While the queen and Leopold banged at the doors, trying to beat their way out of the room, and Synda cowered behind a throne, Tiberius watched her, waiting.

“You won’t win this,” he said.

“Agree to disagree.” A violent wind shot from her, arching her back, lifting her off her feet, shoving the rest of the bodies out of her way and into the walls, clearing her path before setting her down.

Gasps sounded from the Opulens. Kane was keeping them in the back of the room, but the ground was cracking under his feet, and little flames were being sucked from the wall torches and into his hair. He had to pat the fires out while keeping his attention on the crowd.

Must hurry, she thought. Eyes on her target: her father. Feet: moving forward.

“How are you doing this?” Tiberius demanded.

“You’re not the only one able to use your gifts to your advantage.”

She threw a punch. The king ducked and her hand went through the door behind him. Wood shards rained. She jerked with all her might and took a chunk of wood with her, leaving a hole. But just before she gained her freedom, Tiberius kicked her in the stomach. She propelled backward, skidding across the floor.

Kane’s bellow of fury bounced off the walls.

She held out her injured hand, a silent command for him to stay back. She had this.

The king cracked his knuckles and grinned. Josephina stood, and returned his grin, her amusement wiping his away.

“I won’t go easy on you,” he said.

“You never have.” She raced forward, her feet carrying her across the room in less than a blink, the objects at her side blurring.

Grin widening, the king held out his hands as she threw another punch.


Her bones vibrated from the force of collision, but she never made contact with him. The king had used one of his abilities, erecting an invisible shield, protecting himself.

“I’m unbeatable,” he said, smug.

No! She hadn’t come this far to fail. There had to be a way to reach him.

Anger rising, she beat her fists against the barrier. It was solid. The king laughed. The anger inside her rose...and rose...burning through her veins, singeing muscle and bone. Sweat began to pour out of her, the heat unbearable. Surely she was melting.

“Poor Josephina.” Tiberius tsked. “You’ve already lost, you’re just unaware.”

Strong arms banded around her, surprising her. The dank, musty scents of the dungeon enveloped her, and she knew the culprit was Leopold.

“I can’t let you do this,” he growled into her ear.

“You can’t stop me.” She banged the back of her head into his nose. Yelping, he released her. She turned and punched him in the chest with so much force he flew back and slammed into the throne, where Synda was hiding.

The sound of cracking bone echoed. Leopold slumped to the floor, his eyes closed, his body limp. There was a ring in the center of his shirt, the material singed at the edges. He’d been...burned?

Josephina whipped back to the king—only to take a blow to the jaw. Sharp pain exploded through her head. The new abilities and strength must be fading, dang it. She hit the floor, her brain banging against her skull. Tiberius struck again, kicking her in the stomach.

Bye bye, oxygen. Even as she wheezed, she straightened, not wanting to give him another chance to launch a sneak attack.

“Ready to give up?” he asked. “You’ll never be able to bypass my defenses. No one will.”

She reached up to wipe the warm trickle of blood from her face and realized one of the king’s rings had left a jagged gash on her cheek.

She looked for Kane, and found him fending off the rest of the guards. Soldier after soldier attempted to evade him to get to her, determined to protect the king, but Kane remained in a constant state of motion, stopping them. Finally, the soldiers accepted they’d have to take him out. Evasion became a full-fledged attack, daggers and swords swiping.

Hurry, hurry.

“I’m more than a no one.” Ears ringing, she moved slowly, purposefully, and flattened her hands against the invisible barrier.

He kicked her, his leg penetrating the shield no problem, and she stumbled back—but still she came back for more. “Give up, Josephina. You can’t win. I’ve fought opponents far stronger than you. Far faster. Far smarter. And you...you’re weak. Disposable.”

“I’m not! I’m worth something.” Fury stopped rising and simply exploded. She hit the shield, and flames shot from her, dancing together, growing stronger, hotter, until the air began to sizzle, creating a hole in the barrier big enough for her fist.

Tiberius paled. “How did you—”

Josephina punched through the opening once, twice, three times, moving so swiftly he couldn’t dodge, breaking his nose, knocking out two of his teeth, dislocating his jaw. Blood sprayed against what remained of the shield, blending with the flames.

