scroll down for excerpt Book 4 in the Heart & Soul series
To discover the identity of his enemy, Kiile first had to loosen the
tongue of the assassin – a short, sassy and most outrageous wench.
At an Argon’s mercy she might be, but Katina had a surprise for this
golden-haired sex god and it was all bad.
“You want me to kill him?”
“That’s the plan.”
“Isn’t that a little… permanent?’
“Assassination is meant to be.”
“Now I’m an assassinator? When did I get promoted?”
“Since now.” He stared out of the window at the green mountains marking the boundary of the country he ruled. “Take a good look so you’ll not mistake him when the time comes.”
There was no chance of that, Katina thought, studying the image picture she held. “These Argons are very… sensual.”
“They are. Their sexuality, so I have been told, appears to ooze out of their very pores.”
“Sounds disgusting, put like that.”
“It’s a part of them. Skilled in the arts of sex and desire, it’s legendary. Secrets have been extracted from prisoners using these arts. No one is immune once the Argons have decided to use their own special methods—”
“Wonderful. You’re sending me to this place unprotected to kill one of their leaders. What have I ever done to you?”
The angular figure glanced over his shoulder. “More to the point, what have I done for you in the past? We have a contract.”
“Don’t you think you’re expecting a bit much of me? I’ve spied for you and even stolen, but this…”
“Six times have I tried to have Kiile of Argon assassinated and six times it has failed. I can’t risk sending another man. A female is the only chance I have of catching him off guard.”
“Surely there must be some woman bloodthirsty enough to do this instead of m—”
“No one I trust but you.”
“I’m honoured, I think. But I’m not bloodthirsty.”
“But we have a contract. Now, to the plans.”
Muttering beneath her breath, Katina flicked the image picture back onto the table. Her eyes brightened at the sight of the bowl of sugar sweets and she reached for one, popping it into her mouth with relish. The sugar melted on her tongue.
“You’ll go disguised as a dancing girl.”
“Why a dancing girl?”
“Because, a party is being held in Kiile’s palace in honour of his birthday.”
“Can’t I be a serving wench?”
“No. Their servants are well-known to his bodyguards. The dancing girls aren’t.”
Blissfully she bit into another sugar sweet. “I don’t know how to dance.”
“You’ll be taught before you leave.”
“I’m not built for it.”
Frowning, he swung around to look at the young woman sprawled inelegantly in the chair near the table. One tight-clad leg was slung over an armrest, the booted foot swinging lazily, the other leg stretched out before her. The sleeves of the tunic that reached to mid-thigh were rolled carelessly up to her elbows. His eyes narrowed on the fingers hovering above the bowl of sugar sweets. “You’ll make it if you stop stuffing yourself with food.”
“I don’t stuff myself! Are you saying I’m fat?”
“No, but you’re not far off being plump.”
Scowling, she withdrew her hand.
“Now, go to the small receiving room where the dance-mistress awaits you. She’ll teach you what you need to know and outfit you appropriately. I’ll see you in a couple of days to finalize details.” He turned back to the window.
She was dismissed.
~ * ~
“I still think we should sit closer to you,” Marten said.
“Mother would prefer to sit beside me, I’m sure, unless you see her as a potential threat?” Golden brows rose inquiringly.
“Of course not, don’t be obtuse.”
“One of us can sit beside her,” Wylin suggested.
“I believe Father sits there. Why don’t you sit beside him?”
“Who’s going to sit on your other side?” Eulie demanded.
“One of us!” Marten smiled in satisfaction, shook his dark hair back and subsided in the chair.
Kiile looked across the wide desk at his three bodyguards, who were also his friends. “Don’t you think you three are getting a bit carried away?”
“Six attempts in three years,” Wylin reminded him. “It’s about due again.”
“You’ve all got everything covered, haven’t you? No new servants, no new entertainers, no strangers. We know everyone and we’re in my country, in my palace. I think you should relax and enjoy the party—though God knows, I won’t.”
