#FREE Read 💋 Avarice Unforgiving !

All this week you can get Avarice Unforgiving (Hell on Earth, Book 2) absolutely FREE on Amazon! Ends Friday April 28th!

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amazon-buy-linkRun.

That’s Kami’s first instinct when shit gets a little too real for her peace of mind.
Kink was supposed to be an escape, a release, but her mysterious Dom robbed her of that and there’s no going back. Her job was supposed to be an accomplishment, a step forward, but Mr. Kress took that from her and twisted it to his own design.

They want her to submit.

If Kami had her way, they’d both be kissing her ass on her way out the door.
Now, there’s a new threat hanging over her head. An unknown enemy wants to expose all of Kami’s sordid, depraved secrets to the media. Little do they know, that even she has no clue who in the hell she really is…but someone does.

Someone who’s about to reveal an incomprehensible tale. A truth that will unravel Kami’s entire life at the seams. Everything she’s ever believed will be altered as she’s thrust into a world she’d never feared existed, and only one undeniable fact will ring through the loudest:
Running had never been an option.

🔥💋🔥

This is in celebration of the New Release of Avarice Unleashed (#3) coming this Sunday, April 30th, so if you haven’t started the Hell on Earth series yet, now’s your chance to get the first 2 books for the price of one – Only $1.99!

Happy Monday All!

Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 21

Rival

Rival

Roehn wandered downstairs, and what greeted her was the exact opposite of the morning before. The grand dining hall was filled with Dragons, alongside Ilydan, Rynd and Sajyn. All conversation dropped off the moment she entered the room. Trying not to be bothered by it, she made her way over to the serving table, which had the head chef jumping out of his chair.

“Miss Leontle, please, allow me,” he said.

“It’s fine, Sajyn, I can do it,” she waived him off. “Go back to your conversation, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

The Raccoon looked hesitant, glancing toward the Dragon Lords. “If it’s all the same to you, Miss, I’d rather not get fired,” he pleaded quietly.

Sighing in understanding, Roehn pointed to the heated carafe. “Coffee, too, please,” she instructed, while handing her plate over to him.

Arcylaen entered the room, as she was crossing to the table. “There are far too many Dragons under the same roof for it to be this quiet,” he commented, pulling Roehn’s chair out for her.

“That’s my fault,” she admitted, sitting down so he could scoot her in, before taking his own seat.

“Well, from what I hear, you did bite everyone’s head off the last time you were in here,” Arcylaen agreed.

Roehn’s mouth popped open, as she glared at him in surprise. “Not everyone’s,” she admonished. Looking across the table, she found Brej watching them with amused curiosity. “I am sorry, though, Brejeir. I was completely out of line taking my frustrations out on you, when this situation is far from being any fault of yours. Just like you have no control over the fact that your brother was a complete absentee jerk yesterday.”

Arcylaen’s expression fell. “I said I was sorry.”

“Not to Brejeir,” she pointed out sweetly.

The Dragon in question gave them both a wide, toothy grin, which had Arcylaen rolling his eyes and grumbling out an apology under his breath.

“Thank you, Sajyn,” Roehn smiled, when the Raccoon brought plates and coffee for both her and Arcylaen.

The conversations had just started to pick up again, when Emmon suddenly appeared from a mysterious entrance. “My Lord, Lady Turvo is here and requesting an immediate audience. She claims it’s an emergency.”

Roehn felt her shoulders stiffen, and she wasn’t the only one who seemed to grow a little tense at the announcement. Even Brejeir’s grin completely vanished.

“Of course, show her in,” Arcylaen replied.

Emmon bowed and then disappeared.

“No one will blame you, if you’d rather not be here,” Arcylaen said quietly, reaching out to squeeze Roehn’s forearm reassuringly.

Still not afraid of Dragons,” she stated.

His mouth quirked up in amusement, before he captured her hand and placed a kiss on her knuckles. That’s when Emmon returned with the perfectly polished Eleqwyn Turvo. Her red coils were wrapped up in a stylish do, her white and gold ensemble appeared more expensive than the subdued gems at her neck, wrist and ears. If Roehn didn’t know any better, she’d say the woman was trying to show off her ability to portray the perfect politician’s wife. Of course, she did know better, and didn’t doubt for a single second that was exactly what the woman was attempting to do.

Eleqwyn paused with unbidden displeasure at seeing the room full of people she apparently had no love for. Her gaze fell pointedly on Ilydan, Rynd, Sajyn, and finally on Roehn, where it lingered a bit longer than the others.

“Well, it’s nice to see you’ve opened your table to anyone willing to sit at it, Lords Draea,” she commented coolly.

“I doubt the dining habits of my household was the big emergency that brought you here this morning, Lady Turvo,” Arcylaen countered smoothly, his tone civil, yet devoid of feeling.

“You’re right,” she agreed. “I’m here, because my house was robbed last night.”

That got everyone’s attention, especially Roehn’s.

“What?” Arcylaen rose from his chair. “Was it the same as the others?”

“Yes, all of our Cayen relics and monies were stolen, no evidence was left behind,” the Lady answered, and despite what a haughty bitch she was, Roehn could see that she was genuinely shaken by it. “The alarms were never triggered.”

“Is your father with the authorities now?” Arclyaen asked.

