EXCERPT - Moon Marked Chapter 1

Ever since my mother disappeared I always sensed I was being watched. Tonight, that usual sensation taunted my mind. I looked out into the dark forest, trying to see beyond the glowing campfire. I could see nothing, but I felt someone was out there, watching me.

Always watching me.

“Sophia, you alright?” I heard dad’s throaty voice from across the campfire.

I tore my eyes away from the mocking darkness and looked over to dad. His eyes, as blue as the day’s sky, looked at me with a certain concern that had not left him since mom’s disappearance. He was once a man of many smiles - wrinkles around his eyes showcased years of bliss - but that happiness faded last year. An unrelenting sadness for his lost wife and an overpowering worry for his two kids consumed him.

“If this is too much for you, we can always drive home.” The idea of returning to our safe haven was tempting, but I couldn’t ruin our first trip in nearly a year.

“No, I’m fine,” I said as my eyes briefly wandered to the darkness. “Just not used to being away from home. But I like it.” I didn’t want dad to worry. He already worried too much. He was always worried.

Dad didn’t often let my brother, Bobby, or me leave the house. My mom went missing one day on a trip to the grocery store. Her car was found, and so were signs of struggle, but we never caught a suspect. Dad lived in constant fear that the person who took her would come after us. Because of this, we were home schooled for the last year. Bobby and I had been getting antsy recently. We needed to leave our house. So, dad finally planned a camping trip for us in the Catskills, a week before we returned to school.

It was nice to have a little get away from that house, which wasn’t just a safe haven but a place of constant sadness. And we were all happy on this camping trip, just like old times. We joked around the campfire and we all laughed earlier when I tripped and fell during our hike, even dad. I had a nice gash on my knee from that embarrassing fall, but to see us all laugh again? Worth it.

We had been living in an isolated depression for so long that we all needed this getaway. I could never let my immature fear end something that taught us to smile again.

In a week I’d get to return to high school back in New Jersey for my junior year. It would be Bobby’s first year of high school. He was definitely ecstatic. We both were. We needed a change in the lives we led for the past year, and this camping trip was the perfect  way to kick start that change.

Finally, the Ballance family was going to return to the world. The fun we had today showed that us returning wouldn’t be so bad. We were mending after mom disappeared. We could do this, together.

I had to admit a part of me wasn’t sure if I was entirely ready to return to the world. Not only did I suffer from an acute form of social anxiety, I would be the disturbed girl-who-lost-her-mother student. I only had one friend in that school, Angelica. She was a social butterfly. Me on the other hand? Not so much. I wanted to make more friends in the school, but how could I when I was returning as the troubled student? I was coming right out of a year in hiding and everyone would know.

Even Travis, my crush since sixth grade. I wondered how he would look at me, the recently home schooled odd ball. God, going back to school was going to be so hard. Thank god I had Angelica.

“Are you sure?” He asked, still weary.

“Yeah, positive. I’m actually just distracted by the moon. You know I love a good moon.” That was a complete lie, but I noticed his shoulders relax a little.

He grinned, but his grin didn’t meet his eyes. Then he looked up. The moon was strong, using all it’s might to try to peek through the dense forest. It hardly penetrated past the treeline.

“I believe it’s a full moon tonight.”

“Ooooo,” Bobby chimed in with his teasing voice. “Don’t all horror stories begin with a good full moon?”

“Shut up, Bobby.” I said, giving him the stink eye.

He let out a haughty laugh and coolly flipped his beach blonde hair from his face. “You’re just scared of all the beings that can come out during a full moon, aren’t you?” He wasn’t wrong there. My eyes flickered to the darkness once more. I was scared. But I would never admit that.

“Also it’s Rob, not Bobby. C’mon Sophie. You know this.”

“It’s Sophia,” I corrected him in return. When he was younger our family always called him Bobby. Now that he was finally going to high school he decided Rob was a more suitable nickname for his age. Unfortunately for him, I couldn’t shed Bobby from my vocabulary. Mom always called him Bobby, why take that name away? I didn’t understand.

