Pleasure of a Dark Prince

Chapter 3

He and the twins had agreed that no one could know about Lucia until she was bearing Garreth's bite mark upon her neck. The beast inside any Lykae would recognize the claim as Garreth's, would know she was forever under his protection.

Then the three of them had combed the streets of New Orleans, a city they hadn't visited often, and all the while, Garreth impatiently counted down the hours till this day.

Finding information had proved difficult. Big Easy Loreans were suspicious of the Lykae newcomers to their city and on guard with the Accession approaching. Garreth had come up empty in his search, but the twins had charmed a voodoo shopkeeper who'd told them much.

Now as Garreth waited in the swamp, he thought back over all they'd learned about Lucia....

"She's legendary for her archery skills," Munro had said. "Nothing else unique about her."

That was all she was known for? "There must be more. What does she like to do? What are her interests?"

"No one knows," Uilleam had answered. "She's just the Archer." As if nothing more needed to be said about her. It was how she was identified.

Munro had added, "But it's rumored that she feels agonizing pain whenever she misses a target."

Luckily, Garreth couldn't see that happening too often with her skill. But then his chest had grown heavy.

Was that how she'd gotten to be so good?

Above all, they'd learned the Valkyrie were peculiar creatures. Their origin alone fascinated him. Each Valkyrie had three parents. Whenever a maiden faced death with uncommon bravery, the Norse gods Freya and WĘ«den struck her with lightning, rescuing her to Valhalla. The maiden would wake there - healed, safe, and pregnant with a Valkyrie daughter.

The birth mothers hailed from all Lorekind - furies, witches, shifters, even humans. So the daughters would each possess the unique coloring and characteristics of the mother, but they all inherited Freya's fey features and her notorious acquisitiveness - in fact, they could be mesmerized by shining jewels, diamonds especially.

The Valkyrie were rumored to have glass-shattering shrieks, preternatural speed, and no need to eat or drink. Instead they consumed electrical energy from the earth and produced lightning when they experienced sharp emotions.

That had been a legend about Valkyrie he'd never quite believed until he'd been in the throes with one. Lightning had speared the night, and not only from the storm.

Garreth had learned about various individual Valkyrie as well. Nïx was their soothsayer, rumored to be three thousand years old and mad as a hatter. Regin was the last of the Radiant Ones and had skin that glowed. Annika was the dauntless leader of the New Orleans coven, a master strategist who lived to war with vampires.

No one knew who Lucia's birth mother was - or what she'd been - but the shopkeeper had said this Accession would be Lucia's third. Which meant that she was over a millennium old - near his own age.

In the end, Garreth had more questions about her than answers....

She's no' coming. Damn it, why? He'd shown her passion - and patience. But she'd been skittish toward the end. Wild-eyed and spooked. Perhaps she feared the intensity of her own reaction? Or of his?

He recalled what Bowen had once told him. "We doona understand our own ferocity." His cousin's deadened eyes had been filled with loss. "What's normal to us is no' to others." Bowen's own mate had loved him, until she'd seen him turned. Then she'd fled.

Lucia too had fled - yet she hadn't even seen a glimpse of the beast.

The Lykae called their transformation letting the beast out of its cage. Garreth would grow taller, his muscles extending, his fangs and black claws lengthening. The brutal and menacing shadow of his beast would flicker over him.

No, Lucia dinna see me like that. He scowled at the waxing moon. But she soon will.

She would run far, if he wasn't careful. Another glance at the moon, and he knew what he would have to do on that night. "Ah, Lousha, my lass. It's going to hurt. But there's no getting around it."

For now, she wasn't coming to him, so again he'd go to her. He stood and turned for the Valkyrie's home of Val Hall. Since he'd met her, he'd staked out the bizarre place. Lightning bombarded the property, flashing constantly above the antebellum manor. All over the grounds, lightning rods jutted up. Smoking moss dangled from burned oaks. From within, Valkyrie shrieks sounded.

None of that mattered but for the fact that Lucia would be within. He strides took him closer and closer to her.

Chapter 7

"Lykae in our backyards. Horde vampires seeking out Valkyries all over the world. Happy Accession!" Regin cried from her "command center," also known as the dining room table, which now stood covered with maps and papers - all lit by her glowing face.

The more excited Regin became, the more she glowed. Yet that wasn't the only reason she was called the Radiant One....

