I’m super excited to share chapter one of the new MAXON extended edition epilogue complete with a wedding scene!!! Plus, MAXON is $.99 right now to celebrate the launch of ZINNIA…
MAXON Special Edition Epilogue
Chapter One – Lianna
Maxon and I march toward a metal skyscraper. A shiver rolls across my shoulders. Like an oversized knife, the steel building cuts into the countryside—a weapon against nature itself. The promise of a storm hangs in the air; maybe that’s why no one’s around. I shake my head. This place is more than quiet. My elemental sense pops another thought into my mind.
I hug my elbows. “What do the humans call this land again?”
For the record, I’ve researched this particular building for months. But where it fits on a human map? That gets squishy. Hey, I just transformed into the Monarkki of Water. There’s a lot to track.
“By location, do you mean state, county or city?” asks Maxon. He knows his human territory cold.
I tilt my head, considering. “State.”
“We’re in Pennsylvania.”
I roll the name around in my mind. Pennsylvania. Such a strange word. Then again, this is Earth. Mortals do all sorts of odd stuff. Like macramé. Tap dancing. Or baking potato chips with perfect zigzag patterns. Why? Most of the time, I don’t bother to wonder. This case is different, though. Simply put, I must understand what happens inside this metal building. Leaning back on my heels, I gaze upwards. Twenty stories of burnished steel tower above me. No windows. All shiny metal.
A glass panel stands by the building’s front doors. I soak in the familiar words etched into its surface.
DEX. The Department of Elemental eXplorations.
Nervous energy zings through my body. For months, my naiads—powerful water sprites—have been falling ill. At first, it was only a small group. I healed them easily. But all water connects, and so this plague spread quickly. Through research, magic and some oracle action, I traced the illness to its ground zero.
The DEX building.
In just a few minutes, Maxon and I have an appointment with the humans inside. In other words, this morning marks our first real chance to look around, ask questions, and with any luck, get some answers.
A realization hits me. I grew up in a cabin on the backside of nowhere. I know zero about being a regular human. Smoothing the folds of my skirt suit, I turn to Maxon. “Do I seem like someone who works for the mortal government to you?”
“And a beautiful one at that.” Maxon then straightens his tie. Both of us wear dark suits today. In reality, we’ve only reformed our elemental bodies to appear as if we’re sporting human outfits. Which means that Maxon’s only pretending to fix his tie. Good idea, actually. The movement helps sell the illusion that we’re mortal.
Maxon gestures across his suit. “How about me?”
“You look very…” I pause. What would a human say? My eyes widen as it hits me. “You look quite professional.”
Maxon winks. “Thank you.”
Excitement pours through me. We’re really doing this. Straightening my shoulders, I turn and face the front door. Like the rest of the building, it’s a solid sheet of metal. Gripping the silver handle, I prepare to pull. Thunder rumbles through the air.
All of a sudden, the rain clouds whirl more violently. A storm is about to strike. All around, the world darkens. An electric pulse moves through my torso. The gurgle of rushing water fills my mind—it’s a sound that only I can hear. All of which leads to a single thought.
No question what’s happening. Another elemental approaches. Since I’m the Monarkki of Water, I know exactly who’s heading this way as well.
I sigh. “Kyo is coming.”
Kyo is my second in command, what we call a majordomo. She manages the day-to-day stuff while I tackle the big problems. Like DEX. She also has the gift of foresight, which helped pinpoint this spot in the first place.
Maxon narrows his eyes. “Should we go inside?”
“No, she’ll just follow.” This has happened before, by the way. Nothing like a flash rainstorm inside a building to freak out the mortals.
Another ear-piercing roll of thunder shakes the air. Sheets of rain pour down. Although the storm is heavy, every drop carefully arches away from me and Maxon, leaving us dry. The rough outline of a woman’s face appears in the cascade before us.
“What are you doing here?” asks Kyo. As the rain intensifies, her face becomes more defined. High cheekbones. Bow-shaped mouth. The elaborate, looping hairstyle of a nineteenth century geisha. “You’re holding a major healing tomorrow morning,” continues Kyo. “Six naiads.” She emphasizes the word six. Normally, I heal one naiad and then sleep for hours. Six is a big deal.
“I’ll still heal them.” I gesture toward the building. “But I need to work the problem, Kyo. Whoever’s hurting my elementals must be stopped.”
“You take too many risks,” she snaps. “It’s beyond time you took care of yourself. Six months, Lianna.”
“I know.” Mostly because we have this discussion constantly. Six months marks how long Maxon and I have been engaged. Yet in all that time, we’ve made zero plans for our wedding.
“You’re sweet to worry about our personal stuff,” says Maxon.
“But it’s wasted energy,” I add. “Maxon and I are basically immortal. There’s plenty of time.”
“Namare always said the same thing,” she counters. “I’ll live for eons; my personal life can wait. Namare thought there would be time to find a partner. Start a family. That never happened.”
My throat tightens. I still miss Namare. And yes, Kyo might have a point.
