It was a good thing Petra didn't believe in tradition, decorum or any of those other stuffy things. Otherwise, it would have been hard for her to justify wearing a white, string bikini while dancing on MTV's live, spring break show. To be fair, there had to be at least a hundred other people dancing with her, but she doubted any of the others were a fairy godmother in training like her.
To make her little, itty, bitty sin greater, she was supposed to be back at the academy studying with all her other classmates. But who wanted to be stuck in a stuffy room reading about spells, object transformations or how to counter wicked curses when the sun was up and a hundred buff, half-naked studs were calling?
This morning when she'd woken and spotted the oh-so-tempting Fort Lauderdale weather report, she did what any other immortal young gal of one hundred years would do; she'd magically retracted her wings, tucked her bright-red hair up into a bun and grabbed her beachwear.
The last thing she'd wanted or expected was a summons to go to the high castle, and yet that's exactly what came while she was pressed between two hot men in what could possibly have passed for dancing but was actually more like a simulated sex act.
The summons had shocked her, horrified her and made her completely forget to change her clothes before she'd answered the call. Which was how she ended up, in the middle of the castle's throne room, dressed only in her thread of a bikini and about ten gallons of suntan oil from her former dance partners' bodies.
Petra stumbled a bit on her high-heeled white sandals before she adjusted from the wave of dizziness that always followed teleportation. As she looked up, she became painfully aware of all the disapproving gazes pointed her way--and by all, she meant a lot, a whole, whole lot.
"Crap," she whimpered under her breath.
The throne room of the royal castle of Aria was so packed, had it been an Earth nightclub, it would have been in danger of violating fire codes. The king, the queen and all seven of their kids stood prominently on a dais at the front of the room. Worst of all, Petra's mentor and main teacher, Eleanor, stood just a few feet from them and judging from the look of shock and horror on her face, she wasn't pleased. She even let out a strangled sound as she put a hand to her chest.
Unlike Petra, Eleanor wore the customary fairy godmother garb. Her dark-pink gown perfectly matched her mauve-colored wings while complementary beads and gemstones were worked throughout her intricately braided, brown hair.
Eleanor swallowed hard a few times, her face turning all kinds of interesting colors before she snapped her fingers.
A gown appeared on Petra, covering her bikini and sending a surge of annoyance through her when she noted the pale-yellow color. Eleanor knew Petra hated yellow. She had no doubt her mentor had done that on purpose--a subtle punishment.
Irritated, Petra's wings burst out of her back with a loud whooshing sound. The crowd gasped at the all black color, causing a flood of shame to redden Petra's cheeks. Black wings were considered by some to be a bad omen, or worse, an outright death curse. While others now pooh-poohed the idea and considered it old-fashioned, obviously the palace crowd had yet to catch up on the times.
The oldest prince, a boy with dark-brown hair and matching eyes, smiled at her, showing off the cutest set of dimples. The youngest boy, an infant with a mop of blond curls, let out a bubble of laughter as he stared at her wings.
At least some people had good taste.
Petra plastered on her best, serious expression as she curtsied first to the king and queen, then Eleanor. "You summoned me here, mistress?"
"Yes, I have some sad news. Finnegan died this afternoon," Eleanor announced.
Now that did come as shocking news. As a fairy godfather, Finnegan was immortal, which meant he should have been damn hard to kill. So either he'd done something incredibly stupid or somebody had murdered him. Given what an ass the guy was--oops, had been--Petra could see either scenario playing out.
"Let me guess, he boinked the wrong guy's wife."
Although Petra had whispered the sentence to her mentor, the gasp coming from the queen let her know she hadn't been as quiet as she'd hoped. Eleanor closed her eyes and moved her lips. Petra knew Eleanor was silently counting to ten. Something her mentor did with alarming frequency since being named Petra's advisor.
"No, he got into an unfortunate chariot accident."
Ooooooh, it must have been unfortunate, indeed, as in decapitation or some other gruesome end.
"He was hanging out with Puck again, wasn't he?" Petra sadly shook her head.
Even she knew better than to hang out with that mess of a guy. The one and only time she'd hung out with him, she'd woken up with a misspelled tattoo and a humdinger of a hangover.
"We can talk later. We have more important issues to discuss," Eleanor stressed as she tipped her head to the side.
Petra may be slow at certain things, but she wasn't stupid, so all sorts of alarm bells began to ring inside her head. Fear made her mouth dry. She nervously licked her lips in a lame effort to moisten them. "What's going on?"
"You're the last of the Emerald line. I've called you here to take over Finnegan's duties."
The queen interrupted them. "I'm sorry, but I don't understand what this girl has to do with my children."
"Forgive me, your highness. Please allow me to explain. Whenever a fairy child is born, they are bestowed with special gifts and talents. With those gifts comes a status that forever marks their place in fairy hierarchy. For centuries, the royal family has only been protected by those from the Emerald sect."
"Why is that?" the queen asked, flicking a dubious glance at Petra.
"Because Emerald fairies are best at countering curses and fighting off other forms of evil."
"You mean to tell me that she is the best your kind has to offer?" the queen demanded, raising a shaking finger to point at Petra.
"She does hold great potential," Eleanor defended.
