The Summer King Bundle 3 Stories - Jennifer L. Armentrout Page 0,1

out, knowing that while there was still a metric crap ton of Winter fae out there who needed to be hunted down and stopped, we’d leveled out the playing field with the Queen’s defeat.

Things were as normal as they’d ever be for an Order member. Hell, Ren and Ivy were even planning to take a vacation after Christmas. How crazy was that? Super crazy!

I wasn’t planning a vacation, because I hadn’t really taken part in the battle. If I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I’d be dead. Like clinically, irreversibly dead.

I’d only received minimal combat training before that had come to a grinding halt when I was twelve. And while I still took the Order-mandated training classes along with Ivy, I’ve never seen any real action. Working through take-down maneuvers or knowing how to avoid a punch or a deliver a bone-snapping kick was completely different than actually taking that knowledge and using it against someone who was actively trying to straight-up murder you.

If my life hadn’t veered off track at twelve, I would’ve been just like Ivy and Ren—a walking weapon on two legs–but everything had changed when my mother had been captured by the fae she’d been hunting.

My mother was a fighter, much like my father, who’d died when I was too young to remember him beyond the photographs that hung in the hallway. She had been one of the greatest, most skilled fighters in the Order - dare I say, even more badass than Ivy. She’d raised me while still pulling all nighters, patrolling the streets of New Orleans for fae, hunting them before they could hunt humans. When I was younger, I swore I was going to be just like her—like every child raised in the Order planned. We were indoctrinated at birth and our duty to protect mankind was what all of us prepared for. Training started young, at the age of eight. Mornings were dedicated to schooling and afternoons were part learning about the habits of the fae and part training.

But then came the morning, when I was a few days shy of my twelfth birthday, that Mom… she hadn’t come home. Those days that had followed, those days that felt like an eternity, were some of the worst memories I will ever have.

Mom had been found on day four, in one of the bayous several miles out from the city, left for dead. Even as skilled as she was, she had fallen to the fae. They’d tortured her. Worse yet, they had fed on her, and while they hadn’t enslaved her, all those feedings had done something to her. To her mind. Thank God, my mom had come home to me.

But she hadn’t come home the same.

There’d been days and weeks where it was like nothing had happened to her, and then things weren’t okay. She’d just up and disappear one day or would refuse to come out of her room. She’d rant and rage and then break into fits of laughter that would last hours. Things got easier in the months and years following her attack, but taking care of her had replaced training, and when I came of age, I was given an administrator-type job with the Order, something reserved for the lucky few that made it to retirement. I accepted it even though the money the Order had paid out to my mother for her ‘injured in the line of duty’ situation was substantial.

But I was hoping that could change now. Things were going to simmer down, and I was hoping with a little more training, I could start patrolling. The Order needed me—needed all the help they could get since so many had been lost in the battle with the Queen. I could become just as badass as Ivy and Ren and then I’d finally be able to fulfill my duty.

I’d finally be… useful. Worthy of those I called my friends and, most importantly, worthy of the legacy of my family. I could—

Fingers appeared directly in my line of vision. They snapped, causing me to jerk back in my seat. The fingers lowered to reveal Ivy staring at me.

My cheeks heated as I laughed softly. “Sorry. I spaced out. Were you saying something?”

“I was saying that I was about to strip naked and run outside.”

Ren’s green eyes practically twinkled. “I am so down for that.”

“Of course you are.” Grinning, she gestured at the menu. “Did you want dessert, Bri?”

Only Ivy called me Bri. Everyone else called me Brighton