I am so psyched for TRICKSTER, I can’t even tell you! This is the latest book in the Lincoln series and—after everyone loved the dual POV in THE BRUTAL TIME—both Myla and Lincoln’s voices are back in this novel!!! The story is very much centered in Lincoln’s world and his character arc, so we get a deeper view into the inner workings of our favorite Mister the Prince. It takes place after the events of SCALA, because that’s just how I roll. (I know it’s weird how I write out of sequence! Sorry!)
When it comes to fighting, everything’s more fun with a battle lion.
Case in point: I now stand in the Royal Gymnasium, ready to show my nobles the latest combat techniques. Around me, there looms a tall and rectangular space made from gleaming wood. Gilded balconies line the walls. Leather mats cover the floors. And the best part? A supernatural white lion named Rufus towers a few yards away. Golden beads gleam in his braided mane; modified armor arches over his spine.
A vision of feline power.
Plus Rufus sports quite the attitude, which is a decided bonus.
“Give up, demon biter,” Rufus bellows.
See what I mean? Fun.
By saying demon biter, Rufus refers to my being thrax. My people are part human, part angel, and totally committed to fighting demons on the Earth’s surface. Meanwhile our homeland of Antrum lies miles underground where we enjoy a secure and medieval lifestyle. As High Prince, I give regular combat lessons to nobility. Today’s session is called Fighting the Four Legged. For the occasion, I wear human-style body armor instead of my regular tunic, mail, and high boots.
Rufus bares his teeth. “I shall shred you with ease,” he growls. To emphasize the point, Rufus drags his claws over the practice mat, tearing open fissures of white fluff.
A low gasp echoes from the gym’s balconies, all of which overflow with my top nobles. The royal court stares at Rufus, their eyes wide and mouths open. I could explain that Rufus and I are friends, but my nobles won’t believe it.
Two reasons why.
One. The court thinks Rufus is a demon. He’s not. Rufus’ family originally came from an alternate reality called the Primeval. It’s a place where animals speak, but aren’t necessarily good or evil.
Two. Rufus and I always share angry chatter before a fight. This way, the nobility pays closer attention. The idea came to me from a wrestling program I viewed while on demon patrol. Ah, television. Humans are rather creative with technology, considering how they can’t wield magic.
I inspect the gym’s many balconies, my gaze locking onto one that’s decorated with an eagle pennant. Thrax are divided into different clans—what we call houses. The eagle banner signifies my house, Rixa. I scan the balcony’s front row, skimming past the familiar forms of my mother, Octavia, and father, Connor. My chest warms with affection.
There she is.
My fiancée, Myla Lewis.
The rest of the world fades into a blur of brocade gowns, leather jerkins, and formal manners. Myla shines out as a figure of life and light. Energy vibrates in her clear blue eyes, long auburn hair, and amber skin. Today she wears the fitted robes that mark her as the Great Scala, the only being who can move souls to Heaven or Hell. The dress is as unique as the woman. All in all, I detect only one imperfection; Myla’s not staring at me.
I’m man enough to admit the truth. I like my fiancée’s attention.
And I know exactly how to get it.
Turning, I focus on Rufus once more. “Less talking,” I say with a wink. “More fighting.”
Rufus bares his teeth. “If you insist.”
“That I do.” And I lunge for Rufus’ throat.
I’ve gotten myself into some awkward situations, but this one? It’s the pits. Everything started when I spoke some fateful words to my fiancée:
Sure, I’ll visit your palace in Antrum.
Yeah, I’d love to watch you teach battle stuff.
What a disaster.
As of this moment, I sit on a gilded balcony with the nobles of Rixa. Surrounding me are tons of sweaty guys in tunics alongside women whose overly large gowns get caught on everything. I’m crammed by the front edge with Lincoln’s mother, Octavia, who looks petite and lethal in her dark velvet dress. Beside her sits Connor, Lincoln’s father, who’s the definition of a medieval king with his barrel chest, black tunic, and chin-length white hair.
