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Lady Dauphine keeps a secret that could restore her country from the clutches of Randish rule.
Yet the noble woman hides under the profitable guise of her courtesan business far from home. For what can one woman do against the zealous lot of religious leaders that hold Quenarre, and all its people, hostage? Only her cousin and the man who saved her life twenty years ago know her true origins.
Though not born from nobility, Chartan LeBeau commands royalty with his demeanor, subdue arguments with the language of silent intimidation, and keep the affections of the last royal descendant of the true king of Quenarre. Yet all his talents do not convince his future queen turned temptress to return with him and command an army to take back her throne. Reverting to his former station of thief, he steals Lady Dauphine and sails for the land of her birthright. But when thief and future queen learn of a court mage’s capture, he tells her to turn back while he attempts a rescue.
Despite “orders” to sail back, Lady Dauphine grows into the leader Quenarre needs in order to save a dear friend thought lost to the cruel Randish Theocracy.
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THE KING'S THIEF
Seducing a man is harder than one might think. Especially if that man is Chartan LeBeau.
I don’t know why the King of Thieves returned to Xaxyia after twenty years, but I recognized him the moment his doe-skin, silver-tipped boots stepped into my hall.
Already he was gathering attention from my girls. Being the good courtesans that they were, each woman tried to attend him.
A small sense of satisfaction rippled up my chest when he rebuffed them all and headed straight for me. I wondered if he remembered the night he whisked me away, by my uncle’s command, saving me from death. It was the last time I ever saw the King of Quenarre, my uncle. Chartan was one of two people who knew my true origins.
Still, Chartan was dangerous.
I stayed in my chair, frozen by the beauty of him. Long legs, a perfect bulge below his V-shaped torso, hidden behind a rogue’s cape and hood. If you looked carefully, you’d find his riches within his tailor. Clothing of soft fineness but not audacious gold. The King of Thieves flaunted nothing.
Though not born from nobility, Chartan knew how to command royalty through his walk, subdue arguments with the language of silent intimidation, and keep my affections, though I hadn’t seen him for two decades. Wooing a master seducer such as myself was not easy. He should have been a military commander, but for one reason or another he chose to remain a thief. A thief that caught the eye of a king…and me, a former Quenarre noblewoman.
I smiled to calm the flutter in my heart and stood to greet him. Perhaps he would not know me after all this time, but even if he suspected, I would not give my identity away easily. I knew the art of pretense now. “Dear Sir, thank you for coming to Courtesan’s guild. How can we pleasure you?”
His eyes were hidden but his lips curved down slightly at my informal greeting. Coming to a full halt he bowed. Then his smooth accent had my thighs clench together. “Lady Dauphine, may we speak in private?”
My stomach detached from my belly and came rushing to my throat. But my smile grew wider, hard as it was to keep it. “I’m sorry my dear, but I don’t entertain new customers.”
Chartan scanned the room. “I have something of import to discuss with you, I’m not interested in your services.”
I laughed. “That’s the tactic you wish to take. I assure you we are all discreet here. Perhaps you would like to speak to Lady Glen?” He’d better not. Straining to keep from shaking I pointed to Lady Glen as she passed by. Hearing her name she immediately came over.
Chartan waved her away. “No, this is for you only.”
“Oh, I bet it is.” I sat, showing I was not some pithy girl to shove around.
He stepped closer to me, leaned down to my ear and whispered. “I know who you are Lady Dauphine of Quenarre, noble princess of the house Rouelle. I escorted you to safety here before the overtaking of our King. Do not chuff me off.”
It was not the first time I’d been threatened, nor would it be the last. But I was the ultimate impendent. He would not get away with blackmail. Nor would he see me panic. I kept my heart slow and retorted, “Then you will expose yourself.”
He stood and chuckled.
My nose flared and I looked up at him. His waist was at the perfect height to unbutton his pants and bring him to his knees, the way a woman who knows what she’s doing can. Our eyes locked and damn if I was going to give in to him. That infuriating half quirk of a smile. That arrogance. His scent beating at my control.
A pouch appeared in his hand and he let the contents clink before he placed the money bag between my cleavage. “That should be sufficient to avoid unpleasant speculation.”
