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Of Fangs And Fury cnt.

Updated: Oct 3




Cover © Rosalie Thorne

Editor – Z. V. Ezell


Of Fangs And Fury

By Rosalie Thorne


To Z,

who wanted me to call this ‘50 Scales Of Gold’,

I love you.


OF FANGS AND FURY


a Legacy Of The Seven Families novel

part of the Zeniphel Universe


All Italian will be translated at the end of the novel.


“People like to invent monsters and monstrosities.

Then, they seem less monstrous themselves.”

- Geralt Of Rivia




Chapter Nine

Caderyn


After a wonderful cena in the dining car, Lara and I made our way to the upper deck lounge, where we watched the world go by through the panoramic glass enclosure. The path of the train is through the Forest Of Night, a nature reserve on the edge of my kingdom. Only a sliver of the Moon left, the stars shine a little brighter in the sky.

Without any light pollution, we’re able to gander at the Arm Of The Galaxy in all its beauty. A hazy band of light seen across the sky, where stars cluster and shine together, looking like a cosmic storm during a Summer sunset. In the darkest of night, blacks, purples, blues define the clouds, while whites, yellows, and pinks shine through the space. It’s one of the universe's grand majesties.

I have seen the Arm Of The Galaxy many times before but never has it seemed so magnificent than right now. At this moment, with Lara laying against my chest, there is more positive in my life than negative. And though I am now changing lifestyles, which in and of itself is scary, I know it’s for the best.

Mother had been correct that I have spent more than the past few years keeping to myself, doing whatever I wanted, and staying away from anything political, anything proper, and anything royal. Even though it is Tahir who is in line to be crowned King in the coming years, that does not null and void my responsibilities. I am still Prince Caderyn Otihen Onyx, I am still a part of the royal famiglia, and it’s my duty to step up as Sovereign’s Minister, helping bridge what the royal famiglia is doing and what the persons of the kingdom need.

Less glamorous, sure, but also less scrutiny. I will be a part of a council, as well, letting for more opinions to be heard and options to be put on the table. Father did it for Mother, I can do it for Tahir. And with it being more of a behind a desk position, I can see it being complementary to Lara’s life as a Scholarra.

Lara sits up and rubs my thigh, “I think it’s time for bed.”

On cue, I involuntarily yawn.

She giggles and stands. Offering a hand as she says, “Com’on.”

After leaving the upper deck, a servitore guides us to our sleeping quarters. It isn’t until the door slides open to the cabin that I realize I’d totally forget that the ones reserved for The Seven Families only has one bed. A large bed, sure, but only one.

Drawing the curtains, Lara and I are left alone. Alone in this tiny cabin. Alone with one bed, all night. Why hadn’t I prepared for this? I knew we are going to share a room at The Villa, but that’s a full, large suite. (Or two rooms if she really wanted.) Eying the empty floor, it’s going to have to do.

I turn around to see her unbuttoning the side of her dress. Quickly, I sit on the edge of the bed and avoid looking at her. Untying my boots, I guess it would be better to get this out of the way even if it’s awkward as shit. “So, I should have plenty enough room on the floor.”

Under her dress reveals another dress, though this one is silky, thigh length, with thin straps. Folding her cotton dress, she asks, “For what?”

Second boot off, I slowly pull down my socks, “To sleep.”

She laughs and looks at me, her brows tight. “What are you talking about?” she gestures to me, or well, around me, “There’s plenty of room.”

She’s not wrong. I may be huge, but she’s tiny. If Tahir and I could fit on this bed after Maturity, then we’d have no problem. “Are you sure?”

She comes over to me, pushing her lower body against my legs, bringing her palms to my neck. “I’m sure.” After kissing me softly, she slips into bed and starts moving the pillows next to the wall.

Staring blankly ahead, I’m stunned into immobility. First off, I usually sleep naked. Second, I will be unable to not stay unaroused. Third, I don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, emotionally, or physically. Fourth…, but there really isn’t anything else.

I’d packed an extra pair of linen pants; those are soft enough to sleep in. Making sure to keep my back to her I change as quickly as I can. I turn off the light and get into bed next to her, she’s already curled up into a sort of nest of pillows and blankets.

