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The Witch Queen of Halloween: Chapter 20

Poppy’s hair streamed around her radiant face, and her lavender eyes shone with menace, even as her smile was as brilliant as the coming dawn. Her body vibrated until her steps cracked stone. Looking like a terrifying goddess, she continued to back away from the door.

He couldn’t stop his feet from following her. He’d follow her forever. But he needed to defend against the coming blitz—against a primordial and more. “Hey, what are we doing here?” Had she been taken over by these visitors? They were everywhere, more appearing at every second.

Stone grit swirled around Poppy like a cloud of his smoke. “Don’t you see, Rök? I am the scariest thing in this castle.”

CAWWWW! cried the raven.

The front door swung wide.

Rök whirled around as the primordial charged inside with a roar, the others on its heels. “Stay behind me!” He gripped his sword⁠—

Out of the corner of his vision, he spied Poppy wave her arm in sync with the doll on her shoulder.

His jaw slackened when the ghouls’ bodies left the floor—the primordial’s included. Suspended in the air, they thrashed their limbs, claws whistling with each useless strike.

Rök pivoted to Poppy, thunderstruck. “You’re controlling the visitors?”

Slow nod. Moving her hands, Poppy telekinetically turned their foes this way and that, like a ghoulish snow globe.

Mesmerizing to watch, but . . . “We’re on a clock, witch.”

“Very well.” Another wave of Poppy’s arm launched the ghouls out of the castle. They howled as they sailed all the way to the distant cemetery. Tombstones cracked like dried mud when they landed, dazed.

She turned to the Horseman. “Do your thing.”

Sword raised, he spurred his steed and raced through the doorway. A legion of others followed—scuttling, tumbling, loping after him—like he was a cavalry officer mounting a charge.

Rök could imagine him yelling, To the cemetery, villains!

CAWWWW! cried the raven.

“That’s the second one, Red. We’ve got to go.”

Poppy’s vibrations eased until she was able to walk naturally. When she took Rök’s hand and they started into the crowd, the mass of visitors filing out of the castle parted for her like a current around a boulder. Together he and the witch hurried to the door.

He held his breath as they crossed the boundary. “Free.” Trapped no more, tension flowed from him—until the ghouls recovered to speed back toward the castle.

Poppy’s eyes glowed even brighter, and a wall of vampire bats materialized to intercept them, blocking their vision. Gremlins clung to their legs, slowing them for the werewolves and skeletons to attack.

When the witch cricked her neck, aliens tackled Truller, stabbing him with their tails, treating him like a sword dummy. Green blood spewed.

The Horseman and more aliens targeted the primordial, taking it to the ground. The slasher, the killer clown, and a gang of others joined in.

CAWWWW! cried the raven for the third time.

Should Rök trace Poppy away? He turned to her. “Are you going to kill the primordial?” What would the ramifications be?

Bloodlust in her eyes, she smiled. “Yes. Yes, I think I will.”

Glorious witch.

With a flick of her hand, her minions redoubled their frenzied attack. As they mauled the primordial, screams rent the night. “Listen to them.” She faced Rök, gaze shimmering. “What music they make.”

His grin was part humor, part grim fascination. There he and Poppy stood at the threshold of Raven’s Murk, staring at each other as more visitors sprang to life all around them and filed from the castle. “How many are under your control?”

“As many as there are nightmares.”

Then her power was colossal. “You saved me, love.” Rök had accepted his unspeakable fate. Now . . . his future with Poppy awaited once more.

“Just like you saved me all night. We’ll always save each other.” She stood on her toes, brimming with magic. “Kiss me.”

His gaze slid to the doll still perched on her shoulder.

Poppy told it, “Take care of our pawns.” When Annelise turned her head 180 degrees to focus on the action, Poppy teased him, “Is my creepy still cute?”

Nodding helplessly, he claimed her lips as monsters battled monsters and an ancient primordial fought to the death.

Rök tasted her power, as arousing as her fierce attitude. Despite the nightmares surrounding them, he got lost in that kiss.

Taking her mouth . . . promising himself . . . forever . . .



Dimly, he heard an echoing roar. When she drew back, he blinked to attention. “Poppy?”

“I can sense the scene through the visitors.” The primordial’s roar abruptly ended. “It’s done.”

“The other ghouls?”

“A few fled. The mother and kids were the first out. Should we pursue them?” Poppy asked, though her ability must be taking a toll. She was young, and she’d just eliminated the strongest ghoul in all the worlds!

Rök wrapped his arms around her. “Another day.”

CAWWWW! cried the raven for the fourth and final time.

The castle door slammed shut.