“He is, but as you know, there’s very little that can be done,” she replied. “Which is why my father is calling for a meeting of the Thirteen Dragons. Consider this you summons and warning, my Lords. Things are going to change.”

“Good, they need to change,” Cylaen agreed, dismissing her threat. “Our modern world can no longer be run by archaic Rites. The old-fashioned traditions no longer have a place in today’s society.”

“Those traditions and Rites are sacred,” Eleqwyn gasped, appalled by his words.

“No, they’re narrow-minded and prejudiced,” he countered. “I will state as much at the meeting. For now, we need to focus on the robberies.”

“Why don’t you ask your Ward where she was last night?” Eleqwyn suggested snidely.

“Why would I ask her something I already know?” he returned calmly.

Arcylaen let the intended implication hang in the air long enough to have Roehn and Brej grinning like mischievous children at one another across the table. She didn’t feel a single shred of embarrassment that he’d just announced to the entire household they’d spent the night together, even if it had been mostly innocent. Then Arcylaen had to go and ruin it, by continuing with a more clinical explanation.

“For all your claim on how sacred the ancient Rites are, you apparently know nothing of how they work. I can feel Leandra all of the time and exactly where she is, that is the entire purpose of the Warden bond.”

Ah, yes. How could Roehn have forgotten? She truly had been outside of his study the night before, though he hadn’t been able to see her. She’d overheard the very same confession when he’d made it to Brejeir. The Warden bond was putting a stranglehold on her ability to finish what she’d come to accomplish. Apparently, she was no longer the only thief in town, either, but they hadn’t robbed the Turvo’s. Not really. They’d robbed her, and she would find them.

Sniffing, Eleqwyn lifted her chin, obviously displeased with that insight, because it gave Roehn an air-tight alibi. “Well, don’t blame me, I’m not the only one questioning her motives here in Skaulling, or why she would purchase the House of Cayen. Otherwise, the requests for the Warden Rites never would’ve been submitted to the Council in the first place.”

“Oh, I’m very aware of why the requests were submitted, Eleqwyn,” Arcylaen countered in a tone that clearly indicated it was not for the purpose she was suggesting. “Now, I am very sorry that your house was broken into last night. We have been following all leads that we come across, and I assure you, the investigation has not rested for even a second. We will find those responsible. That should be the main focus of the Thirteen Dragons, not the resurgence of ancient traditions no one has bothered with in over three decades.”

“There was never a need to bother with them before, Arcylaen, but apparently, that need is quite present now,” she returned heatedly.

“And a matter which I will discuss with the Heads of Houses at the meeting,” he stated firmly.

Ouch. Even Roehn felt the sting of that one, but it was obvious the woman would’ve continued her verbal campaign right into the ground, had Arcylaen not nipped it so cleanly in the bud. Lady Turvo stared him down with silent indignation for a moment, then turned on her heel and marched from the room. Emmon gracefully fell into line behind her, to see her out properly–or perhaps, make certain she left.

Cylaen sighed heavily and returned to the table. “And so it begins.”

“The meeting was unavoidable, even without the last two days’ events,” Grevys spoke up. “The fact that we’re no closer to catching the thieves now than we were after House Riescho was originally broken into, has been making the Heads antsy and questioning our ability to protect them.”

“That’s the problem,” Arcylaen fired darkly, rapping his knuckle on the table with an unexpected show of frustration. “It’s not our duty to protect them. It’s the duty of all Thirteen Dragons and their Houses to protect the combined cities of Skaulling! This lack of responsibility and ridiculous notion of entitlement the other Houses have fallen into needs to be put to a stop immediately!”

“Brother, we need to rally our allies before the meeting,” Ryver pointed out. “Find out if the other Heads of Houses are in line with your ideas beforehand, so you’re not blindsided by a twelve-to-one vote.”

“Thank you so much for the confidence, Ryv,” Cylaen remarked dryly, but nodded in agreement and finally sank back down into his chair. “That’s a good plan. Unfortunately, for all of Eleqwyn’s lack of personality, at least she’s always up front. The others may not be as forthcoming about their true thoughts or intentions.”

“Then we can’t afford to waste any time,” Brejeir said. “I’ll send our team to House Turvo to go over the crime scene and talk to the authorities. They might find something that was missed. In the meantime, I suggest you start making personal visits to the other Houses, brother, with your Ward.”

Roehn nearly choked on her eggs. “What?”

“What are you scheming?” Arcylaen asked at the same time, narrowing his eyes at his brother.

“Anyone who actually takes the time to meet and talk with Leandra would never be able to dislike her,” Brejeir stated confidently. “Except Eleqwyn, of course. Let them ask her their questions and hear her answers for themselves, so they no longer see her as an unknown foreigner and possible threat. Everyone knows her Echelonite has chosen you as its mate, so give them the respect and opportunity to put their fears at rest that she isn’t going to distract you from your duties as the Dragon’s Head, that she’s actually already on her way to making you a better leader.”

“He’s right, Cyl. Whether you like it or not, this is now a political campaign. You’re going to have to put yourself and Leandra in the public spotlight, so they can not only get to know her, but you and her as a team,” Daelyn finally spoke up. “The refurbishing projects in the abandoned neighborhoods are a great springboard, and the fact that you two began them prior to the Rites and the meeting being called, adds weight to your position.”

“I hate pageantry,” Arcylaen grumbled.

