Read an Excerpt
Queen of Wands
A Sanctify Novel
By Katee Robert, Heather Howland, Kari Olson
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Katee Robert
All rights reserved.
Screams sliced through the air, each higher than the one before. They cut off abruptly, followed by the voice of a very angry Diviner. "Give me the Ladydamned drugs!"
Jenny O'Keirna's brother paced outside the door to the bedroom, back and forth, over and over again, until she wanted to slap him silly. "Just go in there, you big oaf."
Boone spun around, gray eyes bloodshot and on the far side of crazy. "I can't. They won't let me."
"They" being the three midwives closeted in the room with the Diviner. Why Ophelia needed three was anyone's guess. Jenny refused to dwell on it. Hells, she wished she could forbid Boone from her presence, too — he was climbing the walls like a caged animal — but he was the last of her family left alive and, for once, he actually needed her. She might be an ass, but she wasn't going to leave her big brother alone the one time he was totally and completely out of his element.
Still, enough was enough. "She's your woman. Go get her."
"I am respecting her wishes." Each word came out sharp enough to cut. "You should do the same."
She ignored the threat with the ease of long practice. "Just because she can read the future in her creepy cards doesn't mean she knows everything."
Boone had only recently come to terms with the fact that the Diviner wasn't bullshitting when she used her cards to commune with her goddess, the Lady. If the tic in his cheek muscle was any indication, he didn't appreciate the reminder.
She grinned. "Want me to kick down the door?"
They turned as one and eyed the thick wood. The castle was their family home, had been for ages. When Boone killed their sadistic half brother, Kristian, and took the throne, the first thing he wanted to do was burn it to the ground, but the Council forbade it. Truth be told, Jenny was glad it had. There were plenty of crap memories haunting these hallways — especially in the year leading up to their exile — but it was her last link to her father.
In her head, she realized he was a monster, but in her heart he was something else altogether. She couldn't wipe out those memories any more than she could the ones of him hurting Boone. Or of him encouraging Kristian to do the same.
But that was Hansarda for you — bittersweet on the best of days. Or maybe she was just bitter because she'd spent the last ten years as an outcast and now the asshats on the Council were welcoming her and Boone back with open arms. As if they hadn't sat idly by while Kristian aligned with the monsters of Sanctify, and did his damnedest to kill everyone on the planet.
If Boone hadn't attacked when he did ...
She pushed the ugly thoughts away. Both Dad and Kristian were dead and gone — end of story — leaving only this castle behind. As the only permanent building on Hansarda, it had been created to last. Dad made sure of that, and he didn't do anything half-assed. It was a trait he and Boone had in common, though if she ever compared him to their father out loud, her brother might have a stroke. He was a drama queen like that.
Jenny sighed, deciding the door was a lost cause. "I don't like our chances."
"It may be best if we wait it out."
Gods help her, but he actually sounded scared. Trust Boone to face down suicide mission after suicide mission in his quest to take the throne, only to quail before his pregnant woman giving birth.
"Chickenshit." She smacked him on the shoulder and danced out of reach when he turned on her. "Come on, big brother, scared of a few itty-bitty women and a baby?"
"Bo-oo-one." She loved watching the vein in his forehead pulse when she stretched his name into three syllables.
"I am not afraid." His gaze shot to the door again, belying his words.
They both jumped at the shrieking quality of Ophelia's voice. The woman was freaking scary before she went into labor, with her eerie knack for knowing things she shouldn't and her sweet skills with a knife. Now she was just plain terrifying. Thank the gods keeping her happy wasn't Jenny's burden to bear.
She patted him on the shoulder. "Have at it." Then she turned and ran away.
"Jenny! Jenny, get your ass back here." Boone sounded so damn panicked that she laughed. Seeing her brother's machinelike composure finally break was too satisfying.
"Sorry," she called as she rounded the corner. "I didn't knock her up."
Ophelia screamed again and then Jenny was on the stairs, sprinting toward safety. If she had any doubts before, she didn't now — there was no way in hells she would pop out a kid. Or lock herself in with a man. As happy as her brother and his Diviner seemed, there was no force in the universe that could convince Jenny to climb into that particular trap. She'd rather gnaw off her own leg than spend her life chained to a single person.
She flew through the thick wooden door at the bottom of the stairwell, skidding to a stop in front of a giant furball. "Here kitty, kitty."
"One of these days, I'm going to show you my claws."
Yeah, like that would happen. Cole was just too damn adorable, with his feline features and brindled coloring. The Beshmaiite hated it when she compared him to a cat, despite some pretty obvious similarities. Well, obvious similarities if she ignored the fact that he was a foot taller than her and had fangs designed to gut his enemies.
