#WednesdayWIP Tease

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#WIP Violet Night (The Úlfrinn Series, Book 3)

In an armchair facing her from the foot of the bed, Odin’s wolf slumbered in the shadows. His feet were propped on the end of the mattress, his inked hands laced over his stomach, which was now shrouded in a black thermal. Sleeves were shoved up strong forearms, turning more ink into something three-dimensional and dangerous. It was only a small portion of the tattoos she knew covered his entire chest and arms. More crawled up both sides of his neck from the unbuttoned gap at his throat. With caution, she pushed the blankets aside and crept closer. She didn’t want to wake him, but now that Max had squashed her fears, she definitely wanted to study him.

Her curiosity was nothing compared to her awe. He was so riveting in silence. As if even sleep couldn’t dilute his virility, weaken the power that stemmed from a darkness she could feel pulsing within him. There was a permanent scowl between his brows, giving him the look of a man deep in thought, rather than resting. Again, she caught herself marveling over how decorated a Warrior he was.

Her eyes locked onto the dark gray hoop that perfectly divided his bottom lip. The equally dark stud pierced into the flesh directly below it. Black studs in the shape of stars were nestled into the delicious hollows of his cheeks. There was something altogether sensual in the design of his piercings, the single barbell through the tapered end of his brow. The bits of black and silver randomly placed along the curves of his ears and the larger, disk-shaped studs against his lobes all seemed so…arrogantly sexy.

When his lashes swept upward, revealing those breathtaking eyes of royal violet, Cressa felt the lust simmering in her veins stir and spread. He was quite simply the most magnetizing man she’d ever seen, and she’d been alive for a very long time.

“I didn’t mean to wake you, wolf.”

“I wasn’t sleeping, Night,” he returned.

Cressa felt her lips curve, before the pleasure even registered in her brain. She couldn’t allow herself to revel in his cocky defensiveness quite yet, though, there was a burning question needing answering.

“Why do you feel like Asgard?”

His stare was intense, but not unkind. Cressa had been stared at unkindly before, she knew the difference.

“So, we’re speaking now?”

The guilt was mild, and possibly only felt because of the surprise appearance of hesitant hope in his eyes. “I apologize for that,” she said. “I had my reasons.”

“Your brother explained,” he dismissed. “Are you feeling better now? Were the Elders able to help?”

“I think so,” she nodded, touched by the sincere concern in his tone. “My mind is much clearer.”

“Good.” he smiled, but there was something quite determined behind it. “Shayd.”

“Sorry?”

“My name, Cressa, is Shayd Eklund,” he stated firmly, claiming his victory at last. “Not wolf.”

©A.C. Melody

Love this #WIP tease? Check out the rest of the series starting with Hearthstone Alpha and Little Queen!

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Reckless ♥ Cover Reveal


Title: Reckless 
Author: Michelle Horst 
Genre: Romance 
 
 
 

 

 

 
I was in love with the boy. I’m obsessed with the man.
Logan is my older brother’s best friend.
My teenage years were spent dreaming about our future together.
He taught me how to kiss. He stayed up late with me while I studied. He escorted me to the prom. 
But he is one of the Screw Crew and they only have one rule. I’m off limits.
I went to college and he started working. The secret messages stopped and I lost my first love before it even had a chance.
I’ve spent the past four years trying to forget the only man I’ll ever love. Just as I start to make a life for myself, guess who comes barging back into my life?
 
 
 
 
Michelle Horst is a Bestselling Romance Author who likes her books hot, dirty, and with a touch of darkness. She loves an alpha hero who is not scared to fight for his woman.  

Want to be up to date with what’s happening in Michelle’s world? Sign up to receive the latest news on her alpha hero releases, sales, and great giveaways → http://eepurl.com/cUXM_P

 

 
 
 
 
 
 



 

Audio Book Tour ♥ Suspended Game by: Roz Lee!

Suspended Game Audiobook

Suspended Game

    • Written by: Roz Lee
    • Narrated by: Jay Harper
    • Length: 8 hrs and 47 mins
    • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Whispersync for Voice-ready

After five years spent proving his innocence in a gambling scheme, Jimmy Doyle Walker is back on the field for the Washington Diplomats. Given one season to demonstrate he can still contribute to the team, he guards his secrets well, knowing exposure of his unorthodox sex life would create a career-ending scandal. When he meets Evelyn Gardner, she tests his resolve, and he risks everything to show her the delights to be found in his arms.

