Bonus Scene: The Appointment

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**Previous Ondine Quartet bonus scenes can be found here.**

Jeeves_POVThis bonus scene is narrated from Augustin Genevieve’s (Jeeves) point of view.

Author’s Note:

This scene takes place over two decades before the start of the Ondine Quartet series, a time when Naida Irisavie was still a teenager, Marcella a newborn, and many key players had yet to come to prominence.

Haverleau’s dapper and enigmatic Chief Counsel has long been a favorite among series readers. Narrated from a young Jeeves’ point of view, this scene captures a pivotal moment in his life and contains inevitable spoilers for BILLOW (Book 2) and CREST (Book 3).

THE APPOINTMENT

It had been her mother. Rupert, perhaps.

That was why she was late.

He leaned back. The weight of the duffel bag against his foot comforted him. So did the cold press of Haverleau’s wrought-iron gate against his arm.

They represented his future, signs that his life was moving forward.

He glanced at the main road. It was possible her mother caught her trying to flee the house before the ceremony. Maybe she thought she could reason with her parents before leaving.

Yes, that would be like Patrice. Worried about hurting her mother, disappointing her parents. She may even have decided to tell them the truth which meant a long, drawn out argument.

Part of him was tempted to return in case she needed his help.

But what if she came to the gate and he wasn’t here? His chest tightened at the thought. She would believe he’d left. He would not risk hurting her in that way.

Whatever currently delaying her was something she’d want to handle herself. She’d always kept him away from that part of her life. Unwilling to bring him into her unhappy circumstances, she’d insisted on protecting him from the claws of her power-hungry family.

Perhaps that was why he’d fallen in love with her. Or maybe it had been her reaction when he’d first shown her his strange Virtue, the magic that alienated him from everyone.

Her eyes had lit up with elation, not fear. She’d wrapped her arms around him, rich laughter dancing across his skin, vibrating with warmth and life and acceptance.

It was difficult to pinpoint a precise moment in time when you realized a person was meant for you.

All he knew was that it was her. Soon, they would escape the confines of Redavi life and forge a new life, a better one, together.

He watched the bright blue of the afternoon sky transform to the pink-orange of sunset. Witnessed the inky dark of night spread like a stain across a canvas.

And still, he waited.

The shift change for the gardinel station took place. He pretended to study his shoes while the outgoing selkie explained matters to the incoming gardinel.

He felt the selkie’s gaze on him and for a brief instant, humiliation simmered, threatening to boil through his veins. But he suppressed it.

She would come.

He decided it must’ve been Rupert. The simpering idiot had discovered her intentions. He’d probably cried and thrown a tantrum, begging her not to leave him.

Satisfied at the image, he crossed his arms and listened to the night’s continual hum.

He could wait.

He closed his eyes, calling up his last memory of her. She’d been in his arms, her body warming his bed only twelve hours ago. Those mesmerizing indigo eyes had gazed up at him through half-closed lids, her face radiant with satisfaction.

“I’ll be at the gates at two o’clock. I won’t go through with it, Augustin. I’m going with you.”

Such strength, such conviction in her voice. It was the same strength that protected him, that found delight rather than fear in his magic.

The minutes continued to tick by. Foreboding twisted his stomach and a numbness settled over his heart.

No. She was coming.

He would wait.

“It’s getting cold,” a voice said.

An elegantly dressed ondine stepped through the gate. Raven hair was neatly pulled up, the style highlighting noble, patrician features. Sharp, hazel eyes lasered on to him.

The gardinel at the station straightened. “Governor.”

Rhian Irisavie waved her hand. “Bowen, please take a break.”

“But —“

“I’d like to speak to Chevalier Genevieve privately.” She paused. “Security is obviously not an issue.”

“As you wish.” In the next moment, the selkie retreated into the night.

Augustin faced the street. “You can’t stop me, Governor.”

“I would never presume to have any control over your actions.” Rhian moved beside him and took a deep breath. “Winter seems to be arriving early this year.”

“How did you know I was here?”

“Ansel informed me of your resignation. He was concerned.”

“Concerned I wouldn’t leave fast enough,” he muttered.

The Head Chevalier had always disliked him. He wasn’t sure if it was because of his Virtue or because he’d once been his main competition for the position.

“Is that what you think?” She sounded genuinely surprised. “Ansel respects you. Just as Bernard did.”

Her mate had been killed in an attack the previous year, leaving the Governor with a young baby and a headstrong teenager to raise alone.

As one of his trainers, Bernard had deciphered how best to utilize his magic within the chevalier corps.

“I miss him.”

“So do I.” Rhian tilted her head. “He wanted to appoint you Head Chevalier.”

“But he didn’t,” he replied stiffly.

“Because he knew you’d be bored.”

Surprised, he looked at her.

“Augustin, you’re an excellent chevalier and you thrive on challenges. You enjoy taking risks that push you further. You should be in the field as much as possible.”

He caught the insinuation threaded through her carefully worded statement.

A trace of bitterness entered his voice. “He didn’t select me because of my magic.”

A pause. “Among other reasons.”

Once again, his Virtue had exacted a price. It had cost him the opportunity to assume a position of power, one that included a seat on the Council.

A sudden thought occurred to him. Would Patrice have felt differently about leaving Haverleau if he’d been Head Chevalier?

“Bernard recommended Ansel for the position because he knew how well he’d handle the training program.” Rhian’s voice quieted. “The future grows more important by the day.”

Ansel’s abilities lay in education rather than field experience. His appointment stunned Haverleau and provided Redavi society with yet another strike against Augustin.

He was already dismissed as an oddity, much like his grandmother. A Redavi who’d dared stoop so low as to become a chevalier.

After being passed over for the Head Chevalier position, he’d become someone who not only failed to uphold the family name, but who also failed at his chosen profession.

His pride cracked. He had to know.

“Did…” He cleared his throat and kept his gaze on the ground. “Did she go through with it?”

“Yes.” The gentleness in her voice was unbearable. “Patrice completed the binding ceremony an hour ago.”

It was over.

Anguish carved a hole through his heart. It hurt more than any injury he’d received on the job, more than any broken bone or knife wound.

This was a pain gouged deep in his soul and no Healing Virtue could ever fix it.

Bindings were completed and enforced through magic. There was no way to undo or sever the bonds between Patrice and Rupert.

In an instant, everything she’d said and done during their year together turned meaningless.

Her declarations of love, the way she’d touched him, kissed him, made love to him.

She’d made her choice. And it hadn’t been him.

“Come back, Augustin. Chevaliers need you. Haverleau needs you.”

“I cannot,” he said hoarsely.

Every time he stepped into the Training Center, every time he worked a mission, cloaked in disguise and covered in sweat, dirt, and blood, he would know the truth.

Patrice had been ashamed of him, too embarrassed to introduce the dirty Redavi chevalier, the abnormal demillir with a Virtue, to her family and friends.

Instead, she chose Rupert. Ridiculous, maudlin Rupert with his suits and manicured nails.

Rhian stepped closer. “Patrice is ruled by fear. You know this. You’ve always known this.”

Anger erupted. “You cannot make me be a chevalier!”

“You, however, are not,” Rhian continued as if he hadn’t spoken. The iron will of authority strengthened her voice. “Patrice may not need you, but Haverleau does. If you will not return as a chevalier, then I’d like to offer you a role in my office.”

He shot her an incredulous look. “What?”

“You are clever, resourceful, and have the ability to see what others cannot.” She pressed. “You are a rarity, someone who does not belong among us.”

Hurt lanced through him at her blunt acknowledgement. But the Governor continued.

“That places you in a highly advantageous position. Whether you recognize it or not, your outsider status is a tremendous asset as is your magic. I need someone like you, Augustin. I need your ability to see what I cannot. Vittorio will eventually retire and I’d like you to take on the Chief Counsel position. You can train under him until then.”

Patrice never had any intention of being with him. He was a Redavi she could not – would not – acknowledge. Being with him had simply been an act of surreptitious rebellion, a brief fling with a demillir everyone disapproved of, before properly mating into the LeVeq family.

Her absence spoke volumes. She hadn’t believed him worthy enough for the truth.

Rhian’s hand rested on his arm. “Will you work for me?”

The temptation to run was overwhelming.

All he had to do was grab his duffel bag and walk away from Haverleau, magic, and Redavi, away from this pain ripping his chest open.

He could leave behind the shame and the ondine who’d used and discarded him as if he were disposable.

But that initial sentiment was quickly replaced by another.

He thought of how surprised she’d be to face him in the Council Chamber. How she’d sit beside Rupert and see him. How she’d remember the long nights when nothing else would satiate them but the body of the other, how easily the lies of love had slipped through her lips.