He stepped back and motioned his hand to indicate he would follow. I was not a horse to lead. Nor a slave to his whims. But, the side of me that wanted him in my bed snuck reason and excuses to take him to my chambers. Really, what choice did I have with what he threatened? If I refused he’d call attention to my Roullean heritage. It wouldn’t take too much time for the rumors to fly across the land to The Randish pope. My fate would be sealed. I’d probably be dead in a matter of weeks.
Painting on my nonchalant smile, I played demure host and did as he bade. Passing my guards, I gave them the signal to interrupt us in two minutes.
Luca nodded. My personal guard was more than a brute. He understood.
Down the corridor, Chartan’s smooth voice resumed battering against the stronghold of my heart. “How much time do I have before your guards crash it?”
I turned up the spiral stairs and said nothing.
“I’m guessing a few minutes,” he said. “No matter. You’ll hear what I have to say.”
I wanted to grit my teeth. Damn thief.
We crossed the hallway where several of my girls were hard at work pleasuring their clients. I couldn’t pass a door without hearing the particulars of a client’s needs. The sound of a slap on flesh halted my motion. I listened at the door where it came from. If a man was being too harsh with any of my women I wouldn’t have him back. Another slap. My hand rested on the door knob.
“You like that, hun? You like being ruffed up?” The woman’s muffled voice belonged to Lady Andrea.
“Yes.” Responded a breathy male voice. “Please, again.”
Apparently, Duke Undore found his pleasure from women giving him pain. Good to know.
I smiled, backed away and continued down the corridor. Chartan waited for me with piercing eyes. Taking the stairs to the second floor, I turned into the hallway and reached under my sleeve.
“Stop.” Chartan halted me.
“You’ve been a larcenist too long, LeBeau.” I continued to door number twelve. This was where I played with clients and teased secrets from their souls. I pulled out the iron key to my door and showed him. “I hope you hold no dangerous value in a chunk of metal.”
“Chucks of metal, as you say, have killed men before.”
Chartan took the key and inserted it into the lock. He opened the door and stepped back.
Trying to go forward Chartan threw his arm out and waggled a finger at me. His touch was my exquisite pleasure.
A genuine smile parted my lips. He took me seriously. I crossed my arms and pursed my lips in defiance.
Chartan took the key and inserted it into the lock. He opened the door and stepped back.
“Not yet my courtesan.” The smile didn’t reach his eyes.
Heart tearing itself apart knowing what I had to do, my inner most desire pleaded with me to take him to my bosom and show him he did not need all these precautions, not with me. But it would be a lie. I would go to any length to protect my identity. If I was pointed out as a Rouellean it wouldn’t be long before the Theocracy of the Randish would spill my blood.
Chartan freed a dagger from inside his cape and pushed the door wide open with the tip. He looked inside, up then down and finally through the crack of the door.
I sighed in feigned disgust but he had every right to be suspicious.
“Have a lot of enemies?” I said.
He went inside, quiet as a stalking cat, and swept the room.
While he was preoccupied with his security check I closed the door—slowly. Reaching under my sleeves, I grabbed my throwing sticks, one for each hand. Thin, with three edges, shaped almost like a dowel I positioned to turn and deploy.
My movement swift, my aim true I lopped the weapons at Chartan’s heart.
The thief deflected one and caught the other. Then slammed me against the wall. The point of my own dagger scrapping against my chin.
Despite my attempt to kill him, Chartan’s smile was hearty and his eyes sparkled to life. “My King was right.”
“You are truly the right choice.”
“To regain the crown and return Quenarre to it’s glory.”
His words stung.
My beloved home.
The land that stole my life.
“I’ll never return to that place.”
“You will return and you will rule.”
My guards pounded the door open and rushed in.
Chartan flew backwards, hopped in the air, and folded himself forward while sailing through the open window—backward. His flight took a blink of an eye and then he was gone before the guards were down the hall.
My personal security, Luca, eyed me up and down, checking for any harm that may have come to me. “My Lady?”
“We’ll chase after him.” Luca peered out the window.
“Don’t contemplate jumping after LeBeau.” If Luca did catch up to Chartan I’d lose a guard. “Besides, he paid for my time.”
I reached for the bag of coin Chartan lusciously shoved down my corset.
It wasn’t there. I reached further in. Nothing. The money was gone.
My blood boiled. “Chartan!” I slammed the window.
LeBeau was a mile away by now but his chuckle rang in my ears. He would not win. I would never go back to Quenarre. As for his blackmail threat… if he wanted to fight in the game of espionage, he’d found a formidable opponent.
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