The Good, Bad & the Frustrating

Vodka

Hi Indies, Readers & Bloggers,

I know I’ve been MIA for awhile and I apologize for that – and for the fact that it’s going to be a little while longer yet.

To better understand the situation, you’d have to know me and my bone-deep refusal to see a doctor unless it’s absolutely necessary. I always try an alternative route, like changing diet, exercise, taking vitamins, etc. to correct a problem, rather than rushing for the prescription drugs and ER – I hate both.

I’ve been suffering from increasing joint swelling, pain and weakness in my hands and wrists for years. My doctor wanted to send me to a Rheumatoid Arthritis specialist and I ran for the hills as fast as I could. I wasn’t even 40 at that time. There was no way in hell my hands were becoming useless; I’m a writer! A writer in deep denial. I wanted to go back to taking piano lessons, this couldn’t be happening…

After trying everything from chiropractor appointments, buying new pillows and blaming poor ergonomic practices (lazy posture) – I was in urgent care this past week with no blood circulation in my left hand and a walnut-sized lump protruding from my forearm.

The lump, which was the scariest part, ended up being severe muscle swelling and I will take that any day over the blood clot my doc thought it might be.

Turns out I’ve been suffering from Tendinitis in both arms all this time. While that’s no picnic, it’s a much better prognosis in the grand scheme, because it’s curable. It will heal on it’s own with rest, icing and strength-building exercises. Surgery is another option, but would be the last resort and I hope I don’t have to take it – so, to avoid that, this will probably be my last blog post for awhile. I may not be able to get my next book out before the end of the year as I’d hoped, either, because I don’t write the kind of stories I can voice aloud with a Talk-to-Text program – unless I had a soundproof room! LOL I don’t want to send my kids to therapy, honest.

I will still be here to read and repost, share and support. And on the bright side, this might allow me to put a good dent in my TBR list! 😀 And, of course, as soon as I’m back 100% you’ll all be the first to know. I have so much to share with you already – Indie Resource posts that are already underway – and it’s frustrating having to put it off. Unfortunately, all I do is type for my day job and I can’t quit that, so not writing at all during my off time is the only concession I can make to heal as fast as possible.

The moral of this story is, don’t be a stubborn ass like me when it comes to seeking medical attention and also, take care of yourself. I’m guilty of getting caught up in the rat race, writing endlessly to get the next book out, doing whatever it takes to stay relevant – but sometimes, we just need to rest.

 This post was brought to you while wearing thumb-splint braces on my hands. It’s like an old man being forced to use a computer against his will – one letter at a time. 😂  I’m sure that visual got a laugh out of at least one of you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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ATTN: Indies! Important Info!

Independent

Hi Indies!

I was just over on Goodreads and saw this topic in my notifications and wanted to share it with you right away! There have been whispers about this coming, but no one was sure when and now it looks like there’s going to be a definite merger between CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle Beta this fall. So for anyone getting ready to go to print, it looks like you might as well take CS off your list of options as a POD and just upload your book directly to Kindle or IngramSpark…

GOODREADS DISCUSSION THREAD HERE

Who’s Ready for More Kinky Fun in Paradise?

Yes, I mean finally! Can you see how excited I am??? It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to say this:

“Scavenger, Book 2 of the Dark Day Isle series is officially scheduled for Release on May 1st!!!” 

When I first released Collar Me Foxy in June of 2016, I already had half of Scavenger’s rough draft penned. I never imagined its release day would be nearly 2 years away! Turns out my first rough draft of Scavenger was 90% rubbish and only 10% salvageable.

I won’t bore you with the gruesome details. Suffice to say, this is NOT the Scavenger I finished a year ago and passed off to beta readers. It’s so much better! The disheartening, yet extremely helpful, beta feedback and struggle with revisions ended up being completely worth it. I hope you all feel the same when you read it! (See how optimistic I am? LOL)

Thanks to the lovely Lauren and Nikki over at Saints and Sinners Book Promotions, I now introduce this pretty banner and sign up link for anyone who would like to host Scavenger’s Cover Reveal and/or Release Day Blitz on their blogs – or maybe you can share with someone who might? You’re awesome, thanks! 😀 ❤

ACs banner

SIGN UP HERE

BLURB

It’s day two of the exclusive getaway on Dark Day Isle, and Felix’s smoldering lust isn’t the only thing to greet Tessa come morning. A list of challenges awaits her; finding the courage to confront her Master, devious tests of kink designed to push her limits and an unpleasant punishment that effects more than just their temporary dynamic.

Afternoon events provide insight on the getaway’s purpose and leads them deeper into the resort’s naughty, fetish-catering amenities. Tessa and Felix’s individual struggles are interspersed with visiting friends, unexpected triggers and a meeting of competitive spirits during the evening’s activity.

When Tessa’s true feelings about the cage are revealed, so is one of Felix’s well-guarded secrets that leaves her stunned. Now, Master expects to learn something from her in return and Tessa dreads what he might deem an even exchange for a truth he never wanted her to know.

Dear Indie ♥ Have You Tried This?

Writers block

Hi Indies!

I’ve been experimenting lately, trying a different approach with one of my latest WIPs. The hope is that I’m honing a certain area I know I need to work on. I worry that I’ve gotten too comfortable with the way I write and it’s become too easy to stay exactly the same, which doesn’t allow for growth or refinement.

