While trying to save her brother from the witch three years ago, Greta was thrown into the fire herself, falling through a portal to a dangerous world where humans are the enemy, and every ogre, goblin, and ghoul has a dark side that comes out with the full moon.
To survive, 17-year-old Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she's good at what she does. So good, she's caught the attention of Mylena's young Goblin King, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her determination to escape.
But Greta's not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. The full moon is mere days away, and an ancient evil being knows she's the key to opening the portal. If Greta fails, she and the boys she finds stranded in the woods will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back . . .
About the Author
Chloe Jacobs is a native of nowhere and everywhere, having jumped around to practically every Province of Canada before finally settling in Ontario where she has now been living for a respectable number of years. Her husband and son are the two best people in the entire world, but they also make her wish she'd at least gotten a female cat. No such luck. And although the day job keeps her busy, she carves out as much time as possible to write. Bringing new characters to life and finding out what makes them tick and how badly she can make them suffer is one of her greatest pleasures, almost better than chocolate and fuzzy pink bunny slippers.
Read an Excerpt
Greta and the Goblin King (The Mylena Chronicles)
By Chloe Jacobs, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chloe Jacobs
All rights reserved.
When she'd set out to track the foul beast hunkered down in the cavern ahead, Greta hadn't counted on gale force winds and an ice storm engulfing three goblin territories descending like a bitter, frozen plague to torture her.
She should have. A blinding blizzard was nothing less than typical Mylean weather, and after spending four years stranded here, she definitely should have expected it. The cold had long ago penetrated her thick coat and the layers of wool and soft cotton, until it seemed more like days than hours since she'd felt the welcome of a roaring fire in the hearth, but her comfort would have to wait a while longer. A young goblin boy had gone missing from his home in the village. She refused to believe he was dead already.
With a weary sigh, she squinted through a break in the canopy of gloomy evergreens, gauging the amount of fury left in the turbulent sky. The shadows falling across the blanket of craptastic white stuff were still long, but at least she could see her hands in front of her face again. She had to have been on the ghoul's trail for at least three hours by now.
Three hours of non-stop fun.
She approached the cave entrance carefully. After scoping it out from a safe distance, she circled back and came at it from the side.
Her stomach twisted as she thought of the kid suffering inside, but the image that came to mind wasn't of a frightened goblin child. Instead, she saw a human boy from another time and place. Drew.
Shaking her head, she squared her shoulders and kept moving. Blizzard or not, she needed to bring the goblin home alive if she wanted to get paid, and the creature who took the boy had ensconced itself and its prize deep inside the cave.
A noise. Distinctive from the natural groaning of tree limbs weighed down by snow. A crunch behind her as someone took a step closer.
Damn. She'd miscalculated, assuming no one would have followed her while she was following the ghoul.
She spun as a familiar flash of amethyst rushed her in the not-quite dark. Before she could duck and roll, a thick, muscled arm slammed across her chest and shoved her against the cave wall so hard the back of her head scraped rock.
With a speed and strength that had been drilled into her daily for four years, Greta brought her knee up. Her attacker evaded but wasn't quick enough to avoid her headbutt to his lying face.
"Danem Greta, stop." Isaac grunted and frowned down at her. She sneered at his use of the conventional form of Mylean address. Not that she wasn't used to it, but coming from Mylena's shiny new goblin king—who was only a little older than her seventeen years—it felt like a veiled insult instead of an expression of respect.
With a hard swallow, she took in his appearance. His fur-lined cloak gaped open at the throat, and black hair streaked with deep purple curled at his neck. He had a square face and sharp features, although his cheeks were pale and smooth in the dark of the forest.
Like most goblins, he was tall and wide, built like someone had simply chipped away at a hunk of granite. It wasn't hard to imagine him in a fight to the death for the goblin throne, no matter how young he was.
He rubbed his abdomen with a pinched expression. "What did you do that for?"
Because I knew it was you? "Oddly enough, I don't enjoy being attacked from behind by strangers."
His startling violet eyes locked on her. Lying eyes. Manipulative eyes. Eyes she'd been seeing in her sleep for too many nights. He chuckled low under his breath. "Ah, but I'm not a stranger to you, am I?"
She fought against the deep cadence of his accented voice and the mischievous grin that curled his lips, reminding herself it was all an act. Their entire relationship was based on tricks and lies, and Greta wasn't going to fall for them again.
"But since you mention it," he continued, "which one of us is out lurking in the Goblin Forest in the middle of the worst storm all year?"
She rolled her eyes. Sure, if he wanted to press the issue, this was technically the Goblin Forest and he was technically the goblin king. She was trespassing.
Not that she cared about such minor things as legal boundaries. Not when it came to doing her job. Especially in a territory run by an arrogant goblin whose biggest claim to fame was that he happened to be the youngest monarch Mylena had ever seen. "This can't be the worst storm all year," she said. "I'm sure the one that slammed us a fortnight ago was just as bad. Are there ever any conditions in Mylena other than crappy?"
