Michelle Rowen

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Reign Check

Demon Princess: Book #2
Reign Check

Walker Books for Young Readers
May 25, 2010

Paperback ISBN-10: 0802795498
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-0802795496
Hardcover ISBN-10: 0802720935
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0802720931

Enter the world of Nikki Donovan, a demon princess hell-bent on living a normal teenage life!

Nikki Donovan has had a lot to deal with since learning she was half human, half demon. But things take a darker turn when Rhys, a gorgeous — but potentially dangerous — faery king enrolls at her high school to investigate Nikki’s potential for fulfilling an apocalyptic prophesy. Nikki knows she’d never turn violent, and she certainly couldn’t destroy the world…could she?

Of course, all Nikki really wants is to be reunited with Michael, a Shadow creature whose status as her personal servant is further complicated by their undeniable attraction to each other. Even though the rules of the Shadowlands strictly forbid their romance, Nikki is determined not to let Michael go. But when she is summoned to the Underworld to appear before a demon council, it will take all her courage — and perhaps a bit of demon-level strength — to get herself out again.

Available from:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  | Chapters  |  Indiebound

C h a p t e r   1

Act normal, I told myself as I pushed through the front doors of Erin Heights High School. Everything’s going to be just fine.

That thought lasted exactly thirty seconds. Then I saw Melinda, my best friend, waiting for me by our lockers. The look on her face immediately made me nervous. She looked way too excited about something.

It was eight thirty on a Monday morning and freezing cold outside. The roads were sheets of ice that only looked like roads. Everything else was blanketed in thick snow. Christmas break was still a whole week away. Obviously, in my opinion, there was nothing to get all that excited about.

It was probably nothing. But I couldn’t help being on edge. After all, I now had a secret that nobody, including Melinda, could find out.

A week ago, I was a normal, boring teenager.

Then I met my father for the first time and found out he was a demon. And not just any demon: he was also the king of another dimension called the Shadowlands.

Which made me a princess—a demon princess.

So very not normal.

That was the secret I now had to keep from everybody. After all, I didn’t live in the Shadowlands. I lived here, in the real world. With homework, crabby teachers, and a curfew.

Not that anyone would believe me if I actually told them the truth. It sounded all kinds of crazy, didn’t it?

I approached Melinda warily. I hadn’t spoken to her since Saturday morning—during a quick ten-minute phone call in which I pretended I was sick to get out of going to the mall with her. I’d been recovering from my near-death experience in the Shadowlands, when my demonic aunt Elizabeth had tried unsuccessfully to kill me and my father so she could take over the throne. The fact that I wasn’t up for a few hours of shopping the next day didn’t make me a bad friend—just one who needed to sleep in as long as possible.

This morning the blonde, model-pretty Melinda looked as perfect as she always did. She was the queen of the “Royal Party,” which is what some of the most popular kids at Erin Heights were called.

“Nikki!” Melinda greeted me enthusiastically.

“Hey, what’s going on? You look like you’re ready to explode.”

“There’s a new guy starting today in our grade,” she said. “Wait till you see him. He’s gorgeous.”

“New guy?” I repeated. “That’s why you look like you just won the lottery? There’s a new student. Big deal.”

She had a serious perma-grin thing going on. “I think I’m in love.”

I relaxed a bit. Happily, this seemed to be an issue that had nothing to do with me. I could definitely deal with any new student Melinda thought was hot.

Not a problem.

I shifted my heavy backpack to my other shoulder. “I thought you only liked older guys.”

She shrugged. “I’m making an exception to my over-sixteen rule. Rumor has it he’s a foreign exchange student, but he doesn’t have an accent.”

“You’ve talked to him?”

“Not yet. But Larissa bumped into him and he said ‘Excuse me’ and asked for directions to the principal’s office. She’s so lucky.”

I tried to refrain from rolling my eyes. Larissa and I didn’t get along that well. “That’s definitely one of the words I’d use to describe her.”

Melinda worked on the combination to her locker and swung it open.

“Nice crown.” I nodded at the top shelf inside.

