Empress of Storms (Two Thrones Book 1)
To fulfill a treaty, Queen Danaë of Hellas marries a widowed king who is still mourning his first wife. Now she must win his heart, prove herself as a water mage, and defeat the enemies that threaten them both.
Still grieving the loss of his beloved wife, King Matthias of Ypres reluctantly becomes the consort of a brilliant young queen. But can he risk letting the beguilingly blue-haired Danaë into his heart?
- Fantasy Romance, MF
- Word Count: 80,700
- Heat Level: 4
- Published By: Belaurient Press
Books in the Two Thrones series:
Novellas and Short Stories in the Two Thrones series:
Rated Five Stars. “Flawless and stunning.”
– Night Owl Reviews
Rated Four Stars. “The world is an intriguing fantasy world with a unique school of magic, cultures, and good characters that have the right touch of detail/description to them.”
– Coffee Time Romance & More
Danaë heard a soft tap at the bedroom door. She glanced down at her nightgown one last time to make sure it hadn’t sprouted wrinkles or a stain, then cleared her throat. “Come in.”
The door opened and Matthias stood there, managing to look regal and awkward at the same time. His valet had stripped him of his wedding clothes, and he now wore a heavy floor-length robe in midnight blue. It had been tied loosely at the waist, leaving a V of skin peeping out from the neckline. It was the first time Danaë had seen anything of Matthias other than his head and hands, and she was surprised at the flash of desire that rose from seeing the dusting of amber curls.
“I apologize if I kept you waiting,” he said as he shut the door behind him. “The Illian ambassador caught me as I was about to leave the hall, and I’m afraid he ran a bit long with his congratulations.”
She relaxed. He wasn’t trying to avoid her. “I understand. Would you like some wine?”
Grateful for something to do, she went to the sideboard with its pitcher and goblets, hoping her face wasn’t as red as it felt. Stop behaving like a ninny, for the gods’ sake. And don’t spill wine on your gown.
She managed to pour two goblets with some measure of grace. Handing one to Matthias, she sipped from the other, wondering what she should say now.
He seemed to sense her bewilderment. “So, here we are,” he said softly.
“Here we are,” Danaë echoed, then blurted, “I’m not a virgin, by the way. In case you were wondering.”
His brows went up at that. For a second she had a horrible image of him storming from her chambers in fury, declaring the marriage null and void.
Instead, he chuckled. “Ah. Thank you for informing me, but I already knew. Your father kept me informed of your liaisons.”
Matthias held up a hand. “Simply to reassure me that they weren’t serious. I agreed with him that it was good for you to gain some breadth of experience before marriage. The gods know Lukas spent more than enough time sowing his wild oats.” The amusement in his face drained away at the mention of his vanished son.
Danaë searched for something to say. “It was a lovely ceremony, I thought. Very … regal.”
“Yes, yes it was.” Matthias started tapping his goblet with one finger, then realized what he was doing and put it down on the sideboard. “Danaë, I know this marriage is not something that either of us expected. But it will do much to help both our countries, as I’m sure your advisors pointed out.” His eyes flicked up in weary annoyance. “As did mine.”
The brief flash of irritation somehow made him more human. “I know, mil—Matthias. And I promise that I’ll be a good and loyal wife to you.”
“And I will be a good and loyal husband to you as well.” To her surprise he took her free hand and brought it to his mouth, his lips dry and pleasantly warm on her knuckles. “I won’t bother you again, but…” He trailed off, giving the bed an uncomfortable look.
Bother me? What did he mean by that? She took a deep breath and tried to smile. “It’s traditional. Sympathetic magic for the union of the countries and all that.”
He nodded, relieved. “Very much so. I’ll try to make this as pleasant as possible.”
Bemused, Danaë let him lead her to the massive bed with its blue velvet coverlet. He waited until she had climbed in before going around the room and snuffing out all the candles apart from the single taper on his side of the bed. Crossing to it, he leaned down and blew out the candle, plunging the room into darkness.
Her heart turned over in her chest when she realized what he was doing. Oh, gods. He doesn’t want to look at me. Her sun-kissed skin, curly dark hair with its telltale blue streak and pointed chin must be unappealing compared to Ypresian women, with their peaches-and-cream complexions and flowing hair that ran from golden blonde to deep auburn. Tears rose in her eyes, and she was grateful for the chance to wipe away the telltale dampness.
At least he’s being kind about it, she told herself fiercely. Many royal marriages had begun on worse foundations.
There was a slithering rustle of a silk belt being untied. Still trying to get her emotions under control, she switched to her mage-trained darksight and watched her new husband shed his robe. Apart from scars earned in battle, the years had touched Matthias’s body only lightly. A faint thickening around the waist was all that separated him from one of his younger warriors. She studied his broad chest, with its light scattering of hair, and the well-muscled arms, strong from years of fighting with sword and pila. A long, thin scar along his side ran down across his abdomen; she followed its path downward to his groin.
To her surprise his cock was already stirring, rising from its nest of curly hair. It promised an impressive girth when fully erect. Her earlier fears began to dissolve, reassured by this sign of male desire.
Her own desire rose as well, causing her nipples to grow firm and sensitive. The brush of her silk nightdress against them felt like a caress, and a pleasant heat built between her thighs. She took a deep breath, wanting to reach out and run her fingers over Matthias’s chest, feel the solid warmth of him. After years of fantasizing, she was finally going to lie in his arms, feel his body enter hers, hold him close as she flew with him on the wings of pleasure.
Yes, except that he’s only doing this to fulfill the treaty. And what in the gods’ names did he mean by not bothering me again?
The down-filled mattress dipped as Matthias climbed in beside her. In the dark the scent of his skin, a pleasantly woody scent underlaid with clean male, seemed more intense. She breathed it in, savoring it. He moved closer to her, his erection pressing like a hot stone against her hip.
“I believe this would be easier if you removed your shift,” he said gently.
“Oh. Yes, of course.” Embarrassed, she sat up and yanked the delicate silk over her head, tossing it to the side. Lying back against the pillows, the chill air of the room brought goosebumps to her exposed skin. She inhaled sharply when Matthias laid a hand on her stomach.
He moved his hand upwards, running his fingers along the underside of her breast, then cupping it. A thumb brushed across her nipple, sending a delightful shiver across her skin.
His head dipped, lips brushing against the hollow of her neck and nuzzling the soft skin there. Cautiously, she touched his hair, stroking it. He lifted his face, eyes closed in a brief spasm of pleasure that quickly turned to grief.
With a flash of insight she realized that the dark was for his benefit, but not for the reason she’d thought. Without the light, he could pretend that the hair against his face was blond, not black, that the body he caressed was Ypresian, not Hellene.
Her heart ached in mingled dismay and sympathy. Oh, my king. I can’t be Hanne for you. But I can help ease your pain, if only you’d let me try.