Princely Pets – Sneak Peek

New story going up on my patreon this month.

Continue reading Princely Pets – Sneak Peek

Advertisements

Archeology 101: Chapter 12 – The End

Abigail kept her hands under Khait’s shoulders, carrying him by his armpits while Bridget got his legs.  Together they lifted him onto her bed and laid him down.  “Alright.”  Bridget took a few deep breaths.  “Alright.” She swallowed.  “Alright.”

“Is it?”  Abigail stared down at Khait.

“He’s breathing, so…”  Bridget put her hand on his forehead as if to check his temperature.  “Maybe we should call an ambulance.”

“And tell them…”  Abigail sat down on the side of the bed.  “What would we tell them?  We don’t even…”  She hung her head.  “He got food poisoning from bad Italians?”

Bridget barked a laugh, then put her hands over her mouth.  “Abby.”

“Yeah?”  Abigail took Khait’s hand.

“I’m not sure, but uh…”  She exhaled.  “I think I strangled a man.”

“Either that or you beat him to death, because he didn’t move a hell of a lot while I was cutting off…”  Abigail trailed off.  “Bridget I cut off a man’s finger.”  Her eyes widened.  “Oh, god, Bridget, your hand.”

“Yeah it’s…”  Bridget looked down at the blisters on her hand.  “Okay, adrenaline is starting to wear off and I think I might need some ice and some vodka and some dilaudid and some prozac.”  She swallowed.  “Maybe not in that order.”

“I have ice and vodka.”  Abigail stood.

“Okay.  Let’s start with those.”  Bridget started toward the kitchen.

She got halfway down the hall when a horrible thought struck her.  “Bridget, do any of those guys know where you live?”

“Well they…”  Bridget gave her a horrified look.  “They knew who I was and tracked me down in…”  Her voice became small and hopeful.  “In Rome, and we aren’t in Rome right now so maybe they can’t find us here?”

“We will have some time at…”  Abigail made a growling sound, then went back to her closet.

“Abbey, what are you doing?”  Bridget followed.

“I am…”  Abigail yanked the box off the top shelf and typed in the combination.  Then she picked up the handgun and started looking it over.  She caught Bridget staring, and raised an eyebrow.  “Come on, sugar.  You aren’t the only one whose daddy was a soldier.”

“I’ve got a 45 and a shotgun.”  Bridget nodded.  Then she tilted her head.  “Maybe we should skip the vodka.”

“But not the ice.”  Abigail gave the hand a pointed look.

“No.”  Bridget turned for the kitchen again.  “Definitely not the ice.”

Continue reading Archeology 101: Chapter 12 – The End

Archeology 101: Chapter 9

She stood in the doorway, a cup of coffee in her hand.  Khait had shifted Bridget back to Rome before returning.  Then he’d more or less fallen face down on the bed and gone unconscious.  Asleep, he looked peaceful and innocent.  And delicious.  It was tempting to pounce, but considering what he’d said last night she was worried it wasn’t safe.

Abigail exhaled, and went into the living room.  She turned on her laptop and started working on her thesis notes.  It was a few hours before she sensed someone else in the room, and looked up to see Khait in the doorway, watching her.  He gave her an abashed sort of smile when he realized she was looking at him.  “You chew your lip when you type.  It is adorable.”

“Thanks.”  She hesitated a moment, then set the laptop down.  “We need to talk about last night.”

“Bridget summoned —”

“Okay.”  She held up her hand.  “We’ll talk about the you growing wings and killing people thing later, but just so we are clear…”  Abigail shrugged.  “Couple asshole serial killer rapist types end up fish food, I’m absolutely okay with that.  Doesn’t even register on the scale of bad to me.”

“Then…”  He walked into the room, and sat down on the floor in front of her.  “What is it you wish to speak of?”

“Uh…”  She shifted her weight a little.  “I kind of beat the hell out of you a little.”

“Oh, yes…”  He licked his lips.  “You enjoyed that.”

“Yes.  I did.  But uh…”  Abigail sighed.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have taken it that far.  It wasn’t —”

“Abigail.”

“I mean, I slapped —”

“Abigail.”