Recently, I opened a new document and started rewriting a new WIP outside of my narrative comfort zone. I know, that doesn’t sound real dazzling. But, as someone who prefers to read and write in the Third Person, I have to tell you that trying to write fictional characters in the First Person POV is doing things…I’m not sure if they’re good or bad things yet, as I’m just starting. And don’t get me started on how difficult it is to switch from years of writing in the past tense to suddenly writing everything in present tense. O_o

The reason I’m doing this, is because I want to hone that vital difference between “Showing” and “Telling”. Something that seems easier to accomplish in First Person…or is it? Yes and no. When I’m writing about myself, it’s absolutely easier. But I’ve never set out to be someone else before, at least not outside of childhood imagination. I can detail all of the nitty-gritty facets that make up my characters from a detached vantage point, like a psychiatrist, and relay that through my writing while remaining in the Third Person–and it doesn’t matter their gender or their personality. I’ve written from the male POV just as often as I have from the female POV. I can flesh out sub-characters or climb into an antagonist’s head and portray their nastiness all over the page without it bleeding over onto my other characters. They each retain their own, distinct voice.

Yet, this is proving difficult while writing in First Person. My characters read almost exactly the same; their unique voices are lost. I already know it’s because I’m used to writing from the director’s chair, where I can see the whole picture, and I don’t have to climb into these skinsuits of my characters to get through the scene. I empathize, relate and paint the picture. I don’t live, eat, breathe, be. I’m finding that it’s harder with my male protagonist, because I’m NOT an alpha male by any stretch of the imagination, but even my female protag’s voice has changed from the way she was coming across in Third Person. So, that poses a problem, but it’s given me whole new admiration and respect for those First Person POV authors who manage to pull this off with deceptive ease.

I liken it to method acting, which some say is a myth, but it’s the closest example I can think of. I have to learn how to live this story as it’s unfolding on the stage, rather than relaying the way I saw it unravel from the front row. Release the confines of all those habits I fall back on, so I can expand my writing limits and open myself up to *gasp* change.

And the positives can’t be discounted; writing in the First Person is far more succinct than Third. Details, ideas and reactions are conveyed with smaller word counts, because everything is happening in the moment. This allows me to get a first hand perspective into my character’s thoughts, feelings and reactions as they’re happening, rather than after the fact. I’ve also noted how many more character insights have revealed themselves which the Third Person POV version didn’t have. The shifting of my own focus in order to capture – or recapture – my characters’ individual voices will be my greatest challenge and currently, it’s exciting trying to put it into practice.

Just don’t hold your breath for any First Person POV novels written by yours truly, LOL! So far, my goal for this experiment hasn’t changed: I want to develop the ability to slip deeper into my character’s skins with relative ease, so that “showing” becomes the natural style of my writing without having to worry about so many “telling” pitfalls.

Have you ever tried the method of switching narratives before, even just for fun? I’d love to hear about your “outside of the box” trials and what your results were in the comments below or tag me in your own blog post, if you feel inspired – that would be great, too! 🙂

❤ A.C.

Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 25

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Ace In The Hole

Arcylaen was pacing the foyer by the time his aunt decided to bring Leandra home. He’d been a nervous wreck since the woman had declared her intentions and forbade him from interfering. He was sure he had something unpleasant coming his way for not giving Leandra a head’s up, but worried more if she and his aunt had been getting on okay.

When Emmon opened the door, the last thing Cylaen expected was to hear and see the two women laughing like old friends. Something powerful punched him right in the chest at the sight of the glowing smile on his sexy kitten’s face. It was the very thing that made his lingering distrust for her so damn painful. When he was with her, all of his concerns seemed so frail and distant. Her personality, passions, the things that made her happy and the way her mind worked; none of those things matched the worst of his fears, so he had no clue why they were still there. Brejeir was right, it was tearing him up inside, driving him crazy.

“I don’t know if I should be afraid or celebrating,” he commented, when his aunt greeted him with a lot less hostility than her arrival to his office.

“Both, darling,” she smiled, patting him on the cheek. “It’s good for you to stay on your toes, especially with the trials ahead. Now, I think I’ll go freshen up before dinner. You put me in the East tower, Emmon?”

“Of course, my Lady,” he answered and led her away.

Arcylaen stepped into Leandra and wrapped his arms around her waist, before they were even alone. He didn’t care who saw. Relief filled him when she didn’t hesitate to rest her hands on his arms and smile up at him. He peered into her beautiful face, the sparkle of humor in her feline eyes and forwent all charm for straight up pleading.

“I’m sorry. She insisted on surprising you and forbade me from calling to warn you ahead of time. You don’t know how frightening she can be–”

Leandra laughed. “Are you going to get on your knees and beg forgiveness, your highness?”

Cylaen popped his jaw to the side, torn between doing just that and narrowing his eyes at her for the highness remark.

“Do I need to?” he hazarded.

“No,” she chuckled again, wrapping her arms around his neck. “You’re just lucky it turned out so well, or I might have lorded it over you until I felt thoroughly compensated.”

There was no mistaking the sensual gleam in her eyes, or in the purring undertone of her voice. He saw it, heard it and felt it reverberate through every single one of his male instincts.

“Well, now let’s not call the matter squared just yet,” he suggested, dropping his gaze to her mouth, because the desire to kiss her in ways he’d yet to even try was growing strong. His kitten had no idea the feast he planned to make out of her. “I think you might feel better if you let me make it up to you, and we do have some time before dinner.”

She snickered, and placed a chaste kiss on his starving mouth. “Which, I’m going to use to go freshen up, as well, while you track Rynd down for your daily report.”

Cylaen released a quiet growl, when she slipped right out of his hands and headed for the stairs. “I’m going to put that Hawk under a gag order,” he warned.

