A Theory of Crystal (Paladins of Crystal Novella 1)

Holy gods. There’s three of them. And they’re all gorgeous.

Rebellious farm girl Yelena Kozar has come up with a solution to get out of an unwanted marriage—disguise herself as a boy and run away to the capital. Before she can start her new life, however, she meets three handsome scholars who are trying to unlock one of the greatest secrets of magic.

Yelena convinces them to hire “Yul” as their assistant, but as she works alongside the scholars she soon finds herself drawn to each of them. When they discover her secret and fall in love with her, Yelena dares to dream of a future with her men—until a deadly magical object threatens all of their lives…

Excerpt available here.

  • Why Choose, Fantasy Romance
  • Word Count: 32,000
  • Heat Level: 4
  • Published By: Belaurient Press

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Ivan sniffed his armpit and winced. “Whoof. I don’t know about you gentlemen, but I need a good wash. I noticed a nice little creek beyond the hill—what say we repair there with some soap, towels, and clean clothes?”

“Capital idea,” Oleks agreed. “Yul, put that away and fetch yourself some clothes and a towel.”

“Me?” The sultry warmth of the afternoon disappeared as ice surged through her veins. “Bathe with you?”

Dmytro had jumped into the cargo hold, returning with his hands full of clothing, clean towels, and a large cake of soap. “Yes, with us. You needn’t be bashful—it’s not like you have something we haven’t seen before.”

That’s what you think. She ducked her head so that her blush wasn’t as obvious. “I’d rather stay here and keep working, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Suit yourself.” Ivan took a towel from Dmytro, draping it over one muscular shoulder. “Shall we?”

The three headed back to the tree line, chatting as they disappeared between the trunks. Yelena tried to focus on the paper in front of her but thoughts of Ivan, Oleks, and Dmytro stripping down to their bare skin kept intruding. What did they look like beneath their small clothes? Were their bottoms muscular or nicely rounded? Were their thighs slender or thick-sinewed? Was the hair around their groins the same color as the hair on their chests? She was a farm girl and knew what the male appendage looked like, but what did Ivan, Oleks, and Dmytro’s look like? As each question tumbled through her mind she felt even hotter and her breasts ached, nipples rubbing against the bandage. As for her quim, it was as warm and damp as the air around her.

I wish I could go look. The thought shocked her even as it brought a naughty tingle of delight. But I can’t do that. It would be wrong. She knew she would be outraged if a farmhand spied on her and her sisters while they played in the water.

They did invite you. The voice seemed to come from a different part of her brain, a distinctly wicked one. Maybe they know the truth about you and want you to see what you would get if you bedded them.

Bedded them? That’s ridiculous. She hunched further over the desk even as the thought caused her quim to ache even more. They don’t know. And even if they did, they wouldn’t put themselves on display for me like that.

Wouldn’t they? They’re poor scholars with no money for a dowry. But if they intrigued you enough…

There was a twisted sort of logic in that. She finally put down the pen. Fine. Go satisfy your curiosity, then come back here and get to work.

Capping the inkwell, she put the makeshift desk in the cargo hold and headed towards the trees where the men had disappeared. Moving carefully to avoid stepping on anything that would crack and announce her presence, she slipped through the thicket until she spotted the glitter of water between two tree trunks.

At the last row of trees she heard water splashing and the men calling to each other. Beyond the tree line was a large creek that burbled happily in its rocky waterway. Overhanging willows on the opposite bank acted like parasols shading parts of the water, and the men were standing in one shaded area like woodland gods at play.

She sucked in a quick breath. They’re even more beautiful than I thought. Ivan was built like a greyhound, all long, lean muscle and freckled skin until he turned around and flashed a beautifully round, plush arse. His cock wasn’t overly long but nicely thick, enough to keep a woman happy. Dmytro was all angles and fur, with a pretty cock nested in a tangle of black curls. And Oleks. Not only was he as lean and muscled as the others, but his cock was truly a thing of wonder, long and thick even when soft. I could have all of them in my bed. If I step forward and tell them who I am—

What makes you think they want you? That was yet another part of her brain, the part that constantly criticized everything she did and sounded unnervingly like Mama. They’re scholars and you’re a simple farm girl who didn’t even know that women could study at the university. And you’re built like a plow horse. That last nasty dig felt like a sharp stick poking into her side. They probably want an elegant city woman who’s slender as a willow and looks good in silk. You’d look like a scrubbed piglet. Not to mention you’re spying on them. If you stepped out now they’d shout at you and tell you to leave them alone, that’s what they’d do.

She bit her lip, overwhelmed by her conflicting emotions. Out on the water the men passed the soap back and forth, skin becoming slick and foamy as they scrubbed at their armpits and groins. When Ivan casually washed his cock, rinsing the shaft with a handful of water, her quim clenched around disappointing emptiness.

Knowing it was wrong, she yanked open her belt, loosening the waistband of her trousers until she could shove a hand down them and cup her damp mound and the sensitive little bud beneath it. There was already more than enough slickness to ease her way. She braced her free hand against the tree’s trunk as she began a familiar rhythm, stroking in a circular motion around the bud as she stared at the men.

They were so handsome with the sunlight dappling their skin, beads of water caught in their hair and sparkling like crystals. Tall and strong and so desirable, outshining the Three Ys like the sun outshone the moon. She wanted them, right then and there, and to hell with what her mother or anyone back at the farm might think.

Her clothes grew too constricting, the bandage around her chest chafing against her sensitive nipples in a way she couldn’t stand for one more moment. She wanted to strip everything off, to be as naked and free as the men were.

Wild abandon overtook her and her clothes fell to the ground. The dappled sunlight and light, refreshing breeze played across her bare, moist skin like a lover’s hands as she stepped out into the bright sunlight. “What’s the water like?” she called.

The three stopped their washing, greeting her with mouths agape as she stuck a toe into the creek. “Ooh, chilly. Well, you did tell me to come bathe with you.” Stepping into the water, she went to Oleks and held out her hand. “May I have the soap?”

Oleks’s mouth closed with a snap. “Please, let me have the honor.”

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