Bedeviled & Belittled

Series: Bedeviled & Beyond, book 4
Ebook ISBN:978-1-944241-08-7
Publisher: Electric Prose Publications

As she approaches the age of twenty-five, Astra Q Phelps starts to feel the effects of her Settling, the time when a creature formed of light and dark decides which nature she’s going to embrace. Unfortunately for her, the delectable Dialle, king of the Royal devils, really needs Astra’s help in Hell to deal with an insurrection. But Astra’s Settling pretty much has her thinking of only one thing—S.E.X.! It’s a constant struggle just to keep her mind and body pure so she can concentrate on the business at hand. And, let’s face it, being immersed in the dark world is hardly conducive to culminating her Settling in the light. But Astra Q Phelps is presumably up to the challenge. And Good versus Evil has never been this much fun!


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"...an excellent tale to keep you up late at night. The plot was captivating, reminiscent of court intrigue, where you never know which are your friends and which are your enemies."

 SensualReads.com

"This is one sensual and spirited read. It is the entire cast of colorful characters, both good and bad and the in-between, that make this such an unforgettable story. I loved the tone of this book, while keeping up a fast-paced action it balances the catastrophes with a lightheartedness that kept me chuckling throughout. If you are looking for a steamy paranormal this is it and it proves just why this author has a spot on my must-read list." 

The Romance Studio

 

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Excerpt

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

Crowned!

Our randy miss doth pitch a fit, o’re an audience of red,

But in the end she’ll welcome it, to warm her lover’s bed.

 

“Tell me again why we have to have sex in front of twelve hundred people?”

Dialle sighed, tugging on a stray lock of my auburn hair. “Not people, Astra. Devils.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Answer the question.”

His full, soft lips dropped to within a single, steamy breath of mine. “Don’t you want to have sex with me?”

I sucked in his essence and my knees wobbled, my happy place clenched with desire, and my heart started to do the rumba in my chest. I licked my lips. “That’s not pertinent.”

His lips touched mine, a feather-soft kiss that stole air from my lungs and filled my sexy thong with moisture. “It’s extremely pertinent, my queen.”

My world tilted, wavered, and turned muzzy under a wave of lust. I even forgot to yell at him for calling me his queen. Sighing, I forced myself to focus. “It is not pert…pert…um, what you said.”

Those treacherous lips descended again, pulling my will to resist away and replacing it with a tsunami of lustful inclinations.

My lips met his hungrily. My mind might have wanted to argue, but my damn, traitorous body just wanted us to hump, hump, hump like bunnies. As the kiss intensified, I whimpered and ran my fingers up under his shirt.

His golden skin was smooth, hairless and unnaturally heated. His masculine scent folded over me, leaving my mind feeling as if I’d consumed copious amounts of some kind of drug.

The kiss grew hungry, nearly frantic. I tilted my head to capture his mouth more thoroughly and my tongue slid out to tangle with his. His mouth was hot and sweet, like melted butter under my tongue. He tasted of raw, unfettered sensuality.

Pure decadence.

I slid my fingers into the waistband of his tight, leather jeans and pulled him close. He gasped as my fingers stretched the soft leather and slid inside, finding him hard and more than ready for me.

I cupped the rigid proof of his desire in my palm and shivered with delight.

I was lost. Toasted. Sucker punched by my hormone-crazed body. My slut monkey side had beaten my weakened conscience into tattered, bleeding submission. I would have consumed him then and there, right on the floor of the throne room of the Royal Devil Court, but our skin sparked and it startled me.

I pulled away.

We never used to spark. Only my daemon hickey used to spark, and that, only when we communicated from a distance, or another male came too close.

But lately we’d been creating literal sparks whenever we touched in a sensual way. It was a bit disconcerting to say the least.

I pulled away and licked my lips. His taste lingered on the swollen flesh and my body clenched with desire. “I’m going to have to buy fireproof clothes if this keeps up.”

Dialle’s grin was wicked. “Or you could just go naked all the time.”

“Har! In your dreams, bud.”

“Actually, yes, that has been a central theme in my dreams on many occasions.”