Living day-to-day as a switchboard operator, Evelyn Gardner loathes the sexual cravings that cost her the home and family she’d always dreamed of. When she meets Jimmy Doyle Walker, the sexy first baseman for the Washington Diplomats, at a church revival meeting, he challenges her beliefs and her expectations. Determinedly, he seduces her through erotic letters, sensual gifts, and sexual play, until she dares dream she can have satisfaction and respectability.

Too bad her father, the preacher, seems set on ruining not only their reputations but also their lives.

©2015 Dolores Wall Maroney (P)2017 Dolores Wall Maroney

BUY LINKS

Amazon / Audible

iTunes

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today Bestselling Author, Roz Lee is a displaced Texan who lives in New Jersey with her husband of almost four decades, and Bud, an overly large rescue dog who demands regular romps in the woods no matter how busy his parents are.

The mom of two daughters and grandma to the cutest baby boy ever, Roz collects Depression glass, and teacups with rose patterns. Her favorite food is Tex-Mex, and she’s never met a piece of chocolate she didn’t like.

When Roz isn’t writing, she’s reading, or traipsing around the country on one adventure or another. Warning—she brakes for antique stores!

Author Web & Social Media links:

Website – http://www.RozLee.net

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/authorrozlee

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/RozLee_Author

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/RozLee

G+ – https://plus.google.com/+RozLeeAuthor

Amazon Author Page – http://amzn.to/2rIFfve

 

Presented by : WLKBookPromotions

 

Review ♥ Explicitly Yours

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Title: The Complete Explicitly Yours Series
Author: Jessica Hawkins
Genre: Erotic Romance / Love Triangle / Revenge
Rating: 3 ‘s

WARNING: This Review is one giant page of Spoilers and 100% Honest. Proceed at your own risk.

I’m a new reader of Jessica Hawkins, and I can’t deny my love for her writing style and the depth of her characters. This review does not reflect my overall opinion of the author, and I will be giving her books another shot, I just have to lick my wounds first. Since this is a collection, I’ve broken my review down for each book and the rating I would give them, individually:

Possession / 5 ‘s:

To begin, this is an ‘Indecent Proposal-esque’ story, but I was immediately enthralled by Possession. I loved not only the instant chemistry between Lola and Beau, but that he didn’t just sweep in, make his offer and leave. Nothing about this book was cliché or predictable. The progression of Lola and Johnny’s contemplation over Beau’s offer was extremely believable and real. I fell in love with Lola, because of her relatability in those matters of the heart, where she begins admitting things to herself about her relationship with Johnny she’d known for quite some time, yet had been ignoring. Her first night with Beau was not only off the charts sweltering, but endearing in those moments where he proved in so many little ways how he already appreciated the ‘real’ Lola far more than Johnny ever had. I was not surprised she wanted to run back to him – I wanted to run back to him! Needless to say, I was completely enraptured with this book and couldn’t wait to read the next.

Domination / 5 ‘s:

I was immediately taken by the way night two with Beau didn’t just happen. That it was a realistic, roller-coaster ride of uncertainty, soul-searching and emotional highs and hard-hit lows between Lola and Johnny, before the decision was actually made. However, it did start to drag a bit, as if the author needed to stall the reader more than she actually needed the time to relay pertinent information. The best part is there’s really no ‘bad guy’ in this love triangle. Both Lola and Johnny have had a hand in the slow destruction of their relationship that has nothing to do with Beau. That was refreshing and very realistic. I know I keep repeating those words, but this exact style of writing by Jessica Hawkins is why I’m not giving up on her as an author, yet it’s also why this review was so troubling to write. At the end of Domination, after softening us up with some suspenseful action, some deeper heartfelt moments between Beau and Lola, our world is shattered and the truth behind Beau’s obsession with Lola is finally revealed. I was striding right out of that hotel room with Lola, 100% on her side the whole time and just as heartbroken, but I loved that she didn’t go back on her plans to end things with Johnny. I applauded that despite what happened between her and Beau, she still recognized that her relationship with Johnny was over and needed to be.

Provocation / 2.5 ‘s:

