He settled her on the ground and stretched out beside her, wondering if the pain would make another appearance. He knew Disaster hadn’t given up, so why the lack?

“Thank you, Tinker Bell,” he said.

“For what?”

“For...being you.”

* * *

KANE WOKE UP gradually, his mind coming to the slow realization that there was something soft and warm intertwined with his limbs—and he hadn’t been plagued by nightmares, but had actually slept. The scent of rosemary enveloped him. He blinked open his eyes, disrupting the haze, and spied the culprit. His mouth lifted in a leisurely grin.

This was the life he craved for himself. A beautiful woman he admired, respected—hungered for—wrapped around him, her head resting on his arm, her bare hands on his chest, and one of her legs propped on his hip.

Tink’s features were stunningly relaxed, and there was a soft, pink color in her cheeks. He wasn’t sure how she kept ending up in his arms, but he would have loved to know.

He smoothed the hair from her face. She leaned into the touch and smacked her lips. Lips he’d tasted last night.

Lips he wanted to taste again...

He leaned into her, preparing to do just that. The moment he realized where this was headed, he froze. Yesterday he’d stopped, knowing Tink would hate herself if she had sex with a man currently engaged to another woman.

But he’d since realized the truth. He couldn’t marry Synda. Not for any reason.

He was going to have Tink.

He might regret it. She would definitely regret it. A sweet man would walk away now.

He wasn’t a sweet man.

He closed the rest of the distance. At the moment of contact, a moan escaped him. Her lips...so wonderfully soft. The women from the club had wanted his kisses, but he’d refused. The thought had even disgusted him. But with Tink, things had always been different. He wanted more from her than he’d ever wanted from another—and he would have it.

Her lashes fluttered open. Cobalt met his penetrating stare, and he waited for the confusion to evaporate—and realization to take its place.

“More?” he said, a question and a demand. Desire burned white-hot, sizzling through his veins.

She arched, rubbing her needy little body against him, creating the most delicious friction. “Absolutely.”

He dived down for another taste. His tongue licked into her mouth and she moaned, already as lost as he was, in a place where nothing mattered but the pleasure. He was tentative at first, as gentle as he was capable of being. She was hesitant, unsure this early in the morning, with the room teeming with sunlight, but the more time he took with her, the deeper she allowed him to take possession of her mouth. The deeper his possession, the more she melted against him. Soon, their tongues were meeting thrust for heated thrust.

The bed shook. A growl sounded in his head.

Kane slid his hand under her shirt and palmed her breast. Her back arched, and he began kneading. Such a delicious fit. She mewled, a decadent noise that drove him wild. “You like when I touch you this way?”


“I can do more.” He slid his fingers down her stomach, to the apex of her thighs. “And I can do it here.”


One-word responses, as if she couldn’t focus on his voice, only his touch.

“I want your clothes out of the way. All of them.”


He ripped the collar of her shirt, and put his mouth where his hands had been. While he sucked her, he worked at the zipper of his pants. Then, finally then—

“Wait,” she said, seeming to blink through a sensual fog. “Wait. Maybe we should think about this.”

He wouldn’t curse. “We can think later.”

“But...I’m not sure...maybe this is a mistake...”

He heard footsteps and a male’s whistle beyond the door.

Not. Happening. Not again. Especially now, when he was desperate to find out why Tink thought they were making a mistake.

A knock sounded at the door. “Yo. Warrior. It’s garden time,” William called. “You don’t want to leave her queenliness waiting. She’s already sent a guard to hunt your Tinker Hell down.”

He roared, “Go away.”

A pause was followed by a laugh. “Bad time?”

“It’s okay,” Tink said, breathless but unsure. “If the queen wants me in the garden, she has a game of cricket lined up. I need to go.”

He. Hated. William.

At least the bed stopped shaking.

“Get dressed,” he said. “I’m going with you.”

* * *

“IT’S SIMPLE,” THE QUEEN explained, using her snobbiest tone. “Servant Josephina will tie her drab little—”

“That’s not her title anymore,” Kane roared, making Josephina gasp.

The queen blanched. “Well, she must stand with her hussy’s legs apart...I mean her legs,” she corrected when Kane took a menacing step toward her, “and we will each take turns knocking our balls through the gap with our mallets.”