Her curled body is that much tinier, she looks so… venerable. In comparison, I’m like a plank. Flat on my back, legs straight. I fold my hands over my stomach and stare at the ceiling. To give her as much room as possible, I’m only centimeters from the edge of the bed.

Finally, I close my eyes and just tell myself not to move. Simple enough, right? Fall asleep like this, don’t move, and wake up before she does. But my brain won’t shut off. Then, when she moves next to me, my whole body is on high alert.

“Cade?” her voice is soft, but I can hear mild confusion.

“Hmm?”

“You cannot be comfortable.”

I peek over at her, “I’m fine.” It takes my eyes a moment to adjust and then I can see her expression, one of exasperation. “What?”

“You’ve told me you sleep better on your side, so com’on then,” and she waves me to turn towards her.

I do but scoot a bit back.

“Nope, com’ere,” and she pats the bed.

Both of us in the center, she turns her body towards the wall. Looking over her shoulder, she then grabs my arm and drapes it over her waist. Our bodies fit together like spoons in a drawer.

The curve of her butt sits perfectly in front of my pelvis, (and I just have to tell myself if she’d set us like this, she knows what’s going to happen, knows what to expect). Her bent knees leave her left foot to slide over my leg. She’d tucked her braid over her shoulder, so her bare back sits across my chest, and I kiss her smooth skin softly. In response, her little hand slides across the back of mine on her stomach, and she curls our fingers together.

The cool air cuts across my shirtless back and I become acutely aware of my scales. In a weird way, it’s a pleasant reminder. With Lara tucked against my chest, my body surrounding her securely, I know she is safe. And my natural armor is there, further protecting us, protecting her. Listening to her shallow breathing, I fall asleep with ease. Quando la mente e il cuore sono uno, il corpo finalmente conosce la pace.


Delara


Slowly making our way through luncheon, Cade suddenly points his fork in my direction, “Do you know the origin story of The Seven Pure Families?”

I pop another grape in my mouth and think. I’d taken quite a few history and political science classes at The University, but they’d been the history of other Scholars, inventors, or about different wars. If I had learned about the original Seven Families, I couldn’t recall. So, I shake my head.

“Over three millennia ago is when The Great War finally started to end. After hundreds of years of multi-race terror, The Seven Families not only came together, but reached out to the leaders of Humanity, the alphas of Lykans, and the Fae of the Netherrealm. In the midst of chaos, they were able to divide the land, respect the needs of each race, and find peace.

“The Seven Families actually came from four parents, the siblings branching off. Onyx and Quartz were brother and sister, as were Garnet and Spinel. Then there were the twins, the boys of Emerald, the girls of Lazuli, and then the only child for Amethyst. We don't know if it started that way, or was magikally modified later, but the given names coincide with the physical traits.”

This I know, “Onyx having black hair, Quartz having white,” then, I connect it to the new information, “but both having grey eyes.”

He smiles and nods, “Right.”

But then I frown, dropping my gaze to my glass of lemonade. “What about green though? About Emerald. It’s a well-known fact that Vampires – Pure-blood Vampires cannot have green eyes, that green is a Human color.”

“Emerald would be so lucky to have green eyes, bellissima. Instead, they’re stuck the same as Lazuli, with teal.”

I reach out and grab his hand on the table. After a moment of looking into his golden eyes, I ask “So then what happened?”

After sipping on his warmed blood, he continues. “It was a little tense at first, as it always is dealing with famiglia. But as the generations continued - parents having younglings, those offspring having younglings, so one and so forth - things started to calm down. It was actually in celebration of a whole millennium of peace, that each Family chose an annual celebration to hold in their given season.”

“Onyx, Spring, The Festival Delle Luci. Garnet, Autumn, The Harvest Bonfire Faire. Emerald, Summer, The Midsommar Festival. Amethyst, Winter, Esibire Of The Northern Lights…,” I recall. But then I start struggling, “your mother said to Tahir about the Annual Sea Faire….”

“Which is Family Lazuli in the Summer.”

“- and then The Yuletide Carnevale….”

“Which is Winter by the Quartz Family.”

“Which leaves oh! The Blossom Festival, you said, by?”

“Spinel, in the Spring as well.”

“Wow… I didn’t realize these all had been going on for so long.”


