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Wrath of the Gods
Bonus Scene

 “They’re late.” Trace shifted restlessly from foot to foot, his gaze fixed on the empty clearing between us.
“No, they’re not,” Merrick murmured, although he was watching the clearing with as much anticipation as the dark-haired man. “We’re just early.”

“And whose fault is that?” Lach grinned at me as he spoke, before pointedly looking back at Trace and rolling his eyes. 

I snorted. 

It was true, my normally laid-back boyfriend had been so excited about today that he’d dragged us out of the gods’ palace much earlier than necessary. That left us with nothing to do but wait for the Wild Magic Academy students to come through the portals that had been set up to bring them to the godly realm.

The school had been operating under its new name and new mission statement for two years now, and my men and I—along with a few other gods—had been very involved in overseeing the academy, constantly making adjustments to the training program to make sure that students with wild magic were given the best skills necessary to function in the world beyond school. 

Their magic was unique, and their training needed to be unique too. 

That was exactly the argument Trace had used when he had pitched this idea to me—although admittedly, I had thought he was crazy at first.

As if sensing my thoughts, Merrick shook his head. “I can’t believe we’re bringing back the Gods’ Challenge.”

“They won’t be the same,” I reminded him, elbowing him gently. “It’s not meant to kill anyone this time, for one thing.”

“Exactly.” Trace shot us both an excited look. “I mean, that part of it was awful. But if we hadn’t come to the godly realm all those times, your magic might never have grown and developed the way it did, Snow. You might not have become a god at all. Every time we came here, your powers grew by leaps and bounds.”

I smiled, raising my hands and letting power flow between my fingertips. “Yeah, you’re right. And the students at Wild Magic deserve a chance to see if their power could become something more.”
My men’s magic had been changing since they’d started spending so much time in the godly realm with me. I wasn’t sure if they would ever become true gods like I was, but their power had definitely grown and expanded over the past two years. 

Before Trace could respond, the air before us rippled gently, and Eden stepped through the portal, followed by Dean Wist and a dozen students. The students peered around with interest and a bit of apprehension in their eyes, but Eden darted forward, her pretty face lighting up with glee.


I braced myself for her exuberant greeting, and when she threw herself at me and wrapped me in a tight hug, I hugged her back. “Hey, Eden. How’s it been going?”

“Amazingly!” She pulled back enough to meet my gaze. “This semester has been our best yet. Our new students are incredible, and our new teaching staff is working out great.”

“Yeah?” I waggled my eyebrows at her. “How’s Cedric?”

Her pale face flushed, but she couldn’t help the goofy grin that tugged at her lips. “He’s… he’s a wonderful professor. The school is really lucky to have him.”

Lachlan chuckled behind me. “Aye. The school sure is lucky.”

I wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but Eden’s blush grew even deeper. We had hired on a number of new professors, since I thought it was important for students with wild magic to be taught how to use their powers by people who had the same type of magic they did. Cedric was the latest addition, and from the moment he had arrived at the school, the sparks between him and Eden had been impossible to miss. 
It warmed my heart to see her all flushed and flustered like this. I had spent a lot of my life thinking that love was a weakness, but my men had made me see how very wrong I’d been about that. 

Love was a gift.
A strength.
A blessing. 

When Eden and I broke apart, my men stepped forward to greet her. Dean Wist was speaking to the students gathered behind her, answering questions about the godly realm and the newly revamped Gods’ Challenge as we all approached. 

“Once, the challenge was designed to place students in situations so deadly that not all of them would survive,” she said solemnly, before quickly adding, “but now, the purpose is much different.”

“That’s right.” I smiled warmly at the students, who were watching me with something a little like awe on their faces. “No one will be killed or even hurt on my watch. That’s why instead of letting you face these challenges alone, or going up against you like the gods once did to me and my classmates, my men and I will be accompanying you all on the challenge.” I glanced over at Trace. “It was your idea. Do you want to explain the setup?”

“Hell yeah.” He beamed at me, then leaned in to kiss me quickly, not even caring that we had an audience. When he turned back to the students, he spread his hands, encompassing the world around us. “This place is full of all kinds of magic you’ll never see on earth. Creatures and plants and wild landscapes. Since you’ve all proven yourselves to be strong magic users, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a chance to use those skills in a new way. But instead of competing against each other, you’ll all be working together to find the prize that’s been hidden somewhere in the playing area.”

“We’ll be with you too, to coach and guide you through things.” I laced my fingers through Trace’s. “But we’ll only step in if you need us. We do want this to be a challenge for you.”

A student at the front of the group, a young man named Ross, stepped forward. His eyes glinted with excitement. “We’re ready. We’ve been training hard with our professors for the past few weeks.”
I grinned. “That’s the kind of enthusiasm I like to see. Alright then—let the challenge begin.”
Dean Wist and Eden joined my men and I as we watched the students huddle together in a tight group. I could hear murmured discussion of which way they should go first, who would be scouts for the group, and who would be the point person in the event of an unforeseen threat or attack. 