She’d wanted a smooth politician, someone in designer suits without any rough edges. No sweat or calloused hands; just the silky words of the Redavi elite.

She didn’t believe he could be that.

Perhaps Rhian was right. The pull of challenge was irresistible.

He would prove Patrice wrong.

Augustin Genevieve picked up his duffel bag, straightened, and walked through the gates into Haverleau beside the Governor.

Bonus: Post-Breaker Short Story

A Note from Emma

**First: an obvious HUGE spoiler alert. This bonus story takes place after the events of Breaker, the final book in the Ondine Quartet series. If you don’t want to be spoiled about the ending, please do not continue reading. **

I am not a fan of epilogues. I don’t like to be spoon-fed the future of my favorite characters as if it needs to be spelled out. I believe readers are more than capable of imagining their own futures for beloved characters.

Therefore, this is not an epilogue. The ending of BREAKER stands as is and I don’t consider this to be an addendum to it.

This is a glimpse into the Ondine Quartet world a few years after the events of Breaker. It is the future I imagine for some of our characters. You, of course, may have very different ideas of what happened to everyone. That would be fantastic!

The story of what happens after BREAKER exists in you. This is simply one version of it.

Enjoy!

—————————————-

“In fighting, there are only two rules. Either you’re standing or you’re on the ground. There is no in-between.”
The row of ondines stood at attention. Blank faces stared straight ahead.
Except one.
“Gretchen.” I whipped around.
The ondine froze, her hands still in the process of redoing her ponytail. “Yes?”
“Tell me the focal points of a grevaol maneuver.”
“Um…” She slowly lowered her hands and fidgeted. “The knee and the arm—“
“Jaw, lower back, and knee in that order so you can attack a target’s vulnerable joints and bring him down with maximum speed. If you’d been paying attention to Gardinel Percailou’s talk earlier, rather than your phone messages, you would’ve known that.”
“I was paying attention,” she said sullenly. “I just forgot.”
No one spoke but an additional hushed silence settled over the room.
Something flashed through Gretchen’s eyes. Simmering hurt.
I stepped back. “Show me what you’ve learned this month.”
Reluctant, she followed me to the center of the mat.
Gretchen had entered the program in its initial year as a scrawny eleven-year-old. Now a tall, sixteen-year-old with long arms and even longer legs, she’d begun to display significant technical growth this year.
Unfortunately, she’d also discovered the distraction of partying with boys.
I balanced on my feet and studied her.
She rocked back and forth on her heels, her gaze nervously darting across my body.
Too much pent-up energy. She needed to get it out of her system.
I balanced on the balls of my feet, arms loose and relaxed by my side.
“I’m waiting.”
She tilted her chin.
Come on.
Gretchen raised her hands, a slight hesitance drifting through her eyes.
I raised my brow. “Is that all you learned this month?”
Her mouth tightened.
She spun.
Her right fist whipped toward my ribs.
Her arm span gave her a slight advantage. She could strike an opponent without getting too close.
But her timing was off.
If she’d struck on the tail end of her spin, she could’ve landed a solid, centered punch.
Instead, she barely grazed the side of my ribs.
Not only was it easy to dodge, but the missed hit threw her off-balance.
I pivoted and landed two sharp blows in quick succession.
Elbow between her shoulder blades. Punch to the back of her thigh.
She exhaled sharply, but retreated out of reach before I could land another strike.
Her face paled from the pain, but her eyes had brightened with focus.
She slid across the floor on silent feet and leaped into the air for a butterfly kick.
Considering she’d just learned it two weeks ago, her form wasn’t bad at all.
But again, timing and aim was off.
I pulled back, easily dodging her feet.
She landed and launched into another offensive attack.
Punch. Roundhouse kick.
All easily dodged.
Talented, but lacked focus.
Her face tightened with frustration.
She charged.
Fatal mistake.
Anger made her clumsy and left her vulnerable.
With a swift kick against her inner thigh, I brought her down.
Wincing, Gretchen curled on the mat and grabbed her throbbing leg.
I asked the question my mother had asked countless times.
“What was the mistake?”
She muttered something under her breath.
“Excuse me?”
Gretchen took a deep breath and slowly pulled herself off the ground.
“I got mad and left myself open.”
“If you did that out in the field, you would’ve been dead. Or you might’ve gotten someone else dead,” I said bluntly.
Her face fell.
Once again, the memories resurfaced as it did every day I taught these ondines.
The years spent sweating and hurting in impromptu basement training rooms and countless human dojos. The relentless stream of criticism.
But those memories were no longer me.
And I was here so these ondines could experience a path far different from mine.
Gretchen turned to go back in line.
I patted her back and murmured, “It was better. Jeremy wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
She stiffened slightly but by the time she returned to her spot, a tiny twinkle had returned to her eyes.
Good.
The others remained stoic and still, the room’s fluorescent lights harshly illuminating their faces.
Had I once looked like that? A combination of young vulnerability and fierce determination?
“We’ll soon be entering the final month of the school year,” I told them. “I, along with Head Chevalier Martin and Gardinel Belicoux, will begin monitoring your progress to determine selection into the elite program.”
Again, no one moved. But energy raced down the line.
“When I was your age, they only accepted five —“
“That was when there was no ondine program, right?” Gretchen asked.
“Yes and now we take fifteen. You know how difficult that is, given your numbers.”
Everyone nodded.
“My advice? Keep working.” I paused. “Class dismissed.”
The ondines hurried toward the doors, the room abuzz with their excited conversations.
I took a long sip of water and tried to ignore the cold lump of anxiety sitting in the pit of my stomach.
I’d hoped that small demonstration with Gretchen would take the edge off, but it hadn’t.
I glanced at the clock.
4:30.
Of course it was.
The same time I ended class every afternoon.
I strode down the corridor, attempting to shake off jittery nerves. A few recruits greeted me, mostly ondines. The demillirs cast curious glances my way but most didn’t know me. I’d watched several of them train under Tristan and Ethan, so I was aware of their talent.
We had several exceptional candidates for the elites next year. Gretchen’s class was a strong one. Competition would be fierce.
The door to the Head Chevalier office was slightly ajar.
I stepped inside.
Papers were messily scattered across the desk. A large framed photo of Cam standing beside Stan in Mexico hung on the wall. They both wore huge grins and atrocious pastel-colored fish-print shirts.
I casually flipped through the papers. All training program related material.
Maybe he kept it somewhere else.
I opened the side drawer and immediately found the document at the top of a small stack.
Gotcha.
“Does Cam know you’re digging around his desk?”
I glanced up and casually rolled the sheet of paper in my hand. “You really should call him Head Chevalier Martin.”
Helene leaned against the doorjamb and crossed her arms. Long, fine blonde hair fell softly against her shoulders, framing a heart-shaped face with delicate features and intelligent gray eyes.
She shrugged. “He’s not here.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in class?”
Earlier this morning, Garreth had gleefully told me the elites would be learning alkevi. When I’d learned that maneuver, it’d taken me a week to be able to walk normally again.
She gave a dramatic sigh. “Garreth sent me down here.”
“Why?”
“Because I told him I was planning on going to California this summer once graduation was over.”
I resisted the urge to sigh. “And why would you tell him that?”
She frowned as if I’d disappointed her. “Because I’m going to USC film school’s summer program.”
“When did you decide that?”
“A few months ago. I told you about it —“
“You said you were thinking of exploring a few options,” I pointed out. “So why did Garreth send you down here?”
“Because he said that if I were planning on already ditching my duties as a possible chevalier, then I would need to discuss options with the Head Chevalier.”
“I told you not to say anything until you got inducted first,” a voice said.
Julian walked in, black hair slightly ruffled from the wind and dark blue eyes sparkling with amusement. “Bad form, Bessette.”
Helene tossed her hair back. “You’re only saying that because you’re Mom’s messenger.”
“What message?”
Julian opened his mouth. Helene steamrolled right over him.
“Mom wants me to go back to New York for the summer. Take a film course at The New School.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“She just wants me there so she can keep an eye on me!”
“Does she have a reason to feel that way?”
She shifted. “Of course not.”
I raised my brow. After arriving with Holden and the other nixes to Haverleau, Tara had quickly become Helene’s closest friend.
Two clever girls with slightly overactive imaginations and a casual disregard for rules meant they’d quickly acquired a penchant for trouble.
“What does Dax think about this?” Julian asked.
“Dax doesn’t make my decisions for me,” she said loudly. “Just because he’s my boyfriend —“
“Who’s also royalty —“
“So?” She rolled her eyes. “Do guys always have such an inflated sense of self?”
I hid a smile. “Not all. But if you’re talking about Dax and Julian —“
“Haha.” Julian looked at Helene. “Catrin is concerned. You and Tara heading out to California together sounds like trouble.”
Helene scowled. “Just because you have unresolved issues with Tara doesn’t automatically mean we’re doing something wrong.”
Julian frowned.
Interesting.
“I’m going back to class,” she said loftily and turned to go. “You can tell Mom that if she wants to see me, she can find me on the beaches of California.”
She sauntered away looking so startlingly like Renee that for a moment, I thought I was seeing a ghost.
Julian turned to me. “Hey.”
I came around the desk and gave him a hug. “Hey yourself.”
I last saw him a few months ago when we worked together to take down a drug ring in Florida.
“You look good.”
“Don’t I always?”
“Does your massive head get its own seat on the plane when you travel?”
“We take up all of first class.” He settled into a chair in front of the desk. “Where’s Cam?”
“From what I heard in the hallway, I think he’s dealing with a few recruits who thought it’d be funny to clog the toilets in the locker room.”
Julian exhaled. “I really don’t miss being Head Chevalier.”
“How long you staying?”
“A few days. Dropped by to spend time with the old man. How are your ondines doing?”
I leaned back in the chair and tried not to sound too boastful. “Really well.”
Gretchen and her group were the strongest ondine class we had yet.
Most of the previous classes were filled with older ondines who’d joined the program too late to learn anything more than basic self-defense.
But Gretchen’s group was the first class of ondines who’d entered at the earliest age permitted in the program. They were the first group to have received full training and it showed.
“Look at you.” Julian grinned. “Proud mama.”
“You would be too if you saw them.”
“I’ll check them out tomorrow.” He studied me. “Any special plans tonight?”
I shuffled a few papers around on the desk. “No. Just staying in. Maybe watching some TV.”
A long silence.
“This is why I can’t take you on the undercover stuff. You suck at lying.”
“I’m not lying.”
A soft smile. “It’ll be okay.”
“Of course it will,” I said heartily.
Thankfully, he moved on.
We caught up on smaller news and events that weren’t shared during our weekly phone conversations. He told me about Catrin’s current boyfriend, a nice, distinguished demillir from Canada who was madly in love with her. About his recent visit to a Klimt exhibit and his plans with his father tonight.
I told him about my first trip to Italy last month, the rich sights, tastes, and sounds that had seeped under my skin and into my blood. About the recent Governor’s Ball and how Aubrey had transformed it into a themed costume ball.
It didn’t take long for anxiety to dissipate. All that remained were nostalgia and comfort, old friends catching up on the minutiae of life.
By the time Julian left, the Training Center had grown quiet.
The clock ticked.
6:45.

