Megan Starke has given up believing in knights in shining armor. With an unrewarding job and a failed marriage, no one would confuse her life with a fairy tale. No one is coming to save the day or carry her off to a romantic fantasy. So when she wakes up in a magical world and discovers she is to be the grand prize in a fierce and bloody tournament, she isn’t sure if she’s having a sexy dream or a horrible nightmare.
Two kings without a kingdom
Beckett and Cian were raised to be the saviors of their people. Prepared all their lives to lead the Seelie Fae, prophecy proclaimed they would find a bondmate whose love would complete them and unleash their magical powers. But the thrust of a traitor’s blade stole that future and now it threatens to take their lives. Struggling in exile, their glorious destiny has become a curse. Unless they can find the perfect woman to save them, they will descend into madness and ruin. When all hope seems lost, Beck sees Meg and knows she’s the key to their salvation.
An epic battle begins
In a world filled with dethroned kings, upwardly mobile vampires, and dangerous, feline-loving hags, Meg will need all her strength to survive. Finding herself caught between Beck and Cian, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to claim her happily ever after.
Release date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment LLC
Print pages: 265
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Once upon a time, in a land closer than you would think…
She was having the weirdest dream. Megan Starke stared at the scene around her. She called it a scene in her head because it wasn’t real. She was in some sort of luxurious tent. There was lush carpet on the floor, but on the outer edges of the space she could see grass and patches of loamy earth. The tent was lit by odd lanterns. Odd because there didn’t seem to be a flame. The light was strong, but it was almost like it was moving inside the opaque glass.
Like fireflies flickering.
“Are you okay?”
She glanced up from the cage she found herself in. Cage. Yep, she was in a cage. When she thought about it, the cage totally made sense. The gorgeous, slender blonde chick in the cage across from her did not.
“I get the cage,” she explained to the blonde, who also happened to be naked, but then everyone in the cages were naked, including herself. “I even get the nudity. I’ve got a meeting with my regional manager next week and I’m not ready for it. Nudity is a sure sign of anxiety. The cage is because I hate my job and my life and I can’t seem to find a way out. Hence the luxury of the cage, though I think my subconscious is wrong about that. I mean my paycheck is good enough to keep a roof over my head, but nothing like this.”
The bed she’d “woken” on was the most comfortable she’d ever been on. She found her naked body covered with soft silken sheets. She’d been brought delicious foods. It was only when she’d asked for coffee and the small serving lady had asked her what coffee was that she’d realized she was dreaming.
And it might be a nightmare.
The blonde’s head turned as though seeing her from a different angle might help her understand. “You speak too fast. I understand some of your plane’s words, but not all. I am fresh from the old plane.”
Yeah, a gorgeous blonde who didn’t speak her language and flew on old planes. She didn’t know how to interpret that one.
A withered hand reached out to her and when that hand touched her arm, the world had gone cold.
What a find you are, my dear. I think I know just where to take you.
She shook her head, forcing the vision back. The last thing she wanted was for this weird dream to take a turn. It was natural that she was anxious. In a few days she would take a step that could change her life forever.
“I’m going to a munch,” she said to the only woman in the tent who seemed interested in her. “That’s a safe way to meet people in the lifestyle. I’m going to see if this is for me, and no anxiety dream is going to make me change my mind. Ah, that’s why you’re here. You’re the inner symbol of my insecurity. I’m fairly certain I’ll be the worst-looking potential sub at that munch. Yeah, that’s what this is about.”
The woman merely shook her head and turned to the equally stunning woman in the cage next to hers. They began a conversation in a language she didn’t understand, and Meg sat back.
She would forget all of this when she woke up in her own bed. It would be a blur in the early morning light, an echo of some dream life she’d had. She should really put a notebook beside her bed so she could write down these crazy dreams she sometimes had.
Maybe one day she could turn them into a story.
“Miss Meg, I need you to come with me. I know our ways seem strange to you, but one day you’ll see what a great honor all of this is.” The small woman who’d greeted her with pastries and hadn’t known what coffee was stood at the door of her cage. She was dressed like she was participating in a Renaissance fair. And she was seriously tiny.