He grinned and his face was transformed. Suddenly, he was the boy she'd met that evening at Maidra's who smiled at her and made her feel accepted for the first time since ...well, since she found herself trapped here. As the only human in a world where her kind was reviled and any suggestion of their presence created a furious outcry for blood, acceptance and the possibility of friendship were things she'd never expected to experience.
But she didn't want him to be that boy again. He should go back to being the goblin king. At least then she knew where she stood—as far away as possible.
"I wasn't aware you felt so strongly about the weather, Danem," he teased. "Perhaps it irks you because it is one thing that remains irritatingly beyond your influence."
If the weather really were the only thing out of her control, she wouldn't have much to worry about. But after being torn from her family and everything she knew at the age of thirteen, thrust into a hostile environment where food and warmth were luxuries someone like her could not afford, and forced to hide her true identity, Greta had ended up with a whole host of issues. If she ever made it back home, some lucky shrink was going to have a field day trying to figure her out.
"I have legitimate cause to be here. I'm on a job. Why don't you let me do it?"
With a shove, she tried to get around him but he pushed her back against the rock. Not hard enough to hurt, but enough to make a point. "Unless you want to alert the ghoul in there to our presence, quit fighting me so we can handle the situation together."
"Aren't you too important to be talking to me? Go home. You have a responsibility to stay safe and provide for your people now."
His teeth ground together. "Why don't you let me worry about my people and what they need."
Her shallow breaths exhaled in a fine puff of vapor that twirled around his, becoming one before dissipating into the frigid air. Greta finally nodded and his grip on her arms relaxed. She twisted and knocked her elbow up into his abdomen. A petty move, sure, but she wasn't above immature displays of annoyance when the situation called for it—or maybe even when it didn't.
He grunted as she darted around him and clasped his wrist in a quick twist behind his back. She used the momentum to push him face-first into the rock. In the shadows, his oversized incisors peeked from the corners of his mouth. He twisted his head to the side to look at her.
Her knife was at his throat before he could blink, going a little way towards salvaging the pride that had been damaged when he managed to sneak up on her. "Maybe you've forgotten, but I don't play nicely with others."
His arm tensed under her grip, and his gaze flickered to her mouth almost hesitantly. "On the contrary, I think the two of us would play very well together."
The warm rush of mortification flooded her cheeks. "You may think because you can spy on my dreams you have some kind of claim on me, but it's never going to happen," she spat. "Not in any way that counts out here in the real world. Let's just get that straight right now."
The light in his eyes flared. "You have such a peculiar way of speaking," he said. "I rarely have any notion what you're talking about, but I could listen to your voice all day long."
She'd adamantly held onto her human expressions and mannerisms over the years. It was a little like hanging off the edge of a cliff, desperately scrabbling for every crumbling handhold. She did it despite knowing it further isolated her in this world, because the longer she stayed here, the more afraid she was of losing herself completely.
It was already happening. She remembered less and less about her life before Luke, one of Mylena's more reclusive wood sprites, had found her in the snow that long-ago night and took her in. The people and places from that former life, even the person she'd been ...it had become a foggy blur that slipped away a little more every time she closed her eyes.
Greta lowered her blade and sheathed her dagger in the custom leather sleeve fitted to her forearm. She barely noticed the sleeve anymore. It was simply a part of her, like her freakishly tall body, big nose, and long blond hair—hair she kept plaited to hide her human ears from prying goblin eyes.
Locals in every county liked to gather around their tavern hearths on stormy nights and tell tales about how humans were responsible for the endless winter, and turned the daughters of the Great Mother—Mylena's two moons—against them.
All of it was crazy mythology, of course. But it had forced a young girl who'd found herself stranded in a strange land to hide her true self from everyone.
He straightened with a shrug, reminding her that the goblin king topped her in both height and breadth by several inches. She wasn't small, but next to him, an Amazon would look like a dwarf.
"Have you finished ogling me?"
His audacity made her grumble. "Don't you ever get tired of being so full of yourself?"
"Don't you ever tire of being so contrary?"
"Interesting sentiment, sprite."
Greta barely stopped herself from adjusting her braids over her ears. No, there was no way he could know. She'd be dead by now if he had somehow discovered her secret.
He watched her closely. "As much fun as this has been, you don't want to waste any more valuable time, do you?"
Resigning herself to the fact that he wasn't going to go away, not with one of his own being held inside that cave, she crossed her arms. "Come along, then. As long as you realize the bounty is mine," she added.
His smile disappeared and he looked about as serious as she'd ever seen him. "I don't care about the coin, Danem. I'm only here to make sure the boy gets out alive."
