Queen of Wands ONLY
a Sanctify novel by New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert
When Jenny O’Keirna gets a chance to slip her older brother, the new king of Hansarda’s, leash, she jumps at it, even if it means playing babysitter to a too-smart-for-his-own-good inventor. She’s not expecting the attraction that sparks between them—or that Sanctify is just as desperate to take him for their own.
Never in Mac Flannery’s wildest dreams did he imagine Jenny would be the one sent for him. He sees beyond the mad grin the sexy princess of Hansarda presents to the world, and that combination of vulnerability and wicked humor is a siren call he can’t resist.
But Sanctify is always three steps ahead of them. On the run—and unable to keep their hands off each other—Jenny and Mac devise an insane plan: kidnap the leader of Sanctify, and stop this war once and for all. Unfortunately, they’ve just played right into his hands…
Title: Queen of Wands (Sanctify)
Author: Katee Robert
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Length: 300 pages
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Print ISBN: 978-1-62266-359-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62266-360-6
Pricing is not guaranteed
Queen of Wands
by Katee Robert
Copyright © 2014 by Katee Robert. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
As Psyche sliced through Hansarda’s atmosphere, Jenny took her first full breath in weeks. She still couldn’t believe Boone had let her go. Ophelia’s superstitions really did come in handy from time to time.
She brought up the star map and plugged in the coordinates to T-II. The nearest warp point was roughly twelve hours away, and from there they’d need to jump a single time. Not too shabby.
“So what’s the plan?”
Jenny glanced at the man sitting next to her. Hadriel was the oldest of the triplets—the only way to tell them apart was their hair coloring, each a different shade of brown. Even after flying with them for five years, Jenny still didn’t know if they dyed their hair on purpose to help people out, or if it was natural. All three were attractive in a nondescript sort of way that sneaked up on a person. Open features and quick smiles—and all too smart for their own good. “You know, I think I like you better when you’re pretending to be mute.” Both of his brothers were, so usually Hadriel didn’t speak in a show of solidarity—and because he liked screwing with people.
“Don’t be like that. I’m just up here to help out.”
“I don’t need your help.” She waited, but he just sat there grinning. “Scat.”
He snorted and stood. “What are the orders?”
“We’re doing a standard pickup, getting one of Ophelia’s people to safety.” And having a bit of fun while they were at it. If you liked your fun with a sharp edge, T-II was the perfect place to go. She couldn’t wait. “Get Shad working on the intercom as soon as possible—the static is getting freaking ridiculous.” She was never letting Boone fly her ship again—Psyche came back all dinged up after being in his not-so-tender care.
“Yes, ma’am.” He ignored her growl and walked out the door.
Jenny turned back to the controls, running her hands over them. The last time she’d spaced for what was supposed to be an easy run, she’d ended up sneaking onto Sanctus itself in a rescue mission. “I’m back, baby. I know it’s been a long time, but it will be just like the old days—you, me, and the stars.”
The controls vibrated gently under her hands, and she could almost believe the ship was answering. Almost. After double-checking their course and making a few tweaks, Jenny sat back with a sigh. Psyche had been her one and only ever since she became a pilot. It was the only thing in the entire universe that was hers, and hers alone. Here, there were no controlling men, smothering her with their protection. Here, she was as close to free as she ever got.
There was nothing left to do before they warped. Normally she’d go play cards with the boys or lounge around in her cabin, flipping through the newest fashion vids, but the thought of doing either made her twitchy. She stood and paced along the narrow corridor leading to the cockpit, her skin feeling too tight. It was Boone’s fault. Thanks to her darling big brother’s overprotectiveness and determination to keep her close, she hadn’t gotten laid in forever.
“Eight months, twenty-five days, and some-odd hours.” Jenny rolled her shoulders, but it didn’t help the tension riding her.
One day. She could handle one more day.
