Chapter One

June 12, 2014

Felix — one of my two elite guards — bent behind me, whispering against my ear, “Queen Ruckler, are you feeling all right?”

Teeth clenching, I glanced across the room where Bindi, a Mage physician, sat, watching me like a hawk while wearing an expression of aggravated frustration she wasn’t even trying to hide. Already having to deal with her, I did not need — nor want — Felix’s added worried attention.

Because no, I wasn’t all right.

I had been in labor for the last five hours.

My abdomen was contracting, squeezing painfully as if sadistic blades were stabbing my nine-months-pregnant belly — on a repeating loop — as if the muscles were gratified to cause me even more agony than I was normally in. I was sweating worse than a Thanksgiving turkey roasting in an oven, and feeling much like that too. I knew I was going to have this baby soon.

But I was needed here, in the headquarters.

Since Bindi had ordered me to do only extremely light physical activity. I had originally told her to go to hell when she had first attempted to put me on bed rest when I was only four months pregnant. But I had given in and met her halfway; I stopped blasting into actual combat when I became six months pregnant — that was three months ago.

Although, even now, I wasn’t surrendering completely.

Not just yet anyway.

I breathed in through my nose and slowly out through my mouth as another contraction attacked, making me light-headed and want to double over in brutal agony. Struggling to push past the heinous ache, I managed to remain focused on Commander Lyons speaking into my ear through a headset while I stayed standing straight and stared at the infra-red images on four different screens. All monitors showed different angles of the Com Royal Australian Air Force base in Brisbane, Australia that we were currently infiltrating. Under my direct lead, my camp had worked its way up from the coast of Sydney, Australia seven months ago when Mystical/Commoner World War II — MCWWII — had begun.

This mission against the Com RAAF was imperative to our next push northward.

Too bad my elite guard started to hover even more when I didn’t answer.


“I’m working, Felix,” I whispered so I wouldn’t disturb the techies, the other operatives, or the Elders hustling around us, everyone wearing headsets and talking to our group of Mysticals currently in the heat of battle. “Leave.” I put a bit of my Shifter power into the command. I needed him to go away so I could focus on not collapsing on the floor of the tent we were in.

He stiffened. I could tell he didn’t want to go. Felix was wanting an affirmation I was all right, which I could not give him because with his Shifter nose he would scent the lie. I ignored him, grabbing a set of papers one of the techies gave me on the current coordinates of our people versus the Coms inside the air force base as the battle raged on. Felix eventually backed away.

Flicking through the sheets, I swiped my forehead, amazed at what I was feeling, the block of ice I had become having been chipped away these past five hours as the pain of the labor had intensified. Right now, I wasn’t the arctic Queen I had become. I wasn’t the way I needed to be. The way I had to be to keep me sane.

After listening to Commander Lyons ask for my opinion on field position, I responded, “Sweep the north end. Elder Farrar,” ah, there was the ice, a breeze sweeping through my veins, “is to the west; his team is minutes from entering the target. I want you to hold the north for any Coms that will more than likely flee in that direction.”

“Hostages?” Commander Lyons asked with a chuckle.

I felt nothing. Just saying the name of Antonio, Elder Farrar, the man I thought of as ‘Dad’ once upon a time, shot ice water through my veins. “Do a spell to find their highest ranking official before they get to you. Take their leader as hostage, so I can interrogate him or her,” I heard Commander Lyons chuckle again quietly, “and kill the rest.” I snapped the paperwork closed, a contraction shattering the ice, heat flooding my system so hard I shivered as I placed a bracing hand on the desk near me. “These are the bastards that lined up and shot the hostages they had acquired outside Southport.” Their hostages were a group of Mysticals that had only included two elderly grandparents trying to flee with their five grandchildren — after the children’s parents had been hanged on flagpoles by the Com army here as a blatant ‘fuck you’ to our forces that were kicking their asses. “We need to show them what a ‘fuck you’ really is.”

Quiet, then dead seriousness. “Understood, Queen Ruckler.”

My lips pinched as I felt a sudden heaviness between my thighs. “Commander Kester will be taking over the relay with you.” I pressed my legs together, feeling a need to squeeze my thighs together to keep from pushing, the baby was pressing so hard. I glanced at Bindi as I leaned heavily on the table, barely able to see her because my vision was so blurry. No answer came over the headset. “I need an affirmative that you heard me, Commander Lyons?”

“You’re leaving command? Right now?” he finally asked, sounding bewildered.

He probably was, since I never left during a battle. “I have to take care of something. Here’s Commander Kester.” I tugged the headset off, thrusting it against a surprised Commander Kester and telling him, “It’s Commander Lyons on the north end, waiting for stragglers. You’re now his relay.” I left it at that, slowly turned, and began walking as gently as I was breathing so I didn’t faint. I was no stranger to pain, having been shot and stabbed multiple times, but f**k, my vision was now blurring to pinpoints. This raw, agonizing pain was on a whole other level. A whole other stratosphere, if I was honest with myself. I never cried over pain anymore, having decided my tear ducts had frozen over along with my mind, but right now, I wanted to drop in the middle of the floor and bawl like a goddamn baby. Though I trembled, wobbling, I still managed to brush off Felix by letting my wolf take voice, growling at him.

Bindi was instantly next to me, grabbing my arm, and gently but firmly leading me outside the black tent into the camp, away from the few individuals who had taken notice of my incoherent state. I wore a charm around my neck that Antonio had made, hiding my pregnancy from all eyes but his and Bindi’s, and the added heartbeat inside me from Vampires’ ears, but I still must have looked like shit because those who had eyed me had worn expressions of worry. I hardly remembered what worry felt like. Only pain and numbness and anger had been my shifting emotions since a spelled mind sweep had been done on me.