“That wasn’t a trade secret, your majesty, I’m just that smart,” she winked over her shoulder. Halfway up the stairs, she smiled down at him. “You’re right, I do feel better. Maybe I’ll hold onto this for awhile.”

A rumble of laughter filled him and the foyer. Fuck, her mind was marvelous. “You just let me know when you really want to feel better, kitten, we’ll see who’s the one lording then.”

He followed her beautiful laugh all the way across the second story balcony, before shaking off the lustful effects and doing precisely what she predicted by tracking Rynd down. He didn’t have anything to report that Arcylaen wasn’t already aware of, but that was a good thing. The signs the Hawk was watching for weren’t things Leandra would necessarily notice, because as she’d admitted, she hadn’t been in Skaulling during the reign of the Black Dogs. She had no idea the terrifying lengths criminals would go to for a shot at a big payday or revenge.

Parting with Rynd in the kitchen, Cylaen made it into the dining room just as Sajyn and the rest of the kitchen staff were setting up the trays on the serving cabinet. His aunt appeared a few seconds later. When he attempted to give her his seat at the head of the table, she shook her head and skirted around him for Brejeir’s place, instead. He moved just in time to pull the chair out for her.

“That seat was never meant for me, Cyl,” she said, her gaze lingering on the chair they both knew should still be occupied by her brother, his father. It was a shared sorrow that went unspoken. “Where’s your lovely Cat?”

“She’ll be arriving any moment,” he answered, because he could feel Leandra descending the grand staircase in the foyer, her presence like an enticing shiver down his spine.

“I like her,” Aunt Aviya said, looking him straight in the eyes. “I mean it.”

Arcylaen felt pride and apprehension with that declaration. There was a hidden warning in his aunt’s tone, as if she feared he might muck it up. Shit, he was afraid he’d screw it up, but doubted it was for the same reasons. Most of his concern was the Warden bond, the constant worry that he’d say something the wrong way again. The other part was attached to his inability to trust her completely.

He remained standing, waiting for Leandra to enter the room. She looked both relaxed in the simple floral dress, and stunning. He knew it was the woman. He doubted there was a single article of clothing she couldn’t pull off. She’d just sat down in the chair he’d pulled out for her, when the rest of his kin filed into the room. Grevys, Daelyn and Rivyr made a beeline for their aunt, while Brejeir meandered in at his usual pace.

“Aunt Aviya!”

“There’s the rest of my boys,” their aunt greeted, standing to accept their hugs and kisses.

It was a far cry from the way she’d greeted him and Brej at the office, which is exactly what the look Brej gave him translated to. Arcylaen chuckled and pushed Leandra’s chair back in for her.

“Brejeir, did you just roll your eyes?” Aunt Aviya never missed a thing.

“No, ma’am,” he grinned, turning it right to Daelyn, as he snagged their younger brother’s chair and sat down beside Leandra, as if he’d won a major victory.

Once everyone was settled and the first course served, Aunt Aviya jumped right into her campaign plans without preamble.

“House Turvo must be your first stop,” she stated.

Cylaen paused mid-chew and gave the woman a weary look. “I’m trying to eat.”

“Don’t give me your sass, Cylaen,” she chastised. “You know I’m right. They’re already feeling offended and vulnerable due to this situation, to not visit them first would come across as both cowardly and more offensive. They are second in line for Dragon’s Head, that gives them precedence, whether you like it or not.”

Cylaen groaned and continued chewing. He knew she was right, that didn’t make it any less unpleasant and it wasn’t like it hadn’t already crossed his mind.

“It would be getting the biggest hurdle out of the way first, rather than spending a week fretting about it,” Leandra commented, though she sounded just as disgruntled about the prospect as he felt.

“That’s the spirit, my girl,” Aunt Aviya smiled, lifting her wine in a toast.

“It’s not like we don’t already know what their answer’s going to be, at any rate,” Brejeir chimed in.

“After your brother gives them his answer, yes,” Aunt Aviya agreed. “But, they still have to be given the chance to ask it.”

Cylaen’s grip tightened around the handle of his spoon when Leandra stiffened beside him, her hand pausing in the process of lifting soup to her mouth.

“Aunt Aviya–”

“I’m fine, Arcylaen,” Leandra cut him off. “You think I haven’t already guessed what they’re planning? Bartering their vote to keep you as Dragon’s Head on the condition that you wed Eleqwyn is their most obvious course of action. What I worry about is their ace in the hole.”

“What ace in the hole?” Brej asked, as that phrase got everyone’s attention.

“That’s just it,” Leandra sighed. “I have no idea what it is, but they have one. Because for all of Eleqwyn’s predictable traits, she has zero confidence in her ability to win Arcylaen over on her own. She proved that the night of the Gala. She’s not stupid. She knows Arcylaen’s disinterest in her has nothing to do with me or any other woman.”

“Cyl?” Brejeir questioned.

Arcylaen was still wrapping his head around the idea that the Turvo’s might have a secret weapon against him, but more so about how in the hell Leandra had been able to see it, when none of them had. Her mind, yes it was freaking spectacular, but her ability to think so strategically didn’t help his remaining concerns about her connections to the robberies.

“She’s not wrong.” He shrugged.

“No shit, she’s not wrong,” Brejeir exasperated. “But what would they have up their sleeve?”

“There are two ladies at your table, nephew,” Aunt Aviya chided him.

Brejeir opened his mouth, then sulked back into his soup, muttering under his breath about Leandra never caring if he swore.