Caderyn


Sometime in the night, there was a mild commotion beyond the door of our cabin. Sounding like a drunk couple, an unsteady female giggling and male whispering. Lara had rolled out of my spoon and now sleeps facing me. After gently brushing loose hair out of her face, I turn all the way over and face out, able to see the door.

Just as I’m drifting, there’s more noise somewhere down the hall, a hard slam of a door maybe. There’s a rustling of fabric, then Lara kisses my back, her lips brushing just over the edge of scales, then on the bare skin underneath. When she lays back down, she reaches out and moves her hand up and down my back. Slowly massaging it, sometimes slowly pulling her nails down the bare skin; it is one of the nicest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to feel.

Like a happy Catarina, I bring my shoulders forward to stretch my spine. It isn’t until this moment I realize this is something I’ve always wanted… to be pet, to be caressed, to have someone so lovingly touch me. If I could purr, I would. It’s hard to top the night before, the first night I’d shared a bed with Lara, but this comes damn close.


Delara


Finally off the train, finally out of our carriage, I step onto the gravel drive up and stretch. The early morning Sun is high and bright in the crystal-clear blue sky. Though we are farther South than the Palace Of Onyx, we are closer to Oceano Colossale, which leaves a consistently cool, yet salty breeze.

After reaching high, rolling my shoulders, and touching ear-to-shoulder, ear-to-shoulder, I look to the grand tenuta we’ll be staying at. Apparently, each kingdom has a tenuta special for any visiting members of The Seven Families, also known as ‘The Villas’. Between the Palace Of Emerald and the basin village of Verdite, stands a magnificent estate; three stories, red brick, curved roof shingles, tall trellises covered in ivy, with an expansive field to one side and a lush garden on the other. (Which makes me think maybe Cade and I should consider getting out of the Palace Of Onyx every once in a while, and have alone time….)

Two of the three servitores take our bags inside, while the third stands in front of Cade. Cade reaches out and hugs him, then smiles, “Giles! How are you? It’s been too long.”

The elder male smiles, “Prince Caderyn, Look at you! Your hair is so short!”

Cade gives him one more hug then steps back to wave me over. “Giles, this is my mate, Scholarra Delara Dyad.”

The first time he calls me his mate and I can’t help but blush. I take the servitores hand and shake it. “Please, call me Delara.”

When he looks to Cade, his eyebrows are raised, “A Scholarra, eh? And what a beauty!” Then he looks back to me, “Madame Delara, let me be the first to welcome you to Emerald’s Villa. I oversee the household at the palace. My number two, Jarett, will be happy to help you around here,” and he gestures behind himself.

After a bow of his head, he turns back to Cade, “Sir, Prince Calhoun is waiting for you in the kitchen.”

“Calhoun is here?” He looks to me, this type of excitement unusual from him, and holds out his hand, “Com’on!”

I’ve never seen him this animated before as he talks over his shoulder, “Calhoun is the eldest of three of Amethyst Family. He’s my best friend! We’ve known each other since we were younglings…. Gods, maybe five or six years old did we meet at our Festival Delle Luci.

“Though we make a valiant effort because our palaces are so far apart, we don’t actually get to see each other that often. We write all the time, of course, but it’s not the same.”

Into the house, we round through a dining area, and then Cade yells, “Calhoun! You bastard!”

In the middle of a large kitchen, they embrace, clapping each other on the back mid-hug. When Cade steps back, I see Prince Calhoun fully. Almost as tall as Cade, though not as brawny, his shoulder-length hair is just a shade or two darker and warmer than his lilac eyes. “Cade! It’s been too long.”

“Oh Gods, what was it… your wedding?”

Calhoun’s chuckle is deep and then he turns to wave someone forward. A stunning female comes into view with a mane of curly black hair and shining violet eyes, with her hands gently holding her pregnant belly. Cade goes to hug her, “Alli!”

He steps back and holds a hand out for me. When I take it, bringing myself into the mix, he asks the Queen, “When’s the due date, again?”

His best friend laughs, “You have the worst memory, don’t you?”

But she smiles kindly, “I’m due the last month of Winter.”

That’s seven months left, so she’s five months along. “Congratulations,” I tell them both.