Meg stood up, pulling the sheet around her. Just because it was a dream didn’t mean she shouldn’t be modest. “I’m sure being put in a cage is a great honor.”
Cara—she’d called herself Cara—held a circle of keys in her small hand. “You’ll be saving a life and maybe a whole kingdom if you are what we think you are. Please come with me. Miss, if you try to run, you should understand that there is nowhere to go.”
She said every word carefully, as though she had to think about each one.
“Well, naturally there’s nowhere to go. I think that’s what this whole dream thing is about.” She moved to the door of the cage as Cara opened it.
She didn’t even think about running because all that would do was morph the dream into something terrible. All her anxieties would chase after her.
Wasn’t this what she was supposed to do? When she realized she was dreaming, she should take control and then she would be in charge.
She stepped out, ready to tell Cara that she wanted coffee and a TV brought to her room because she was going to clear off her DVR in this dream.
Instead, two large men stepped from the shadows, and before she could pull away, each had a wrist in his grasp. Men? She wasn’t sure they were men at all. They were humanoid, but their skin wasn’t a color that came from human DNA.
Fear snaked along her spine as they dragged her hands up over her head and the sheet dropped away. Cold metal pressed against her palms and suddenly she was tethered to something above her head.
This was the part where the dream went bad.
She cursed her freaking subconscious for punishing her even while she slept.
A bright light swept through the tent, a tidal wave to her senses. Someone was coming. She couldn’t see them, but she thought Cara and the others were moving away from her.
Were they running? Leaving her to whatever her fucked-up brain had decided to send after her?
A massive shadow blocked the sun and she shrank back in fear. Well, she shrank back as far as the chains she was in allowed her to.
That shadow was a man. It became clear as he stepped inside, though he was backlit by the sun. Strong shoulders that seemed to go on for days, big arms. He was muscular and masculine, and she was naked in front of him.
A deep voice said something in a lilting language she didn’t understand, and suddenly, the curtain to the tent dropped. She could see again. Yes, the shadow was a man, a beautiful, terrifying man, but at least he seemed human.
“She does not speak Gaelic, Your Highness,” the small man who served as her jailer said softly.
The man with the pitch-black hair grimaced, his sensual lips curving down as he switched to English. “I have no title here, Reeve. Speak to me as you would any other customer.”
He looked at her straight in the eyes for the first time. She felt a thrill of excitement. Not excitement. Fear. The racing of her heart had to be fear, right? She couldn’t figure it out, but she knew the huge man in front of her made her do the one thing she was worried she might never do again—feel.
And wasn’t that the cruelest dream of all?
She needed to wake up and now. She didn’t want to know where this dream went.
“What’s your name then?” His voice rolled over her skin, even from across the tent.
It was obvious where this dream was going, and she would play along. She wanted it over with. She always woke up before the truly bad stuff began. When she had dreams about being killed, she always woke up right before the first blow. So all she had to do was push this and it could be over.
He’d hit her, that thing that had taken her. He’d reached out with his emaciated arm and struck her into darkness. She hadn’t imagined he would be so strong, but then he hadn’t been a man at all. He’d been a shadow stalking her on her way home, following her into the alley, and then she’d woken up somewhere else.
“Are you all right then?” The man in front of her drew her from those dark, confused thoughts. “Come on. Don’t be afraid. Tell me your name.”
Was it two dreams sliding against each other? Maybe she was sick and this was some kind of fever dream. She had been stuffy the last couple of days.
“My name is Twenty to Life because that’s the time you’ll do for kidnapping me, you son of a bitch.”
She waited for the broad man to strike her, then she would wake up and she could go about her dull life.
Then she could forget those red eyes and how cold his hands had felt. She would forget how those eyes had burned into her as he’d chuckled, and right before she’d lost consciousness, she’d been certain he was taking her to Hell.
She’d gotten out of that nightmare. She could get out of this one.