*************************

I forced down dinner and flipped through channels on the television for a few hours.
But staying still in the cottage was impossible. My nerves couldn’t handle it.
Visiting Aub was better than sitting here alone. I could talk to her about why Cam was hiding things from me.
Moonlight drenched the rich florals of the Royal Gardens and a crisp snap to the spring air hinted at the rain to come.
I entered the Governing House and momentarily paused in the imposing foyer. The chandelier glittered, casting bright illumination against the marble floor and rich mahogany paneling.
Aubrey stared down at me. Her portrait had been done five years ago when she’d first taken office, but she hadn’t changed much.
Her steel prosthetic hand spoke of strength, while her face radiated bristling intelligence.
“Kendra.” Jeeves strode toward me, slightly more dressed up than usual in a slim fitting black suit. “Didn’t expect to see you.”
“Thought I’d hang out here tonight. Have you seen him yet?”
“On my way right now.” He smiled. “My son is taking me to the newest wine bar in Lyondale.”
Pride laced his voice. Julian told me he was actually taking his father to a pick-up bar in the hopes he’d finally meet an interesting woman to talk to.
Probably better if I didn’t mention that part.
“Sounds like fun. Don’t drink too many pinot noirs.”
“I’ll try not to.” Jeeves headed for the exit. “The Head Chevalier is with her.”
Perfect.
Their voices filtered out into the east corridor hallway.
I pushed open the door without bothering to knock.
“When were you planning on telling me about the operation in Portland?”
Cam threw his hands up. “Why the hell are you going through my —“
“It’s your own fault for leaving it in such an obvious place.” I handed the sheet of paper containing op details to him.
Aub arched her brow. “She has a point.”
I took a seat. “Explain.”
Cam grunted. “I was planning to try Bernard out in the field.”
“That chevalier originally from Merbais?” Aubrey wrinkled her nose. “Hasn’t he been handling equipment in the Training Center because he can barely pick up a kouperet without dropping it?”
“Yeah, but he wouldn’t stop harassing me about wanting to go out in the field. The guy is unbelievably persistent.” Cam shrugged. “I had Garreth and Adrian train him over the past few months and according to them, he’s improved. Apparently, he’s a pretty decent chevalier once he took that stick out of his ass. Thought this would be a good case to test him out on.”
Not a bad point.
Chevaliers were investigating a string of robberies in the Portland area that were tied to a known nix fencer. The likely culprits were a pair of Rogue demillir brothers, who’d apparently run out of money and decided stealing from wealthy humans was the best way to fix their cash flow problem.
Cam was planning an op on their last known residence to bring them in.
These were low risk, non-violent offenders. Entering a home to arrest the suspects was exciting without being overly risky. It was an ideal situation for training a newbie.
Most of these scenarios involved the inexperienced chevalier working with an older, experienced one.
I crossed my legs. “Who are you pairing him up with?”
He hesitated.
No. “Cam, I swear if you put me with —“
“It’s only for two hours. Max,” he said hastily. “Come on, Irisaive. You owe me.”
“For what?”
“For the last case. The one I wanted to do in Michigan. I let you have it.”
Damn it, he had. It’d been a good one, too.
He leaned in. “You can see Gabe while you’re there.”
“Ooh.” Aub made a face. “Low blow, Cam.”
He spread his arms. “Just calling it as it is.”
It was a strong incentive. I hadn’t seen my uncle in almost a year. Frequent video calls weren’t quite the same as seeing him face to face. Besides, I wanted to check out his new martial arts school.
“Okay,” I said slowly. “But only if you can convince Stan to express mail a batch of eclairs over.”
His face brightened. “Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that. Ha—“
“Do we have a deal?”
“Sure.” His brow furrowed. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said, irritated. “Well, except for the fact that I’m now babysitting Percy Weasley.”
He stood and headed for the door. “I have no idea who that is but I’m sure he’s better than Bernard.”
“You’re an uneducated heathen, Martin,” Aub called out.
Cam tiredly waved and left.
I looked at her. “He needs to get out more.”
Aub leaned back and briefly shut her eyes. “That was exactly what I was telling him before you came storming in here.”
“That he needs to get a life outside the chevaliers?”
“No, that he needs to stop screwing around with Rina and let her know if he’s serious or not.”
Rina, a bubbly ondine who worked in the Department of Justice, had been dating Cam off and on for about a year. It was his first real relationship after Chloe and, as expected, he was being rather cagey about it.
“I like her.”
“Me too.” Aubrey opened her eyes. “Just wish he’d learn to like himself a little more.”
“Yeah, I know.” I stretched my legs out. “And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Come on, Aub. You need to do stuff outside this office, too.”
No answer.
Huh.
“Unless something has already happened that I don’t know about,” I said slowly.
“I wouldn’t call it something big,” she said evasively.
“But it is something.” I rested my arms on her desk. “I’m not leaving until you tell me.”
She glanced down then up at me. “Holden.”
“What?”
“Shh!”
I lowered my voice. “Holy shit. You and Holden?”
A slight blush crept up her cheeks. “It was just one time.”
“When?”
“Two weeks ago. I was working late and he came here to talk and one thing led to another and—“
I yanked my arms back. “Don’t tell me on this desk.”
“Well, not exactly…never mind.” She shook her head. “We should talk about you.”
“Why?”
“Why not?”
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
She narrowed her eyes. In the moonlight, they appeared like glittering emerald pools.
“Adrenaline is practically shooting out of your skin, Kendra. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.”
She stood. “Let’s do something. We can head into Lyondale and grab a drink —“
“Come on, Aub. It’s okay. I know it’ll be okay.”
She studied me. “Do you?”
No, I didn’t. Not really.
I took a deep breath. “Yes. Now stop worrying.”
“But —“
“I have to meet Tristan anyways.” I moved toward the door. “He’s arriving back from Merbais today.”
“Fine. But we’re still having brunch tomorrow!” she called out.
I waved and shut the door behind me.
The clock in the corridor chimed.
11:00.