I would hold onto every memory of mom if I could. I never wanted to forget her playful smile or sweet singing voice. And I would never get rid of a nickname she created for me. If we forgot about her nicknames for us, what would we forget about next? Would we continue to forget about her, piece by piece, until there was nothing left to forget? That idea destroyed me.

The name ‘Bobby’ was going to stick.

“It’s a good thing you two are going to school in a week,” dad chimed in, scratching at his graying beard. “I think if I keep you two home any longer one of you will kill the other.”

I snickered and Bobby smirked. Dad was probably right. I loved Bobby but a year confined in the house with him was really driving me stir crazy.

“Kill my sister? How could I kill little Sophie?”

I rolled my eyes. He always called me little Sophie since his growth spurt two years ago. “I’m older than you,” I reminded him. I was constantly reminding him anymore.

“And smaller. A.K.A. littler. How tall are you now?”

5’2 but we weren’t going there. Everyone in my family was tall. Except me. I had assumed puberty was going to hit me late, but I never hit a growth spurt and now I was sixteen. I didn’t even grow boobs. Perky Angelica had them, why couldn’t I? Thank you poor genetics. “Sorry I’m not six foot like you.”

“And I’m sorry you’re missing the other half of your body.” He laughed so hard he snorted. Boy was he getting a kick out of this conversation.

Before I could respond dad put our conversation to an end. “Alright, alright. I think it’s late enough. Let’s all get to bed, we have a long day planned tomorrow.” We did have a long day. Dad planned white water rafting for us, which I knew was absolutely exhausting. But it would keep our minds off mom, which was the point of this entire trip - wasn’t it? “You two have your own tents so take this opportunity to separate before any blood is spilled. Sound good?”

“But dad, blood is never spilled.” Bobby laughed at his sarcasm. We were known to fight one another on more than one occasion. It would make mom insane. Our fights were probably the reason for her graying hair.

I internally grinned at the memory of mom livid, pulling her hair out, as she attempted to stop our little wrestling matches. Oh, how I missed her.

And yes, I actually beat Bobby several times. Even after his growth spurt. I have a keen sight at night whereas he can hardly see a thing. I almost always won in the dark.

“Off to bed we go,” dad said, ignoring Bobby’s joke. He brushed off his jeans and came to a stand. “You’re going to wish you got an early night come tomorrow,” he said when the two of us did not move and only continued to stare at one another.

I sighed. It was actually more of a sigh of exhaustion than disappointment. I supposed I was tired. “Alright, night guys.” I stood and walked over to my tent.

“Night dad, night sis.” Bobby called after me. I waved back to them, which was probably pointless. I was too far from the firelight to be seen by them. There was something about camping in the forest that made seeing at night virtually impossible. A blanket of darkness hid me from a world only several feet away.

But that same blanket hid others from me.

At that thought the hairs on my arms stood upright and fear penetrated my mind once more. I twisted my head in every direction. I could see nothing. “I need a flashlight,” I whispered to myself, keeping my hands in front of me until they came in contact with my tent. In a hurry, I shakily unzipped the tent and crawled around inside until I could find a flashlight.

When I found it I fumbled with it in my hands until I clicked in on, holding my breath as I did. When the light illuminated my tent I flipped my head around, sending streaks of my wavy ash hair in every direction. I expected to see a face looking in through the opening to the tent.

But there was nothing there. Nothing but my obsessive fear. “Just your mind playing tricks on you,” I whispered to myself. After several deep, calming breaths, I acquired the courage to walk out of my tent. I really needed to hit a bathroom.

I walked toward the stream that ran near my tent. Above the stream was an opening in the treeline which allowed the moonlight to glisten against the water below. I looked down to the water, adoring my reflection. In the water, a dark shadow of myself looked up to me, the moon encircling it. It really was magical.

A certain thrill drummed inside me. There was something about the stars, a dark sky, and a glowing moon that exhilarated me. The night held bewitching mysteries.

The only issue was that after my mom’s death the night began to terrify me as well. Darkness was always my friend. Come on, I could beat Bobby in a fight because of my keen sense of sight in the dark. So why did I become so frightened by it?

