“…laugh out loud dialogue and a devilishly fast paced plot keep the pages flying.” ~Gail Pruszkowski, Romantic Times Magazine
With sexy devil Prince Dialle at her side, Astra Q Phelps finds herself embroiled in yet more danger and intrigue at the royal devil court. As Astra discovers her family tree might be growing right in the middle of the current mess, her career as a demon slayer is put at risk, her dignity is seriously damaged, and there might be a pair of giant granny panties in her future. Fortunately for her she doesn’t have much need for dignity. It's a whole mess of trouble for one determined halfling to sort through, but Astra Q Phelps is…hopefully…up to the challenge.
The hallway we traveled was long and well lit. Both sides were lined with heavy wooden doors and above each one was a wall sconce that emitted a soft, yellow light. The carpet beneath our feet was impossibly white and thick enough to sleep on. The air gave off a heated, slightly musky smell that told me the huge stone building was filled with otherworldly types.
I struggled to keep up with the two devils, my much shorter legs pumping furiously. Occasionally Dialle would reach back and tug on my hand to pull me forward. In full disclosure, I’d have to admit that some of my slowness probably wasn’t due to my height. Whenever I got behind I ogled my devil’s taut, yummy buttocks. Once he caught me looking and laughed. Heat flared in my cheeks but—knowing that the best defense was a good offense—I glared back at him defiantly, daring him to comment.
Gerch turned a corner and I found myself in another endless hallway that looked much the same as the first one. That hallway turned, eventually, into a third hallway that finally ended beyond a gilded archway filled with armed guards and a harem of beautiful women, both devil and fallen angel. The guards stood at rigid attention on either side of the archway and both sides of the huge, gold-plated doors in the center. The women lounged on chaises and were flung across long, backless divans. Their sheer robes shimmered in the soft yellow light, softly draping their gold and silver flesh
Glancing at the women as we flew past, I frowned. “What’s with the harem?”
Dialle gave them only the merest glance as we entered the alcove created by the arched entranceway. “They vie for the king’s attention. He is supposed to be choosing a new queen but he apparently suffers from the human condition called ADD. He can’t seem to focus on one woman for any length of time.”
I sensed Dialle wanted to say more but Gerch pushed one of the gilded doors inward and Dialle’s attention was forced elsewhere. He drew himself up with a sigh and grabbed my arm. “Come, my father is a very impatient creature.”
Dialle led the way through the gilded doors. He pulled me into the room behind him and all but dragged me to his side, where he immediately put an arm around my waist and proceeded to rip my mental drawers open. Show no fear Astra.
What’s to fear? I responded in a negligent mental tone and he turned to arch a midnight brow at me.
You are teasing me right?
King Dialle the First stood across a cavernous room in front of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over an Angel City skyline which sparkled in the distance. He stood with his back to us, his hands folded behind him and his long, muscular legs braced apart in a warrior’s stance. His silky black hair flowed down his back, stopping just where perfectly sculpted buttocks rounded out from a narrow waist. The hair was loose except for the last six inches, which were tied together in a thick bunch with some kind of leather tie. He wore white leather leggings that fit his well-muscled legs and perky round buttocks like a second skin and nothing else. As he turned I noticed a large tattoo shaped like a pitchfork on one muscular biceps. I smiled.
His face could have been designed in heaven. Well, actually it was. The golden brow was wide and clear, with a thick mane of hair flowing back from a widow’s peak at the center. His eyes were deep-set, narrow and very sexy. His nose was long, tapered and straight. The jaw was square, with just a tiny bit of black stubble on it that made him look dangerous and hot. He had high, strong cheekbones, like his son but when he grinned, as he was currently doing, his cheeks creased with matching dimples that made certain places on my body tingle. His shoulders were broad and his chest was a smooth, hairless, golden color, deeply muscled.
The king’s black-velvet gaze slid past his son and fixed on me. “Alas, behold my queen.”
My devil stiffened beside me and his arm tightened on my waist. “Father, I’d like you to meet my future queen. This is Astra.”
King Dialle arched one perfectly shaped black eyebrow at his son and then dismissed him, sliding his eyes back to me. “You are the halfling?”
