Paranormal Erotic Romance/75,000 Words
Verdantia (Book 2)
Mentally scarred from her years as prisoner to the off-world Haarb, Lady Sophillia Glorianna DeLorion, found healing, purpose and familial love with Verdantia’s desert-dwelling Oshtesh.
Then her beloved brother asks Sophi to leave her desert sanctuary, to exercise her unique genetic birthright and join with a hardened warrior in sexual rites that would return prosperity and comfort to the people of the war-ravaged planet. She resolves to try, but Sophi doubts she can be a fit sexual partner for any man—even one whose passionate green eyes make her remember what it is to desire.
Commander of the Queen’s Royal Guard, Eric DeStroia had grown up watching the corrosive, soul-killing effects of arranged, aristocratic marriage. He would rather remain alone than be joined to a woman he didn’t love—or who didn’t love him.
In post-war Verdantia, any woman is a rarity. An aristocratic woman bearing a unique genetic marker complementing his is beyond price. So, when Segundo DeLorion of the Second Tetriarch suggests their joining, Eric reconsiders, consoling himself with visions of sheltering a wounded dove under his mighty arm. Instead, He discovers a fierce falcon that refuses to stoop to his lure.
In the aftermath of their resounding defeat, the Haarb leader, Krakoll, plotted a return to Verdantia to exact retribution. His yearsof painstaking plans bore fruit. The time is ripe for return and his first objective is the recapture of Lady Sophillia Glorianna DeLorion. She had been unreachable until she went to the Oshtesh. Now, only Eric DeStroia stands in his way.
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At dusk the next day, Sophi’s flight filtered into Sh’r Un Kree from the surrounding hillsides.
As they gathered in the designated courtyard, she made a small adjustment to Brio’s bridle.
“Are these the legendary wasteland horses we lowlanders hear stories about?” Commander DeStroia’s deep voice caught her attention. I didn’t hear his approach. Taught stealth by my brother, no doubt.
“Yes.” She followed his gaze as he examined her flight’s small, hardy mounts and the equally small, hardy women astride them. “Petrina—she has a fiery temper to match her red hair, but she is my right hand. The brunette beside her is Adonia, our medica. Her knowledge of herbs is indispensable and this is Rhea, our best tracker. Layna, Eudora and Maeve complete our flight. Their precision in hitting their targets is uncanny. We don’t look like much, but we will not burden you, Commander. We are quite self-sufficient.”
“I never imagined otherwise, Lady DeLorion.”
She stiffened. “I do not use my courtesy title. I am no longer that person. I prefer ‘Flight Leader’.”
His eyes examined her but he nodded agreeably. “Flight Leader. We will leave upon the half-hour. Take position beside me at the front. Your flight can muster behind you.”
“No. It is not our way. We will ride the ridges and shadowed places in twos and threes. We will be there but you will not see us.”
His eyes narrowed. “I don’t like it. I cannot protect you if I cannot see you.”
“I do not ask your permission, Commander. I am in far less danger with my flight than with you who lack experience in the desert wilds. I knew you were coming hours before you arrived. Sound carries great distances in the wastelands—and the dust! Your numbers hang a sign in the desert air, ‘attention—riders approach’.”
She swirled her robes away from her legs and vaulted onto her gelding. A whistled birdcall caught her archers’ attention. “We flank Commander DeStroia. Ride out.”
Sophi felt the Commander’s eyes on her as she and her flight faded into the desert night.
* * *
When Sophi and her women had faded from sight, Eric strode into the stable yard where his four rides of the Queen’s Royal Guard assembled, preparing for the order to mount. Frustration chewed on his temper. I was prepared for a shy, withdrawn woman, not this—Valkyrie. It is difficult to “escort” a woman when you don’t know where she is, when she doesn’t want or need an escort in the first place.
“Queen’s Guard! Prepare to mount! Mount!” he barked, swinging up onto his horse. “Rides! By twos. Form up!” Cavalrymen paired off and formed orderly lines, broken every eight riders by a colorful pennant bearing the insignia of their unit.
“Queen’s Guard! At the walk! March!” Eric ordered.
As his horse’s long stride swung through the arches of the village wall, his second-in-command rode up to him.
“Do we leave without Lady DeLorion?”
“No.” Eric fumed in silence.
The man cleared his throat nervously. “Where is Lady DeLorion?”
“Good question, Captain Biron. If you see her, let me know.”