“And then I grabbed a belt and —”

“Abigail.”  He raised his voice a little.  When she stared at him, he started laughing.  “Abigail, I am an incubus.”

“Yes.  You’re into sex, I get that.”  She shook her head.  “But —”

“Abigail, my sweet darling…”  He laughed again.  “I do not think you quite do.  It is not the pleasure of the body, but the pleasure of the mind.  Your mind, in this specific case.”

“Uh…”  Abigail leaned back.  “You mean…”  She tilted her head.  “You mean if I’m enjoying myself so are you?”

“Precisely.”  He went to his knees in front of her.  “And the more you enjoy yourself…”  His finger trailed up her thigh.  “The more satisfying I find the experience.”

“Oh…”  She stared at him.  “Oh my god.”  He kissed the side of her leg.  “Oh my god, and you instinctively know what to do to…”  She exhaled.  “You are so damn dangerous.”

“Yes.”  He grinned, then it changed slightly.  He kissed her leg again, this time gently, before withdrawing a little.  “You are my hostess, Abigail.  It is not my intention to harm you in any way.”

“I…”  She nodded, then smiled at him.  “I know.”

“And right now, you should be working on your thesis.”  He stood.  “I will make you more coffee.”

“And —”

“Ham and egg with cheddar on a toasted croissant.”  He called back over his shoulder as he entered the kitchen.  “And a bag of jelly beans, heavy on the strawberry flavor, none of the black licorice.”

“Oh yeah.”  She grinned as she grabbed her laptop again.  “He’s dangerous.”

Continue reading Archeology 101: Chapter 9

Archeology 101: Chapter 8

“How is Rome?”  Abigail grinned at the phone.

“A lot rainier than I wanted it to be.”  Bridget’s voice came back over.  “I won’t be able to go sight-seeing until it clears up.  I wish —”  She cut herself off.  “No, Khait.”

“He’s not even in here, he’s on the computer.”  Abigail leaned over to look.  “Binge-watching Netflix.”

“Well, at least he’s doing something normal.”  Bridget continued chatting about the new job.  Since she was mostly talking about the filing system, Abigail tuned it out and just said ‘uh-uh’ whenever Bridget paused.  “And there is this stunning blond at the cafe I’ve been going to.”

Now that was interesting.  Abigail sat up.  “Getting back in the saddle now, are we?”

“Don’t be silly.”  She could almost hear Bridget blushing.

“Ooh, tell me all about her.”  Abigail grinned before leaning back again and putting her feet up on the arm of the couch.

“I uh…”  Bridget let out an honest to god giggle.  “I have a date tonight.”

Continue reading Archeology 101: Chapter 8

Archeology 101: Chapter 6

Abigail gestured at the screen.  “This is the Internet.”

“It looks very much like your television.”  Khait glanced up at her.

“No, not the monitor.  The stuff on the monitor.”  Abigail tapped the screen.  “This, specifically, is Wikipedia.  It’s like a massive collection of human knowledge.  Or a summary of it, anyway.”  She typed in a few letters, then clicked the mouse.  “See, this is San Francisco, which we are very near.  We’d live there, but neither of us can afford it.”

“I can —”

“Khait.”  She exhaled.  It was so, so tempting.  But Bridget would throw a fit.  “Maybe we can find some way to…”

“She is very…”  Khait made a noise that sounded like a low growl.

“What are you banned from now?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Donuts.”  He let out a long-suffering sigh.

“Why are you…”  She caught herself.  “Never mind, I don’t want to know.”  She pointed at the keyboard.  “Okay, you can type things into this.”  She grabbed his hand and put it on the mouse.  “This moves that little arrow thing, see it?  You click on the blue underlined bits and they’ll take you to other pages.”  She heard the door open.  “Okay, that’s Bridget back with the pizza.”

“I could have —”

“Without stealing someone else’s order?”  She sighed.

“Well…”  He stuck out his lower lip.  “No.”

“Learn about San Francisco.”  She headed out of the room.

Continue reading Archeology 101: Chapter 6

Archeology 101: Chapter 5

“Okay…”  Bridget took several deep breaths.  Then she took several more.  Then she got a drink of water, drank it, and took several more deep breaths.  Only then did she turn to look at Khait.  “Let’s set a few more ground rules.”

