Start reading the highly-anticipated sequel LEGENDS AND LIARS by Morgan Rhodes
Excerpt alert! In Legends and Liars, riveting sequel to Echoes and Empires, Joss and Jericho team up with some of their greatest enemies to bring an end to the queen’s empire of lies, from New York Times bestselling author Morgan Rhodes. Perfect for fans of Realm Breaker and The Queen’s Assassin!
Josslyn Drake is in over her head—again. After fleeing the Queen’s palace with Prince Elian in tow, she’d hoped to finally find a way to solve both of their magical problems in one fell swoop, with the help of criminal-turned-ally Jericho Nox. But Valery, Jericho’s boss—and a notoriously powerful mage—has other plans.
It soon becomes clear that Valery can’t, or won’t, provide assistance. And as Joss’s relationship with Jericho becomes more confusing than ever, she realizes that she’ll have to find her own way out of this magical mess, with or without help from those around her.
Amid high tensions, Joss sets out to learn to control the memory magic—along with her own natural powers. As the struggle between Lord Banyon and the Queen threatens the people Joss cares about, she stumbles onto hints of a monumental royal secret. Her unwanted power just might hold the answers she needs to solve all her problems—but she’ll have to work quickly, because the fate of an empire hangs in the balance.
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The witch moved through the crowded restaurant, drawing the eye of everyone she passed. She had long, dark brown hair, pale white skin, and lips as scarlet red as the dress that hugged her slim body. Diamonds sparkled at her ears, throat, and wrists. She could easily pass for the young wife of a poli- tician or businessman, meeting her friends for dinner. Most would view her as beautiful, elegant, fashionable, and entirely harmless.
They’d be dead wrong.
She didn’t look to the left or right. Her attention was fixed on only one person.
I didn’t try to smile. I didn’t wave my hand in greeting. Instead, I focused on hiding my fear, since it wasn’t the least bit helpful tonight.
My gaze shifted from the witch to the tall young man who accompanied her. Black eyes. Dark hair. Broad shoulders. A tense, square jaw. The tattoo of a dagger on the side of his neck, visible above the collar of his black leather coat. Contrary to the witch’s benign appearance, most casual onlookers would immediately assume Jericho Nox was dangerous, and instinctively want to run in the opposite direction. For me, however, the relief at seeing the Blackheart stole the air right out of my lungs.
Shortly after we’d arrived in Cresidia, a city six hundred miles north of Ironport, Jericho had disappeared without a word. And then five long days had passed in utter silence. I’d convinced myself that his evil boss had punished him for failing his latest mission. Or worse . . . killed him. But then, earlier today,I received a message to meet him and the witch here tonight. Alone.
Jericho scanned the restaurant vigilantly, his expressionimpenetrable steel. The table I’d been taken to upon my arrivalwas in a private alcove set slightly apart from the rest of the restaurant, through a carved stone archway. Just beyond the archway, the restaurant bustled with waiters and, most importantly, a dining room full of patrons. There was no way I’d ever meet with this witch without knowing there were a hundred witnesses present.
She took a seat across from me, and I tensed. I’d be perfectly happy if tomorrow this witch was executed for her long list of heinous crimes. I’d make sure I had a front-row seat. Tonight, however, her death would do me no good at all. Elian needed her help. And, in more ways than I cared to admit, so did I.
“Jericho, please make the introductions.” Her voice took me by surprise—it was as sweet and smooth as honey. I guess I’d expected her to sound as shrill and cruel as her reputation.
The Blackheart took the seat next to his boss. I tried to read his expression, but it gave me no clues as to where he’d been for five long days.
“Valery,” he said evenly, and his familiar deep voice betrayed not even a whisper of emotion, “this is Josslyn Drake. Josslyn Drake, this is Valery.”
He’d called me simply Drake so many times that my first name sounded strange on his lips. Not strange in a bad way. Just strange.
Valery gestured for a waiter to approach. He had a bottle of red wine already in hand, and he poured two glasses from it without being asked—one for me and one for her.
“I took the liberty of ordering this for us,” she said.
“How thoughtful of you,” I replied dryly. “No wine for Jericho?”
“I prefer that my employees don’t drink alcohol.”
“It’s fine,” Jericho said. “I’m not thirsty.”
