The Queen of Traitors, Teaser #3

Teaser time! I'm working on the cover of The Queen of Traitors (The Fallen World #2) at the moment, and I'm hoping I can share that with you in another few weeks! For now, here's another teaser from The Queen of Traitors!

The Queen of Traitors, Teaser #3
Serenity leaves me a trail of expensive breadcrumbs to follow. A satin shoe here, a diamond bracelet there. I follow them to the edge of the palace grounds. She’s several feet away from the wrought iron fence, and she’s staring up at it like she’s considering the best way to scale it.
“And here I was hoping that you might consider shedding your dress along with the jewelry.”
She doesn’t flinch at my voice, nor does she turn around. “How do you live with yourself?”
For one instant I fear that if I ever let her go, she’d disappear into the land, never to return. God, she’d want that. And I probably just caught her as she was tasting the possibility on her tongue.
I’ve been vacillating between anger and arousal since she stormed out of the palace. I settle on anger.
“You make a fool out of me and now you insult me?”
Finally she turns. Her wild eyes search mine, and it doesn’t matter that she’s broken in all the right places and whole in all the wrong ones. Or that out here with her bare feet and windblown hair, I catch a hint of the woman she should’ve been. That soul of hers, tempered by the hottest of forges, has been and will always be mine.
And it is probably the evilest thought I’ve ever had, but I’d ruin the world all over again just to be brought back to this very moment.
“You set yourself up for failure the second you decided to pursue me,” she says. “I’m never going to be one of them.” She gestures to the palace.
“No, you’re not.” And I’m glad for it.
“Then why bother making me try?”
“Serenity,” I chastise. “I’d think you more than anyone would know the answer to that.”
Her dress flaps in the breeze as she waits for me to explain myself.
“Ruling,” I say, “isn’t always about getting to be who you want to be. It’s about sacrifices.”
“And what sacrifices have you made? Bombing innocents? Taking a hostage wife?”
Usually I like the chase, but not like this, not when she’s deriding me while eyeing my perimeter walls like she’s considering escape.
“I am still your king, and you will not speak to me that way.” My voice resonates in the evening air.
“Then kill me already, or let me go.” She has the audacity to look exasperated.
Don’t yell at her.
Don’t threaten her.
Don’t rip off her dress and fuck her.
I should just walk away. I have before when I wanted to shake her. She doesn’t realize she’s the not only one being tormented here. Instead I take her hand.
She tries to jerk away, but when I don’t release her, she relaxes.
She steps in closer, and I only realize what she’s about to do the moment before her fist slams into my face. Those scarred knuckles of hers that I admired only days ago now smash into my skin and teeth.
I stumble back at the impact, and she uses the distraction throw me against the fence. Her hand goes to my neck.
“I am not something you can control, Montes,” she says, and the way the shadows play on her face make her appear downright sinister. “I’ll do many things for you—”
I raise an eyebrow, though I doubt she can see it out here.
“—but don’t try to make me become one of you.”
Had I thought I was angry or aroused before? It doesn’t hold a candle to the way my blood now heats at her presumptions. She thinks she has me in more ways than one.
I swipe her feet out from under her. I may not have the combat experience she does, but I’ve had plenty of military training. A moment later, it’s me that has her pinned. My legs straddle her torso, and I capture her hands in one of my own, pulling them high over her head.
She glares at me as I press my other hand gently to her throat, noticing the way her hair spills across the lawn. For a woman who has little time for appearances, she takes awfully good care of those golden locks.
“My queen,” I say, “you’re seriously misguided if you think you have any agency outside of what I give you. I will allow you some measure of control over our empire, and in return you will attend every dinner party I host. I’ll chain you to my side if I have to.”
She’s moving beneath me, trying to pry my hold from her. It’s only serving to display every pleasing angle of hers.
“Now,” I say, “about those many things you’ll do for me …”
“Give me a knife and I’ll show you.”
I let out a husky laugh and move one of my legs to the inside of her thighs. “Still uncomfortable with sex, I see. I’m taking that as a challenge.”
I remove my hand from her throat to grasp her freed leg. Her skirts pool around her waist. She looks indecent, and on Serenity, indecent is a good look.
She’s no longer trying to free herself from my grip, and her chest’s rising and falling faster and faster. From what I can make out of her expression, I’m thinking she has no idea what to make of intimacy in all its forms.
A spark of protectiveness flares in me. Despite everything this world’s thrown at her, Serenity still maintains a shred of innocence when it comes to things between a man and a woman. That’s going to disappear eventually—marriage will force her hand—but I’m not too keen on rushing her in this.
I’m a wicked man. I’ve never made bones about that. So I don’t readily recognize myself when get off of Serenity and extend a hand towards her. I’m not sure I like this side of me, either.
Slowly she sits up. I can feel her gaze on me. We’ve been here before. She doesn’t take my hand, but she does stand.
She turns her head to the blazing lights of the palace. “We should probably go back.”
I stick my hands in my pockets and study her. This is her peace offering. She’ll go back inside what she sees as a beacon of depravity.
“Alright,” I say.
And together we return to the castle.


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