His lethalness wasn't enough to cow her into submission. And he should know better by now than to show just how much it bugged him. "Come on, pretty kitty. Stop lurking in dark corners and live a little."
His fur stuck straight out for half a second before he got control of his temper. "How are things with the lady?"
If she listened closely, she could still hear the screams. Or maybe that was just her imagination. "Remind me never to have kids."
"The thought of you reproducing ..." Cole shuddered, his hair rising in waves. "Just don't."
"Pop off, Cole."
She started to shoulder past him, but his next words stopped her. "There's a problem. Boone can't deal with it because ..." Because he was dealing with a breeding Diviner who had the tendency to attack first and ask questions later.
"Spit it out."
Cole looked away. "I think he'd like to hear it first."
Jenny rolled her eyes. "Stop toying with my emotions and tell me. Boone doesn't need this right now and you know it, or you wouldn't have brought it up in the first place."
Cole's hair flattened to his body, revealing his powerful limbs. She had him and he knew it. "A distress call came through the secret channels."
"Which secret channels?"
She wasn't sure if it was a relief that it wasn't her people or a worry because it was the Diviner's. "Is it her father?" This was the last thing they needed after what happened when Boone took the throne. Ophelia had barely recovered from the loss of her mother. If something happened to her dad, too ...
Jenny checked her sigh of relief because Cole was still so damn tense.
"It is their inventor, Mac Flannery."
The one responsible for turning Azure Enterprises into the major player it was today. His weapons and armor were cutting edge, the stuff of action vids and imagination. Except they worked in real life. She'd seen the antimatter gun fired only once, but once was more than enough.
If any of their enemies got their hands on him ...
"What's going on? Where is he?" She didn't know much about the guy, other than the fact that he was a genius and his location was kept secret. She'd once suggested it might be a good idea if she were kept up to date on all this top-secret crap, but Boone shot her down pretty damn quick. It didn't matter that she'd sacrificed everything right alongside him — he'd always see her as his kid sister.
Cole shook himself, reminding her more of a dog than a cat. "He's probably just being paranoid. The guy spends his time locked up in a room, working on gadgets. People like that aren't exactly well-balanced."
"You don't think I can cut it." His obvious doubt hurt more than she would ever admit. No one took her seriously — they never had. Hells, she could outshoot both her brother and Ophelia, but no one seemed to remember things like that when it came down to the line.
"I didn't say that." His voice took on a purr.
Great, now he pitied her. If there was one thing she hated more than being written off, it was being pitied. Jenny's hand went to the bracelet on her left wrist, twisting it. The metal shifted, ready to spring around her hands and form gauntlets. "Tell me, Cole."
For a moment, she thought he would argue. Then he eyed her bracelet, hackles rising as he recognized the move for the threat it was. "He's on Terra II."
Jenny's eyes widened. Terra II, called T-II by anyone who'd actually been there, was a shit hole. The only reason people stopped there at all was because of the lack of law enforcement. If you wanted shady dealings with merchants carting everything from drugs to forged ship docs to weapons, T-II was the place to be. Everything was gray, coated with the pollution from the factories — gray air, gray streets, gray people.
Jenny had never had the pleasure of visiting, which wasn't surprising. She'd been only twelve when Kristian drove Boone off-planet. He spaced, and took her with him. Jenny didn't blame her brother for taking her away — she had no illusions about what a sadistic shit like Kristian would have done to her — but now she wanted freedom more than anything in the universe. It was a damn shame, because freedom was the one thing she could never have as a member of the ruling family.
Which meant there was no way she could pass up the opportunity to take off for a while. Who knew when she'd get a chance like this again? It might be months or, worse, years. "I'm going."
"Jenny ..." She stared at Cole until he took a step back and bowed, the move far more fluid than any human could have managed. "I don't know why I bother. Fine."
"Send the coordinates to Psyche." Jenny headed down the hall, unable to quell the bounce in her step. She was spacing. Thank the gods. She needed Psyche's controls beneath her hands again, the universe and all its possibilities laid out before her.
She froze at the sound of her brother's voice. Crap. She forced a cheery smile as she turned around, ready to argue him to a standstill if he tried to stop her from leaving.
But her stoic, brooding brother was grinning like an idiot. "It's a girl."
It took a moment for her mind to switch tracks. "A girl?" A niece. Her smile widened and turned into something real as she pictured a miniature Ophelia running around, getting into trouble and scaring the castle staff. Being auntie to that little hellion was going to be great fun.
"A girl." He practically skipped over and grabbed her to spin in a circle. "I have a daughter."
As quickly as he started, Boone set her down and took a step back. "Come see."
"Sure thing." As much as her skin itched with the need to get off-planet, Mac could wait a few hours. It wasn't every day Jenny got a niece. She bounded up the stone stairs, barely able to keep up with Boone. When was the last time she'd seen such unadulterated joy on her brother's face? Gods, she couldn't remember.
