On the worst birthday of my life, I come home to find my boyfriend in bed with another woman. Within hours, I’m drunk, homeless, and pledging to stay single forever. And that is when the dangerously sexy Seelie King rolls through town, looking for fae like me.
Every generation, the king holds a competition for Seelie queen. But for reasons he won’t explain, Torin is looking for a charade, not a real marriage. So when I drunkenly sling insults his way, I have his attention.
When Torin offers me fifty million to participate, I think, “What have I got to lose?” The answer turns out to be “my life,” because my competition will literally kill for the crown.
And the more time I spend with the seductive king, the harder it becomes to remember it’s all supposed to be fake. Now, my life—and my heart—are one the line.
Ava is a fairy who is living in the human world. On her birthday, she discovers her boyfriend in their bed with another woman. After throwing the dinner she brought home to celebrate at them she leaves with only her gym bag as she sees her dreams crumble before her.She heads to a local bar and calls her best friend Shalini to commiserate with her. Ava has a goal this night, to get drunk and forget her horrible day. She just doesn’t expect to have a confrontation with King Torin.
This confrontation goes viral, and King Torin has this crazy idea. He’s going to invite her to participate in the Tournament for fae women looking to qualify to be his queen. With a catch of course.
This is a favorite scene.
I sighed. “Okay. So, you want me to be your wife so your kingdom can drain my magic? Don’t be offended, but I’m going to pass on this offer. Why don’t you ask one of the many fae women who actually want to do this? There are plenty of them clamoring for the chance.”
“I don’t want you to be my wife, either,” said King Torin. “That’s the whole plan. That’s why you’re so perfect.”
I blinked. “Sorry, what?”
“You’ll just need to marry me for a few months. Not for very long. And you wouldn’t need to consummate anything. Just sit on the queen’s throne and channel your power. Replenish Faerie’s magic. Help me save the kingdom. Once things are back to normal, we’ll get divorced. And you can go back to”—he surveyed the small living room—“this place. And it can all be over without any messy emotions getting in the way because we don’t like each other. At all.”
He paused, crossing his arms over his chest like he’d just delivered the deal of a lifetime.
I stared at the king. “Why would I do this? You want me to become your wife, then divorce you a few months later. Can you imagine the impact that would have on my life? I hate being the center of attention, and I’d be all over the news as ‘a gold-digger common fae.’ Just that ten minutes outside was one of the worst experiences of my life. And after I left Faerie? I’d be all over the tabloids. I don’t need this. I have a mess of my own here I need to sort out, Torin. I need to find a way to get my own place. Normal things like rent that you probably don’t even know about. Can’t you just find someone you actually love?”
For a moment, I thought I saw him wince. Then his expression became unreadable again. “I was planning on paying you handsomely for your role. Thirty million dollars to cover your time and any potential future issues. You’d be set up for life. You can choose to stay in Faerie, with the understanding that it will not be a real marriage. I should probably add that there is a good chance you could die during the tournaments.”
I froze, my eyes widening. “Thirty…sorry I thought you said…did you say thirty million?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, it occurred to me that I was a terrible negotiator. If he was willing to throw thirty million at me, how high could I get him to go?
I rested my hand on my hip. “I won’t have my good name dragged through the mud. And you did mention that I could die.”
He snorted. “Your good name? Your meltdown is all over mortal social media. How could it possibly be any worse?”
I closed my eyes, trying not to imagine what the memes were like. Shivers of horror crawled over my body at the thought of everyone sharing the video. Sounds of me slurring about Chad from Hitched and Stitched trending on TikTok…
It almost made the idea of running away to Faerie sound appealing.
“Fifty million,” I said.
“Fine. Fifty million—if you win. I will do my best to keep you alive.”
“How dangerous are we talking, exactly?”
“The tournaments always end in a fencing match, and it has been known to get bloody. But I will help you train.”
I let out a long, slow breath. “Besides bartending, fencing is the one thing I’m actually good at.” I bit my lip. “But what are the chances I’ll win?”
“Assuming you survive, almost certain, since I’m the one who chooses the bride. We just need to make sure it seems believable that I’d choose you, which won’t exactly be easy after…”
“The drunken meltdown, yes.”
“You must avoid making another public spectacle of yourself in Faerie. My cursory research tells me that until last night, I didn’t see any other evidence of public disgrace or scandal. Do you think you can conduct yourself with a modicum of decorum? I’m not expecting much, but my marriage to you has to be at least somewhat believable. And the idea of marrying a low-born common fae with a slovenly appearance and a drinking problem already stretches the bounds of credulity.”
His insults were sliding right off me now because…fifty million? I could probably buy my own privacy. I could buy people to compliment me. I could get takeout curry every night. It was a dizzying amount of money; I almost couldn’t comprehend what I’d do with it.