“That’s for my mother,” she said, hitting him again. “That’s for Kane. That’s for me. That’s for having a black heart. That’s for...my mother again.”

His knees buckled. By the time he hit the ground, he was out.

Panting, she peered down at him. She’d done it. She’d defeated him.

She should have felt more triumphant, but the sadness she’d denied had found new life, filling her, spilling out. But that wasn’t going to stop her. She grabbed the king by the hair and dragged him to Leopold. Then, she searched the room for the queen...there! She was still prying at the seam in the doors, desperate to escape.

Josephina simply stepped up behind her, joined her fists, and struck. The woman fell to her side and stayed down.

William appeared just in front of the unconscious body. Red, Green, Black and White appeared just behind him, completely healed.

“Looks like we arrived just in time, gang,” William said with a grin.

The group rushed into the thick of battle, unsheathing swords along the way.

“No!” Josephina cried out.

But they didn’t attack Kane; they attacked the people around him.

The black mist that usually accompanied the Rainbow Rejects remained at bay. Maybe it wasn’t needed. The boys never mutated into their other forms, and with only a few minutes of hacking at the opposition, William and his children had the rest of the crowd backing away in fear.

“Knew you’d need us,” William said with a pat on Kane’s shoulder.

A winded, blood-splattered Kane snapped his teeth. “I had the army right where I wanted it and was about to make my final move.”

“Please. You were at the cliff, about to be kicked over.”

“Whatever.” Kane stalked to Josephina’s side. Gently he cupped her jaw and tilted her head to the left, allowing light to fall over her wound. “That’s going to scar.”

“Yes.” Unlike full-blooded immortals, she wore her injuries forever. “I’ll still be beautiful to you.” After everything this man had done for her, she wasn’t ever going to doubt his attraction to her.

“More than beautiful. Exquisite.” He kissed her, soft and sweet. “I’m so proud of you.”

“And I’m proud of you.”

Black hoisted the queen over his shoulder, then wrapped an arm under Synda’s stomach and hung her at his side. “I’ll take these two.” His gaze moved to William and narrowed. “I deserve some sort of reward for vowing never to touch Kane or his woman.”

“That vow saved you from my deathblow. That was reward enough. Now, you’ll put the females in the dungeon, or else,” William commanded.

Kane grinned. To Josephina, he said, “I have a need to help take out the trash. There are a few words I’d like to say to your father. You’re good?”

“I am.”

Kane kissed the tip of her nose. “I’ll be right back.” He flung the prince over his shoulder, then grabbed the king by the hair. He motioned to Black with a nod of his chin. “Lead the way.”

Black didn’t bother trying to open a door but crashed through, using the queen as a battering ram.

Licking her lips, Josephina faced the crowd. Every eye was glued to her, wide, expectant and angry.

“All right,” she called. “You saw my strength, my skill. You saw the strength and skill of my friends.” As she spoke, she could feel the rest of the energy leaving her, and within a few seconds, a strange heaviness was settling over her limbs. To mask the oncoming weakness, she eased onto the king’s throne and continued her speech. “There’s more where that came from if—”

A shadow dropped from the ceiling, snagging her attention as it landed on White’s shoulders. The girl had no time to react. One second she stood proud, the next her head was on the floor—without her body.

Josephina screamed.

As the girl’s body flopped to the floor lifelessly, blood pouring from her severed neck, the person responsible landed on her feet and straightened.

“I told you that you’d regret what you did to me,” the Phoenix said with a grin.

Red realized what had happened to his sister and fell to his knees.

Green released an agonized “Nooo!” The first word he’d ever spoken in Josephina’s presence.

A pallid William clutched his heart.

Shock slammed through Josephina. The horrific nature of what had just happened—

Wasn’t even the worst part.

As she reeled, White’s entire body changed. Her skin darkened, blackened...cracked, leaving thousands of tiny round pieces. Those pieces sprouted legs and broke away from each other. Bugs, she thought with a wave of revulsion. The creepy crawlers sped into action, sweeping through the room, covering the floor, the walls, chasing the Fae and trying to burrow under their skin.

Shrieks and panicked footfalls erupted. Fists banged at the closed doors. People were stampeded as others struggled to push their way out of the only opening. Someone must have found a key to another realm, because a new doorway was created at the back of the room. A few of the Fae managed to race through it—but so did some of the bugs.