Title: Greta and the Glass Kingdom (Mylena Chronicles, #2)
Author: Chloe Jacobs
Genre: YA fantasy
Length: 318 pages
Release Date: February 9, 2015
Once upon a dark time
Greta the human bounty hunter never quite fit into the shadowed, icy world of Mylena. Yet she’s managed to defeat the demon Agramon and win the love of the darkly intense Goblin King, Isaac. Now Isaac wants her to rule by his side—a human queen. And the very announcement is enough to incite rebellion…
To make matters worse, defeating Agramon left Greta tainted with a dark magick. Its unclean power threatens to destroy her and everything she loves. With the Goblin King’s life and the very peace of Mylena at stake, Greta must find a cure and fast.
Her only hope lies with the strange, elusive faeries in the Glass Kingdom…if she can get there before the evil within her destroys everything. [/pullquote]
With this being my very first WOW (Waiting on Wednesday post) I am beyond excited to do it on this book! I’m so ready for the release of this book! Read below for a complete except from chapter one! 🙂
Darkness. Fear. A circle of madness and death. Stone children trailing red from the corners of their eyes, collapsing bonelessly to the dirt.
Greta’s in the middle of it all, the eye of the storm, and the power whips around her ferociously. Through her. In her. Sending her spinning. Spinning. Spinning out of control.
Someone grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her.
Fire burning. The world shakes. Someone screams.
Screams. Those were her screams.
The world wasn’t shaking—she was being shaken. And the fire wasn’t a nightmare, it was real. The smoke tasted like death and burned her lungs.
She fought against the hands holding her. Unbidden, the darkness that had become all too familiar since the battle with Agramon shoved outward, like a bully on the schoolyard eager for a fight.
“Greta, please!” Hands on her shoulders. That voice. It was Siona. “I am trying to contain this, but I need you to wake up and focus.”
She snapped her eyes open, told herself to relax and stop struggling before she lost control of the thing within her again and hurt Siona.
In the darkness of the room, she couldn’t see her friend or anything else. Siona must have wisely closed the door behind her when she’d rushed in to stop Greta from burning the castle down.
You are stronger than this. It does not own you.
She didn’t know if that was her own voice talking…or Isaac’s, who’d been unshakable in his belief that she would overcome whatever this was that had been happening to her. Hard to believe, especially since the nightmares were coming more often, and each time it became harder to contain the dark magick trapped inside her.
The magick she’d never asked for and never wanted. Kind of like how she’d never wanted to be here to begin with. Getting stuck in the icy wasteland of Mylena wasn’t exactly the thing every teenage girl dreamed of. Especially when a deranged, power-hungry demon kidnapped little kids—including Greta’s brother, Drew—and used a spell to split open the universe so that he could terrorize every world, including the human world she’d tried getting back to for years.
Don’t let it win. At first it was like talking to a stone wall, but after a long, quiet moment, her body finally started to listen. The snarly beast inside retracted its claws and closed its eyes. The heat dissipated. She took shaky, ragged deep breaths. And then fought to keep the tears from falling.
How could she have thought she was badass enough to take on a demon the likes of Agramon? He’d chewed her up and…well, the portal he’d pulled her into would have swallowed her down if Isaac hadn’t reached in and dragged her back out.
“It’s all right now, danem.” Siona had stopped shaking her and now patted her shoulder. It was awkward enough that Greta almost chuckled. She groaned instead. Despite all they’d been through together, Siona still refused to drop the Mylean formal address—dolem for men and danem for women.
“How do you always know?” She blinked up into the shadows about where Siona’s face should be. Somehow her friend was always there before things got too bad.
Siona stepped back, and Greta thought she could see the outline of her slim shape. “It’s my responsibility to watch over you while the goblin king is away,” she whispered. “I heard your cries of distress and came to see if I could help.”
Greta flushed with embarrassment at the thought that she might have awakened the whole castle with her screams. “Did I burn the bedsheets this time?” She glanced down, but it was too dark—
The door flew open and crashed into the opposite wall so hard she felt the shudder of it like a mini-earthquake. The sconces hanging on the walls out in the corridor let in enough light for her to see that the hulking figure filling the entrance to her room was very Isaac shaped.
He charged in, eyes glowing in the dark.
“I’m okay,” she said, worried that he would see the scorch marks in her bed and lose it.
