In honor of the Ever Queen, enjoy several bonus scenes.
Two scenes with Erik and Livia before the ending of the EVER KING
And a third scene from a bonus book written for the first 6 books of the Broken Kingdoms series. It shows a few interactions of Livia and the other earth fae royals as children, and I thought it was fitting to see their mischief before you, perhaps, get a little more from them in THE EVER QUEEN.
**The past bonus scene will reveal couples and pairings from the Broken Kingdoms series, and may be considered slight spoilers for those books.**
I slammed the door and pressed my back to it as if the hoard of wretched nobles might break through the lock and drag me back into their den of teeth, and ideas, and nonsense I had no desire to hear.
One more protest about crowning an Ever Queen, and I’d send Gavyn through their bleeding walls to slit their throats. Hesh was particularly sour at the idea, even more since I’d ratted him out to Narza about capturing sirens.
Bastard was lucky the Lady of Witches hadn’t cursed off his cock.
Joron, spindly sod that he was, dared not utter a protest since threats about his involvement in the lotus trade were slashed at his throat shortly after Livia was given the title of queen. But should the man give one more sniff or arrogant grunt of agreement whenever Hesh opened his mouth, his daughter would become the next Lady of Tides after her father met the blade of an assassin.
A blast of a sigh burst from my chest, and I fought the urge to slide all the way to the floor and sleep there for the next ten turns.
Laughter came from the back of the room and a new desire to keep moving took hold.
With every step across the large chamber, I shed knives, my cutlass, my boots, but I paused at the edge of the wide bed before I stripped my tunic over my head. Livia was huddled under the fine satin coverlets, her midnight hair bright against the white linens over the pillows. The quilts covered her mouth, but the sweet wrinkle to her nose gave away her smile.
“Are you laughing at me, Songbird?”
I narrowed my eyes, and prowled over the bed until my body formed a cage over hers. Knees on either side of her hips, palms beside her face. “What’s so funny?”
“You.” She snorted. “You’re the Ever King, the tormenter of the seas, yet these house councils have you fleeing down the halls, terror on your face.”
“It is not terror you see, love.” I brushed my lips over the sharp line of her jaw. “It is vicious, bloodthirsty plots of murder. I’m sending you for the next meet. It’s time you claim that title of queen, and do all my work for me.”
Livia chuckled. “Are you . . . whining, Serpent?”
“Very much.” With a dramatic flop, I rolled onto the bed next to her. “Stormbringer and Skulleater set sail to raid a smuggler of boneweaving herbs over in the Dark Isles. I had to refuse a raid, love. A raid. All to be kingly. I’m wholly ashamed of myself.”
Livia rolled her eyes, resting her head over my heart. I pressed a kiss to the top of her brow, and curled one arm around her shoulders, holding her close.
My gaze kicked to the place above our bed. “Wait.” I propped onto one elbow. “When did you do this one?”
Overhead, a full sky was painted across the rafters and ceiling laths. Not any sky, two skies. Voidwalker was there in the middle, connecting two lands. Earth fae and sea. Nightfire burned, his lover flashed by the moon. But new stars I did not recognize were there on the other side, buried in a border of silvery blossoms and runes.
Livia licked her lips, a flush to her cheeks. “Celine gave me the idea. She made mention that our worlds are not truly so different when scrutinized side to side.”
Tidecaller—whether she’d admit to it or not—had made it her life’s work to find similarities with Livia since my Songbird arrived.
“I put it to the test,” Livia went on. A slow, innocent sort of grin split over her lips. “She was right.” Livia slipped her fingers through mine and kissed the back of my hand. “We’ll prove it to them, Serpent. My father, my mother. I feel it in my soul, they will see that you are my heart.”
A prickle of unease slithered up my spine. I buried it behind a kiss to her mouth, slow and greedy. Livia had a great deal of confidence the earth bender and his queen would listen to us, they’d rejoice in her title, in our bond.
I was not so certain.