Their aunt ignored him and tilted her head at Leandra. “I like the way your mind works,” she said. “I worried that the Turvo’s might rush to get a lead on us with the rest of the Houses. That could be the ace they’re hoping for.”

“Especially, if they’ve already started,” Daelyn put in. “Eleqwyn’s known about the panther’s choice since first thing this morning, at least, which means they could already be a day ahead of us.”

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Leandra said. “If there’s one thing she seems very confident in, it’s that all of the Dragons will want to keep the traditions going strong.”

“Not all,” Aunt Aviya interjected. “But, yes, a good many of them will want to hold fast to that, until they meet you, Miss Leontle. When they see you and Arcylaen together as a united front, hear your answers to their questions and learn about your joint renovation projects for the cities, they will change their minds. Dragons may be strong headed about their traditions, but they are and will always be, protectors at heart. These cities mean everything to them, they’ve fought and bled for them. You mustn’t forget that. You will be speaking with war veterans and families who lived through the reign of the Black Dogs and the war to take them down.”

“How Arcylaen handled the war should be enough all on its own,” Rivyr put in.

Cylaen looked at him and sighed, shaking his head. “We’re not playing that card, brother,” he said, understanding his thoughts on it, but disagreeing. “This isn’t about what happened during the war, it’s about what happened after. I didn’t step up to the plate and take the official position as Dragon’s Head. No matter my reasons, I’m sure it’s long been seen as a sign of weakness and no one wants a weak leader.”

“It’s the robberies,” Leandra said, surprising everyone.

Arcylaen looked at her, their eyes crashing and holding. “What?”

“They know something about the robberies,” she said. “That’s their ace. That’s the only way they’d be able to discredit you as a good leader, Arcylaen, because I agree with Rivyr, your past and present actions which have led Skaulling and all its citizens back to their former glories should be enough, whether your leadership was official or not. There’s only one thing that’s happened in all that time that has shaken the Dragons’ confidence in you, and that’s the robberies.”

“I think she might be right, nephew,” Aunt Aviya said, her tone grim. “Somehow, the Turvo’s have found evidence that you and your investigation team missed.”

“How?” he balked, every muscle in his body tightening with the absurdity and denial, even as a darkness crept into his blood, chilling him. “I went over both my team’s and the Council’s investigation reports. The only way they have evidence we don’t, is if they found it after the fact–”

“Or before and withheld it,” Brejeir stated.

“No,” Arcylaen immediately denied. “Eleqwyn might be a prickly little snot, but we’re talking about an entire family of Dragons who’s bloodline and history stretches as far back as ours. I refuse to believe they would purposely obstruct an investigation.”

“Even if they found it afterward and withheld it, it’s still obstruction,” Leandra pointed out. “And who’s to say all of the Turvo’s know about it?”

Cylaen ground his teeth, the uncertainty that Eleqwyn might actually do something like that out of desperation was too great to ignore. He still refused to believe it would be any other Turvo, though. He rose from his chair, and flashed a look at the only brother sitting beside his kitten.

“Brej.”

When Brejeir stood to join him, Leandra did the same and he had to bite down on his desire to tell her to stay. It was just a word, but with the Warden bond, it would be a command she couldn’t refuse and it would mess everything up all over again.

Instead, he held his hand up to stop her. She crossed her arms, matching his imploring look with a determined one. Cylaen tried to think of how best to phrase his words so they wouldn’t emerge as a directive, but before he could say anything, she sighed and let her arms fall to her sides again.

“Fine,” she exhaled. “But you better fill me in later, or I’ll find somebody who will.”

His grin was fast and masked too many reactions at once to put names to, but stars above, she was a constant fascination. Arcylaen stepped into her and placed a kiss on her cheek. “It’s a date,” he whispered in her ear, not even trying to hide his naughty innuendo.

It was better to see the glint of appreciative humor in her eyes, as he walked away, than frustration. Just as he reached the door, his youngest brother had to put his two cents in.

“They don’t even have to talk anymore, that’s just creepy.”

“No, my youngest hatchling,” Aunt Aviya smiled, sending Cylaen a wink when he glanced over his shoulder. “That’s called partnership.”

©A.C. Melody

 Thank you for reading! Please check out The Wicked Web link above for previous episodes, if you’re just tuning in. You can also follow my blog via e-mail to ensure you never miss any free content. Until next time…

Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 24

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Intervention

Arcylaen’s eyes scanned over the data from the Turvo House robbery, greedy for a single shred of evidence. “Nothing?” he asked. “Nothing at all?”

“Notta,” Brejeir confirmed. “It’s just like the other robberies. No trace left behind.”

“This is really starting to piss me off!” Cylaen raged, tossing the official report onto his desk.

“Well, there is one silver lining,” Brej pointed out. “At least now you know for a fact that Leandra didn’t do it.”

“Yeah,” he ran a hand through his hair. “Maybe. Maybe she’s never been involved, or maybe she’s just never been the one to get her hands dirty.”

Brejeir gave him a look of utter disbelief. “I’m about two seconds away from popping you right in the fucking jaw.”

“I can’t shake it, brother,” Cylaen admitted, as much as it gutted him. “No matter how much I want to, I mean really fucking want to, I can’t shake all the connections. My instincts are screaming that there’s something there. What have we learned about the fence?”

Brejeir sighed, his expression displeased, but he answered anyway. “Hanyx Asher. Daelyn said the team is closing in on him, it’s just a matter of hours or days now. Once Talex copped to it being family, it didn’t take much to track down which one. The authorities have his picture and all routes out of the country are covered, he won’t be able to escape Meive.”