Lucia made a noncommittal sound, only half listening. She'd thought she'd spotted something outside the manor. She was curled up in a window seat, bow in her lap, peering out at the night. The gaslights flickered outside Val Hall, like tentative steps into the blackness.

On this day, she was supposed to have met the werewolf. All week she'd been in a daze, knowing she couldn't meet him, yet tempted to so badly. She wanted to know if she'd imagined the addictive taste of his lips. She wanted to discover why she hadn't been able to shoot him between the eyes. Why had everything in her rebelled against the idea?

And why had he taken her underwear?

That had confused her as much as anything from that night. Unlike her sisters, who were all obsessed with lingerie, Lucia wore athletic underwear - seamless, utilitarian. She didn't buy sexy silks like Agent Provocateur, instead favoring brands like Under Armour - the kind sold in a pack. She'd never expected anyone to see them, yet he'd stolen them. Why?

She sighed. Surely MacRieve would leave her alone now that he'd been stood up. Even as she thought this, she half expected to see him advancing on the manor, pissed off, his gorgeous face creased in a scowl.

But nothing was out there now. She relaxed a touch.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to meet MacRieve or not had been taken out of Lucia's hands. Her day planner had gotten filled to the gills when their coven had learned that Horde vampires were hunting for a particular Valkyrie, though they didn't know who.

Vampires were the Valkyrie's most hated enemies. They could trace - or teleport - from one location to another, disappearing and reappearing at will, making them difficult to slay. When the Valkyrie's mighty queen Furie had gone to face the Horde leader Demestriu, she'd never returned....

Worse, Ivo the Cruel, second in command to Demestriu, and his men were searching here. Rumor held that Ivo was up to something even more nefarious than usual - and that he'd teamed up with the vampire Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, an ancient foe of theirs as well.

"If I had to guess," Regin said, "I'd bet the leeches are looking for me. Because I glow and I'm wicked smart. They probably want to breed with me."

Lucia sighed, hoping Regin was kidding. "Doubtless."

"And what the hell is Lothaire doing here? He was always creepy. It boggles the mind that some women think he's hot." She shook her head, sending blond locks bouncing over her glowing shoulders.

Another secret from Regin. Lucia was one of those women. She'd always found the powerful vampire - with his blond hair and light red irises - compelling, attractive in an is-he-going-to-kill-me-or-kiss-me type of way. And Lucia was far from alone.

"You think Annika's really going to find any leeches in NOLA?" Regin asked.

"Dunno." In the wake of this news, Annika, their fierce coven leader, and other Valkyrie had set out to find them in the city. "They've always stayed away from the States before." Which was why the Valkyrie coven had moved here. Lucia had heard that was the reason many Lykae had come here from Scotland as well.

"I hope they're in town. I want to face them!" Regin stood and brandished one of the two swords that she usually wore in sheaths crisscrossed over her back - in addition to the dagger sheath she customarily wore on her forearm. "I'll lunch on their balls!"

That was Regin's new threat: to lunch on enemies' balls. "Reege, when you threaten males with that, I don't think it has the result you intend. They think less Lunchables, more tea bag."

"Huh? Whatever!"

Before Annika had left, she'd ordered Regin and Lucia to contact traveling coven members and get them home at once. But above all else, they were to make sure Emma, Annika's halfling foster daughter, returned to Val Hall from Paris.

Unfortunately, once they'd gotten in touch with Emma at last, the normally meek half vampire/half Valkyrie had declined to return. There was talk of a man she'd met - a hot man.

Annika was going to go berserk. Regin secretly called their coven leader Annika the Aneurismal for good reason.

"Dude, you've been antsy all day," Regin said, sheathing her sword. "What's wrong with you?"

I stood up a Lykae with delicious lips and intense golden eyes who, for a time, looked at me like I was the best thing in the entire world.

"Is it because of the new neighbors you saw?" Regin asked.

Lucia had reported back to the coven that Lykae were encroaching on Valkyrie territory.

"Ah-oooooo, werewolves in NOLA." Regin gave a snort. "If they're going to be sneaking out of the kennel, then I guess 'out of sight, out of mind' no longer applies, huh?" Regin had nicknamed their compound the kennel. To her delight, it'd caught on.

"Sneaking?" Lucia said. "They acted as if they owned this place."

"Well, maybe we need to Cesar Millan their asses and show them who's boss. Tsst, tsst!"