When I pulled back, I tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Have you shown Alistair this one? He’ll be impressed.”
Livia scoffed. “That man is never impressed. I’m starting to think he’s prejudiced.”
“No.” I laughed, falling back against the pillows, and pulling her close again. “I think he’s utterly smitten with you, love.”
“Celine helped paint the Chasm and the Ever skies,” she admitted. “He’ll be pleased to know sea fae helped. Even Tait aided.”
One brow arched. “Tait . . . painted?”
“More like he held up the pallet of different colors and frowned, but I’m certain he actually enjoyed himself. I plan to teach him to smile after I win Alistair’s approval.”
With a laugh, I rolled her body beneath mine, studying her features—eyes like the sea, soft curves on her lips, the subtle points of her half-fae ears.
I was not a man skilled in vulnerability or confessing weaknesses, but Livia was a woman skilled in pulling them out.
“What bothers you most, Erik,” she whispered, combing her fingers through my hair. “No lies. What would be the point?”
A rough breath slipped through my lips. “Hatred. That is what bothers me most. So much hatred has burned between our folk—I know I caused a great deal of it—but I do not know how they will ever accept this.”
Livia’s smile faded. With care she pressed one of my palms over the steady beat of her heart. “Because of this. Because you are the boy of my heart, Serpent. The king I have desired since childhood.”
“You think a father as yours will simply stand aside and allow you to remain with me?”
“I think you do not know a father as mine,” she said, voice steady and sure. “I think my father will want to kill you the moment he sees you, but only because he will think for that moment that you have harmed me. The moment he knows you have claimed every piece of my soul, I believe Valen Ferus will bend to our desires. I believe he will claim the peace we are seeking.”
There was a touch of passion in her words. My songbird believed every word. I was cynical, untrusting, but she was not wrong. I did not know a father as hers. I knew him as an enemy, but I did not understand, from the reports of her cousin, how a father would go mad with worry over his child.
From Aleksi’s mouth, that was the state of the earth bender.
Perhaps it was possible all he truly wanted was his girl’s happiness.
When I remained quiet, Livia kissed my neck, fingers tangled in my hair. “I swear to you, Erik Bloodsinger, I am at your side when we greet my folk. They will see it. They will accept it. Or, I . . . I will turn away and follow you here again. I will follow you across the skies, Serpent.”
“I am cruel, Songbird,” I said, voice low and soft. My fingertips traced the bridge of her nose. “But I do not want you to turn away from . . . your folk.”
Strange how sincere the words truly were. Strange how much had changed.
I’d sailed through the Chasm to bring revenge, now I sought peace to bring happiness to the woman who’d claimed every wretched fiber of my heart.
“I love you,” I whispered.
Livia smiled, a glisten of tears pooled over her deep eyes until heat gathered in her gaze.
Until she slid her fingertips under my tunic, speaking her desires through touch. I’d gladly oblige.
I dragged the chemise over her head. Livia’s breaths deepened and scooted back on our bed, letting her legs fall open.
Erik made quick work of stripping his clothes. He gripped my thighs, and in one thrust slid into the heat of my core. He kept one of my legs draped over my shoulder, allowing me a different angle, a way to bring us ever closer.
I flung my arms out wide, gripping the furs on the bed. Rough gasps fueled Erik’s pace. Throat bared, I moaned when he nipped the pulse point on my neck. I whimpered his name.
“Louder, love,” he said through his teeth.
Again, I cried out the king’s name, silently praying the whole damn palace could hear our grunts and groans. My king demanded a lack of gentility; there was nothing gentle. This was rough, and primal, and bleeding perfect.
The way he loved my body connected me to the passion in his heart.
Emotions were felt deeply in our bed. The true face of how deeply the Ever King could feel was revealed time and again. Sometimes we were slow, sensual. Other times, when it seemed like our hearts might burst, Erik would claim me like we planned to break each other piece by piece.
I dug my fingernails into Erik’s shoulders. He hissed at the sharp bite of pain and rocked deeper against my center. Heavy breaths filled the space between us. Sweat beaded over his brow. I arched up and kissed it away.