Hells, it wasn’t like she had a choice. The only other people on this ship were the triplets, and she’d be damned before she crossed that line. They were friends, not random men she could use for a night and then space, never to see again. Sex with friends was complicated. Too complicated. It caused more stress than it took away, which defeated the whole purpose.
The comm unit beeped an incoming message, and Jenny flicked it on. Ophelia’s face appeared on the screen. Her hair was pulled back into a messy tail, but she was dressed in actual clothes—not the sweats she’d grown so fond of during her last trimester of pregnancy. “Look at you, all dolled up.”
The Diviner glared, but the expression didn’t dim the happiness radiating from her violet eyes. “If you weren’t Boone’s sister, I’d kick the crap out of you.”
“Tried and failed, big sister.” She smiled as she thought back over her single sparring match with Ophelia. They used real blades and nearly gave Boone a heart attack. The way he’d freaked out was priceless—and worth the price of Jenny’s losing.
“For the record, I won the match. And don’t call me that. I am not marrying Boone anytime soon.”
No one out-stubborned a member of the O’Keirna clan. “Whatever you say, big sister.”
The Diviner’s eyes flared. “I am not your sister, Ladydamnit.”
Jenny waved away the comment, idly wondering if steam could really shoot from someone’s ears. “So what do you have for me?”
“You know, if I didn’t think he’d do the same thing to me, I’d have Boone put you under full lockdown.” Ophelia pushed back the hair already escaping her ponytail. “But it’s irrelevant. I need you to behave yourself on this run.”
As if Ophelia didn’t attract nearly as much trouble as Jenny did. For all of Jenny’s shenanigans, she’d never managed to get kidnapped by a ship full of Abura-Sumashi mercenaries. Neither Ophelia nor Boone seemed to appreciate it when she pointed out that little tidbit. “Sure thing.”
“You know, if you want people to believe you’re actually going to do something, you shouldn’t give in so easily.” She smiled a little. “I’m bouncing over the coordinates of Mac’s current location. Even though he’s got twenty-four hours to prepare, don’t expect him to be ready. The man is worse than a woman going on vacation when it comes to packing.”
“Want me to throw him over my shoulder and carry him to safety?”
“Jenny, be good.” Ophelia gave her a stern look, her violet eyes dancing. “I’m worried you’re going to give the poor man a stroke.”
She clasped her hands over her heart. “I would never!”
“So what exactly do you want me to do?” At the Diviner’s raised brows, she laughed. “I’m not saying I’ll follow the plan, but I like to know what it is so I can trample all over it.”
“We need you to get Mac, take him to one of his foxholes, and then come back to us.”
Back to Hansarda and her gilded cage. Jenny made a face. “Sounds boring.”
“Just stick to the plan. You haven’t seen what Sanctify can do when they’re pissed. What happened to Boone was child’s play compared to what they do when they’re truly angry. It’s—” Ophelia shuddered, gaze going distant, seeing horrors Jenny had only heard about. “It’s not something I’d wish on my worst enemy, let alone someone I consider family.”
She nodded, but she couldn’t help one last dig. “I knew you wanted to be my big sister! We can have sleepovers and watch sex vids. It’ll be great.”
Ophelia shook her head. “You’re crazy, Jenny.”
“You love me for it.”
“Yeah, I know. Be safe and report in when you have Mac.” The transmission cut off, leaving her alone once more. It was becoming more than a passing trend these days. She tried to convince herself that it didn’t matter, but feigning indifference was becoming harder by the day.
Twisting her hair into a knot that didn’t need a tie, she said, “Computer, bring up all information on Mac Flannery.”
The computer obeyed, displaying several screens worth of information. Most of it was blah—the inventions he was responsible for, his contributions to Azure Enterprises, stuff that didn’t tell her much of anything. Biting her lip, she moved past those pages, pausing briefly over the account of how Ophelia’s dad had found him.
He’d stumbled upon Mac during one of his runs—the details of which were pretty damn vague—and decided to save the boy from the men who’d killed his mother. After having met the old man, Jenny figured he must have seen some potential in the thirteen-year-old. Gerard saved him, set Mac up with his own place, and then gave him free rein, the only condition being that all his inventions went to Azure Enterprises. Not a bad gig, as such things went.
