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Midnight Soul (Fantasyland #5)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Chapter One

Wouldn’t Even Blink

Franka

That day had been one I wished to quickly forget.

Indeed, the months since those witches took my Antoine had been time I wished I had the power to erase from my memory.

I had power.

I did not have that kind of power.

These thoughts on my mind, I moved down the hallway of the Winter Palace seeking my room where I planned to pull the cord, ring a servant and request several bottles of Fleuridian wine.

Wine might not make me forget, but I’d found of late that it served well to dull the pain.

I turned the corner, my eyes to my slippers, but my senses made me lift my gaze to the passageway.

At what I saw, I halted and grew still, then slowly and quietly retraced my steps and ducked behind the corner, peering back around.

Oh my.

The Prince Noctorno of the other world was in the doorway to a bedchamber.

Although, he was not actually a prince. Not in this universe. Apparently they had very few princes in that other world. A world that existed on a parallel plane where all beings had twins to my own world.

This I thought was rather mad (everything about it, obviously), but with few princes, that meant there were few kings, so who ruled?

He reported that he was instead a member of the city guard, an occupation he referred to as being “a cop.” A rather surprising statement considering all that was him.

He was no member of a guard.

He was a prince.

And he called himself Noc for some unknown reason, as Noctorno was a fine name, a strong name, a regal name (this last was true as his counterpart in this world was a prince).

And right now, he had his back to me.

He was wearing a pair of trousers the like that couldn’t be found in my world. They were made of a rough, sturdy, faded-blue material. He also had a shirt that was not the fashion in this world. It was attractive and made of an equally attractive plaid. And it was a shirt that fit his broad shoulders magnificently.

His thick, black hair was untidy (this also attractive).

And I could see his light-blue eyes but only in my imagination as he had his back to me.

They were not eyes you were likely to forget. With his dark hair and skin browned in the sun, those eyes were deliciously striking.

There was a day, though now that day seemed lifetimes ago, when a sight such as Noctorno Hawthorne of another world (or indeed this one) would have caused me to have a much different reaction, not only to him, but to my plans for the imminent future.

That was before Antoine.

That was before I met the man who introduced me to, well…me.

Now I stood peeking around a corner, my body hidden (something I would never do before Antoine, unless it served a purpose of course), but it wouldn’t matter if I was around the corner or dancing a jig in the corridor.

The two people standing in the doorway of the bedchamber just down the hall wouldn’t know I was there unless I shouted.

For Noctorno of the other world was not alone.

He was standing with Circe. Circe of this world, my world, but she’d spirited herself through magic to the parallel universe and decided to stay.

She was facing Noctorno, and once I could tear my eyes from his shoulders, his hair, his arse in those trousers, I looked at her face.

And again went still.

There was much I read in her look.

I was Franka Drakkar of the House of Drakkar. And if any member of the House of Drakkar was clever (and I was clever, very clever, but not clever enough), they learned early how to take in anything they could in order to read a situation and then manipulate it to their advantage.

Therefore, I saw the sated look on her face, and I knew why Noctorno was standing there in her bedchamber door, his big body loose, relaxed, his hand lifting so he could gently stroke her jaw with his thumb.

And what I knew as I watched this was that they’d just had relations, and at least for Circe now of the other world, she’d enjoyed it.

Greatly.

But there was more to her look. More that would have given me, the woman I used to be, everything I needed to cut her to the quick for social sport, or bring her low in order to cow her to my every whim.

Relief. Acute relief.

And gratitude. Extreme gratitude.

I felt something stirring in the region of my belly, looking at her lovely face, knowing her story.

Knowing how she’d been misused since she was a child. Her parents slaughtered by a king who then made her his plaything in all the ways he could do that, every one of them despicable. Knowing of her escape from his captivity, which only brought her into the hands of pirates (and further misuse). Knowing her exceptionally unfortunate luck took her from said pirates to the savage land of Korwahk where she was entered into the Wife Hunt—a heinous practice, its simple name stating exactly what it was, if not relaying the information that when the “wives” were captured, they were violated.

Awaiting the Hunt, that had been the end for her. She’d used her considerable magic, all of it, and sent herself to a different realm. Another world. That parallel universe. One, from the snippets I’d heard, that was very different from my own.

Circe had exchanged herself for her twin. And the Circe of the other world was now the Golden Warrior Queen of Korwahk, beloved, even revered, not only by her people but her husband, King Lahn.

No one would know if the Circe I saw now, standing with Noctorno, would have earned that adoration from a ruler and his people if she’d chosen to remain after all that had befallen her since childhood.

Therefore it didn’t matter.

Now was now.

And that very day, the evil triumvirate of witches that threatened two continents had all been dispatched.

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