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Wings of Blood: A Dragons & Phoenixes Novel (The Phoenix Wars Book 2) by Miranda Martin, Nadia Hunter (1)

Chapter One

I didn’t often have the urge to punch someone in the face, but I gave myself a pass this time.

At first glance, Blaise didn’t look like an idiot. He was in his early thirties and kept his hair cut short and neat. His even featured face was the kind that didn’t really leave an impression one way or another. Most people would describe his looks as pleasant.

I wasn’t feeling so charitable at the moment, so I was thinking he resembled plain oatmeal: bland, kind of mushy, and something I wanted to push away from my plate.

That didn’t mean he looked like an idiot.

Looks could be deceiving.

“You can’t just make an announcement like that remotely,” I repeated, feeling the urge to rip out my hair as my frustration rose. I couldn’t give in. If I pulled out my hair every time Blaise frustrated me, I’d have to start investing in wigs. “You need to have an in-person meeting with them and—”

“You are being unreasonable,” Blaise butted in, using that condescending yet reasonable tone that made me want to punch something. Maybe something like a bowl of oatmeal. “Sven has made it beyond clear that Emberich’s policies will no longer be supported or implemented. I simply clarified what that would mean to… specific flocks.”

I took a deep breath, trying to get a hold of my emotions.

I wasn’t used to working with somebody else. At least, not like this. But since I was tethered to the capital, and more often than not the palace itself since I didn’t particularly like traipsing through the city with a group of guards, someone needed to take over at least the traveling aspects of my job.

Internal Liaison to the Crown was not a sedentary desk job.

Blaise had poached the position quickly enough while I’d been… out of commission. Maybe he would have thought twice if he’d known it would have meant working with me.

We weren’t exactly each other’s favorite person. I knew got on his last nerve just as effectively as he got on mine. Too bad he couldn’t have known that I would literally come back from the dead.

I couldn’t blame him for shortsightedness. When it came to descendants of the Original Bloodline, rising from the ashes wasn’t just a metaphor.

But that was neither here nor their in the current situation.

Once I was mostly sure my words weren’t going to come out at a decibel level that wouldn’t be productive no matter how good it would no doubt feel, I spoke. “Maybe some of those flocks will simply tow the line, not make waves,” I said. “But do you think all of those flocks, all of those Chieftains that have been enjoying more power than they should have for decades are going to just let all of it go so easily?”

Blaise rolled his eyes.

I didn’t let it deter me. “They need to be spoken to face to face. They have to know that we mean what we’re saying, that the Crown won’t look the other way,” I said. As someone who came from a flock that hadn’t been so favored by Emberich and had experience with those that did, I didn’t have a lot of faith that things would be so easy as to simply make an announcement.

I would rather be ahead of the issue than trying to react to it after something had already happened. An in-person meeting might cut down on some of the repercussions, show that we were willing to put our money where our mouth was.

“I will consider it after the scheduled trips this week are finished,” Blaise responded, his tone still saying he thought I was being overly-dramatic.

I wanted to keep pushing until he saw things my way, but this might be all the concession I was going to get from him. So I refrained from antagonizing him further, even when what I really wanted to do was slap him across the face.

Maybe that was an improvement from wanting to punch him?

Internally, I sighed. He really didn’t understand.

Blaise hadn’t seen firsthand how entitled some of those in Emberich’s pockets had become, not from the side of the flocks that felt the brunt of the superiority complex they’d cultivated.

“The sooner the better,” I said, settling on underlining the urgency of it but not pushing any more.

He nodded, raising a brow as he stood. “I will keep it in mind,” he said politely.

I think I liked his previous undisguised animosity more than this veneer of politeness he’d begun to wear around me ever since I’d become Sven’s Consort.

It was odd to even think about the fact that I had what amounted to a royal title now. Even odder than the title was the way people treated me differently because of it.

“My King,” Blaise murmured on the way out, catching my attention.

I looked up to see Sven nodding at Blaise as he strode into the room that was now my office.