********************************

They had all returned to the ocean.
Rhian, Ryder, Marcella, Ian, Alex, Chloe. Even my mother.
There was no where to visit them and for the longest time, that had bothered me.
About two years ago, I realized how silly that was.
The ocean was everywhere, which meant they were everywhere.
I just had to go and talk to them.
Every so often, I came here to the cove to have my private conversations, a moment to let them know they were still with me.
Time passed and we continued to move forward and heal.
But I would never forget.
Wind ruffled the waters.
“Ian, you wouldn’t believe how bad it was. You could see the cheap ass boom mike in the shot and the pump inserted inside the baby doll to spill the fake blood out. You would’ve loved it. Worst horror production I’ve ever seen.”
The breeze continued to dance across waves.
“Chlo, Aub might have a thing going on with Holden now. Can you believe it? And Cam’s doing really well. He’s one of the most popular Head Chevaliers Haverleau has ever had. And I think he might have finally found the right ondine for him. But you know how stubborn he is. He just needs to figure it out for himself.“
A draft stirred the sands at my feet.
“Ry, you should see the way your brother’s side kick is coming along. He’s a shoo-in for the Elites next year. And Alex, I found the nastiest sweatshirt in the Trident the other day. Striped puke green and purple. Had your name written all over it.”
The wind picked up, the clouds concealing the moon. Darkness settled over the waters.
My phone’s alarm beeped.
12:00.
Every muscle in my body tensed.
The ocean remained a calm, glossy black.
I waited.
Another minute. Two.
Still, my body remained rigid, bracing itself for a fight.
Nothing happened.
Waves quietly lapped against the shore. The moon peeked out once again from behind the clouds.
I exhaled, shivering slightly as a bundle of nerves suddenly stopped jittering.
It was over.
I sensed him a moment before warm arms wrapped around my waist.
His mouth brushed against my ear. “Happy Birthday.”
I sighed and leaned back into his strength.
“It really is. Happy, I mean.”
His hold slightly tightened. “Were you still worried?”
“A little,” I admitted, then shook my head. “A lot.”
Many unmated ondines had celebrated their twenty-third birthday without being recalled to the water.
But I still retained faint memories of those endless days suspended in the depths of the ocean.
The fear hadn’t gone away. It’d simmered, tucked away deep, for five years. Some part of me had been terrified that these days with Tristan, this life we now had and had fought so hard for, would be yanked away again.
But I was now twenty-three.
And I still stood here, whole and complete, on land with the man I loved.
“Do you still want to leave tomorrow?” He pulled away and moved in front of me. “We can postpone our departure —“
“No. Your father would have a fit and attempt to kick my ass. Of course, he’d fail.”
I’d yet to take Ancelin down but some day I’d catch his stubborn ass off-guard and effectively use the grevaol maneuver against him.
Laughter danced in his eyes. “Of course.”
“Besides, I don’t want to disappoint Dax.”
It was the biggest day of his life.
“You’re right,” Tristan said softly. “We’ll leave as scheduled.”
The Selkie Kingdom coronation ceremony was important not just for Dax, who’d be the youngest king in Selkie History, but for the entire Belicoux family.
Ancelin was finally stepping back and allowing his son to shine.
And Tristan would officially be free from that throne.
“You brought me here six years ago.” I looked at him and wondered how it was possible to love someone more each day than the day before. “Do you regret any of it?”
“Well, maybe the part about teaching you selkie curse words—“
I whacked his arm.
He laughed and drew me close. “How can I regret anything if everything brought me to you?”
I reached up and pulled him down, wholeheartedly agreeing with his words through a long, languid kiss.
Moonlight stretched over the waters, the glassy surface reflecting the endless swath of midnight sky.

Bonus Scene: Thick as Thieves

This was originally sent out in my newsletter back in October as an exclusive extra. All newsletter subscribers receive these bonus scenes three months before they are released anywhere else.

If you don’t want to miss out on any more exclusive extras, sign up for my newsletter!

**Previous Ondine Quartet bonus scenes can be found here.**

8707926019_9ea944cecc_mThis bonus scene is narrated from Julian LeVeq’s point of view.

Author’s Note:

This scene takes place within the Billow timeline. At the beginning of the book, Julian leaves Haverleau on a secret chevalier mission to infiltrate a nix group later discovered to be Ian’s allies.

These nixes have remained a mysterious yet influential entity throughout the series. Not only did they take in Ian after the loss of his family, but they’ve also watched and helped elementals from afar in the hopes of shifting the long-held view of nixes as Aquidae sympathizers.

This first meeting between chevalier and nix illustrates an interesting counterpoint.

Julian and Holden come from entirely separate worlds, yet there is a stark symmetry between them. Both are loners and survivors in equal measure. Both see the world as grey, a place littered with bendable rules and lines meant to be crossed or erased. Both are masters of concealment. They use information as currency, obtaining it in whatever way possible – one through his physical/magical advantages, the other through cunning intelligence.

This scene inevitably contains a few minor spoilers from WHIRL and BILLOW. Curious to find out more about these nixes? Readers will officially meet Holden and the other nix characters featured here in BREAKER. 🙂

THICK AS THIEVES

TrainTracks_FBThe flat voice blasted out of the speaker mounted on the corner of the iron door.

“Take off your clothes.”

A familiar proposition.

But I’d expected to hear it from the girl standing in front of me, preferably while lying on a cozy rug in front of a warm fireplace.

Definitely not from a staticky male voice while standing in ankle-deep snow.

“Oh for…” Tara shook her head. “He’s the guy I told you about.”

No reaction.

She glared at the camera lens winking beside the megaphone. “He’s with me, Holden.”

A burst of feedback followed by an exasperated sigh. “Ain’t I told you not to use my name?”

“You told me not to use your name in public. We’re inside the perimeter and outside the damn door. Now open up. It’s freezing.”

I raised my arms and angled myself toward the lens, giving the camera a clear view of my Origin-free neck.

“What’s your name?”

“Sean McKinley,” I replied.

A few more moments of silence while Holden ran the bogus alias through the system. Gabe had set me up with an identity tied to a known nix family and a thorough backstory that should hold up under scrutiny.

My muscles tensed.

Someone who survived this long on the outskirts of elemental society was far from stupid. Haverleau better not have screwed up on this.

Static crackled over the connection. “How do I know you ain’t wired?”

“What does it matter? That jamming signal you’ve been sending out from a mile back would’ve blocked any device.”

“And before you start blaming me, no. I didn’t tell him anything.” Tara crossed her arms. “He noticed what we did to the electrical configuration.”

Only because my Virtue had already sensed the subtle change in vibrations when we entered the woods.

But it didn’t matter how I knew; all that mattered was I did.

It was simply another element of the illusion, the magic encasing me like a second skin to a skin that already fit poorly. The slight rasp of vulnerability in my voice, the mop of curly blonde hair, the wide, brown eyes, and the scrawny physique of someone subsisting only on ramen and convenience store food were this mission’s costume of choice.

All of it served one purpose.

Convince whoever was behind that camera that I was one of them, a nix seeking protection within a group.

Seconds ticked by. No static. Just a weighted silence underscored by the faint rustling of winter wind.

The sudden clang of unlocking bolts shattered the icy night. Metal ground against metal as the iron door slowly slid open.

Tucked in the woods of northern Wisconsin, the abandoned farm was cleverly located off a highway near Mill’s Ferry, a medium-sized town remarkable by virtue of its utter blandness.

The nixes had converted one of the farm’s storage facilities into their main home base.

Tara strode down the narrow corridor, the sharp click of her boots echoing off the walls. The faint scent of sweat and dust lingered in the air. Faded turquoise and red paint peeled off the walls, exposing steel bars rusted to a ruddy orange-brown. Moonlight spilled through cracked glass windows lined with wire mesh and splashed against the grime-darkened floor in grids.

Ahead, a halogen light turned on and the sudden, blinding white swallowed the world.

I blinked.

“You’re such an ass,” Tara muttered.

“No one asked your opinion.”

The same voice that had blasted through the speakers outside, but more subdued.

My eyes slowly adjusted. We were in the main section of the building, a large and unpartitioned rectangular room. Empty boxes, blankets, pillows, and assorted duffle bags and clothes cluttered each corner. To my right, two lumpy sofas of indistinguishable colors and a scratched up coffee table formed a makeshift seating area.

Three nixes, all male, waited for us.

The eyes always gave it away. And the gaze of the nix leaning agains the wall to my left was too sharp, too alert, against his mask of careful boredom.

He was the one in charge.