“Good. I want him taken to the Unbinding Chamber as soon as he’s extradited back here to Skaulling,” Arcylaen nodded. “I’m done playing games with these thieves. I want answers now.”

Brej grunted in agreement, cracking his knuckles. Then he took to studying Arcylaen in a way he didn’t appreciate too much. “Okay, and just hypothetically, if you’re right–which, I don’t think you are–and Leandra is somehow involved, then what?”

“Then she goes to Holdax Five just like the rest of the thieves,” he answered, pain lancing through his chest at the mere thought of it. He leaned back against the desk and drummed his fingers on the edge. “You know, I’ve been thinking about the real estate purchase. Her brother, Mantao, has been very absent. It’s just odd. Have Daelyn’s team see if they can track him down while they’re in Meive. I’d like to talk to Mr. Leontle, myself.”

“You’re the boss,” Brej sighed.

Arcylaen’s mouth pulled into a grim line. “Yeah, for now.”

When his brother lingered, Cylaen couldn’t ignore him, but gave him an imploring look to just let the subject rest. Of course, Brej didn’t.

“Cyl, this shit is tearing you up inside. It’s written all over your face,” he commented.

“Then get me the answers that will clear her name, brother,” Arcylaen pleaded. “Help me trust her, so we can end this bullshit Warden bond, appease the twelve other Dragon Houses and put the real thieves on a prison colony where they belong. I don’t know what else to do!”

“Okay,” Brejeir nodded, motivated. “No, that’s a good plan. That’s exactly what we’ll do. Hell, I’ll go to Meive, myself, if I have to.”

“Let’s not get hasty. You’re needed here. Daelyn’s team is already burrowed in the jungles, let them do their jobs,” he said. “And we might have another problem.”

“Dear Divine, now what?”

“You know how I could feel Leandra everywhere for a moment last night? I think…what if it was Lord Gwyn trying to take her while she slept?”

Brejeir’s mouth popped open and his brows furrowed deep. “What?”

“Ravens are ancient metaphysicians, practiced in the working powers of mind and spirit, something that’s quite vulnerable in sleep. Do you think it’s possible he was trying to get to her, because he lost his request for the Warden Rite?”

His brother opened his mouth to respond, but there as a commotion right outside the office door. In a fraction of a heartbeat, Brej was in front of Arcylaen, shielding him from whatever was coming, as the door swung open to a harassed, red-faced Amrya.

“Lords Draea, I tried to stop her–”

“Excuse you, young lady! I am family, there is no stopping me and you’d be wise to learn a thing or two about the House hierarchies before you wind up insulting the wrong Dragon!”

The all-too familiar voice was an assault all its own, as the tall, elegant woman in a tailored traveling suit, hat and fur wrap came into view. Her golden hair was swept up into a fine twist, her jewelry tasteful but expensive. She stormed right past Amrya, glaring her down the whole while, then paused just inside the office and leveled Arcylaen and Brejeir with the same burning, burnished stare. She tapped her clutch against her thigh with impatience, waiting a whole beat for Amrya to take the hint, before cramming it down their poor secretary’s throat.

“You can go now,” Lady Aviya Romaea barked. “I need to knock my beloved nephews’ heads together until their brains dislodge from whatever sanity-sucking wormhole they’ve managed to stuff them into!”

****

Roehn didn’t know what to think of the limousine waiting at the base of the steps when she and Rynd walked out of the museum at the end of the day.

“Uh…where’s Ilydan?” she asked.

“Don’t move, I’ll check,” Rynd replied, pulling his phone out to make the call.

While he did, the driver exited the car and came around their side to open the back door. “Miss Leontle?” he inquired. “Lady Romaea requests your company.”

“She’s not going anywhere, until I speak with Lord Draea,” Rynd stated, grabbing Roehn’s arm to keep her from moving.

A broad brimmed hat ducked into view from within the back of the limo, revealing a beautiful, refined face with the golden eyes only granted to the Draea bloodline.

“I assure you my nephew knows I’m here,” the Lady called out pleasantly. “You’re more than welcome to ride up front with Gaelon, Hawk.”

Rynd ignored her, but not on purpose. His call had finally been answered. “My Lord–” he spoke into the phone. “Yes. I see. Yes, I will.”

He tucked his phone away and nodded at Roehn, escorting her to the car, himself and leaving her no choice but to climb into the back with the wife of the Head of Romaea House, and, she assumed, the sister of Lord Malcaen Draea.

Once inside the limo, Roehn could see that she had nearly platinum hair and that her Echelonite was remarkably similar to Arcylaen’s eyes; both gold and crimson. Had it always been that way, or only once she married, combining to two House colors?

“I hope you don’t mind, dear. I very much wanted to spend a little one-on-one time with you without my eldest nephew’s interference,” the Lady smiled. “Men do love to speak for their women in some unguided sense of chivalry or importance, as if it’s their duty to protect our reputations or their own, but I want to talk to you, not Arcylaen, do you understand?”

“Yes, Lady Romaea,” Roehn accepted.

Every ounce of her was on guard, because she had no idea what the Lady’s opinion was on her presence, the Warden Rites or anything. It was obvious the woman wasn’t shy about being straightforward, but neither was Eleqwyn, so that didn’t help her defenses relax a single bit. Plus, she had a personal investment; Arcylaen was her nephew so her thoughts were bound to be less pleasantry and more direct, if not severe.

“Good. Perhaps, we should start by getting the obvious topics out of the way, set the foundation, as it were, so we can build from there,” the Lady suggested. “I’m sure you’re aware that you’re now a great matter of mystery and speculation. Word travels fast through the cities of Skaulling. So, Miss Leontle, why are you here?”