I’d moved into a room closer to the private wing of the palace since Blaise had wasted no time taking over the room I once used for my office. I felt my eye twitch. Maybe I should think of something else.

Hey, look! Here was a distraction, striding directly at me. How convenient.

Tall and broad shouldered, his frame covered in lean muscle, the Phoenix King was a welcome diversion. Currently, that hard body was clad in a t-shirt and jeans, since he’d had some business with the humans.

Many of them might fear us, but that didn’t mean they didn’t see that working with us was good for their bottom lines. Money was usually at the root of many decisions humans made.

Sven’s bright blond hair caught the light as it fell to his shoulders, emphasizing them and framing his handsome, intelligent face with its clean jawline and arresting dark eyes. Eyes that watched me with sympathy as he reached my desk.

“I could fire him for you,” he offered quietly, low enough that I knew nobody in the hall would hear. Though it was probably just my guards out there at this time of day, most of the palace staff were winding down as the end of the work day neared.

For a moment, I was really tempted to take him up on his offer. Very tempted.

But I couldn’t.

“No,” I answered regretfully. “I can handle him. At least he really wants the job. And I don’t doubt that he wants what’s best for the flocks.”

It was true. I didn’t doubt those two things about him, which were pretty damn important things. Plus, I didn’t want people to be afraid to deal with me, afraid that I would simply bring Sven into any issue I had and force it to go my way. That would be the message I’d be sending by having Sven fire Blaise.

I was an independent person. The idea of having someone step in and solve every problem I had was not appealing. What’s more, I needed to work with someone; it might as well be someone who wanted the position. That desire for the position wasn’t so easy to find. The job came with a lot of headaches, traveling, and long hours. Not to mention that one might have to make decisions that didn’t exactly leave people in love with you at all times.

I really wished I could have just continued to do my job like I always did, but I wasn’t stupid. I had a giant target on my back since everyone found out about my ancestry. Changes had to be made if I wanted to be safe.

Had it just been about me, I might have taken more risks, but it wasn’t.

I had Sven to consider now too.

“Are you sure?” Sven asked, mock seriously. “Just give me the word and…”

I laughed. “That’s really sweet. But no.”

He shook his head, circling around the desk so he could lean his hips against it in front of me. “Well, if you’re not going to let me fix this for you...” He reached down and pulled me to my feet, bringing me up against his front. “I can at least offer you a good distraction to keep your mind off of it.”

“A distraction, huh?” I said, settling in against the front of his hard body. “Whatever could you have in mind?” I wrapped my arms around his neck.

And realized all over again how lucky I was to have a second chance at life. A life with Sven. It was a gift, one that I wasn’t going to take for granted.

“Well… I thought maybe we could have pizza for dinner,” he said, his eyes glittering with humor.

“Pizza?” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think that’s going to be such a great dist—”

I had to shut up then, because his mouth was on mine, kissing me slowly the way he liked to when he wanted to take his time with things.

“Mmm.” I leaned into him, into the kiss. His hands slid down my back, finding my butt without a problem.

I was the one who broke the kiss. “You left the door open behind you,” I complained in a low voice, glancing over at the offending door-shaped hole that I shouldn’t have been able to see.

“That’s because I wanted you to come back to our bedroom with me,” he said with a smile. “You’ve been working too hard.”

“You’re working harder than I am,” I pointed out, even as I let him lead me out of the office.

“Then we’ve both been working too hard,” he conceded. He looked over his shoulder and grinned at me, that grin that always managed to make my heart go pitter-patter like a teenager with raging hormones. “Time for a break.”

A break sounded perfect.

Amna and Reelin, my bodyguards, kept the neutral expressions that lived on their faces all day. ‘Professional’ would be how I would describe both of the guards assigned to me, though at least I’d seen Amna crack a smile a couple of times. Reelin was a tougher audience.

They were both very competent at their jobs, though, which was why Igna had chosen them to be my babysitters. Er, guards. Though I really did think of them as my babysitters since I had to take them with me everywhere.