All I need do is watch the fight. It’s all good, yes?
That’s a big no.
Here’s the issue. I’m part angel, demon, and human. The good news is that mix makes me a supernatural dynamo called the Great Scala. The tricky bit is how my demonic side comes with two deadly sins, specifically lust and wrath. Of the pair, my control over lust is zilch. When I get all lusty, my eyes blaze with red light, leaving my carnal urges pretty obvious. And what revs me up more than anything?
Ogling my fiancée as he jumps around in his body armor.
See the issue here?
I’m stuck in a balcony with no easy way to reach the exit … all while my man hangs one story below me in his second skin of rahr. Any second now, Lincoln will leap about and look hella hot.
Talk about your danger zones.
Even worse, all the major nobles from other thrax houses are seated nearby, ready to watch the Red-Eyed Demon Fiancée Show. Not that I care a ton about them. It’s the parental issue that really makes my skin crawl.
Some things your future in-laws simply don’t need to know.
Down on the gym floor, Lincoln chats up Rufus, the battle lion for this class. It takes a feat of personal will, but I stare at the ceiling.
This is me. Not looking at Lincoln.
Octavia nudges my elbow. “Myla?”
“Lady Bentford asked you a question.”
“Sure.” Considering how that lady’s right behind me, I welcome the chance to turn away from the Spectacle Du Man Candy. Lady Bentford is a classic House of Rixa type, namely the elderly maven. I’m talking lots of wrinkles and years of poor dental work. It’s as if a black hole were located below her nose, collapsing her features inward. It’s a kindly face, but I don’t let it fool me. Old Rixa ladies are mean as snakes if you misstep one toe on their beloved traditions. Girls like me were created to bug the crap out of them.
Lady Bentford bows. “Greetings, fiancée of the High Prince Lincoln Vidar Osric Aquilus.”
“You can call me Myla.” As in, I have my own name.
Lady Bentford’s mouth contracts so much, it disappears into her face. “I gave the correct and formal opening for interacting with the High Prince’s fiancée. Now you provide your formal greeting. It is the Rixa Way.”
Whoa. I have no idea what she’s talking about.
So I just make shit up. Clearly Lady Bentford wants some formal blah blah blah. How hard can it be?
“Okay.” I close my eyes. “I greet thee, I greet thee, I greet thee. Huzzah. Woot woot.” I don’t wait for a comment before launching into my next question. “What can I do for you?”
Beside me, Octavia stiffens. The reason? Octavia’s been taking the nasty old lady factor pretty hard these days. Lincoln’s mother always knew that Aldred, the powerful Earl of Acca, would loathe me. If anything, the earl’s hatred was a relationship bonus. But now? Octavia’s old geezer girlfriends have been shooting her the stink eye 24-7, simply because I suck at formal manners and the infamous Rixa Way.
Lincoln’s Mom is turning twitchy.
And I get that. Friends can affect you. There’s no way I’m changing how I act, but I do get it.
Lady Bentford offers me a goblet. “Would you like some saffronia?”
There’s a hidden trap in this question, but I don’t know what it is. That said, who cares? I take the cup and smile. “Thank you.”
Lady Bentford continues to look not-pleased. “It’s customary to sip from your goblet the moment it touches your hands. My family brews this particular vintage. I wish to ensure it is pleasing.”
“Oh.” I down a mouthful. My eyes almost bug out of my head. Whoa. This tastes like warm pee. My cheeks bulge out while my tongue tries escaping down my throat.
“You don’t like it.” All the color drains from Lady Bentford’s face.
I force myself to swallow. Gah, that was gross.
“No,” I totally lie. “That was super yummy.”
Lady Bentford isn’t buying it. Not that I blame her. What a crap performance on my part.
“Thanks for the drink,” I say quickly. “I’ll watch my fiancée now. Buh-bye.” Turning around, I hope Lady Bentford gets the hint.
