The Sequel you've been waiting for is here.
This place had honed me like a knife.
I was sharp and tense as I moved down the food line, gripping my hard plastic tray in both hands, my eyes roving around, keeping track of every unsavory inmate. There were many of them, males and females with edges much sharper than mine. One look at them and you knew you’d best stay away.
Today, every type of Supernatural wore a different-colored prison jumpsuit. This was new. Just two days ago, everyone had worn the same baggy beige shirt and pants. Now, vampires wore red, shifters blue, witches and warlocks green, and fae bright orange.
I hated it. Urine color would have been better than this hideous shade. Besides, they were hard for me to put on. Wings! Did no one think of that?
The dining hall was an expansive area with a host of tables, accompanying benches, a low ceiling, and walls painted a drab gray. The food line was in the rear of the room and moved at a steady pace. This was the only place where males and females could mingle, though we still had to eat at separate tables. Guards stood around the periphery, glaring with ill-intent, to make sure everyone stayed in line.
I took another step forward. Arryn was in front of me, standing on her tiptoes, trying to see what was for lunch. Every day, she still hoped there might be something different to eat, but it was always the same: runny mashed potatoes, mystery meat in brown gravy, mushy peas from a can, a square of red gelatin, and a buttered bread roll—the only halfway decent item.
When we got there, Arryn—an orphan, ten-year-old fae girl who I loved like a sister and got stuck here with me when our attempt to flee went horribly wrong a few weeks ago—handed her compartmentalized tray to the server.
The little fae sighed in disappointment. “It’s the same again.”
I nodded, without looking in her direction. My gaze still scanned for potential threats. “Yes, melthelel.”
When I glanced left, I noticed my cousin, Sinasre, entering the dining hall. He took stock of the room the same as me. His orange jumpsuit nearly matched his hair color. It wasn’t a flattering look. As soon as he spotted me, his expression grew tight and full of meaning, which made me realize he’d been looking for me. It appeared he had something to tell me.
My heart sped up? Did he have news? An escape plan? It was all I thought about, a way to get out of here. I tried to figure out how I could approach him since I couldn’t mix with the males. The guards at the edges of the room were always watching.
“Ow!” Arryn exclaimed.
My head whipped around to see what was wrong. A young man dressed in blue, one of the shifters, was standing next to her, a hand gripping her skinny arm. He leaned forward and hissed something in her ear, then snatched the bread roll from her tray.
“Hey!” I snapped. “Give it back.”
“Give what back?” He pulled a face and looked me up and down as if I’d gone crazy. He began walking away.
“I said give it back, you asshole.” I had learned to curse in English since it was much more effective here.
“Keep the line moving,” the server called from behind the heated food pans.
I ignored him, even if he was an inmate the guards trusted and would sound the alarm. They might put me in solitary for this, but the thing was… I couldn’t allow the inmates to bully Arryn. They had to understand that if they messed with her, they had to contend with me. A furious and determined fae bitch.
“I won’t repeat myself,” I snarled, gripping my tray in one hand and giving myself enough room to swing. “You give her food back or I’ll split your head open.”
The shifter snarled in turn, crouching slightly. He showed no intention of doing what I’d asked and looked ridiculous in his ready stance with a tray of food in front of him. He couldn’t shift since the prison blocked that power, but he could still fight me, tall and broad as he was.
“It’s fine, Tally,” Arryn said in her small voice. “I don’t even like the rolls.”
It was a lie. I always gave her my roll because she loved them so much. She needed all the calories she could get. She was waif-thin, never fully recovered from The Bane’s toxic attack on our land. No one would steal her food if I could help it.
The shifter huffed and gave us a look that seemed to say you two are pathetic. Well, he had another thing coming. This fae kept her word.
“Dammit, no fighting,” the server called as he set down his ladle and began removing the apron he wore over his front. He gestured toward the guards that stood in the periphery of the dining hall.