Eulie rested one booted ankle on the opposite knee, careful not to wrinkle his pants. “You’ll be twenty-five years old, Kiile. A party is an excellent chance for your mother to find you a life mate.”
“Your father wishes you to sire an heir.”
“I hear enough of this from them without you repeating it.”
“And you’ll hear it again at the party,” Marten smiled.
“But if we were sitting beside you, we could divert your parents’ attention.” Linking his hands over his stomach, Wylin blinked seriously.
Standing up, Kiile drew on the black jacket and buttoned it up quickly. “Devious, but good. Tell you what, if you can talk Mother into it, it’s more than fine by me.”
His friends grinned broadly.
The first strains of music reached his ears and he grimaced. “Let’s get this over with.”
~ * ~
Peering through the curtains, Katina studied the head table and spotted her prey immediately.
The boyishly handsome face was smooth, framed by thick golden hair that brushed the high collar of silver that banded his throat. She briefly noted the silver epaulettes on the broad shoulders of the black jacket and thought that his clothes were sombre, considering the occasion.
But not sombre considering that he’d die in them. Unknowingly, he’d made the correct choice of colour.
Her hand trembled and she willed it still, turning her attention to the men flanking him. They wore similar uniforms, only grey in colour. They appeared to be as tall and broad as their leader, topping six foot.
This was not good. Why weren’t his parents sitting beside him? A shiver of apprehension went through her. Did someone suspect her presence? Surely not. She’d only joined the dance troupe yesterday on late notice due to the unfortunate ‘accident’ of one of the dancers severely spraining her ankle…thanks to her drink being secretly spiked and causing a tumble down the stairs.
“These Argon men are so breathtaking, aren’t they?” a voice sighed behind her.
Swinging around, Katina found herself looking up into the dreamy eyes of a tall dancer. “Ah…yes. Yes, they certainly are.”
“It makes me shiver just to be near them. I can feel the heat of their bodies.”
“Randy?” Katina quirked one brow.
“I could mate with one of them right in the middle of this room!”
“With everyone watching,” breathed a leggy redhead.
Good God, Katina thought.
“Just for the chance of bedding an Argon man!” The redhead bit the knuckle of her finger longingly.
Was it that potent, their sexuality?
“To have his skin against mine.” The first dancer rubbed her arms and wet her lips.
Obviously it was.
“I wouldn’t care how old they are. It’s said their virility lasts until the day they die.” The first dancer sighed, gaze wistful, and a touch hopeful.
Thank the stars I’ve been immunized against their charm
“They have incredible lasting power.” The redhead sucked her forefinger unconsciously.
Whoa, baby. Any minute now she’d go running out there and grab the first hapless male Argon in sight, Katina thought in amusement.
“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got tonight.” The redhead smoothed her hands down the gauzy skirt draping her slender hips. “I intend to catch myself a fantastic night!”
“Going to work for it, huh?” Katina asked.
“Not as much as you’ll have to,” was the disdainful reply.
“Hey, I’m no prize, but I’m not desperate.”
Katina sent a rude gesture after the departing redhead and the first dancer laughed.
“Don’t worry, many men like a bit of meat on a woman. I’m sure the Argons are no different.” The dancer nodded knowingly.
“I’ve not seen a plump Argon woman amongst the whole lot.”
“Then you’ll be a novelty.” The dancer eyed her kindly. “You look lovely and will do just fine. You’re an excellent dancer.”
That was something, she supposed. The dancer moved on and Katina resisted the urge to peer one last time in the mirror. She knew she was shorter than everyone else and built more… cuddly. However, her looks, or lack of, was the last thing she needed to worry about right now.
“Dancers get ready!”
Briefly she felt for the reassuring thin hardness of the dagger, sheathed lengthwise at her waist beneath the skirt band, before hurrying to take her place on the stage behind the curtain.
~ * ~
Sipping at the goblet of wine, Kiile watched the entertainment out of jaded eyes. It was hard to disguise the boredom he felt but, for his parents’ sake, he managed it.