“Sharks.”  Abigail was sitting on the couch, staring at the wall as though shell-shocked.

“I am uncertain —”  Khait started shaking his head.

“One…”  Bridget held up a hand to stop him from talking.  “Street lights.  Do not alter them in any way.”

“Yes, mistress.”  He nodded.

“Two…”  She took a deep breath.  “When I say I wish someone would go away, it is a rhetorical statement.  Do…”  She exhaled.  “Not teleport them anywhere.  Especially not anywhere they may be endangered.”

“Even if they attempt to take liberties with your person?”  Khait raised an eyebrow.

“He grabbed my ass.”  She shook her head.  “That’s the kind of thing you punch someone for.  Teleporting them to the arctic circle is not okay.”  She hesitated a moment, then sighed.  “Even if it was a little bit funny.”  She shook her head.  “It’s still not okay.”

“I…”  Khait shrugged.  “Yes, mistress.”

“Three.  Do not change my grades.”

“You wanted an A.”

“Bridget, don’t you think your priorities are a little —”

“I will get to it, Abigail.”  Bridget sighed.  “I wanted an A.  But it’s my responsibility to get one.  I don’t learn anything when you go in and change my grades.  Don’t do it.”  She glanced at Abigail.  “Don’t change Abigail’s either.”

“Bitch.”

“Yes, mistress.”

“Four…”  Bridget stood there a moment, trying to put the words together properly.  Then she just started shaking her head.  “Why the hell did you put sharks in the swimming pool?  It’s a shark.  Swimming pool.  People swim in pools so they don’t have to worry about sharks.  If they wanted to swim with sharks here is an ocean like twenty miles that way —”  She pointed.

“It is that way.”  Khait pointed in a different direction.

“Irrelevant!  You don’t put sharks in pools!”  She stared at him.  “Why did you put the sharks in the pool?”

“The little girl wanted to see them.  She gave me ice cream.”

“You…”  Bridget blinked.  “What?”

“Ice cream.  It is a frozen dairy thing with sugar and —”

“I know what ice cream is!”

“Oh.”  Khait nodded.  “She was too small to go in the cage to see sharks, and it made her very sad.  She likes sharks.”

“So you put sharks in the pool so a little girl could see them.”  Bridget ran a hand down her face.

“She gave me ice cream.”  Khait nodded.

“That is simultaneously one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen…”  Abigail was trying not to laugh.  “And the worse nightmare I’ve ever experienced.”

“No sharks in pools.”  Bridget felt her own lips trying to twitch into a smile.

“Yes, mistress.”

“You know, you could have gone with smaller sharks.”  Abigail leaned back.  “Like nurse sharks or something.  That way she could have touched them.”

“Abigail…”  Bridget all but growled her friend’s name.

“Those wouldn’t have eaten her stepfather.”  Khait shrugged.  “Bull sharks are —”

“Wait.”  Bridget held up a hand.  “What’s this about eating a stepfather?”

“Khait…”  Abigail was staring at him in horror.  “Did the sharks actually eat someone?”

“Well, no.”  Khait frowned.

“Okay, good.”

“He got out of the pool too fast.  I had to get a tiger.”

“What?”

Continue reading Archeology 101: Chapter 5

Archeology 101: Chapter 3

Khait rubbed his head and looked up at his ‘mistress’.  “Please stop hitting me.”

“Don’t whammy my friend.”  Bridget glared at him.

“What is ‘whammy’?”  Khait tilted his head.

“That thing you just did that uh…”  Bridget glanced at where Abigail was adjusting her clothes.  “Abby, are you okay?”

“Oh yeah.”  Abigail smiled.  “I’m great.  Wow.”  She laughed a little.

“That thing that made her like that.”  Bridget pointed.  She narrowed her eyes, then jabbed him with the umbrella.  “What are you?”

“I am not certain how to answer that question in a meaningful way.”  He spread his hands, moving away a little so she’d have a more difficult time hitting him with her chosen weapon.  This was going to require a change of tactics.  “I was cursed.  To escape the curse, I must throw myself upon your mercy.”