Roehn completely agreed with him on that, but the more her mind unraveled the pitfalls and outcomes of their situation, the more she realized they had very little choice. Besides, someone else had broken into House Turvo the night before, which meant there was an unknown element at play and until she could discover if they were friend or rival, she had to do everything in her power to ensure House Draea remained at the top of the food chain.

“Arcylaen, I’m not crazy about any of this,” Roehn said sincerely. “But I can’t be the reason why the other Houses turn on you. I’d rather be deported back to Meive, before I let that happen.”

The crimson underlining the gold in his eyes brightened with denial. “You’re not going anywhere,” he said with finality.

“Then, it’s settled,” Brejeir intervened, just as his phone chimed. Picking it up, he read the message and then leveled them both with a serious expression. “And so is the date for the meeting. We have seven days to convince the majority of twelve Houses that you’re still the best candidate for Dragon’s Head.”

©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 20

Intentions

Warm lips brushed over Roehn’s shoulder, a broad hand smoothing over the silk of her nightgown across her ribs toward her breasts. There was a hard, warm body molded to her backside, too big to fight off, if he was determined enough.

That was the sole thought in Roehn’s panicked mind, when she woke in a startled daze. Her heart was already in her throat, pumping adrenaline through her veins. She reached under her pillow and wrapped her hand around the dagger she always kept there. With a trained move made all the more lethal by her feline attributes, she had the intruder pinned with a merciless blade pressed to his throat in a single, wild heartbeat.

In the colorful sunlight filtering through stained glass, Roehn’s harsh breath disturbed dust motes as sleep cleared from her frightened vision on the Dragon staring up at her in profound shock.

“Arcylaen?” she puzzled, before hazy memories of the night before started seeping through the panic and shame rushed through her. “Oh shit, I’m so sorry!”

She quickly lifted the dagger from his neck, but he was fast. His hand wrapped around her wrist and his reptilian eyes blazed with more crimson than gold.

“Why the hell do you have a knife under your pillow, Leandra?” he demanded.

Go ahead, say it. Tell him you spent years using that very blade to dissuade would-be rapists in slummy space stations, and that you’ve never spent a whole night wrapped in a man’s arms before. What’s a little soul-baring and bloodshed before breakfast?

“Habit,” she stammered out.

Her pulse was racing, which he undoubtedly felt under his grip. His eyes were volatile and damning, rather than skeptical. “Habit? From what exactly?”

“I got scared, okay,” she confessed. It was one small grain of a truth that had nothing to do with the real answer, but she hoped it was convincing enough. “When I first moved here, into the House of Cayen, it wasn’t exactly welcoming. The neighbors glared at me like I was public enemy number one, and I think someone tried to break in my first night there.”

“Did you report it?” he asked heatedly.

“No, because the house is so big and empty, it’s always making weird noises and honestly, I didn’t think anyone would show up,” she replied.

“Why wouldn’t anyone show up?” he scoffed.

Roehn gave him a dubious look. “Arcylaen, the movers wouldn’t even take my things inside, they left it all in the driveway. I know how the citizens of Skaulling feel about my house, I’m not ignorant. I didn’t want to be that outsider stirring up trouble over something as silly as a rodent.”

When his hold on her wrist loosened, Roehn pulled it free the rest of the way, but not before Arcylaen snatched the blade away from her.

“Hey–”

“There’s no need to slice your fingers off in your sleep, Leandra, for the Divine’s sake this thing is sharp enough to shave with!” He cut off her protest.

Reaching under the pillow, Roehn gave him a mild smirk as she held up the scabbard. “Again, I’m not stupid.”

Placing the dagger safely into its sheath, then into the drawer of her nightstand, Arcylaen grabbed her hips and easily slid her halfway into his lap.

“No one would ever accuse you of that, Leandra, but are you still afraid? Is that why you brought it with you?” he asked, all of his previous anger melting into genuine concern. “You don’t have to put on a brave front for me, kitten, but if you don’t feel safe here, I’d damn well like to know.”

“This isn’t a front, Arcylaen, the knife is just habit, and like I told your brother, I’m not afraid of Dragons,” she stated.

That used to be completely true, but the more she got to know them, learn their ways, the less conviction she felt in that statement. She was extremely leery of their tenacity, intelligence, loyalty and most of all, global reach. She could also do without being vulnerable in front of the most powerful Dragon of all. He’d just gotten a glimpse at the real Roehn, the girl she’d spent five years burying under the personae of Leandra Leontle. It felt too raw and exposed having him witness such a brutal honesty.

They were already irrevocably bonded by the Warden Rites, and by Shursja’s choice. Roehn felt like she was losing more of herself than she’d already sacrificed to her borrowed identity. Her very reason for being in Skaulling was no longer a smooth trajectory, but littered with obstacles. She feared it was her own increasing feelings for Arcylaen tripping her up the most.

“What are you afraid of then?” he asked.

Swallowing through the frustration of her own thoughts, she couldn’t escape his close examination. His eyes skimmed over her features, searching for his own answers, but at least they were more gold than crimson now.

“Not making a difference,” she admitted soberly.

Arcylaen stilled, his gaze piercing. “That’s the one thing you never have to worry about, Leandra,” he deadpanned.

Roehn was touched by his sincerity, but doubted he would still be her number one fan if he knew the kind of difference she was planning to make. Without any other option, she let him think what he wanted.

