Mid Week Tease: Palace of Scoundrels #MidWeekTease #MWTease
Yeah I sort of screwed up last week by not posting because I had told myself to set up a post since I was going to be busy traveling to Ontario for the Evernight writers’ retreat … and promptly forgot to make the post. My bad. So in apology, have a longer teaser from my new MF fantasy romance Palace of Scoundrels (Two Thrones Book 2). This teaser features Lord Tomas Villiers, the Winter Wolf and protector of the northern border of Ypres, and his beloved Lady Sibeal de Clerq, who’s been engaged to someone else against her will. They’re hoping that King Matthias can do something about that; in the meantime, Sibeal is hiding with Tomas at his hunting lodge, and being in such close confines is making things … difficult.
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Spring has sprung in the island kingdom of Hellas, but with no signs of an occupant for the royal nursery Queen Danaë is starting to worry about her own fertility. Her concerns aren’t helped by the arrival of the legendarily conniving Dowager Queen Atilia of Illium–or the woman’s handsome grandson Prince Marcus, on the run after being accused of poisoning his older brother.
In the neighboring kingdom of Ypres, Danaë’s royal husband Matthias is dealing with dangerous family politics and a wolfish duke who has kidnapped a young noblewoman for immoral purposes. Or has he? Can Matthias ward off the threat of civil war, outwit his relatives, and deal with a charming rival in his wife’s own palace?
And yet, in a wide, comfortable bed made up with the finest linen and softest blankets, he couldn’t get to sleep. Too comfortable, belike. I’d feel better if I bedded down in front of the fire.
Or out in the fields. Or anywhere other than this hunting lodge. Then again, where he truly wanted to sleep was his own bed in Wolf’s Den, with his legally wedded wife curled up in his arms and his men stationed on the battlements to repel any intruders. But that was looking more and more like an impossibility, if he insisted on Sibeal as his wife.
He’d known taking her from Riens was madness, but it was madness she had shared with him willingly. Her frustration and fear that her mother would force her to marry Clement Reynard served as a spur to grab her and ride hell for leather away from Lierdhe. She had assumed they were riding north for Kelles, but he knew it would be the first place the Lierdhe men at arms would look for him, assuming her maid was questioned and revealed who her mistress was meeting. Sibeal swore that the girl knew nothing, but Tomas wasn’t about to risk it.
Instead, they made for his family’s hunting lodge in the hills north of Mons. He had paused only long enough to send one of his men with a message to Kaarsen telling him to send servants and guards to the lodge. Afterwards they’d ridden through the night, only stopping to change horses at an inn with an attached stable. Poor Sibeal was almost falling out of her saddle with weariness by the time they reached the lush hill country and the lodge.
The first day, it was easy enough to forget that she was staying in the room across from his—they were both exhausted and sleep was far more demanding than anything else. The servants and men from Wolf’s Den arrived the next day. Tomas busied himself with dispersing the guards around the lodge while Sibeal declared herself fit for chatelaine duties and spent the afternoon planning meals and a cleaning schedule with the maid and cook.
As they settled into a routine, waiting for Kaarsen to approach the king and make his request for a visit, Tomas became more aware of Sibeal’s presence in the lodge. Traces of her scent hung in the hallway between their bedrooms, an enticing fragrance of rose and jasmine that seemed to emanate from her skin. He started listening for the sound of her voice, wanting to hear her discussing matters with the servants, or singing to herself as she found little tasks to do.
And every time she appeared, he had to fight the urge to sweep her into his arms, carry her off to his bedroom, strip the gown from her sweetly curved body and make love to her for the rest of the day. He knew full well she shared the same frustration, judging from the longing looks she would give him over a meal or across the great room.
But his beautiful little bride-to-be had the passionate nature of her people and kept discussing what she wanted in whispered little asides and hints. He had been forced to retire to his room more than once, there to shove his trousers down and take himself in hand, quickly stroking his aching cock. And always he imagined Sibeal naked and breathless underneath him, white fingers digging into his back, perspiration beading her beautiful face as she begged him for more.