“Wow,” I whispered, turning to Eden. “You guys really have been preparing them. All of the Gods’ Challenges we did always started with utter chaos.”

She nodded, looking pleased with herself. “Well, an important part of having power is having control. And also learning not to abuse that power. So we made sure everyone who signed up for the challenge knew they would only be as successful as their weakest member. So it’s important for them to work together and make sure no one gets left behind.”

The group of students broke apart, and we began tromping through the wilderness after them as they headed west, a few of the more confident ones darting ahead to scout for any changes in the landscape or other dangers. We hung back a bit—close enough to step in if needed, but far enough away to make it clear we weren’t going to win this challenge for them. 

“I’m proud of ye, lass.” Lach draped an arm around my shoulders as we walked, tugging me in to his side. His whiskey and ginger scent filled my nostrils, and I wrapped my arms around his waist, enjoying the flex of his muscles beneath my hands. “Ye’ve changed so much, not just in the godly realm, but in the human realm too. Now that people know more about the history of wild magic, they don’t worship the gods the same way.”

“And that’s a good thing,” Merrick added from my other side. 

“Agreed.” I let one of my hands drop down to Lach’s ass, squeezing the firm, rounded muscle. “The only people I need worshipping me are you three.”

The Irishman’s gaze heated. “Ye know we’ll always do that. Preferably with no damn clothes on.”
“Guys.” Trace rolled his eyes, although he couldn’t hide the flare of desire on his face when he looked at me. “Gods’ Challenge, remember? Walking through a potentially dangerous jungle? Now’s not the time to get distracted.”

“Too late.” Merrick smirked. 

I laughed too, and I felt the rumble of Lachlan’s chuckle against my body. We lapsed into silence for a while, walking just ahead of Eden and Dean Wist. My mind wandered a little, getting lost in thoughts of how exactly the men might worship me after we returned home from the challenge. 
But I was brought back to the present by a sharp whistle from up ahead.

“A warning. From the scout,” Lach murmured, his body tensing as he released his hold on me. 
I nodded, and the four of us stopped walking. Behind us, Wist and Eden stilled too. 
The whistle came again, followed by a yell, and the students in front of us all gathered into a tight formation. Two seconds later, a large lizard-like creature burst from the thick foliage, opening its mouth to let loose a noise somewhere between a hiss and a shriek. 

It felt fucking weird not to immediately leap into battle. I’d been raised on fighting, had spent years of my life in the ring, and it was in my DNA to never back down from a threat.

But this wasn’t my fight.

I held myself steady, reaching out to grab Lach’s wrist as I felt his body coil like a panther’s beside mine. 
“Only if they need help,” I murmured quietly, and he nodded. 

Trace’s eyes burned with pride and excitement as we watched the students take on the lizard-thing. It was a massive beast, and every time it swung around, its thick tail felled small shrubs and plants. But the students were working well together, calling out to each other as they orchestrated their defense. 

“Damn. They’re way better at this than we were our first time in the challenge,” Merrick muttered, his eyebrows shooting up as three students joined their magic together to create a net, corralling the creature. 
“That’s what happens when people with powerful magic actually get the right kind of training,” I commented, my body relaxing a little as I watched the scene unfold before us. 

“Aye.” Lachlan watched the battle with the assessing expression of someone who’d seen quite a few fights in his day. “They’ve got this.”

Yeah. They really do. 

Eden clapped her hands lightly beside me as the students found a weak spot on the massive lizard’s underbelly and began shooting blasts of magic toward that spot. The thing gave another loud hiss-shriek, then whirled and crashed away through the underbrush, probably realizing it was about to lose the fight. 
Ross, who seemed to have been elected leader of the group, moved around the assembled students, checking injuries and rallying them all to continue onward. 

I caught Trace’s gaze and grinned, nodding in approval. As crazy as this idea had seemed to me at first, I was woman enough to admit when I was wrong. 

It had been brilliant. 

Ryker and I were still working on getting the rest of the gods used to the idea that new people might be joining their ranks soon. For the most part, all of them had accepted the fact that I had become a full-fledged god. Those who had supported Omari out of more than just weakness and fear had been dealt with quickly by Ryker, but that number had been small. Most of Omari’s followers had sided with him simply because they couldn’t see another way.

But there was another way. 

And now, by bringing students from Magic Wild Academy into the godly realm, giving them a chance to experience this place where power seemed to permeate the very atmosphere, we were showing the gods that magic didn’t belong to any one person—or even to any one group of people. 

The students who had spontaneously developed magic deserved a chance to let that power grow and build inside them. 

And if it turned a few of them into gods eventually?

Well, the stodgy old gods could use some new blood.

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