She should have known it wasn’t a pleasant dream and that these weirdos with their soft beds and good-smelling food would eventually turn into monsters. It was how her damn brain worked since the divorce. Sure enough, someone was going to smack her, rape her, and then potentially gut her. It looked like it was the big, hot guy’s job. She waited to feel the terrible blow that would likely signal the end of this dream, but the man with the long black hair simply smiled, showing even, white teeth.
Her breath caught in her chest. When he smiled, he was devastating.
“All right then, Twenty,” the man allowed in his lilting accent. “My name is Beckett, but you can call me Beck. And my mother was actually quite nice. I would prefer you didn’t curse her. Yell at me all you like, but let’s leave my mother out of it. Tell me, why should I purchase you instead of these other lovely women?”
She hated being naked in front of him. Where the hell was this thing going? “I’m being sold? Someone is selling me like a piece of fucking meat?”
Beck shook his head. “Language there, darlin’. You’re in a market, trussed up like a pretty, plump pigeon. Did you think you were just hanging on the chains for show?”
“Your…I apologize, sir. The girl is rather ignorant,” said the small man named Reeve. He barely came to Beck’s waist. Compared to Beck, he looked like a boy. A boy with a bushy beard and a pointy red cap. All the jailers wore them.
“I am not ignorant.” She also hated feeling small, and that was where she was now. Trapped. She was trapped and she couldn’t find her way out. Anger started to flare through her. She was always trapped, wasn’t she?
“I did not mean it that way.” Reeve’s fists clenched in obvious frustration. She’d noticed that he always tried to maintain a soft tone when speaking to her. He was polite, even when she cursed him. “The lady is obviously intelligent, though lacking in any kind of manners. She is from the Earth plane.”
Beck turned from the smaller man and back to her, his mouth hanging slightly open. He stared at her, as though he couldn’t quite process the words. It gave her a chance to study him.
He was tall. He had to be at least six foot four. He would tower over her. She was only five foot five, and a rather round one at that. The god in front of her didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. He was broad-shouldered, his arms thick with muscle, though he didn’t look like some steroid-crazy gym guy. He’d earned his muscles. She would bet he hadn’t earned them pumping iron. He worked, and at hard, most likely physical, labor. His skin was bronzed from the sun.
If his body was heavenly, then she didn’t know how to describe his face. It was all sharp planes and harsh angles that came together to form something truly beautiful. His jaw looked like it was carved out of granite. But his eyes were like soft, gray stones in his face. He was, without a doubt, the loveliest man she had ever seen.
It was too bad he was a dream, and not one she would have thought to have. She’d never gone for his type before. Beck looked like an escapee from a Renaissance fair, with his open-necked, linen shirt under a leather vest. His trousers were made from some sort of animal skin, as were the boots that came to his knees. A sword peeked from behind his shoulder, held by a scabbard across his back.
“Is she truly from the Earth plane?” Beck asked.
“Yes, sir. You can see why I called you.” They both stared at her like she was some rare, exotic creature at a zoo.
Suspicion tickled at Meg’s consciousness. Why exactly was she here? She’d read articles about human trafficking. Had they led to this particular nightmare? Maybe there was another way out. She bit her lower lip and looked at the five other girls in the tent with her. They were caged in the same fashion, though these women kept their heads lowered and complied with their jailers’ requests. “You shouldn’t buy me. I’m not very pretty. The other women are prettier. They’re thinner, too.”
The other women were all blondes. They looked like something out of a Swedish high-fashion magazine. She did not fit with them. She carried around an extra five or ten pounds that never seemed to go away. She was an overblown hourglass in a world where svelte was worshipped.
Beck frowned. It did nothing to mar the perfection of his face. “Are you cruel then, love? Funny, I wouldn’t have thought that of you. It’s mean to point out their flaws. They can’t help that they don’t get enough to eat. Why do you think they’re here selling themselves?”
