Release date will be moving forward the November 2021!
The sounds of rutting greet my ears as I near the open door to my chamber: grunts, groans, giggles, and the slap of meeting flesh.
Should I be angry?
I recognize the grunts and groans, although I assuredly wish I did not.
The giggles? I can make a guess. A fool maid thinking to curry herself favor, deluding herself that she is more than a willing hole.
I’m not angry, I realize. Two emotions assault me. One is relief that someone else draws his attention, and the other is deep-rooted exhaustion with the direction my life takes.
I consider turning around. It would be the sensible thing to do. But for the first time in many days, a little of my former spirit rises. Why should I walk away from my own chamber? Shoulders squared, I continue into the room like I don’t know what is happening.
He has her bent over the small dining table of my suite. Her rough maid skirts are thrust up, while his pants are down, white ass on display. With another deep grunt he stills.
My timing is impeccable.
The maid notices me first, a short, sharp squeal tears from her throat, rousing the man behind her from the final throes of his climax.
“Fuck!” Killian hisses.
“Anna,” I say, never taking my eyes off the young blonde girl, who I admit is comely. “I would appreciate it if you could clean the room given you are already here. It has not been thorough of late.”
“Dede,” Killian growls, stuffing his flaccid cock into his pants. Meanwhile Anna thrusts her skirts down, and face bright pink, scurries off to clean the chamber.
“No need for vexation, my lord.” Killian is not a lord; he is merely the king’s chancellor who sees himself as more through me. “A virile man is free to take pleasure where he may. I do not hold you at fault.”
A flash of anger sparks in his eyes before a timely knock upon the open door. It is a day for interruptions, it would seem.
“Killian, you are needed at the gates!” the guard announces.
Killian snatches up his sword, scabbard, and belt, and with a glare in my direction, quits the room.
In his absence, I exhale a tight breath. My hands shake, this stress is a dark, oppressive cloud following me around, one that cannot be endured forever. For two years, I have been living under this shroud.
Two long years.
I’m interrupted from my melancholy by the return of the maid. “I am sorry,” she says. Anna is pretty, and Killian has ever had an eye for the lasses of the keep.
I wave a dismissive hand. Anna is the least of my concerns.
“He said you were a...” I raise a brow. “A lady without passions.”
An inelegant snort escapes me. “A frigid bitch is his preferred choice of phrase, I believe. No need to coat it in honey, Anna. I am all that and more.”
I am small and unremarkable with hazel eyes and hair somewhere between blonde and brown, and few men would notice me were I not the sole heir and unwed daughter of a weak king. “Leave the room,” I say, losing all pretense of patience.
Bobbing a curtsy, she gathers the bucket, clothes, dustpan and brush, and scurries out of the room. The click as the door shuts is a blessed relief.
Once upon a time, my chamber brought me joy. The spacious suite is decorated in lilac and green, with gold details on the swags of my charming four-poster bed. A wide window overlooks a corner of the courtyard and the meadow and river to the south. Much has changed over the years since I was a child, space for toys giving way to a long reading couch and a small table that can be used for dining or work. It is my retreat, a place of my own where I can read or sit upon the high stool and peer out at the castle going ons.
But everything changed after my mother died. My father withdrew from life, and a year later, Grady, the man I was ready to commit my life to, quit his position as commander of the army, heading north to where his familial estate was besieged by the Blighten, taking fifty warriors with him, most of them Alphas. Ours wasn’t the only kingdom losing men to the war, and raiders soon found easy pickings among kingdoms short of soldiers.
Two years on, and the once-respected commander has still not returned.
I don’t know if Grady still lives, and I am torn by guilt that in his absence, I sought protection and comfort with Byron. Still, it is hard to regret Byron, who while young, has more virtue in his little finger than can be found in the whole of Killian.
My room is not only my room, for I am forced to endure Killian’s increasingly less subtle marking of my space. He fucks maids over my furniture and has seeded my bedding more than once. My bed is no longer my sanctuary but a place where I suffer lingering scents no amount of cleaning or changing of covers can ever fully disguise.
This is coming to a head. In the eyes of the court, I belong to Killian.
Killian, who many people view as the savior of Langetta after Grady left us.
Killian, who everyone presumes to one day claim me as his wife.
Killian, my father’s chancellor, an Alpha and an excellent swordsman with raiders in his back pocket.
Killian, who likes to rut women in my room and defile my personal things.
My father turns a blind eye to what his chancellor does to his daughter. I stare out the window, through which I can see a smattering of clouds in an otherwise blue sky. I’m still waiting, I realize sadly, for Grady to return, bitter, angry, lost, desperate, and yet childishly hopeful in the dark of night when dreams of him haunt me.
“I will return,” Grady said that fateful day as he brushed tears from my cheeks with the pad of his thumb. I was only eighteen then, barely a woman, still wide-eyed with wonder at the world. In love. Oh, fool me, I’d been so in love.
