How to Rescue a Stubborn Savage Princess is now up for pre-order and set to release Feb. 1st! You can head on over the Amazon to pre-order your copy or sign up to be an ARC reader and get it now! Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter 1 to get you started.
I closed my eyes and inhaled a deep breath, rolling the bright yellow magic spell bomb across my fingertips. The junkyard was full of hiding places. Wavering shadows from the low hanging sun tested my impulse to leap into action.
My back firmly pressed against a section of broken wooden fence, which quivered and threatened to collapse under the slightest movement. I waited, listening for the enemy to make their move. A gentle breeze rustled through my curls and swept across my face.
To my right, the muffled sound of leaves crinkling revealed their location.
“Fodio.” I crushed the glass orb in my gloved fist, absorbing the magic heat that warmed my blood. I dove out from behind the fence and extended my arm in the direction of the sound.
A flash of blinding light shot out from a fingertip like a speeding bullet. A loud bang echoed throughout the wilderness as a metal garbage bin fell onto its side and rolled toward a stack of tires. I searched for the enemy, my shoulders sinking at the sight of a squirrel jumping out from behind its hiding spot, scampering off to safety.
The barrel of a gun jammed into my chest. Activating its magic, she pulled the trigger, expelling a cloud of vibrant yellow powder that hammered into me full force.
The sudden shock knocked the air out of my lungs, and I collapsed to my side. Pain radiated outwards from the impact. The heat intensified as it blossomed through my body. I struggled to absorb the super-juiced magic bomb, clenching my fists and gritting my teeth, trying to keep the energy trapped inside.
A horrendous scream ripped from my throat, and an explosion of archaic energy detonated in a shockwave around me. A crumpled car bumper pinwheeled above me. Wooden planks splintered and flew in every direction.
Breathing heavily and wincing from pain, I regained my composure, sat up, and scanned the area.
“Daphne? Daphne… are you okay?”
I hurried over to the dented side of a rusty pickup truck where Daphne was groaning and rubbing the back of her neck under her helmet. Her body armor had thankfully taken the brunt of the blast. She pulled off her helmet, revealing her glasses plastered to her face and short black hair looking like she just stuck her finger into an electrical socket.
“I told you we shouldn’t be doing this. This is too dangerous.” I held out my hand and hoisted her up.
She wobbled slightly on her feet, all limbs still attached.
“It’s okay. I… I need to learn to protect myself. And you need to learn to control your ability.”
One of the perks of knowing a powerful — and pretty rich — CEO of a well-established magiceutical company was she could rent out an entire paintball field just so the two of us could practice our magic without watchful eyes.
It was pretty awesome. Not gonna lie.
I pressed a hand to my chest, checking for damage. I wasn’t wearing as much protective gear as Daphne, but I did wear a vest under my shirt that absorbed some of the impact. It still hurt like hell and would definitely leave a welt, but nothing like what it would have been without it.
“Well, I think that’s enough for today. Let’s pack up.”
I grabbed her paintball gun from the ground, dumped everything into the equipment bag, and left the field together.
“I have to, um, head back to the office. I want to prep for tomorrow’s board meeting. I’ll see you back at the apartment?” Daphne’s face flushed, as if ashamed she was heading back to the office. She spent more time there than she did at home.
“Yeah. I have to make a detour as well. You mind asking your personal assistant to load the bags into the back of your town car? Oh wait, that’s me.”
She coughed a quiet laugh. I smiled back, tossing the bags into the trunk of the car waiting patiently for its passenger in the parking lot.
A few months before, my co-worker-turned-super-villain, Nolan Benson, had framed me for murder and recruited Daphne in his diabolical plan to hunt me down, in turn promising her the opportunity to learn all about the mysteries of magic. With the untimely death of her aunt, thanks to Nolan, she was desperate for help and took him up on his offer.
But with Nolan now locked up and my name cleared, she was doing a lot better. Her once ghostly skin glowed with the peachy color of happiness, and her radiant green eyes sparkled with perseverance.