He brushed his lips over her temple and down her cheek in search of her mouth. When he found it, seducing her lips apart for his hot tongue to invade, there was no way to keep her body from reacting. She yielded to her own desires with little resistance. The burning need to have every part of him on that basic, physical level was becoming too insistent to ignore much longer. Arcylaen accepted it, pressing her into him even closer. His hands manipulated the silk over her heated skin, igniting goosebumps and her nipples pebbled against his chest, arousing them both.

“Mmm, kitten,” he groaned against her lips.

She heard the regret in his tone, and clung to him even tighter out of denial. “Don’t tell me you’re still angry, Arcylaen, you’ve already used that excuse once.”

“Angry, no,” he admitted, lifting his hand to brush locks of hair from her face. “But we are pressed for time and the things I want to do to you, Leandra… I will not be rushed.”

Delectable shivers coursed through her from that erotic promise, but she still felt like pouting. Of course he picked up on it and chuckled softly, which had her eyes narrowing. That only made him smile brighter, but there was no amusement in his eyes, only pure hunger.

“I have to return to my rooms to get ready for the day,” he said, after placing a soft kiss to her sulking mouth. “Meet me downstairs for breakfast?”

Roehn groaned, when he climbed out from under her, set her on her feet beside the bed. “Fine,” she huffed.

Rather than laugh at her again, as she’d been expecting, Arcylaen banded his arms around her more tightly and forced her face up to his.

“I want you in my bed, Leandra,” he confessed with quiet hunger. “Tonight, tomorrow, it doesn’t matter, because when you climb into it–willingly–there will be no coming back to this one.”

Heating her mouth with another devouring kiss, he added a final word of caution, before reluctantly pulling away. “That, kitten, is where the sum of my intentions begin and I am a man of my word, so please, consider this carefully.”

Even when he was trying to be nice, it came across as a warning, and neither changed the outcome. His wording was insignificant under the weight of his intentions. Roehn knew she would spend the rest of the day thinking of little else… and preparing for something she feared was already inevitable.

©A.C. Melody

Thank you for reading! The next episode, Rival, is already in the works! If you’re just tuning in, you can find all previous episodes listed under The Wicked Web link on the menu above. Until next time…

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You Name It!

Your Next Bad A__ CharacterCharacter names are the topic of today’s post, for both readers and writers, so jump right in! The other day, I was given the option to check out yet another free book and being the cover whore that I am, I couldn’t pass it up. I skipped the blurb and went right for the “Look Inside” feature. I made it through a good portion of the beginning, before I was even given the young woman’s name.

It was my mom’s name. 😐

Not a popular girl’s name in this day and age, especially for an 18 year old – but there it was. Glaring at me. I instantly started picturing my mom in what I knew to be an Erotic Romance novel and hit the back-button so fast my mouse filed an L&I claim.

As a Reader

I understand that this awkward situation depends largely on your genre of choice. I read a variety, but mostly Erotic Romance. So, there are definite names that will immediately turn me off to a book. Main Characters who have the same name as:

  • Any of my parents (I have 4)
  • My Kids
  • One of my ex’s that I cannot stand
  • A real life arch-nemesis – though I love it when they’re the antagonist!
  • And, depending on the circumstances, my nieces and nephews

That’s a lot of names when you think about it. Which, is why I usually feel fortunate and grateful that writers can be so creative with names!

Both of my kids have uncommon names. It’s very rare that I pick up a book and see my oldest son’s name. I have never seen my youngest son’s name used… as a first name… so it doesn’t have the same ‘scarred for life’ affect.

The rest of my family all have more common names. In the case of one niece and nephew, though, their names are sooooooooooo ridiculously common, that I know a dozen other people by their names and for some reason that makes it a non-issue. It’s like I have mental blockers for them, rather than the names, themselves. (Yeah, I’m a little weird).

More often than not, it’s that one ex-boyfriend situation that I run up against. I can’t even stomach seeing his name in print, let alone spend 1 to 300 pages reading it over and over again, picturing him in my mind, instead of the character I’m supposed to be seeing. A hero with his name is the last guy I’d ever root for, no matter what amazing qualities he supposedly has.

Just. Ain’t. Happening.

I’m probably missing out on some really great stories, but it’s not worth the nausea. Am I alone in this? Are you able to overlook these situations?

As a Writer

When I started writing in my teen years, I used names I wished I had, or that I could see myself naming my kids one day. Now that I have kids, I know better – especially with the kind of books I read and write! o_O

Typically, there are 3 different ways my characters can get their names:

1) It just comes to me and it fits. It might even come to me before the actual plot.

2) I get an idea for a story, and as I sketch that out a little more the character names start coming to me, usually as I imagine them be spoken aloud in dialogue. Actually, some of my ideas begin as dialogue, but that’s a whole other post!

3) The character is from another country and I research names until I find a combination that I like or feels the most fitting. I also do this with foreign sub-characters. Sometimes, it’s just their surname, because their first name has already made itself known.

With my Dark Day Isle series, Tessa’s first name came to me easily, then I had to wait for her last name, but I had to research to find Felix’s whole name.