“Thanks. I want to keep it close. It makes me happy.” She ran her fingers over the shiny silver plastic headpiece tipped with snowflakes. She’d been crowned Winter Queen last Friday night at the school’s formal dance. “I’m still dying to know how everything went with you and Chris, you know. You guys left so early and I haven’t seen you since.”

With that, she gave me a huge grin, as if she thought Chris Sanders and I were soulmates and she was taking the credit for setting us up in the first place. Which, admittedly, she kind of did.

“There’s really not much to say,” I began, trying to think of a way to change the subject as quickly as possible.

Melinda looked over my shoulder. “Oh, here he comes now. Hey, Chris!”

I froze and slowly turned around.

Chris Sanders stopped walking, right in the middle of the hallway, and his eyes widened a little when he saw me. He was just as good looking now as the first time I’d seen him when my mom and I moved here two months ago—all tall, broad-shouldered, and blue-eyed. I’d developed an immediate crush on him. I had been so thrilled when he’d asked me to Winter Formal, you have no idea.

Funny how things changed.

“H-hey, uh, Melinda.” Chris stuttered the greeting in an awkward manner that majorly conflicted with his usual confidence. “And . . . Nikki . . . um, good to see you.”

I pasted a frozen smile on my face. “Yeah . . . you too.”

Melinda looked at us each in turn, confused.

Then again, she didn’t know what happened between Chris and me when we left the dance early. He’d had too much to drink and cornered me in the back of an empty limousine. I freaked out and tapped into my demon side. We’re talking black leathery wings, horns, talons, extra strength, the works. A teenaged she-demon who could kick butt.

I’d . . . sort of kicked Chris’s butt.

Well, he totally deserved it.

Unfortunately, he now knew my secret. I was really, really hoping that he’d convinced himself he’d imagined it all. I mean, he was pretty drunk.

“You’re coming to my party on Saturday night, right?” Melinda asked after a long, uncomfortable moment of silence passed among us in the busy hallway.

Chris nodded stiffly. “Wouldn’t miss it.”

“You have to choose a name for the gift exchange. So do you, Nikki.”

The frozen smile on my face was starting to cramp. “Sounds like fun.”

“Yeah,” Chris agreed half heartedly. For a moment I thought he was going to leave without another word, but instead he looked directly at me. “Nikki, I . . . I want to talk to you.”

“Now?” I squeaked.

I really hated it when I squeaked.

“No, but soon. Really soon. It’s important.” He nodded firmly, his jaw tense, and then he walked away.

He wanted to talk to me. About what?

Like I had to ask.

I could deal with him. Sure. I’d just convince him that he’d seen things. Spiral-horned, black-winged, red-eyed things that threw balls of energy in self-defense. While wearing a fancy dress and high heels.

Sure. No problem.

Melinda looked perplexed by this exchange. “He’s acting strange. What was that all about?”

“I have absolutely no idea,” I lied.

“Aren’t you two together anymore?”

Anymore? Were we together in the first place?”

“You went to the dance together.”

“So?” I tried to look innocent. It was difficult. “Does that mean I have to marry him or something?”

She finally smiled again. “Yeah, you have to marry him. Didn’t you know that? Going to Winter Formal means you’re automatically engaged.”

I couldn’t help but snort a little at that. “Then we’re in serious trouble.”

She sighed. “It’s too bad. I thought you and Chris would be perfect together. Are you interested in somebody else?”

I looked at her cautiously. “Why? Are you going to play Cupid again?”

“Depends on who you pick.”

“Nobody comes to mind.”

Yet another secret I couldn’t share with Melinda—or anyone else—was that I did have a boyfriend.

Michael didn’t go to school here. He also wasn’t exactly what you’d call a normal boyfriend. In fact, he was about as non-normal as you could get. He wasn’t a human. Or a demon. He was a “Shadow” and he lived in my father’s castle. Shadows were enslaved to demons and had been practically forever. It was ridiculous and outdated. From what I’d seen, the Shadowlands were seriously like something out of Medieval Times dinner theater. Only no jousting. Or turkey drumsticks.

Demons and Shadows were forbidden to be together as anything other than master and servant. Also ridiculous.

