Delaney has been kidnapped by aliens. Again. After only a month back on Earth with her hot new alien boyfriend Ruckus, the deadly and devastatingly handsome prince Trystan has dragged her right back to his planet.
While some girls may dream of winning a prince’s heart, Delaney just wishes this one would leave her alone. Instead, she finds herself at the center of both a tense political battle between two alien kingdoms and Trystan’s romantic attentions, both of which are absolutely ruining the life she’s built on Earth. Not to mention the fact that she’s about to be crowned queen of a planet she’s barely even visited. Just another day in the life of an ordinary human girl.
Readers won’t want to miss Between Frost and Fury, the compelling, fast-paced sequel to Chani Lynn Feener’s Amid Stars and Darkness.
Praise for Amid Stars and Darkness:
"Give to fans of Melissa Landers’s Alienated and Ally Condie’s Matched." School Library Journal
"Makes for fun, fluffy reading." Booklist
"A thoughtful, sexy adventure with winning characters just begging for a bedtime read." VOYA
About the Author
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She felt like she was dying.
Delaney came to with a piercing pain, like an ice pick was being lodged in her brain. For a moment she stayed still, waiting for the spinning sensation to dissipate and her muscles to stop quivering.
The solid surface cradled her body awkwardly, causing her to wince when she shifted. The feeling was oddly familiar, and her mind struggled to comprehend what was going on. She'd yet to open her eyes, and inhaled slowly before reaching out blindly to feel her surroundings.
She stretched her arm over her head and met with a solid, cool surface. It was clearly metallic, and beneath it she could feel a steady thrum. Her eyes snapped open, but she had to wait for the black spots to clear before she could make out the familiar walls.
She was on a spaceship. Again.
"You have got to be kidding." She pressed both hands to her forehead and tried to recall how she'd gotten here.
The first time she'd been abducted by aliens and dragged unconscious onto a spaceship, she'd been completely terrified. Now, while there was a steady seed of panic at the center of her chest, it was manageable. Staying calm was always the best course of action when it came to dealing with Xenith.
It'd been a couple of months since her first encounter with the Vakar and the Kints, when she'd been mistaken for an alien princess and ripped from her home world. On Xenith, she'd managed to evade assassination and form a couple of strong bonds with members of the royal staff. Whatever was going on here, she could count on her friends. Though it would have been nice to have gotten a heads-up this time around.
"Why does this keep happening to me?" she groaned.
"That's an interesting question."
Delaney bolted upright and turned toward the voice so fast, she got whiplash. Instinctively she tucked herself against the corner of the wall, gripping the edge of the cot hard enough that her knuckles turned white.
Suddenly it hit her: the beach, Mariana, seeing him in the reflection of the car window.
"Trystan," she said breathlessly, instantly recalling how easy it was for him to make someone feel off-center. He hadn't done anything yet, and her heart was already pounding.
Delaney tried — and failed — not to be so obvious, but her gaze trailed over him, noting subtle differences and similarities before she could stop herself.
His blond hair was still perfectly styled, but there were hints of dark circles beneath his eyes. He was leaning back in a white chair, the only other piece of furniture aside from the cot. When she'd spotted him on Earth, he'd been dressed like a human, but now he was wearing his traditional outfit. The sleeveless blue shirt with the inch-high collar brought back memories of being constantly on edge, of pretending.
There was a band wrapped around his right wrist and her eyes locked on to it, recognizing the weapon as one that most soldiers — or Tellers, to use their word — carried. All he had to do was wave his middle finger over the bottom of it to turn the band into a gun.
Delaney had one as well, and because it looked so harmless, she'd kept it on her. It'd been a slight comfort, knowing that she'd had a means of protecting herself even when there'd been no cause for alarm. She barely resisted the urge to glance down at her own wrist, knowing already that there was no way he'd left her armed.
She should have turned and run the other way when she'd realized who he was back on the street. Or shot him.
He was watching her through those eerie eyes of his, cornflower blue with a ring of crimson around the outside of the iris. All aliens from Xenith had two-toned eyes, but his were by far the creepiest she'd ever encountered.
A long silence stretched between them before he took the initiative, dropping his leg so both feet were flat on the ground. He rested his elbows on his thighs.
"Hello, Lissa," he purred, but he didn't smile. His expression remained blank in that intense way only he could pull off. He had the best poker face she'd ever seen, and after posing as an alien princess for a month, she thought herself a good judge of such things.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and forced herself to pull her shoulders back, straightening her spine to appear more offended than afraid. There was only one reason she could think of to explain why she was here: He still thought she was Olena.
An alien device that somehow affected brain waves had been behind her initial kidnapping. The Vakar princess — or Lissa, as they called her — Olena Ond had used it on Delaney as part of her plan to escape an arranged marriage to Trystan. Because of that device, Delaney had been forced to pretend to be Olena, spending weeks undercover on the planet Xenith among the Vakar people until the real Lissa was found.