I couldn’t help sharing his smile. Then I remembered the conversation I’d been trying to have before he kissed me. Crossing the room, I sat down. When he made a move to join me I held up a hand, palm out, to stop him. “You stay over there. So I can breathe.”

His black eyes sparked with mischief but, for once, he did as I asked.

“Now tell me about this crowning ceremony.”

He inclined his head and dropped his perfect, well rounded ass onto the arm of a nearby chair. “Since my father has been recalled to Hades I must serve as king until he returns.”

I nodded. “I’m with you up to that point.” Dialle and I had recently intercepted a plot by King Dialle the First to overtake Saint Peter and breech the Pearly Gates. The happy result of that fight was that King Dialle had been re-imprisoned in Hell for the foreseeable future, his “get out of Hell free” pass rescinded by the Big Guy.

“I am, of course the most obvious choice to succeed him—”

“Wait a minute. The most obvious choice? Aren’t you the only choice?”

He cocked his well-shaped head, the silken, black curtain of his hair drifting to rest against one broad shoulder. The strands curled enticingly where they touched the black silk of his shirt. His smooth, golden pecs showed in the deep vee of the unbuttoned shirt. My eyes glazed a bit and I had to do a metaphorical head shake to get my focus back.

The hormonal consequences of my Settling were…well…unsettling.

“Lovely, Astra, you of all people should understand that things are never that simple in the devil court.”

I lifted my eyebrows and shrugged. “Right. I forgot for a moment that I wasn’t talking about rational beings.”

“Devils are rational, Astra. Just not in the same way you are. We have our own rationality.”

“Whatever. Anyway…”

He slid into the seat of the chair he’d been resting against and crossed one long, slimly muscled leg across the other, ankle to knee, man style. Something hot and needy twisted in my belly. I blinked, trying to remember why I was fighting having sex with him. Oh yeah, twelve hundred horned and horny voyeurs. Got it.

“To become king, I must undergo the crowning ceremony. The words of the ceremony create powerful magics that ensure the loyalty of my subjects.”

I nodded. All that made perfect sense to me. The sex in front of strangers part though, not so much.

“Unfortunately for you, the ceremony isn’t complete until I consummate it with my chosen mate.”

“I’m not your mate.”

“Ah, but you are, lovely halfling. You bear my mark on your neck and you carry my heart in your pocket.”

Glaring at him, I got up to pace. “The mark was given against my will.”

“I would dispute that assessment, my love. But even if it were true it would not diminish its meaning…or its effect.”

I stopped pacing long enough to fix him with an angry frown. “This mark was given to me in a weak moment of passion. I had no idea at the time what it entailed. It wasn’t very nice of you to lock me into all of this without even asking if I was interested.”

He lifted his hands out to the sides and cocked his head. “Devil, Astra.”

I sighed. What could I say? He had a point. When you hung out with devils you kind of had to expect to get screwed.

Fortunately it was usually a frunkin’ fine experience.

###

Dialle sprawled on the throne, his long legs spread wide, one stretched straight and the other bent at the knee. He wore only tight, white breeches, which outlined his natural assets beautifully, and soft, knee-high boots.

His hairless, golden chest glistened in the soft light of the chamber, looking as if it had been polished for my viewing pleasure.

I stood at the back of the room and wiped sweaty palms on the gauzy gown they’d held me down and forced me into, swallowing hard.

Call me chicken, but I’d rather fight an army of supra-demons than have sex in front of hundreds of devils.

Brawwwkkkk!!

I focused on Dialle’s angelic features and the way his glossy, black hair slid over his broad shoulders. Licking my lips, I allowed the twinge of lust that sparked easily to life low in my belly to grow with thoughts of our last time together. It had been a whole week since Dialle and I had done the horizontal mambo. Way too long. But unavoidable due to the restraints of ceremony and my own busy schedule, you know, saving the world and stuff.

No wonder my skin felt as if every nerve ending was on fire. My Settling was fully upon me, which meant I was a walking, talking hormonal mess. I needed to get me some hard, hot, sexy Royal Devil soon or I might explode.