“My work brought me here,” Roehn answered. “I’m an Exhibit Coordinator and Conservationist for the Museum of Cauldexian Antiquities. Why Skaulling? Because, I believe history should be preserved, which is no longer practiced in Meive by the populace. Preservation is also why I bought the House of Cayen, since that’s the number one question on everyone’s mind and yes, I do realize that no one in this country understands why I would want to preserve anything belonging to the Black Dogs, but as I informed Arcylaen when he also cornered me with the same interrogation, not only was I absent during those unfortunate years, but fully believe that history is more likely to repeat itself if we allow all of the bad parts to get swept under the rug and forgotten. Does that cover your foundation, Lady Romaea?”

“Not quite, dear,” she smiled, her eyes glinting with amusement, which surprised Roehn. “How do you know Lords Haraj and Gwyn?”

“I don’t know Lord Gwyn at all,” she answered. “And I met Lord Haraj at the Gala for the unveiling of the Black Dogs exhibit. He was…charming.”

The Lady was too dignified to snort, but her expression said it all. “Miss Leontle, Griffins are charming by nature, Lord Haraj is a pompous peacock.”

Roehn couldn’t help but grin over that. She studied the older woman and felt a tinge of shame. “I apologize for being so defensive,” she said. “It seems I’ve had so little time to be anything else since I arrived.”

“That’s why I wanted this time with you alone, dear,” the Lady winked. “To see where your current footing is in all this mess. We’ll work on your delivery, because trust me, I’m far from being the last person you’ll have to answer those same questions for. However, it is imperative that you do the answering, not my nephew.”

Roehn nodded in agreement, then shook her head in confusion. “You’re not even angry with me.”

“Why would I be?”

“For getting Arcylaen into this mess.”

The Lady laughed wholeheartedly. “Darling, if there’s one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s that Draea men will find their own messes to get into, with or without our help. Arcylaen, especially. He reminds me so much of my brother, always charging headfirst into battle, as if his view on what’s right will be enough to shield him from his enemies.”

“But, it’s not,” Roehn whispered.

Lady Romaea shook her head. “No, it’s not. And unfortunately, this battle has been a long time coming. You have simply given the opportunists the excuse they needed to see it begun. That’s why it’s so important for you to understand just how precarious and vital your position is now. You’re either the key to Arcylaen’s success or the weapon to his downfall. How you proceed from here will determine which one you’ll claim in the end.”

“I don’t want that,” she said. “I already told him I would rather return to Meive than be the reason for him losing everything he’s worked so hard for.”

“Even though your Echelonite has already chosen him for its mate?”

“Yes,” Roehn confirmed, holding the woman’s gaze. “But he won’t let me go.”

Lady Romaea was quiet for a moment, before she sighed. “No, darling, I’m afraid he never will. Giving up something that matters, something they want, that’s not in a Dragon’s nature.”

“Treasure hoarding syndrome?”

“Precisely,” the Lady smiled. “Besides, that opportunity has already passed. If you were to leave now, it would only confirm the wrong kind of speculations and disappoint the right ones. Whether it’s justified or not, your guilt or innocence is no longer based on facts alone, but public opinion and that is a very fickle thing.”

Roehn tried not to grind her teeth, because she knew that was true despite how wrong it was. “My Lady, aren’t you afraid of what might happen if Arcylaen’s Echelonite chooses me in return?”

The Dragon studied her for a moment, her expression thoughtful as she tapped a finger to her chin. “That’s a very good question,” she replied. “The truth, which has been conveniently forgotten, is that left to their own devices, the Echelonites very rarely choose mates outside of their own species. The tradition of uniting Houses founded centuries ago, was never meant to ensure that, but to combat undesired inbreeding within each House. Of course, that gave rise to a system of arranged marriages, rather than love. Not to say that you can’t find happiness or even love in an arranged marriage, but it can never compare to finding the one the Divine has chosen for you.

“So, to answer your question directly, Miss Leontle; no,” she concluded. “I’m not afraid, because I would much rather see my nephew happy and in love, than forced to be with someone he may never find those things with. Maybe, it’s easier for me to say as such now that they’re grown, because I know him so well and Eleqwyn Turvo well enough to know that neither love nor happiness would never be found between those two. The Divine creates mates for a reason, and I think it’s high time we stopped trying to interfere with that.”

Roehn mulled that over for a moment, thinking about Rynd’s warning regarding the Turvos’ stance. “Would you have given up your position as the wife of a Head of House, if you’d had the choice between the arrangement and your true mate?”

“Before, yes,” she answered without hesitation. “Now, well…I hope I never meet my mate, to be honest. I love my husband dearly, because he’s a damn good man and a doting father to my children. I regret nothing.”

Roehn could appreciate that view, but it didn’t ease her concerns. Perhaps, because she worried if Shursja’s vote truly counted at all in the grand scheme of the Divine, even though her feelings for Arcylaen seemed to be growing deeper by the minute.

“I don’t want Arcylaen to give up his position,” she stated, her chest squeezing with the mere thought of it. “I can’t imagine anyone better suited for it. There are so many good things he wants to do for this country, that he’s already doing. I don’t understand why he hasn’t just grasped the reins, already. Why he’s left himself in this vulnerable state of being unofficial.”

“Oh, sweetie, that’s easy,” Lady Romaea sighed. “He’s afraid the power will corrupt him, like it did the Black Dogs. Not just him, but all of the Dragons. He doesn’t want this world to trade one reign of terror for another.”