I kicked off my brown hiking boots and dipped my toes in the water, sending ripples against the moonlight. Just as I did I heard a crack in the night. It was as if someone stepped on a branch. “Bobby?” I asked, flinging my head around. There was only silence. “Don’t play with me.” My heart thumped in my chest and my breathing became ragged. “I’ll call you Rob all day tomorrow if you don’t scare me now.” I tried to bargain with him.

Still, no response.

I was probably just overreacting, as usual.

Calming myself, I looked back down to the water and stared at my reflection. That was when I noticed two silhouettes looking back at me. Someone was standing next to me.

I held my breath, freezing in place. I couldn’t feel or even hear the breath of the person standing next to me. But the water didn’t lie. Someone was there. So close I could touch them.

Why couldn’t I hear anything?”

“B-bobby?” I asked, my lips quivering. Slowly, I moved my head to the side until I could see who was standing next to me.

I let out a shriek when I noticed a pair of red eyes looking back.

My screams were lost when a piercing pain shot through my neck, draining me of my consciousness.

 

 

FORGOTTEN REBEL Excerpt - Prologue

He had been forgotten. He must have been.

Charles Burket leaned his head against the moist stone wall. The subtle coughs and moans of other prisoners were all he heard. Everyone in these overcrowded cells were either dying from disease or infection.

Charles knew he would join them in their agony sooner than later. He had been held in this cell, shared with around twenty other men, for nearly a month. At least, that was what he believed. There were no windows in these damp cells, giving no hint of when the sun rose and fell. Time seemed to be a gift lost to his past.

The only hint of daytime anyone received was when a guard came to extract a man. They always came during the day. At least, that was the information everyone had gathered from those who returned.

Alas, most never came back. Those that did were prone to infection from injuries they acquired while freed from these bars.

Needless to say, as morbid as these cells were, Charles had no desire to ever walk beyond the metal bars.

No one did.

Charles raised his shackled hands to wipe at an itch on his clammy forehead. I’ve been gone for so long. He thought. He knew, unlike the others here, he had the possibility of freedom. If only his friends took the effort to find him.

If they ever decided to take the effort to find him. He had been abandoned once before, by the very people he called his friends.

Would this time be any different?

Everyone in these cells were rebels, including him. They all had been brought over in wheeled cages to the Allegiant city of Ambrotos. In other words, he was far from home. Even so, he allied with an Allegiant prince and princess. They had titles that could easily save him from the hell he was living. If they ever resolved to free him.

Would the princess even think of chasing after me? He could not help but wonder. They enjoyed exclusive company with one another, but she was hardheaded. She despised getting dirty. No, Princess Fanny would never travel this distance to find me.

He was a far way from his home, and all she wanted was to return to hers. She wanted to once again be accepted by the father who had exiled her.

She would chose a home over him and he knew it. It was foolish to date such a selfish girl, but there was something about her that he couldn’t shake from his very core. He could never have enough of her, no matter the stigma that surrounded her.

A month ago, Charles left his group of friends in search of this princess, Fanny. She was a wicked girl with a snarky attitude, but he missed her. Charles could have anyone, but it was the vain princess he wanted most.

There was something about her.

People who ran the Allegiant slave trade found him, a lone rebel, before he had the chance to return to her. Caged and shackled, he traveled by ship. For days, they sailed along the coastline until reaching northern lands. There after, they were wheeled off to Ambrotos.

He never made it to her, and now he missed her more than anything. Because he saw something in her that most people didn’t seem to understand. No one looked into her deeply enough. Everyone was quick to judge her outward attitude, never attempting to dig a little deeper.

He could only wonder, did she yearn for him?

Everyone’s heads jerked up as they heard the clicking of heavy boots against the hard stone. It came from outside the cell. It was time.

A strapping man, though rugged he was not even twenty, stood outside the cell eyeing the sickly men. Adonis. He had a youth the other guards lacked, yet his muscular physique was more impressive than anyone who aged him. Scars lined his sun-kissed skin, gifting him with a threatening appearance that sent shivers down the captives’ spines. His dark eyes held little sentiment whenever he extracted a man.