Using the lights had given him a few seconds to size me up first. Clever way to gain advantage.

A bank of monitors took up the entire back wall. Television news footage, video surveillance, and strings of code flashed across the screens.

A lanky teenager, dressed in a ratty t-shirt and faded jeans, hunched over a keyboard before the glowing monitors. Several cans of soda littered the table beside him and a long, unkempt tangle of black hair covered his face.

Tara gestured to him. “That’s Will.” Without turning my way, Will waved. “And that’s Grady.”

A skinny boy with shorn brown hair watched me. A nasty scar stretched from his right ear, across his neck, to his left shoulder.

He looked no older than twelve and when he spoke, his voice cracked slightly. “You want tea?”

“Sure.”

He smiled, wide enough to display his missing tooth in the back.

Once he left, the last nix stepped forward.

“And that’s —“

“Holden.”

I extended a hand. He ignored it.

The leader of this band of misfits was far younger than I’d expected. He was close to my age, if not younger. Gauntness shadowed his face and the tightness around his eyes created a look of perpetual hunger.

The shit he’d seen was etched into the flat planes and sharp angles of his face. He was a survivor.

Holden studied me a moment longer then walked over to the sofa. I accepted the silent invitation and settled on the one across him.

“Tara says you need a place to stay.”

I nodded. “Two Aquidae came into town a few days ago.”

“What’s your specialty?”

“Financial markets.” The lie easily rolled off my tongue.

“If you so good at playing the markets, why do you need our help?“

“Made a few mistakes. Trusted a few wrong sources so I’m staying off the grid for a bit.”

My gaze flickered toward Will and the monitors. On one of the screens, a series of documents opened in quick succession and the familiar letterhead jumped out at me.

Shit. They were accessing classified Haverleau files.

Holden’s voice grew quiet. “You seem real interested in our work.”

I shrugged and lazily redirected my attention back to him. “That’s the kind of equipment I need to handle trades.”

Grady brought me a mug of hot tea. Welcome warmth seeped under my skin. “Thanks, kid.”

The way his eyes lit up made me wonder if he didn’t hear that word so often. It was a feeling I understood.

Tara’s gaze caught mine and embarrassment suddenly swept over me. I placed the tea on the table and the warmth quickly faded from my hands.

The first hint of grudging respect stirred as I realized Holden hadn’t once taken his attention off me. He knew what he was doing.

“Any family?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Killed six years ago.”

“Friends?”

I shrugged.

His eyes narrowed slightly. “How you been surviving?”

“In and out of foster care. Took odd jobs —“

“What kinda jobs?”

I raised my brow. “Whatever I could get.”

“You ever been caught?”

“I assume you saw my file. You know I have no record.”

“Been questioned in a few white collar crimes, though.”

Thank you, Gabe.

“Cops had no proof.” I spread my hands. “So there was no crime.”

“And now you’re here.”

“Always knew it was time to move on to the next town whenever Aquidae showed up. Ended up in Mills Ferry two weeks ago.”

“Met him at the copy store in front of Ann’s burger joint,” Tara added. “He gave me the intel on our new visitors.”

Holden tilted his head. “Expect me to believe that of all the towns in this country, you just happened to show up in ours?”

“Actually, I’ve learned to not expect anything. The path to hell is paved with expectations.”

Tara’s mouth quirked into a smile. Cute girl.

Holden’s eyes narrowed. Guess he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. “How do we know those visitors ain’t looking for you? Maybe you brought ‘em here yourself.”

“You don’t know.” I paused. “But if I were working with Aquidae, why would I tell you about their arrival? I’d just lead them here and let them have their way with you. Instead, I gave you a free head’s up.”

“He needs a place to stay, Holden.” Tara’s gaze flickered to me, interest darkening her hazel eyes.

I smiled and a light flush crept up her neck.

“She’s right.” Grady piped up. His hands reflexively clenched and unclenched in his lap. “If two more Aquidae entered Mill’s Ferry, we can’t leave him out there. It’s not safe.”

Silence descended.

Holden was in a tight spot. If he let me go, he risked the possibility I’d provide information on the group and their whereabouts to Aquidae in exchange for immunity.

If he let me stay, I risked becoming a hinderance to the group rather than a help.

“You want to hang with us?” He leaned in. “Fine. But I see you.”

“Hope so. I’m sitting in front of you.”

He didn’t find that funny. “You’re hiding something.”

I shot a pointed look at the equipment behind him. “And you’re not?”

He raised his hands. “Look, I ain’t got a problem with it. We all do what we gotta do to survive.  Just sayin’ I don’t trust you.”

“What happened to honor among thieves?”

“It don’t exist.” He gestured toward one of the flashing monitors. “A thief sees through the flimsy illusion of security, the masks people wear to make them feel safe. One thief can’t fool another. There ain’t no honor in seeing the lies.”

Will suddenly swiveled on his chair to face us. “We’ve lost contact with Ian in Lyondale.”

“Who’s Ian?” I asked carefully.

“Our friend.” Excitement shot Grady’s voice up a pitch. “He’s chasing after an Aquidae and he’s real close to the sondaleur in Haverleau —“

“Shut up,” Holden snapped.

Grady flinched slightly but shot him a defiant look. “He don’t know who Ian is. Or the sondaleur.”

I shrugged, mentally thanked the kid for giving me a way out. “She’s a myth anyways.”

Just hearing that damned title brought every detail of her face to my mind. The curve of her cheek, the eyes flashing like green fire.

The longing that accompanied her image inevitably rose and I focused on suppressing it.

I’d have to find out more about this Ian.

At least Holden seemed to believe me. For now.

“If you gonna stay, then you gonna have to help out. We’re running low on currency.”

“What do you need?”

“Stock exchange in New York is opening in four hours and we got a few tips.” A hint of challenge colored his tone. “You in?”

Adrenaline hummed under my skin, easing away the icy boredom.

“Always.”

 


**Don’t forget to enter this week’s Breaker teaser giveaway! It ends January 12 and is open international. Enter here >>

A Holiday Gift: A Scene from Tristan’s POV

holiday_2014This was originally supposed to go out to newsletter subscribers, but I’ve decided to release this as a special holiday treat for my readers.

A huge spoiler warning: This scene is from Crest (Book 3) of the Ondine Quartet.

Okay. You’ve been warned. 🙂

All of you have been amazing and I appreciate my readers so very much. You rock, I love you guys, and I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season with family, friends, and everyone you hold dear.

Happy Holidays – ENJOY!


 

It hadn’t worked.

I finally allowed myself to slow my pace, muscles relaxing as I slipped out of the tunnels into the shallow pools of the cave. Water slid around me, its cool caress a futile balm.

The hard swim hadn’t eased the restlessness hounding me. Nothing did.

It was as if the conference’s tension had spilled over the palace walls, saturating everything with the greedy stain of petty politics and cunning personal agendas.

The first time Eric showed me these caverns, we were children envisioning ourselves as intrepid explorers boldly laying claim to uncharted territory.

He had a particular talent for finding the untouched areas of our kingdom, the spots Father and the palace couldn’t reach.

Back then, I believed Eric fashioned our adventures for me, his way of giving me something I could call my own.

But I now wondered if he’d also needed space far from the looming shadow of his inheritance.

Ahead, a disturbance rippled the waters.

Kendra.

It was the particular strum of her movement and breath. Even before the edges of her familiar aura pierced the waters, it swept against my pelt, familiar and intimate as a physical touch.

She was everywhere.

Her scent, her pulse, her magic, her laughter had become inescapable. She was in the vastness of the endless sky and the color of the blazing sunset, in the murmur of the woods and the touch of the ocean.

In my dreams, under my skin.

Restless awareness beat against my ribs. I shifted, the flash of magic providing a moment to brace myself.

It didn’t matter. The same jumbled mess of terrible yearning and cold fear punched through me at the sight of her.

She stood, luminous and defiant, under the trickle of milky afternoon sunlight.

Rain dripped through the ceiling fissures in a mournful rhythm. Her white shirt, wet and heavy, clung to every delicate line and curve.

“What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you.”

Her voice was stormy, electric. It danced along my skin, a demand and temptation, dragging my gaze down.

Fuck.

The shirt had turned translucent. Desire, painful and fierce, tore through me.

“You’re soaked.” It came out harsher than I intended.

“Water’s not cold.”

She crossed her arms, posture fragile and self-conscious against the craggy silhouette of the cave. Light spilled across her face and I suddenly remembered, in exquisite detail, how her mouth had felt beneath mine.

My body instantly hardened.

She studied me with suspicious eyes. “You haven’t been telling me things. I want to know what’s going on.”