He nodded once. “I had heard you were lovely. I admit I didn’t believe the reports.” He eyed me up and down once more. “Now I realize I should have been paying better attention.” He slid his gaze back to his son, who had grown increasingly agitated as the seconds ticked by. “Perhaps you will need to find…another…queen my son. I may need to explore this one for myself.”
My Dialle huffed out a breath. “Stop baiting me old man. You know as well as I do that you cannot settle on just one woman.” He tugged me a little behind him and stepped forward, all in one smooth motion. “This woman is mine. She bears my mark. I did not come here to joust with you. I await your instructions.”
I glanced at my Dialle but his face was closed. Except for a muscle working in his beautiful square jaw he showed no emotion. I tried to initiate a trip into his mental drawers but he slammed them shut on me. Obviously he and his father didn’t have an easy relationship. Interesting but not too surprising given the devil factor.
The king narrowed his gaze on his son but apparently decided to let it go. He turned and strode arrogantly toward a desk in the far corner of the room. How funny. A devil king office. Imagine that.
He sat down in the throne-like white leather chair behind a huge desk made of what appeared to be black onyx and looked at us expectantly.
I made a move as if to sit too but my Dialle stopped me with a hand on my arm. Then he pulled me into his side and wrapped his other arm around my stomach, a slight cocking of his head the only sign that he was prepared to listen to the king.
I struggled to pull away but Dialle tightened his arms around my waist and said, Stop. We need to have a united front against my father or we’re both…toast…as you would say.
Realizing he was right, I stopped struggling. Better to have one powerful royal devil on your side than fight two of them. I leaned closer to Dialle and wrapped my left arm around his stomach. One united front coming up.
The king scowled but finally turned to the door. He spoke to Gerch, who had, apparently, followed us into the room. “Remove yourself. If you value your life you’ll keep everyone away from that door after you close it. What I have to say is not to be overheard.”
Gerch bowed almost in half. “As my king commands.” He left, pulling the vast, golden doors closed silently behind him.
The king turned to us. “I’ll make this as brief as possible. The demons have sent word that they intend to break loyalty with us and become an independent court. They have promised to take drastic action if we don’t meet with them to form an agreement. I have no intention of doing so.”
I looked at my Dialle. He didn’t look surprised. “But their king was just killed by Prince Nille. How could they have organized a revolt so quickly?” I asked.
King Dialle snorted. “This plan has been in motion for some time. King Abrine will not even be missed. His brother has been scheming his demise for centuries. Nille and Nerul only gave him the method of murdering his brother.” He stood and walked to the wall of windows again, resuming the exact stance he’d held when we’d entered the room. “Abrine was, at heart, a coward. Over the centuries I have been very successful holding him and his aspirations at bay. King Alcott will be an entirely different matter.” The king turned around, his black gaze sliding to his son. “I need you to go to Alcott. I must know what he plans. I want you and the lovely Astra to keep an eye on the demons and keep me informed. We’ll simply head them off before they can do anything.”
My Dialle studied his father for a minute without responding. It was clear by his hesitation that he wanted to speak out against the plan. I made a mental note to ask him what he thought of the situation and his father’s handling of it later. Until then, I had to ask, “Why don’t you just let them go? Why fight the inevitable?”
The king turned to me and, although his gorgeous face showed no emotion at all, I could tell by the way he held himself that he wasn’t wild about my question, or me for asking it. “You will learn our ways in time, Astra. Try, in the meantime, to hide your ignorance more carefully. A beautiful face and an empty mind create a vessel that can be filled with only one activity.” He smiled and the smile didn’t take me to a happy place. “I doubt you would welcome the activity I refer to.” He turned to my Dialle. “There is one further complication.”
My Dialle, still frowning over his father’s insult to me, didn’t seem to hear the king. He was looking at me with concern, most likely afraid that I would open my big mouth and get myself into trouble. I smiled. Although I was known to throw caution to the wind and jump butt first into a conflagration when my temper got the best of me, I wasn’t a complete drooling idiot. I initiated a field trip into his mental drawers and told him, I’ll get even later, when he’s not expecting it and can’t retaliate.
He smiled, lifting one of my hands and kissing it. Where his lips touched my skin, a warm, tingly spot remained. I would expect nothing less from you.
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