There were rumors about him, whispered among the slaves. He was a merciless killer, a breed of man woven by his father’s training.

Or, stories of Adonis were meant as subtle entertainment for those who had none, holding no truth.

“Charles Burkett,” Adonis’s rough voice called out as he took a slackened hand and scratched at the short hair prickling from his head. He didn’t seem to care much for the death sentence he just placed upon Charles by calling his name.

“Here,” Charles managed to say. He could hardly hear his voice over his pounding heart.

This is it.

“You’re up, let’s go.” Adonis said, unlocking and pulling the cell door open. No one made a move to run. The cell was everyone’s safety net, the bars protecting them from the evils of the outside world.

Charles forced himself up and forward. The rapid beating of his heart drowned out the sounds of the ill and injured men. He would join them soon.

If he was lucky.

He was younger than the other rebels, only eighteen. If they died outside these bars what chance did he have of surviving?

“Good luck,” he could vaguely hear the words of one of the men. Charles gave him a curt nod, trying to express a confidence he had lost.

Of course, it was unusual to wish another man luck. None of these men took the time to befriend another. Giving one words of encouragement was senseless. Friendship could only lead to a man’s ruin.

Thus, they remained strangers, comforted only by their own thoughts.

Charles trudged past the bars, stepping outside the cell for the first time in weeks. Or was it months? Time was lost to him.

“Follow me,” Adonis said in a gruff voice.

Charles obliged, as he had no other choice. Where was he to run? These cells held never ending pathways that would send a rebel in circles. It was a maze meant to keep the slaves locked up until death met them.

They continued to walk down the twisting halls, Adonis strode, but Charles was only able to drag his wobbly legs onward, struggling to keep up. Sweat beaded from his cool forehead. This is it.

When a light appeared at the end of the hallway, Charles knew his time was near. He was about to reach the outside world.

Adonis came to a stop once they reached the exit and released him from his shackles. A large gate was all that stood between him and what laid beyond.

He gulped, but his dry mouth gave him nothing to swallow. He was not prepared.

All his years training as a rebel warrior couldn’t prepare him for this.

“Ready?” Adonis asked, no sympathy visible on his face. “If you do well, you will be rewarded with a bountiful dinner.”

Charles let out a heavy breath and looked out past the metal bars, sunlight emanating through them, heating up his paled face. “Ready as I’ll ever be,” he lied just as the bars began to creak open, gradually rising to the ceiling above.

He needed to be ready. Gladiators never lasted long.

IMMORTAL REBEL Excerpt - Prologue

Hey everyone! Just as I did for CAPTIVE REBEL, I plan on letting everyone read the first chapter of IMMORTAL REBEL for free! Immortal Rebel is a first person perspective novel from Phoibe's point of view. However, the Prologue gives us an insight to Michael O'Conner's life.

Remember, this is an advanced read and has not yet gone through the appropriate editing/proofreading stages.

Enjoy!

 

 

Betrayed.

Michael O’Conner was all too aware he had been betrayed. Somberly, he walked through a scorched rebel town, ashes flying in his wake. The inhabitants of this town, Pyke, all died as they faced the wrath of the Allegiant army.

Once a peaceful town, hidden deep in a valley protected by the Ashen Mountains, it should have never been found. If it wasn’t for me, no one would have died. This is my fault.

“No,” he violently shook his head, arguing with his very own thoughts. It was his fault. Anthony’s fault. Michael wondered if Anthony was even the man’s name. Anthony was certainly not a greek name, as all other Allegiant’s names were.

And Anthony turned out to be an Allegiant spy.

Rage consumed him as he recalled speaking of the peaceful rebel town, Pyke. He told Anthony the tale of happy rebel families living under the sun rather than deep in the mountains, where all rebel towns were located. He told the story of a valley, hidden by the Ashen Mountains. He told his trusted ally all this in hopes that Anthony would one day visit Pyke. He believed together, he and Anthony could find momentary peace from the constant battles they faced everyday.

