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Left with little choice but to make his enemies his friends, Valerian Jorku entrusts Melena with the task of brining her rebel brother to the bargaining table.
Melena belongs to Valerian, but their relationship goes deeper than being owned by him. She has come to depend on him. This man she once hated is now evoking emotions within her she finds hard to express for fear she will give him power over the last little part of her.
As for Valerian, the war against his tyrant brother for control over the throne heats up just as intensely as his passions with Melena do. There is a certain violence in each and Valerian struggles to remain dominant over all of it.
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Truce (Mine to Take 5)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2018 Jacquelyn Frank
Melena spurred her horse onward through the thick trees that bordered the Morrowood glen. She had left Valerian and his people behind some time ago. They had stopped farther back to avoid being seen by patrols from the enemy. Only, they weren't Melena's enemies. The leader of the rebel army was her brother. He would no doubt welcome her presence. The question was, would he listen to reason? And what reasoning would she use? How could she make him understand the kind of man Valerian was without it being a complete betrayal to him?
She had started this journey as a captive slave, but now was a treasured member of Valerian's harem. Not a slave but a shisha... with the potential to one day become a wife. A potential that was becoming more real as Valerian made moves to overthrow his despot of a brother. But there were no guarantees he would be successful. He could just as easily fail in his attempt, and then her future would be a precarious one. As a shisha to what amounted to a traitor, she could be put to death.
So it was in her best interest that Valerian be successful in his coup. It was also in the best interest of every member of the vast Jorku nation who was living under the heavy yoke of a perverse emperor's rule. There was only one man who could achieve victory over Vicktor and take his throne... and that man was his only living blood heir -- Valerian Jorku. Her master. The man she was coming to care for a great deal. The man who had proven that he would go to any extreme to see to her protection and her pleasure.
Oh, she had fought him at first... thought him cruel... but he had worn at her defenses. He had shown her new ways of looking at the world... and new ways of experiencing pleasure. He had slowly been winning her loyalty and devotion.
Now she had to express her feelings to her brother Grulon, the leader of a rebel army. Grulon's forces were vastly outnumbered by Valerian's massive army. Their tactics, Valerian had told her, had amounted to guerilla warfare. They attacked under cover of the vast forests of her homeland. They defeated small groups of scouts or soldiers. They had been making the smallest of dents in Valerian's army. Almost small enough to not be noticed.
But what Valerian did not know was exactly how big the rebel army was or how to find them. At least he hadn't until Melena had told him of the places Grulon had frequented as a child. Grulon, like most people, was a creature of habit, and he would hide where he was most familiar with hiding.
That had brought them to this glen. Surrounded by thick forest, there was a clearing that could house a small army. At first she had only suspected he might be there... she couldn't be sure. But now, as she traveled deeper into the surrounding woods, she heard birdcalls and sensed she was being watched. Lookouts had spotted her. They were calling to others in birdsong. She knew enough about the sounds of the forest to detect what was real and what was manmade.
She was accosted about two hundred yards out from the clearing. Two men dropped from the trees and into the path of her horse. Both she and her horse were startled by this, her horse rearing. She tightened her thighs and somehow managed to keep her seat. This was no mean feat considering how saddlesore she was after their long travels to reach this part of her country. They had traveled all the way from the capital city of Jorku to the newly expanded border into Moglu, it being the latest acquisition into the Jorku nation, a nearly three-week journey of body-aching travel on horseback from Vicktor and Valerian's home fortress.
During that time she had developed a great deal of strength and fortitude, and it showed as she kept her seat. Her entire journey through her life this past month had been an exercise in discovering her own strengths and her own limits, all thanks to the man who was trusting her to open talks between him and her brother... even though he knew this would be the perfect opportunity for her to escape his mental, emotional, and physical control.
She could easily betray Valerian, shifting to her brother's side and remaining safe with his army. After all, Valerian had only come with a small contingent of men. Enough to protect him, but not enough to launch an attack on an enemy camp. By the time Valerian made the trip back to his base camp and came back with enough force to reclaim her, Grulon's army will have pulled up stakes and moved on. This was her perfect, and possibly her only, chance to escape Valerian.
He sent her anyway. He was investing in trust, and in her loyalty to him over her loyalty to her brother. It was a deep risk for him. All she could think about was the rewards that would come if she pulled this off successfully. Aid for Valerian, benefit for her brother... and she couldn't even imagine what Valerian would do to show her his appreciation.
She shivered inside whenever she thought of it.
She put all that out of her mind as she got her horse under control and fixed her gaze on the men wielding sharp swords beneath her horse's nose.
"Dismount and surrender your animal!" one of them commanded.
"I will do no such thing," she replied, her voice hard and unyielding and proud. "I wish to see the man who leads you."