I moved past her.

“Were you preparing something for tonight?”

Agitated energy churned in my blood. I needed to leave before I said something I’d regret.

“Were you out for a swim? What were you doing?”

“You should rest up for the strike.”

Silence. Finally.

I felt a twinge of regret but kept moving forward. This wasn’t the time or place to deal with —

“If you have something to say to me, say it.”

Her anger flexed against my skin, coaxing my own sharp hum of anger.

“Damn it, talk to me!”

I whipped around, backing her up against the rocky wall.

Heat radiated off her body, trapped in the space between us. I inhaled her indignant anger.

Her fire stoked my own.

“For almost a year, you’ve deflected, ignored, or walked away from me every time I wanted to discuss something that cut too close. You shut me out whenever you wanted to avoid something. And now you want to talk?”

Her eyes blazed. “That’s different! You’re obviously pissed off at me and I deserve to know why.”

The words spilled out, fast and rough, before I could stop them.“Why didn’t you tell me my father was the one who put you in the infirmary?”

She startled and the telltale action infuriated me.

She’d lied. She’d deliberately kept information from me while demanding I tell her everything.

“Your father is a warrior. He wanted to see if I was one, too.” She tilted her chin. “It was his way of testing me.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“I’m the sondaleur and the future Governor. He needed to see what I would do. It’s the language he knows.”

I didn’t know who was more infuriating. My father or her.

In stubbornness, though, it was an absolute dead tie.

“So what did it accomplish?”

“He knows I won’t back down and I’m willing to take the hit. It’ll make things easier.”

Her voice shifted. She was evading.

“That still doesn’t explain why you didn’t tell me.”

“You and I both have a lot of shit on our plates right now —“

“He knocked you out!”

“I can handle your father!”

Anger surged. She kept putting herself in danger, then deliberately ignoring any of my attempts to remedy it.

Either she didn’t care if she got hurt or was simply refusing my help out of misguided pride.

Both options were unacceptable and I couldn’t do a fucking thing about it.

“Someone in my kingdom tried to hurt you. A traitor is killing ondines and is obsessed with you. Political instability means you’re walking around with a target on your back. Then I find out, from a third party no less, that my own father injured you. Do you know how hard it’s been to not go after him?”

“Which is why I didn’t tell you.”

“You kept it to yourself even though it concerned my family? My father?”

Something flashed deep in her eyes. “I was trying to protect you! I didn’t want you to deal with his crap right now.”

Her gaze dropped.

Realization dawned. “You don’t trust me.”

She jerked her head up. “This has nothing to do with —“

“You trust me to fight alongside you. You trust me to stand beside you in meetings and Council sessions. But you don’t trust me enough to tell me when something’s bothering you.”

It didn’t matter how much I shared with her. She wouldn’t let me in.

There was always a part of herself she kept removed, locked up so tight I sometimes wondered if she even remembered it existed.

Her expression hardened. “And what about you? Why didn’t you tell me the Manhattan Lieutenant turned your brother? Or about Sian? Or that you think the traitor was responsible for what happened to Eric?”

Of course she knew. Just as she’d known how to find her way to these caves.

I wouldn’t be surprised if she found out everything about my life.

Yet, she’d somehow managed to completely shut me out of hers.

“I told you about the Lieutenant after the strike because I didn’t want you to worry during the mission. What happened between Sian and I took place so long ago it’d be the equivalent of expecting you to tell me something that happened ten years ago. You asked and I told you everything. And I didn’t tell you about the traitor because I didn’t want you to feel additional pressure in finding him.”

She crossed her arms. “Were you ever going to tell me?”

“Yes, once we got closer to catching him. If you want to know something, ask and I’ll tell you. But the problem is you don’t ask. You don’t want to know.”

“Oh, really?” Her mouth tightened. “Then tell me why you left for six months.”

Because I’m a fool.

“Because my kingdom needed me.”

Her laugh was hoarse, sarcastic.“Couldn’t bother to call?”

“You needed time alone. You needed to recover, focus on entering the elites, and assimilate to your new life in Haverleau. Calling you would’ve been a distraction you couldn’t afford.”

“Everything to make me a better soldier right?” Her mouth twisted. “The ultimate weapon.”

I wanted to snarl. “Quit using the war as an excuse. When you left for New York, you didn’t bother to say good-bye or call, either. But you didn’t have to. Because we don’t have that kind of relationship.”

Something shone in her eyes, brief and bright. Hurt?

Before I could catch it, she blinked and it disappeared, hidden behind her usual wall of steely anger.

“You know what? You’re right. Let’s just stay out of each other’s business from now on.”

“No.”

I wasn’t letting what happened in Manhattan repeat itself. The Lieutenant had taken Eric and had been mere seconds away from taking her, too.

“No? You’ve been shutting me out since New York. You want distance, fine. Then you don’t get to order me around, Your Highness —“

“You make me afraid.”

Her eyes widened.

“The Lieutenant could’ve snapped your neck.”

My gut clenched. He’d touched her. His hands were about to break her as if she were nothing when she was everything.

“I’ve never known the kind of fear I felt in that moment. And I dealt with it the only way I know how. I…I thought if you came here you’d be safer.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d been wrong. Not only did the threat remain, but bringing her here had only brought her deeper inside me, to a place where she now remained inextricably intertwined with my past, present, and future.

She straightened. “I’m more than capable of defending myself.”

“I have to watch you head into danger again.”

“I do the same for you.”

“I worry you’ll do something rash to protect others.”

“You’d do the same.”

I held her gaze. “I’m terrified of losing you just when I’ve found you.”

This time I saw it clearly. The fear that flashed through her eyes.

But again, she ran from it, choosing to show me something else.

“Is that what this is about? About tonight? You think I can’t do it?”

“Stop deflecting. Do you trust me?”

“Yes.”

I wished I believed her.

“Do you believe I worry about you? That I don’t like seeing you hurt?

A pause. “Yes.”

“So why won’t you tell me when something is bothering—“

“Because it hurts! When I spend time with you or share something with you, it’s just a reminder of what I can’t have, okay?”

I forced the words out. “Do you want me to never speak to you again?”

“No, I just…I don’t…Tell me what you want!”

Dangerous.

Those words were dangerous and she knew it.

I took in the line of her cheekbone, the curve of her lips. Awareness colored her skin, the faint flush spreading to the irresistible curve of her bared shoulder.

How many times had I dreamed of touching her there?

Slowly, cautiously, my fingers grazed that small patch of skin.

A soft sound escaped her lips.

It was silkier, smoother, more incredible than I had ever imagined.

“I want you to be safe.” Mesmerized, I tracked the perfect slope of her shoulder.

Her breathing quickened.

“I want you to receive what you need.”

Over the delicate ridge of her collarbone.

“I want you to be whoever you want to be.”

Over the tattoo that first fascinated me on a moonlight night in a San Aurelio alley.

The feel of her was almost unbearable.

“I want you. I just want you.”

Heat swirled, fogging my brain.

I forced my hand to let go and my body felt as if it would break from the effort to hold back.

I dropped my head and took a shaky breath.

Her scent flooded me. Jasmine and roses.

Sharp arousal lingered along her skin, in the curve of her spine, and the angle of her jutting hips.

I gritted my teeth. “You need to go now.”

Her breasts firmed, tightening and lifting against my chest. Her pulse fluttered wildly at her throat.

Desire, hers and mine, rubbed my senses raw.

My hands curled into fists. “Kendra. Leave.”

A last plea.

She stared at me. “No.”

Control fled.

Nothing existed but sensation and instinct.

Hunger. Desperation. Need.

I snapped.

My mouth slanted over hers, hard and unrelenting.

I lost myself in the pleasure of her lips, in the heat of her tongue and a maddening tangle of emotions. Tenderness, passion, anger, fear, want.

I couldn’t get enough. Would never get enough.

She bucked and arched, all legs and arms, wild energy whipping about, a raging inferno revolting against this war, this life.

The same desperate mutiny raged within me.

My arms locked around her, containing all that power long enough to bring her to the embankment.

She lay against the slope of ebony rocks, lips parted, hair spread beneath her. Darkened eyes smoldered beneath half-closed lids heavy with sensuality.

Need clawed my insides, a voracious beast terrifying in its enormity. I struggled to temper it.

I didn’t want to hurt her.

“Don’t stop.”

Strong fingers twisted in my hair, fierce and insistent.

I groaned, my hands catching her hips, lifting her tight against me.

“So beautiful.” A whisper against her throat, the acknowledgment of a rarity that defied blood and death.

She removed the last layers between us and more words – nonsensical, frenzied – tumbled forward, borne from reverence and wonderment at what lay bare to my touch.