Killian, who was suspiciously absent when the alphas left for the war, returned. Shortly after, our former chancellor mysteriously died, and Killian took his place. Raiding increased. Killian threatened to leave if he wasn’t given his dues, and my father, in a moment of weakness, relented, making Killian the commander of the guard in addition to his chancellor duties, citing that we needed stability within the castle. Soon after, Killian began his seduction, which turned into persuasion, which deteriorated into thinly veiled threats to abandon us and take half the remaining guards with him if I didn’t show him favor.
Guilt assaults me.
That my father isn’t a stronger man, lost still as he is to his grief.
That a young Alpha is the only thing between me and the more powerful Killian.
That the rumors about Killian having the cut-throats and raiders in his pocket are true.
That I am too young and naive and believe still that Grady will return and save us all.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Time is running out; I sense it as assuredly as I hear a ticking clock upon the mantle over the cold stone fireplace of my chamber.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
Every option I have left fills me with dread. The kindly herb mistress who helps me disguise what I am has cautioned me that I cannot take the herbs forever. And now I am trapped in a corner, caught in my own web of fool deceptions, and I’m at a loss for how to escape.
“Dede!” I turn as my door is flung open to admit Mia, my one dear friend through the hellish last two years. “They have returned, and Killian stopped them at the gate. Please, you need to come!”
“Who?” I ask, frowning as I allow Mia to drag me from the room.
“Grady!” she says. “The Blighten have retreated. Grady and those who left for the war are back!”
“Grady is back!”
I grunt, shaking Barnaby off after he slams me against a wall in his enthusiasm to waylay me. He is built like a strip of wind but a clumsy oaf who does not realize his strength.
“What the fuck?” I mutter, my brain turning to mush as I try to process this news. Relief washes over me because Grady is a badass fucker who will finally knock Killian off his perch. Unfortunately for me, Killian won’t be the only one displaced by the former commander’s return. Gritting my teeth, I temper a growl. I’ll not give Dede up. The bastard abandoned her and Langetta to the dogs. Although it aggrieved me at the time that I was considered too young to go to the war, with hindsight I’m glad because Dede was not alone with Killian. Now Grady rides back like a conquering hero after two fucking years? He can go fuck himself sideways, him and fucking Declan, who is doubtless at his side.
At least Dede knows I want her and not her title. I swear I would sell my soul to the devil for another moment buried inside her magic pussy that takes all of my cock, even if she is yet to be coaxed to take the knot... some betas can take one, it just requires a little time and training. I am patient, should have a fucking award for how patient I am. Now I wonder if I’ve been too fucking patient. I have been convinced on more than one occasion that her protest that I drive too deeply is accompanied by poorly disguised groans.
“You need to come,” Barnaby says, jolting me from a well-scripted fantasy where Dede finally takes me to the root. Grabbing hold of my arm, he hauls me out of the shadows and into the bustling courtyard. He stabs a finger in the direction of the battlements. “Dede has gone up there. You need to stop her before she gets hurt!”
Clarity crashes through the fog.
The locked gate, the men on sentry with arrows poised, Killian up on the battlements lording over his small power.
He impedes Grady’s entry.
If Dede is up there, she will assuredly place herself in the crossfire of a confrontation of epic proportions. “Call any loyal guards,” I say before taking off at a jog. Barnaby calls after me something about not getting myself killed.
I would ride into the jaws of hell for Dede, would challenge Killian, and even though I would probably fucking fail. I asked her to leave with me. There is nothing for her here, a dying king and a decaying castle, and the path before us fraught because I know I cannot best Killian.
Now Grady is back, and a different threat is before me, one I do not welcome.
But I’ll take Grady over Killian any day. One would be the end of Dede, the other is the end of me.
Langetta castle is a whimsical reminder of a bygone era, set upon a low stone bluff it overlooks the River Tyne. The main keep hosts six towers surrounded by a wall hosting a further dozen towers and the gate house. Moss and creepers have encroached upon the outer curtain wall in places, adding to its aging beauty.
Surrounding it are lush farmlands and villages under the care of seven lords to the east, the walled port town of Tweed Head is the major source of commerce with bountiful fishing and shipping routes across the Lumen Sea. Despite being a smaller kingdom, Langetta has weathered the ebbs and flows of power. Far enough from the border to rarely suffer Blighten attacks, and wealthy enough to afford its own small army to keep bandits and raiders away.
Most Hydorian Kings and Queens abandoned their old ancestral castles, building instead stately homes. But I fell in love with Langetta when I came here as a temporary replacement when the previous commander died.
Five years on and it was more than the castle that had captured my attention. Dede she was only eighteen, barely a woman when a messenger came from my brother, calling me away. I wanted to wed her, a man knows when a woman is the one, but it felt selfish on my part to claim a young lass while there was a strong possibility that I might leave her a widow.
