My father always told me that bad things happen on full moons.
Maybe I should have listened to him.
But as I run down a moonlit alley with three-hundred-million dollars worth of precious diamonds in a bag slung over my shoulder, and the man I love by my side, I can’t help but smile to myself.
“I will get you the biggest diamond ring money can buy, mi reina,” Lucas purrs, taking my hand.
My heart swells.
Three years. Three years I have spent on this job, getting close to a Russian billionaire, attending his extravagant parties and massive orgies, gaining his trust…
And tonight, we pulled the trigger.
This time tomorrow, Lucas and I will be in an exquisite Parisian hotel, sipping champagne and planning our new life together.
We reach a chain-linked fence at the end of the alley, and Lucas grabs my face and kisses me passionately.
“I will give you a boost, cariña.” Hand me the bag.”
I smile at him, this man I love so much, my partner in crime. I hand him the bag without thinking.
The knife in my stomach happens so fast, I barely register it.
“L-Lucas?” I gasp.
“I’m sorry, mi reina,” Lucas says, twisting the blade deeper into my chest while cupping my face. “I didn’t want it to be like this…”
“B-but… W-why?” I whisper, feeling cold and lightheaded, and a trickle of something from the corner of my mouth.
But the shock–the hurt–it already feels distant, somehow. I am fading.
My knees give out, and Lucas slowly lowers me to the ground until I am on my back in a pool of my own blood, staring up at him.
“This hurts me more than it does you, Camila,” he says sadly.
And with one final kiss to my forehead… he’s gone.
He betrayed me.
He… killed me.
Tears stream down my face as I feel my heart pounding against my chest, laboring. I grit my teeth.
Poor Camila. . .
What would Papá say if he could see me now?
I should have seen this coming, that’s what.
Love is one of the biggest traps of them all. It blinds you. Weakens you…
And I fell right into it.
It is the only mistake I’ve ever made in my career, and as it turns out–a fatal one.
I let my head fall back.
My heart is breaking.
I am breaking.
Maybe I will get to see my father again.
I hear them echoing.
I open my heavy lids as a flash of adrenaline courses through me.
“E . . . lllllppp,” I try to wheeze out. I’m not sure how much blood I’ve lost, but I know I have but minutes left.
I try to focus my vision as I see a tall figure stop in front of me.
“Mister,” I moan. “Help. 9-911!”
He kneels right in front of me, his features coming into focus. He is very handsome, I realize, with striking blue eyes and blond hair.
The man tilts his head at me with a bright smile. “Camila, is that you? Almost didn’t recognize you with the wig.”
I frown at him.
He knows me?
And why is he talking to me like I am not dying?!
“Help,” I wheeze. “I’ve b-been s-stabbed.”
The man frowns suddenly and steps back as if not to dirty his shoes with my pooling blood.
“Sorry, these are my favorite shoes,” he says apologetically.
He studies me for a moment, then says slowly. “You don’t have to die, if you don’t want to, you know.”
The man reaches inside of his pinstriped blazer jacket and pulls out a piece of paper and a pen.
The paper is glowing.
I must be dead already.
“If you sign this contract, my employer will save your life.”
My hands and feet feel numb as I stare at him. “You can save m-me?”
He smiles and studies me. “Of course we can.”
He holds the glowing letter right in front of me and it looks real. Like, real real.
My eyes trace over my full name that is written on the first line.
No one knows my real name.
“Who are you?” I whisper in awe.
“There’s no time for that, I’m afraid,” he replies, leaning closer. “Do I have your permission to help you sign?”
“Yes,” I rasp.
He places the pen in my limp fingers and guides it to the glowing letter, helping me sign my name on the dotted line at the bottom. It’s messy, blood dripping on the contract, but it’s done.
“Wh-who do you work for?” I whisper. “Where are they? When will they–”
The man stands up suddenly and touches his finger to his ear.
“Randy, I need an extraction now. This is a code triple X—Medical staff on standby.” He looks back down to me.
My whole body feels prickly and fuzzy, and before I can panic . . .
“Camila,” he says, “I want to formally welcome you to Fairy Godmother Inc.”
Fairy Godmother Inc.?
The last image I see is that strange man winking at me.
When I was a little girl, my father always spoiled me with lavish gifts.
My Papá was an infamous drug lord, and had more money than he could spend.
I loved him with every fiber of my being. I loved the life he gave me.
And when he died, I couldn’t walk away from that life. I needed it, yearned for it. I wanted the extravagance that made me feel like I was still his little princess.
And so I did what I had to do to keep it.
Like stealing expensive things from billionaires.
Too bad it got me killed.
The sound echoes beautifully in my mind. I can hear the voice, and it sounds like an angel.
