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Charmed - A Cinderella Reverse Fairytale

Once the ruler of the kingdom of Silverwood, Queen Charmaine finds herself running as a fugitive from the only life she has ever known. 
With the people believing her to be dead and a tyrant taking over her land, Charmaine has to fight for her life, the lives of her family and most of all the magi of Silverwood.
Will she find a way to take her rightful place as the Queen of Silverwood before her enemy is coronated or will she succumb to the evil forces out to get her?
Find out in this thrilling finale of the Charm Cinderella retelling trilogy. 
Charm is the final book in the Charm Reverse Fairytale series by USA Today bestselling author J.A.Armitage. Take everything you think you know about fairytales and turn it on its head.

Chapter one

© 2015 J.A.Armiitage

Luca looked every inch the man in despair as I watched him on the TV. His beauty was not diminished at all by the tear tracks down his face. If anything, the sorrow made him all the more beautiful. It was a shame it was all fake. Fake tears, fake sorrow, masking a monster. And yet, I couldn’t turn the TV off. It was one in the morning, and I’d watched this particular interview three times already in the past twelve hours. The first two times I’d been surrounded by my family and the members of the Freedom of Magic group as we huddled around the sofa, trying to take in everything that had happened.

The palace was gone. Barely anything survived the catastrophic fire that had torn through it. The cause had finally been confirmed as a number of bombs placed at strategic points throughout the building for maximum impact. So much for extra security! Of course, when the person in charge of the extra security was the one who planted the bombs, there was little anyone could do.

“Come to bed,” I heard Cynder’s voice behind me, but I didn’t turn around. I should have been sleeping as the others were, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to sleep again.

I felt his hand on my shoulder.

I turned to him and stifled a yawn. “I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”

He slipped in next to me on the sofa. Just having him close brought me comfort.

“No,” he whispered. “I couldn’t sleep either. I’ve brought you some hot milk.”

I took the milk gratefully and gave him a sad smile.

“I should have known,” I mumbled. Just acknowledging my part in this made me feel sick to my stomach.

Cynder put his arm around me. “You’ve had it so tough this past year. A lot of people have not been who you thought they were. First your father, now your fiancé. There is no way you could have known. Please don’t put the blame on yourself.”

“I was with him every day,” I argued, “every single day for a year. Only an idiot would not have suspected something.”

Cynder stroked my cheek, causing me to take my eyes from the TV and look at him directly. “The only idiot I can see is him. He threw away everything and for what?”

“He didn’t throw away everything, though, did he? He’s quite the hero now. The whole of Silverwood feels sorry for him, and he’s been tipped to become the new king. King! Not President, but actual royalty. He’s the happiest person on the planet right now. He’s gotten everything he ever wanted.”

Cynder made a sound that could have been a huh. “I wasn’t talking about that. I was talking about you. He lost you. No title, no matter how powerful or glamorous could compare to being by your side. He is the fool here.”

“Hmm,” I made a noncommittal noise. The only people that had lost were my family and I. And we had lost. We’d lost it all. Everything we had was burned to cinders—our clothes, our belongings, our home. That paled into insignificance as I contemplated the loss of life. The majority of our staff were at the wedding when the bombs went off, but of those left behind to get the palace ready for the wedding reception, most had perished. A total of ninety-seven people had died yesterday. Ninety-seven families had lost a loved one all thanks to the greed of one man.

“Look at it this way,” assured Cynder. “He can’t really become king because you are still alive. As soon as you show your face, he’ll be done for.”

“And he knows that! You said yourself; he’ll have all the MDS looking for us. Nowhere is safe. We can’t even go to the press ourselves because we don’t know if they are members of the Magi Death Squad. You were right when you said there was nothing we could do.”

“I never said that at all,” he replied, referring to the meeting we’d had earlier in the day. “I said that we need to sit tight for a few days until we come up with a plan. You know we are going to fight this, right?”

I nodded slowly, not sure what I knew anymore. We both silently sipped our milk, watching Luca shedding his crocodile tears on the TV.