"I'm sure that'd do it," she answered, relieved when Regin's attention fell back to her papers. Sometimes her sister could be a handful even for Lucia, especially if Regin wasn't engaging in regular, fatiguing battles -

Lucia tensed, again thinking she'd spied movement in the bushes outside. Was it MacRieve?

Since the night they'd met, she'd learned much about him. When his older brother Lachlain had disappeared, Garreth MacRieve had become the king of the Lykae clan - though he'd never thought he'd be their leader. Before assuming the throne, he'd been wild, a ladies' man and a brawler, so bad he'd been nicknamed the Dark Prince.

He was the best kisser she'd ever imagined.

And what would Lucia say if MacRieve showed? It seems you want to have an affair with me. But I can't have sex. Though I want to in the worst way. Duty, chastity. Lucia was sick of them. Yet she'd had her shot to find a good man. Her shot at a normal life.

And I blew both targets by miles.

She squinted, identifying what had moved. A nefarious tomcat. As she exhaled a pent-up breath, she realized she'd been clutching her bow hard. This morning, she'd checked her abilities, and her skills remained intact. They must truly be penetration-based.

Still, all day she'd held on to her bow, absently running her fingers over the raised inscriptions. Skathi had hesitated to let Lucia leave Thrymheim with that bow, because of her "darkness."

To other Valkyrie, Lucia and Regin were relatively young, but Lucia had lived a long time and seen many things. Never had she encountered a male who brought out her darkness like MacRieve.

He might be her worst weakness. If so, he couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time. With a glare, Lucia glanced over at their command center. Her duty was coming online soon. She and Regin would do as they did every five hundred years and prevent Cruach from rising.

But this time, instead of using Skathi's golden arrow to weaken him until the next Accession, Lucia wanted to discover a way to kill him for good.

One problem: the Broken Bloody One was a... deity. The ancient horned god of human sacrifices and cannibalism.

So now Lucia and Regin sought the only thing that could obliterate him, a dieumort - a god killer. Extremely rare, the dieumorts were created by the Banemen, a league of immortals from all factions. They'd discovered a means to destroy gods, who in turn sentenced all the Banemen to death. The league had disbanded and fled, hiding their power in talismans, weapons - even in beings - all over the world and adjoining planes.

Any vessel of the power was considered a dieumort. And there were whisperings of an arrow.

Lucia and Regin had hundreds of leads, everything from riddles to ancient journals to mapped clues. They were nearing the time for action, gearing up for their worldwide search, and Regin liked to spread out their calculations, tips, Post-its, and atlases for clarity when they knew no one was home.

Tonight Nucking Futs Nïx was the only one upstairs, but she didn't count - since she truly was mad. She could see the future so clearly that the present and past gave her fits. If Nïx did stroll by the command center, she'd probably forget or would look at the maps and think to herself, Greeting cards. Must be December.

Lucia and Regin had repeatedly requested her help in their quest. The first time they'd asked, she'd answered, "What's a dieumort?" Once they'd explained, she told them that she'd look into it. When they'd followed up, Nïx had said, "Now what's a dieumort...?"

No one in their coven knew that Lucia and Regin spent a good deal of time researching the god killer, because they'd never told another soul what had happened with Cruach. Their sisters knew that Lucia felt pain when she missed a shot, but they didn't know why. Nor did they know Lucia was a Skathian. There simply was no reason to tell anyone. Lucia had cleaned up her mess last Accession, and the one before that, and she would again -

Her ears twitched just as Regin said, "Someone's coming!"

"Hide everything!"

"Hey, let's don't," Regin said. "I'm sick of sneaking around, being all furtive and guilty like we stole Freya's car and wrecked the alignment. Let's hang a lantern on this. Get everyone involved this time."

At the idea, Lucia grew nauseated. "You swore, Regin!"

"For once, I'd like the coven to know I'm a mastermind." At Lucia's unbending expression, Regin added, "No. Really. Do you know how bad their heads would explode if they knew we are masterminds? Instead of video-game flunkies?"

"Regin!"

Lucia must have looked as aghast as she felt, because she muttered, "Fine. We can act like we're fuckups idling about. As per our usual. But if we cap a god, I'm telling everyone I know! Two words: Press. Conference."

As they hastily hid their materials, Lucia said, "It's probably Annika." Who would not welcome the news Lucia and Regin would have to deliver. Your foster daughter met a man and told us she'd be home... basically whenever her happy ass felt like it.