And with every moan, gasp, and deliciously sweet cry, she pushed me deeper into a sea of frantic desperation.

Because I knew.

My hands and mouth may explore every curve and dip and hollow, but there would always be a part of her I could never touch.

Even as we found temporary relief from the restless demons haunting us, she would belong to the duty binding her to everyone else.

But what I could have was her pleasure.

I could give her a memory that would be seared into her skin, imprinted on every part of her just as she had long been on me.

That pleasure belonged to me and I savored it, demanded it, and drowned in it with every stroke and thrust until we arched and shuddered, both revealed and shattered in the mirrored aftermath of our uprising.


 

Bonus Scene: A Son’s Return

This was originally sent out in my newsletter back in September as an exclusive extra. All newsletter subscribers receive these bonus scenes three months before they are released anywhere else.

If you don’t want to miss out on any more exclusive extras, sign up for my newsletter!

8709050260_cb5e41e34b_mThis bonus scene is narrated from Eleri Belicoux’s point of view. Eleri is Tristan’s mother, a selkie Queen and great friend of Governor Rhian Irisavie who never actually appears in the Ondine Quartet series, though she is referred to several times by multiple characters.

Author’s Note: I originally intended this short scene for WARRIOR PRINCE. I ultimately chose not to include it because I felt it was much stronger narrated from Eleri’s point of view.

This is a poignant vignette illustrating the challenges of a mother’s love, a recurring theme in the series. It is also the start of a powerful transition in Tristan’s life, one he mentions to Kendra in BILLOW (Book 2).

The scene does contain a minor spoiler from BILLOW. Those who have already read WARRIOR PRINCE and CREST will also have a deeper understanding of several events and characters alluded to in this conversation.

A SON’S RETURN

She glided across the room, slippered feet silent beneath the rich silk length of her skirt. She pushed aside the gauzy drapes and gazed up.

Storm clouds muddied the evening sky, transforming the moon’s pale glow to a mere trickle. A faded tapestry of stars hung across the gray gloom. Rivulets streaked the window pane, the rain striking the ocean in a steady patter.

The palace was abuzz with the news. His reputation had preceded him. Speculation and rumors about the bloody trail of death he’d forged had flooded the halls.

What others spoke of in hushed, awed tones had sickened her and she’d fled the echoing confines of the main palace and chosen to remain in her rooms. He would come when he was ready.

Her fingers tightened around the drapes. The past few hours had strained her patience more than she ever thought possible.

The door opened. “My Queen.”

She turned and uttered the words she’d waited five years to say. “Is he here?”

“Yes.”

Her loyal gardinel exited and a moment later, he entered.

“Mother.”

“Tristan.”

He’d lost weight, the ravages of grief and rage evident in the slash of his cheekbones and sharp line of his jaw. His hair had grown longer. Rain had drenched the mahogany locks, the wind whipping them into a wild, tousled tangle around his face.

Some might see the tightened mouth, haunted eyes, and harsh lines of his expression and call him cruel. A dark warrior, relentless in his revenge and rage. Others saw a hero, a prince and soldier mercilessly meting out justice for his people.

She saw neither.

Only a son who’d once been full of laughter, the happiest of her children.

Pain came, hot and hard, and she struggled to control it. This was not the way things were supposed to be.

His arms gently wrapped her in a brief embrace. He stepped back. Dark eyes, so like his father’s, took in her appearance.

She knew what he saw. An aged and thin selkie whose power and magic were useless in stopping the decline of her traitorous body.

Silence stretched, heavy with the differences the years had carved out between them. She took comfort that at least this had not changed. Unlike his brothers, Tristan had always spoken sparingly because he understood the power of words.

“How long will you stay?” she finally asked.

“Not long.” He paused. “I’m taking over the Chief Gardinel position.”

Disappointment washed over her. He was leaving for good.

She’d hoped Ancelin would see beyond his own pain to recognize the terrible battle ripping his second son apart.

But grief held her mate too tight.

It held all of them too tight.

No wonder her son sought refuge elsewhere. Tristan stood stiffly as if expecting a rebuke.

“Perhaps that is for the best,” she said.

Haverleau had always been a much needed sanctuary for them both, providing a welcome relief from the lonely boredom of royal life in an isolated palace.
Tristan had thrived among its verdant landscape since childhood. Her dearest friend would look after him as if he were her own.

His shoulders relaxed slightly. He walked to the table, poured himself a glass of wine, and returned to the window.

“Have you seen Sian?”

He drank, then answered. “She understands.”

Of course she did. It was easier for them both if he was gone.

All her life, Sian had loved Eric. All his life, Tristan had idolized him. No substitute existed.

But stubborn loyalty was another trait her son shared with her mate. He wouldn’t abandon Sian, not as long as she needed him.

“Did you come from Haverleau?”

He nodded. “I needed to assess the current state of security.”

“And the Irisavies?”

“Rhian is fine and Marcella is growing up fast. She’s already in her last year at Lumiere.”

“Is she?”

The last time she’d seen her, the raven-haired beauty had been a spunky ten-year-old.

“She’s so different from Naida.” His voice grew subdued. “She still asks about her and Ansel.”

The brave chevalier her son had admired was also long gone.

Eleri suddenly felt old.

An overwhelming desire to tell Tristan about Naida coursed through her.

She could reassure him that not everyone left or died. That Rhian continued to watch her daughter and granddaughter from a distance, witnessing their survival against all odds.

But war and prophecies and unseen enemies had stained the fabric of her life for far too long. No matter how much she wanted to do that for her son, to give him a simple branch of hope, she could not.

He had to find it for himself.

“Have a seat.” Tristan gestured to the formal settee.

She walked smoothly, her gait slower than a month ago. Aware of his sharp eyes, she settled on the quilted fabric, consciously hiding the pain rattling in her bones.

Tristan approached the audio system in the corner, his movements elegant and precise. Eleri took distinct pride in his effortless bearing. Regardless of his personal turmoil, Tristan was a Belicoux. He would never lose the natural command and power radiating off him.

He inserted a disc into the player. The polyphonic contrapuntal lines of the Goldberg Variations gently reverberated throughout the room, intertwining with the faint staccato of rain.

Another sharp burst of joy. He may look more like his father, but his love for Bach came from her.

Rhian had once told her of Kendra’s second birthday. She’d stood, hidden and silent in the shadows of the trees, watching her granddaughter run on sturdy legs through the park while her daughter and son-in-law laughed and beamed with pride.

An indescribable yearning had colored her friend’s voice as she narrated the story.

It was the pain of a mother watching from afar, bound by fundamental connection, yet separated by an uncrossable distance of experience and time.

It was the pang of recognition, the awareness of simultaneously knowing someone very well and not at all.

And as her grown son walked toward her, his face both familiar and not, Eleri realized it was a feeling she understood well.

Tristan settled across from her and before she could think about it, her hand reached out and covered his. Despite the cold rain, his skin was warm.

“I’m glad you returned.”

His response was polite. “Of course.”

She wished to see her son, the boy she remembered, not the hardened Warrior Prince rigidly sitting beside her.

She withdrew her hand. “Do you remember your first day of school?”

A shadow fell over his face. He didn’t reply.

Despair stirred. Perhaps it was too late and war had claimed both her sons.

“Eric put a frog in my bag.” A trace of warmth softened the lines of his face. Memory glimmered in his eyes. “When I unzipped the bag, it jumped out and splashed mud all over the place. Scared the entire class to death.”

She couldn’t help it.

Laughter bubbled up and tickled the back of her throat. It escaped her lips, the sound rounding out the sharp melodic lines of Bach and the dreary rhythm of rain.

“The teacher thought I’d done it on purpose.” The first hint of a smile now tugged at his mouth. “I had to stay behind and wash everyone’s sweaty shirts by hand.”

“You came home smelling like a trainee’s locker.”

The smile burst across his face. “It took three days to get it off me.”

For the next few hours, they stayed in the safe realm of days long past. She knew he drifted down the stream of memories simply to indulge the whims of his elderly mother.

She didn’t care.

She could no longer do much for him. Gone were the days when a simple hug or a few soothing words could chase away nightmares and tears.

Her journey would soon end and all she wanted was to remind her son that his was still beginning.

The night expanded. Memories slowly cocooned them in the comforting warmth of nostalgia. As the tension in her son’s shoulders and face eased, the ache in Eleri’s chest deepened. She would not be here to see him find what he had lost.

What her son needed was beyond the time she had left. He needed someone to shake his core, show him what the world could hold, the possibilities beyond the throne, duty, death, and war.