Of course, at the time he believed Anthony was a fellow rebel warrior, fighting the rebellion’s war.

He was wrong.

Anthony was far from a rebel warrior and far from a friend. He was an Allegiant spy who played Michael like a well tuned fiddle, and Michael fell for every word Anthony spit his way.

Because of Michael’s premature decision to trust Anthony with crucial information, hundreds were killed.

“I’ve killed them all,” Michael said through gritted teeth, collapsing onto his knees. He looked around the town, examining the burnt down homes. There was not one cry for help.

There were no survivors.

This town was lost to the past.

Defeated, he burrowed his hands under the ash covered ground. Intense pain struck his heart as he looked down to the grey below him.

Then, an unusually swift breeze brushed past him, blowing dark strands of hair across his face. The ash around him rose high in the sky, mocking tornadoes in a storm.

Michael looked up at three ash formed tornadoes, twisting along the desolate land in front of him. He focused his eyes on the twirling ash until he noticed three sets of cat-like eyes staring back at him.

The wind slowed and the ash fell to the floor. Once hidden by the ash, three beautiful women wearing long white gowns now stared down at him. The three women were as beautiful as goddesses with raven black hair flowing down their hourglass shaped figures.

They stared at him in silence, and he did the same. Until, finally, one spoke. “You’ve betrayed us,” the woman in the middle said.

"You… you are survivors?” Michael asked, wishing he hadn’t the moment the words slipped from his lips. These three women appeared out of thin air and looked down to him with glowing emerald eyes.

They were far from simple survivors.

The middle woman gave a petty laugh. “There are no survivors.”

“No thanks to you,” the woman on the left scoffed as she tossed back her hair.

“My name is Tisiphone,” The middle woman spoke once again,  “I am the Fury of vengeful destruction. We’ve been sent to earth by Hades.” Michael’s heart dropped. Hades sided with the rebellion’s cause in this war, whereas Zeus and Poseidon sided with the prolific Allegiant. The Allegiant masses wanted nothing other than to eradicate anyone who was not them and leave earth to themselves. The rebellion fought for their lives, the Allegiant fought out of greed.

Though there were tales that Hades, Zeus, and Poseidon fought in the wars that eradicated billions over two hundred years ago, Michael never believed it was true. He never believed the gods actually had involvement in the wars.

Until now.

“You’ve done a great deal of damage to the rebellion’s cause by killing off your own.” Tisiphone raised an eyebrow.

Michael wanted to argue and explain that he was not the one who killed these families. But that would be a lie, wouldn’t it? They would still be alive if it was not for him. All of them were dead because of his carelessness. He should have never trusted Anthony.

“Now, remember what you have done as I, Tisiphone, enact vengeance upon you for your wrongful acts.”

Michael clenched the ash below him with his fists, his body vibrating in not fear, but anger. “I can right this wrong. Tell Hades I can right this!” He was pleading, though still not entirely understanding the sight playing in front of him. Immortals were in his presence. It almost seemed impossible.

He always prayed to Hades out of habit, but it was not until now that he realized Hades was real.

“Why punish me? Why not Anthony?” If that was even his name.

“Anthony is an Allegiant fighter, under the protection of Zeus and Poseidon. You, however, are a rebel who has killed your own.” The woman on the left spoke briefly.

"We are the Furies, sent to enact vengeance to those who have done wrong. You have committed homicide in the thousands, to your own kind.” Tisiphone spoke.

Before Michael could speak another word, the wind whipped once again. The three beautiful women transformed in front of his eyes. Their white dresses turned a deep shade of blood red. Thin strands of black hair bunched together, transforming into hissing black snakes - sprouting from their very heads. The last he could see of their transformation were elongated black wings sprouting from behind their backs. Then ash consumed their bodies once again, only allowing Michael to see their glowing cat-like eyes.

A voice came from the ash filled void, a voice much too deep for any woman. “A curse shall be put upon you, Michael O’Conner. You will never be given the chance to understand the fate you have given to those who fell to the Allegiant. You will never experience death as these people have. You do not deserve that courtesy. You will not know external pain, and for that you will be filled with internal pain. You will watch as all you love grows old and dies while you remain stagnant for all eternity.”