Acting before they reached us, I swung my tray upward and hit the bottom of the shifter’s plate. His food jumped up, gravy and mashed potatoes flying into the air and landing on his face. He cursed, hands wiping at his eyes as he tried to clean the sloppy mess.
Taking advantage of his disorientation, I grabbed my tray with both hands and slammed its edge against his head. He stumbled sideways, slipped in a puddle of gravy, and fell face first.
A group of blue-clad shifters rose from a nearby table and headed menacingly in my direction. Each type of Supernatural stuck together to defend their own. Too bad there were only three of us fae, one of them a helpless child. A few of the shifters formed a line, blocking the guards that were attempting to come in and break up the fight. It seemed they wanted a piece of me before they locked down us. Well, let them come and try.
My wings whirred behind me as I crouched, tray in hand. I could fly up and stay out of their reach, but I had to teach them a lesson. No one messed with us. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Sinasre rushing toward me. In Faerie, my cousin had always had my back, and I always had his. Here, it wasn’t any different.
Another shifter with shoulders as wide as a door pushed everyone aside.
The guards had almost reached us, but as more inmates stood and gathered to watch the fight, getting in the way, it seemed I would have enough time to split someone else’s head open.
This next opponent was large and heavy, his movements sluggish compared to mine. When he lunged, I jumped out of his path and brought the tray down on his head as he lunged by. There was a horrible crack as the tray split in two, and the man thudded to the floor.
Holding two pieces of my cracked tray, I growled and dared someone else to come forward. No one did. It seemed, without their shifting powers, they were all talk and no action.
Sinasre pulled a few spectators out of the way until he reached the center of the circle where I stood, two inmates at my feet. He gave me a nod of approval. I was nodding back when someone tackled me from the side.
I crashed to the floor, crushing one of my wings against a bench leg. Pain shot down its sensitive nerve endings. I arched my back, hissing through clenched teeth.
The shifter reared up, a fist drawn backward. He had a shaved head and a tattoo below his left eye. I barely registered this before he delivered a hook to the left side of my face, sending an explosion of white light across my vision.
Another punch, this time on my right side. Blood filled my mouth as pain throbbed from two places.
Behind my attacker, I could hear Sinasre snarling, presumably fighting others to get to me. Arryn’s sobs also reached my addled brain. She was frantically calling my name, but the commotion had thankfully pushed out of the circle.
Off to the side, there was a loud snarl, followed by a heavy thud. Blinking, I focused long enough to see my attacker turn his head and glanced back over his shoulder. This was my chance.
Taking advantage of the disturbance, I bucked my legs and set him off balance. As he tried to right himself, I reared up and slammed my elbow against his cheekbone with a crack. Pain shot up to my shoulder, but gritting my teeth, I watched with satisfaction as the shifter collapsed to the floor, holding his face.
I struggled to my feet, swaying from side to side, and spitting blood. There seemed to be three of everything.
It took my eyes a moment to focus, but the first thing I noticed was Vaughn, in his guard’s uniform, crouched on top of a table, his sharp green eyes scanning the mess. When he spotted me, he let out a loud snarl like the one we’d heard just a second ago and leaped off the table, landing right in the middle of the circle, his heavy boots thudding against the floor.
Slowly, he rose to his full height, his gaze locked with mine. “Everyone stop,” he growled in a commanding voice that sent a shiver up my spine.
Seeing him always made my chest tighten, and my pulse beat faster. During our time on the island, he’d made my heart race for a different reason. Now, the sight of him made me sick. Yes, he betrayed me to protect his cousin, but that didn’t justify his actions. He’d tricked me, acted like he cared about me, and then trapped Arryn and me here while the rest of our group escaped.
I hated him. I hated having to be anywhere near him.
Several of the shifters who were fighting Sinasre retreated, looking like dogs with their tails between their legs. A few others continue to fight, indifferent to Vaughn’s order, which meant they weren’t werewolves but other types of shifters that didn’t need to heel to a powerful alpha—at least not one of a different species.