A lot of things have changed since then.
I slammed the trunk shut and gave a wave to her driver. Daphne wasn’t your typical snobby business tycoon who boasted about running a multi-million-dollar company. She hated the attention and if not for Nolan encouraging her with the promise of magic, she probably would have given up the company the second she learned it belonged to her. Thankfully, she put all that aside and despite the media constantly questioning her every move she was determined to prove them wrong.
The car pulled out into the street and turned right, heading toward Arcane Enterprises, while I walked along the sidewalk in the opposite direction. I shoved my hand into my pocket, fondling the few magic spell bombs I kept on me at all times. Technically, it was illegal for me to carry them, but Daphne would always sneak some from the office for me.
One thing I knew for sure, I refused to go back to the police force. I was never exactly fond of following rules but learning that a criminal from another world conducted an illegal magic spell on you to take over your body didn’t exactly make for great conversation around the water cooler.
This man, Rezith, saved me from death when I was eight, but at the cost of my life when the spell would eventually completely consume me, body and mind, erasing my existence. I didn’t know much about him, and apparently neither did he, as his memories had only recently started to return.
So, I thought this would be the perfect time for a career change.
As the newly appointed CEO of Arcane Enterprises, the largest magiceutical company in the world, Daphne needed some help on the magic front. On paper, I was her assistant, but let’s be realistic. She didn’t offer me the job because of my exceptional organization skills and affable professionalism toward others, but because as a young female CEO in a cutthroat industry, she needed someone to confide in and who better than someone who had already seen firsthand what magic could really do?
The uneven sidewalk, lined by tall trees, widened and gave way to short buildings spaced out around the town center. The paintball field had been well outside the city of Lorith, this drab suburb much less populated.
My hungry eyes caught sight of a pink sign, my mouth salivating with need. My stomach growled, and so I answered the call by making a quick stop at the bakery to purchase a snack before walking the last block to my destination.
With the white cardboard box in hand and stiffness in my limbs, I stared with unease at the dreary field of rolling hills before me. The dark, snowy winter had begun blossoming into a sticky, wet spring, the air saturated with a damp heaviness that clung to my skin.
I inhaled a deep breath and entered the cemetery.
Canvassing the area, I caught sight of a grieving couple placing a bouquet of flowers on a fresh plot of overturned soil. Knowing that pain too well, I turned my gaze forward to avoid it. The early evening sun was starting to dip below the tall skyscrapers of Lorith in the distance, but the daylight lingered in the cloudy sky with hints of orange and crimson reflecting off the decorative stone grave markers. I strolled along the freshly cut grass and up a steep hill.
I hadn’t had any dreams of Nolan’s murderous shadow since he gave himself up to the police, but I often kept a watchful eye for a mangy black bird that liked to follow me everywhere I went. Raven, one of Nolan’s cronies and a member of the Black Mark gang that was hunting me down, was an illusionist who helped Nolan infiltrate my dreams as the shadow who liked to attack me. She lingered around for a while after Nolan left but ultimately disappeared two weeks later.
I sat down on the cold grass, moisture soaking into my jeans. I placed the box of cupcakes between myself and the stone slab in front of me marked Penelope Cotter.
“Hey, big sis. Happy Birthday.”
I slid a finger under the tape sealing the box and picked up a vanilla cupcake.
“Cheers.” I sunk my teeth into the delectable sugar bomb. “I know I haven’t visited in a while. I’ve been kinda busy being framed for murder and wrapping my brain around the fact that people from another planet called Iradel came to visit Earth. They showed me these crazy magic abilities allowing them to shoot lightning bolts from their palms and control metal objects with a twist of their wrist. One of them even has blood magic and can mind control using her blood. Crazy, right?”
My gaze dropped to the grass, a tear sliding down my cheek. “I met these three soldiers — Lizzy, Blair, and Eli. Oh, and Porky, their pudgy wrinkled ball of fur. Blair is terrifying. Eli is cool, though. Lizzy — I’m still trying to figure her out. I wish you could have met them. I think you’d all get along really well.”