Once Olena had been discovered and they'd been able to swap places, another device had been used to reverse the effects of the first. Ruckus had finally been able to see the real her, and she'd gone back to her life. Which meant it had worked.
So what was wrong now? Was there a chance the correctional device's effect had worn off? And even if it had, how had Trystan found her? Why?
"Care to explain what's going on right now?" she asked, latching on to the thread of anger she felt. She'd done everything that the Vakar had asked of her, with the agreement that, once finished, she'd be left alone. The dream had been to never see Trystan again, let alone be kidnapped by him.
Did Ruckus know where she was? They'd been talking on the phone when Trystan had knocked her unconscious. As a trained commander, Ruckus should have been able to figure out what had happened.
He'd find her, she trusted that.
"I'm curious," Trystan finally spoke, completely ignoring her question, "how you thought you could get away from this? You had to know you were already in too deep."
Great, what the hell had Olena done now? Delaney let her head drop back against the wall with a resounding clank. The two times she'd met Olena she'd disliked her almost as much as everyone else seemed to. During her stay with the Vakar, she hadn't heard a single good thing about her.
"This is a mistake," she mumbled.
"The only mistake," he sneered, finally letting some of his true feelings slip through, "was letting you fly away on that ship."
It wasn't hard to catch his anger now. She had to tread lightly. There were about a million different ways this could go, and not many boded well for her. If he'd been anyone else, pretending she was Olena again would more than likely be a good thing. Unfortunately, Trystan's hatred for his betrothed was well-known, and if he thought she'd run again ...
That had to be it. Olena had run again, and without Ruckus there to hunt her down, Trystan had gone after her himself. It didn't really explain why he'd bother, considering he'd hated the idea of being betrothed to the Lissa, but Delaney couldn't think up any other reason for him being on Earth.
Except, what had Ruckus said on the phone before she'd been injected with whatever sleep agent Trystan had used? Something about the Basileus being dead? If Olena's dad, the Vakar king, was dead, that changed everything.
"Okay" — she held out both hands, opting to try negotiation — "clearly we need to work a few things out —"
"I've already worked everything out for us," he remarked.
Frustrated, she ran a hand through her hair. When his gaze homed in on the motion, his mask wavered, but she couldn't make out what he was feeling.
"Why do you keep staring at me like that?!"
She'd never been able to read him very well; he had more facets than anyone she'd ever met. It was that very thing that always put everyone around him on edge. As the Kint prince, or Zane, it was a good thing.
For everyone else, it seriously blew.
"Your hair." It was little more than a whisper.
"It's longer." She reached up and fiddled with a strand. In the five weeks since she'd last been to Xenith, her hair had grown to a little past her shoulders.
For a split second the world tipped on its axis. She hadn't misheard him. He could see her, the real her, which meant the device hadn't malfunctioned and she didn't look like Olena at all.
Momentarily forgetting her earlier plan to remain calm, she scrambled up from the cot, searching the small area. Her initial perusal of the room had been accurate, however; there was nothing aside from the chair where he sat and the cot currently pressed to the backs of her knees.
Frantically, she groped her back pocket, letting out a relieved sound when she felt the heavy press of her cell phone. She almost dropped it in her haste to get it out, fumbling a little before activating the camera app.
The face staring back at her from the small screen was unequivocally her own. Her bright red hair was mussed around her face, and a bit of color stained her otherwise pale cheeks — color she'd gotten from spending the day at the beach with Mariana. Between the hair and the vibrant green of her eyes, there wasn't a single similarity she shared with Olena. No physical reason anyone, let alone someone who'd known the Lissa for years, would have to mix them up.
The relief she'd been feeling at seeing herself began to fade as the reality of her situation came into focus. She frowned, a new wave of suspicion rising.
"This isn't right," she said, even though she knew that Trystan wasn't the type to make mistakes. She forced herself to lift her gaze to his. "How about we turn this ship around, and you can drop me off in the nearest heavily populated city? Doesn't even have to be where you found me."
He eyed her for a moment, that blank mask back in place, before slowly easing to his feet to stand over her with his six-five height.
"You're smarter than that," he stated. "I didn't travel all the way to that primitive planet for just anyone, and I certainly didn't go for Olena or Ruckus. There was no mistake. I took who I meant to take, Delaney."
"You know who I am." She was too unnerved to be embarrassed by the way her voice shook. Obviously he did; proof of that had literally just been staring back at her in the mirror. Still, she'd hoped ... she didn't know what. Just that there was another explanation. Any other explanation.
"For a while now, yes."
"I don't understand."
"You had me fooled for a long time." He took a step closer. "It was suspicious, but I truly believed that her time on Earth had changed her. That perhaps I had misjudged Olena. It's too bad she wasn't as good at playing herself as you were."
"I did what I had to do to protect my people," she said. "You would have done the same."
"It's all I ever do," he agreed.
"Then you understand why I did it." She wasn't stupid enough to allow herself to feel hope a second time. He wouldn't have gone through all this trouble if he didn't intend to enact revenge. Trystan wasn't the type of guy you pissed off and lived to tell the tale.