Calhoun turns to me and holds his hand out. I take it and shake. His hand lingers while he says, “Lavender is helpful for sleeping, isn’t it?”

My brows furrow. I open my mouth to ask, but he says one more thing before letting go of my hand, “Don’t mind Tahir, he’s a bit of an arsehole.”

Cade shakes his hand quickly and they both laugh. Calhoun nods, “He’s an even bigger arsehole than I remember!”

Viciously confused, I ask, “I’m sorry?”

Calhoun turns to me, “He didn’t tell you?” Then back to Cade, “You didn’t tell her?” he asks through laughter. He points his eyes, “I can’t see,” then waves his hand towards the ceiling, “So I can see.”

“He was born blind,” Cade explains further. “But he developed a sort of magikal compensation of sight.”

“He gets flashes when he touches persons,” his wife comments.

“Flashes?”

He nods, “Of the past. Scenes that are very emotionally intense.”

Having only read of this, I don’t know what to make of it. Anything magik related makes me hesitant but this could be a kind of born mutation, making me curious. “What age did you start having these flashes?”

Calhoun smirks, “Of course the Scholarra would be interested. Come, let’s talk over breakfast.”

On our way out of the kitchen into the dining room, Calhoun ends up pressing his hand against my arm while the other is guiding him around a counter full of food. His hand retracts quickly, “Oh. I did not realize you weren’t wearing sleeves.”

Then his head turns to face Cade straight on, his chuckle deep, “… and now I know what it’s like to kiss you. Lovely!” He then faces his wife, “I think it’s time for the gloves.”


Caderyn


As I lean into the balcony railing, I admire the view from Lara’s and my bedroom. I’d specifically written ahead to ask for the suite over the garden, knowing how happy plants make her. She’d already spent fifteen minutes just admiring it all and commenting we should go for a walk after the evening’s festivities. But then Alli called for her, for them to get ready together, as females do.

I hear Calhoun slip in from the doorway, then he puts a hand on my shoulder. “Cade, my fratello, how are you doing?”

He’s never minded the scales and it was years before he even knew what I looked like. I tend to think that’s why we’re such good friends. “I am rather fantastic, how about you? You with the sposa and the little gemling on the way.”

He finds the railing and leans his forearms on in, smirking. “We are wonderful, my friend, really fucking wonderful. The pregnancy has been stressful, but all the physicians and healers are on top of it.”

I comment what I’d meant to earlier, “The last month of Winter? That’s just around Esibire Of The Northern Lights… I bet your mother is loving that.”

He nods. “It will be a very special festival this year, that’s for sure.” His chin comes over his shoulder, “Alli told me from your last letter that you and Lara are planning on attending?”

“Wouldn’t miss it, my fratello. It’s one of the festivals Lara has always wanted to do.”

He nods, smirking. “She’s a good female.”

With a deep breath, I look back out to the country. “Yes, she really is.”

“And it seems like she and Alli are already thick as thieves.”

Relieved, I push off against the iron railing, “She could really use a female friend, I’m extremely pleased.”

He pushes off as well, “So could Alli.”

As we head back into the bedroom, I ask, “Spencer’s wife Ghenin, and Rahe still being…?”

“Prejudice arseholes? Yes. She is their Queen and they still treat her like a waitress.”


Delara


“A waitress? No way!” I look at Allisandra through the mirror. “So how did that happen?”

Leaning into the cushion back of her chair, her fingers slowly glide up and down her belly, “It was a slow burn, actually.

“He came into the café once a week for a month or so, then it doubled. He swears he never did, but I think he spoke to the owner about my schedule. If I was opening, he was usually the first in the door, twenty minutes before anyone else even showed. If I was closing, he was the last customer in and would take a very long time to finish up.

“I think in the beginning I was nervous serving The Blind Prince, and even though everyone knew about his abilities, he was always so careful not to touch anyone. Anyway, after a while, our greetings turned into small talk and that turned into conversations. Later he told me that whenever I explained a book I was reading, he would ask a servitore to read him the same book so he could converse with me.”

I hold a hand over my heart, “Oh my Gods, that’s adorable.”

She beams, “Mhm. In all those months that went by I was very attentive. It’s just in my nature,” her shoulder lifts. “I would rearrange his table so it was easier to navigate, I would adjust his cup if it was too close to the edge – you know, just little things to make things easier for him.