Jenny did a quick calculation in her head. That meant Mac was barely thirty, if that. Somehow she’d pictured him as an old fart with a cloud of crazy white hair, bent over his mad experiments. What man in his prime chose to spend all his time holed up inventing stuff? Not a sane one, in her opinion.
She brought up the last file, containing only a picture. Jenny liked her men big, pretty, and dumb—so much easier to leave them behind that way—but even though he veered more toward interesting than burly, she had to admit Mac was attractive. He had the kind of chiseled jaw that just begged to be nibbled on. She wondered at his ancestry since his skin was the palest she’d seen outside of an albino. There were even freckles smattered over his nose and cheeks, and she had to fight against the urge to try to count them. The skin combined with a mop of careless red curls on his head meant he would stick out like a sore thumb anywhere they went. And then there were his eyes. She leaned forward, trying to figure out what color they were. Green, then brown, then some mix of the two. Strange.
They seemed to stare straight through the screen at her.
Boone would die if he knew she was ogling Mac. Her sudden desire to find out exactly what kind of heat the inventor was packing aside, it would almost be worth it to hook up with Sir Genius just to see her big brother’s face when he found out. But this wasn’t the time for rebelling. Boone actually consented to a solo run without Cole looking over her shoulder, so she needed to be on her best behavior, or run the risk of him locking her up for months to come.
She could do it. Really.
She shrieked and jumped out of her chair, spinning around to find three pairs of identical brown eyes staring at her. As one, the triplets burst into laughter, the picture made downright eerie because sound emerged from only one of their throats. She reached behind her to minimize the screen with Mac’s information, hoping they wouldn’t notice. “What the hells were you thinking, scaring me half to death?”
Shad, the middle-haired one, moved his hands in a blur, spelling out, Stop mooning and come play cards with us.
Apparently she hadn’t moved fast enough. “I’m not mooning over anyone.” She was sitting in the cockpit, ogling a man she couldn’t have. Big difference. Jenny stood, brushing imaginary dust from her black pants. “Fine, fine. But only if you go easy on little ole me.”
Caeden snorted. As if we’ve ever believed that innocent act. You clean us out every time. Then he blushed, which kind of detracted from his attempt to be a hard-ass.
“Not every time.” She had to let them win occasionally or they wouldn’t play.
“Whatever you say.” Hadriel laughed and threw his arm over her shoulders. “Come on. We have a good ten hours before we warp, might as well make good use of it.”
“Truer words were never spoken.”
Unbidden, Mac’s image appeared in her mind, those damned strange eyes seeing far too much. What kind of trouble could the two of them get into in ten hours? There were plenty of surfaces in the Psyche that she’d yet to christen. Maybe they’d start right here in the cockpit…
Hells. She hadn’t even met him and he was already trouble.
Mac hurried around his apartment, trying to tidy up. He’d been packing for hours, yet there were still things everywhere. It hadn’t taken long for his clothing—he didn’t own much—but he’d gotten distracted with the solution to the new laser he’d spent the last few weeks working on. It took twelve hours, but he managed to add in a heat sink to allow more shots to be fired before it needed time to charge. Another victory, but the alarm he’d set up to track Psyche’s arrival went off before he had time to revel in the joy of it.
Jenny’s ship had passed Control and was entering the atmosphere.
Which meant he had maybe half an hour before she showed up at his door. Mac paused long enough to look around. The place was more cluttered than when he started, but the irreplaceable tools were packed away. Now he just needed the network.
He walked into the virtual room, checking to make sure nothing of importance happened while he was working. Sanctify had its virtual storm walls up again, but they wouldn’t matter once he had the opportunity to sit down and concentrate. Mac took a step toward the wall of information before he caught himself. There wasn’t time. He was supposed to be getting ready for transfer, not sinking into a new project.