Her breathing hitched as he crossed the room in three long strides. Siona stepped back as he put his knee on the massive mattress—bigger than any she’d slept in before—and pulled her into his arms. His weight crunched the straw that had been packed beneath the layers of wool and linen making up the bed.
He pulled her into his embrace, and her cheek squished against his chest.
“I’m fine. It was nothing,” she insisted in a muffled voice.
She felt him shift and knew he was looking back at Siona for confirmation.
She pinched him on the arm. “It was just a dream,” she said. She didn’t want him worrying about her. She’d caused him enough problems lately.
“Yes,” he finally agreed in a low voice. He ducked his chin and rested it on top of her head. “Just a dream.”
But they both knew there was more to it than that.
Neither of them would come right out and say it, though, because in this moment, it was more important that his touch stifle the cold carrying the dream’s memory. He wasn’t letting her go, and she didn’t really want him to. She melted against him and let his strength be the wall between her and the fear she’d carried inside for weeks. It was a weakness she would berate herself for later, but right now, she was just scared enough not to care.
Siona cleared her throat, and Greta automatically pulled back, but Isaac’s arms only tightened, and he didn’t let her go far. “Do you require anything further?” Siona asked.
“She is fine. You may leave now.” He tossed the order over his shoulder. Greta jabbed him in the stomach, and he grunted. “But I…thank you for your assistance.”
“Yes, my king.” Greta thought she saw Siona’s lips twitch before she turned to go.
“Siona,” Greta called after her. “Could you leave the door open a little bit, please?”
“I hope you enjoy better dreams the rest of this night, danem,” she murmured, and, with a shadowy nod, the goblin hunter left Greta and Isaac alone.
With the small crack of light coming into the room, Greta could see the look on Isaac’s face as he peered down at her. “Don’t frown at me like that,” she said, then reached up to smooth the lines in his forehead away with her fingers. They hadn’t talked much about the events of the eclipse. Not about Wyatt and the other human boys, or about the battle in Agramon’s fortress. And especially not about the dark power that had hitched a ride inside her when she’d come out of that portal. But the worry in his eyes said they needed to.
He snagged her hand and kissed her fingers while drawing swirly patterns across her back with his other hand. His chest rose and fell with each of his deep breaths, so close to her she was moved along with them.
She was mesmerized. His touch was still so new, her body demanded she give it her full and complete attention. There was a kind of sloppy reverence in it. His hands were too big to treat anything delicately, and yet he seemed to want to try with her. She should remind him that she could handle his big strong self, that she was no fragile flower who needed to be protected. But that could come later.
She glanced around him to the doorway. It was the middle of the night, and he was in her room on the bed with her, and anyone could walk by and see them alone together. Everyone here already hated her, both for being a human and for bewitching their king. It was one thing for them to be faced with her presence in the goblin castle and not be able to do anything about it because she was a guest, but if they knew just how close she and their king had become, there’d probably be a riot.
“You shouldn’t have come in here. Someone might see us.”
He didn’t remove himself, instead raised an eyebrow and glared at her like maybe she’d just offended him. “Your nightmare screams could raise the dead, but I should just leave you to them?”
The exasperation in his tone almost made her forget the blood, smoke, and screams of her nightmare. She smiled and ducked her head like a blushing schoolgirl. Weird that dating a goblin king in an alternate world would make her feel more like a regular human being than anything else.
A vexed rumble barreled up from his throat. It was still surprising just how quickly and easily she got under his skin. It was even more surprising that he let her see it. Greta had never meant enough to anyone to get under their skin, on their nerves, or anything else before.
She’d always kept her head down and avoided attachments. As a human in Mylena, that had been the only way to stay alive. Well…that, and she’d become right handy with a sword.
And before Mylena? Who could even remember anymore. Maybe there were people besides her family who’d missed her when she disappeared, but she’d only had a few friends and no boyfriends. Greta was never the most popular kid, or the smartest, or the funniest. She’d just been another face in a crowded school hallway.
Isaac put a finger under her chin and tipped her face up. “You are all right?”
She clenched her eyes shut against the tenderness in those four words. “The dreams are coming more often,” she admitted. She bit her tongue against telling him how hard it was getting to control that dark thing inside her. “Sometimes I see Drew’s face in the circle, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes Wyatt is there shouting at me, but I don’t understand what he’s saying.” She shuddered as the images all flooded back.
His grip tight, digging into her forearm. So deep she’s sure the tip of each claw goes through her skin and bone. The pain crawls up and up like rivers of ice in her veins, heads straight for her chest, and she wonders if that’s what a heart attack feels like.