“Why were you cursed?”  Before he could answer, Bridget held up a hand.  “And I’m ordering you to or wishing that you would or however it works.  Tell me the truth.”

Oh.  That was going to be a problem.  Okay, so, no lying, but maybe he could leave a few parts out.  Like as close to everything as possible.  “I seduced a queen and caused a…”  He shrugged.  “Political difficulty that annoyed a dragon.”

“There is no such thing as dragons.”  Bridget rolled her eyes.

“Yesterday you would have said the same about genies.”  Abigail gestured at him.

“He’s not a genie.”  Bridget glared at her friend, then looked back at him.  “Tell the truth.  What are you?”

“I…”  He felt the magic of the talisman take hold and gave a frustrated sigh.  Isis had really gone all in on the retribution thing.  He was going to have to be careful.  “I’m an incubus.”

“Whoa.  Seriously?”  Abigail laughed a little.  “Wow, now that explains the whammy.”

“Stop talking about the whammy.”  Bridget glared at her again.

“What is a whammy?”  Khait exhaled.

“Like, who all does the whammy work on?  I mean, clearly it doesn’t work on Bridget, but is that because she’s your boss or because she doesn’t like cock?”  Abigail leaned forward.

“I…”  Khait considered the question a moment, then shrugged.  “Could be both.”

“Would it work on guys who like cock?”  Abigail chewed her bottom lip.  “Cause I’ve got some theories about Professor Montague and really could use an A in math.”

“Abigail Cross!”  Bridget gave her a scandalized look.

“What?”  Abigail responded with an innocent smile.  “Come on, getting that man laid would do the whole student body a favor.”

“Stop whoring out my genie.”

Continue reading Archeology 101: Chapter 3

Silverfish: Chapter 8

His hands shook as he injected the nanites.  In school, they’d lectured about the things.  Potential complications of overuse.  Damage to organs from repeatedly forcing them to heal quickly.  Malfunctioning nanites cannibalizing parts of one system to repair another.  Taking two doses in quick succession resulting in the nanites tearing the body apart as they fought each other.

Julian watched the burns Frank had left on his body start to heal and vanish.  He hadn’t been ‘lively’ enough a ride, so Frank had pressed the glowing end of the decontamination device to him to get him to buck and jerk beneath the other man.  He’d heard his skin sizzle, smelled the burned flesh.  It made his stomach roll.

By the time the nanites finished, there were only faint red marks to show where he’d been tortured.  Those too, would fade.  Within an hour there’d be no physical signs left to show what he’d endured.  At least, no visible signs.  He looked down at the cuff, the clinical part of his mind noting the vital signs.  Blood pressure and pulse higher than they had been before his capture, but still within normal ranges.

Without better diagnostic equipment, he had no way to tell if the repeated injections were shortening his life.  It was a bit disconcerting to realize he wasn’t sure he cared.  The possibility wasn’t enough to make him risk enduring the doctor’s punishment if he refused to use them.

And they made the pain stop.  He clenched his fists.  At least, until the next time the door opened.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 8

Silverfish: Chapter 7

War.  They were officially at war.  Kyle watched the newscast.  It seemed unreal.  Palindor had finally become weary of being pushed around.  He knew on some level he couldn’t return to being a soldier, but Palindor would need black ops specialists.

“You heard the news.”  He looked up to see Rand leaning in the door.

“I did.”  Kyle grinned.

“Soon, we won’t need to hide anymore.  We can start taking out real targets, get a hero’s welcome.”  Rand spread his hands.  “We can go to an actual bar.  Not a backplanet dive.  A bar.  Where they actually sanitize the cups more than once a decade.”  His eyes widened.  “Where all the dancing girls are actually women.”

Kyle laughed.  “Rand, we could take out the entire council and no decent bar would let you in the front door.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 7

Silverfish: Chapter 5

Leon sat down, burying his face in his hands.  Three weeks, and no leads on his brother.  For all he knew, Julian was dead.  He sighed, and looked down at the report again.  The situation along the borders was fraying.  The truce between the Seven Star Alliance and Palindor was not going to hold.  It was likely Julian’s abduction had been intended as the catalyst.

