Book Two in the Kegin History! Twenty-one years ago, Jole and Susan had a set of twins. A year into maturity, the race is on. Keen nobles will go to almost any lengths to be the chosen mates of the re-bred royals. All either of them wants is to find a mate who will see him/her as a person and not a re-bred. Finding that is only half the fun.
Pushed by his family to form an advantageous re-bred marriage, Tirin has decided that the last thing he wants is a pampered princess in his life...until another suitor goes too far in pursuit of Princess Jenneane. Dragged into the insanity and intensity of her world, Tirin finds he wants nothing more than to claim his MAIDEN BRIDE, and Jenneane is that bride.
Berel has been raised as servant sister to the royal children, but her feelings for Joseph are anything but sisterly. She's been warned off by the nobles and has long since given up hope of having Joseph for her own. Can he change her mind by convincing her to a TRIAL MOON?
CONTENT ADVISORY: This is a re-release title.
Tirin turned, trying to fix the direction of the woman's voice.
"I said 'take your hands off of me'," she ordered.
"Why did you invite me to come here with you if you didn't want me?" the man asked in amusement.
"I didn't ask you, Byen. You're drunk. Now unhand me."
Tirin started toward the voices, fisting his hand in fury as the woman let out a squeak of protest. Byen was known as a rake, but even he didn't typically stoop to forcing his attentions on women.
"Ow," Byen complained. "That was uncalled for."
Tirin swerved right around a line of hedges. They were close.
"I gave you fair warning," the woman barked. "Now release me, before I do worse."
"Be still and talk to me," he growled. "Ow! That's it."
Her cry of alarm was muffled. As Tirin rounded the statue of Fion, he saw the reason why.
Byen held her tight to his body with an arm up the middle of her back, one of her arms immobilized against his body and the other trapped at above the elbow in his grip. He had her bent back over the plane of the restraining arm, attempting to force his kiss on her. The woman's neck was extended past any illusion of comfort, Byen's hand fisted in her hair, holding her still for his assault.
She beat at him, but her position left the woman little room for attack. Her fingernails rasped against the collar of Byen's jacket, seeking to scratch sense into him.
Byen pressed her to the trunk of an Eir tree, releasing her hair once he'd forced her body to his to do the job. The rogue stroked her breast with his free hand, his fingers tracing the silin bodice to the upper edge, then curling inside while she tried to twist away from him.
Tirin grabbed Byen by the back of his hair and yanked him off the struggling woman. He cringed at the sound of ripping silin and her soft cry of alarm.
She swung out of his grip on the pivot point of Byen's hand on her arm, a dizzying movement, even to someone watching it. She punched Byen hard across the cheek with a sound halfway between a grunt and a cry of frustration, then grasped at the torn shoulder of her dress. Her hair tumbled down over her shoulders from the hair clip Byen had all but ripped from her tresses.
Byen released her and turned toward Tirin, reaching for his dagger. Tirin moved faster. His punch carried much more force than the woman's had. Byen collapsed to the ground, and Tirin let him fall.
He reached for the woman automatically, trying to gauge her injuries with a muttered prayer that any she'd suffered were minor. The psychological effects of the attack would be damaging enough. She recoiled, slipping away from his touch and pulling her fist back to strike again, trembling hard.
Tirin put his hands up in a calming gesture. "I won't hurt you. You have my vow as an officer on that. Are you hurt?"
She shook her head. "Thank you," she managed in a shaky voice, motioning to Byen. "Thank you for that, Captain Tirin."
She pulled at the clip in her hair, her hand quaking so hard she nearly dropped it. Forsaking appearances, the woman released the dress and let it dip, uncovering the upper swell of her breast as she swept her hair back and used the clip to hold it off her face.
He stilled, trying to identify her in the pale moonlight that escaped the clouds. The jeweled choker caught his eyes first. Who had he seen in such a choker? Tirin cupped her chin up to catch the moonlight on her face. She gasped. Wide eyes stared up at him, pale eyes that were most probably green.
Tirin pulled his hand back as if she burned him, dropping his gaze respectfully. Princess Jenneane wasn't his to touch. "Forgive me, Princess. If you'll come with me, I'll arrange for Byen--"
"No," she ordered quickly. "Thank you, but I'll be going now."
"Is drunk," she interrupted him.
"It's no excuse." Damn it! I'm looking at her face again. Oh well, I am talking to her.
"It's no reason to kill him, either." She turned away and headed for a half-hidden door in the palace wall.
Tirin stalked after her. "He attacked you," he thundered.
Jenneane motioned to him for silence. "Are you insane?" she whispered. "Do you have any concept what will happen if I am found like this?"