Finished stowing their papers, she and Regin sped to the couch. By the time Annika burst through the door, they were sitting in the great room, painting each other's toenails while watching a TiVoed episode of Survivor.

With no hint that the two were conspiring - to exterminate a god forever.

Gasping for breath, Annika asked them, "Is Myst back? Or Daniela?" She weakly hung on the thick door, peering out into the darkness. "Have they returned?"

Regin said, "We thought they were with you."

"Nïx?"

"Hibernating in her room."

"Nïx!" Annika yelled over her shoulder. "Get down here!"

Lucia wanted to tell her, Good luck with corralling Nïx. The soothsayer worked only on Nïx Standard Time.

Annika slammed shut the front door and bolted it. "Is Emma on her way back yet?" She put her hands to her knees, still catching her breath.

Lucia and Regin shared a guilty look. "She's, uh, she's not coming back right now."

"What?" Annika shrieked. Aneurism in five, four, three, two...

Regin offered, "She met some hottie over there - "

Annika held up her hand. "Got to get out of here."

Where was the cataclysmic freakout over Emma? Lucia frowned. "I don't understand 'got to.' Sounds like you want us to leave?" Or even to flee? Valkyrie simply didn't flee - from anything. Monsters flee from us. Just as it'd always been.

You ran from that Lykae.

Shut up.

"There's a plane about to crash, isn't there?" Regin sighed. "That is so gonna hurt."

Lucia agreed. "I might run from a crashing plane - "

"Go... something's coming," Annika said. "Now..."

"We're safest here," Regin said, wriggling her toes and turning her attention back to her painting. "The inscription will keep anyone out."

The Valkyrie had bought protection from the House of Witches - their allies. The spell kept most nuisances out of Val Hall.

Regin quickly glanced up. "But, I, uh, I might not have renewed the inscription spell with the witches."

Lucia said, "I thought we were on auto-renewal. They charge our credit - "

"By Freya," Annika yelled, "I - mean - now!"

At that, Regin shot to her feet, lunging for her sword. Lucia was right behind her, scrambling for her bow. She'd just strapped on her quiver when the front door burst in.

Chapter 8

As Garreth ran for Val Hall, he began to grow uneasy, his hackles rising. Though Lykae loved to run - they'd traded tearing across the Highland hills and crags for tearing through the swamps and bayous - he took no comfort from the exertion.

He sensed something wasn't right but couldn't pinpoint his disquiet. He frowned when his sat-phone rang in his jeans pocket, then slowed to answer. "What?"

Munro said, "Can you come back to the compound? There's some news... possibly."

"Have you told anyone about Lousha?"

"No, I have no'! Where are you?"

"On my way to Val Hall. Concerned about my mate."

"Aye, Garreth, you need to know. Vampires are here, crawling all over the city."

Bluidy hell. "Which faction? Horde or Forbearer?" While the Horde was the Lykae's oldest and most hated enemy, the Forbearers were relatively new players in the Accession game. They were rumored to forbear from taking the flesh, refusing to drink blood directly from others.

Some in the Lore considered them noble vampires - as much an oxymoron for Garreth as cuddly snakes.

"It's the Horde," Munro said. "Ivo and Lothaire, specifically."

Ivo was cowardly - Garreth had never considered him a threat. Lothaire, the Enemy of Old, was a different story altogether. "What the fuck are they doing here?"

"The Horde might be... hunting Valkyrie."

Lucia. This was what he'd sensed. Just as Garreth was about to hang up, Munro said, "Wait! There's something else - "

"No' now!" Garreth yelled as he sprinted, slamming the phone closed so hard, it lay crushed in his palm.

Hunting Valkyrie. Lucia was in danger from the Horde, a filthy species responsible for the deaths of Garreth's entire family. If he lost his mate to them as well...

Never. Already turning.

Only a dozen miles away. Letting the beast out of the cage. Never wanted her to see me like this...

An immense horned vampire filled the doorway of Val Hall, peering keenly at Regin and Lucia with eyes the color of blood.

"What is that, Annika?" Regin drew one of her swords. "A vampire turned demon?"

"Not possible," Lucia said. "That's supposed to be a true myth." Whatever it was, it had made Annika run like hell, and she was a notorious vampire killer.

"Has to be." Annika panted. "Never seen one so powerful."

"Is he one of Ivo's minions?"