I moaned softly, the faintest hint of my voice, as Erik skating his fingers up my ribs, to one breast. His touch was water after drought, a beam of light after unyielding darkness. He kissed me desperately.
Erik groaned when my arms and legs coiled around his body, like unbreakable tethers, afraid to let him go ever again.
I crashed his mouth to mine, tasted the spicy freshness of his mouth, clung to him like I wanted to claw my way into his skin. No, I could not tell him with words how I loved him, but I would spend these moments showing him.
“Gods, Livia,” he said through a rough gasp. He quickened his pace.
Erik claimed every piece of my body. His tongue and teeth licked and nipped at my throat, my breasts, my ear.
I tensed when brilliant light filled my vision, and I could not form a coherent thought. The Ever King held me steady as I fell apart in my arms. Another thrust and he went still, muffling groans of his own hot release against my skin.
For a long moment we didn’t move. I could die in peace with his weight over mine, still filled with him, still safe in his arms.
Erik kissed me sweetly. “You are my every sunrise, Songbird, and I will never stop fighting for a peace with you.”
With his thumb, he brushed the tear that escaped from my eye. “You are mine, Serpent. And you always will be.”
The following scene is written from the POV of Malin Strom—mother of Prince Jonas and Sander. It will contain events of the aftermath of the final book in the Broken Kingdoms series, SONG OF SORROWS AND FATE. Spoilers are minimal other than pairings. For those who have not read the Broken Kingdoms, some names here will be unfamiliar, but I hope you still enjoy a little more interaction with the young earth fae royals as we ready to read
The Memory Thief
Kase had each arm wrapped around the necks of two boys. They squirmed in his grip.
“You stepped on my wife’s toes,” he said to the boy with messy hair. It was always on end and looked like the brown of autumn. “And you,” Kase snarled at the second boy. Taller, with more waves to his dark, chestnut hair. “You shoved him. Now both of you apologize.”
The dark-haired boy lifted his bright green eyes. He offered me a toothy grin. The front two had finally filled in the gaps from when he’d lost his smaller teeth. He wiggled, but Kase only tightened his hold around his neck.
The boy grunted. “Daj, I’mma say sorry, but you gotta—oof—” he flipped off the seat in the coach when Kase released him without warning. He snickered when Kase laughed, then wheeled on me and threw his skinny arms around my neck. “Sorry, Maj. Didn’t mean to smash ya.”
Kase put particular focus on our second son. Born only moments after his brother. Sander was soft-spoken, but a schemer as much as Jonas. Our firstborn was simply louder about it.
With a squeeze to the headlock, Kase looked at Sander’s darker green eyes. “And you? What do you have to say, little heathen?”
Sander started pinching his father’s arm until Kase was forced to release him. With a sly grin—one that let me know he was hardly done causing trouble—he came over to my side of the coach and kissed my cheek. “Sorry, Maj.”
I pulled each of our sons against my side and kissed the tops of their heads. “It’s been a long journey, but we’re nearly there. Try not to wiggle out of your skin just yet.”
They laughed, and their busy bodies did stay still for a few heartbeats as they looked out the window at the different shapes of houses and roads in Etta. But as expected, after a bit of time, our sons promptly returned to wrestling once Sander insisted Jonas wouldn’t be able to run up the castle staircase as fast as he would.
Kase sighed and offered the entire bench for the boys to torment each other, then came to sit beside me. “I give up on them. They’re bleeding lost causes.”
I laughed and elbowed him in the ribs.
Kase played the irritated father, but in truth, he was madly in love with his sons. He protected them, taught them, he bandaged their scrapes, and kissed their heads before they fell asleep. And I think he took a heady bit of pride knowing their mesmer used darkness like his.
The princes’ mesmer was a strange collision of both mine and Kase’s.
