Duty. Devotion. Desire. When fate brings two isolated people together, love is in the cards.
A Novella of the Elder Races.
As a palace guard and assassin for the Dark Fae, Xanthe always wore a mask, hiding her emotions to do her duty. But when her identity is compromised, she trades undercover work for guarding Queen Niniane—a position that often brings her in contact with Chancellor Aubrey Riordan.
Aubrey’s trust is shattered. A year ago his wife tried to assassinate their new queen in his name, a betrayal of everything he believes in. And now an attack on his life is proof the dark conspiracy is not yet over. Although injured and weak, Aubrey can’t help but be drawn to this shy assassin and loyal protector. Xanthe is everything Naida wasn’t, and the passion she stirs in him is something he thought had long passed him by.
Product WarningsTake a man recovering from an assassination attempt, the assassin sworn to protect him, add in a magical Tarot card deck and an isolated cabin, and watch the sparks fly!
Copyright © 2012 Thea Harrison
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The moment Xanthe appeared in the doorway, Tiago turned his head and so did Riordan. She dropped her gaze. “My lords.”
“There you are,” said Tiago. “You must have gotten my message just after dawn.” He put a booted foot on one chair and pushed it outward in her direction. “Sit and eat. Niniane will join us shortly.”
Disconcerted, she lowered her head. “Thank you, my l—sir. That’s very good of you, but I couldn’t do that.”
“Oh, you Fae and your social rules,” said Tiago. He sounded exasperated. “Get over yourself, soldier. Plant your ass down here and eat some breakfast. That’s an order.”
Startled, her head came up. Before she could help herself, she looked at Riordan.
He smiled at her, his expression warm, and gestured to the chair Tiago had pushed out from the table. “You heard your employer,” said the Chancellor. “Sit and help yourself to some food.”
She couldn’t help but stare. He looked different somehow than he had before she had left, less bitter in repose. Perhaps time was healing the wound that his wife had dealt him.
She took a deep breath and walked over to sit gingerly. She kept her gaze on her task as she did as she was ordered and helped herself to some of the breakfast on the table. There were boiled eggs, honey and berry pastries, fresh fruit and grilled venison. The bread and cheese she had eaten earlier seemed to have vanished completely, and her stomach rumbled. She tightened the muscles in her abdomen, hoping nobody had noticed.
She started to eat, and the two men resumed talking as if she wasn’t there.
“You should have mentioned something about the lawsuit sooner,” Tiago said.
After a slight hesitation, Riordan said, “I disagree. It’s my issue to resolve. At any rate, nothing will happen in a hurry. The suit will likely drag on for years.”
Everything in Xanthe went quiet. Riordan was involved in some kind of legal dispute? It was news to her, so it must have happened while she had been away. Unwilling to show any reaction to what was obviously none of her business, she had to make a conscious decision to keep eating as she listened.
“There’s no merit in the accusations,” said Tiago. “You had no knowledge of what Naida was doing, and you weren’t involved.”
Riordan said cynically, “It doesn’t matter whether or not we know that the case has any merit. The pursuant always has plenty of time to present their case and whatever they claim as true findings. That’s simply how the Dark Fae justice system works. What you and Niniane achieved when you tried and executed the conspirators involved in the coup that killed her family was highly unusual, and that was because it involved the Queen herself, imprisonment of powerful nobility and high treason.”
“Naida’s family is claiming you were treasonous,” Tiago said.
“Not quite treason, in the legal sense,” said Riordan. “Niniane had not yet been crowned. The best they can hope for is a charge of conspiracy. Since I was so much older than Naida and she was so young when we married, and all of Naida’s crimes were supposedly on my behalf, they’re claiming that I exerted ‘undue influence’ over her. Anyway, as you know only the government can instigate criminal cases. Since this is a personal suit and not an affair of the crown, the only thing they can hope to gain is monetary compensation.”
“So they’re being greedy,” said Tiago after a moment.
“Yes,” said Riordan flatly. “And to be brutally fair, they’re also angry and they’ve suffered a loss, not only in terms of family but also their reputation.”
“Well, the person they should be angry with is dead, and there isn’t any evidence you had anything to do with it. I had you investigated myself.”
“Of course you did,” said Riordan. “I would have had me investigated as well.”
Xanthe swallowed carefully, the food threatening to lodge in her throat. As she hadn’t been involved in any investigating, that was more news to her. But as she considered it, she couldn’t say she was surprised.
The Queen meant the world to the Wyr lord, and he was one of the most dangerous men she had ever met. He would have left no stone unturned in his investigation of Riordan. Even if he had not found any evidence, if he had the slightest suspicion that Riordan might have been involved in something that could potentially harm the Queen, Riordan was a dead man.
Having just killed a man herself on the Wyr lord’s orders, she should know.