"Yes. Saw him giving orders to this one. They're still searching for someone."

Lucia nocked her arrows just as two more vampires traced behind the demon.

"Just go," Annika hissed to them. "Both of you - "

Ivo the Cruel materialized then, appearing directly in their living room, his red eyes surveying the scene.

"Hello, Ivo," Annika said gravely.

"Valkyrie," he responded with a bored sigh.

When he sank onto their couch and carelessly kicked his boots up on their coffee table, Annika said, "You still have all the arrogance of a king. Though you aren't one." She shook her head. "Can never be one."

"Just a wittle wapdog," Regin said with a snort. "Demestriu's wittle bitch man - "

Annika rapped the back of Regin's head.

"What?" Regin stomped her foot. "What'd I say?"

"Enjoy your taunts, Valkyries - they'll be your last." Ivo turned to the demon vampire. "She isn't here."

"Who?" Annika demanded.

"The one I seek," he answered cryptically. Which Valkyrie had he been searching for all over the world?

Suddenly, Lucia spotted the faint outline of a figure wavering behind Ivo. Lothaire? He'd traced into the room, lurking in the shadows, as sinister as she remembered, with his red-tinged irises and menacing face.

When Annika caught sight of him as well, the vampire put his finger to his lips. Why would he be hiding from Ivo, his cohort?

Ivo rubbed the back of his neck, clearly sensing a presence behind him. But when he whipped his head around, he saw nothing; Lothaire had already disappeared. Why wasn't the Enemy of Old standing shoulder to shoulder with Ivo, poised for a fight? Or shoulder to head - Lothaire was as big as the demon, and both towered over Ivo.

Seeming to dismiss his apprehension, Ivo ordered his minion, "Kill these three."

At once, the demon vampire teleported behind Annika with mind-boggling speed. The other two vampires traced for Regin and Lucia before Lucia could get a shot off. Regin traded sword strikes with one, while Lucia kicked the other in the chest, sending him back so she could take a shot. But he traced forward too quickly. Lightning flashed with increasing furor.

Out of the corner of her eye, Lucia spied Annika getting in some good hits on the demon vampire. As he yelled, spraying blood, Annika kicked him between his legs so hard he crashed into the ceiling.

But when he landed, he grabbed her neck and hurled her across the entire great room into the fireplace forty feet away. Annika hit headfirst, with so much force that the first layer of bricks turned to dust from the impact.

"Ah, gods! Annika!"

Just as another layer of bricks dropped onto her limp body, Regin scrambled from the vampire she'd been fighting to guard their fallen sister. Lucia dashed to Regin's side, finally garnering enough room for a shot.

"Lucia, the big one," Regin said between breaths. "As many arrows as you can. I'll pry his head off."

She added two arrows to the pair she'd already nocked, pulling the bowstring so tight, intending a kill shot. She released her volley...

The demon's muscles went rigid. He brushed three arrows aside like they were gnats. He caught the fourth.

Incomprehension. She'd... missed? No! How? Ivo's laughter echoed as the pain assailed her. She dropped to the floor from the sudden onslaught.

Too much! The remembered agony. Bones grinding... skin so tight.

Her body twisted and her fingers clenched as a shriek was ripped from her chest, then another and another. Every window and light in the manor shattered all around them, raining daggers of glass, leaving them in darkness.

Over the pain, she dimly heard a Lykae's beastly roar answering in the distance....

Annika unconscious. Regin fighting off two. Want to tell her to run. Ivo and the demon watching. Can't move...

Another roar, even closer. MacRieve? He'd heard her. Was he coming for her? Would he help her sisters?

Through the chaos, she caught sight of movement across the murky room. White fangs and pale blue eyes stood out against the blackness, but she could barely see him through the dust and haze of her tears.

Then lightning illuminated him, and she recoiled, her pain redoubling. Can't be him... can't be.

He was massive, even more towering than before, his fangs and dark claws longer and sharper. A shadow of a ferocious beast flickered over his body.

MacRieve. A monster from legend.

As he crept over to where she shook on the floor, she gritted her teeth but couldn't move, crippled by the pain.

Crouching over her, he reached for her face with his huge hands. When his claws glinted like onyx, she flinched. What would he do...?

He's trying... to pat my tears? "Shh, female." He scooped her into his arms while she stared up with dread. "Do no' fear me." His voice was guttural, his ice-blue eyes burning with possession.

