In the darkest of nights, hope shines through.
Pawn in her father’s maniacal quest for power, Princess Nae Corda doesn’t see any way of escaping her impending marriage to the leader of the Oonkaen.
That is until a dark shadow enters her prison-like bedroom—and offers her hope.
King Tyan will do anything to save his kingdom and the lives of his goblin people—even if it means flying into his enemy’s land to steal away an elvish princess.
Ty has plans for Princess Nae. What he didn’t plan on was falling for her—heart, wing and soul.
But in a world where war, dragons, lies and danger lurk everywhere, the future is uncertain at best.
When first he heard the soft whisper of sound, he thought perhaps it was Das again, come to check on him once more. But when he turned his head, it wasn’t Das that stood before him.
It was Nae.
Winds. She was lovely. Her hair, gilt-tipped and thick, falling down her back, spilling over her shoulders. The ends curled around her breasts and Tyan had a hard time tearing his eyes from those sweet curves and making himself look at her heart-shaped face.
“You should rest more, my lady,” he said, forcing the words out in elvish as his mouth went dry.
“You grieve.” Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper. She lifted a hand and covered her heart. Her lashes drooped low over her eyes and then she looked at him once more. “You grieve—I can feel it. It pulls at me.”
He frowned, studying her pale face, the odd strain in her eyes. Something occurred to him—she’d said she knew something of healing. “Are you a healer?”
Nae shook her head. “No, though I’ve a gift for guiding the body to heal itself. I…” she licked her lips, her gaze falling away from his, “…I see the soul, Ty. I see within the heart and soul—yours is so heavy with grief.”
He looked away. “I am sorry that I woke you.”
She touched him. Tyan stiffened as that soft, cool hand slid up and down his arm, stroking him. As though she comforted a child. He slanted a look at her. “If my presence makes it difficult for you to rest, I shall go. But I’m no mood for stroking, soothing and clucking.”
“You need to grieve.” She shifted around, standing before him when he tried to turn away.
She now stood between him and the roaring fire.
And blast it, the golden glow of the fire made the thin nightgown she wore seem like little more than gossamer. He could see the outline of her breasts, her torso, the sweet curve of her hips, the long, lean lines of her legs.
Something dark, desperate moved through him. Turning aside, he focused on the stone wall across the room. Yes…he needed to grieve. He needed to destroy something, tear into something and let the rage and misery inside him take control.
But not now. Not with her near. Not when the safety of his people, his throne were at stake. What of her safety… Yes. Her safety, too. The thought of letting Guldric place his cruel hands on her was enough to have his gut twist with fury.
She took another step closer and he sensed what she was going to do before she even laid one of those lovely hands on his arm.
“Grief shouldn’t be kept trapped inside,” she said quietly.
“It can destroy you.”
“And if I give in to it now, it could do far worse.” He slanted a look her way and made no attempt to hide the bitter anger storming through him. “Return to your bed, my lady. You don’t need to catch the foul edge of my fury this night.”
She cocked a brow at him. “You wouldn’t battle this fury if you hadn’t come for me. Your friend would live still. Does some small part of you not blame me?”
“I blame me,” she said, her voice low, throbbing with intensity. “A man I know nothing about gave his life to protect me. He was your friend. How can you not blame me?”
“Perhaps because I’m too busy blaming myself for not seeing this possibility. Perhaps because I’m too busy blaming the greedy, cruel bastard who sired you and the deviousness of the Oonkaen.”
“I blame them as well…save for you. You cannot plan for everything. You cannot be responsible for all the ills in the world.”
Can I not? What manner of king am I, that I did not see this coming? What manner of ruler am I, if I cannot protect my men better than this? But he said none of that to her. “I am responsible for my men, Lady Corba. They placed their safety, their lives in my hands.”
“To fetch me.”
She stood at his side now, staring into the fire. Although he refused to look away from the stone to study her, he knew she was there, could feel the warmth of her body just a breath from his own. “Aye,” he murmured. “To fetch you.”
“So I’m to be delivered to the goblin king.”
Ty inclined his head. Silently, he struggled with the fear he heard in her voice. She feared him—this lovely, winsome creature feared him. It didn’t sit well with him.
He couldn’t say that he’d never lifted a hand against a woman—he had. Many times, in battle. He’d fought too many battles and women were as likely to go to war as men. His own mother had been a warrior. He’d fought women and men alike, had slain women and men alike.