I wished that we’d had time to talk before this, to help me get my bearings when it came to meeting his boss. What she knew, what she wanted, what she planned to do next.
“Have you visited Cresidia before, Josslyn?” Valery asked when the waiter moved away from the table.
Small talk didn’t seem to suit the occasion, but I’d do my best to endure it.
“No,” I replied. “I’ve rarely traveled far from Ironport all my life. At least, not until recently.”
Ironport was in South Regara, and Cresidia was in North Regara. While Ironport was straightlaced, business minded, and highly respectable with its gray-and-silver skyscrapers, and meticulously groomed green spaces, Cresidia was known more as a vacation destination—with luxury shopping, glittering hotels, and sandy beaches. I’d spent most of my time since our arrival on one of those beaches, staring out at the sparkling blue sea, piecing together everything I’d seen and learned over the last month that had shattered the life I’d always known into a million jagged pieces.
“The life of a prime minister’s daughter,” Valery mused. “How very limiting that must have been for you.”
I fought to hold on to my calm expression. “Actually, my life felt quite limitless. Until last year, of course.”
She nodded, her expression serene. “Yes, of course. My deepest condolences on your father’s death.”
My fingers itched to grab the steak knife in front of me and shove it through her eyeball, straight into her evil brain.
“I’m trying very hard to be polite to you,” I said tightly. “Really, I am. But I’m sure you must understand why that’s going to be a challenge for me.”
She studied me for a moment, a glass of wine poised in her perfectly manicured hand. “Jericho tells me that you know everything.”
“I know enough,” I bit out. Then I chose to ignore her and focus on the Blackheart for a moment while I gathered my poise and control again. “Where have you been for the last five days?” I asked him bluntly.
Jericho blinked, his jaw tense. “There was something I needed to take care of.”
His black eyes flicked to mine, a silent warning in their depths. “Something.”
“I needed Jericho to retrieve this for me,” Valery said as she reached into her handbag to pull out an object, which she placed on the table. It was a small golden box covered in geometric etchings.
My breath caught at the sight of it, and my confused gaze shot to Jericho.
“You may explain,” Valery said to him with a casual wave of her hand.
Something tight in his expression eased just a little as the Blackheart nodded. “Val wanted me to pay a quick visit to Tobin to get the memory box back. She’d heard through the grapevine that he was planning on selling it. He’d already put feelers out to see how much it was worth on the black market. I got there just in time to retrieve it.”
“I thought you said it didn’t matter,” I said, my throat painfully tight. “That the memory magic could be contained inside any object.”
“I was wrong,” he replied.
I glared at him. “You were wrong?”
He shrugged. “It happens occasionally. Apparently, the symbols on the box are specific to this piece of contained magic in particular. Live and learn.”
I realized then that the black leather coat Jericho currently wore was the same one that Tobin, a Queensguard who secretly worked for Valery—aka a traitor to the Empire—had forcibly taken from him. The box had been in his pocket at the time.
“Nice coat,” I said.
“It sure is,” he agreed. “Glad to have it back.”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask my next question, but I really wanted to know the answer. “And is Tobin . . . still alive?”
Jericho didn’t speak for a moment. “I’m sure he’s still alive in the hearts of the people who loved him. If those people actually exist, which I highly doubt. But generally speaking? No. Tobin is very dead.”
I didn’t have to ask how Tobin died. I could guess. By Valery’s command. It was how she dealt with difficulties. She’d wanted the memory box stolen from the Queen’s Gala by any means necessary. And now she had it, only three weeks past the original deadline. Missing its valuable and vitally important contents, of course. But she had it.
The witch watched me carefully for my reaction to all of this. Perhaps she expected me to be appalled or squeamish or frightened at the suggestion that Jericho had killed someone on her orders. She would be disappointed.
Tobin had shot Jericho in the chest and then shoved both of us into a walled prison without sparing a moment of concern for either of our fates. And I wouldn’t spare a moment of concern for his.
So, now I had my answer about where Jericho had been for five days. Time to deal with the present and what it meant for my future.
“What did you tell her?” I asked Jericho.
He met my gaze directly, his expression now unreadable apart from a nearly imperceptible tightness along his jawline.
“Everything,” he replied.