Midnight’s End – Angel Lawson

Dawn breaks over Central Park, bringing light after another sleepless night. The Raven Guard is nearly whole, but the impact of the events in the Otherside is worse than when Bunny lost use of his wing. We’re lame and incomplete, lacking a member that may never return, and painfully missing our queen. Our mission is clear: heal the sick, build an army. Both were directives Morgan declared before she abandoned us, slipping away in the Otherside’s core. None of us believe she was taken against her will. No, Morgan has a mind of her own, a plan she has chosen not to share with us, and as her loyal Guardians we have little choice but to do as we’re told. She needs us now more than ever. “How the hell are we going to find an army?” Damien asks across the room. I listen as my brothers bicker over the same argument. Who does she expect us to recruit? How do we know who to trust? How long can she wait? What if we’re too late? “I’ll make a list,” Sam says. “We have allies.” Clinton replies in a low growl. “Do we? People we trust?” I watch him closely. He’s been jaded since his time in the dungeons.

Paranoid. If he hadn’t had healing time with Morgan…only the gods know what mental state he’d be in now. Unfortunately, he’s right. Now that the three parts of the Darkness are together, sides will be taken. Those who want the apocalypse on the Earth realm, and those who will fight with us to stop it. “Make a list of who we need to approach,” I tell Sam. “We’ll find enough warriors to return with us.” “And if we don’t?” A shadow passes by the door and all of us look toward it. We aren’t alone in the house. Hildi is here.

Sue and Davis helped remove the corpse of her partner Andi moments before our return. We were too late with the cure, at least to spare her life. Adding another layer of grief in the house is hard to manage. Sam’s question still lingers, waiting to be answered. I take one last look out the window at the cloudless, blue sky outside. It’s the exact opposite of what Morgan will see from the Otherside. Turning to face my brothers, I declare, “Then we go back and fight alone.” Chapter Two Morgan The strings tighten, pulling hard against my waist. “Ouch,” I say, grunting through the discomfort and pain jabbing into my ribs. “Is this really necessary?” “You’ve been invited to a formal dinner with the Morrigan and her court,” Nevis says, pushing her knee into my back for leverage.

I buckle, but the corset doesn’t allow me to move far. “This is considered appropriate dress.” “She must plan to kill me in this. Because there’s no way I can defend myself while wearing this wretched thing.” Nevis replies with final hard yank. Truthfully, the gown is exquisite. The fabric is a dark blue silk, embroidered with tiny gold stitching. The hem grazes the floor and the skirt is fluffed out with thick crinoline. A glance down reveals that my breasts are an asset I’d never fully realized. Just seeing the whole outfit, along with my carefully arranged hair and makeup, in the mirror brings me to a halt.

I’m not here to win beauty pageants or attend royal dinners. I’m here to kill the queen, destroy the three and go home with my Raven Guard to live happily ever after. That’s the only fairy tale I want. Nevis, on the other hand, has other plans. “Her primary weakness is your sexuality. The way you’ve embraced it and your harem of lovers, her former soldiers. Your connection with them drives her mad. But most of all, it gives you strength. And you must play to your strong points over the next three days.” The Morrigan announced that the binding ceremony will take place in three days.

Apparently the best time to perform such magic is during the three full moons. Once the spell and ceremony take place, Anita, the Morrigan, and I will join together into one badass queen. Oh, and then we’ll conquer the Earth realm by spreading plague, death, and destruction, just like the Morrigan did in her own world all those years ago. At least, that’s her plan. I have another. Well, sort of. It’s being formulated and relies heavily on my guardians returning with an army, Nevis and her underground dwellers, and Bunny. Yes, I’m relying on Bunny, my conflicted and confused guardian, to take down the Morrigan. What possibly could go wrong? “So, what?” I ask Nevis, who can’t stop staring at my ample cleavage. “I’m supposed to flaunt my tits and she’ll back down?” “No,” the woman says, rolling her eyes.

She’d been assigned to me when I first arrived, and she saved me from a violent assault from Casteel, the Morrigan’s commander. I learned soon after that she was part of an entire underground community that had lived and prospered after the Morrigan ravaged their world eons ago. Nevis is clever and knows the Queen well. She has spies everywhere, and although it’s uncomfortable to treat her as my slave, we both know it’s for a greater good. “It will unnerve her and reinforce the fact she can never get over the Cu’s rejection. That betrayal consumes her every moment and every deed.” “Won’t that just make her angry?” The last thing I want is to end up in the dungeons. “And seriously, that girl needs to get over it.” “She’s already angry. Your strength—your sexuality—is something she desires more than anything else.

Think of how strong she would be with the true love of her own lover, much less a harem? Her jealousy will keep her focused on the ceremony and taking that strength for herself while giving us time to get ourselves in order.” I nod, hoping she’s right. And I hope my Guardians return in time. Taking one last look at myself in the mirror, I tug up the bodice of my dress, hoping to cover my chest a little better. Nevis steps forward and yanks it right back down. I sigh and hope I can get through the meal without passing out from the tight corset. “Okay then, dinner. Anything else I should be prepared for?” Nevis looks like a young woman but is much older. The healing springs below the castle keep her youthful but she has the wisdom of decades of life. Her eyes are steel, holding mine steady as she delivers her final directive.

“One small thing.” “What’s that?” “You’re going to have to forgive Bunny.”

.

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