In war, he’d had to do many a thing he hadn’t cared for. But he wasn’t at war with this woman. Delicate thing, she looked as though she’d never handled a weapon in her life. Those soft hands had surely never hefted a blade or bow. Outside of battle, he’d never harmed a female. But she didn’t know that. He took a slow, deep breath, scented the wild tang of fear she tried to control.
Not here, he decided. He wouldn’t tell her who he was, not here. Not yet. Once they were safe within the walls of Provais, he would tell her there.
She shot him a look from under her lashes. “Will you not answer me? Are you taking me to the goblin king? Into the capitol city?”
“That is our destination, yes,” he said, edging around a direct answer. He couldn’t lie—she was no warrior, but she was still a Sidhe and Sidhe could taste a lie as easily as a goblin. More, something about the way she looked at him made him wonder just what her gifts were—that penetrating stare saw far too deeply.
Her shoulders rose and fell on a sigh. “From one prison into another.” Her voice was bitter.
Unable to stop himself, he reached out, slipping his hand under her long, wildly curling hair. Cupping her neck, he dared to take one step closer. Her eyes lifted to his and he found himself gazing into that warm, golden gaze and getting lost. Completely and utterly lost.
“No harm will come to you, Lady Corba. I can promise you that.”
“I know you believe that,” Nae said quietly, refusing to look up at him.
The hand on her neck tightened, then eased. But he didn’t let go. No, what Ty did was move closer, pressing his warm, long body against hers. She looked up at him, startled. So few had ever thought to offer her comfort.
And none had ever been anything like Ty. His wings curled forward as he slid his arms around her. She felt…safe. Sheltered. Protected—protected by this man who’d risked his life, lost a friend, over her. Protected by a man who was to deliver her unto his king.
From one prison to another…
Her mind spun in dizzying circles as she tried to imagine whatever future awaited her at the hands of the goblin king—would he lock her away as he had her brother? Marry her off to one of his nobles to keep her from Guldric? Or perhaps marry her himself?
It seemed the most likely. The daughter of a king, wedded by force to the enemy king.
Just like she would have been forced into wedding Guldric.
Force, all of it. None of it her choice.
It wasn’t a conscious decision. In the span of heartbeats she went from thinking about her unappealing future to the man in front of her. The strong man who had stared death in the eye as he fought poisonous wyvern. The man who had stared into the fires, his soul so full of grief and anguish it had pulled her from her sleep. And the man who even now held her and offered comfort when his grief still threatened to tear him in two.
She sighed, a shaky, uneven sound, and rested her brow on his chest. Catching her lower lip between her teeth, she tugged nervously and lifted her hands. She rested them on his sides. Under her hands, she felt smooth, warm skin, stretched over muscle.
From one prison to another.
Lifting her head, she stared up at Ty, studying his face.
Altogether too lovely, that face—ethereal and perfect, just like so many of the elvish men she knew. A warmth radiated from him, something strong and true…noble.
He reached up with his free hand and smoothed her hair back from her face. “Take your rest now, Lady Corba. You’ve had a trying day…and it will not get any better tomorrow.”
She caught his wrist and brought it back to her face.
Turning her lips into his palm, she murmured, “Nae. Call me Nae.”
Did she imagine it or was his breathing just the slightest bit ragged? “Nae, then. You had best take your rest.”
“I’ve rested enough.” She closed the distance between them and pressed her body to his.
His brows shot down over his eyes. The body pressed to hers tensed as she slid her arms around his waist. “What are you about, Lady Corba?”
“Nae,” she corrected. Then she leaned in and pressed a kiss to his chest. “I could claim that I selflessly wish to offer you comfort. Or that I seek it myself.”
Feathering her lips across his chest, she breathed in his scent. Pine trees, cold air, and man…that was his scent and it was one she could quickly get addicted to.
“And is that what you seek? To comfort and be comforted?” he asked. The hand cupping her cheek slid back to curl around the back of her neck. He did nothing to stop her, nothing to encourage her. He just…waited.
“Perhaps,” she murmured. “You grieve…and it makes me ache. I feel the echo of it within me. I’ve lived with too much grief for too long, and would do much for comfort.”
She slid her hands over the muscled wall of his chest, dipping inside the leather vest that had been designed to fit around his torso without interfering with his wings.
Goosebumps broke out under her hands and she lifted her head, studying him. Under her gaze, his flat nipples drew tight and hard.
Her mouth started to water as she felt her own do the same. Throbbed—they throbbed, she realized, ached. Watching him from under her lashes, she dipped her head and licked one flat nipple.
“This isn’t called comforting, Lady Corba, not in goblin and not in elvish.”