Except the President of Palindor was denying their involvement, and had in fact promised to turn over the crew of the Silverfish to Alliance justice if they were captured.  A false promise most likely, but enough to stop things from getting out of control.

It was a bitter irony.  Of all the people they could have taken, they took a voice active on their behalf.  He’d been waiting for a call telling him his brother had entered one of the zones as a protest measure.  The zones had sprung up as a response to violent protests, and there were still violent people within.  Agitators and provocateurs, attacking PeaceKeepers along the border.

The zones were a brutal necessity.  Until the Alliance was in control of all systems within its borders, they had no other option.  Once that was done, perhaps relocation or…  Hell, it would serve Palindor right if they just dumped them all in Palindor space.  That was a problem for politicians to solve.

In the meantime, his little brother was still missing.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 5

Silverfish: Chapter 4

The door opened.  He couldn’t quite suppress a chill when the captain walked into the chamber.  She gave him a long look, and he felt his skin start to burn.  “Captain.”

“The crew say you’ve been cooperative.”  She smirked.

“You made the consequences of behaving otherwise abundantly clear.”  Julian nodded.  Sooner or later the Silverfish would cross paths with another ship.  He might get lucky enough for it to be an Alliance vessel, but frankly even a Palindor vessel would do at this point.  They could leverage his rescue into getting some of their own people out of the zones, if not some other grand concession.  He just had to stay alive until then.

“They also say you’ve got a smart mouth.”  Her eyes narrowed.

“I suppose it was too much to hope they’d appreciate a clever ton —”  He was cut off by a backhanded blow that left him staggering.

Her hand closed around his throat and she shoved him into the wall hard enough that he saw stars.  “Do you actually think you can talk your way out of this, boy?”  She laughed.  “You’re kind talk and talk.  Always so arrogant.  You’ll talk yourselves right into the grave.”  She flung him to the ground.  “There is something I do want to hear from you.”

“And what would that be?”  He remained where he was, certain if he tried to rise he’d only incur more violence.

“I want you…”  She reached down and grabbed his hair.  “To tell me you love being my ship’s whore.”

“I do apologize, Captain…”  He swallowed, trying to put on a braver face than he felt.  “But my parents taught me not to lie.”

Behind him, she started to laugh.  Then she hauled him back to his feet and threw him face first into the wall.  “But that’s the point, boy.  I’m not going to stop hurting you until it’s the honest fucking truth.”

He cried out as her belt hit him across the shoulders.

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 4

Silverfish: Chapter 3

The captain gave him a shove into the room.  At first glance, it looked like standard crew quarters.  A second glance revealed that restraints had been added to the bed.  Julian swallowed.

“Your door only locks on the outside.”  He heard the captain’s voice, and couldn’t bring himself to turn around and face her.  “So, you won’t be leaving, and anybody who wants to come in for a visit can.”

“Will they at least knock first?”  He caught a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror, and tore his eyes away from it.

“Probably not.”  She pointed.  “Refresher unit is there.  Entertainment unit is there, but I shut it off.  Maybe you can think up some way to earn that privilege.”  He could almost hear her smirk.  “You get one channel on the comm, and that’s to the medical bay, case someone plays a little too rough.”  She folded her arms.  “Resist or fight, and well…”  She chuckled.  “You got a taste of that already.”  She left, closing the door behind her.  He heard the sound of the lock engaging.

She hadn’t said, but he was sure the quarters were bugged.  If he threw himself down on the cot and wept, someone would get a good laugh out of it.  He looked around the chamber again, and then sank into the chair next to the small desk unit.  He went through the drawers and found them all empty.  Not so much as a writing pen.  The cabinets and wardrobe showed the same.  He sighed, and caught another glimpse of his reflection in the mirror.  He made himself meet his eyes, but couldn’t hold the gaze for more than a few moments.

He was about to sit back down when he heard the lock click.  The door opened, and the woman who’d been the one to drag him out of his quarters on the liner entered.  She looked him over, and then pointed.  “Get on the bed.”

Part of him wanted to attack.  To fight, to run.  Another part of him told himself not to be stupid.  By now, his grandfather knew he’d been captured.  Negotiation and ransom weren’t options, but that didn’t prevent bounty hunters and the like from being hired.  Rescue would come.  Fighting or fleeing would just increase his likelihood of being killed beforehand.