In an instant, she comprehended two things: why immortals feared the Lykae.

And that she was this one's mate.

"Protect you."

Yes, he could never hurt her, would believe he'd been born to safeguard her life. "And my sisters," she weakly bit out.

He gazed at the door, clearly wanting to remove her from the threat -

"Please, Lykae... fight these vampires."

Finally, a jerk of his chin. He carried her out of the way, gently tucking her behind a table. In that beastly voice, he grated, "I'll give you... their throats." He gazed at her with such longing, but she was horrified to see him completely turned. He knew it, could see - she was in too much pain to hide her disgust.

He twisted from her and reared up with an awing fury against the vampires. After recovering from her surprise, Regin teamed up with the Lykae, each facing off against a vampire. The demon vampire held back, guarding an enthralled-looking Ivo.

There was no contest against MacRieve. With dizzying speed, he lunged forward before the vampire could trace a retreat, snapping his jaws closed on his opponent's neck. Bones cracked and arteries spurted as he ripped the vampire's throat out.

In a gruesome spray of gore, MacRieve spit it into the male's shocked face. Then his Lykae claws sliced through the rest of the vampire's neck cleanly. Head and body dropped to the crimson floor.

MacRieve turned to Regin's vampire next. She'd stabbed it several times, but it was tracing around her like crazy, materializing and vanishing, delivering blows. She couldn't land a killing strike.

Seeming to predict where the male would appear next, MacRieve sprang for the vampire. He tackled him between traces, pinning him to the floor. The Lykae's head descended, and he savaged that one's neck as well.

In mere moments, the two enemies were decapitated.

Confronted by a fully-turned, battle-maddened Lykae, Ivo and the horned one traced away, fleeing.

As soon as the threat was gone, MacRieve sped to Lucia's side, crouching with blood dripping from his fangs. She stared up with revulsion. "No, no." Just like before, a handsome face concealed a monster.

Delirious, shuddering, suddenly she was back in Cruach's lair. The Broken Bloody One was above her, blood pouring from his gritted fangs, splashing into her eyes. Crimson pools and grisly leavings all around them. I give you meat and wine, my love....

"Lousha," MacRieve grated, rousing her back to the present. "You're... safe." He tenderly skimmed the backs of his wet claws along her cheek.

"No, get away... get away from me."

Brows drawn as if in pain, he rose and loped out into the night.

The deadly shadow that was Garreth MacRieve disappeared.

But she knew he'd be back.

Chapter 9

He hadn't been back.

But unfortunately for MacRieve, for most nights over the last week, he hadn't strayed far from Lucia.

"Celts' pelts! Celts' pelts!" Nïx cried happily, summing up the reason there was a hunting party of over two dozen Valkyrie gathered in a remote swamp on this desolate eve.

Lucia, Regin, Annika, Nïx, and several others were stationed in a carefully selected clearing, while even more Valkyrie were positioned throughout the misty bayou to call in sightings from distant vistas or trees.

All this effort was to trap... Garreth. And Lucia was the bait.

"Helloooo." Regin snapped her fingers. "Lore to Lucia!"

"Huh? Yeah."

"You're spacing again." Regin's look of irritation immediately shifted to one of concern. "It's too soon. I told Annika it was too soon."

Though Lucia had just missed a shot so recently, the coven had asked her to shank one more, predicting that if Garreth had come running the first time, he would again. "No, I'm good," Lucia said. She'd had to delay them a few days to build her strength - and nerve - back. She paid for each miss, had nearly forgotten how much, it'd been so long since the last time.

"You sure? Let's call this off." Regin alone comprehended how punishing this would be.

"I can handle it," she insisted, even as she nervously plucked her bowstring.

"All right. They wouldn't have asked, but...."

But aggression against any of the Valkyrie was always met with a show of force - swift, vicious force. And a Lykae had seriously aggressed them.

Garreth's older brother, Lachlain MacRieve, had returned as if from the dead to reclaim his crown. But his very first order of business? Nabbing little Emmaline the Timid, Annika's foster daughter.

King Lachlain had been the "hottie" Emma had mistakenly trusted in Paris. And now he had her trapped at the Lykae castle in Scotland.

After Annika had gone aneurismal, shrieking until car alarms blared in three parishes, she'd hatched this plan: trap Lachlain's only living immediate family and use him as leverage to get Emma back.

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