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by Marie Treanor
Description: Sometimes you can make your dreams a reality? Stuck in an uninteresting job and settled in a safe but vaguely unsatisfying relationship, the only bright spot in Esther's life is her writing. She's fascinated by colorful life of her ancestor Margaret Marsden, a nineteenth-century Gothic romance novelist. A woman who mysteriously disappeared without a trace. A weekend away turns into a hunt for clues when Esther stumbles across Margaret's "lost" novel, The Prince of Costanzo. Though desperate to read it, every time Esther opens the book, she falls asleep--and headlong into amazingly vivid dreams about Costanzo. But in this dream world where war, magic and poisoning are commonplace, nothing is as it seems. Least of all the supposed villain of the novel, the enigmatic sorcerer Prince Drago. She finds herself kidnapped to his castle and subjected to a seductive interrogation that curls her toes. As their feelings for each other grow more powerful, she begins to wonder?is he the real villain, or a hero who only wants to save his kingdom? All she knows is that now that she's had a taste of Costanzo--and Drago--her real life troubles seem insignificant. Until they come crashing around her, threatening to cut her off from the man she loves. Forever. Product Warnings As well as explicit and delicious sex, this book contains the secret of ultimate escapism which could be highly dangerous in the wrong hands. The reader experiments at her/his own risk.
eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2008
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [275 KB]
Reading time: 166-233 min.
Esther closed her mouth with a snap. Somehow she had become a pawn between the cousins, which was not a comfortable feeling. Neither was his penetrating gaze, like a cat watching a mouse.
She swallowed. "What did you say?"
"I said I'd think about it and let him know." He reached for the stem of his goblet, playing with it but not lifting it. Unexpectedly, he smiled at her, and her heart lurched.
She said, "I won't be used as a pawn in your games."
"What makes you think you have any choice?" His smile faded, became sardonic. "The fact you can disappear any time you like?"
"It helps." Although any time I like would help more...
Between them, forgotten, Arturo stirred. "Any orders?" he asked casually.
"No." The prince glanced at him. It struck Esther at last that the captain was not nearly so drunk as she had imagined. "But feel free to amuse the lady Matilda. Tonight, I have other business on my mind."
As Arturo gave a sardonic nod and made a place for himself on Matilda's other side, Drago's gaze came back to Esther. She returned it with barely understood indignation.
"Business?" she repeated, curling her lip.
His dark eyes lit with wicked acknowledgment. The flames began to leap in them again. "Would you rather I'd said 'entertainment'? Or 'desires'?"
She flushed. "No."
"Really? Well if you want the truth I have all three on my mind as I look at you."
Anxiety rose and mixed with excitement and something that came dangerously close to triumph. "Is that meant to flatter me?"
"No. But it's meant to soften you enough that you admit to a little...reciprocation."
Heat swept through her body. It felt like a warning as much as an encouragement. With just a hint of desperation, she said, "Cosimo is right--you are insane."
"That may be so...but you can't deny that you want me nonetheless." He leaned forward on the table, his silk-clad arm brushing hers. She could feel his body heat through the thin fabric. She didn't know whether to tear her gaze free of the hypnotic eyes burning into hers or just let herself drown in them.
"In boredom, you can want anything..." Like Kevin? The words, tinged with shame, flashed at the back of her mind and were discarded as unimportant in face of Prince Drago's devastating smile.
"But you aren't bored here, are you, strange lady? All this..." He waved his hand around the room. "All this fascinates you. Arturo didn't bore you either. I watched you as I came in. You're feeling things you're not used to--fear, confusion, outrage, sexual desire. But at least you know you're alive, and you like that. You like it very much."
Another wave of heat swept through her. She wanted to tell him to shut up because he was an asshole. She was terrified someone would interrupt him and he would stop, and the sweet tension building between her legs would fade...
It's his voice, just his voice...and the mind control! Don't forget the mind-control...
His gaze moved to her parted lips. Hastily, she closed them, and he smiled, letting his eyes drop further to the swell of her breasts above the linen gown she had first put on this morning. If she'd worn the other gown, the one he'd sent for the evening, much more of her flesh would have been on show, her breasts pushed together and upward. That would have given him something to look at...
A faint smile lurked around his sensual mouth. His gaze lifted once more to hers. "For example, I bet you're wishing now you'd worn that other gown, so that you could better have displayed your breasts to me."
"You're pathetic," she said shakily. How had he reduced her to this so quickly? He wasn't even touching her save for the casual pressure of his arm, and yet her nipples pushed fiercely at the fabric of her bodice, as if reaching out for his attention. The moisture of desperate arousal soaked between her legs--and since she was wearing no panties it had nowhere to go but to trickle down her inner thighs into the dress.
"Look," he said, flashing his gaze down the table. Following instinctively, Esther saw that while her attention had been so distracted by Arturo and then Drago himself, things had grown much more relaxed. Not to say lax. Wine flowed faster among the remains of the magnificent feast. The noble ladies she had seen earlier had mostly departed and now women of a different character sat in several male laps. One woman had her face buried in her man's neck. Some couples were kissing with abandon. One man, seated beside his woman, bent his head and began to kiss her breasts. His hand came up to cup the covered part and the woman's eyes closed in ecstasy.
Burning, Esther dragged her eyes away, which was a mistake because she immediately encountered Drago's gaze instead.
"I would do that to you," he said. "Now."
A gasp escaped her, of want, of fear that he would, or that he wouldn't, she no longer knew.
"And what's more I think you'd like it. I think you wouldn't care if anyone watched--God's teeth, you might even like that, too. Certainly, you'd invite me closer, draw your gown just a little farther down for me, till your aureoles begin to peep out over the top and my tongue can..."
"Shut up!" she gasped. Furious at the effect of his words on her hot, traitorous body, she scrabbled frantically for defense, and found it in attack. "Do you imagine this will make me reveal the secrets of my sorcery?"
"If it doesn't, it will be such fun trying that I won't care."
She swallowed. She could imagine his hands on her body, his mouth at her breast, tugging sensuously at her nipple. It would feel so wicked, so good...
Furiously, she blinked the vision away. She had to make him stop this. "And if I agree to tell you everything now, will you leave me alone?"
He smiled and reached for his cup. Raising it to his lips he shook his head. "No," he said softly, and drank before lowering the cup. "Face it, Esther. You're captive, and you're mine. You will tell me everything. And I will have you."
If she hadn't been sitting, her legs would have given way.
"Why?" she demanded. "Punishment? Because I doubted your motive for fighting Alessandro de Verini?"
"Maybe," he confessed. "But you won't feel punished."
"I'll feel sick. Why pick on me when you have a court full of whores dying to spread their legs for you? Why pick on the one woman who doesn't want to sleep with you?"
"Because I want her more than them. And because, despite protestations, I'm fairly certain she wants me more than they do. I--er--doubt their motives. Yours is pure lust, and all the more exciting because you're fighting it."
She tried to curl her trembling lips. "Do you imagine you're reading my mind?"
"I've become good at it." He leaned closer, whispered, "Besides, I can smell your arousal."
His finger brushed lightly across the swell of her breast, burning the naked skin, making her gasp. "Why are you torturing me?"
He smiled, leaning over her so that she had to bend her head backward to hold his burning gaze. "Because I like it..." The flames seemed to have consumed the darkness of his eyes now. He looked like a devil. His mouth hovered over hers, so close she could almost taste the wine on his breath as it stirred her lips. "Because I can."