Vaughn grabbed a blue-clad male by the back of his neck, hauled him away from Sinasre, and slammed him to the floor. “Everyone stop, I said. Or else…”
The hanging threat did the trick. The fighting stopped. The shifters retreated. The three I had fought lay on the floor, groaning and holding their heads. The other guards closed in.
I smirked. I’d done as I’d promised, more actually. I’d split three heads open instead of one.
“Back to your cells.” Vaughn waved at the other guards, who started ushering people out of the dining hall. Since when had he become their leader?
The witches and warlocks moaned that they hadn’t been able to finish their meals, but still, they complied and filed down between the empty tables. We’d seen a few times what happened when you defied the guards. Once, a warlock had to stand in a corner for two days with no food or water. Eventually, he passed out, and they’d dragged his body away to who knew where? Another time, they beat a mouthy witch until she lay bloody on the ground.
Vaughn turned and marched in my direction, his features sharp and mean. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me until I hit the wall. I blinked, still trying to clear my vision. At least there were only two Vaughns, not three. I was getting better.
“You caused this.” He pointed an accusing finger straight at my nose.
“They were bullying Arryn, and I won’t allow that.” Anger, raw and potent, filled my chest.
He rolled his eyes. “All for one fucking piece of bread?”
What? He’d been watching? I hadn’t even seen him when we arrived. “Today, it’s a bread roll. Tomorrow, if I don’t do anything, it’s her entire lunch.”
“You’re going to ruin this for yourself,” he hissed.
Ruin this for me? He made it sound like I was on some sort of vacation. My anger flared hotter. He had no idea what it was like to be an inmate in this place. How dare he lecture me about how to behave?
He lowered his voice, speaking this next part just for me. “Don’t you want to get out of here? Go with the recruits instead?”
So that’s what he was referring to… going outside the dome, back to the island to play babysitter to the fresh batch of New Starts’ campers who had arrived earlier today. I didn’t like to leave Arryn or play by Adaline Habermann’s rules, but I didn’t have much choice. Adaline had promised to keep Arryn safe and eventually let her go if I cooperated. Whatever the case, Vaughn needed to keep his distance.
“Take your filthy hands off me,” I spat.
His jaw clenched, and his mouth twitched. “We’ll have to work together once we’re out there.”
“Like we worked together before? Because it went so well for Arryn and me.”
“You know I had—”
I pushed against his heavy arms, interrupting him. “Take your filthy hands off me,” I repeated between clenched teeth. “I have nothing to discuss with you.”
He threw his hands up and backed away.
Arryn ran to my side and wrapped her skinny arms around my waist. “Tally, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, melthelel,” I answered, doing my best to leave the anger out of my voice. “What about you?”
“I’m all right. It’s you who got hit.” She glanced up at my head. I could feel warm, sticky blood running down my chin, but I would deal with that later.
I ruffled her hair. “Oh, it’s nothing. I’m tough. You know that.”
My words were light and careless, but my eyes were still shooting daggers at Vaughn. Given a chance, I would split his head open, too. He deserved nothing less. He was the very reason we were here.
“Back to your cells.” Vaughn pointed toward the exit where the last inmates were vacating the room.
“With pleasure,” I shot back, putting as much venom as I could in the two words.
We had just cleared the door when, evading a guard, Sinasre pulled away from his group and snatched my hand.
His eyes locked with mine with such intensity that my heart skipped a beat. “They got her,” he said. “They got my mother.”
I stopped in my tracks as his words fell over me like icy water.
“Talking to the females is forbidden,” the guard Sinasre had evaded barked. Roughly, he pulled my cousin away, then pushed him down the hall.
Sinasre held my gaze long enough for me to see the accusation in his eyes.
The Habermann’s had captured the Queen of the Seelie Court, and it was my fault.