The name Felix, itself, has been around long enough to have a very wide reach. However, in these modern times, it’s more commonly found in and around the kingdom of Luxembourg. My character happens to hail from Metz, which is nearby and politically linked to Luxembourg. I was excited when I came across the name during my research, and knew I’d found the perfect fit. Yes, I love Felix the Cat, too – stop aging us, gaw! 😀

While there’s no rule against using any name you want, it can be really useful to run a deeper search into a country’s various regions, for they each have their own unique traditional and modern list of names. Just searching for “French boy names” never would’ve given me Felix as an option. It only takes a few extra minutes of research, if you’re looking for something more authentic.

Of course, I’ve had characters whose names came to me first and only afterward revealed that they were of a certain heritage. For example: The main male character in my upcoming novel, Hearthstone Alpha (June 1st!) is Corbyn Bruschard. I didn’t choose his name – he did. I think I gave him a duck face, but he was 100% set on it and since he’s presumably ‘the boss’, I was in no position to argue. [insert exaggerated eye roll here].

Bruschard doesn’t even exist in Google’s world. At least not that I have found. Corbyn and his, ahem–pack–of guys, are Scandinavian, so I apologize profusely if Corbyn Bruschard is like the exact opposite of anything viking – you can take it up with the boss. Personally, I’d just let it go… I’ve met his cranky side. 🐺

Readers: Have you ever found yourself unable to read a book–no matter how enticing the blurb–simply because of one of the character’s names?

Writers: How do you come up with your character names? Is it different for each book? Do you have names before anything else, or do you have to flesh your characters out a bit first before their names come to you?

#Amazon Pre-Orders Are Live! ♥ Avarice Unleashed

2017-287 AC Melody Avarice B03

💋 Pre-Order Your Copy Today! 💋

The 3rd and final installment of the Avarice trilogy is now available for Pre-Order on Amazon! If you’re still waiting to read the second book, Avarice Unforgiving, it will be FREE April 24-28th!

Saints & Sinners Book Promotions will be hosting the Release Day Blitz for Avarice Unleashed on April 30th – for those who aren’t familiar with the series, that day is May Day Eve (aka Beltane) which plays a significant role in my main character, Kami’s journey.

If you haven’t started the Hell on Earth series yet, but love Dark Erotica, BDSM and the Paranormal then don’t be shy, because these characters are absolutely shameless – and each novella is available for only $1.99 regular price, or Free through Kindle Unlimited!

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Happy Monday Everyone!

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Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 19

WardenTsaoShin

image source: TsaoShin @ Deviantart.com

Gentlemanly

Arcylaen paused across the threshold of his study. Flicking the light on at last, he gave his brother a dubious look.

“This is a new tactic,” he remarked, hanging his suit jacket up, while Brejeir sipped from the diamond cut snifter in his hand.

“Yeah well, desperate times and all,” Brej replied. “Since your latest strategy is largely cowardice, avoiding anyone and everything that might have any kind of contact with your own Ward.”

“Brother–”

“No, Cylaen,” Brejeir cut him off, downing the rest of his whiskey and rising. “You weren’t here to deliver the bad news, or to see how well that went over. She’s beyond upset, and with every right to be so.”

“What would you have me do?” Arcylaen demanded. “Let her be the Ward of Haraj or Gwyn? Let them have complete control over her, and command her to do things against her will? Should I just let her roam freely about the city unprotected, so she can be captured and used against me as a pawn, just because her Echelonite chose me?! Is that what I should do, brother?”

“No, Cyl. You should be here when she needs you,” Brej stated firmly. “Not burying yourself in work just to avoid her.”

“I’m not–”

“Oh, bullshit,” Brej waved his hand in frustration. “You haven’t seen or spoken a single word to her all day, which is an extreme change from stalking her, I might add.”

Cylaen rolled his eyes at his brother’s exaggeration, no matter how slight it was. “You don’t understand, Brej. I feel her all of the time. I am constantly aware of where she is. You don’t know how difficult it is to concentrate on anything else, when she’s always right there in the peripheral of my consciousness. I don’t even trust myself to be in the same room with her. I can’t risk saying something the wrong way again.”

“What do you mean ‘again’?” Brej narrowed his eyes.

Releasing a heavy sigh, Cylaen helped himself to a drink he desperately needed. “Last night, I just… I told her to go to bed. They were just words, Brej. Something anyone might have said, but she couldn’t stop herself from following through the motions, as if she had no control over her own actions. I had to order her to stop undressing in front of me!”

Brejeir stared at him with parted lips and wide eyes. “Holy…wow.”

“Yeah, that about covers it,” Arcylaen nodded grimly. “Talex was right. I’m no better than the Black Dogs of Cayen.”

“Now, you just hold on a goddamn minute. You don’t get to talk about my brother that way–”

“This isn’t a joke, Brejeir,” Cylaen leveled him with a dark scowl. “I used my position, my power and influence to persuade the Council to side with me, to rush Leandra through the Warden Rites. How does that make me any better than them? How does that make me a good leader, that I would use those things to get my way?”

“For her protection, Cyl!” His brother countered. “After what you just told me could happen, simply by the way you worded something so mundane, I believe that more than ever before, how can you not? No, you did the right thing, brother. You know for a fact Haraj, at least, would take full advantage of his control over her.”