I opened my eyes again to find that King Torin had fallen silent and was staring at me. An icy fire danced in his eyes. I sensed that he was studying me. Not in a sexual way, but rather that he was finally taking me in as a person. Assessing my running outfit. The dark circles under my eyes. The rat’s nest of my hair. Assessing weaknesses.
“Who are your parents?” he said at last.
“My mother’s name was Chloe Jones.”
“Not her.” He leaned closer. “Who was your biological mother? Your true family?”
A heavy weariness pressed down on me, and I wanted to flop onto the sofa again. A buried memory from my childhood clawed at the hollow recesses of my mind: me, standing before the portal, clutching a Mickey Mouse backpack, sobbing uncontrollably because they wouldn’t let me in.
“I honestly have no idea. I tried to go back into Faerie one day, but they wouldn’t allow me.”
He cocked his head. “Why were you trying to get in? Did the human woman mistreat you?”
I felt instantly defensive at his question, and also annoyed he referred to her as the human woman. “No. My mother was amazing. But the kids at school thought I was a freak with weird ears and ridiculous blue hair, and they weren’t kind. They tied me to a fence post once, like a dog leashed outside a café. I just wanted to see other people like me.”
A dark look slid across his eyes. “Well, now you will. If you agree to my proposal, I will help you find your fae family.”
“I’m sure they’re dead. Why would they let me get kicked out if they weren’t?”
But my mind was already made up. Because what kind of moron would turn down fifty million dollars?
Especially someone homeless and unemployable, which was my current situation. With fifty million dollars, I could open an entire chain of bars—if I even decided to work again.
And the truth was, even if they were dead, I was desperate to know more about my birth parents. What exactly had happened to them? Fae almost always lived longer than humans. What were the chances they’d both died young?
I took a deep breath. “All right, I’m in. But we should sign some kind of contract.”
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a form. I watched as he held it against the wall and crossed a few things out, then signed his name in an elegant calligraphy at the bottom.
He handed me the form, and I scanned it.
Generally, when given paperwork, my eyes just sort of glaze over, and the words seem to blur. Then I assume everything is fine, and I scribble my signature. But this was too important to half-ass, so I forced myself to focus. He’d added in the amount I’d be paid and initialed next to it. There was a clause about secrecy, and a stipulation that I’d forfeit the money if I told any other fae about my role. And if I lost the tournament, I got nothing.
I licked my lips, realizing there might be no point to a contract with the most powerful person in the world. “Who, exactly, would enforce this?”
Surprise flickered over his features. “If a fae king breaks a contract, he will grow sick and die. I can’t break it. Only you can.”
“Right. Okay. I guess that’s binding, then.” I signed it, then handed it over to him.
“Are you ready?” he asked. “It starts soon.”
“Now? I haven’t even showered.”
He scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “Unfortunately, there is no time. But we’ll try to make you presentable in Faerie.”
“I volunteer as tribute!” Shalini stood in the doorway of her bedroom wearing a hot pink bathrobe. “Take me to Faerie. I’ll be a contestant.”
Torin exhaled sharply. “You’re not fae. And Ava has already agreed.”
“Don’t some of the women have advisors?” asked Shalini. “Someone as counsel? In Ava’s case, someone to stop her from any more outrageous drunken episodes?”
I should have asked about an advisor, but I was so caught off guard, I stammered, “Shalini, what are you doing?”
“Helping you.” She beamed. “I’m not letting you go alone. Who knows what these people are like in their own realm? I heard him say it’s dangerous.”
Torin shrugged. “So is your world.”
Of course—Shalini was desperate for adventure.
Torin turned, already heading for the door. “I don’t really have time to argue about this, but maybe it’s not the worst idea. You may need emotional support to keep you from falling off the rails and someone to help negotiate any duels. Let’s go. Now.”
Crawford, C.N. . Frost (Frost and Nectar Book 1). Kindle Locations (585-651). Kindle Edition.
Ava and Shalini head to the fae realm with Torin with little time to spare before the meet and greet ball. As impressed as Ava is with the castle, she also somehow feels unwelcome. A feeling she pushes away often.
The competition is fierce and sadistic as well. There is no love lost between those who would be queen. Torin needs her to win, he can’t marry anyone he may fall in love with, and Ava fills that requirement.
I love this tale, it has lots of twists, and many surprises as well as more than one romance.
I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for C.N.!
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C.N. Crawford is not one person but two. We write our novels collaboratively, passing our laptops back and forth to edit each other’s words.
Christine is from Lexington, Massachusetts and has has a lifelong interest in New England folklore–with a particular fondness for creepy old cemeteries and execution histories. Nick spent his childhood reading fantasy and science fiction during Vermont’s long winters, which have rendered him impervious to the cold.