The asteroid hurtling toward the earth will kill billions.
The Emperor and his Gold Court will be safe in their space station, watching from the stars. The Silvers will be protected underground. But the Bronzes must fight it out at the Shadow Trials for the few remaining spots left on the space station.
When an enigmatic benefactor hands Maia Graystone a spot in the Trials, she won’t just get a chance at salvation for her and her baby brother, Max: She gets to confront the mother who abandoned her in prison, the mad Emperor who murdered her father, and the Gold prince who once loved her. But it’s the dark bastard prince she’s partnered with that will make her question everything, including her own heart. With the asteroid racing closer every day, Maia must trust someone to survive.
The question is who?
“You need to get up.” Riser is peering under the table at me.
“Are you scared?”
I snort. “Isn’t that obvious?”
Shame burns my cheeks. Why am I so afraid? Why can’t I stop being Maia, scared little Digger Girl? The reconstructed part of me hates my weakness. Get up, and choose to be Everly. Maia will only make you small and powerless. But my body refuses.
Shuffling. Chairs squeaking across the floor. Riser is coming in after me. Cold, half-frozen fingers pry apart my arms.
“I won’t let the Archduchess hurt you,” he says, as if it’s the simplest statement in the world.
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.” Not can’t keep. Won’t keep. That’s what I mean. Because if there is anyone who can protect me from the Archduchess, it’s Riser.
In fact, I’m not certain who scares me more: the lunatic or Pit Boy.
Riser lies down beside me, his cheek kissing the dirty floor. “I know what I am. But with you”—puzzlement tinges his voice—“with you, I’m different.”
“Welcome to the world of feelings and humanity. Maybe when I’m done getting over the gazillion times I’ve almost died the last couple days, I’ll plan a parade in your honor.”
“Look.” He is holding my gaze with his eyes, willing me to believe him. “This is new to me, too. I didn’t ask for it. All I know is I can’t let anything happen to you.”
I study his face, ignoring the comfort I find in the sharp planes of his cheeks and jaw. How can I possibly trust him? He could be lying to gain the upper hand, to force my trust and make me weak. “But you still have some scars, which means . . .”
“My reconstruction wasn’t complete.” His fingers trace the brow bone above his new green eye. I like it better than the blue eye, I think. “The physical transformation will probably hold, but the rest—”
“Won’t last.” And we have no idea how long until the old kill-now-ask-questions-later Riser rears his psychotic head.
Taking my hand, he pulls me from my little enclave. “I need this to be clear, Everly.” I shiver at the sound of my new name from his lips. “I’m not a good person. I’ve done horrible things, and I don’t regret them. But I promise”—he guides my hand toward his chest, the hard muscle pressing into my fingertips; his heart thumps heavy and slow beneath my fingers—“I will keep you safe.”
Something deep inside me stirs.
Riser, I decide. Riser scares me the most. Because he possesses the one thing the Archduchess does not.
The ability to make me vulnerable.
To make me care.