“But the Dragons have always reigned in one capacity or another, and are still currently running the cities of Skaulling in all the ways that count. The Black Dogs were never voted into office,” Roehn argued, then shook her head with frustration. “I’m sorry, I just…I’m very worried for him. This is all happening so fast and the meeting is only seven days away.”

“That’s why I’m here,” the Dragon smiled. “Over the next week, we will turn this mess into the biggest, grandest political campaign this country has ever seen, or my name is not Aviya Draea Romaea.”

©A.C. Melody

Thank you for reading! Please check out The Wicked Web link above for previous episodes, if you’re just tuning in. You can also follow my blog via e-mail to ensure you never miss any free content. Until next time…

Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 23

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Surprises

The smell of food hit Roehn’s nose the second Arcylaen opened the back alley door to the restaurant. Her mouth watered and her stomach growled, even as her curiosity piqued. If he hadn’t roped Daelyn into cooking for them again, then why did it smell so delicious in the gutted space? Her answer awaited atop a table set for two situated in front of the bar and a pang of guilt struck her for dragging her feet out of the museum…yet again.

“You planned this?” she asked, though it was quite obvious he had.

Rather than answer, he pulled her into his arms and feasted on her mouth with a kiss that rendered the food irrelevant. The Dragon was hungry for something else entirely, and Roehn’s desire rose to greet his.

“Mmm, I’ve been looking forward to doing that for hours,” he moaned, tasting her lips with softer nips, before stepping back.

Roehn tried not to sulk, her mouth still tingling for more, when he led her to the table and pulled a chair out for her. She eyed the tall easel draped with a cover standing on the other side of his chair, aimed perfectly for her seated view.

“Is that my surprise?” she asked.

“No.” He rubbed his hands together and gave her that hesitant look of hope again. “It’s more like a presentation.”

He removed the material and stepped back so she could see. Roehn gasped with a big smile, delighted. It was a large colorful print of what the restaurant would look like once it was completely remodeled. Only, it didn’t appear to be just a restaurant anymore. There turned out to be a whole stack of prints and as Arcylaen showed her each one, she marveled at the differences between the building they currently sat in, and his vision for its future.

The false wall would be removed, combining the two spaces into one giant venue. Half of where the dining area was now would be a nice lobby, complete with a coat check station and ticket counter, refurbished and expanded restrooms. The kitchen would get moved and somewhat expanded into the other half with upgraded appliances, hidden by a longer, sleeker and modernized bar that faced the new dining area surrounding a giant stage, which filled the entire back end of the secret room. The alleyway door would enter behind it, into those areas the audience would never get to see.

“A theater?” she asked.

He shook his head, his gaze intense, and Roehn had a feeling she was about to get her surprise. “A comedy club.”

“Really?” she beamed, the idea automatically clicking with her. “Arcylaen, that’s even better than I imagined!”

She watched relief and enthusiasm replace the hesitant hope in his eyes. “Out of all the ideas we tossed around, this was the one that grabbed me with certainty,” he told her. “This neighborhood needs laughter. A lot of laughter. And, look–”

He flipped through a couple more cards and pointed to one that showed the outside. “We can sacrifice this corner building that used to be a hardware store and put in a parking garage. The next idea is what I have in mind for the apartments across the street,” he continued. “I want to keep their historic façades intact, but open them up inside to turn them into a hotel.”

“Wait, you bought the apartments, too?” Roehn sputtered.

“No, sorry. I’m jumping ahead,” he chuckled and put all the prints back in place, before joining her at the table. His eyes were all but shimmering with his excitement when he continued. “I’m working on devising a charity based foundation called the Home Again Project, where anyone who feels the same way we do, can volunteer their time, materials or donate money toward rebuilding these neighborhoods in our cities that need to be reclaimed from the terror and haunted memories.”

Roehn’s smile, which hadn’t fully left yet, spread again. “That can belong to the people again,” she said, the idea overwhelming her with unexpected emotion. “That can be their home again.”

“Exactly,” he reciprocated. “We’ll break each area down into multiple projects and people can choose which one they’d like to help, or they can donate to more than one. There will also be an option for people to purchase the projects after they’re completed, as long as the original purpose isn’t altered. So, say after we get the hotel up and running, someone can buy it, as long as they keep it a hotel. They can change the name and décor all they like, but they can’t turn it into a department store.”

“Can you have that kind of stipulation in place, legally?” Roehn asked.

“Yes, through the zoning permits, the business types can be fairly well set in stone,” he nodded. “And that would protect the overall positive atmosphere we hope to accomplish with the refurbishments. No city is ever going to be without its bad parts, but these places have seen too much bad. The only way we’re ever going to draw in the kind of revenue needed to change that, is if people want to come back to them.”

“Do you think they will?” she asked, worried that his plans, no matter how amazing they were, might be doomed to fail before they even began.

“Yes, I really do,” he answered. “I think there are enough people out there that feel it would be the best kind of justice, reclaiming these places that were taken away from them, and that’s a strong motivator.”

“Especially with you as the spokesman for the foundation, because let’s face it, you could motivate a boulder to roll up hill,” Roehn pointed out.

Arcylaen laughed with a shake of his head, but his gaze held hers. “That’s all your doing, Leandra. You’re the one who inspired me.”

Though she blushed, Roehn crinkled her nose. “I think you give me too much credit.”

“Let’s not argue, it’s time for your surprise,” he said, before she could do just that.

“I thought the comedy club was my surprise,” she replied, wondering what in the world could be better.