The dancers appeared and he watched abstractedly as the beautiful young women moved in time to the music. Their long limbs were graceful, their slender bodies shown to advantage by the colourful tops that barely covered their breasts, and the bands that draped their slim hips. From the bands flowed long, wispy veils, the gauzy material hiding the dancers’ feminine secrets while giving glimpses of long legs and white skin. Dainty slippers covered the dancers’ feet, from which delicate ribbons laced up to shapely knees.
The women swayed and moved with grace and he noted the interest in his friends and some of his kinsmen. More than one of those dancers would find themselves bedded tonight.
“Look at that redhead,” Eulie smacked his lips. “Isn’t she something?”
“You only think so because she has the same colour hair,” Marten said from Kiile’s other side. “That blonde takes my fancy. How about you, Kiile?”
“What, none of them takes your interest?”
“Be honest, how long since you bedded a wench?”
“Since I was last interested.”
“And when was that?”
“That’s my business.”
Arms on the table, Marten leaned forward to peer into his friend’s calm eyes. “I wouldn’t let your mother hear you say that.”
“Because she’ll say that I’m ready to find a life mate. That’s impossible right now, you know that.”
“How long are you going to put your life on hold?”
“For as long as it takes. Stop worrying about me and enjoy the show. The solo dancing is starting, perhaps your blonde will come over and favour you with a close-up.”
Once his friends were diverted, Kiile breathed a sigh of relief. It did trouble him, this loss of interest in the pleasures of the opposite sex. To be honest, he found the act… empty. Meaningless. It had been at least three moons since he’d last bedded a woman. He was starting to wonder if something was wrong with him. Perhaps he should consult the healer, Sarcan…
The music changed tempo, becoming slower, heavier, the beat more primitive, catching his attention. His gaze focused on the dancer moving sinuously between the crouched bodies of the other dancers and surprise filled him.
“Well, look at this,” Eulie murmured. “Where did this delightful little sprite spring from?”
Where indeed? Kiile studied her with rising attraction. The total opposite to the tall, willowy dancers, this little wench was so short he doubted the top of her head would reach his chest, even if she stood on tiptoe. Brown hair was streaked with gold, tendrils escaping the topknot to bob bewitchingly around small ears and rounded cheeks, emphasizing the heart-shaped face.
“Now she has enough to hang onto for a wild session in bed,” Marten commented, resting his chin in one palm and eyeing her appreciatively.
Kiile silently agreed. Though by no means fat, she couldn’t truthfully be called slim, either. Generously curved, he decided. Nice and firm, yet soft. The small waist emphasized her hourglass figure. The drifting veils twined around shapely legs and dainty ankles.
“Come here, you little beauty,” Eulie murmured.
“She is,” Marten said. “But I don’t think you’re her target.”
Unaccustomed warmth swept through Kiile when he realized the little dancer was undulating towards him, her hips rolling gently in time to the beat of music, shapely arms tracing a pattern in the air, small hands skimming across the barely discernable curve of her belly. His breath caught when the topaz placed strategically in her belly button caught the light and winked at him.
He could imagine getting that topaz out—with his tongue.
She drew closer, nearing the table, and closer still. Raising his gaze, he met heavily fringed, brown eyes and was slightly taken aback to see golden specks in them. She smiled slightly, drawing his gaze down past the cheekily tilted little nose to full lips, soft and red and… kissable. It was the only word he could think of to describe them.
He could imagine kissing those lips, crushing that delectably curvaceous body to him, rolling her beneath him or bracing her against a wall –
His hot gaze met hers and her eyes widened. Time seemed to stand still, though he knew it was only seconds, but he used it to his advantage, allowing his desire for her to burn in his eyes.
Startled, she faltered, then the lights dimmed suddenly, momentarily diverting everyone’s attention upwards to the great chandeliers in the high ceiling.
“Watch out!” Marten shouted.
Kiile jerked back just in time to avoid the dagger that slashed past his throat. Shock replaced desire and he stared into the desperate eyes of the little dancer.
copyright Angela Verdenius