A blast of wind overcame the area and he was struck backwards from the force. His head flung back and hit the ground behind him, immediately knocking him out cold.

The wind ceased and when the ash settled to the ground, the women were there no longer. All that remained was a burnt down town and a nineteen year old who did not yet understand the repercussions of his actions.

He would learn soon.

Excerpt From Captive Rebel

Chapter 1

Whispers of Prince Ariston’s return spread throughout the palace like a virus. Held in rebel captivity for years, he was finally free to walk the halls of his palace and to plan vengeance against his rebel captors. Quiet shrills escaped the lips of residents. The people were eager for their prince’s return.

All except Ian Ramos, Charles Burket, and myself. We were none other than rebel spies, socially camouflaged within these Royal Allegiant walls. 

“We leave tomorrow,” Ian tapped his fingernail on the ceramic tabletop. His foreboding eyes gave me a cautious warning, “He’s returning.” He scratched a finger along his spiked brown hair.

I stretched my hand across the table and leaned toward Ian. My lips brushed against his ear. “My guess is that Prince Ariston knows who you are, doesn’t he?” I sat back, assured no one overheard me. We were sitting in the grand hall. It was overly crowded at this hour, filled with the deafening chatter of Royal Allegiants.

Chances were that no one could hear our conversation, but I could not take the risk. We had been undercover, living within these palace walls for several months. To lose all the intel we gained for our rebellion because of one simple question? Not a chance.

Ian gave a curt nod, “It seems our time is up.” He was a fierce rebel warrior who almost never expressed emotion. While I was distracted by the thought of Prince Ariston returning, it did not seem to phase Ian. He was one of our best rebel fighters, which was exactly why he was chosen for this mission.

Charles, on the other hand, was chosen because of his ability to create friendships. His flashing white smile was contagious. With his toned body and mesmerizing green eyes he easily made all the girls swoon. He even caught the attention of Princess Fanny, Ariston’s sister. It went without saying that he was doing very well as a spy. It suited him.

Then there was me. I was chosen because I was expendable.

Keeping my voice low, and my face leaned inward, I asked, “How does he know you? Will our cover actually be ruined when he returns next week?”

Ian looked around the bright hall before speaking again. “I was involved in his capture five years back. I worked near the dungeons he was held in until I was assigned this mission. He knows me.”

Assigned this mission. Of course he accepted the task of working within Allegiant walls. Even though we were assigned to be servants, the accommodations were pleasant, to say the least. Running water, electricity, and warm clothing were all available as an Allegiant. The caves we lived in back at the rebel base camp had none of those indulgences. Electricity was nothing other than a myth until I came here and saw it for myself.

My auburn hair was pinned in a tight bun, reminding me that even pins were a luxury for us. Over two hundred years ago, the rebels were forced to go into hiding and abandon their lives and the luxuries they once had. Now, coming across something as simple as a hair pin was nearly impossible.

My mother's stories of the past haunt my memories. I will never forget her warnings to me about those who are allegiant to the gods.

 

“The Gods, Zeus and Poseidon, wanted to rid the dying earth of overpopulation.” Ma would tell me. “So they chose a few who promised to pray to them daily. They were named the Allegiant, for they were allegiant to the gods. With the help of the gods, the Allegiant were able to kill off the rest of the human population. Those who survived, by hiding deep in mountains across the globe, were protected by the god…”

“Hades!” Five year old me jumped in. “Hades helped us!”

With twinkling hazel eyes, she poked my nose and grinned. “Yes. Hades helped those who hid from and survived Poseidon and Zeus’ wrath. He keeps us protected in the mountains. Over time, those who hid in the mountains began to band together and create a rebellion.

Now remember to always pray to Hades, dear. Without the power of our prayers, he will lose his power and fall into a deep sleep. We need him to remain powerful so he can continue to protect us. One day, Marylyn, we will take our world back. The world that has been taken from us long ago.”