Provocation is where my love for this series began it’s gradual decline, but I held out hope the author wouldn’t let me reach rock bottom. My first issue was that it began 3 weeks into the future, then kept jumping back to show us how Lola and Beau had gotten to present day. That was pointless, the book could’ve been written chronologically without losing any of the information and would’ve been far less annoying to read. I was on board with Lola’s initial idea to get a little revenge on Beau, because he definitely needed to be taken down a few notches and his character is so pure in itself, only getting a taste of his own medicine would work. But, I’m not a fan of eye-for-an-eye revenge plots, if they don’t eventually evolve into a more meaningful outcome. I felt fairly confident, knowing the characters thus far, that it would turn out to be a good thing. I was wrong. I kept waiting for Lola’s plan to get to the point, but it became painfully obvious the only thing she would be satisfied with, was being the victor. Eh… hypocrite much? It took her 2 nights to fall so deeply in love with Beau that she spends 3 weeks plotting her revenge? Perhaps, if the 3 weeks had continued the same way their 2 nights had gone, I would believe that, but instead she spends 3 weeks playing second fiddle to his work, with all of her days and nights alone in a cold, empty house. That should’ve completely disenchanted her, cooled her lust, love and resentment. Instead she allows his love of money to feed her single-minded obsession with vengeance to the point where I was really beginning to doubt my loyalty to her as a character. She’d quickly become a much bigger lying fraud than I ever saw from Beau. Whatever happened to two wrongs don’t make a right? And why is my heroine turning into the villain?

Obsession / 0 ‘s:

My love and enjoyment of this series went from slow decline to rapid nosedive with its final book. By the time I got half-way through Obsession, I was already done. I was angry that I was being forced to travel around the continental U.S. with the self-righteous coward, Lola, whom I no longer had any feelings for. I had already stopped being on her side, so I started skimming over the details. I just didn’t care enough to read it word-for-word, because NOTHING was going on with Lola. She was traveling and thinking, and none of it meant anything. She never once owned up to her own mistakes out loud, so her ability to think about it was inconsequential. The only reason why I wanted to read the ending was because I’d invested so much time and energy into the story. I think the attempt to sidetrack us with the development between Brigitte and Warner was too much, too late. At this point, they were getting far more screen time than I could stomach. I didn’t care about them and it felt, once again, like a stalling tactic. The best part about his entire book was the reconciliation between Lola and her mother, but even that was tainted by the one plot point I absolutely despised, the very one I feel was worse than anything else – a pregnancy. Are you kidding me? I nearly threw my laptop the moment Lola realized she was pregnant. I actually stopped reading, deciding I was for sure done. Beau was the one who drew me back in. I wanted to see him get his ending, whatever that may be.

It was wrong. All of it was 100% wrong. By the time Beau finally catches up with Lola – at the very end of the very last chapter, which is not nearly enough time to reconcile anything –  I had switched sides and then some. I despised Lola a thousand times more than I’d ever been angry with Beau. I didn’t want her to get a happy ending anymore and the final argument that was supposed to resolve their MASSIVE issues in just a matter of seconds was asinine. It was Lola throwing a temper-tantrum, because it was happening before she was ready and not on HER terms. Girl needs a serious reality check. And if she’s still clinging to all of that resentment, that means this relationship is far from being “fixed” and there should be at least a whole other chapter afterward to convince me (the reader) otherwise. There is absolutely no trust mended between them, because they haven’t spent a single second of the entire book together and very little in the book before it. Lola was no longer in the right by any stretch of the imagination. She had surpassed all of Beau’s wrongs by miles and then to add a baby on top of it! I’m sorry, but these two characters shouldn’t even be together anymore, let alone having a kid together – a baby does not make this a better HEA – it makes it worse!

I’ve never started out loving a series as much as I did this one, only to end up despising it so much. I was the one left feeling betrayed, cheated and heartbroken – and not in empathy of the characters. There were a million other ways to show Beau getting a taste of his own medicine and the time he needed to start becoming a better man while Lola, too, started coming down from her revenge tower and admitting her own mistakes. But, they never spent any time together to make that happen. Lola never returned to being the woman I felt supportive of and wanting to root for in the beginning. To have seen both of them evolving into better people would’ve made this series end on such a high, satisfying note. But it didn’t. This entire book dragged on, using time the characters needed to start healing their relationship TOGETHER, rather than moving at a turtle pace – completely apart – to what felt like a rushed stand-off that only proved why there should be no relationship at all.

“I want to gut you of your dignity” is not a phrase you spew at the person you supposedly love five seconds before forgiving them and walking off into the sunset. If a woman can’t trust a man without ‘gutting him of his dignity’ first, then she has no business being with him – or anyone else for that matter, as she clearly needs time to detox from the power trip she’s gotten addicted to.

I write some pretty messed up characters, but even I felt like Lola and Beau had reached a level where their relationship was purely toxic and unhealthy – as in DO NOT PROCEED – and the author really should have reeled it back – on both sides – because in no known universe, fictional or otherwise, had their dynamic developed into anything remotely heartfelt, let alone deserving of a HEA. Therapy, definitely, and a lot of it.

In the end, I’m left feeling crushed by the weight of disappointment that only hurts more for how much I want to praise the first two books.

This is an HONEST review of a box set that I purchased, I was not given anything by the author in exchange for it.

