War makes strange bedfellows.
I, Gaius Domitus, one-eyed rebel dragon king of the Provinces, know that better than most, since I have to fight off half my ungrateful family on a regular basis to keep law and order here in my lands. But I never expected to have to consort with a barbarian human woman.
Kachka is beautiful, if you like them fierce—and of course I do. But she keeps complaining about how spoiled and decadent I am, and how a feared Daughter of the Steppes has no time for foolish dragons. I think she likes my eye patch, though. It is quite dashing. With death always at our tails, we take our passion like we take our allies. As they say, love the barbarian you’re with…
Gaius walked into the palace that now belonged to him and his twin. The original palace, the one his cousin Vateria and her father, Overlord Thracius, had ruled from, had been torn down. It had been partially destroyed during his sister Aggie’s rescue; then Gaius and a few chosen dragon friends had ripped apart the rest of it. He would never let that palace stand, no matter how many of his kin had lived and ruled there. Not after his sister had been held captive in that place by the bitch Vateria. They had been raised with their cousin Vateria, but from the beginning they’d never been close with her. Never trusted her. Definitely never liked her. And then, when their father was murdered by his own brother, Gaius had made it his goal to one day challenge Thracius for the throne. But, when he was old enough—and strong enough— to make that challenge, that’s when Vateria, always so very smart, had captured Aggie and held her hostage in the old palace. She knew it was the one way to control Gaius. To “keep him in his place,” as she liked to say. It had worked, too. And Aggie had been in a tolerable situation, as she was still royal born and niece of Thracius. But then Thracius went to war with the Southlanders, taking on the Dragon Queen, leaving his bitch daughter alone with Aggie. For five long, painful years.
Aggie refused to talk about what had happened, but some nights she woke up screaming. Some nights she didn’t sleep at all.
And yes, Gaius blamed himself, although he knew Aggie never did. But how could he not blame himself? His poor, weak, defenseless sister trapped in the web of that evil—
“You!” Aggie gripped Gaius’s throat, causing him to gag before yanking him into another room. “Excuse us, Lætitia,” she told their aunt before slamming the door in Lætitia’s stunned face.
“What have you done?” his sister demanded.
“There are Mì-runach in our throne room. Why?”
“Mì-runach?” Warriors who answered to absolutely no one but the Dragon Queen herself? “Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. Now why are they here?”
“I don’t . . . oh.” Gaius cringed. “Oh.”
“What have you done?”
“I had your best interests at heart.”
“You idiot,” Aggie sighed out just as Lætitia knocked on the door and quickly entered.
She closed the door, turned to her niece and nephew, and announced, “There are peasants in your throne room. Southland peasants!”
“They’re Mì-runach,” Aggie told her and gestured to Gaius. “That this idiot requested.”
“I did not request them.”
“Then what did you do?” his sister demanded.
“I requested help from the Dragon Queen, but . . .”
“But I thought she’d send Cadwaladrs.” The Cadwaladrs were a Southland clan of Low Born dragons trained from hatching in the ways of war and defense of the Dragon Queen’s territories. They might not be respected, but they were greatly feared. And with reason.
“Why would you want those pit dogs here any more than you’d want the Mì-runach?”
“You need protection.”
Aggie suddenly stood tall, her spine straight, her long steel-colored hair reaching down her back in intricate braids and curls. She looked amazingly regal, which was how she always looked when she was getting defensive. “Why would I need protection?”
“Because he’s going off on a fool’s errand, that’s why.”
Gaius briefly closed his eyes. “Lætitia,” he sighed.
“What? I’m not lying. Tell me I’m lying,” she ordered. “Tell me.”
If Lætitia hoped to get Aggie on her side, she’d just failed because now the twins were giggling. Like they used to when they were hatchlings.
“The two of you! I swear by the gods.”
Aggie cleared her throat. “Aunt Lætitia, could you excuse us?”
“You’re sending me back out there? With those plebeians?”
“Or you could just go to your room. But you need to go . . . you know . . . away.”
Lætitia snatched the door open, gazed back at her niece and nephew. “Hmmph!” she snapped before walking out, making sure she slammed the door in the process.
“Mind telling me what’s going on?” Aggie asked. “You know I hate when Lætitia knows more than me. It gives her way too much enjoyment. And we both know that I can’t allow that.”