|My, what a big sword you have.|
The premise: Yavi and his identical twin are the last surviving Zulfikars, the traditional royal line of Nandala. They were hailed emperors of their poverty-stricken, wintery homeland when they led a rebellion against the evil ruler Thakur, who murdered their father right before their eyes. Yavi’s brother Yajna found love with farmer’s daughter Jiandra in the first Omaja Series book, but Yavi’s sworn off seducing innocent young women since a jealous sorceress killed the girl he was romantically involved with in Kiss. Jiandra’s younger sister Graciella has had a crush on Yavi since she was 14, and knew he saw her as a child when she shyly asked him for a dance at her sister’s wedding to his brother. She hasn’t seen him in six years. Now she’s 20 and ready to try again, this time determined to make sure there’s no doubt in his mind she’s a full-grown woman.
***Excerpt - Graciella the Spy***
There was only one explanation for his hurry to rid himself of her and rush off to his own quarters, Graciella thought.
Her name was Kitran.
Graciella paced in front of her fireplace a moment, trying to decide what to do. Surely Kitran was meeting him in his bedroom this very moment, and before long, she’d be on top of him, rubbing herself on him as Jiandra had seen with the Omaja stone when she'd read Kitran's thoughts.
No, no, no! Graciella had been almost certain the meal she’d served him was winning him over to her side. He hadn’t even looked up when Kitran was bringing out the food, was more absorbed in his wine. By the end of their dinner, his body was relaxed, he was making a lot of eye contact, and she’d seen his gaze linger on her mouth more than once. When they’d stood up from the table, she’d been so sure he was going to invite her to sit by the fire in his study and chat, as had been their habit over the past week.
It had to be because of Kitran. With Yajna and Jiandra gone, no doubt Yavi had seized the opportunity to arrange a tryst with the beautiful washing girl. What, hadn’t he as much as admitted he had absolutely no plans to marry any time soon? Spoken like a true rakehell. Oath of celibacy, my arse. The reason Jiandra doesn’t know he’s knobbing Kitran is because he waits until she and Yajna are off the premises!
She had to move fast to find out the truth. She hopped on one foot, tugging off her boots, and put on her soft slippers. She opened her bedroom door just a crack, then poked her head out to see if any guards were lurking about.
It was all clear, so she slipped out and closed the door, then hurried down the hallway out of Yajna’s wing, heading toward Yavi’s side of the palace. Before entering the passageway that led to his study and his bedroom, she flattened herself against the wall and peeked around the corner. There was no one in sight, so she tiptoed past his study to his bedroom.
When she reached the door, she pressed her ear against it to check for the sounds of moaning Jiandra had described. It was quiet for the moment, but she kept listening for any sounds of a woman’s voice, movement on a bed—
Back down the hallway, the door to Yavi’s study opened. Graciella panicked and opened his bedroom door to slip inside. The orange glow of firelight revealed the bed to be undisturbed and free of washing girls, but footsteps were rapidly approaching the door. She glanced around for some place to hide, hurrying to the far corner of the room to crouch behind a trunk just before the door opened.
Graciella shut her eyes tight, mortified. Now you’ve done it, Graciella. What will he think when he finds you snooping in his room? She sent a desperate mental prayer to Zehu as she heard the door close.
It was quiet for a moment, but she didn’t dare raise up to look or even breathe. Yavi could be standing right on the other side of the trunk for all she knew—he moved like a panther when he wanted to. However, there was a slight possibility the person who entered was a servant, and if so, she could invent a lame excuse and hopefully escape before Yavi returned. She would wait until she heard a sound somewhere else in the room, and then raise up to see who was there.
Finally, she heard movement across the room, on the other side of the bed. Water pouring into the washstand. Carefully, oh-so-slowly, she rose up just enough to see over the lid of the trunk. Yavi set the large pitcher down and tugged his white lawn shirt over his head, tossing it to a chair, and Graciella’s mouth went dry. Layers of thick, well-defined muscle covered his arms, shoulders, and chest. Apparently training every day in the courtyard pays dividends. Gorgeous ones.
He reached for the placket on his trousers, and she ducked back down to give him some privacy. After a few moments, she thought she heard the sound of him rummaging in a drawer, and inched back up to take a quick peek.
Six and a half feet of male splendor stood by the armoire, naked except for the emperor’s ruby around his neck. His backside was facing her direction, and she couldn’t help but stare. His buttocks looked firm, sculpted in muscle, with a slightly concave plane on either side of his trim hips. He wrapped a towel around his hips before turning to pace toward his washstand, and she ducked quickly. Soon there was a sound of water splashing, being squeezed from a sponge, splashing again.
