His sideways gaze held sympathy. “The power goes to who it’s supposed to. So it doesn’t matter who might have gotten it if Dominic hadn’t mated. You have it. It’s yours. There’s no passing the buck to someone else.” Antonio reached to open his glove compartment and pulled out a tiny, ancient book, dropping it on my lap. “Take a look at page fifty-four, third paragraph.”

Gingerly, I picked up the leather book. It was flaking it was so old. I carefully turned the tips of the pages until I got to page fifty-four. Skimming down the page, I found the third paragraph, and read aloud from the handwritten chicken scratch, “The unimaginable was proven tonight. They were wrong, and so, my son died in vain. All these years, I believed them. Joseph’s death justified. Needed. And now, I weep tears of torture, of anguish, for they were wrong. A hybrid can be used as a magical vessel for an Awakening. Joseph, my beautiful boy, I am so sorry. I will surely burn in Hell for what I let him do.” Immediately, I stopped, flipping back a few pages. It was a journal, dated May 31, year rubbed out, unknown.

“It’s only a madman’s ramblings,” I mumbled, brows furrowed, gently closing the book and placing it back in the glove compartment, even as my heart fluttered. “Nothing more.”

“You know it’s hard for us to conceive compared to Coms,” he glanced to me, “a hybrid birth even more rare with self-induced faction separation, but in my extensive searches I’ve found more journals with similar words inscribed as written proof. I don’t believe those accounts are all mere insane ramblings. I believe them to be fact.”

“If they were true, then why would they continue killing hybrids?”

“Fear, most likely. If you had kept reading to the end of that journal, you would have found that the father kills himself out of shame, much like all the other accounts I’ve found. Nowhere in them did the parent indicate they’d tried to enlighten their Ruler of their findings.”

I stared blankly at the road ahead. “Even if that were true, I still don’t want to be Queen.” He obviously believed what he said, his words truth.

Antonio huffed irritably. “It’s time to grow up, kiddo. We don’t always get to pick what we want in life. You just make the best of the life you’re given.” Golden eyes rested unbreakably on mine. “Your life has been picked for you. It’s time to own up to it.”

Jaw clenching, I questioned, “Why have you been helping me my whole life, only to leave me, and then show up now?” My blue eyes held the same hardness he had given me. “You want me to own up to the truth? To reality? Then you can give me the same in return.” I waited, watching him closely, scenting the air.

He answered simply, “Because I must.” Truth.

I snorted. Nice evasive answer. “Who are you really?” He had left before I had been completely coherent after my first Awakening, last name an alias, and now, I could feel his power with my own humming in my Core, and his power was immense.

He hesitated. “An Elder.”

I blinked. “You were a King?” I hadn’t seen that coming.

A gradual nod. “Yes.”

I studied him even more closely. His age. My eyes unblinking, words measured. “You were a King fifty years ago when Mysticals came out.” The war. The upheaval. It all made sense now. How brutal he was at times. Everything he had taught me to keep myself alive.

Another nod. “It’s time you knew.”

“For being a King, you and Mom didn’t teach me shit about Mysticals.” My eyes didn’t venture away from him while I took in the fact that the King Mage, one of the four biggest bads during the war that had seized the world for ten years, had raised me, right beside my soft mom. It seemed so bizarre. They had always been an unusual pair. They hadn’t been lovers from what I could remember, but they had been roommates, co-parenting my upbringing.

The man I knew as my real dad had been King…and he was crazy powerful.

He snorted. “We taught you what you needed to know.”

“No wonder Mom trusted your spell on me.” The spell he put on me when I was a baby to hide my Vampire power from uncomfortable, curiosity-driven magical probes.

He shrugged. “It took me a few months to perfect it.”

Bit by bit, I turned my regard back to the road, muttering, “I know what road you’re on.” Of course I did. “Were you planning on asking me if I wanted to go back to King Kincaid’s? Or were you going to hogtie me and carry me inside?” Knowing who he was now, I wouldn’t put it past him.

Even though he was an Elder, Antonio wasn’t killing me on the spot for being a hybrid because he believed I could handle an Awakening, leaving me no other option but to believe it, too. For now. Only time would tell. I sure as hell didn’t plan on blabbing to anyone anytime soon about what I was.

His lips twitched. “I would prefer you go peacefully.” He wasn’t kidding.

Eyes on the road ahead, I pointed a defeated finger onward. “Take me to the King’s home.” He nodded, pressing harder on the gas pedal, and I remarked vaguely, “I met my biological father.”

He was silent for a few beats. “What do you think of Atticus Venclaire?”

Confirmation. Of course, he knew. “He seems nice enough.” I shrugged, brushing breadcrumbs off my black shirt. I didn’t give a shit anymore about trendy clothes. I was going to let out my inner darkness through my attire. “Do you know him well? What do you think of him?”

“I always liked the young man,” Antonio stated. And I guess, to him, King Venclaire was younger. Forty years younger. “The few times I met him, he was charming, and very kind to your mother.” He hesitated, golden eyes flicking to mine. “I believe he truly cared for her.”

I nodded. “I got that off him.” I added, so he knew, “I haven’t told anyone about me being a hybrid. Only Dominic knew.” I stopped, my mind going numb mentioning his name.

Antonio pulled to a stop at King Kincaid’s gated property, which was now heavily guarded, rolling his window down to speak to the patrol at the entrance. “Elder Farrar to see King Kincaid.”

It was then I knew his actual last name — knowledge a daughter generally had.

The Shifter’s eyes went wide, clearly in shock, and he sputtered unintelligibly while nodding his head rapidly. I don’t even think he noticed me. He jumped into his little booth and the gates instantly opened. Guess he knew who Antonio was. He was on the phone only a moment later as we began driving through. At least King Kincaid would have a little warning.

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