"Let me do my job and he might." She didn't bother telling him that the thought of the helpless goblin child being held by that monster was almost more than she could bear. That it hit too close to home, made her stomach lurch and her head pound, and even if there'd been no reward, she would have still come for him.
His tone hardened with the turn of their discussion and she watched as all the responsibilities of his position fell back onto his shoulders. The night they met, he'd seemed so animated as he shared his passion for inventing gadgets and his dreams of traveling to exciting places. She'd been mesmerized by him, and not only because he was the only boy who'd spoken to her—besides Luke—for what felt like, well ... ever.
It was hard to reconcile that spirited boy with this dour person who seemed consumed by obligation and duty. Then again, everything that night had been for show. He'd probably just been laying his trap, setting her up.
She'd fallen for it in a big way.
"Fine. Good," she said, annoyed by the jolt of pain the memory of that night always brought on. "Make sure you don't get in my way."
His lips pressed together in a thin line as he looked her up and down. "Agreed. You are the professional. I will yield to your judgment."
Satisfied the high and mighty lord of the goblin realms would at least try to play by her rules, she braced one hand on the cold stone and stepped forward, narrowing her attention on the opening in the cavern wall. She strained to detect the faintest sound, but from their position at the mouth of the cave, she could hear nothing but the intermittent groan and crackle of tree branches bending against the will of the wind, and Isaac's softly measured breaths as he fell into place close behind her.
She gripped the hilt of the sword strapped to her hip, but dared not draw it. Even that slow glide of steel against leather would echo. Any advantage they had would melt away like the snowflakes landing softly on the tip of her chapped nose.
Greta wished for a flashlight as they passed into the full dark of the cave. It wasn't the first time she'd have given her last meal for one of the modern conveniences she'd once taken for granted, and doubted it would be the last either. Oddly enough, the things she found herself wishing for most often included a decent pair of warm gloves and—
Thud. From deep inside the cavern.
A big hand clasped her elbow and squeezed. She nodded and picked up some speed but refused to rush headlong into the dark. Winning the day rarely came down to being stronger or faster or braver than the other guy. Mostly, it came down to being colder, smarter, and more ruthless than the other guy. Luke had taught her that.
The farther she traveled into the dark, airless cave, the easier it was to imagine what torture the poor kid was suffering. It tugged at her control and she had to hold herself back.
When she stopped to look over her shoulder, Greta could no longer see the entrance. The last of the weak light was gone. The goblin king himself was but a hulking shadow, although she felt him poised and ready behind her.
Violence hung in the air like the sticky haze of a muggy day, filled with the thick scent of fresh blood. The sudden unmistakable sound of a pained cry being silenced mid-shout completed the disturbing effect.
He surged past her then, arm brushing her shoulder as he took the lead. She shot forward and tugged him back before he went barreling down the narrow passage like a raging bull. He turned, his chest heaving against hers. She could barely see the pulse in his cheek ticking away.
After a tense moment, he gave in. He let out a silent breath and stood back to let her take the lead again, but Greta wasn't immune to that plaintive cry for help either. She finally drew her sword.
"We go in," she whispered. "You get the boy. I'll handle the ghoul." He clasped her fingers and squeezed his assent, but she wasn't finished. "Then I want you to get out of there. Don't go all heroic, thinking you have to stick around and help—you'll just be in my way. That kid is going to need medical attention. That's your first priority. Got it?"
"Hasn't anyone ever told you it isn't wise to give a king orders?"
She ignored him and turned back around, trailing a hand along the wall of the cave to keep track of her position as she started forward. It annoyed her that the goblin followed with ease, like he had the benefit of night-vision goggles—but something so cool had never existed in Mylena.
After a few hundred feet, a soft glow became visible ahead of her.
A sliver of anticipation bloomed, the same pathetic combination of expectancy and defeat that crept past her defenses whenever she came across such a place. With it was the insane hope that, maybe this time, she would find the evil witch who sent her here and could manipulate the fire to open a portal back home.
She was always disappointed. In four years, luck had never been on her side.
She shoved away the foolish feelings. "Follow my lead."CHAPTER 2
With adrenaline pushing through her system, Greta adjusted her grip on the hilt of her sword and turned the corner. She wasn't disappointed. What lay in wait was one of Mylena's most monstrous creatures.
Ghoul. A disgusting distortion of life that fed on innocence and purity with a ferocious brutality—and that was its natural phase.
Everything here had a natural phase and a raw—or moon—phase. Most of the reasoned beings like sprites, faeries, and goblins, had evolved to the point of being able to control their shift, but there were situations that could force a transformation, including strong emotions like hunger, fear, and rage. Additionally, all creatures of Mylena felt the pull of their raw phase most strongly during the rare occurrence when the moons came directly in line with either or both of the planet's suns. An eclipse.
Excerpted from Greta and the Goblin King (The Mylena Chronicles) by Chloe Jacobs, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2012 Chloe Jacobs. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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