He pulls her deeper into the devouring darkness, promises they’ll have an eternity there together, but another presence adds his voice to the chaos, calling for her—
“You are worried for your friends,” Isaac said. He smoothed her hair back behind her ear. She nodded, but it wasn’t worry fueling these dreams, and they both knew it. “There has been no sign of them yet,” he said. “But I will send Siona out to search the forest again.”
She swallowed. It should be her out there, and she’d been able to slip away a few times to join the search, but Isaac worried when she went out alone, and she knew that if he came along, Wyatt would never let her find him.
“You’re always in the dream,” she said with a smile. “Urgent, cross, and demanding that I return to you.”
“None would dare disobey the goblin king.” He chuckled. “What else? I don’t want you to be afraid.”
She pressed her lips together and remembered the black place filled with the silence of smothered screams. The portal had not been a dream, and when she returned there every night, it was impossible not to think that this time she’d be stuck there for good.
The dreams varied. Sometimes she reached for Isaac and he slipped from her fingers, but sometimes she couldn’t grab on at all. And on really bad nights she…killed him instead.
In the end, she was alone. Always alone.
At first she’d blamed the nightmares on the fact that she wasn’t sleeping well, and she’d blamed not sleeping well on the nightmares. What was the Mylean equivalent of the chicken and the egg?
“No, there’s nothing else,” she said. “It’s not a big deal. It just…it seems to trigger…”
They both knew what got triggered when Greta lost control. Since Isaac had pulled her back out of Agramon’s portal, she hadn’t been quite the same. At first it only happened while she was sleeping, and thankfully, Siona had somehow been able to sense it and always came running to snap her out of it.
But it was getting stronger, slipping away from her easier—sometimes while she was awake now, too.
“What if we went back to my cottage, just the two of us?” he said.
The first time he’d brought her there, she hadn’t understood why Isaac would prefer to hang out by himself in a tiny little stone house that had once been a hunting lodge for his father, not when there was a whole castle at his disposal with servants and everything. But she got it now. There weren’t any disapproving looks, judgments, or expectations there.
But he was wrong if he thought their problems would cease to exist if they ran away.
“Your people need you to be here.” She knew he couldn’t stay there anymore, now that he was trying to accept his responsibilities as the goblin king and do the job the way his father would have wanted.
“We’ll find a way to stop the nightmares,” he said. If only she were facing an enemy with her sword instead of some unfathomable dark magick, she might have shared his confidence. He smiled. “I’ll keep you safe, if I have to come and spend every night in this bed with you.”
“Oh, no. Do you think it could be that serious?” She pretended alarm but couldn’t keep from grinning.
His eyes glittered in the shadows. “A king must take all necessary precautions.”
She hoped he was right about there being a way to stop it. He was so positive, he had to be right, didn’t he?
She rested a hand on his shoulder and lifted onto her knees on the mattress, then lightly touched her lips to his. He didn’t hesitate, instead tilted his head and captured her lips completely. He kissed her with a molten desperation that made her belly tighten and her heart pound.
His hand spread across the small of her back, and he pulled her hard against him. His other hand dove into her bed-head hair. She shivered at the scrape of his long incisors on her upper lip. His mouth opened on hers. She answered in kind, and his tongue slipped in to taste her.
She groaned, and her fingers curled. She was aware of everything. The slope of his hard bicep, the wrinkles in the fabric covering it under her fingers. She was even aware of the tiny little pockets of space that remained between them.
She still couldn’t get used to this touching thing. The kissing thing. It was amazing and intoxicating and left her whole world reeling every time, but it was also treacherous. Trust wasn’t her best skill, and neither was diplomacy. She’d spent three weeks in the goblin castle under Isaac’s care and protection—going stir-crazy with inactivity—and none of his people seemed any closer to accepting her.
A flicker in the light from the corridor drew her attention. Reluctantly, she pulled back and shimmied her arms between them. The shadows in the hallway seemed to shift. Was someone out there?
“Don’t worry,” he said. “No one will say anything even if they know we are here together.”
“They won’t say it to your face, but they’ll still talk.”
He paused. “Has someone defamed you?”
“Defame? What kind of archaic word is that?” She tugged her shirt back into place. To Isaac’s amusement, she still stubbornly wore her hunting clothes, whether she was awake or asleep, even though there was a closet full of feminine dresses and stuff just waiting for someone to show interest in them. “Don’t worry, I can handle myself.” She also kept her dagger under the pillow.