“You don’t want her, Your Highness,” a soft voice said. Meg looked over to see the blonde nearest her staring at Beck through the bars of her cell. “She doesn’t understand a thing about our world. She yelled at Cara for not having all the foods she wanted. I believe she is cruel. I would be thrilled to belong to you.”
Way to throw a sister under a bus. “Yeah, fuck you, too.”
Beck shook his head and looked slightly disappointed in her. The spark of shame that went through her was unexpected.
He walked over to the young, waifish blonde. “She is not from this plane. She is frightened. Allowances must be made. I hope you all find kind mates today. I hope your masters value you all for the precious gift you give them, but I must find a bondmate.”
Beck gave Reeve a hand gesture that sent the smaller man into action. Within seconds, drapes were drawn, and she found herself in a private room with only Beck inside. Sunlight poured in through a hole in the top of the elaborate tent that seemed to function as some sort of skylight. Now that they were alone, it felt like a spotlight. She was painfully aware of her unclothed state. She could feel her nipples puckering under his steely gaze.
“It is not kind to flaunt your beauty to less fortunate women.” Beck’s voice was deep and allowed no room for disrespect.
She wasn’t sure why, but she needed to know where this went. She was here and he moved her. Maybe there was more to this than she’d thought.
If this was some kind of bondage fantasy her libido was playing out, she would go with it. “I don’t understand. I wasn’t trying to be mean. I wanted you to buy one of the others. I’ve decided you might be difficult to get away from. I thought you would do it because they’re prettier than me.”
Beck’s handsome face bunched up as he seemed to mull her words. “On what plane are they prettier than you?” He laughed. “Sorry, love. I do remember hearing stories of where you come from. Food there is plentiful, yet the women starve because the men won’t take care of them.”
She relaxed. He was the gorgeous god of a man who happened to adore fluffy women. Yep, she’d been reading too many romance novels. “It’s not like that. That woman you talked to, she would be considered a great beauty on my plane.”
“But I would have to feed her for a month before I’d even consider bedding her,” Beck muttered. “I don’t understand humans. Do human males not like breasts?”
He asked that last bit with a distinct huskiness to his voice. His hand came out, and he palmed one breast, his thumb rasping over the nipple.
That caress shot from her breast to her pussy like lightning. “Oh, please, don’t.”
That was what she was supposed to say, right?
Beck moved in, his big body crowding her as his other hand reached up. The sunlight hit his face. His gray eyes were heating up, and he ran his tongue over his lips to wet them. He seemed to be a man about to enjoy a good meal. He caressed both breasts with a languid sigh.
He breathed deeply, his nose at the top of her head. “And why not? How will I know if we’re compatible if I don’t touch you? If I’m going to pay this much for a female, then I want to be sure I’m getting what we need.”
She didn’t even think about the “we” part of that sentence because Beck’s warm hands were trailing a path across her skin as he looked her over. His fingertips brushed her nipples before closing over them. He rolled them between his fingers, pinching down on just the right side of pain. Her nipples peaked, sensitized to his touch. This was the part where she should protest, but it had been so long since anyone had touched her.
She’d been so lonely.
When he was satisfied with her breasts, he moved around to her exposed back. He traced the length of her spine with a single finger. She shuddered with desire under his touch as his finger lightly delved into the valley of her cheeks.
His mouth was mere centimeters from her ear. “You’re gorgeous. Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I saw a woman as fuckable as you? And as to your earlier statement about being worried I might be hard to get away from, I promise you, you won’t get away from me. Not ever.”
“Please,” she begged as her entire body went hot with wanting. This was a fantasy she didn’t want to wake from. Meg gave herself over to the dream, letting her good sense go and playing along. She couldn’t let this man seduce her. She had a life back home. It wasn’t much, but it was hers. She couldn’t let herself be sold at some marketplace to the highest bidder. “I want to go home.”
She struggled to get enough oxygen. She could feel the hard ridge of his erection gently brushing her backside. She forced down the impulse to beg him to use it on her. She’d never wanted a man’s touch so much in her life.