He needed a revelation to regain his hope.

Perhaps then, all of their sacrifices will have been worth it.

On Naida Irisavie

Earlier this week, Lizeth on Facebook asked a great question about Naida Irisaive.

There are spoilers for Crest in this answer, so if you haven’t read book 3 yet, you might not want to read this.

You’ve been warned  🙂

Naida

Her question (paraphrased): From the glimpses we catch in Ondine and in Kendra’s memories, we see the difficult history between the two. How did Naida feel as she pushed her daughter so hard throughout the years?

My answer:

Naida’s priority with Kendra can be summed up in one word: survival. Her sole maternal focus revolved around keeping her daughter alive and teaching her to survive, even without her.

The desire to achieve that result far outweighed any other consideration. This is a mother who taught Kendra to punch her own face over and over again until the pain of contact numbed. She watched Kendra be beaten in the park by human boys and later at various tournaments, so her daughter would learn to tolerate pain and get back up.

She pushed her over and over again with seemingly impossible demands. It didn’t matter if Kendra ended up hating her. For Naida, it was okay as long as her daughter survived.

Understanding that kind of mentality means understanding how Naida’s world and experiences have shaped her.

In Billow, Kendra learned that “intent is everything in magic”. In the Ondine Quartet world, magic both determines individual power and fuels character conflict.

Ondines have political and social status because of their Virtues. Those without it (like Chloe and Aubrey), regardless of their Redavi standing, feel powerless, mainly because they don’t know where they fit in or what their purpose is. Often, they are simply treated as bargaining chips in arranged bindings designed to strengthen family power and alliances.

Demillirs, the only elementals without magic, are relegated to physical work (chevaliers). Aside from the Head Chevalier’s presence on the Council, they have no political say and possess the least amount of power in elemental society.

The two demillirs who do have magic (Julian and Jeeves) live as if they are cursed. Both father and son struggle to connect with elemental society because their Virtue immediately casts them outside of it. Jeeves chooses to embrace the establishment, masking himself in suits and ties, clinging to the relative norm and safety of the Governor’s office, subtly influencing policy all while avoiding direct conflict. Julian, of course, chooses to reject the establishment outright.

Kendra’s difficulties with Empath are also directly correlated to the expectations placed on her as sondaleur. Her path toward mastering her magic parallels her way of dealing with the weight of expectations. Balancing and filtering out the energy and voices of many to determine what is important to her is a constant challenge.

An ondine’s latent magic doesn’t emerge until she comes of age because controlling Virtue is the art of mastering self-control. It’s the difference between the impulsivity of youth and the experienced perspective of an adult.

Naida was an extremely powerful Clairvoyant whose struggle to control her magic was greater than anyone else’s, including her daughter’s. What she saw, both in her future and in Kendra’s, was an unimaginable burden, one she internalized and carried throughout the years.

Unlike Kendra (who started at an early age), Naida came to training late in life. In the span of a few short years, she physically transformed herself into a fighter. She willingly locked herself away at Lyondale Hospital because she understood the importance of controlling her Virtue (and not the other way around). And once she gained full mastery over her power, she harnessed it with such precision, she could wield it in a fight to her advantage.

What does this say about her? It meant Naida possessed a tremendous discipline and willpower alongside a large reserve of emotional and mental strength. Time and time again, she demonstrated her ability to do whatever was necessary in achieving her goal.

Naida was born privileged, but fought the expectations of others. Her visions placed her in direct opposition to the status quo. The sheer frustration of knowing what was to come yet being unable to persuade others to listen and change would’ve been immense.

Ultimately, her tragedy was the same as that which befell Cassandra in Greek mythology.

No one believed her.

Openly expressing her ideas and emotions had only resulted in terrible backlash. So she studied her mother, the way the Governor ruled with an iron fist, and realized power required distance. She adopted Rhian’s steely mask and learned to coolly make strategic and tactical decisions with rationale and logic, not with her heart.

She then fell in love with the Head Chevalier because what he did set him apart from everyone else.

He believed in her.

And despite the challenges of her own life, she embraced motherhood. Kendra’s very earliest memories of her mother, revealed by the Armicant, are positive (Crest). Tristan and Daniel have also both mentioned the joy Naida felt in her daughter’s birth (Whirl, Billow).

So what happened?

The death of Ansel, Kendra’s father, changed everything.

In Crest, Kendra’s initial memory during the Original Magic trial is of her father’s corpse. Her mind had literally locked away everything that happened before it as if it never happened because that moment had such a profound impact on her life.

The loss of that love, the loss of the one person who’d stayed by her side, who’d believed in her, irrevocably changed Naida.

Grief and rage consumed her. She channeled her fears over her daughter’s future into an obsessive drive toward a singular goal and shifted her iron discipline and razor-sharp mental focus on to her daughter.

She needed to make Kendra succeed where she could not. She wanted her daughter to be stronger than her, strong enough to not let love or need or vulnerability in.

Strong enough to be believed and not ignored. Strong enough to not feel pain. Strong enough to be the last one standing.

This single-minded purpose and aloneness, Naida’s ultimate legacy, defined Kendra’s life. It’s not until she arrives at Haverleau that she begins to grasp the idea of trusting and working with others. The concept is alien and difficult for her to accept. She continues to struggle with it in every book.

Did Naida love Kendra? Yes. She was willing to give up everything so her daughter would live. Regardless of how their relationship evolved, I don’t think that ever changed.

Did she care more about about ending the war than the needs of her own daughter? Also yes, especially after Ansel’s death. She clung harder to the ideals they’d once held as a way of dealing with her grief.

The manner in which Naida raised Kendra was inevitably affected by her own personal turmoil. She did the best she could. Given the circumstances and the extreme nature of the war, was she justified? Well, that’s something readers will need to decide for themselves.

Love manifests in different ways in the series – through friendship, family, and romance.

Naida’s flawed parental love is something we’ve seen to varying degrees in others: Rhian, Ancelin, Dylan’s parents, Amber’s mother, Patrice LeVeq. And at it’s very worst, in Yahaira.

Did Ancelin and Eleri love Tristan? Then why have him kill his own brother? Did Patrice ever really love Julian? Why did Rhian allow her daughter to leave Haverleau? Why didn’t she intervene when Naida pushed Kendra too far? And what about Yahaira? She’d caused the deaths of so many over the years, using her daughter as an excuse to carry out her own personal vengeance. Yet, the loss of her daughter broke her in a way years of twisted thinking could not.

There are no simple answers to these questions. People screw up and inadvertently hurt those they love. Good people can do awful things, even when their intentions are honorable. People who’ve inflicted horrible pain on others can be capable of redemption in the most surprising and unexpected of ways.

And sometimes, a person is too far gone, drowning in too much fear and anger to change. What remains is a sad ghost, a faded blend of what was and could’ve been.

Naida’s actions have a far-reaching effect. It colors every one of Kendra’s relationships. Her difficulty in trusting others, her tendency to shut others out, her instinctive desire to hide from intimacy and shun vulnerability, her inability to express what she feels…all these are a result of her mother’s four rules, lack of affection, and years of mental and emotional conditioning.

Flipped around, those traits are also what mark Kendra as a survivor. She’s independent, extremely resourceful, doesn’t give a shit what others think, and has a confidence and bravery that allow her to take enormous risks.

And despite what Naida tried to instill in her, Kendra cares. She can’t turn it off, no matter how much she’s tried to over the years.

In Whirl, Nexa pointed out that the strength of Kendra’s Empath saved her from her own upbringing. She said Naida also understood this.

And perhaps she did. Given the strength of her Virtue, it’s highly likely Naida saw her daughter’s future.

Perhaps she knew Kendra would not only survive long enough to become Governor-elect, but also long enough to survive the wounds inflicted by her own limitations.

Kendra won’t ever know the answer. But she wonders about it, the way we all do when someone is unexpectedly taken from us.

In Billow, Kendra’s choice to turn toward her friends rather than away from them, was the first step on to her own path, one very different from her mother’s.

The similarities may be there, but Kendra is not Naida. Just as Julian is not Patrice, Chloe is not Miriam, and Dylan Rosamund is not his parents. Same goes for Ian, Aubrey, Amber, Tristan, and Sian.

This is what makes her our heroine.

The Ondine Quartet series began with a scene between a mother and daughter. The war at the heart of the series is a result of possessive love, the Shadow’s jealousy over Jourdain’s connection to her ondine children.

Kendra’s relationship with Naida is an ever-evolving reflection, appearing in every book as an underlying layer mirroring the sondaleur’s journey.

It is a journey that will continue and resolve in Breaker. 🙂

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