by Jeffe Kennedy
The Uncharted Realms Book Two
a Twelve Kingdoms series spinoff
A Hawk's Pledge… A prince's honor… A warrior's heart…
The Twelve Kingdoms rest uneasy under their new High Queen, reeling from civil war and unchecked magics. Few remember that other powers once tested their borders—until a troop of foreign warriors emerges with a challenge…
Jepp has been the heart of the queen’s elite guard, her Hawks, since long before war split her homeland. But the ease and grace that come to her naturally in fighting leathers disappears when battles turn to politics. When a scouting party arrives from far-away Dasnaria, bearing veiled threats and subtle bluffs, Jepp is happy to let her queen puzzle them out while she samples the pleasures of their prince’s bed.
But the cultural norms allow that a Dasnarian woman may be wife or bed-slave, never her own leader—and Jepp’s light use of Prince Kral has sparked a diplomatic crisis. Banished from court, she soon becomes the only envoy to Kral’s strange and dangerous country, with little to rely on but her wits, her knives—and the smolder of anger and attraction that burns between her and him…
Genre: Fantasy RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon BAM iTunes Kobo B&N Book Depository
Content/Theme(s): Warriors, Shifters, Magic, Action, Historical, Paranormal
Release Date: December 27, 2016
Excerpt & More
The dragons loomed in silent menace against the rosy dawn. They’d given me a serious chill the first time the Hákyrling sailed between their fearsome snarling mouths. This time their daunting size and gleaming black coils seemed to mock me.
Running away, little warrior?
No—just abandoning the field of battle, deserting the woman entrusted to my protection by the High Queen, and flinging myself headfirst into a mission completely beyond my skills. Nothing to write home about. If anyone at home had cared. Ha!—and if I could write very well. Stupid saying, anyway.
As Glorianna’s sun tipped over the ocean’s horizon, the rays caught the sharp edges of the dragons’ scales, glinting as on the finest blade’s edge. Carved from the island rock and built up from there so they reared ten times the height of the Hákyrling’s mast, they looked about to spring to annihilating life. Great bat wings lay folded against the back of one, half-mantled on the other, massive snakelike tails winding down the rockfall to dangle in the seawater. Impossible creatures, I’d thought—until I’d seen one flying through the air.
The guardians delivered an obvious warning that I’d nevertheless neglected to heed. Now Dafne, my friend and the person I had been supposed to protect, lay prisoner in the clutches of the dragon king. I gripped the polished rail of the ship, keeping myself from looking back. Bryn never look back. More than a superstition, less than a magic spell, I’d heard that caution all my young life, told me first by my mother, and echoed by my grandmother, aunts, great-aunts, sisters, cousins, friends, and teachers.
Bryn never look back.
I wouldn’t shame their legacy by doing so now. Much as it pained me. Had I been gifted with Zynda’s shape-shifting magic, I might not have been able to hold out. How she kept from leaping into the water and swimming back to Dafne’s side, I didn’t know. Maybe that was why she’d gone below, an unusual move for her, as much as she thrived on being outdoors. Likely the worry wormed in her gut also, wondering what Dafne might suffer even at that very moment. Alone among a foreign people, likely married to a tyrant—a mark of the muddle we’d made of it that we weren’t entirely sure of even that much—and barely able to speak the language. Walking away in the dark before dawn had been one of the hardest things I’d ever done.
And I’d done plenty of hard things.
Where I came from, you did hard or you gave up and died. Easy decision. Usually.
We passed beneath the silently roaring dragon guardians, and my gut lurched. No, the ship did, leaping to the wind outside the protected harbor, wine-dark sails billowing with a series of booms as the Dasnarian sailors scrambled to adjust them. Within moments, the island, and any hope of reneging on my decision to shirk one duty in favor of another, fell behind me.
“She’ll be all right—don’t fret yourself so much.”
Oh joy. Kral. Just the megalomaniac to make my morning perfect. “Is that an order, General Kral of Dasnaria and Imperial Prince of the Royal House of Konyngrr? Ooh—or perhaps you’re relating a vision from Danu herself!”
He growled in his throat and leaned his forearms on the rail next to me, bracing against the pitch of his ship as we crossed into the choppier open sea, away from the lee of the island. “In Dasnaria we do not heed your three goddesses. Perhaps the women do, to succor hearth and home, but such weakness would not be fitting for a warrior of our people, much less one of the royal line.”
I rolled my eyes, ostentatiously so he wouldn’t miss it, turning so I stood hipshot, daring him to take a good long look at what he’d never again lay a finger on. “Danu is the goddess of clear-eyed wisdom, the bright blade, unflinching justice, and self-discipline. I can see your point—not manly virtues at all.”
He turned his head, blue eyes glittering. Not like the sea, but like the deep ice of Branli near the Northern Wastes, where cliffs of it rose so thick, the white darkened to blue. Chill and ruthless as any of my blades. “If you were a man, I’d challenge you for such words.”
“Challenge me anyway. I could use a minute or so of exercise. Though I might not need even that long to take you down.”