And besides, I intended to return swiftly.
That didn’t work out to plan.
The gates are closed, I realize with a frown as we ride closer, although the drawbridge is down. Soldiers cluster around the battlements near the gatehouse, weapons at the ready.
“What the fuck?” I mutter. Myself and fifty former members of the castle guard pull to a stop outside, remaining mounted, waiting for whoever is in charge to come forward and tell us what ails them opening the fucking gate. A pair of riders took off for the castle when we crossed the bridge at Redland, and I assumed, wrongly, they were intending to herald our arrival. I was not expecting them to ride back and close the fucking gate like we are raiders intent upon mischief.
“It would seem we are not welcome.” Declan nudges his horse beside mine.
I’m confused. I expected... What? What the hell did I expect? It was supposed to be for a few weeks. Weeks turned into seasons and seasons into two years. My brother mentioned troubles consuming the rest of Hydornia with so many deployed to the war. But what fucking choice did I have? My brother’s estate is north of here, close to the border with the Blighten. Should his kingdom have fallen, the Blighten would have moved south unchecked until even the beautiful Langetta fell.
I could no more ignore my brother’s call than stand by while the Blighten attacked Langetta
“You’re going to need to lie,” Declan says.
I swivel on my horse to face him. Dark shaggy hair and beard, Declan is the herculean Alpha and one of the few men taller than me.
Grinning, he shrugs his big shoulders. “You’re not fucking welcome.” He thumbs toward the battlement where twitchy soldiers eyeball us. “My guess is your successor is comfortable and doesn’t want you around fucking that up. So you lie. Say you are traveling south, stopping by each estate to give them the news of the war before returning north to your brother’s home, and where the threat of Blighten lingers. They will be obliged to offer you hospitality. To do anything else would be to declare war upon your brother.”
I don’t like that his words make sense nor the unease churning in my gut.
What has fucking happened? I swallow past the lump in my throat, but it is not only worry that stokes me. No, it is also rage.
“I concede to your excellent advice,” I say. “Tell the men what I’m doing.”
We wait another long while before a new cluster of men appear above the gate.
Killian? Tall for an alpha with a thin face and scraggly beard. A former member of the guard who was suspiciously absent when the alphas left with me, and much enamored with his prowess as a swordsman. The man harbors skill from what I remember, but he was not command material and more interested in lifting the lasses’ skirts than applying rigor to his duties.
“Please tell me the king has not put that useless bastard in charge of the castle’s well-being,” Declan mutters beside me.
The sickness roiling within me tells me he has.
“Hail, Killian!” I call, plastering on a bright smile that is all teeth. Hopefully the small distance between us disguises the hostility in my eyes. “I bring news from Borne to relay to the king before I must move on. What ails the gates opening? Are they broken that you would keep a messenger waiting?”
I can see the bastard gritting his teeth even from here. The soldiers beside him grow ever more twitchy. A couple of them go so far as the aim arrows upon us.
“What madness is this? Open the gate at once!” The new voice is one familiar to me, one that has whispered in my ear on the eve of battles, and on rare quiet moments. One that has guided my hand in the brief respites from the fighting when I take my cock in hand to find relief.
“These are Borne men seeking an audience with my father,” she hisses, her voice carrying on the breeze. “It is not your place to decide on their passage, nor to bring war upon Langetta for breaking traditions old.”
Then I see it all. The way Killian looks at her, the way he fists her arm after barking orders for the gate to be opened.
Fisting her fucking arm.
Every muscle in my body coils with tension. My hand is on the hilt of my sword, my knees squeezing my horse as I ready to charge. The gates are not fucking open yet.
“Peace, brother,” Declan says, bringing his horse to bear, putting it between me and my quarry, shielding my foolish actions from our watchers. “Let us gain entry. Let us assess the situation. Let us not start a fucking war until we get the lay of the land.”
All he says is right and sensible, but as the great wooden gate lumbers up, I battle the potency of my rage.
Is she his? There is familiarity to his touch, possessiveness, fucking ownership.
“We have been gone for two years,” Declan’s steady gaze holds mine. “They could be wedded, and Dede have pushed out a couple of whelps by now.”
My nostrils flare. His attempts to cool my temper are a mile off the mark. I don’t care if she is his, I realize. Before I leave, I will kill him and claim her regardless.
Declan grimaces reading my thoughts upon my face. “Peace, brother,” he repeats.
Behind me, I sense the readiness of my men. All are battle hardened Alphas who would follow me without question. But I am not reckless, and I will keep myself in check.
I nod. Declan puffs out a breath before his lips tug up. “Hold that thought. Something tells me your quest for blood will come soon enough.”
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Claimed by Three is a fantasy romance with dark explicit themes and conflicted jealous / possessive heroes... times three!
A standalone novel set in the Coveted Prey universe.