Then he was gone, and she wanted to cry at the absence of his warmth. He circled around her and seemed satisfied he had seen what he needed. Beck’s gray eyes were kind as he looked down on her. His sensual lips were close, so close she could feel the heat coming off his body. His face was barely an inch from hers. He kissed her forehead gently.
“Sorry. I’m your home now.” He leaned over, and his mouth covered hers.
All thoughts fled. She could do nothing but concentrate on his lips and the feel of his hands. When his tongue brushed her lips, she found herself softening under his dominance and letting him inside her mouth. His hands tightened and wound around her waist. She felt delicate against him, a sensation she’d never had before. With previous lovers, she’d always felt ungainly and awkward. She never knew what to do to please them. She was far too shy to ask them for what she wanted. The result had been a short series of disappointing encounters. Her own husband had left her, telling her she didn’t know how to please a man.
But she could feel Beck’s desire. He wasn’t playing a game. He took what he wanted, and it did something for her. She’d read about Dominance and submission and the fine art of BDSM, but putting the theory to the test was something different. The chains suddenly felt sensual rather than menacing. They held her for his pleasure.
“You’re so beautiful.” Beck sighed in her ear when he broke the kiss, moving to press his lips to her neck. His hands traced a path from her waist to the cheeks of her ass. He pressed his body against her. “I have to know for sure, though. Please understand, I have to know…”
His fingers found her clitoris and began rubbing sweet, firm circles.
This was insane. Her pussy was wet and pulsing for him. She pushed against his hand. Oh, she wanted this. “Don’t stop.”
“Oh, I won’t stop.” Beck groaned between his clenched teeth. “Come for me, a stóirín.”
She had no idea what he’d said, but she felt the intent behind the endearment. His hands felt perfect on her body. Never before had anyone played her like a finely tuned instrument, but Beck was her musician.
He gently forced two fingers high into her, keeping the pressure on her clit with his thumb. An amazing sensation swept through her as he fucked her with his fingers. In and out. In and out. It was better than any previous cock she’d had. Something was happening. Some odd and yet familiar connection seemed to open between them, but before she could process it, she fell over the precipice, and she couldn’t think any more. She came, sobbing against his shoulder. The orgasm strummed neatly through her body, making her languid and submissive.
At the instant of her orgasm, she would have sworn she could feel herself as though she was Beck. She’d felt his fingers pressed high into her heat as though for the slightest moment she could feel what he was feeling, warmth, sweet wetness, and a rigid hardness begging to be set loose. It had been odd. It was almost as if she’d been inside Beck. She’d shared what his body experienced as he brought her to orgasm. A connection had opened between them. It was an intimacy like nothing she’d felt before.
She floated down, suddenly aware that Beck had pulled his fingers from her pussy and wrapped both arms around her. He hugged her to his hard body. This had to be the best wet dream ever. She let her head rest against his shoulder. She’d never come so fast and so hard.
It was a sweet dream, and she should hold on to it. Any minute the alarm would go off, and she would have to face another day at the Software 4 U store. Being Beck’s love slave was much more interesting.
Beck kissed her one last time, his mouth playing sweetly against hers. He seemed as satisfied as she was, though he couldn’t possibly be. His hands played with her breasts for a moment, and she could feel her own juice on her skin. He brought his right hand up to his mouth and sucked his fingers in, licking her cream. He finally placed an almost chaste kiss on the tip of her nose and stepped back.
“Aye, love, you’ll do.” With that, he started out the door.
That was a perfectly unimpressive bit of wooing. Her subconscious needed to work harder. She’d been utterly overwhelmed by what they had shared, and that was all she got from him? Damn it, even the men in her dreams were unromantic.
“Seriously, that’s what I get? I’ll do? Send in the next guy. We’ll see if he can do better.” The next guy might be even hotter. He would be French or maybe Italian.
Beck turned around, and she found herself shrinking back again. His gray eyes were as hard as stones, and his demeanor had changed from lazy to menacing in a heartbeat. “What did you say?”
The question was a challenge. The chill in his voice almost made her shiver.