Finally he would spurt over his fingers, the abrupt release of pressure in his balls followed by a momentary relief and a deep-seated discomfort that he refused to acknowledge as shame. Not so much that he was forced to relieve himself, he told himself, but that he was doing it so damned quickly, like a boy barely into manhood. I am Duke of Kelles, and I will show restraint, dammit.
Even if it killed him.
Finally, Kaarsen had sent word that King Matthias would be arriving for the requested visit. Instead of solving matters as Tomas had hoped, he made things even worse by admitting that he couldn’t order Lady de Clerq to lift that damned spell of barrenness. Knowing that Sibeal couldn’t get pregnant made her even more damnably desirable, ironic as it seemed. He could get up, go into her room, and spend the rest of the night learning how to make her moan his name, and there would be no wagging tongues after the birth of his heir. Except that he had promised the king that he wouldn’t take her virginity, and a Villiers’s word was adamantine.
A low rumble of thunder sounded overhead. The storm that had been threatening that afternoon was finally making an appearance. Good. Maybe it’ll soothe me enough so that I can sleep.
The sound of his chamber door creaking open was almost lost in another roll of thunder. Still, Tomas heard it and sat up, reaching for the dagger he always kept under his pillow. “Who’s there?” he demanded.
“It’s me,” a feminine voice whispered. “Did I wake you?”
Every muscle in his body went slack with relief. He peered at the shape revealed by a flash of lightning. “Sibeal? Sweetheart, what are you doing in here?”
“The lightning woke me up,” she said. He felt the mattress sink as she climbed in beside him. “Can I stay with you?”
“I—” And she was in his arms, snuggling close. By all the gods, how did she manage that so quickly? “Sibeal,” he said, trying to edge his lower body away from her so that she wouldn’t know he was naked under the covers, “this is improper. You need to go back to your own room.”
He could only see her outline in the dimness, but he imagined her smiling up at him, eyes sparkling with mischief. “But I don’t want to. It’s cold and drafty in there, and I’ll be warm in here with you.” Her small hand spread out on his chest. “You don’t want me to fall ill, do you?”
He captured her hand in his own. It felt soft and warm. “You’re dreadful at making excuses, do you know that?”
“I know.” He felt more than heard her sigh. “I wanted to know what it was like to lie in your arms one time. It may be the only opportunity I get.”
Despair and fury made his gut roil. “Don’t say that, sweetheart. It’s not over yet,” he said. “I won’t let you marry Reynard, I swear it.”
“If the king orders it, what will you do? Give up your dukedom and run away with me? You know you can’t do that—you owe it to your people to stay.” She laughed, the sound soft and sad. “And even if we did run away, I still wouldn’t be able to have children. And I want them so, Tomas.”
“I know.” He held her close, frustrated by his inability to protect her. “Let me go talk to your mother, explain how we both feel—”
She shook her head. “You didn’t see her when I told her I couldn’t marry Clement. It was as if every bit of love and light had gone out of her. She frightened me, Tomas. I don’t know what else she would have done to me if I’d stayed.”
Tomas kissed her temple. “I can’t lose you, sweetheart. I’ll make this right somehow.”
The warm body in his arms clutched him tight for a moment. “You may not be able to. And if you can’t, this may be the only night we have together.” She raised her head and lightning flashed outside, allowing him a split second to see the tear tracks on her face. “If I can’t spend the rest of my life with you, then give me this night with you. Let me have a memory I can treasure for the rest of my days.”
He fought the sudden, overwhelming urge to turn her onto her back and make fierce love to her. “Sibeal, I promised the king—”
“That you wouldn’t take my maidenhead, I know.” She touched his mouth, tracing his lips. “But there are other things we can do.”
He ground his teeth. Already he was starting to harden, and twisted further away to hide that fact. “I’m begging you, sweetheart, don’t do this to me. I can’t touch you and not want to … to take you.”
“You’ll have me,” she soothed. “We just can’t do that one thing. I won’t leave you aching, I promise.” Before he could stop her she’d shifted across him, straddling his naked thighs. The soft curls at the junction of her thighs brushed his heated flesh in the movement and he bit back a groan.
“Trust me,” she murmured, stretching forward to kiss him. With a sour thump, he realized that she was right, this might be the only night they had together if the king couldn’t help them. Gods damn me, but I need her too much.
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