I glanced at my watch, the teal glass shadowed in the falling sun. It used to belong to my father, and my mom had turned it into a magic object just for me.
“Hey, I gotta go, sis. I’m actually meeting up with Lizzy tonight for dinner. Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. It’s definitely not a date. We’re just… friends.”
Saying the word out loud sounded like a foreign language. I always pushed people as far away as my short arms would shove them. But, even after betraying her, Lizzy still wanted to be my friend. Daphne too. And Eli and Blair. I considered them all my friends. People I’d do anything to protect because they’d do the same for me. I was training every day to strengthen my power and control Rezith in the hope that I would no longer be useless to them.
I shoved the last of the cupcake into my mouth, dusting the crumbs off my lap. Grabbing the box, I headed toward the street and stood at the curb, waving my hand and waiting for a cab pull over.
After Lizzy and the others left, I learned that my apartment had been completely trashed by a team of officers looking for evidence of my whereabouts. Evidently, my landlord no longer welcomed me back. I still wasn’t sure how it happened, but two weeks later I packed up what little I had and moved into Daphne’s extravagant penthouse.
To us, living together just made sense. She was terrified Nolan might still send someone after her and at the time, I had no job or place to stay. To the media, well, they had a field day with it. After all, it was her aunt I had originally been accused of murdering. You would never believe the garbage they were spewing out. Everything from us being secret lovers to me planning something against her to gain access to the business.
I exited the cab and approached an elegant building. Dark granite lined its foundation, and intimidating lion statues flanked either side of the smooth stone steps leading into the marble-floored lobby. I rode the elevator up thirty-five stories to the top of the luxury condo complex, using my keycode to open the front door. I kicked off my shoes, placing them next to Daphne’s pile of boots, sneakers, heels, sandals, and whatever else women wore.
I flipped on the light switch, blinding myself as my eyes adjusted to the flash of brightness. The penthouse took up the entire top floor of the building, and it was everything you’d imagine a two-million-dollar penthouse would be. My socks slipped across the waxy, dark cherry wood floors of the entryway that expanded into the lavish open space I now called home. Despite its high-class appearance, the place was homey. The walls were painted a light gray, accented with handmade decorations and pictures of Daphne’s family. Through the tall windows lining the living room, a few remaining slivers of golden light broke through, casting a soft glow on the plush, oversized leather sectional.
I carried my box of cupcakes into the bedroom, a much-welcomed upgrade from the cardboard box I was used to sleeping in at the old apartment. I had a queen-sized bed and even a walk-in closet to hang all five of my wrinkled dress shirts. In the far corner next to the window sat the gold-rimmed mirror Lizzy had left behind. It was a portal to her world, and although I couldn’t use it myself, the team left it so they could stop by from time to time.
Lizzy usually came to visit once a week, as long as she wasn’t busy with a mission. She assured me it was just to check in, to confirm Rezith hadn’t taken over and I didn’t turn into an unstoppable tyrant rampaging around the city on a killing spree.
Really, she was mooching off me for a free meal, and tonight would probably be no different. The last time I saw her, she seemed pretty excited about this particular dinner. Maybe it was because I told her we could go someplace fancier than usual. Whatever the reason, my usual jeans and a hoodie wouldn’t be good enough for this place. I grabbed a pair of khaki pants and a button down from the closet, slipping a shiny black Oxford onto each foot.
Just as I was perfecting my stuffy businessman getup, a strappy sandal emerged through the mirror. The heel clicked to the floor as the rest of the jungle of tattoos manifested on a short female body in the corner of my room.
Lizzy had left the angsty teenager look behind and replaced it with what I would describe as an… angsty adult. Her ivory hair was braided into a long rope that swung over her shoulder, resting on a silky tank top with lace accents that popped against the paleness of her face. I didn’t think she owned many clothes that weren’t black, so she had matched that with an upgraded pair of non-ripped black skinny jeans.
