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by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Lauryl Coedil is a Daughter of the Night, a warrior woman known to those who fear her as a Hell-Hag. A ruthless bounty hunter whose sword is even quicker than her sharp tongue, when she goes after a quarry, he is as good as caught. Hired to find the missing son of King Barren Aeolian, Laird of the Faolchunna, she'll let nothing stand in her way. Prince Glade Aeolian is in one hell of a sorry predicament. Married to a woman who despises him, he is locked in her dungeon and hidden from his family which is desperately trying to find him. When he is rescued from certain death at the hands of his dangerous spouse, he finds himself staring into the sultry eyes of a woman warrior whose hands he'd love to have all over him. Rating: Carnal. Contains graphic sexual content, adult language, violence.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: May 2008
63 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [324 KB]
Reading time: 214-300 min.
Undulating shadows danced around the perimeter of the chamber where only a single fat blood-red candle in an earthenware holder held the darkness at bay. It was icy cold there in the meeting place with rolling wisps of ground fog swirling around the thick pedestal leg of the large round table. As silent as the grave, as cloying as cemetery sod, the walls dripped and oozed and--if one looked closely--seemed to inhale and exhale, the fog its foul breath.
They came together in single file through a heavy oaken door blackened with age, each to his or her designated seat. To this room deep in the bowels of Cumhacht Keep where generations of the family Aeolian had gathered, clad in robes as scarlet red as the life fluid that flowed through their veins, the eight men and four women placed their hands upon the high scrolled backs of their chairs and awaited the coming of their master, King Barren Aeolian, Laird of the Faolchúnna.
One of the family Aeolian was missing from the assemblage and it was because of this the clan had gathered far below the ground, down amongst the dead, in the chamber that had last been visited forty years--to the day--earlier.
King Barren came through the door in his pristine white robe with its hooded cowl, doubled cuffs, front panel and hem rimmed in ancient symbols embroidered with the finest pure gold wire. In the faint light from the solitary candle, the gold shimmered brightly as the Laird pulled back his chair and sat, nodding to grant his children permission to take their seats.
From the oldest to the youngest around the table, from the King's right hand to his left, the offspring of Barren Aeolian and his Queen Adélie, took his or her place:
Prince Ridge, the Hair-Apparent.
Prince Slade--whose twin it was who was missing.
Princess Dell, the youngest.
At his the King's left hand, his Lady-Wife, Queen Adélie.
"Has there been any word from his Lady-wife?" the King inquired quietly for it was always wise to speak softly in the chamber so as not to disturb the spirits that lingered nearby.
"Had she word of him, Father, she would keep it to herself," Prince Ridge replied bitterly with a quirk of his lip. "Nay, there has been no word from Rolanda des Grieves."
"Nor from any of those we have sent in search of him?" King Barren pressed.
"Nay, Father," his eldest son answered. "No word at all."
The King--who had been sitting with his hands clasped in front of him on the tabletop, put the base of his palms to his eyes and shook his head. "How can this be? Surely someone knows where he is."
"Someone does, but they are either too afraid to come forward or else they are the ones holding him," Ridge stated.
"That is assuming he is a captive," Prince Slade, the second eldest pointed out. "We don't know that for a certainty, Ridge."
"Then where is he, Slade?" Ridge challenged. "Why have we not heard one word from him in all this time? What has it been now? Two months? Three?"
Slade shrugged. "I am not disagreeing that he may well be where he can not contact us, but I am not yet ready to accept he is being held against his will."
"Mayhap he is dead," Princess Meadow injected and every eye turned to her in horror. She held up a hand to stave off the angry accusations that were about to be hurled at her fair head. "It is only a suggestion."
"You've never held even a moment's love for him, Meadow," Princess Moor snapped. "It would suit you well if our brother was no more!"
"I may not care overly much for him, Moorling," Meadow returned with a roll of her eyes, "but I do not wish the poor fool dead."
"Overly much?" Moor repeated--eyes narrowed and lovely face stony. "You hate him for killing that vulture Kheper who would have eventually bashed in your head if...!"
"Enough!" the King hissed at his daughters. He turned a baleful eye to Moor. "There will be no speaking ill of the dead in this hallowed place."
Moor could not hold her father's angry glower and lowered her gaze. "My apologies, Father. May Prince Kheper's soul find eternal peace with the Gatherer."
A rude snort came from Meadow for everyone there knew the sentiment expressed by Moor was not sincere.
Prince Knoll reached across the table toward his brother, Slade. "You are his twin. I can not understand why you have had no impressions regarding his whereabouts."
Slade glanced at his father before answering. "You are closer to Glade than am I, little brother. Why have you had no impressions?"
"But it is known that twins.... "Knoll began, but the King held up his hand for silence.
"Wherever he is, it is not where he can send his thoughts to us else Slade would have intercepted them," King Barren declared. "I fear your brother is in some dark hellhole from which it is impossible for him to escape."
"I fear he's not being treated well," Princess Dell said in a small voice and everyone looked at the thirteen year-old whose lovely face was streaked with tears.
"You can not think that way, Delly," Prince Glen said, threading his fingers through his little sister's. "We must think positive thoughts."