The dark, vile rage that swam through Arcylaen confirmed that his brother was right, but that didn’t make their circumstances any less volatile. They were traversing through landmines now. “It doesn’t matter. That is how they are treating the situation. Haraj said as much this morning, Brej, you heard him with your own ears. They’re calling for my position to be revoked and once the other Houses get wind of Leadra’s Echelonite’s choice, they’ll side with the Griffin and push for my removal as the Dragon’s Head. This isn’t about her guilt or innocence anymore, brother, this is a struggle for power, which puts us all in danger.”

“Then fight it, Cylaen. Run for office, get voted in and start making changes to these ridiculous laws!”

“That could take up to a year, and you know it. The elections are still two months away, and laws don’t get changed overnight, even when it appears that way. It takes months of planning, drafting and getting them passed through all of the right channels first,” Arcylaen shook his head, put the snifter to his lips and stilled.

His entire mind filled with Leandra’s presence. It shivered down his spine to ignite his lust and touch on all his concerns about their predicament. Even Jesper stirred on his shoulder, aware and confused.

“I can feel her,” he exhaled.

“You already said that,” Brej huffed.

“No, right now, I can feel her… everywhere,” Arcylaen stated, whipping his head around, as if he might see her there. “It’s like she’s in a hundred different places at once.”

Half expecting to see Leandra standing outside of his study, Arcylaen stared in confusion at the empty hallway, then kept going. He headed back into the foyer and took the grand staircase two steps at a time, with Brejeir right on his heels. It felt like he was chasing receding shadows that were always a step ahead of him, until they became one concentrated presence beyond the door to her room.

It didn’t make a lick of sense!

“Leandra?” He knocked on her door, but no answer came.

Trying the knob, he was a little relieved to find it unlocked. He gestured for his brother to wait in the hall, then stepped into the dark room. More relief filled him, when he saw the distinct shape of her tucked under the covers in the middle of the bed. He approached the side of it, and leaned down to brush the dark locks from her peaceful face. Her Echelonite was nowhere to be seen, but that was normal for them in sleep. Their symbiotic companions tended to slip into an unconscious stasis while their host’s slumbered, rendering them invisible to the naked eye.

“Arcylaen?” she stirred.

Her eyes blinked open, even as her black panther appeared on the pillow beside her head with a big yawn.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” He straightened quickly, glancing at the open doorway to see Brejeir walking away with a pleased smirk on his face.

Ugh. Brothers.

“What are you doing in here?” she asked in sleepy confusion, sitting up while hugging the blankets closer to her chest.

“I felt…” How to explain? “I don’t know what I felt, exactly. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Stifling a yawn, she pushed her silky hair back from her beautiful face and studied him for a moment. “I’d have felt a lot better if I didn’t have to hear how the Council session went from Brejeir, instead of you.”

Sighing, Arcylaen sat down on the side of the bed and lifted her fingers with his. “I know,” he admitted. “What happened last night…it worried me, Leandra and it angers me. What if the next time, it’s something dangerous? What if I say the wrong thing while we’re in public? I’m second guessing every little word before I speak now, and the worst of it is, when it comes to my desires for you, kitten, I want to tell you what to do. I want to tell you to kiss me, strip for me, to do so many things and I can’t. Because, I want you to do them of your own free will, not by the force of some ancient Rite.”

Could she understand his frustrations and concerns? Was it a man’s ego, alone, driving his anger or a man’s desire, alone, that craved those moments of her yielding to him willingly? Leandra appeared surprised by his confession, but not put off, thank the Divine.

“You could always suggest it,” she finally said.

“Suggest what?”

“That I kiss you, rather than commanding it,” she elaborated. “If you’re already trying to be cautious about how you word everything else, then why not do the same for your desires?”

Because, in the heat of the moment, who in the hell was thinking clearly? Still, it might be worth a shot. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly. He rephrased what he wanted about five different times in his head, before choosing his least favorite, merely because it felt the safest.

“Why don’t you kiss me?”

“No,” she answered, then beamed at him. “See? It worked!”

Arcylaen arched a brow at her. “That’s a matter of opinion.”

Still smiling, she straightened her shoulders. “Okay, ask me again, but this time try wording it more how you want to. I think as long as you keep it in the form of a question, it will work.”

Giving her an option defeated the purpose, couldn’t she see that? Even though he wanted her to give into him willingly, didn’t mean he wanted to pose it as a damn choice.

“Why don’t you give me a kiss, right now?” he suggested on a low growl, his frustration increasing.

“Okay,” she replied, holding his gaze. “But, only because I want to, not because it didn’t work.”

Leaning forward, Leandra pressed her mouth to his before her words even registered all the way. Liquid heat poured down Arcylaen’s throat from the contact, his lust rising recklessly, because he couldn’t separate it from all his other emotions. There was a startling possessiveness, stemming from having faced off with two other men that wanted complete control over her. It had taken a lot more willpower than he’d been prepared for not to threaten their very lives, if they ever came within a hundred feet of Leandra.

The mere thought of it had him pulling her into his arms, banding them tighter around her, as if they could always keep her safe. Keep her his. When her arms slid around his neck, accepting and wanting, his entire chest filled with pride. His desire was like molten gold, shimmering through his veins and he knew if they didn’t stop soon, he wouldn’t be able to at all.

“Leandra,” he exhaled, trying and failing to break away from her delectable mouth. The feel of her soft lips and the delicious heat of her tongue.

“More,” she begged, tightening her hold around his neck. “Please, more.”