He dropped his voice to a growl that matched his level of frustration. "Yes. Your father will kill Byen, as he deserves."
"And place me under heavy guard. Any man who dares look at me will suffer for Byen's stupidity."
A streak of pure fury lit in Tirin's mind. "Your flirting would suffer a catastrophic setback," he accused.
Her mouth moved as if to protest, but only a gasping breath emerged. Jenneane stiffened her spine. "I have a duty to fulfill. I'm sure you're well aware of it, considering your bid for my attention." She turned away and slipped through the door and down a flight of stairs into a musty smelling room, Tirin at her heels.
"A duty?" he asked in disbelief.
"Yes. A duty. What? You think there's a love match in store for me?" She laughed harshly, then uttered something in her mother's language. "The best I can hope for is to marry a man I won't despise in a decade."
"What was that?"
Jenneane looked at him in confusion.
"What you said in English?"
"I called you a rather rude Earth name. It wasn't very complimentary, and I do owe you a debt of thanks, so I did it in English to avoid offending you."
Tirin forced his jaw to unlock. "Back to this duty."
She sighed and headed across the room, finding her way in the shaft of moonlight that came through the pane of glass in the heavy door. "Yes, Captain?"
"There are better ways to fulfill it than making yourself..."
"Say it. You've made yourself clear. You think I enjoy the attention."
"Don't you?" The rumors about the palace were that Princess Jenneane enjoyed the attention quite a bit...with most any lord who wanted to play with the pretty princess. Tirin scowled. When had he started believing palace rumors?
"No. I don't. Not that you would believe me, but it's true."
"Then why do you allow it?"
"It's that or watch a whole string of overzealous, stupid, desperate men cut down trying to get close to me. So, I allow them to get close until I can't stand it anymore. Then I take my leave."
Tirin winced. Her logic made a certain amount of sense. "Did you ever find a man you wanted to let close?"
She hesitated. "Once."
Only once? Perhaps the rumors were wrong. She certainly sounded sincere. "What happened?"
"He--wasn't interested, I suppose."
"What? Why?" And, who could be such a monumental fool?
"I'm still trying to figure that out."
A rustle of fabric caught his attention. "What are you doing?" Tirin could see the vague outlines of Jenneane's body in the near-darkness but not enough to tell what she was up to.
"Removing this torn gown."
Tirin hardened. He gripped her upper arms, ignoring the nagging voice in his mind telling him that he shouldn't touch her. If Tirin didn't stop her, he'd do something stupid. "Don't," he growled.
* * * *
Jenneane closed her eyes, feeling the tense muscles of Tirin's chest through the two layers of silin as if she were nude. She licked her lip and fought to control her breathing. "You shouldn't," she whispered. "You shouldn't touch me."
You really shouldn't. Fion! He feels so good. She resisted the urge to press her back further into him.
"Don't take that dress off," he ordered.
"Why?" Her voice squeaked a bit. Jenneane shook herself mentally. Tirin was just a man. Men threw themselves at her on a regular basis.
Tirin pulled her back into his body. Jenneane swallowed a moan of pleasure as she felt his erect cock press to the small of her back.
"You're no innocent, Princess. I'm sure you recognize a fiercely aroused male. I have more self-control than Byen does, but even I can't be pushed that far. The dress stays."
His words tumbled in her mind. Tirin wanted her. He was at the edges of control with her. Her stomach quivered in a strange awareness at the realization. Jenneane wanted him to lose control. The idea of Tirin out of control was strangely arousing.
A niggling of unease sent waves through the already choppy waters of her mind. "No innocent?" she croaked. "Recognize a-- What are you accusing me of, Captain?"
His breath was hot on her shoulder, sending tendrils of that heat snaking through her body. He was close enough to kiss.
"I've seen them in the palace corridors today," he spat.
"The schaen. I know they're not your mother's, and your sisters are too young to have a schaen group yet, as memory serves."
Jenneane elbowed him in the ribs, pushing Tirin away from her as he grunted, shivering as his hands left her body. The realization that she felt loss made her angrier still. "They happen to be Gibril's schaen. I don't believe in the practice, Captain. Don't ever compare me to my cousin."
"I--I apologize," he stammered.
"As well you should. Go away, Captain. You are dismissed. I don't need your protection or your help in finding my rooms."
"It is my duty to protect you."
So, I'm a duty? That thought hurt. Couldn't he want to protect her?
Jenneane moved to the foot of the ladder and went back to work on her dress without answering. Captain Tirin's libido be damned! She couldn't climb in the ball gown.
"Please don't do this," he begged.
"I'm not nude, Captain. I'm still wearing my costume beneath the dress."
He groaned as if he were in pain. "I'm not sure that is much of an improvement."