#NewRelease ♥ Scavenger!

IT’S LIVE!

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.

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AVAILABLE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

 

A.C. Melody is a hybrid author of Erotic Romance and all its savory sub-genres. Confessed javaholic, introverted geeky girl with a twisted sense of humor and a wretched muse. She has a weakness for hard ass Alphas and the strong women who capture their hearts, without damaging their rough edges.

A lifetime lover of fairytales, myths, legends and ancient pantheons, A.C. spends more time researching than writing. Her biggest goal is to provide new, captivating angles on old, favorite tales with enticing twists and characters that redefine preset expectations.

She’s 100% guilty of placing all her money on the underdogs,anti-heroes and shameless whores. When A.C. isn’t writing, being mom or doing the day-job gig, you can catch her gaming, binge-watching Netflix or anxiously awaiting the new superhero movie (specifically, Deadpool 2). A.C. loves to hear from her readers and can be found at any of the following sites:

 

 

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Scavenger (Dark Day Isle, The Ultimate Kink Resort #2)
A.C. Melody
Full length / Erotic Romance

#BDSM #Kink #Fetish #PetPlay #Spanking #Paradise

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Scavenger 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.

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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! 😀 ❤

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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.

Welcome to Dark Day Isle, the Ultimate Kink Resort ♥ #Free eBook

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$10,000 and an all-expense paid getaway to a kink resort? What’s the catch?

Tessa Fauns has but one dream: Move to France and never leave.
So when she’s offered the chance to get enough money, while putting her bilingual skills to use, how can she possibly say no?
The fact that it requires her to join a select group of Club Vitalz submissives for a week-long kinkfest in paradise is just the icing on the cake!

Unless, it’s too good to be true…

Despite all of her experience in the BDSM lifestyle, Tessa isn’t prepared for the extravagant activities their mysterious host has planned–nor the clash of unexpected emotions her new temporary Dom awakens inside of her.
Can a lifelong dream be enough to keep this little fox on her leash,
or will the truth behind her Master’s desires have
Tessa rethinking her place on Dark Day Isle altogether?

#Free all this week on Amazon
(3/19 – 3/23)

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Have You Given Into Greed Yet? ♥ #Free for a Limited Time Only!

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A  brutal beginning.
An ambitious dream.
One damning submission…

Devils Only.
It was a permanent note-to-self tattooed right above Kameo Kross’s panties, because anything less was a disappointment. Had anyone cared to issue the warning: Be careful what you wish for, she might have thought twice before wording it like an actual invitation.

Kami doesn’t fear pain, death or eternal damnation. She fears only submitting completely. A matter she usually has well in hand… until an unexpected detour into kink and a relentless bastard of a new boss decide to put all of her resistance-and chosen ink-to the trickiest of tests.

Go back to where it all began with Avarice – FREE all this week on Amazon!

(March 5th – March 9th)

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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

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