“Leandra,” Arcylaen moaned, when she rose higher, squishing her breasts into his chest and kissing him deeper. There were no mixed signals, her desires were being broadcast loud and clear. It was just too dangerous. “Leandra, we need to stop.”

His body hated those words. He hated those words, which meant it had to be the right thing to do. Shivers of lust ignited through his muscles, when her hand dove into his hair and pulled his head back so she could peer into his face.

“Arcylaen, stop trying to be a gentleman when we both know you’re not,” she advised with a sultry smirk. “Is this really the sum of your intentions? Just kissing?”

Stunned, Arcylaen laughed, but it was just as naughty as her words made him feel. Hell no. Kissing was far from being the sum of his intentions, and the little minx knew exactly how to goad him with that challenge, using his own words against him. Was it any wonder he was so attracted to her?

“You’re not ready to know the sum of my intentions, Leandra,” he vowed, a warning served with a smile. “Nor am I settled enough at the moment to prove that to you.”

He saw the determination darken the desire in her yes, before she pressed into him further, her fingers curling around his collar when she attempted to capture his mouth again. It killed him to stop her, when every fiber of his being was aching to lunge.

“Don’t,” he began, gently cuffing her wrist to pull her hand from his shirt. Swallowing the rest of that command, he took a deep breath and tried again. “Please, don’t push at my restraints when they’re already close to snapping, Leandra. I’m angry. I don’t want that anywhere near you, near us, especially our first time together.”

Her features softened with understanding, but there was still a deep well of determination she wasn’t even trying to hide. It only made Arcylaen burn hotter for her.

“Will you stay here with me, then, for just a little while?” she asked.

“That is something I’d never say no to,” he conceded. Despite the further strain it put on his lust, it helped slake some of his possessiveness, at least. When Leandra made to pull the covers aside for him, Arcylaen quickly placed his hand on them to stop her and shook his head. “I’ll be okay on top of the blankets.”

With a heavy sigh, she waited for him to toe off his shoes and stretch out beside her with the barrier of clothing and bedding between their bodies. Snuggling into his arms as close as she could get, his little kitty cat just couldn’t stop herself from expressing her unhappiness. Something he found just as mesmerizing as the rest of her, because it was refreshingly honest.

“I don’t think I like your gentlemanly side, Dragon.”

Pulling her into him even closer, Arcylaen inhaled the exotic perfume of her hair and smiled wickedly into the darkness. “A temporary setback, kitten, I assure you. Very temporary.”

Thank you for reading! If you’re just tuning in, you can find all previous episodes of Thief of Dragons under The Wicked Web link on the menu above. Until next time…

p.s. I normally don’t publish twice in one day, unless someone is in need of an Arcylaen-fix. 😉  Hope this did the trick!

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Thief of Dragons ♥ Episode 18

Astral

The Power of Spirit

The next morning, Roehn found the grand dining hall full of food, but empty of Dragons. Lifting covers off the trays, she made herself a plate and carried it into the kitchen. Rynd was sitting at the booth style table with Ilydan and Sajyn. They looked at her in surprise, but then the Hawk scooted over and patted the bench to his left. Grateful, she sat down. She was still nervous about facing Arcylaen, so was relieved he wasn’t there yet. They definitely needed to talk about what had happened the night before, she’d just prefer to get some coffee into her system first.

More than anything, Roehn hoped to get him to understand that he wasn’t to blame. She wanted to erase the memory of sheer horror that had crossed his features when he’d realized his own words had literally taken over all of her free will. Unfortunately, Rynd’s next words squashed any hope she’d get that chance before work.

“The Lords Draea were summoned to City Hall first thing this morning,” he informed her. “They won’t be able to make it to the museum before opening, so Lords Ryver and Grevys will be meeting us there for the authentication process.”

“Grievances have already been filed?” Roehn asked, glancing at her watch. It was only six-thirty!

“Word must’ve reached Haraj and Gwyn last night, undoubtedly from someone spotting you and Councilwoman Thaya arriving so close together at Draea Tower yesterday afternoon,” Rynd nodded. “They were waiting for the Council at dawn.”

The main floor lobby of Draea Tower had been rather busy, but Roehn’s suspicions fell to the busy little mice manning the large receptionist desk. Keeping that to herself, she shrugged a shoulder and started in on her breakfast.

“It’s nothing more than we were already expecting, right?”

Rynd gave her a wink. “Don’t worry, it will all blow over soon enough. Until then, guess who you get to hang out with all day?”

Roehn narrowed her eyes, while chewing on a strip of bacon. “You’re not going to follow me around the museum like some creepy lurker, are you?”

“Creepy?” he scoffed, feigning offense.

“I’d be creeped out,” Sajyn put in, causing Roehn to grin at him.

“That’s because you’re prey, chipmunk,” Rynd returned.

Even the racoon on Sajyn’s shoulder managed an unimpressed look at the insult.

“I’d just shoot him,” Ilydan supplied conversationally, while continuing to read the morning paper.

“So much love,” Rynd muttered back into his breakfast, while Roehn chuckled around hers.

*

Once again, the artifacts were conclusively authentic, but when Roehn asked Ryver if he’d heard anything about the Council session, his reply was negative.

“But, don’t worry,” he added. “I’m sure Cylaen will let you know the moment he and Brej have the final verdict.”