“My honor does not permit me to challenge a woman. Now, if you care to attack first...,” he trailed off invitingly, jaw hard behind the short golden beard he’d grown on the journey.
I ground my teeth. “You know full well my pledge to the High Queen prevents me from doing so.”
“A woman making a vow to another woman.” He shook his head, assuming an expression of innocent wonder. “You’re all so adorable.”
My grasp of Dasnarian still lagged miserably behind fluent, but I thought I had the meaning there. Even if not, his condescending tone expressed plenty. My fingers itched to pull the twin daggers from the sheaths at my hips. How fine it would be, to see the bright blood springing red against his golden tanned skin, shocked surprise burbling into that cold gaze as he clutched his throat, collapsing at my feet. Unable to even beg for the mercy I’d never offer.
“What?” Kral’s brows drew together in suspicion.
I raked his long body with a deliberately salacious stare and grinned. “Just enjoying a little fantasy.”
That got him. Petty revenge, perhaps, and a smidge compared to how I’d love to make him suffer for his many sins. Lust flared in his hard-lined face and he clamped his lips down on it. A pity, as that mouth had provided me with considerable pleasure that one ill-advised night we’d spent together. As had those big hands with their fierce strength. Hung like a stallion, with the stamina of a man half his age and, oh, Danu, the devastating and meticulous patience to use it all to drive a woman crazy.
Goddesses take me, I was getting all hot and bothered thinking about it. Thanks to Lunkhead and his tyrannical edict that none of his men touch me, I already suffered from longer privation than I had since I figured out someone else’s hand felt even better than my own.
He iced it over fast, covering it with neutral arrogance. “Learn to squelch your fantasies. I will not have you again, rekjabrel.”
“I didn’t offer. You will never be so lucky. Oh, and it wasn’t that kind of fantasy.”
“No.” I yawned deliberately, which turned into a real jaw cracker. Nothing like missing two nights of sleep. Zynda and I had taken turns guarding Dafne while she slept, but I’d never quite managed more than a light snooze. Odd, as I’d long ago mastered the soldier’s art of taking restorative sleep instantly at the opportunities afforded by circumstance. It might have been because I’d never before had sole responsibility for another’s life—and at the charge of my captain, now High Queen. Who I’d already failed by fucking up with this very man. You pissed off a prince of the Dasnarian throne, general of their armies, with whom we just created a very new and even more tenuous peace? Dafne’s incredulous voice still echoed in my head. How was I supposed to know Kral expected some kind of fidelity? After one encounter. Well, six or seven—I’d lost count somewhere in the early dawn hours—but only one night. One of the best I’d ever had. Unfortunate, given his obstinate irascibility.
“No,” I repeated. “I don’t want to hurt your fragile manly feelings, but really the fucking was quite forgettable. I thought maybe you’d improve with practice, but alas.” I shrugged for the inevitability of it all. My Dasnarian might be far from fluent, but I knew most of the sex words, and it had proved to be a language excellent for delivering insults.
Kral straightened, folding his arms as he faced me, muscled legs impressively absorbing the ship’s movement. I’d like to be able to do the same and not hang on to the rail, but pitching overboard would be an even bigger blow to my pride.
“I seem to recall otherwise.” His turn to look me over with hot eyes, taunting me. “Once I had you on your back, you squirmed like a kottyr, purring and helplessly happy to have her belly rubbed just so.”
The image shouldn’t have made me as hot as it did. My susceptibility was no doubt due to his thrice-damned enforced celibacy. Well, and my unreasonable attraction to him. Gathering up all that too easily aroused lust, I funneled it into a prayer. Danu, accept my sacrifice for you. If the goddess talked to me—which, ha! Goddesses didn’t really do that kind of thing—She would be snorting in disgust. Her priestesses offered Her their celibacy as a sign of devotion, dedicating their bodies to being instruments of war and justice, channeling sexual energy into devotion to a cause, not to the softer, hedonistic delights. I was pretty sure being hard up didn’t exactly count as a sacrifice.
Thing was, Kral had rubbed me exactly the right way, and I’d more than purred. I was never helpless, however—an important lesson the Dasnarian had yet to learn. “I seem to recall,” I echoed him, pursing my lips as if in thought, “that you had me on more than my back. You had me any number of ways—on my stomach, on all fours, on your back... Tell me, lover, which was your favorite?”
We hadn’t closed any distance, but it felt like we had, the heat thickening the cool morning air. Oh, yeah, that got to him. He didn’t shift to adjust his arousal, but he wanted to. I let my eyes linger there and smirked. Then blew him a little kiss.
Purchase link(s): Amazon BAM iTunes Kobo B&N Book Depository
Other titles by Jeffe Kennedy:
of the Mind
of the Queen
of the Tala
of the Rose
of the Hawk
Jeffe Kennedy Facebook page
Jeffe Kennedy Goodreads author page
Jeffe Kennedy Amazon author page
More Jeffe Kennedy on Cover Reveals
Interested in this book? Don't be shy about telling your friends and family about it. Share buttons can be found below.