“I do not mean to be insensitive,” says the voice, “but we do have to keep a schedule. Can you hear me?”
I open my eyes and sparkles of light seep through.
“Any slower and she’d be dead.”
I blink, seeing faces looking down at me.
“Ahh, there she is. You see? She is not brain dead like you thought,” came the voice of that ~MAN.~
The man from the alleyway. He’s standing beside a woman in a white coat. A doctor, from the look of her.
I wait for the man to say, “WELCOME TO HELL!” as fire explodes behind him and he turns into something horrific.
Maybe I have signed a deal with the devil like they do in the movies.
That, I could live with–if it came with fame and money.
But he just smiles at me.
“Excuse me,” I get out as my voice breaks. “Am I dead?”
The man smiles and shakes his head, then helps me sit up. My head is dizzy. I’m in some sterile hospital, everything almost blindingly white with virtual technology. I hear a beautiful electronic woman’s voice talk in the background.
“Where am I?” I whisper, my heart thudding.
“Great question,” the man says. “You were just in surgery, and it went very well.” He winks at me. “We cut it close.”
I immediately grab my stomach where the knife was sticking out.
No pain. Nothing physical, at least.
But the impact of Lucas’s betrayal hits me all at once.
How could he do this to me?
How could I be so stupid to not see it coming?
“I’m going to be sick,” I moan.
Lucas is probably on a one-way flight out of here, sipping champagne while getting a shoulder massage to ease the guilt and tension he must be feeling.
“Deep breaths, Camila. It’s just nerves.” He nudges me, smiling. “You can call me Pierce.”
“Pierce, why am I not dead?” I take a big breath, trying not to freak out as I ask, “Or…am I?”
Pierce chuckles. “I can assure you, you are not dead. Here at FGI, we have the best medical staff in the universe.”
“Fairy Godmother Inc.,” he says. “The keeper of balance in the universe.”
He’s said universe twice now, I realize.
This guy must be chemically imbalanced.
“I am going to be blunt because I think you can handle it,” he says. “You are not currently on the planet Earth anymore.
“You are now in the fifth dimension and employed by Fairy Godmother Inc. For the next three months, you will be living on another planet as one of our agents, on a mission to restore the balance of good and evil before it is too late.”
Yep. Definitely a nutjob.
Pierce gives me a pointed look. “This is real, Camila. This is an opportunity that will never come again in your lifetime.”
I look around.
My mind is rejecting this but . . .
But I’m alive, and this man is right—I was minutes from dying. No flight for life could have saved me that fast.
“I can see you are working this around in your head, and I can already tell that you will be more open to this than most of my Darlings.
“You are a dreamer, and I like that about you. Always dreaming for bigger and better things beyond your means.” He puts a cigar in his mouth and lights it, puffing it as he stares at me.
My eyes widen. “Why am I here? What do you need from me?” I look around the sterile room. “And what did I sign?”
“Do you like games?”
I stare at him warily. “Of course. Life is a game.”
A game that I played poorly, apparently.
He smiles at me, and that smile, I know, hides a secret meaning.
“Well, your mission is the ultimate game. You will be given a new identity, and will compete against five other women in another world. One very, very far away.”
I close my eyes.
This is crazy.
“Compete,” I murmur. “For what?”
Pierce raises an eyebrow.
I open my eyes to stare at him. “True love?”
Like what I thought I had with Lucas?
Again, I want to vomit.
He shrugs. “True love’s kiss keeps the universe in line, changing the hearts of powerful leaders in a chain reaction.”
My heart starts to drum again.
“We need you to change the heart of a very powerful man. To make him fall in love with you.”
I swallow. “So . . . what? This is like The Bachelor, or something? We’re all competing for the same guy?”
“More or less.”
“I don’t want a man,” I blurt. “Not sure if you know how I almost died or not,” I bite out, “but men are not high on my list right now.”
Pierce shrugs. “I thought as much. A lot of women come in here thinking just that, but let me tell you, I have yet to see one that did not change their mind.”
“I know your weakness,” he continues. “I do my homework.”
I narrow my eyes. “What does that mean?”
“I know you want riches without having to steal or to pretend to be someone you’re not,” he replies. “Wealth. Fame.”
“Camila, we are offering you the chance to make a very wealthy, very powerful prince fall in love with you. To be the queen of a faraway world.”
“Queen. . .”
If what he says is true, then the cunning feline in me has just opened her eyes.
The con artist in me can’t resist…
“Here’s the kicker,” Pierce says, “To stay in this world and claim your happily-ever-after, you must make the target fall in love with you.”
That’s a mistake I will never make again.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t sucker some poor prince into falling for me, does it?
I meet Pierce’s eyes, giving him my best sincere smile.
“True love,” I muse. “Consider it done.”
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