Seventeen-year-old Emma Misseldon’s life is turned upside-down when she makes the mistake of trusting the most dangerous man in the empire. It’s no secret that the king is a womanizer and a tyrant, but she never expected the price of his help for her dying mother to be her.
To knight-in-training Caedmon Cruz, Emma is nothing more than a decoration for the king’s arm. Then he gets to know her, and God help him, it’s wrong and maybe even blasphemous, but he can’t resist her. A forced marital commitment between Emma and the king, however, makes their relationship lethal.
When they receive word of the king’s newest decree, both chilling in its brutality and shocking in its corruption, they know that they must stand against him even if it costs them their lives. In this place of ultimate revenge, Emma is about to discover the appalling, phenomenal truth about her past, a truth that could destroy everything she’s ever loved… including Caedmon.
Trigger Warning: This book contains elements of domestic and sexual abuse and infidelity.
FAVOR OF THE KING
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Emma closed her eyes, her hands falling flat against her weak stomach. How could she be expected to do this? How was she supposed to face a man who’d spent the last three months of his life brutally murdering countless women and children? She shook her head fiercely. Questioning her king’s motives would not be wise – not now. Her only key to survival was doing as she’d been instructed, to numb herself. She’d had good practice already in these chambers.
King Rex’s eyes shifted. A small wave of his regal hand permitted her inside. It felt as though the oxygen had been sucked from the room, she was practically dry-heaving. She knew that he would hear her hectic pulse, and that he would feel her tremble. You’re stronger than this! She had to control it.
As she moved further into the room there was a moment, graciously a brief one, where she could not keep from envisioning the many lives that had been altered behind those gigantic doors. How many souls had been beaten down and broken during those mere moments spent on the satin sheets of the king’s bed? It was no secret what all the others, including the late Queen Daria had been forced to do before her – what she was now compelled to live up to, in pretending to love him. With only these few passing moments of recklessness, her chance of sparing her and her family’s life would be fulfilled. How many beautiful women had gone in there with the same motives? Sacrificing as much as she had that first night, and what she continued to sacrifice even now?
“Is that you, Emma?” he asked moving forward. “This well-groomed, royally adjusted beauty I see standing before me?”
She bowed. “I was delighted by your call. I did not expect to be summoned so soon.”
“I couldn’t wait a full night to see you again.”
“Your Majesty is very kind.”
“You look tense, is something the matter?”
She burrowed her fingernails into her palm. “Of course not. You’re home and you’re safe. What else could I ask for?” The words felt incredibly rehearsed, and she prayed he was too drunk to notice.
“This reuniting is certainly a treat. A call for celebration, wouldn’t you agree?” He was on his way to the table of wineries, as though enough hadn’t already been consumed at the party.
She turned a little on her heel, forcing deep breaths in and out. She could see his terrace from there, and the pale moon beyond it lighting up his kingdom. She remembered the way the moonlight used to glint off of Caedmon’s bronzed hair. How his blue eyes sparkled in the dim light. Thinking of him only made her ache. She hadn’t realized how incredibly starved she was for true human companionship until it had been taken away from her. What she would give to feel herself engulfed in Caedmon’s warmth just one last time.
Even now, she knew he was out there, sitting in the crook of a tree somewhere, sheltered and watching. She could feel his eyes, those beautiful eyes. Raising the trembling fingers to her neck, Emma gripped the pebble necklace he had made for her and drew it to her lips. Caedmon had her heart, but that would be all he’d ever have.
Rex was suddenly behind her, as thick and wide as a bear, and she shook at his shadow.
“No need to be nervous,” he whispered softly into her ear. She stilled at the full goblet in front of her, knowing how much he would expect her to inhale.
She closed her eyes and drew it carefully to her lips, hating the way her fingers trembled, causing the contents to splash over her hands and hit the floor in slow quiet droplets. He hadn’t been watching her though. Instead he was walking to the terrace. She jerked again when he swung the heavy curtain closed.
His eyes were on her intently when he turned back around. They were gauging, careful, and then he began to circle her. She held her breath. It was the same way he had once inspected Caedmon’s trophy after a tournament, how the people bartered over fresh meat in the town square. She shivered despite her best efforts not to.
“I have to admit that you have been quite a temptation for me.” His breath was hot on her neck, his insolent hands tasteless for a king. They moved up to her throat, and ran down her hair, mesmerized by every piece he’d left behind months earlier.
As he walked behind her, she forced a hard swallow of wine, praying that it would envelop her in its evil spell. She did not want to remember a single moment of this night.
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