"I understand why you lied to me, yes." He was close now, less than a foot away, and he paused there for a deceiving moment. Baiting people was his specialty. He knew all the right buttons to press, the right things to say, the right spaces to crowd. "I never once lied to you."
That, unfortunately, was true. He'd taken great pleasure in telling her how much he hated Olena, and telling her often. It was still a bit of a shocker that he was supposedly loved by his people, where Olena was disliked at best. He was just as big a jerk as she was, spoiled and pompous and entitled.
"Why bother with all this?" Delaney waved a hand to indicate the ship, unable to hold back the anger this time. "Why not just kill me on Earth? Too easy?"
He quirked a brow, the corner of his mouth just barely turning up. "Are you asking if I intend to torture you?"
"Did you murder the Basileus?" she blurted, admitting to herself that she was being a coward for doing so. Fact of the matter was, she didn't think she was ready to find out what she was doing here. If he did plan on making an example of her for lying. He had to be feeling like a fool for believing she was Olena, and it wouldn't matter to him that that hadn't been her intention.
"I happened to be there," he said, not really answering the question at all. "The Basilissa narrowly escaped the same fate, and her daughter's life still hangs in the balance."
It was hard to breathe, even harder to think coherently, with him so near.
"Of course we were going to retaliate once we discovered the truth, Delaney," he continued. "My father has his limits, and being manipulated the way that he was crossed a line. Peace was over the second you stepped foot on that ship with the Ander."
So the Rex, the king of the Kints, had ordered an attack on Vakar, even after everything she had gone through to prevent it. Guilt and frustration assaulted her, and she struggled to maintain an even tone when she spoke.
"How does killing Magnus Ond and taking his family hostage help you?"
She hadn't exactly been fond of the Basileus, but he hadn't deserved to die, either. Everything he'd done, he'd done for the same reasons that Delaney herself had. He'd been trying to protect his people.
"The Kints have taken temporary control —" he began, but she cut him off with a shake of her head.
"No, I'm not asking how it helps the Kints, Trystan." She licked her lips, bracing herself. "I'm asking how it helps you?" Because there was no good reason for her to be here if there wasn't some hidden agenda that benefited him specifically.
"I've taken temporary control of Vakar," he said, not even bothering to hide the partial smirk now. "It took some convincing, but my father, who wanted to destroy the entire Ond family outright, saw my reasoning. We don't need to annihilate the Vakar when we can add them to our forces instead. Soon the control I hold over them will be official and permanent. All I have to do is marry the Uprisen heir to the Vakar throne."
It was the ease with which he said it that had her hackles rising. He'd always spoken about his and Olena's joining with derision. Just now there'd been something else in his tone.
"The Basilissa would do anything to spare her daughter's life." He eased even closer, sliding his arms against the wall to trap her head between them. "Including agree to all my terms. Amazing, really, that there was even a single person alive who cared enough about Olena to make sacrifices for her. And Tilda made many sacrifices, not just for herself."
Delaney gulped. "That's how you found out my name."
She waited, but he didn't elaborate. Maybe he wouldn't lie, but he certainly didn't have a problem withholding.
"The Uprising is an extremely traditional ceremony," he said. "It has determined the next in line for both the Vakar and Kint thrones almost since the beginning of our civilization. The law clearly states that only someone Uprisen can succeed the previous ruler."
Delaney still wasn't following, until he lifted her right arm, pinning it next to her head. When he motioned with his chin, she glanced over and her breath caught.
The dime-sized tattoo, a small, glittery green V on her forearm at the curve of her elbow, winked back at her in the overhead lights. She may have looked like Olena to everyone during the actual ceremony, but it had been Delaney's body going through the process. She'd been the one branded.
She'd always intended to get rid of it, cover it up, but she'd been so distracted acclimating to life with Ruckus, she'd put it off.
"No." The word shot out before she even realized she'd spoken.
"Yes." There was no room for argument in his eyes, but of course she did anyway.
"I'm not from Xenith. And I went through the ceremony for Olena, as Olena! The oath —"
"Did not require you to speak a name," he interrupted. "Yours or hers." He was right about that, too. "You said the oath. You were the one Uprisen. As for the fact that you're from Earth, in your speech you proclaimed yourself a member of the Vakar people, and a citizen of Xenith."
"This is insane," she said. "Do the ceremony again! Uprise Olena. She's the one who's supposed to take the throne. She's the Vakar Lissa!"
"Yet you are the Uprisen heir. Vakar takes that very seriously. Their people value tradition above all else. Not even their Basilissa can go around breaking customs easily," he said, putting his face dangerously close to hers.
"You can't do this," she whispered, forcing away the tears that threatened to choke her.
"I'm not the one who did this," he declared. "You took the oath. I had no part in that."
The air stuttered out of her lungs. Delaney had gone through with that ceremony only to protect her cover; no one could honestly expect her to have taken that oath seriously. Could they?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Between Frost and Fury"
Copyright © 2018 Chani Lynn Feener.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
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