For the first time, she remembered another reason why he shouldn’t be in her room. “When did you get back?” she asked. “I thought you would be gone at least another moon rising.” He was dressed in travel gear and smelled of sweat and those ugly Mylean horses that weren’t really horses. He must have come straight to her.
“If you had let me into your dreams last night, I would have told you of the change in my plans.”
“You don’t have to be snarky about it,” she said.
She would never be able to keep him out of her head for good, but she was intent on regaining control over her subconscious mind. Not only for privacy’s sake, but because it might be the only way to keep the darkness inside her from spilling out all over the place.
She remembered Luke, who’d found her in the snow after she got stranded in Mylena and had taught her how to fight, how to survive. He used to go to his sacred circle in the woods every evening to connect with the Great Mother, and recently, she’d decided to try meditating herself to see if that worked for her. It seemed to help where Isaac’s ability was concerned, although it hadn’t made any difference with the nightmares yet. So far nothing could keep them away.
Not that having Isaac enter her mind was still the violation she’d once considered it to be. The truth was, she could relax with him then in a way she’d never been able to relax anywhere else in Mylena. In dreams, she remembered just how young he really was. The mantle of his responsibilities as king fell away, and he let her share in all his hopes, dreams, and ideas for the future.
“So what happened out there? What did you find out?” she asked, mindful of the open door and keeping her voice low.
“Just a misunderstanding that I was able to take care of with a minimum of fuss.”
“If it was so minor, why did it require the king’s personal attendance?”
“I have been remiss in my duties since assuming my father’s throne. The people deserve to know their new king. They deserve my personal reassurances that everything is well in hand.”
She bit her lip. “But the outbursts are increasing.”
“Small skirmishes here and there are expected to arise in any kingdom, but I should have taken the time to address my people long before now. I am rectifying this so that all will be well for the both of us. You will see.” He trailed a finger down the bridge of her nose.
She opened her mouth to argue, but the sound of a door creaking open somewhere down the hall filtered into the bedroom. She grabbed his wrist and dropped her voice to a barely audible whisper. “You would tell me if all these problems were because of me? If your people were rising up in protest because their king is openly courting a human?”
Her worry made the dark thing inside her twitch and writhe. She held her breath and focused on battling it back down.
“No one would dare oppose my choice of mate.” His voice was rough and broken. “Any member of any kingdom who tries will—”
Her worry shifted. His eyes had started glowing, and his entire body threw off seething waves of fury that seemed to come from thin air. “Isaac, calm down,” she murmured.
It wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Since the eclipse, he seemed to have more trouble controlling his moon phase. He’d shrugged aside her concerns, but she couldn’t let them go. She was worried all the time. Worried that his problems within the provinces were her fault, worried that the thing inside her might somehow be provoking the thing inside him. Worried that this little bubble of happiness they’d found since the eclipse was short-lived and soon to burst.
His raspy breathing eased as she whispered in his ear and let her hands roam over his shoulders and arms and back. She hoped it was soothing, but she’d settle for distracting.
He bent over her and kissed her again, so…distraction for the win.
She had no idea how much time passed before another sound outside her room made him look up this time. She touched her fingers to her swollen lips and swallowed hard. His eyes flared as he watched.
“You should probably go,” she said regretfully. “Someone might see.”
Undaunted, Isaac kissed her once more. A simple, quick kiss on the mouth that tempted her more than it should and made her lean after him when he pulled away and got up from the bed.
“I will have Siona attend you in the morning, to make sure you don’t bolt before the banquet. You’ll stand with me, won’t you?”
“What do you need me there for?”
“Visiting the provinces has made me realize it’s far past time I make it clear to one and all that my heart is claimed and my commitment to you is true.”
She sputtered. “Wait, what? What does that mean?”
“I want no one to doubt what you mean to me, and the sooner I make it public, the sooner everyone will have no choice but to accept you.”
Did that mean she was right and he was having trouble because of her? She curled her fingers into the tangled blankets.
“Um, are you sure that such an announcement will accomplish what you think it’s going to accomplish?” She winced, picturing a castle full of Myleans rising up against the both of them with pitchforks and torches. No wonder he thought she might bolt.
“Don’t worry,” he reassured her with all the arrogance of a true king. “It will all work out.”
Famous last words.
Who else is as excited as I am? Can’t wait!