He flung open the bedroom door, revealing a sweat-stained bed and a half-naked Diviner. Ophelia yelled, "Close the Ladydamned door."
Boone kicked it shut without hesitation, and they all winced when the baby let forth a startled shriek. The kid had a serious set of lungs. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
Ophelia never took her gaze from the tiny bundle resting in the cradle of her arms. "I just popped out a baby. How the hells do you think I'm feeling?"
Jenny sidled closer, peering over her brother's shoulder. The baby was wrinkled and red and looked a bit squashed, and she hoped to the gods the little mite would get cuter as she got older. If not, well, she was still family. "She's ... adorable."
"Shut up, Jenny," Ophelia said without looking up. "She's perfect."
The baby blinked, revealing the brilliant violet eyes that characterized the Diviner species. Boone was going to have a handful with two card readers in his family. His life would have been so much simpler if he'd found a nice Hansardian girl to settle down with instead of saddling himself with another of Sanctify's so-called "ultimate enemies." Those bastards would just love to get their hands on another Diviner.
Jenny smiled. "Yeah, she is."
He reached out, running a single finger down the baby's face. She turned her head to the side, mouth searching. The expression of sheer hunger gave Jenny the willies, and she almost missed her brother speaking.
"What did Cole want?"
"Cole?" She sighed, watching her chances at spacing without Boone finding out swirl down the drain. But if she lied to him and took off, he'd hunt her down, baby or no. Jenny wanted to be taken seriously, and that meant manning up. "We got a distress call from Mac."
Ophelia finally tore her attention away from the kid. "Mac's in trouble?"
"Something like that." She shrugged, going for nonchalance. "I figured since you two were busy, I'd head that way and see what's up."
"No." Boone stood, towering over her. The intimidation move stopped working when Jenny turned six and realized he'd never willingly raise a hand against her. "Absolutely not. You are not going to T-II."
"Afraid I might get corrupted?" Jenny laughed, the sound high and light, free of the bitterness clawing its way up her throat. In a way, it was sweet that he still wanted to protect her. Annoying as hells, but sweet. "Don't you know me better than that, big brother?"
"I know exactly what you're capable of."
"Bo-oo-one." There went the vein, right on cue. "I stayed out of the way and safe" — she spat the word — "on Valneci while you came here and almost died to save our people. This is just a pickup. Nothing fancy. I'll go get Sir Genius and be back here within two weeks. Cake."
"Enough." Ophelia snarled, the sound identical to what came out of Cole's mouth when Jenny went too far in her teasing. "You'll upset Clarice."
"Clarice?" Jenny's eyes nearly bugged out of her head, her anger temporarily derailed. "Please tell me you didn't actually name your daughter that. Boone, what in the seven hells were you thinking?"
Ophelia handed the baby to Boone, and he took her like she was the most breakable thing in the universe. The picture they made — her big brother whom she'd seen damn near cut an Abura-Sumashi in half and this tiny bundle of podness — was the strangest thing she'd ever seen. And she'd seen some weird shit.
"Get my cards."
"Ophelia," Boone and Jenny said at the same time. They shot each other nasty looks.
"Shut up, both of you." Ophelia pointed at the desk across the room from the bed. "Jenny, my cards. Now."
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell the Diviner where to shove her damn cards, but curiosity got the best of her. What was the harm in indulging Ophelia's beliefs? Just because she didn't worship the same gods didn't mean she had to be as close-minded as some people.
And if she got something out of it, well, that was okay too.
Jenny handed the cards over, watching as Ophelia shuffled them a few times and then passed them back. "Cut the deck."
"If you say so." She did as commanded, cutting it high.
Ophelia looked at her for a long time, her violet eyes distant, until Jenny had to fight the urge to squirm. "Three cards are enough, I think."
"Three? That seems like a rip-off."
Boone smacked Jenny lightly on the back of the head. "Show some respect."
"Children, focus." Ophelia flipped over three cards in quick succession.
Jenny leaned over, gaze skating over the badass winged woman holding a wand, the dude with a stick about to walk off a cliff, and the couple ... growing out of a tree? The cards were pretty enough, but she couldn't make heads or tails of them. "What in the hells does that mean?"
A triumphant smile blazed across the Diviner's face. Jenny didn't like that smile one bit. "You need to be the one to go." Ophelia held up a hand as Boone opened his mouth. "She's an adult and more than capable of kicking my ass, let alone doing a run to pick up Mac. I know it and you know it, so stop being so damn stubborn."
Excerpted from Queen of Wands by Katee Robert, Heather Howland, Kari Olson. Copyright © 2014 Katee Robert. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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