She risked another peek, and was rewarded with a second view of his backside as he stood in front of his washstand. His bed was between them, so she could only see him from the thighs up, but there was plenty of muscular naked flesh to stare at from that vantage point. And stare she did, watching his back muscles flex as he sponge-bathed from neck to groin.
He finished washing and used a towel to dry himself, then wrapped the towel around his waist again. When he turned away from the washstand to walk back to his armoire, she caught a view of the bulge of his groin. It strained against the towel, pushing forward as if it wanted to escape, as if it were beckoning her to come rip the towel off him and climb on. And she wanted to answer its call, by Zehu; she wanted to dive onto his bed and beg him to take her right then and there, like some slattern.
And speaking of slatterns, the horrifying thought came to her that it was possible he was washing up for Kitran, who hadn’t arrived yet. He rearranged his belongings for a moment, shut the armoire, and went to open a window. He stood there in his towel, allowing the frigid air to blow over his face and chest a few moments before closing and latching it. He turned toward the bed, and she sank back down out of sight. She heard the bed creak lightly under his weight, waited a moment longer, then rose up just enough to see with one eye. He was lying on his back, the bedspread covering him up to his waist. He lay still a moment, resting one hand over the emperor’s ruby on his chest.
The clock on the far wall ticked loudly in the silence. Three, four minutes passed, with no appearance of the washing girl. Relief began to wash over Graciella in hopes that she’d been wrong about the tryst. Now if she could just wait until he slept and manage to slip out of his room without him waking up, she’d be golden.
He turned over on his side, putting his back to her, and resettled his head into his pillow. Graciella wondered briefly what he would do if she slipped into bed beside him and snuggled up to his back. He might throw her out in disgust for sneaking around in his room, so she decided against it, and rested her chin on her hands on the lid of the trunk to just stare at his muscular back and wait.
Thirty minutes later she realized she was dozing a little, and her eyes flew open. The fire in the fireplace had died down to just a few glowing embers, and she could see from Yavi’s outline in the shadows that he was still in exactly the same position as before, on his side facing away from her. She cautiously rose to her feet, tiptoed around the trunk in the darkness, and stealthily approached his bed. His masculine scent of musk and bergamot reached her senses, and she had another strong urge to climb into bed with him. Instead, she leaned over the bed to try to hear his breathing.
Finally, she heard it: steady breath in, steady breath out. Steady in, steady out. She crept to the door, turned the door handle oh-so-gently, and pulled it open just wide enough to slip into the hallway. She shut the door as silently as she’d opened it, and then hurried out of his wing as fast as her slippered feet would carry her.
Back in her room, she stripped down to wash up for bed, then threw on her nightgown and brushed out her hair. She blew out her candle, slipped under the blankets and the covering of Filstoc fur, and lay still in the darkness thinking about what she’d learned tonight.
One, he hadn’t arranged a tryst with Kitran. That was foolish paranoia on her part, and she was ashamed of herself. However, it didn’t mean he wasn’t involved with Kitran for certain, so Graciella would still have to be alert for any clues about the nature of their relationship.
Two, he hadn’t wanted to spend any more time with her after dinner than was necessary. That meant she still had some work to do in attracting him, so she needed to make good use of her last night alone with him before Jiandra and Yajna returned.
Three. She’d witnessed his glorious naked body, and it was good. He had a warrior’s build, and every inch of him was well-proportioned from head to toe. Every inch, especially the generous inches that stood out from his groin. It made her squirmy and warm just thinking about it. She knew she should feel guilty for spying on him and invading his privacy in such a way, but she wouldn’t trade the view she’d gotten for anything in the world.
She rolled over, sighing. She needed a plan. Tomorrow she’d do her best to get invited to his study after dinner. Once there, she’d casually suggest they sit together on the couch, and in the midst of conversation, make another attempt to go in for a kiss. All she knew was, if she didn’t get some kind of affectionate touch from him soon, she was going to explode. She pictured herself hiking her skirts up and straddling him on the couch, then desperately hugging his face into her bosom, with him looking up at her like she was addled.And with that picture in her head to amuse her, she drifted off to sleep.
More details soon! Let me know what you think of the cover in the comments below. I think the model my graphic artist used for Graciella is absolutely gorgeous. Reminds me a little of Elizabeth Taylor!
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