Instead, he laid down, and let her secure his wrists and ankles to the bunk.  “I had a family, back on Eden.  Until your people came along.  Haven’t seen them in five years.” He winced when she grabbed hold of his nipple and squeezed.  “Nice house.”  He bit back the cry of pain when she twisted her hand.  “Even had a dog.”  Then she went to the small satchel she’d set on the desk when she’d entered, and pulled out a syringe containing a small amount of a yellow substance.  “Doc said being compliant doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’ll be able, but this should take care of that issue.”

A hiss escaped him as she jammed the needle into the muscle of his thigh and pushed the plunger.  She tossed it aside, and then straddled him.  To his horror, he felt his body start to react to the drug.  She bent her head, kissing him, biting his lower lip hard enough to hurt.  Her hand went to his groin, and caught hold of his shaft.  He could feel his skin burning as he responded to her touch, and she laughed before leaning down to speak into his ear.  “The best part is knowing you’re hating every minute of this.”

Continue reading Silverfish: Chapter 3

The Duchess: Chapter 12

Durante couldn’t help but stare at the man pacing the cell.  He’d heard legends of the Stone Dragon, and had to admit that some of them may well be true.  The man was taller and even more muscular than Ruarc.  The second man was smaller, though of similar age.  He too, was a handsome man, with short blond hair and a warrior’s build.  According to the jailer, Ruarc had kept Jurgen Draak in line by threatening that they’d shoot the other man first.

“You want to play.”  Vitalia’s voice purred in his ear.

“Some games are too dangerous even for me…”  Durante turned to smile at her.  “Though I do admit to a certain temptation.”

“He’s unarmed and unarmored.”  Vitalia shrugged.  “How dangerous could he be?”

“He once torn a troll’s arm off and used said arm to beat another troll to death.”  Durante chuckled.  “Looking at him, I can believe it.”  He hesitated a moment.

“The Dragon Queen may pay well for the return of her heir.”  Madzia’s voice was quiet.

“More likely she’d send a horde down on us.”  Vitalia shook her head.  “We are too near their border.”

“They say she once spent a year torturing one of her husbands to death.”  Durante glanced at Vitalia.

“I like her already.”  Vitalia smiled, then returned her gaze to the pacing man.  “We can always tell the king we were simply interrogating him to learn if there were others near.”  She flicked her eyes to the blond man.  “And tell our draconic guest that any failure on his part to cooperate will result in his friend bearing the brunt of said interrogation.”

“An interesting notion.”  Durante’s smile widened.

“Let us sleep on it.”  She shrugged.  “Ruarc is occupied.  I’ll send for Gian to entertain us.”  She headed up the stairs.

He followed.

Continue reading The Duchess: Chapter 12

The Duchess: Chapter 11

Vitalia accepted a glass of wine from a tray brought by a servant, and smiled.  Madzia had found her early in the visit and whispered to her that Lord Liam of Bohm was in attendance.  It seemed as good an opportunity as any to dispense with agents and make the purchase.  Things weren’t going exactly as she planned, but she found herself enjoying the company anyway.  She’d expected Lord Liam to be a Solsthriem lordling, all prim and proper.  The man in front of her was of Jolusth, tall and handsome in a tunic that covered only one shoulder.  His other shoulder was bare, the better to show off the tattoo that decorated it.  The servant who accompanied him was a tiny, golden skinned exotic with unusually shaped eyes.  She’d never quite seen the like before.

“How is it you’ve acquired lands in both Solsthriem and Thatela?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“It behooves one to range far.”  His accent was a soft drawl.  Despite her lands bordering theirs, she’d rarely had the chance to talk with one.  Lord Liam was delightfully tall, though slenderer than her husband.  “I have interests spanning the world.”

“Your people aren’t known to be merchants.”  She sipped at her wine.

“My people are often underestimated.”  He took a sip from his own glass.  “But pray tell, what interest do you hold…”  He frowned as his servant stumbled a little, spilling from the tray he carried.  Liam barked something in another language.  The servant bowed his head low and hurried off to replace the spilled items.  “Manisar’s training routines seem problematic.”  He glanced at her, then inclined his head.  “Forgive me, duchess.  I know the purchase of slaves is not legal in your lands.”