It heartened Petra to hear a sliver of a compliment coming from her usually stern mentor. She wished she could videotape the event. All the warm fuzzies vanished at Eleanor's next statement.
"Besides, she's your only choice."
"Nonsense, just break tradition and have a fairy from another sect watch over my children," the queen ordered with a flick of her hand.
Petra's dislike for the woman grew. While the queen might be pretty enough on the outside, with her white-blonde hair and deep-blue eyes, on the inside, she was a troll. Petra knew since the one lesson she had managed to master was the ability to read one's true self.
"Begging your pardon, majesty, but that is impossible," Eleanor said with a slight bowing of her head.
The queen's cheeks grew red with anger. "Why?"
"Because while you may rule here and have your own laws, our laws predate yours by thousands of years. We are the caretakers of the kingdom and by rights responsible for its citizens. So I'm afraid we can't just put another fairy sect in charge."
Petra's mouth parted in shock, and she barely managed to hold in the laughter.
While she'd been on the receiving end of Eleanor's censor before, Petra never dreamed her mentor would give the queen the same treatment. It was nice to see the mean woman get put in her place.
"I'm the queen!"
"Yes, I realize that, but fairy inheritance is very complex. We can't change our traditions on any royal's say-so," Eleanor replied in a firm voice. "Monarchs come and go, but we are the land's eternal caretakers."
"You expect me to allow that....that...hussy around my children?" The queen waved a hand in Petra's direction.
"Petra is young yet. She'll grow into her role."
The queen turned to her husband. "You're the king. Make them listen to you."
The king put a comforting hand on his wife's shoulder. "Maybe we better listen to the fairies. While their ways may not always make sense to us, they have our best interests at heart and have watched over our family for centuries."
"I like the fairy. She has pretty wings," the oldest boy spoke up.
"Shut up, Landon," the queen hissed. "You'll soon learn pretty isn't everything."
An unexpected surge of protectiveness rose in Petra. She wanted to lash out at the queen for speaking so harshly to her son. Petra opened her mouth to say something only to press her lips tightly together when Eleanor gave a slight shake of her head.
The queen scowled. "I may not know all the rules and archaic guidelines you fairies follow, but I do know I can refuse to have Petra serve my sons."
Eleanor's eyes grew dark with concern. "I would highly advise against that, majesty. If you refuse Petra, the fairy council won't have anyone else to assign in her place. That would leave your children unprotected."
"My husband has a vast army at his disposal to protect his family. I'm sure we don't need the added service of some fairy tart."
"Majesty, I beg you to reconsider. I've recently had troubling premonitions, ones that speak of a great threat to your sons. In the future, I sense you're going to need Petra's skills."
The queen gave Petra another once-over before rolling her eyes. "The only thing this one knows how to do is drink excessively and sleep around. We don't need that kind of influence on my children. Now, be gone. Both of you."
"Wow, rude much?" Petra shot off before she could censor herself.
A strangled sound came from the queen, and the king groaned while Eleanor's lips twitched into what looked suspiciously like the beginnings of a smile.
"But, mama, I want her to be our fairy godmother," Landon spoke up.
"I told you to shut up!"
The queen lifted her hand to slap the child, but Petra quickly fired off a spell, freezing the woman's arm.
"You will not harm him," Petra yelled, her voice quaking with fury.
Petra didn't know who was more surprised--the queen for having her slap interrupted, Landon from having an unlikely savior or Eleanor for having her usually flakey student's spell work.
"You are in no position to tell me what I can or cannot do to my children. You're not even their fairy godmother," the queen shrilly reminded Petra.
"That doesn't mean I'm not going to do everything in my power to make sure nobody harms these children. If I see anyone so much as touch a hair on their heads, I'll make sure they suffer in the worst way possible. That includes you," Petra warned, stunning herself with her vehemence.
Normally, she wouldn't have gone so far in her interference but for some reason, she felt all "mama bear" when it came to the boys. So much so that for the first time ever, she'd willingly used her fairy powers over somebody else. With a quick flick of her wrist, she released the queen.
Making sure to keep the look of fury on her face, Petra gave a slight curtsy. "Begging your pardon, majesties, but the boys will always come first."
"What about our daughter, Taylora?" the king asked.
Petra glanced over at the girl. A shiver went down Petra's spine as the child's dark-eyed gaze seemed to pierce into her soul. With raven hair and alabaster skin, the girl held a beauty that seemed to herald straight from storybooks. Her soul was a different story. It appeared black and corrupted as if something evil had touched it.
"Another fairy has already claimed Taylora, but I can't decipher who it may be. I do know that it's somebody very powerful and into black magic," Petra replied honestly.
A collective gasp went through the room, followed by excited murmuring, which only served to infuriate the queen further. She let out a shriek as her face grew red. "I want both of you out of here, now! I never want to see you again."
Petra opened her mouth to argue, but Eleanor put a staying hand on her arm. "Come, let's leave. Ancient laws dictate that we must follow her orders."
"But who will protect the boys?" Petra asked, her heart sinking as she stared at the princes.
In her soul, she knew they were all in danger and that she was the only one who could protect them. With a final glance at the boys, she allowed Eleanor to pull her away.