“We will help everyone like Mikey does!” I clapped, knowing my older brother was a rebel warrior.

She chuckled and nodded.

 

We didn't know the pain Mike would one day bring upon our family.

Removing my mind from the past, I decided it was about time we left. “I think we have enough information. We can have Jarvis prepare his boat for us,” I said, mentioning the rebel captain who brought us to the island, King’s Land, several months back. “Then we can safely return to the rebel camp.” And hopefully return to my family. I had been separated from them for so many years. I believed once I left this place, I would be given the chance to see them again.

Hades, please, let me finally see my parents again. I missed the delicate voice of Ma, and the strong arms of my father, both protecting me from all the world’s dangers.

I took a moment to look around the bustling hall. The lavish decor, the chandeliers dangling from high ceilings, and the beautiful outfits worn by both men and women would soon be only a memory. I was quite alright with it being just that. A memory.

Of course I would refrain from admitting it to Ian, but Prince Ariston’s return was a blessing in disguise. Every day I feared for my life within these walls. Every person I spoke to, I lied to. I lived every day in the life of an imaginary person to spare my true identity of a rebel spy. Ian Ramos, Charles Burket, and I risked being exposed every day.

If we were exposed, there would be nowhere to run. This palace was built on the end of an island occupied by only Allegiants. We were outcasts surrounded by our enemies. If anyone knew our secrets, we would never escape.

“Ian, do you think my family will finally be freed after this mission is complete? I know it was cut short, but I feel we’ve gathered enough information to have the rebel leaders free my parents.” Ian’s eyes were solemn. It was no secret I was actively involved as a rebel warrior to keep my parents safe. When my brother betrayed the rebels, my family and I were punished. It was supposed to be a lesson to others. ‘Do Not Screw With Us’. It worked. I suffered for it.

He shrugged, “I’m not sure. Hopefully they’ll consider your debt paid. This was a difficult mission. We know the entire layout of this palace, anyway.”

“It’s only one royal palace of many spread throughout the globe, Ian.” I reminded him. The Allegiant had taken control over most of the livable world. We targeted this palace because it was the closest to our rebel base.

“But this is the royal palace they wanted. It’ll be fine when we return. You’ll see your family in no time.” With that Ian stood and instructed, “I’ll find Charles. Pack your things. Tell no one we plan on leaving. By no one, I mean your little friend Alice," he coldly warned, mentioning the girl I shared a room with. We both worked in the kitchen and had become very fond of one another. Regardless of the bond we had forged she only knew the person I had created. She did not understand who I was beneath the lies. She believed I was a faithful Allegiant. I was far from that.

"I’ll get in contact with our captain tomorrow.” Ian said.

I brought a firm hand to my head and saluted him, “Ay ay, captain. Whatever you say.”

He rolled his forbidding black eyes and walked away.

“Marylyn O’Conner,” I heard Fanny’s husky voice from behind me. Turning in my cotton covered chair, I looked her way. A smug smile was plastered along her porcelain face. “Have you heard the news?” she breathed, already knowing the answer. Her sense of entitlement, being the King’s daughter, was overpowering.

I gave a fake smile. I was never a fan of her, her lush red hair, her beautiful clothes, or her perfect figure. Perhaps I was a bit envious, could you blame me?

“Oh yes. I’m so excited your brother is returning!” No, I was not thrilled about his return in the slightest. “He should arrive by next week, correct?”

“Sooner.” She winked, shooting me a devious smile.

Masking my panic, I managed to feign indifference and asked, “Oh, how soon?” Hopefully my question appeared relaxed enough.

A dark haze shadowed her emerald eyes. She grinned, but her smile sent shivers down my spine. Her grin never reached her eyes. I knew that grin all too well, because it was the exact one I had been giving to everyone the last several months. My smiles, the ones that never reached my eyes, were fabricated to match the lie I lived .

Seeing a mirror of my own face in hers terrified me. Tonight, I feared Fanny knew something I did not.“Soon, I promise.” Her sinister smile remained unwavering as she turned and glided away.

In that moment I knew Ian, Charles, and I were in trouble.