“Tis a shame.  Servants are well and good but so difficult to train properly.”  She raised her glass in his direction before sending another look in the direction of the servant.  She’d really never seen anything quite like him before.  “I admire your taste.”

“Is that why you wish to acquire my property?”  He smiled at her.

“I think…”  She gave Lord Liam a contemplative smile.  He was a handsome man, and clearly someone not adverse to more unconventional pursuits.  “I have acquired a member of the family that used to hold it.  I wish to acquire the property as well, to ensure there are no…”  She shrugged.  “Behavioral issues.”

Lord Liam laughed.  “Duchess, you have expensive tastes.  I am curious if this acquisition of yours is worth such a grand price?”

“To be fair, there are also the vineyards.”  She took a sip of the wine, peering at him from the rim of the glass.  “Wine and sex do seem natural bedfellows.”

“Perhaps you intend to arouse my curiosity?”  He raised an eyebrow.  “I would be interested in seeing this…”  He chuckled.  “Acquisition of yours.  Perhaps an arrangement can be made?”

She smiled, imagining the look on Ruarc’s face when she ordered him to service a barbarian lord.  “You could accompany me back to my estate, judge for yourself?”  She allowed his servant to refill her glass.  “Then we could come to our bargain.  I’m sure, after experiencing my hospitality, you’d be willing to bargain.”

“You offer an interesting enticement.”  Lord Liam nodded.  “I think there may be business at your estate that could draw my interest.”  He rolled his eyes.  “And one is often led to wonder why one leaves important work to their agents.  Especially when it seems they oft have trouble listening to the simplest of instructions.”

“It does give one an excuse to use a flogger.”  She batted her eyes at him.

“You require an excuse?”  His grin became mischievous.

“Lord Liam, I think you and I could become friends.”  Vitalia laughed.

“The future does tend to play out in the oddest of ways.”

Continue reading The Duchess: Chapter 11

The Duchess: Chapter 10

She ran her hand down Ruarc’s cheek, and was pleased to feel no stubble.  The fact that he kept himself well-groomed pleased her.  Gian had taken to tying Ruarc’s hair back for him, and she found she liked the way it looked.  He knelt before her obediently, awaiting her command.  She’d ridden him for nearly an hour that morning, and his body showed some of the effects.  The saddle tended to leave abrasions, and there were light scratches along his legs and torso from stray branches.  “When I return, I am going to have the craftsman rethink some of the straps.”  She frowned as she examined the small blisters that had formed were the straps went over his shoulders.

“Thank you, my lady.”  Ruarc hesitated a moment, then gave a small twitch of his shoulder.  “It would help my balance, I think, if the saddle sat either a little higher or a little lower.  It tends to slide a bit where it is.”

“I see.”  She smiled.  “I would prefer a steady, longer ride.”  She caressed his face with the back of her knuckles.  “Something to consider when I return.”

A shadow crossed his face, gone almost before she noticed it.  “Will I be accompanying you?”

Vitalia narrowed her eyes.  He’d been complicit in Gian’s recent poor behavior.  She was reasonably confident that Gian hadn’t smuggled any letters out for him, but the fact that he had accessed information without her permission made her wary of taking him anywhere he may be able to make contact.  “I think not.”  She tilted her head at him, then caught his chin.  “You’ll not be permitted to write this month.”  His face darkened slightly.  “Nor will you be permitted to write again until I say otherwise.  You attempted to subvert my authority, husband.  That is not acceptable.”

“I apologize, Mistress.”

Mistress.  He’d never called her that before.  For that matter, Gian had stopped using the term as well, adopting Ruarc’s habitual address of calling her ‘my lady’.  When had that occurred?  “You’ve been a good boy for me, Ruarc.  I am willing to be merciful over this lapse.  But my forgiveness goes only so far.”

“I understand, Mistress.”  He lowered his eyes submissively.

“Good boy.”  She leaned forward to kiss his forehead.

Continue reading The Duchess: Chapter 10