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For one hundred years, Seri’s people have lived under the thumb of the Blood, the cruel and mysterious rulers of Athon. Seri wants nothing more than to put food on the table and marry the hotheaded but handsome Rilen come spring. But when a noblewoman asks Seri to be her handmaiden, Rilen insists she move to the enemy’s castle . . . and spy on the newly arrived prince.
Prince Graeme has grown weary of his family’s curse. The Blood are powerful and immortal, but doomed to live in the shadows, flitting from lover to lover, always in search of the mythic Eterna—the one woman who will sate their hunger. Now his father has sent him to the outskirts of the empire to stamp out a rebellious Vidari faction. But when a wild and alluring Vidari girl shows up at court, he finds himself torn between following his father’s orders and following his heart . . .
A war is brewing between Athonite and Vidari, between Blood and man. As uprisings sweep through the land, Seri and Graeme find themselves at the center of a storm with only one choice: betray each other, or betray their people.
“You work too hard.” Rilen took her hand in his own and turned it over, pressing a kiss onto her callused palm. “When you become my wife, that will change.”
“Does your family not eat?” She smiled and snatched her arm back for the second time that day. “And why is it everyone is fascinated with the state of my hands?”
A possessive look swept over Rilen’s face and he took a step closer to Seri. “Who else has been touching you?”
Uneasy, Seri moved closer to the brazier. “No one important. A visiting noblewoman made me a proposition, that’s all.”
His eyes narrowed. “What sort of proposition?”
She finished her treat and tucked the cheesecloth into her pocket. “Nothing important. There’s a ceremony in a few days, and she wanted a little Vidari lapdog at her side to draw attention.” Seri was unable to keep the disgust out of her voice. “Offered me three dru for the sevenday, too.”
“A sevenday?” Rilen glanced over at Timmar. “And you’d live in the castle?”
“I assume.” Seri eyed him uneasily, moving toward her mule as a subtle hint that they should leave. She’d thought Rilen would have been furious at the thought of her debasing herself for a few coins. Instead, he was stroking his chin, regarding her in the same speculative fashion that Lady Mila had.
“Think, Seri,” he began. “If you’re inside the inner walls of the palace, serving a noblewoman, you’ll have access to everything that goes on inside. Everything that we can only wonder about.” His voice grew excited, and Timmar nodded eagerly.
“I would be a plaything for one of their spoiled ladies. A mockery of our people dressed up for their enjoyment.”
He threw up his arms. “Let them laugh! You can find out who the prince marries and what he intends to do here. We can use this knowledge.” He lowered his voice and leaned in. “You could spy for us. For the rebellion. Think of the things we could learn.”
“But my father and my sister,” she protested, weakening in the sight of his excitement. Humiliation or no, it would be three dru . . . and she cared more about the money than about being a hero.
Rilen shook his head at her. “I’ll visit them every day and make sure that they’re well. It’s only for a sevenday, and think of how you’ll help our cause. When we discover the Athonites’ intentions, we can find out the best time to strike! Soon we will bring the castle down and the land will belong to the Vidari once more.”
“Rilen, I don’t know.” The thought of spending a week inside the enormous stone walls of the palace, alone and friendless and an object of scorn, terrified her. What if more of the soldiers came upon her? Would they stop at mocking her? Or would they take it one step further? But then she thought of the Athonite healer refusing to save her father, just because he was Vidari. Of the new taxes Grimald told her about, and of how she would have to work her fingers to the bone to keep her farm afloat.
Rilen clasped her cheeks and forced Seri to look into his eyes. “I love you, Seri. Won’t you do it for me? For us? So our children won’t have to grow up under Athonite rule?”
He leaned in and kissed her fiercely, and just like that, it was decided.
Jill Myles has been an incurable romantic since childhood. She reads all the 'naughty parts' of books first, looks for a dirty joke in just about everything, and thinks to this day that the Little House on the Prairie books should have been steamier.
After devouring hundreds of paperback romances, mythology books, and archaeological tomes, she decided to write a few books of her own - stories with a wild adventure, sharp banter, and lots of super-sexy situations. She prefers her heroes alpha and half-dressed, her heroines witty, and she loves nothing more than watching them overcome adversity to fall into bed together.