“How unlucky can one person get. I’ve been engaged twice, and both times, my fiancée has tried to murder me on my wedding day.” I began to giggle. There was nothing funny about the situation, but my nerves were so tightly stretched that giggling was a nervous reaction.

“It’s not a coincidence. Either Luca pulled this stunt as some weird homage to Xavier, or the thing with your wedding last year had something to do with Luca in the first place. It won’t happen the next time,” he whispered, pulling me closer to him.

His arms tightened around me, shielding me from the world like a warm cocoon. He picked up the remote and turned off the TV.

It hadn’t occurred to me that Luca had anything to do with the atrocities of last year. I’d thought of them as two completely separate incidents, but it made sense that Luca was somehow involved. I just didn’t know how. I fell asleep on the sofa with Cynder stroking my head.

I woke up the next morning to a whole group of people making breakfast in the open plan kitchen. They were all tiptoeing around and whispering so as not to wake us, but there were so many of them, it was impossible to sleep through.

I yawned and sat up straight, waking Cynder with the motion.

“Good morning, Your Majesty,” said one of the women.

I recognized that voice. Looking up, I saw I was right.

“Agatha?”

My old maid broke into a grin, one I couldn’t help but match as I saw her.

“Is it really you? I’ve missed you so much. I thought you were staying with your aunt and uncle?” I leapt up and hugged her tightly.

“I was, but when I heard of the Freedom of Magic, I decided to join. I couldn’t find a job. No one would hire me because of who I was, so this seemed like the best option. I wouldn’t have had the courage to do it if it weren’t for you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, taking a step back.

“Well, it was that last talk we had together. It made me see just how much of a slave I was.”

I remembered the talk well. I’d asked her if it bothered her that she was a mage who was only allowed to use her wand to fold my clothes. At the time, she’d said it didn’t bother her and that she liked her job. I was glad to see she had changed her mind. She was worth so much more than being a maid.

“I’m glad to hear it,” I replied, and I genuinely was.

“I should go and help make breakfast,” she said, moving towards the kitchen.

“No.” I stopped her. “Let me do it. You’ve spent way too long looking after me. Take a seat, and let me look after you for a change.”

Her eyes widened as she gave me a shy grin.

I made my way into the mess of people in the kitchen. There was someone cooking eggs and bacon, another person laying out bowls for cereal, a couple were counting mugs for coffee.

I grabbed a bit of everything and threw it on a plate which I gave to Agatha. She accepted it gratefully.

I headed back into the kitchen, keen to make myself useful and distance myself from my title. “Can I help?” I offered.

A collective round of no’s followed by a chorus of “Just sit down, we’ll serve you” went up. It had been this way my entire life. Would no one ever let me do anything for myself?

“You saved my life yesterday, and you are keeping me here with great danger to yourselves. Here, I’m not the queen. I’m just a person like the rest of you, and I want to help.”

“Maybe they just think you can’t cook!” whispered Cynder playfully in my ear. I grinned and gave him a swipe which he dodged.

“You can make toast for everyone,” said the woman who’d been frying the eggs. She broke off to pass me a loaf of bread and a knife. With curly grey hair topping off a ruddy face, she was the quintessential grandmother type. Her half-moon glasses were steamed up, so she peered over the top of them.

“Thank you,” I replied, taking the bread from her and fetching the butter.

“We usually fend for ourselves around here,” she said, going back to the bacon and eggs, “but what with everything going on, we thought it would be nice to welcome you with a proper breakfast. There are thirty of us altogether, and we can’t fit around the kitchen table, so we’ll have to take it in turns to eat.”

“Alannah,” said Cynder sidling up to her and stealing a piece of bacon right from the pan, “you know you’ll not stop cooking until we are all fed. You can’t help yourself.”

“Looks like you’ve no problem with helping yourself,” she said, hitting him playfully with the wooden spoon she was holding.