“Nothing.” She had a healthy sense of self-preservation that kicked into full throttle now as Beck stalked back toward her.
“Excellent. Best you say nothing right now if you can’t say something sweet.” Beck’s entire body was rigid, every muscle screaming his frustration. “I’m exhausted. I rode all night to get here before the tournament. I’ve eaten very little, and now I’m horny as hell. I am not in a good mood. You have no idea the trouble you’re going to cause me.”
Though she was tired, she held her head up. The last thing she needed was to be told how much trouble she was. She knew. She’d been told her whole life by a mother and father who hadn’t really wanted her and a husband who felt the same. She might be in chains, but she held on to her pride. “I wouldn’t want to cause you any trouble. Please feel free to not purchase me.”
Beck sighed and she could sense the weariness in him. That connection she’d felt during the sex seemed like it was still open. His emotions were almost palpable to her. His tiredness went far past the physical. That weariness invaded his soul. His shoulders slumped slightly forward. She had the sudden desire to wrap her arms around him, to lend him her strength.
“I’ve waited years for this day,” he explained in an emotionless voice. “You cannot understand the joy I should feel at finding you. If there was any other choice, I would walk away. I can offer you nothing. I’m going to spend the last of my gold entering the tournament. I won’t even have the money to feed you. If I had an ounce of pride left, I would let you go, but my brother is dying. I can’t allow that to happen. You’re the only one who can save him. I swear on everything I am that I will find a way to take care of you.”
He started to turn to leave. Tears welled in her eyes. She didn’t understand everything he’d said, but she knew he’d meant every word of it. Even in chains and terrified for her life, she felt safe with this man. Somehow, she’d formed a strange connection with him in those moments his hands had been on her body. “Stop.”
Beck turned to her, his stance wary. She knew he was waiting for her to yell at him again. She couldn’t blame him. She’d been a bit difficult.
“My name is Meg,” she said softly.
She was rewarded with a slight curling of his lips. His pitch-black hair was gathered in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. She wondered how it would feel flowing all around her. “I like that, Meg. I’ll call you my own sweet Meggie.”
“If I help you with your brother, will you let me go home?”
The smile died, and Meg wished she hadn’t asked the question. “I told you, I’m your home now, me and Cian. There’s no way back. Even if there was, I wouldn’t let you take it.”
So this dream was going to continue. She had to admit, she was intrigued. Somewhere in the middle of their intimacy, she’d even forgotten she was dreaming. “Are you going to buy me now?”
Beck shook his head. “It’s not like that. This is a tourney. The gnomes make more money this way. Every male who wants to purchase you buys into the tourney. We then fight until there’s only one left standing. That man will be your master.”
“But what if you don’t win?” She was now horrified at the thought. There were other men? How bad would they be? At least Beck had proven he could be somewhat kind.
A slow, intensely confident smile split his gorgeous face. “Don’t go worrying. I always win.”
He strode out of the tent, letting the heavy curtain fall back into place, and she was alone again.
What was happening and why did it seem so damn real? What if this wasn’t a weird dream. What if that creature she caught glimpses of had taken her to some strange place? The people seemed to speak English, but there had been that strange lilting language as well. Gaelic, Reeve had said.
Maybe she was in Ireland or Scotland. She’d hit her head when she’d been kidnapped.
Her stomach churned. Had she been kidnapped?
Her head came up as a squat woman entered the room with a pitcher and washcloths. Meg sighed. She was getting used to being bathed. The little woman would be professional and gentle. In truth, Meg realized she should be happy that the woman was here, humming as she went about her work. Beck had left her with the evidence of her orgasm all over her thighs and pussy. It would be rather embarrassing for someone else to come in and find her covered in her own juices.
The short, blonde woman smiled up as she washed away Meg’s reaction to Beck. “Don’t worry, miss. His Highness will be kind to you.”
“His Highness?” Meg asked, but the woman finished her work. With a mysterious smile, she walked out. “And what the hell did he mean by gnomes?”
Copyright 2019 Lexi Blake
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