Steeling himself, he moved to the opposite screens and brought up a file on each of his foxholes. He needed to make a decision, but without running a risk comparison, there was no way to tell which was the safest option.
With a sigh, he dismissed the three located on Far Reach planets. Sanctify had too much of a presence beyond the four Quadrants. Hells, they were a presence everywhere. But most of the Far Reach colonies didn’t have ironclad governments set up, which left them open to outside influence.
Nitriph was out. Sanctify had taken it just under a year ago, and things were still stirred up. He briefly entertained the idea of hiding in plain sight on a controlled planet, but it was too risky.
That left Terra III and Terra IV.
Mac ran his hands through his hair. Neither were great choices. The Star Council just convened on Terra III, so security would be off the charts. And Terra IV was a prison planet. He looked between the two files, wishing there was time to do more research before deciding. As if to reinforce his lack of time, Mac’s link beeped. He jumped, knocking over things in his hurry to find the damn comm unit. When he finally came up with it, he clicked it on with a huff.
The male pictured in the screen was covered in spikes, his brow heavy with built-in armored plates. Combined with the long snout, the Bolkerian gave off the impression of an angry armadillo. “There are three fleshies heading up. Look like trouble. Thought you might want to know.” He spoke in their native tongue, a series of clicks and whistles. The Bolkerians were notorious for their refusal to bend to anything the Star Council recommended, including implanting vocalizers.
“Thank you, Beq.” Mac butchered the language, but Beq nodded, giving a grunt of approval. When they’d met years ago, the Bolkerian had agreed to teach him the language for entertainment value alone. Mac had stuck with it despite some initial setbacks—being human, he lacked certain necessary physical attributes—and an unlikely friendship had formed.
The warning made him frown. He might know she was trouble, but a stranger would look at Jenny and see a striking woman who drew the eye in any room she walked into. Most people wouldn’t automatically assume she was a threat.
Mac walked straight to the door and eyed the camera he had looking out into the hall. Three men approached, hands hovering over their lasers. Between the white robes and forbidding expressions, there was no mistaking their identity.
“Oh, shit.” Trouble was a serious understatement of having these men show up on his doorstep. He glanced at the clock ticking down the seconds. The timing couldn’t be worse, with Jenny’s ship no doubt already docked. She would come to pick him up and walk straight into a trap.
With the defenses he had in place, he could hold them off indefinitely—as long as they didn’t call in reinforcements. But that wouldn’t do a damn thing to help his allies on that side of the door.
Mac knew all too well what Sanctify did to people they considered their enemies. Since Jenny wasn’t a Diviner, she’d probably be saved from the public dismemberment and burning, but that wouldn’t stop them from shooting her. If he stayed holed up in his safe place, he’d most likely be forced to watch her and her team die.
Not again. He wouldn’t stand by, helpless, while another woman he cared about died.
He took a deep breath and keyed open the door. He didn’t bother with a smile of welcome. They’d know exactly how fake it was. “Gentlemen.”
“It is time for you to repent, Mac Flannery,” the man in the middle said. He was older than his teammates, his bronzed skin giving off a weathered look of countless years spent in the sun. The other two were pups—this man posed the most danger.
“I don’t owe allegiance to Ba’al.” Not that it would stop them from trying whatever they had planned. Members of Sanctify weren’t exactly known for their religious tolerance.
The man barely blinked. “It is time you saw the truth and joined the brotherhood.”
It all clicked together—their showing up on his doorstep and using words instead of charging in with lasers raised. They wanted to take him alive. Mac laughed, the sound coming out bitter and harsh. Of course Sanctify wouldn’t want to waste his talents. It wasn’t something he’d factored into the threat, and he was a fool for missing that potential outcome. “And if I don’t?”
All three of them shifted, their hands dropping to their lasers and their gazes hardening. That answered that. They would attempt to take him by force if he fought. So be it.
He took a few steps back and motioned them forward. “Come into my parlor.”