It wasn’t an ideal situation, but life wasn’t ideal. So I was trying to adjust – not just to them, but to life in the palace, being in a public relationship with Sven.

It was… a lot. But so worth it if it meant I could be with him.

Sven led us into the private wing, where it was just us and the guards now. And then straight to the bedchamber.

The guards didn’t follow us in.

“Where’s Igna?” I asked as he closed the door behind us.

“He left as soon as I was inside your office,” he said wryly. “Even he couldn’t argue that two guards inside the palace wasn’t enough.”

I snorted out a laugh. Igna could take paranoia to new heights. However, considering that an assassination attempt against Sven had already nearly succeeded once and had killed me in the process, he was allowed to be a little paranoid judging by any standard.

“Besides, I don’t want you to be thinking of anything but us right now,” he said, reaching out to pull my shirt over my head.

That sounded like an excellent idea to me, so I helped him take off my pants and underwear too. To help me concentrate. Then I helped him with his clothes, though maybe it would have been faster if I hadn’t been so eagerly smoothing my hands over every inch of skin that revealed itself.

Not that Sven complained.

When I got to his boxer briefs, sliding my hands down his hips on either side of his erection as I pushed the underwear down, he finally lost it. Growling, he pushed me back gently until I fell onto the bed, coming down top of me.

“Tease,” he accused, nipping my chin.

I laughed, wrapping my legs around his slim hips. “What are you going to do about it?” I rubbed myself against his throbbing erection. Mmm, that was nice.

He narrowed his eyes at me. Then he proceeded to touch and kiss and suck every inch of me, except between my legs, until I was a sweaty, frustrated mess, my fingernails leaving pink marks on his skin as I tried to urge him where I wanted it.

“You’ve made your point!” I cried out, half laughing. I hated—and loved—when he did this.

Sven bit down gently on the nipple he’d been sucking on until my legs were scissoring helplessly on the bed. He raised his head with a smirk, but I could see the desire stamped on his own face, in the glittering of his eyes, the flush in his cheeks.

“Thank God,” he muttered, his smile turning rueful. Then he gave me a hard kiss and started pushing into me.

I cried out, my arms and legs wrapping around his body as he pushed his erection inside me, using controlled thrusts to make room for himself, his jaw clenched tight. We both moaned as he sank in to the hilt, the fit perfect and familiar.

He kissed the side of my face, my ear, my jaw. “I love you, Adara,” he whispered against my lips.

My hold on him tightened, my heart aching with how much I loved him. “I love you too,” I murmured, my lips moving against his, still barely touching mine.

His eyes were all I could see. I drowned in the love, the desire in them as he pushed in and out of me, careful to keep me at an angle that he knew always drove me wild. He knew every inch of me, just like I knew every inch of him, knew the touches he liked, the pressure, the placement.

When I felt like he wasn’t going fast enough, I nuzzled the side of his neck and bit down where his neck met his shoulder. Not hard, just enough so he could feel the edge of my teeth.

He moaned, his next thrust harder, less controlled. I squeezed down on his length inside me.

That did it.

“Adara,” he groaned, his thrusts going harder, faster.

I urged him on, my hands sliding down his slick back to close over his clenching ass.

Then I wasn’t thinking anything anymore, my body fighting to reach orgasm.

It hit us almost at the same time, a hot, rippling wave of pleasure that wiped away all of my worries, all of the stress, leaving just him and me.

I reveled in that perfect moment, sighing as my body finally went limp under Sven’s still tense one, his eyes shut tightly as he jerked one last time inside me, his body shuddering, the muscles in his arms standing out in high relief.

I rubbed the back of his thigh with my foot as he came down, his eyes opening at the touch. He smiled at me, leaning down to kiss the tip of my nose, his heart in his eyes.

Suddenly, I remembered all over again why I was willing to jump through all these hoops.

Sven.

He was beyond worth it and more.