered in unison, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as she wiggled her brows.

“See? It’s unanimous. I still got it.”

“Like they would dare say no to their queen.” I snorted, and the men laughed around us.

“Now that that’s settled…” she added, ignoring my playful jab. “What is bothering you, baby?”

When her gentle touch reached my cheek, my chest constricted. There was only one instance in which her endearment became that soft. Grandma knew better than anyone what afflicted me and robbed me of sleep. She’d heard every excruciating detail of my nightmares, of my visions, having been the one to help me understand what I really was, and what I was destined to become.

“That old tune again, huh?” she whispered, reading me like a book. “Don’t let it dim your light, baby. What will be, will be. We just need to trust that everything has a purpose, even our sacrifices, no matter how great they might seem.”

I didn’t want to believe that, but I nodded nonetheless, allowing that to be the end of our conversation. Relief and love poured into me when she brought me into her caring embrace, squeezing me tightly and kissing my temple like she had done since I was a little girl. Her love always drove the nightmares away.

“Goddess, you got me all wet.” Grandma complained, pulling away. The dampness from my long hair had seeped into the silk of her robe.

Chuckling, I watched her lift the fabric away from her body, shaking it dry.

“Jareth!” Her voice carried through the open doors, magically reaching its destination in the castle. A few minutes later my personal knight marched into the room. “I think you lost something.” The pointed look she gave him signaled to me.

“What’s up, Jareth?” I smirked as his cheeks warmed, eyes widening.

“Why aren’t you in your chambers?” he growled, then glanced back at the queen. “Your Highness, I swear to you, I left her secured in her room, sleeping, and she hasn’t stepped out yet. I have no idea how she got—”

“Free?” I snorted, crossing my arms over my chest. The way they spoke was almost as I was a prisoner or something.

“Past me,” he finished, giving me a censuring stare. “I’m supposed to be with you at all times. I’m your guardian, Princess. I protect you, remember?”

Oh, Jareth. Poor Jareth, always getting in trouble because of me.

“I jumped out the window.” I shrugged, and his chocolate brown eyes widened in horror then narrowed, promising retribution. “What? I can fly!”

Laughter burst around us, but the other knights tried to cover it with a cough. It wasn’t the first time I slipped past the poor guy’s watch, and it would most definitely not be the last. Grandma’s lips quivered at our banter, she was fully enjoying herself, but she didn’t let the smile take hold.

“Zeneviève…” Jareth warned, and I rolled my eyes, throwing out my arms.

“Why does everyone love saying my name like that?”

“Whoof, whoof!” Our heads turned to see Lucky, my teacup Pomeranian puppy, bouncing as he ran into the grand hall. He looked more like a puffy cotton ball than a human dog, but I loved him just the same.

“At least someone is happy to see me.”

Jareth smiled, unable to help it. The itty-bitty dog had been a gift from him, brought by the human ambassador that visited our realm once a year.

“Hey, pretty boy.” I crouched down, hugging him to me as he licked my cheek. “See? He doesn’t mind me getting him wet.” I challenged Grandma just as Lucky sneezed and jumped out of my arms.

Walking backwards, he sneezed again and shook his little body to get rid of the wetness.

“Never mind.”

“Jareth, take the princess back to her room to get decent and dry, please.”

“Decent?” I asked, feigning insult. “You don’t like my outfit?” My hands landed on my hips, accentuating the way the wet fabric clung to my body, showing all my feminine curves in agonizing detail.

Jareth’s eyes betrayed him, dropping straight to my cleavage. Startled by his own reaction, he swiftly looked away, but the reddening of his cheeks said it all. Grumbling something under his breath, he took off his long coat, remaining only in his uniform’s button-down shirt and trousers. Pulling it up my arms, he buttoned it, until I was swallowed by the fabric. The high collar literally covered half my face, but he didn’t seem to care as he carried me in his arms.

“Thank you, Jareth,” Grandma answered, pleased, and obviously amused. “Make sure Zeneviève is dressed in fine silks, she has a few visitors today.

“Wait, what?” I screeched, pulling the collar down so I could speak. “What visitors?”

Grandma faced me fully. “The princes of the four courts, among others, are coming for tea. To see you, spend some time with you, and get a chance to ask for your hand.”

It always amazed me how casually she dropped those kinds of bombs on me.

“No!” I choked on the word. “Why are you doing this to me?”

Laughter finally escaped the queen, and she shook her head. “You are as dramatic as your mother. May I remind you that she too complained, but she loved your father more than anything in this world?”

A sadness tinged smile curved my lips. I hadn’t gotten the chance to meet my parents. Yet, I grew up listening to the beautiful stories of their love from everyone who had ever known them, and that had always made me smile.

“Not the point.” I narrowed my eyes at her. “You can’t just spring this on me!”

“Royal courtship and engagements start at the age of sixteen, Zeneviève. You are nineteen, I think I have given you more than enough time to wrap your mind around it. Now, be the gracious princess I know you can be, and go get ready for breakfast. The suitors arrive this afternoon.”

A defeated sigh left her when flames almost shot from my glaring eyes.

“You don’t have to marry anyone today, sweetheart. You are only meeting them. Talk to them and spend some time together. Let them woo you. You never know. You might end up wanting one of them as your husband.”

“And why would they want me?” I retorted, hearing all the male guards chuckle.

Humor danced in the queen’s eyes as she glanced at Jareth, who still carried me in his arms. “Care to answer?” 

“Starlight Fairies are the epitome of beauty,” he declared, not shying away from the question. “The moonlight infused magic thriving inside you makes you absolutely irresistible to men. Not only those of us lucky enough to live in your kingdom, but in all the nine realms. You are the princess, Zeneviève. Any man would risk anything to be yours.”

Well, damn. That was not why I asked the question, but I’d take that answer.

With a knowing smirk, Grandma turned away, her intense gaze held each of the guards’ as she glided towards the door. Her body swayed with the grace of a true queen, and every single guard longingly watched her leave—practically drooling after her.

I wasn’t a stranger to the effect I had on guys with my mere presence, and I couldn’t deny that playing games was fun, but I had other things to worry about each night.

Flirting was one thing; marriage was a completely different beast...

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