Sander used shadows to create nightmarish images. It did not need to be a fear already in someone’s heart. He could create an independent fear they did not even realize they had yet. Then, Jonas would take the nightmare and place it in the minds of anyone he wanted. A dark memory for them to always cherish.
It might’ve been a formidable sort of magic if the boys had a cruel bone in their body. They were plotters, schemers, and they would age me faster than the turns, but our sons were made of light. Vibrant and curious. Their favorite weeks were when they spent time with their Uncle Niklas and Aunt Junius at the academies, or when Raum took them hunting, or visits with Tova and Bard where they could set traps on each other all day.
They were loved by our folk, and would either be forces for good, or the cleverest thieves the East had ever produced.
Kase’s dream of three littles would not be. Giving birth to twins had seen to it there would only ever be the two when my body practically split in half, and I nearly met the Otherworld. But I could not imagine our life any other way.
Since the bloodline of the fated queen was restored in the East, and since there was no female heir, more than a few had made deadly suggestions about how Kase ought to handle the predicament.
Lynx had been forced to intervene when Kase tortured a drunken councilman from Hemlig after the man had suggested Kase take up with a consort who had the ability to properly birth children.
I doubted the man would ever breathe right again the way Kase had strangled him with his darkness.
I hated that my worth, to some, was gauged by how well I could ensure the crown continued. My sons would grow to be powerful men, dangerous, likely with questionable morals at times, but they would be heirs the East could be proud to claim.
“Boys,” Kase barked, tugging on the collars of their tunics, tearing the twins apart. “Listen. Hells, for one more moment, listen—”
“You cursed, Daj,” Jonas sang.
“Cursing means penge,” Sander said with a bit of smugness.
Kase looked to me like he needed to be rescued. I shrugged. “I warned you not to teach them how to make deals, Nightrender.”
His eyes darkened. For other folk, when Kase’s shadows blackened his eyes, it was a thing of terror. For Sander and Jonas Eriksson, it was a delight. The boys mimicked his eyes, darkening their own.
“We’re here,” Kase said. “You’ll both be on your best behavior. You won’t tease Livia like you did last time—”
“Us?” Jonas squeaked. “Livie’s brutal, Daj. Brutal.”
I bit down on my lip to hide my smile.
Kase looked like he was fighting one of his own as he went on. “Doesn’t change that you two will be quiet and still during the ceremony, understand? This is for Laila. Respect your cousin.”
Jonas and Sander both nodded their heads. They loved Laila Strom. She was the cousin who kept every little across the kingdoms glued together. Even little Mira, who wasn’t a blood cousin, and Silas’s and Calista’s tiny Vera. Laila would visit, and once a turn she loved gathering all the little royals for a week of adventures. But today was her honor.
The day she joined the rank of a Rave warrior. Like the rest of her family, Laila had a tender heart, but a fighting spirit.
When the coach stopped the twins lined up at the door, bursting at the seams to be free of the tight space. All hells, sometimes I wondered how we made it to the fort without one of the boys leaping from the coach.
Jonas and Sander spilled out of the coach, but both boys stopped at once. They crouched. One looked left, the other right. Their eyes were dark as a moonless midnight. Jonas even had a small knife he’d gotten for Jul last winter in his hand.
“See them?” Sander whispered.
“No.” Jonas flipped his head to the left. Sander turned to the right.
Three more steps and the twins visibly relaxed. Jonas puffed up his chest, grinning. “Told you they’d be too scared—”
In the next breath, great battle cries rang out over the manicured lawns of the Crimson Fort, and two darkly clad, tiny assassins leapt from the bushes.
Sander and Jonas hardly had a chance to cry out before they were pinned beneath beautifully blooming vines of moonvane and lush shrubs that started to swallow them up.
“Livia!” Jonas shouted with a touch of venom.
A pitchy snicker came from one of the attackers. Livia Ferus pulled back a black mask hiding her mouth. The girl was petite for eleven, but she was fierce. She pinched Jonas’s nose as more of her vines tethered his wrists.