"I have a suggestion," Prince Vale said, garnering attention. He sat with his hands clasped in his lap, his pale blue eyes locked on the flickering candle. As his words were met with silence, he looked up, swept his gaze around the table. "I have heard tell of a warrior woman who is an excellent tracker. She has come highly recommended to me from those in my district whom I have sent out to search for Glade."
"Who is this woman?" King Barren asked. "From where does she hail?"
Vale sat forward, placing his arms on the table. "Her name is Lauryl Coedil." He looked down at his clasped hands. "She is from Bandar."
"A Hell Hag?" Prince Dene gasped. "You can't be serious!"
"They preferred to be called Daughters of the Night," Princess Meadow corrected her younger brother.
"I don't care what they prefer, Meadow!" Dene snarled. "There is no way above the Abyss we should be trucking with those witches from Bandar!"
"I second that," Prince Heath spoke up. He was normally the quiet one, but when his turquoise eyes began to flash as they were doing at that moment, those around him held their breaths. "What were you thinking even considering such a thing, Vale?"
"She is good at what she does," Vale defended his decision. "She found Emperor Shen Ring's son when the child was kidnapped by Imenet slave traders last year." He looked around the table. "And we know how many trackers had been sent to look for the boy, how long it took to find him."
"That was a Hell Hag who rescued him?" Princess Moor asked. "Why is it not common knowledge then?"
"Because I am told the warrioress prefers anonymity," Vale replied. "She doesn't want the spotlight shone on her for she feels it weakens her chance of blending in and finding her target. The more people who recognize her, the less likely it is for her to go about her job unobserved. I understand she is a master at disguise and keeps out of sight when not working."
"She is right in doing that," their father agreed. "A high profile does not lend itself to working in the shadows."
"But a Hell Hag, Father!" Heath protested.
"What does it matter what she is if she can find Glade?" Prince Breck asked, breaking his silence. "She could be a bloody Amazeen for all I care so long as she brings him home to us."
"An Amazeen wouldn't likely bring Glade home to us, Breck," Prince Ridge said dryly. "She would be more apt to install his ass in one of her breeding farms."
"Which may very well be where he's at anyway," Princess Meadow quipped.
"Or wishes he was," Prince Knoll commented.
Despite the gravity of the situation, laughter ringed the table.
"My gut tells me Rolanda knows where he is or had him secreted away for some vile purpose of her own," Prince Dene said. "I wouldn't put anything past that bitch."
"But why?" Princess Dell asked. "I know they have no love for one another, but why would Rolanda do something like that?"
"There is only one reason I know of," Prince Glen said softly. "She wants him to exchange blood with her and he has refused."
"Which he will always do," Prince Slade stated.
"If that's what she wants, why couldn't she just take his blood?" the youngest princess asked, looking about the table.
"Because in order for the Power to be transferred in the exchange, it must be of his own freewill that he undertakes it and he has to take hers first before he can give her his own," her father explained. "Glade knows it would be a grave mistake to allow Rolanda to achieve the Power of the Faolchúnna."
"She would surely abuse such power," Princess Meadow said.
"I rue the day I allowed your mother to talk me into arranging the alliance between Rolanda and our own," the King mumbled. He glanced at his Lady-wife who was staring down at the table. "No offense, milady."
"I am sure she did not realize her cousin's daughter was a greedy, grasping termagant, Father," Prince Ridge reasoned. "After all, it had been many years since Mother had seen Cousin Teresa."
"Nevertheless, Glade tried to talk me out of it and I would not listen," King Barren said. "It is my fault he has been saddled with that foul-mouthed shrew."
The Queen winced though she made no comment.
"We could go round and round about that and nothing would change, Father. And we are all in accord that it would not be in our best interest--or that of the world for that matter--that Rolanda achieve power from the Faolchúnna," Prince Slade said. "If she is responsible for Glade's disappearance, then we must step up our efforts to get him back. As distasteful as it is, perhaps we should allow Vale to contact the Bandar woman and hire her to find Glade."
"I agree," Prince Knoll.
"I disagree," both Prince Heath and Prince Dene said in unison.
Every eye turned to the Queen.
"Milady?" the King questioned. "What say you?"
For a long moment the Queen did not speak. All the while she continued to look down at the table. When at last she raised her head, there were tears in her eyes. She cleared her throat.
"My instincts tell me my son is alive though in grave peril," Queen Adélie said softly. "If there is someone, anyone--no matter who or what he or she is--who can help us find him, I say let it be so."
"Perhaps we should have a vote, then?" Prince Ridge suggested and his mother nodded slowly.
"All right," the King agreed. "Those in favor of hiring the Hell Hag, raise your hand.
With the exception of Heath and Dene, everyone except the King raised his or her hand, refraining from a vote unless his was needed to break a tie. "Then it is decided," he said, lifting his own hand. "Vale, contact the Bandar witch. Let her know time is of the essence."
"I'll go with you," Prince Knoll said.
"As will I," Prince Breck stated.
"I am told she won't come cheap," Prince Vale told everyone.
"Pay whatever she asks," the King declared.