They didn’t. Word never came. Not a single phone call, text or appearance. Since Sajyn had been nice enough to pack her a lunch, there had been no need for Roehn to go outside during her break, yet she had. The sting of disappointment to see the curb devoid of Arcylaen’s all-black sedan stayed with her, despite Rynd’s continued vows of contact from the Dragon soon. Roehn tried consoling herself with reason. Most likely, the grievances had taken up time that Arcylaen had to make up at work, leaving him no time to contact anyone. He was just busy, that’s all. She had no idea what he did for a living, other than run the entire country of Skaulling in an unofficial capacity. That was bound to keep his plate excessively full.

At the end of the day, Ilydan appeared in an otherwise empty car to take her back to House Draea. Rynd was her only company for dinner. As much as she liked the Hawk, he was not the man she wanted to talk to. Finally, a Dragon entered the room as they were polishing off dessert. It just wasn’t the one she’d been hoping for.

“What’s for dinner? I’m starved,” Brejeir greeted, making his way to the covered trays on the serving buffet.

“Where’s Arcylaen?” Roehn asked.

“I’m sure he’ll be here shortly,” Brej answered. “The Council took longer than we’d anticipated. He’s probably still at the office working.”

She tried to settle with that, and couldn’t. “Why did it take longer? How did it go?”

“No worries, the Council stood by their choice, but to say the requesting Lords weren’t happy about it, is a slight understatement,” he replied, piling food onto his plate, before joining them at the table. Claiming the seat directly across from her again, he held Roehn’s gaze firmly. “Rynd will be your bodyguard for some time, so I hope you’re getting along okay.”

“She loves me,” the Hawk said confidently.

“What’s the threat?” Roehn asked.

“The word’s out now, that your Echelonite has chosen Arcylaen as its mate,” Brej answered soberly. “That makes you a target from many Houses, including some of our own.”

“I’m not afraid of Dragons,” she stated darkly, beyond irritated. “Especially, Eleqwyn Turvo.”

Bejeir smiled. “I see you’ve already had the pleasure,” he said. “Damn, I wish I could’ve been there. The problem is, she’s not the only Dragon who believes in the traditional uniting of Houses. There are older, more powerful members of our species that will do what they feel is necessary to preserve those traditions, even if it’s unlawful. Cylaen is deeply concerned for your safety now. I would advise not doing anything that will cause him more worry.”

“What can I do?” Roehn balked. “I have a babysitter and a driver. I can’t even go to my own house. I’m lucky I get to go to my job.”

“Leandra–”

“Don’t you dare say that you understand,” she cut him off viciously, pushing out of her chair. “Until you have been stripped of all your freedom and have someone with the power to physically make you do whatever they want with just their words, do not ever tell me that you understand!”

Though she instantly regretted losing her temper, Roehn felt every emotion behind her words. Unable to bear the weight of their pitying looks, she pivoted on her heels and retreated to her room. She hated the lack of outlet for her frustrations. She paced, wanting to rage, wishing she had the courage to pick up the priceless artifacts around her and throw them, but she didn’t. Being a conservationist wasn’t just for show, after all. Roehn could never live with herself if she purposely destroyed something with historical significance.

She wasn’t them. She wasn’t her family. Yet, once again, she found herself in the position of being utterly helpless because of their crimes! No one truly hated the Black Dogs of Cayen more than Roehn, but that hatred hurt. It cut away at her insides and messed with her head. There was something unnatural about despising your own flesh and blood, but how could she not? They’d abandoned her, shunned her, plotted to end her…and worst of all, had been so horrible they’d been destroyed before she’d gotten the chance to meet them. Before she could look them in the eyes and demand to know why!

They were just as much to blame for robbing her of that opportunity as the Dragons. But, Roehn was tired of blaming. She just wanted to move on and the only way to do that, was by completing her mission to take her rightful inheritance and turn it into something good. She wanted people to see that a daughter of the House of Cayen could be better. Could make better choices, and be a positive force for change, but that was mostly likely a pipe dream. In truth, they would never really knew who she was. Every time they would praise or compliment her accomplishments, though, Roehn would know they were really cheering on a Black Dog. That’s all that mattered.

It was time to bring balance back to the scales. Perhaps, Arcylaen’s absence was really a blessing in disguise. Decided, Roehn quickly got herself ready for bed. Once she was tucked in, she went right to work. Despite the success of her powers, it took time getting deep enough into the right kind of meditative state that allowed her to leave her body. The Dragons thought they were up against a group of thieves, because there was no way one person alone could pull off the heists, carry all the goods and bypass the alarms. They had no idea how right and wrong they were.

Roehn had split her astral self a thousand times in the past, but this night was different. There was a greater risk at getting caught, a much greater consequence if she were and an even greater necessity to do it, anyway. She needed her freedom back. Not just for herself, but Arcylaen, as well. It was obvious the responsibility was weighing on him heavier than they’d thought it would. They had to remove the Warden Rites out from between them, before it ruined whatever chance they might have at a normal, healthy relationship. Something she’d never imagined being concerned about with a Dragon, but Roehn was no longer in denial over her attraction to him. There was an unquestionable desire to see where it might lead.

First, she just needed to pull off a little spiritual cat burglary. Nothing her chosen Echelonite couldn’t handle…

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to start Thief of Dragons from the beginning, you can find all of the previous episodes under The Wicked Web link on the menu. Until next time… 🙂