Promo Tour ♥ Vested In Her by: Brickley Jules!

 

Vested in Her banner

Vested in Her cover

“Vested In Her”

By Brickley Jules

Genre: Erotic MCRomance

Release Date: April 26, 2017

Amazon

Smashwords

Small town biker princess Haven Mercedes Johnson wants to live a normal life, but she’s relentlessly protected by her father and his crazy right-hand man who will do anything to keep her under his thumb. With the help of an ex, Haven escapes the confines of the club, and after one last wild night, she eagerly sets off to start a new life. After being on the run for days, she’s taken under the wing of a kind woman named Ruby, and with her help, Haven disappears.

Riker Davis will do anything to earn a vest and become a member in Chrome Thunder, a prestigious motorcycle club. His chances are bleak until Haven, the club leader’s daughter, runs away. As a prospect, Riker is tasked to finding her, and he agrees, determined to do anything to earn a vest, including finding a woman who doesn’t want to be brought home.

Haven thinks she’s in the clear until Riker walks into the diner where she works, and her old life boomerangs back at her. Now she must choose, go back to her old life and give Riker what he wants, a vest in her father’s club, or give him up and keep the life she’s always dreamed of.

Excerpt

The road soared under the tires of Riker’s bike. Haven hugged into him, wishing she had her thick leather jacket. But that was emblazoned with her dad’s MC’s logo and she had left it behind. So instead she wore her thin, brown bomber jacket that Ruby had picked out for her. It didn’t, in her opinion, fit her new persona, but out of the choices they had seen at all the Givingreat stores, it was her best option.

She squirmed again, trying to move closer to Riker, but he was already wearing her like a coat. I should have put on another layer. I wonder how long it will take to get there. If it’s too long, I might freeze before we arrive.

Riker pulled the bike into a small pull-off on the side of the busy highway. “Cold?”

“Just a little. I’ll put another shirt on. Give me a sec.” Haven dug through her backpack for a heavy knitted sweater.

Dismounting, he stood beside her. “We’re almost at our first stop. Little Rock. I rented us a room there.”

Haven tilted her head. “This is the strangest one-night-stand.”

“Oh. That’s not what we’re doing. This is more of a ‘girl in every port’ thing, except you’re the only girl.” Riker rubbed his chin and stared off into the distance. “I need to work on that, don’t I?”

She hit him across the chest with the back of her hand.

“Ow.” He howled, clutching his chest. “Shit, woman, you’re violent.”

“If you think I’m violent now, wait until you have another girl in a port, and I find out about it.” Woo. What did I say? Cool your jets, Haven. This guy is not for you.

Riker aimed a sexy smile her way while still rubbing his chest where she swatted him. “Noted. Keep other girls on the down low.”

Haven glared at him. “Really? I’m in shock here. You really just didn’t say that.”

“No? Are you saying I can’t pull it off?”

Flipping her hair behind her ear with a swish of her hand, she said, “You’re so open, if you were a book, you would have a broken spine.”

“You’re one of those evil people who crack book spines, aren’t you?” he accused.

She popped her hand on her hip and stood tall. “Guilty as charged.”

About the Author

Brickley Jules

Brickley Jules has been away from reading and writing for many years, but recently a spark by her family has reignited her love for both again.

Brickley started reading R.L. Stine-type books as a child. Followed later by Anne Rice Books in high school. She also fell in love with writing poetry during her high school years.  But Brickley lost time for her beloved reading and writing after she started college.  During a change in majors and schools she met her husband and his family, who are the ones who recently rekindled her love of reading and encouraged her to start writing again.

Brickley and her husband have two beautiful daughters that occupy most of their time. She was a stay at home mom but has recently found herself working a part-time day job. One day she would like to combine her college major, which is Photography, with her love of writing. She can be found on most social media platforms and tries to keep them fresh, when the kids let her. When she can steal a quiet moment, she loves to work on her drafts. If she ever needs a break from writing, she reads any type of romance. Recently, she has fallen in love with audio books; they do a busy mom’s heart good.

She has written several books since her writing journey restarted in 2015. Her first writing project, Out of the Blue,  a paranormal romance, is getting a final read through by her trusted friend. Brickley’s 2015 NANOWRIMO project, Her Unexpected Life, a chick lit romance, is available for purchase at most retailers in both print and ebook formats. Book two of this series of stand-alones is ready for editing along with her 2016 NANOWRIMO project.

Brickley just released book one in another stand-alone series, Chrome Thunder-a biker MC romance called Vested In Her. It’s available in ebook format with print coming soon. Brickley is currently busy typing away on book two in this series.