Beside me, Octavia sips her own goblet of yellow snow juice. “You must learn to enjoy saffronia.”
“I’ll add it to the list.” I don’t volunteer how said list happens to be super-long and urine bevs sit at the tippy bottom.
“Saffronia is the favorite drink of Rixa,” explains Octavia. “The fortunes of Lady Bentford’s house are built upon its popularity.”
I try to breathe through my nose. All the better not to catch saffronia fumes from the exceedingly warm goblet in my hands. “Good for her.”
Octavia sips her own drink without gagging. Total achievement. “May I give you some advice?”
I give her the side-eye. “Can I stop you?”
A small smile curls Octavia’s mouth. “I’m afraid not.”
“The Rixa Way is an important set of manners and traditions. It may seem silly to you, but it’s crucial for Antrum.”
Sure it is. “I thought you guys were all about fighting demons.”
“We are. And the Rixa Way supports all that. Manners. Traditions. Formalities. It all weaves together into the greater fabric of thrax society.”
“Hey, I’m the poster girl for manners right now.”
In reply, Octavia shoots me her own version of the side-eye.
“Come on,” I declare. “Who just DRANK WARM PEE and didn’t spit it out?”
Okay, I might have used my outdoor voice just then. The entire Rixa balcony goes unnervingly silent. Oops.
From the gym floor below, a great roar sounds. That would be Lincoln’s combat lessons. Moving as one, all the nobles focus on the fight instead of me.
For my part, I stare down at my pee drink and not at my guy. As long as I keep inhaling through my mouth, it’s not a problem.
Another roar sounds. The battle must be getting goooooood.
Not looking. Not looking.
My tail perks up from its resting spot by my ankle. This is a total bonus of being part demon, by the way. I have a long tail that’s covered in dragonscales. So badass. Right now, that tail arcs over my shoulder. The arrowhead-shaped end points toward the fight.
I get the hint. My tail wants me to watch Lincoln.
Still not happening.
A series of oohs and ahhs sound from crowd. Connor taps my shoulder. “Did you see that?” he asks. “Such an amazing strike.”
Not looking. Not looking. Not looking.
Screw it. I’m looking.
The moment my gaze locks on Lincoln, my inner lust demon wakes up with a big HELL to the O. Blood heats in my veins. Lincoln talks while fighting—it’s all stuff about battling lions or whatever—yet his words fade into the background. All I catch are a rhythmic set of movements.
Lunge … lunge … back muscles ripple.
Jump … swipe … excessive butt flexing.
Punch … twist … ripped arms bulging.
Rufus bites Lincoln’s shoulder. The crowd gasps. I’m not worried though. Rufus’ jawline isn’t even taut. Zero pressure lies behind that chomp.
A moment later, Lincoln breaks free from Rufus. And then it happens—the Mona Lisa of battle moves. Lincoln somersaults over the lion’s back. The flip even includes some choice straight-leg slicing action.
It’s what my best friend Cissy and I call a BAEJS.
Body Armor Enhanced Junk Show.
My guy is one hundred percent beautiful; that’s all I’m saying. And it’s good to have a bestie I can share this stuff with. Cissy’s boyfriend, Zeke, serves in Purgatory’s new guard, so she gets the whole body armor scene.
Heat rises behind my eyes. I fight it, hard.
No demon irises, Myla.
That’s when Lincoln pauses. Our gazes lock. Desire blazes in his mismatched eyes. Like all thrax, he has one brown iris and one blue. Totally hypnotic.
Is the battle over? Do I really care?
Enough is enough. I’m having a lusty moment with my fiancée, end of story. My irises flare red as Lincoln and I continue our stare-a-thon. The crowd may gasp or not. I’m no longer paying attention.
AUTHOR NOTE: If BAEJS somehow becomes a thing, I want credit. Because there are some things Myla and I share in common, and one of them is being a competitive little bitch.