She wasn’t all glitz and glamour, though. Nesting on top of the sheer fabric across her plump chest was a pointed claw from what I could only imagine was some deadly beast she strangled with her bare hands when she was five.
The black magic tattoos that covered her body were also out on full display. Two daggers on each forearm, a chain that coiled up and around her shoulder, and a rope that hung like a noose around her neck were sure going to garner some strange looks from the narrow-minded upper-class diners that would be eating next to us.
I had made the mistake once of curiously ogling at a bubble tattoo on her back, so I quickly transfixed on her sparkling turquoise eyes painted with an excessive amount of smokey makeup.
She hit me over the head with her sequin clutch anyway.
“What are you staring at? Come on, let’s go. I’m hungry.”
We arrived at the posh steakhouse right on time. We were quickly seated, and even more quickly, Lizzy had a glass of wine in her hand. She took a long gulp and shoved a roll in her mouth. As expected, everyone was giving us the stink eye.
I grabbed a roll myself before Lizzy devoured them all, and the waiter stopped by to refill Lizzy’s drink.
“You can just leave the bottle,” she mouthed through a fistful of bread.
He widened his eyes at me, seeking assurance, but I just shrugged. I wasn’t about to pick a fight with Lizzy over a drink.
“You might want to slow down. I’m not carrying you home.”
“Don’t worry about me. I can handle myself.” She locked her eyes on mine as she downed her third glass of wine in defiance.
“So, what’s up with you these days?” I asked as the waiter returned with our meals.
“Funny you ask…” Her focus shifted downward, possibly to avoid looking at me or to salivate over the rack of lamb steaming in front of her.
“Spit it out. We don’t have all day here.”
I ran my knife through a juicy filet that cut like butter.
“But what if you did have all day? And every day after that?” A twinkle shone in her eyes, and a faint, intimate smile curled her lips as she glanced up.
“I don’t like this. What are you planning, Lizzy?” I questioned skeptically, sitting back in my seat.
“I found some information about this magic object. It’s a quill pen made from the feather of Fielon, a legendary bird revered by the ancient Kriet people. A beautiful thing, white with the tips dyed a royal blue. It’s said to be spelled with the ability to grant any wish that’s written with it. It’s been long lost to history, but I’m not sure it’s gone forever. I think I have a lead on where it might be. I already have a plan in place. I’m going to investigate as soon as I get back.”
I pouted. “Not without me you aren’t.”
Her face lit up at the suggestion, but she immediately turned down my demand. “It’s a lot of… strenuous activity. I don’t think you’re really up for it.”
I breathed out a heavy sigh at her response. “In that case, I don’t think you should go. You realize how ridiculous that sounds, right? A pen with the magic to grant whatever wish you want? I think you’re wasting your time. Sounds made up.”
I flinched at Rezith’s voice, a gesture now well recognized by Lizzy.
“You stay out of this, or I will jump inside Adrian’s head and stab you repeatedly with this fork.” The words stuck behind her teeth as she leaned across the table.
I wasn’t sure if that was Lizzy or the alcohol talking, but Rezith wasn’t threatened one bit. He probably should have been, though.
I’d like to see her try.
I decided not to relay his message. I didn’t need to be chased around the high-end restaurant by Lizzy trying to tenderize my brain with a fork. Instead, I just raised my eyebrows and continued eating.
As the evening went on, Lizzy became louder and louder. I found myself continuously nodding and flashing a nervous smile to this couple at the far end of the restaurant, who kept staring at us with scrutinizing looks.
We had a few more drinks and dessert, and right before we were about to leave I made my way to the restroom. I passed the booth where the couple had been staring at us, and the well-dressed man, the kind of guy who looked like he belonged to a country club, got up to follow me.
“I think it’s time you leave,” he advised me as I washed my hands.
“Woah, no need to get defensive. We’re on our way out right now.” Water sprayed from my wet hands as I threw them up in the air at the man.
He nodded, and I cautiously peered over my shoulder one last time before rushing through the door, grabbing Lizzy, and exiting the restaurant as quickly as we could.