Several feet in front of the throne was a long, low, altar type construction, with velvet padding on top. My eyes kept straying worriedly toward it, wishing it had a couple of walls at least, to provide some modicum of privacy for the act.

It wasn’t the act I was worried about. Certainly not that. It was the observers. It was my staunch, unwavering opinion that some things just shouldn’t be group activities.

Sex was at the top of that list.

Suddenly, Dialle straightened in the throne and stood, looking toward the back of the room, directly at me. I fought the urge to look over my shoulder and held my ground, praying he was watching someone else approach and it wasn’t my time on stage just yet.

I was relieved when someone stepped up beside me, thinking that I’d been given a few moment’s reprieve. And then I was newly terrified when that someone held out his arm and cocked a dark, elegant eyebrow at me.

Torre. Dialle’s brother.

I widened my eyes and he tightened his lips, trying not to smile. “When you’re ready, my queen.”

I scowled. “Then I guess we can all leave now.”

He gave me a look that reminded me way too much of my sister, Darma, who unfortunately happened to be his girlfriend.

Sighing, I placed my hand on his arm and we started down the aisle, toward Dialle. “I don’t know why I have to get dragged into Dialle’s coronation.”

“It is the way of our people.”

I made a face and mocked his snotty tone of voice.

Torre just grinned. At least he had a sense of humor. Unlike his surly girlfriend.

“Promise me you won’t look when we…you know.”

Torre glanced at me, his handsome face completely earnest, so earnest in fact that I knew he had to be lying. “I give you my word.”

“Uh-huh.”

The crowd at the back of the room moved forward with us, until they stood in a semi-circle around the raised couch.

Dialle stood straight and tall on the raised throne platform. His dark eyes swirled with silver lights and sparked with red. He stood with legs apart and hands held down at his sides, fisted with restrained power. I looked into his swirling gaze and felt myself falling away. He was so pretty. So hot. So…

I jerked. “Hey!” I’d felt the edges of his power sliding over my free will.

His perfectly sculpted lips tipped up on the ends. “Welcome to power, my queen.”

I scowled, opening my mouth to dispute the title. His voice slammed into me. Don’t say the words, Astra. The court must believe you accept your position at my side or this will fail.

But I’m not sure I do accept the position.

Pain touched his features. It ran so briefly across his face I nearly missed it. But its existence made me regret my words. If I am not ensconced in this throne the court will settle into pandemonium, Astra. My ability to rule will be severely compromised and violence will break out as usurpers vie for the throne. It will most likely spill out into the human population and in the end, if I do not prevail, you will have someone sitting in this throne who may not share my…sensitivities…as pertains to our role in this world.

I frowned. I knew he was right. But I still didn’t understand why I always had to be the one to give up my freedom and any chance at choosing my own future to save the world…yet again. I sighed. Okay, you win.

It is my hope that we’ll both win, my queen.

Yada yada… Outwardly, I forced a smile onto my face and inclined my head. “I serve at your will and pleasure, my king.” The words were bile in my mouth. And on top of my resistance to subjugating myself to Dialle, even if it was only for the benefit of his court, I was worried that, as I rumbled inexorably toward my Settling, I was immersing myself in the devil court. Surrounding myself with dark worlders at a time when my dark side was fighting for dominance over my light side. It was very likely the most idiotic thing I’d ever done.

My mind was aware of the problem, but my heart and body couldn’t help noticing the way Dialle’s breeches hugged the nicely rounded package at the juncture of his muscular thighs.

As the music began and Torre stepped forward to begin the ceremony, I licked my lips and tried to focus on the great sex I was about to have.

Funny how your priorities changed when the size of your problems kept growing. After the brief, mental discussion with Dialle, I realized having sex before an audience of hundreds was the least of my problems.

Sometimes it was damn difficult being me.

 

Torre handed me to Dialle and stepped back. “Let us begin.”

The thunderous sound of hundreds of creatures dropping to their knees made me turn. They were all prostrate on the floor, their foreheads touching the plush carpets beneath them.

