Book One in the Verdantian Series. Standalone. Not a cliff-hanger. HEA 346 pages Sci/Fi Fantasy Romance- M/F, M/F/M, M/M, mild themes of bondage and D/s.
In an intricate dance of friendship, erotic partnership and selfless love, three natives of the sentient planet Verdantia must come together in an extraordinary effort to save their world…and themselves.
With the lives of the people of the planet hanging in the balance, Verdantia calls three of her own to restore her power. The impossible but gorgeous Conte Camliel Aristos DeTano, the beautiful, innocent future queen Princess Fleur Constante, and the conte’s loyal aide, the angelically handsome yet emotionally-scarred Visconte Doral DeLorion, must fight their own personal demons and assimilate in a poly relationship, lest their planet be lost.
The attraction between the three is palpable and so strong it will either bind them together forever—and restore strength to the energy shield of their planet’s capital—or destroy each of them.
What ensues is a passionate journey that explores and tests trust, friendship and the true meaning of love.
Doral’s muscles screamed at his long inactivity. He ignored them. His brain registered the frigid cold penetrating his wet clothing. He shut it out. Prone, covered by dense foliage, invisible to any observer, his eyes scanned the brooding clouds intently. A flicker of orange flared through the gray. There. They landed there. Quiet satisfaction suffused him. His informant had been accurate. Rising with lithe grace, he slipped through the forested undergrowth on a path converging with that of the private lander. The craft would have bare minutes to land and take off before Verdantia’s electromagnetic disruption disabled its engines.
Hidden close by, Doral observed patiently as the craft disgorged its treacherous passenger and immediately powered thunderously into the heavens. Warmly cloaked against the poor weather and high altitude, the traitorous aristocrat waited, alone, in a sheltered copse. The clack of horses’ shod feet slipping on rock and the murmur of men’s voices could be heard as an armed detail ascended the mountainous trail to the landing site. They will find only your dead body, you duplicitous filth. But it would be a close thing—no time for interrogation. The watcher slipped into the copse and on silent feet moved to within striking distance. Dropping a needle-sharp stiletto into the palm of his hand, he engaged with and quickly disabled his prey.
Holding the victim’s arm twisted behind his back, dislocation imminent, his stiletto poised to enter the man’s throat, Doral whispered into the traitor’s ear, “By High Lord DeTano’s command, for your betrayal of Verdantia, you die, Duca Loretto.”
“DeLorion! Wait, I can pay…” The traitor’s protest ended in a gurgling, liquid gasp as Visconte Doral DeLorion’s blade slit his throat. He gently lowered the limp body to the ground and rapidly searched it, carefully removing a heavy packet of folded papers from the dead man’s clothing. Glancing quickly at the papers, his lips twitched in a slight smile of satisfaction. Finally—proof. There is a traitor among the LFP. Now who is it?
Doral swiftly skirted the incoming troop detail and vanished down the side of the mountain. Finding a place well hidden, he carefully reviewed the papers in his hand, then folded them away in his tunic for safekeeping. Doral’s mind slipped away to dwell on his absent High Lord. He wondered how matters progressed between Conte DeTano and the princess. The subtle yearning ache that had grown with every day that their separation lengthened now threatened to become a sense of true loss. I wonder if I’ll ever have him? Doral shut the thought away, unexamined. He couldn’t accept what his brain told him the logical outcome of that possession would be.
It was perhaps an hour later when her guard tapped lightly. “Your Highness.”
“Conte DeTano is here.”
“Please admit him.” She watched from her seat on the chaise as Ari strode into the room.
“Conte,” she smiled. “Please, sit.”
“I prefer to stand if it is the same to you, Your Highness,” he replied curtly.
“It is not. I dislike having you loom over me like a bomb about to explode.”
A laugh startled from his lips and he smiled as he sat down in the chair Patricio had vacated.
He is so handsome when he smiles.
“My second-in-command sent me some troublesome news today. I am out of sorts. I didn’t mean to direct my temper at you, Your Highness.”
“Apology accepted. I would like it very much if you would call me Fleur. You did before.”
“Yes, well. Being balls-deep between your legs creates a certain intimacy,” Ari said with a wicked grin. “If that is your wish, Your Highness, Fleur, it is.”
Heat crept up her cheeks. He says the most unexpected things. Taking a deep breath, she regrouped, handing Ari the scroll. “Tell me about this.”
He scanned carefully as he unrolled the stiff parchment. He stopped midway, then rolled it back up. With a soft chime of medallions, he re-tied the ribbons, placing it on a low table beside him. “What is it you wish to know?”
Oh dear. She studied his austere expression, trying to decide on a diplomatic way to start. “Why is marrying me so distasteful that you would flee the planet for fifteen years?” She winced inwardly. Tactful, Fleur—very subtle.
Ari’s eyes narrowed and his fingers started drumming on the arms of the chair. He rose and paced to the window, then stood looking out.
“It was not the thought of marriage to you that was distasteful. What was distasteful was the thought of a marriage to anyone based solely on my genetics. It is how you breed animals, not people. I am not a stud horse to be bred to Patricio’s favorite mare.” His back stiffened. “My apologies. I did not mean…”
“Please, Ari, sit down,” she interrupted. Patricio’s ‘mare’? Ouch.
“I prefer to stand,” he responded curtly, not moving from the window.
She rolled her eyes in exasperation. “I am not used to speaking to someone’s backside half-way across the room. Will you at least turn around?”
A smile flickered. He turned. “I didn’t want to ‘loom’.” Laughter lurked in his eyes, and a half-smile turned his lips.
He really is quite extraordinary. A soft laugh escaped her. “Thank you.”
He nodded and folded his arms across his chest, then crossed his legs at the ankles as he leaned back onto the windowsill. The heavy muscles of his arms and chest stretched his black knit sweater, and the black leather leggings tucked into his over-the-knee boots left little for her to imagine. Such a handsome man.
Something about the way his eyes explored her body sent heat up and down her spine then straight to her lady-parts. She remembered the weight of him as he lay atop her. She remembered looking up into his gold-flecked eyes, feeling his mobile lips caressing her cheeks, feeling the rough brush of his beard on her tender inner skin as he--mind on present business, Fleur!
“Ahem,” she cleared her throat. “So, have you given this contract any further thought? Do you still find it so distasteful?” Oh, by the gods, Fleur, show some subtlety. What is wrong with you?
“Why? Are you going to ask me to marry you?” He eyed her dispassionately.
She held his gaze steadily. How did this conversation get away from me? “Not today.”
“Good.” He looked at the timekeeper on her table. “Your Highness, I am very short on time. I will continue this discussion with you another day.” He started toward her door.
“You haven’t answered my question, sir!”
“Yes. No,” he tossed over his shoulder as he left the room.
Argggh! She slumped back onto the couch. Yes? No? What? She replayed their conversation.
Have you given this contract further thought? “Yes.” Do you still find it so distasteful? “No.”
Her mouth gradually developed a delighted smile.