Then Rök traced his mate away from Raven’s Murk, never to return.

Poppy glanced around a rustic cabin filled with technology—monitors, computers, and communications gear. “Where are we? This place looks like a spy expert’s command center.” Sunlight flooded in through the cabin’s windows. Rök must’ve taken her far from the castle.

He released her. “You’re in my secret lair, tucked in the wilds of Iceland.”

She waved Annelise away, and the doll vanished. Poppy’s new ability would take some getting used to, but after tonight . . . she was a devout fan of the franchise. “Iceland? I thought demons liked warm weather.” She didn’t remark on the horn-sized gouges marring the walls and the pair of larger holes worn into the floor. Her poor anguished demon!

“Though most of us hanker for hellplanes, some of us see the appeal of snow. As long as there’s fire.” He crossed to a great hearth and tossed logs in. In moments, flames crackled, and he stood. “I bought this place with you in mind. But then I realized you would want to be close to your family.”

“And Newt.”

His lips curled. “And Newt. The humping cat.”

Grinning, she turned to the nearest window. In one direction, a snow-draped mountain loomed; in the other, an active lava flow meandered by like a river! She gave a laugh. “Let’s not be too hasty. This place is amazing.”

He joined her. “Witches gather on that snowy peak each year in pilgrimage. Between that and the smoke, I was sold.”

“Fire and ice, huh? Kind of like your fighting style.”

He inclined his head, but she could tell he was pleased. “Your own fighting style defies description. It was like you commandeered an army. Did you turn the curse back on itself?”

“There was never a curse.” She explained how her conduit worked. “Mariketa was right; the answer was in that magic-laden castle.” Poppy had just needed several helpings of incentive, seasoned with danger, and fired with a demon. “This ability is so unique and so under my control that I think . . . Rök, I think I’m a queen.” A mystical practitioner better at a particular skill than anyone else in the Lore.

“The witch queen of Halloween,” he said, beaming with pride.

The rightness of that title warmed her. “That’s me.” Why nightmares? she’d wondered. But then, how could some witches control storms? Or animals?

“Just when I thought you couldn’t be any sexier.” He cupped her face to kiss her.

“Wait.” She held up a forefinger. “I need to let my sisters know I’m okay.”

“Use my computer.” He traced over to log her in. “I’ll text Desh and make sure he remembers not to return for you.”

“Good idea.” She removed her bag and emailed a quick note: You bitches won’t believe what happened! Drinks on me! Oh, and Lea, we’re gonna throw hands. As Poppy hit send, she recalled something from the chaotic moments before. “Rök, did you happen to notice anything strange when we were kissing?”

He sent the text, then pocketed his phone. “You’ll have to be more specific. When I was about to take your lips, I’m pretty sure pumpkin-head gave me a thumbs-up with his stalk hand.”

Good point. “Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw . . .” She frowned, then shrugged off her concerns. “Probably a visitor I didn’t have a handle on, one bringing up the rear for protection.”

“I still can’t believe a young witch like you took out a primordial. That victory will give a lot of Loreans hope. It’ll certainly worry the Møriør.” Their alliance contained several primordials from various species.

“It’s about time something did.” What a difference a night could make! She kicked back in his chair, steepling her fingers. “So this place is half mine?”

“Everything of mine is, including my merc crew. I’m still hoping you’ll be the co-leader.”

She rose and sauntered over to him, holding his gaze. “Uh-huh. And what about all those pesky summonings?”

“Soon to be things of the past.” He’d just said those words when the edges of his body started to blur. “No. No, no, no!” Though he clearly fought it, he was disappearing. “Poppy, it’s . . . happening.”

Fatigue and disappointment crashed over her. “You gotta be kidding me. It’s like a horror trope.”

“One last scare, huh?” He looked gutted, his eyes gray with frustration.

His reaction reminded her of everything they’d overcome to get to this point—every foe they’d battled, every mystery solved, every ability realized. A queen like her would never shrink from a challenge.

She grasped his nape. “With the pact you and I made tonight, I summon you back.” Her first demonic summoning! Would it work? “Stay with me, Rök. Heed me.”

A breathless second passed. . . .

By degrees, his form solidified. The strain left his muscles, and he released a relieved exhalation. “Good save, Red.” Brows drawn, he rasped, “Just . . . don’t ever let me go.”

“I won’t.” She gazed up at him, her mate for life. “I’ll summon you back forever—the swimbo of them all—till everyone in the Lore gets the message.”

He leaned into her, as if he couldn’t get close enough. “What message?”

“That you’re mine.”

Nodding, he said simply, “You.”

She rose up to kiss him, saying against his lips, “You.”


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