I could only hope they stayed that way. If they were sucking carpet lint they couldn’t cast their eyes on my thigh dimples.

From the cavernous reaches of the ceiling above our heads, the magical sound of angels singing drifted down to fill the room. I resisted looking up. The chained angels were my biggest problem with the Devil Court. It was a practice that had served for millennia and, though I’d worked on Dialle for months to get him to release the angels, the politics of the move were so far entrenched into their system that I’d yet to make any headway gaining their release.

But I had the satisfaction of knowing the angels were at least treated well. Unlike they’d been under Dialle’s father, Dialle the First, or the hopefully extinguished King Nerul of the other devil court.

Baby steps.

The music swelled, creating magic on the air that began to work upon my mind. The music generated tingly feelings low in my belly and made Dialle look even sexier than usual.

A seemingly impossible trick.

I licked my lips and clenched my thighs, fearing that my Settling would bring the magics to their culmination much more quickly than anticipated, embarrassing me and maybe even Dialle with their intensity.

Premature magiculation.

Torre stepped up next to Dialle, lifting his hands. The crowd behind me got to its feet again. Torre began to speak in Hades, a tongue I’d learned at a young and tender age, while bouncing on my devilish mother’s knee.

I mentally translated as he spoke.

“The court of Dialle the First is done. It is the time for a new regime, a fresh course, for the chosen race…”

I snorted softly and both Dialle and Torre glared at me. I glowered back. When they said outrageous things they couldn’t expect me not to react.

Had they met me?

Torre continued. “King Dialle the Second brings a new vision to the Royal Devil Court. This vision binds us to the new century, to the current time, making us a vital part of this world.”

The creatures behind us stirred and murmurs slid through the crowd.

“We no longer cling to the past, to old ways, instead we look to the future and embrace the changes which are needed to bring us into the light.”

“Heresy!”

I turned to see who had shouted as Dialle lifted a hand, palm out, and shot a volt of power into the rug at someone’s feet.

The extremely tall, exceedingly narrow royal had a pinched mouth and angry, black eyes. I recognized him as one of the Royal Court. He didn’t flinch as Dialle’s power arrow singed his toes, but, after a moment during which the entire room fell into stark, unnatural silence, he inclined his head and lifted his hands as indication that the ceremony should resume.

Apparently he wasn’t devil enough to follow up his verbal challenge with a physical one.

You just made me very hot. I informed Dialle.

He smiled and his black gaze sparked with promise. He inclined his head to Torre and his brother went back to droning on.

I stopped listening and kept a gimlet eye on the crowd. I’ve never been known for having a trusting nature and the outburst had reminded me I’d been standing with my vulnerable backside to a large group of big, bad, nasties.

Distracted as I was, it took me a moment to realize the room had fallen into a chant. Spoken in thick, guttural Hades, I didn’t recognize the words at first, but when I did I jerked around to meet Dialle’s black, swirling gaze.

It is time, my queen.

Shit!

His chuckle was a deep rumble in my mind. My panties dampened at the sound.

Like a trapped but strangely fascinated animal, I watched him descend the platform and reach for my hand. Placing my palm on his, I grimaced. Are we sure there’s no way around this?

We are very sure, Astra. Relax, I promise you’ll enjoy it.

That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.

Dialle walked me over to the raised platform and turned to the crowd. Lifting our joined hands between us he opened his mouth and spoke in a voice that reverberated off the walls of the cavernous room and made my special place clench with desire.

“I give you the Court of Dialle the Second.” He turned to look me in the eye. “I offer you my choice of Queens, and promise you her pleasure. For according to the traditions of this Royal Court, my queen’s pleasure bears us up, and ensures our invincibility against our foes.”

What? Huh? Well that at least was good news. He had very good motivation to make me happy.

Dialle’s lips lowered to mine. I placed my hand on his chest, fully intending to question his latest revelation. But, as we touched, the very air around us sparked and flared, bathing us in vibrant oranges and scorching reds.

Instead of burning at their touch, the flames fired the nerve endings of my skin, so that the whisper-soft touch of Dialle’s fingers against my skin sent me into paroxysms of lust.

 

 


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