And get this: my father had assigned Michael to be my personal servant. But I didn’t think of him that way at all. Plus, since Michael put his life on the line to help defeat my aunt late Friday night, I’d made my father promise Michael wouldn’t have to be a servant anymore. That was the last time I’d seen either of them.

It was all complicated enough to give me a big fat headache when I thought about it for too long. I rubbed my temples and finally opened my locker so I could unload my backpack and grab my books for the first class of the day—biology. I had it on fairly good authority that today was dissect-a-frog day. I was looking forward to that disgusting prospect only a little more than my now-inevitable conversation with Chris.

“So your party’s definitely on, huh?” I asked, trying to concentrate on something else.

Melinda nodded as she stuck her head back into her locker. “Saturday night starting at eight.” She hesitated. “Chris is coming. Is that going to be a problem?”

“A problem? No, of course not.”

Sure it was.

I was finding it difficult not to obsess about Chris. He was going to be a big problem. Would he tell anyone what he’d seen? And if so, what would happen then? Would I be able to deal with it?

Yes, of course I would. I’d battled my evil aunt who wanted to kill me. I could deal with Chris knowing my secret.

Still, my head began to throb even worse.

I knew I had to keep on top of my emotions. Since I was a Darkling—half human, half demon—all this power built up inside of me since I turned sixteen, just waiting for a chance to burst free. And when your inner demon wants to burst free, it’s not a pretty sight. Trust me on that.

I looked at the little mirror on my locker door and gasped. Thanks to my stress about Chris, my eyes had turned red—full red with black slits for pupils, like a cat’s eye. And they were glowing.

No. Not here.

I couldn’t change into my Darkling form right here in the middle of the school hallway. I suddenly pictured screaming, panicked students running in every direction trying to escape from me. Yelling and pointing at the monster with the big leather wings wearing jeans and a hot pink V-neck sweater.

Relax, I told myself. Everything’s okay.

“Can you come over earlier on Saturday and help me set things up?” Melinda’s voice echoed inside her locker.

“Yeah . . . sure. No problem.” I squeezed my eyes shut and attempted to breathe normally. I tried to think happy thoughts.

I thought about Michael.

Dark hair, green eyes, a rare smile.

Michael’s lips. Michael kissing me.

Okay, I started to feel calmer. Happier.

I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror again, relieved to see they had returned to their usual hazel color. I pulled my long blonde hair back and tucked it behind my ears. A little lip gloss quickly applied from the zippered pocket of my backpack, and I was all ready to go to my first class.

I could do this. Everything was fine.

I repeated it over and over in my head.

Everything is going to be fine. Chris is my only problem this week, and I can totally deal with him.

“I guess I’ll see you at lunch,” I said.

“Oh my God.” Melinda grabbed my arm. “Nikki, there he is.”

“There who is?”

“The exchange student.” She bit her bottom lip, her attention focused behind me. “So hot. I could die.”

I turned to look and my mouth dropped open.

Melinda was right—the new guy was really good looking.

He was tall and cute with short chestnut brown hair. He had dark brown eyes. I wasn’t close enough to see the color at the moment, but I knew they were dark brown.

How did I know? Because I’d already met the new student Melinda was excited about.

His name was Rhys. He was sixteen years old. But like me, he wasn’t all that normal, either.

Believe it or not, he was the king of the faery realm. The forest that bordered the Shadowlands led directly into his kingdom.

And he knew I was a demon princess.

Had I thought Chris was my only problem at the moment?

Um . . . wrong. So very wrong.

The last time I’d seen Rhys, only a couple of days ago, he’d mentioned a fascination with visiting the human world someday. He’d never been here before. He brought it up during the same conversation when he’d threatened to kill me with a very sharp sword.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Melinda’s smile fade. “That’s weird. Do you already know him, Nikki?”

“I . . . uh . . .” I clamped my mouth shut before I said anything that might get me into more trouble than I was already in.

Despite his death threat the last time we’d been face-to-face, the sixteen-year-old faery king was currently waving at me.

“Weird” didn’t even begin to cover it.

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