I sliced, toasted, and buttered mountains of toast. Every time I put a slice down, someone would come and take it. After I’d gotten through three loaves, I finally took a couple of slices for myself and added an egg and bacon to my plate. Alannah was right; there was no space around the table, so I sat next to Cynder on the sofa. Someone had turned on the TV again. I watched silently, eating my toast as my so-called husband continued the charade.

This interview was one I’d not seen before. He’d probably filmed it this morning. He was wearing a smart suit with a purple flower in the lapel. Oh, how I hated him for that!

The fake tears were still streaming down his face as he spoke. He really was quite the actor.

I chewed on a slice of toast as I listened to him.

“We had our whole lives in front of us,” he cried. “I’d been looking forward to our wedding for months, and I still can’t understand why anyone would do this. Why would someone kidnap my beloved?”

“The public is in mourning today alongside you,” said a voice just off camera. I recognized it immediately as the voice of Frederick Pittser. So it didn’t take long for him to crawl out of the woodwork. Without Leo at the police station and with Luca in charge, Pittser had nothing to fear anymore although I noticed he didn’t show his face.

“Yes,” replied Luca solemnly, “and I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming support they’ve shown at this terrible time. I will continue to support the public back in the way Her Majesty would have wanted.”

I resisted the urge to throw my plate at the television.

“There is a slight possibility that the queen is still alive,” Pittser reminded him.

Luca looked up mournfully. “I hope so, but the truth of the matter is, whoever blew up the palace obviously wanted her dead. Why would they take her otherwise? I’m sorry to say that although I’d give anything to see her one last time, I fear she is already gone.”

“Oh, you’ll see me again alright!” I shouted at the TV. Cynder gripped my hand, quietening me.

“If she is alive,” continued Pittser “and somehow watching this, what would you say to her?”

Luca turned to the camera. His eyes pierced mine as though he could really see me through the lens.

“I’ll find you, Charmaine. I’ll not rest until I do!”

To any one of the hundreds of thousands of people watching, it would look like a broken man doing anything he could to find his beloved, but I saw it for what it was—a threat. He was coming for me, and he would find me. Well, not if I found him first!

I was still seething with anger when Leo and Mother appeared. She still looked as graceful as ever, even after everything she had been through. Someone passed them both a plate of food. Mother took her’s to the kitchen table, where there was now space, but Leo sat on the arm of the sofa next to me.

“How’s Elise?” I asked, noticing she wasn’t with him.

“She’s feeling rough. The journey yesterday did her no good. She’s too sick to eat.”

“I’ve got a remedy for that!” said Alannah. She bustled into the kitchen and began taking things from the cupboards and pouring them all into a large bowl.

“One glass of this, and she’ll be right as rain in no time!”

“Is it a Mage potion?” asked Leo suspiciously, looking at the weird concoction she was making.

“No, it’s my mother’s recipe and her mother’s before her.”

“What’s happening today? Anything I should know about?” Leo nodded towards the now blank screen of the TV.

“We are going to have a proper meeting when everyone is up,” said Cynder matter-of-factly. “All you’ve missed is thinly veiled threats from Luca. Pittser’s suddenly come out of hiding too.”

Leo nodded his head. “I’ve been thinking. Maybe I should go back. Chief Inspector Copper won’t know what’s going on. He needs my help, and he needs to know the truth.”

Cynder shook his head. “No one is going back yet until we’ve come up with a plan. It’s too risky. They know you are with Charm, and they suspect that Charm is with us. You go back there, and you won’t be able to come back here.”

“Actually, I am going back!” We all turned to see who had spoken. Daniel stood there looking distraught. “Dean is still there. Luca knows I’m with you. Who do you think he’ll be going after first? I’ve been thinking about it all night. Dean will be a target. Luca will think I was in on this, and if I’m in on it, he’ll think Dean is too.”

“You don’t know that he’s been captured,” Cynder replied cautiously.

“And I don’t know that he hasn’t. Luca or his men will have Dean and will be holding him prisoner until we give Charmaine up. Why wouldn’t they? I’m going back to the capital to find him.” 

 

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