Heat filled Josephina’s cheeks as she latched onto Kane’s wrist to hold him in place. As soon as she knew he wouldn’t attack the woman, she released him with every intention of entering the clearing to assume her position.

He was the one to grab her by the arm this time, stopping her. He snapped, “She won’t be doing that.”

The queen huffed and puffed, and Josephina listened as the two sped into a heated argument about her purpose in the game.

“I’ll go get the king and allow him to settle this,” Kane said. “The girl is mine, and I decide what she does and does not do.”

Penelope’s gaze strayed to William.

“The disagreement is a waste of time. Give him what he wants,” the warrior said. “And later, I’ll do the same to you.”

There was a strange mix of boredom and huskiness in his tone.

“Fine,” the queen huffed, either too afraid to go against the king or too eager to have whatever William was offering. “We’ll play without Servant—I mean, the girl.”

“Better.” Kane patted Josephina on the butt before joining the group in the clearing. She had to press her lips together to keep from laughing.

Next time, I’m going to stand up for myself. Kane had once called her brave, and he wasn’t a liar, so, it was time to act the part. There would be consequences, consequences she’d once feared more than anything. But she wasn’t a slave, that wasn’t her lot in life, wasn’t something she would tolerate any longer, she thought.

Choices. They were hers to make. Hers to see through.

The sun was brighter than usual, casting golden rays over the rows of multicolored flowers and alabaster statues Tiberius had commissioned of himself, Synda, Queen Penelope and Leopold. Though the one of Leopold had been battered by weather, but never fixed. The air was warm, and it was a good thing, too. Her dress was still a little damp from the washing Kane had given it.

Synda skipped to her ball, looked to Kane and nibbled on her lower lip. “Will you come help me, Lord Kane? I’m far too weak to hit my ball very far.”

Was that...flirting?

Kane paused only a moment before stomping over to her.

Yeah. That was flirting.

Synda fluttered her lashes at him and preened as he positioned her hands on her mallet. Rage stewed, bubbling up. Josephina hated seeing the warrior—her warrior—anywhere near the princess.

“This is still proving tedious,” William said to the queen, in a stage whisper everyone could hear. “Why don’t you go upstairs and wait for me? In a few minutes, I’ll follow, so no one will suspect we’re together, and we’ll play a game of a different sort.”

“Well...” Queen Penelope peered at her daughter, her mind clearly whirling. Then, she nodded.

“That’s a good girl.”

Off she raced, without a goodbye, heading toward the palace as if her feet were on fire.

They were lovers?

Josephina knew the queen had taken other men to her bed. Men the king had killed, though Tiberius had never admitted that was the reason why.

Poor William. He wouldn’t survive, either.

He sidled up to her as if he hadn’t a care.

“Your friendship with Kane won’t save you,” she told him. “If the king finds out what you’re doing with the queen, and he will, he’ll—”

“Trying to save me, female?” He flashed a perfect, white smile. “How adorable is that? But you’re wasting your time. Your father is nothing more than a fly.”

“Why don’t you challenge him, then?”

“And steal Kane’s moment?”

She rolled her eyes. “Excuses, excuses.”

He shrugged. “By the way, your step momma is a terrible lay. Seriously, I’ve been with dead girls who have more life.”

Okay. Too much information. She covered her ears.

William forced her hands to her sides. “I’m distracting her, and look, it’s working.”

“Well, then, why don’t you distract the princess, too?”

“I only have one Big Willy, and he’s currently on loan to the queen.”

Synda gave a tinkling laugh, and Josephina looked over. The princess was now smashed against Kane, her arms wrapped around his neck. She was tiny and delicate in comparison, peering up at him with expectation of a kiss, and though he was stiff, he wasn’t exactly fighting her off. Josephina’s hands fisted tightly. If he did it, if he allowed his lips to meet the princess’s, she would...she would...oh! There was no action violent enough.

“He’s got a lot of darkness inside him, you know,” William said. “You’re helping, I’ll give you that, but if you can’t stick around until it’s all gone, back off. You’ll both be better off.”

Her shoulders straightened in a snap. “How about you back off? I’m dealing, but that doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants anytime he wants.”