Stalk the Author

#Giveaway & #Excerpt ♥ Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill

Being truly helpless is the only thing that can save him. But it’s the one thing he’s not willing to do.

Marius has all the things a Mistress could want in a one-night-sub encounter. Hot body, loads of charm and a willingness to get her off in any way she pleases. That’s his reputation at The Zone. But Marius has a dark side. When a Mistress pushes him for something deeper, he’ll push back, mess with her head. When he takes it too far one night, The Zone management has had enough. He’s kicked out of the club and there’s only one way back in—Lady Regina.

Regina’s been studying Marius for a while. She enjoys her submissives in all flavors, and she likes them challenging, though not usually the “knight-in-distress” type, so screwed up she’d need a backhoe to dig him out of his dysfunctions. But on that pivotal night, she sees something in Marius. He doesn’t know what it means to be truly helpless to a Mistress, but he needs it, more than any sub she’s ever encountered. And that’s a challenge this Mistress can’t resist.

Excerpt

Background: Regina is tending Marius after he competes in an illegal fight…

She stepped back. “You’ll do. I suppose you know a hot shower when you get home is the best remedy, on top of the ibuprofen you just took. Though I’d highly recommend a tetanus update and having your head examined.”

He kept staring at her. He wanted to make her nervous with his silence. Tough luck with that, boy, she thought. You want to self-gag, it doesn’t bother me.

Answering in kind, she tossed one final wipe into the trash and headed for the door. Embracing her Mistress side meant understanding there was an energy flow between Dom and sub once a connection was made, even if the connection was the rope in a tug of war. She rode that energy how it was meant to be ridden, not forcing her own expectations on it. It worked better that way. She’d accomplished what mattered most to her here, which was confirming he’d finally released that surfeit of potent energy from his session at the club earlier in the night. He was leveling out. While he could likely use a lot more aftercare, they were quite a distance from him earning that kind of treatment from her.

“You don’t want to talk about what happened in Tyler’s office?” he said abruptly. “Or why you followed me here?”

“No.” She continued to move toward the opening that would lead back to the ring area and then the parking lot. She didn’t need or want to stay any longer. She didn’t anticipate that he would do or say anything to hold her there longer, so it was a pleasant surprise when he did.

“You didn’t say what you thought of the fight.”

She pivoted and met his gaze. “No, I didn’t. Would you like to know?”

He could look wary, like an animal being baited into a trap. He had thick, dark lashes. His gray eyes were like the mirror surface of a lake. “Yeah,” he said at last.

“Okay.” She returned to him. There was a pen sitting next to the tray of gauze. Picking it up, she extended her hand, looking pointedly at one of his. When he offered it, she clasped his wrist and wrote an address on the inside of his forearm, along with Friday, 6:30pm.

His fingers flexed above her grip and she was aware of his breath stirring tendrils of hair against her cheek. Her hip pressed against his knee. She imagined sliding between his spread thighs, tasting the metallic flavor lingering on his lips, feeling the flex of his shoulder muscles under her splayed fingers and firm palms. His hands would curve over her hips, his own fingers digging in, showing he wanted and needed her.

Careful, girl, she thought. Don’t screw with your own head. He’ll do enough of that without your help.

“Meet me there and I’ll tell you.” Setting the pen aside, she laid a hand on the side of his face. His gaze lifted to her. “Get some rest. Take care of yourself.”

When he started to lift his hand to clasp her arm, she drew back and shook her head, a denial. His lips set in a thin line. “That a command, Mistress?” he asked tonelessly.

“Take it however you want.”

He curled his fingers around the edge of the table, body leaning forward, eyes suddenly cold and hard. “It wouldn’t matter, anyway, since you don’t really like me.”

“No. I don’t,” she responded frankly. “But I care about you. That doesn’t require that I like you.”

Would you like to read Chapter One of Truly Helpless? Find it here – http://storywitch.com/book-nod-th (scroll down below blurb/buy links).

 

Author Bio

Winner of the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement award, Joey W. Hill has published over forty contemporary and paranormal BDSM erotic romances, including six series. Her emotionally-intense love stories offer everything from vampires, mermaids, witches and angels, to boardroom executives, cops and simple housemaids. With her books, she suggests “don’t look past the sex; look in it, and find a wonderful story to touch the heart and soul.”

Author Web & Social Media links:

Website: storywitch.com

Twitter: @JoeyWHill

Facebook: facebook.com/JoeyWHillAuthor

GoodReads: goodreads.com/author/show/103359.Joey_W_Hill

Fan sites/free material: storywitch.com/community

Giveaway

Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and two ebooks from author’s existing titles (reader’s choice).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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