“Kind of, but this was what I really wanted to surprise you with,” Arcylaen smiled, lifting the domes off their plates at last. “A Meivenese specialty which I cannot even begin to pronounce.”

Roehn’s mouth opened on a surprised exhale at the sight of the familiar spiced and caramelized vegetables and broiled, almost raw meat drizzled with a tangy fruit sauce filling her plate. Like an idiot, her eyes misted over. You’d think he’d have given her flowers or jewelry from the way a sweet, almost achy feeling spread through her chest.

Lereauxa,” she laughed, dumbfounded. “This is one of my favorite dishes. How did you know?”

He shrugged. “I just picked the most popular one I could get my hands on with short notice,” he chuckled.

“Thank you.” Roehn smiled, not knowing what else to say.

It seemed to be the right thing, since he reached across the table and linked his fingers with hers. They both dug into their meals, while he continued filling her in on all of the ideas that he and the other Draeas had been tossing around since before they’d even purchased the restaurant. Roehn wondered how he could be so blind to his own importance. How he was unable to see how perfect he was for the Dragon’s Head position and how much more good he’d be able to do if he’d just made that official already.

Now, they had to fight for it, and the uncertainty of their odds was an uncomfortable feeling. She didn’t want to ruin their very pleasant lunch, though, so let those thoughts stew for the time being. Tonight, when they weren’t so pressed for time, he’d be fair game.

After the conversation about the projects wrapped up, Arcylaen’s gaze turned a little smoky and he popped another caramelized pepper into his mouth. “Have you given any thought to what I said this morning?”

She almost scoffed. How could she not think about it? He wanted her in his bed. Wanted her to give up the last shred of privacy she had in their unfortunate bond, yet Roehn couldn’t deny how much she wanted it, too. Not to lose anything else, but to gain all the pleasures it would open up between them. Sex, yes, for the heavens, they were already on their way to that and fast, but there were other pleasures to be found while sharing a bed with someone. Comfort, companionship, all the little things outside of sex that Roehn had never experienced with anyone so had no idea how they would really feel, yet longed for them all the same. With him. That was the kicker. It had taken a Dragon to make her yearn for things no other man ever had.

“You said a lot of things this morning,” she pointed out with a playful smirk, because she was still unsure of what the night might bring.

Confidence seemed to radiate from him when he flashed a wicked smile, but he was merciful and changed the subject again. Let her off easy with a smoldering reminder. Roehn suspected he might be leery of pushing her too fast too soon, even though she’d been all but begging for it when he’d made that confession in her bed. When she’d been cursing the poor timing of his gentlemanly ways.

Ugh, sometimes trying to figure him out was like trying to dance when she didn’t know any of the steps!

After they cleaned up their lunch mess, Arcylaen gathered all the prints into a kind of portfolio case. Roehn felt the resurgence of her previous awe from when he’d unveiled the prints to her and explained about the Home Again Project. So, when he helped her back into her suit jacket, she followed her instinct and turned into him. Wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him simply because it felt right and she wanted to. Caught off guard, he was slow to return her embrace.

“I feel like I just won a prize or something,” he teased, sounding confused.

“Keep doing what you’re doing and maybe you will,” she smiled with unbidden innuendo. “And as much as you hate the entire subject, Arcylaen, I just want you to know that this, right here, is proof that you’re already the best candidate to lead Skaulling into a better future. You can try to credit me for inspiring you, but these ideas and you acting on them, that’s all you. Arcylaen Draea, not any other Head Dragon of any other Dragon House.”

She tapped her fingers on the portfolio case and gave him a quick kiss, before heading for the door, needing to get away, before she made a complete mushy fool of herself. Roehn was uncomfortable with her feelings and he could’ve been a total Dragon about it, like he’d been at the Gala, but he laced his fingers with hers and didn’t say a word. The ride back to the museum was spent in comfortable silence, if you didn’t count the contented purring from Shursja–which seemed to be a regular part of the ambiance now–and the equally contented smile on Arcylaen’s face, because Roehn was bothered. And he liked her bothered.

And she almost adored that he liked her bothered.

His sigh was almost inaudible, when Ilydan pulled up to the curb and the first thing they saw was the Hawk standing by, waiting.

“Give…” He swore under his breath and released a growl. “Kiss me?”

Roehn couldn’t stop from chuckling, even though she gave him a sympathetic look and leaned in to press her lips to his. His hand cupped the back of her neck and held her there, taking the kiss much deeper than she’d planned. Yet, it wasn’t jealousy she felt emanating from him, it was something else. When he rested his forehead to hers and brushed a thumb over her cheek, she had a strange feeling it had to do with her little speech at the end of their lunch.

To her surprise, he climbed out of the car behind her, but before she could ask why, he motioned for Rynd to join him a few feet away. Pleased, Roehn gave Arcylaen a bright smile over her shoulder, then jogged up the stairs and rushed to the staff room to clock back in.

Ten minutes later, Rynd found her back in the archive room, and without a word, leaned in and placed a kiss on her cheek.

“What was that for?” she blinked in surprise.

“You know what it was for,” he smirked, as he continued past her. “And I trust you won’t tell him about it, because I don’t think you want a different bodyguard. I think you like me, puss puss.”

Roehn snorted out a laugh. “I was going to say you’re welcome, but I’ve changed my mind now.”

With a chuckle, he disappeared to his corner to let her work, but neither of them seemed to find the silence troubling or brood-worthy this time around.

©A.C. Melody

Thank you for reading! Please check out The Wicked Web link above for previous episodes, if you’re just tuning in. You can also follow my blog via e-mail to ensure you never miss any free content. Until next time…