“Told you I’d get you, Jo.” Livia wiggled her fingers and the vines thickened. She had a gift of healing the earth, or if it did not need healing, it was made lusher, fuller.
The second attacker tore off his mask. Aleksi was taller than all three of the others, but did not share the same proclivity for mischief. He could aid in the trouble, but he was never the first to cause it.
“Alek,” Livia said, voice low and dark when she looked to her cousin. “Do it.”
“Don’t even think about it,” Jonas grumbled. “I’ll give you bad dreams. Swear I will, Alek.”
Aleksi simply smiled and whistled a bright tune. At once a swarm of sparrows burst from a nearby tree and perched on the shrubs clinging to our boys. How the boy summoned blood from any beating heart close by was a bit of a marvel.
Kase couldn’t hold it in any longer. He barked a laugh as Aleksi’s glamour kept the creatures fluttering around our sons’ heads.
“Daj!” Sander whined. “Help us.”
Kase took my hand and strode past the shrub. “Figure your way out, boys. I have a feeling you deserved it.”
“They did!” Livia insisted. “They locked me in the dark with a bleeding monster last time!”
“Mira sent the monster!”
Livia’s grin split into something rather vicious. “I know. And when she gets here, she’ll get hers too.”
Jonas grumbled. “I’m gonna get you back for this, Livie.”
Aleksi and Livia snickered again, clapping their palms together in unity.
Laughter from the front of the castle drew my attention. Elise and Valen watched the battle from the stairs.
“I’m leaving the boys here, hope you don’t mind,” Kase said as he clasped Valen’s forearm. “We need a break.”
“I can’t take them,” the Night Folk king said. “We were going to send Livie with you.”
I laughed and embraced Elise. In her arms was a wiggling baby boy. Prince Rorik’s dark eyes gawked at the commotion of his older sister and the princes shouting all manner of threats. The boy protested in his mother’s arms. Gently, I pressed my fingers to his brow, inserting a memory of our journey. The babe cooed and giggled, calming for a breath, as the images flashed through his head.
“Is it boys, Mal,” Elise said with a sigh. “Rorik is one turn, and already I imagine him as boisterous as yours.”
I laughed. “It must be.”
“It’s true, Gunnar was a force to be reckoned with. But I think the daughters are the cleverest and, at times, the most brutal.” My brother stepped from the doorway, grinning.
Hagen was dressed in a fine tunic and two swords.
I rushed to my brother and wrapped my arms around his waist. “It’s been too long.”
“A few months, Mal.”
“Are you saying you didn’t miss me?”
Hagen chuckled. “Not at all.” He released me and looked at the yard with an arched brow. Jonas had broken free of Livia’s vines and now chased her across the grass while Sander was still swatting at Aleksi’s birds. Hagen scoffed. “I’m not even going to ask.”
“Come on,” Elise said, linking her arm with mine. “We’ll let them wear themselves out, then they might be calm for the feast.”
We laughed because the likelihood of that happening was miniscule and we all knew it.
We’d fought battles with these people, and had become a family bonded by love, blood, and magic. Strange how once Kase and Hagen were the only people I truly had in my life.
Now, our walls were bursting with littles, thieves, and royals. I’d fight a dozen wars if it brought me here, to this moment, with these people.
“The Southern caravan will be here soon,” Valen said. “No one forget to wish Ari a happy anniversary.”
“Oh, we wouldn’t dream of it,” I said.
Kase tugged on my hand, a look of worry furrowed in his brow. “What anniversary have I forgotten?”
I laughed and kissed him quickly. “Ari won’t allow you to forget, but this day marks the day he became king. Again.”
Kase grinned, shaking his head at the memory of the ordeal that once more placed a crown on the head of Ari Sekundär. A surprise to us all, but one the man enjoyed repeating whenever the day came each turn.
He made light, saying it was the day the Norns came to their senses and remembered he was born to be a king, but in truth, I was more of the opinion that Ari enjoyed repeating the story because it was the tale of how he gave up his heart and never took it back.