With inhuman speed, Maxon moves to stand between me and Kyo. “You’re upsetting Lianna. It’s time to go.” The way Maxon snarls those last four words, I’m shocked Kyo doesn’t take off in a pouf of rain.
“I’m the Majordomo of Water,” declares Kyo. “I’ll leave, but only if my monarkki demands it.”
“Look, I get that you worry.” On reflex, I fidget with the door handle. Nice carved metal. Odd the things you notice when things are turning uncomfortable. “But Maxon’s right. It’s time to go.”
“For now,” says Kyo slowly. Little by little, her face merges back into the heavy raindrops. For a moment, I can make out the shape of her eyes, then nothing at all. The storm slows. Soon the only sign of rain are rivulets of water on the cement walkway. The sky brightens. No question about it.
Kyo is gone.
I shake my head. “Why did we appoint majordomos again?”
“Because we can’t track all four elements without help.”
Two words stick in my head: for now. “You heard what Kyo said.”
“And you know what that means.”
Maxon nods. “She’s calling in reinforcements.”
In this case, reinforcements means Kyo’s contacting the majordomos for the other elements. Things could get awkward. Our four majordomos like to pester us in shifts; a wedding is their favorite topic. A sly gleam lights up Maxon’s blue eyes. “I could always call in Mother, you know.”
Maxon’s mom is rapidly becoming my favorite person. “That would be something.”
“She’d kick all their elemental asses, easy.”
“Not necessary, but I do like the visual.” I chuckle. “Besides, I get why the majordomos are obsessed with our wedding.” To the elemental world, Maxon and I getting married means stability. Plus, our children are bound to be powerful monarkkis. No one currently rules earth and fire, so that’s a big need. An image appears in my mind: a pair babies made from rock or flame. Instantly, my body stiffens.
Parenthood. What an overwhelming thought.
All of a sudden, this steel building seems to tower even higher. I drop my arm from the door handle. “Maybe we should just go home.”
Maxon moves closer, pausing when our gazes lock. His blue eyes are wide with sympathy. “I get the concern. But you’ve been working non-stop on this for months. Healing naiads. Tracing the problem to DEX.” He nods toward the building. “Your plan is brilliant. Our identities are set. An appointment awaits. This took weeks to set up. Going inside today is the right thing to do.”
“Maybe we should wait until dark and turn elemental.” That means taking our forms as mist and wind. “We can try to sneak in again.”
“We’ve done that a dozen times already. Whoever built this building, they know more about our kind than they should.”
Which is true. Normally, I can go misty and get in anywhere. But no matter what Maxon and I try, we can’t break into DEX. No one knows how to block elementals. It took weeks—and special contacts from Emperor Tempest—to get us false identities and invitations inside.
“I meant what I said.” Raising his hands, Maxon cups my face with his fingertips. “You’re brilliant. This plan is solid.”
Reaching up, I clasp Maxon’s wrists. “But all that talk from Kyo. You know what she really means. We need to get married. Have a family.”
With gentle motions, Maxon runs his thumb across my bottom lip. His touch sends a pleasant shiver through me. “And so we will … when the time is right. Besides, Kyo always brings up the wedding whenever she wants you to stop doing something.”
My eyes widen. “Like when?”
“Like yesterday, when she wanted you to stop researching DEX.”
“It was two in the morning.” Not sure why, but I feel protective of Kyo.
“Then two days go, when she didn’t want you healing anyone new.”
“Only because I’d already cured a naiad that day.”
Maxon sniffs. “And Kyo takes forever to find your sick naiads. Each time you ask her why, she pulls the wedding card. You back down every time.”
I purse my lips, thinking this through. “Damn, you’re right. She’s like the girl who cried wedding.” I narrow my eyes. “What do you think she’s up really to?”
“Nothing bad.” Maxon shrugs. “Mostly, Kyo wants her lovely monarkki to slow down.” Leaning in, he presses a petal-soft kiss across my lips. The touch of his mouth against mine launches a whirl of emotions.
The burn of desire.
The feather-light pull of hope.
“But what if things go wrong today?” I ask. “We’ve no idea what’s inside this building.”
“That’s part of being us. Surprises happen. We improvise. It all works out in the end.” Maxon’s voice lowers to a rumble. “But the important question is this—what do you want?”
“Multiple things.” Slanting my mouth across his, I deepen our kiss. There really is nothing better than the play of my tongue against Maxon’s. “To be honest, some of those things involve you being naked.”
Maxon gives me the hint of a smile. “How about at this very moment?”
I consider the question. Not sure how Maxon does it, but I always feel better after he showers me with some kisses and chatter. A minute ago, I was ready to fly home. But now? Not so much. When I next speak, there’s no question in my voice.
“Let’s find out who’s poisoning my naiads.”
Maxon’s expression blooms into an all-out grin, complete with dimples. “My beautiful warrior.”
“Right.” A sense of pride heats my chest. Turning toward the door, I grip the handle once more.
We’re going in.
–End Of Sample–