“Well, months and months go by, and finally, one night he’s there when I’m closing. He accidentally spilled his glass and when we went for the napkins, his hand landed on mine. At our wedding he finally told me what he saw,” she looks up, eyes teary. “He said he ‘saw my kindness’. He saw my kindness over all that time, and he said that was when he knew I was the one.”

She dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief. “Gods, I am sorry! My hormones,” she exhales softly. “But! At that moment, in the café, he actually looked up and me and said ‘huh, I didn’t know I was so attractive’.”

I laugh, “That sounds like him.”

“And then asked if I wouldn’t mind ‘seeing’ him on my next day off for a meal.”

All done in front of the vanity, I turn around and lean against it. “And how do you like it… being a Queen?”

Her head tilts and she eyes me carefully. “Nervous, huh?” When I nod, so does she. “I didn’t go to finishing school, my parents couldn’t afford it. I was a working girl, just like you…. It was an adjustment, but Calhoun never expected me to be any different than who I am. He knows who he fell in love with and never wanted me to change.

“I have a feeling Cade feels the same way.”

Gods, I hope so.


Caderyn


Seeing Lara in the traditional Midsommar dress in my Family’s colors makes me extremely proud. The three-tiered skirt is the deepest of blacks with silver trim; the maiden’s bodice has the same black for the faux corset with grey and silver details, and her daisy crown is braided with matching ribbons. A servitore had helped with her hair, leaving the chestnut length in perfect ringlets.

She may have the mind of a Winter student, the heart of an Autumn hunter, the spirit of a Spring traveler, but she has the body of a Summer child; her vampirism and humanity coming together in the most lovely and charming of ways.

I have been exceedingly happy to show her off all day and for us to match in the most royal way. Even Alli, who looks like the perfect Amethyst Queen that she’s come to be, had commented how nice it is to see me with a mate and a mate that so happily embraces the Family traditions. We’d already partaken in the Midday Luncheon Feast at exactly one-thirty post-meridiem. Now, I stand off to the side with Calhoun as Lara chats with Alli, our ladies watching the younglings do the ribbon dance around the flora-covered solarpole.

Hopefully, everything thus far is living up to Lara’s expectations. Her peridot eyes catch my gaze, and her rosy cheeks lift in a smile. She holds a hand out for me to take. I leave our little table to stand with her in the field for soon enough it’ll be time for the mature visitors to dance. Though I have never joined in in the past, now I will stand proud and lead Lara in this next activity. She stands with her right hand in my left, ready to grab Alli’s hand when the new music begins.


Delara


I’d danced in the golden light of day, eaten the Summer’s bounty, designed a stained-glass suncatcher, admired artisans' works with beautiful flora, and picked up a new book about the eighty days of uninterrupted sunlight in the Northernmost village of the Amethyst kingdom. This has been one of the best days of my entire life. I’ve never felt so… free.

After the longest day of the year ended, the vibrant and majestic sunset was observed, and bonfires started. Cade and I stuck around to grab a snack, but now we walk hand-in-hand back to The Villa. The night air is cool against my skin and it’s a wonderful reprieve.

Ever so subtly I can smell petrichor and I honestly believe I’m going to get the best sleep ever tonight. My body is completely worn, not only had all the activity drained my energy but the heat did too. I can’t wait to get back, get this tight dress off, curl up against Cade, and fall asleep to the sound of rain.

As Cade slowly swings our hands between us, I let my eyes wander away from our path. I’m glad we’re staying an extra day, maybe two, because I’d love to explore the Emerald Expanse a little more.

“Oh,” I suddenly squeeze his hand, “look!”

Dozens of little fireflies sparkle and twinkle in the meadow beyond. Over the tall grass and wildflowers, they dance on the wind, twirling and floating on the invisible waves. Something I’ve only ever read about, seeing such a spontaneous, naturally beautiful event is a bit surreal.

“Aren’t they interesting? As younglings we would spend hours running around trying to catch them.”

“We?”

“Oh, well, us gemlings.”

I laugh, “You what?”

He smirks, “Gemlings. It’s the nickname of the younglings of any royal famiglia.”

Laughing hard, I shake my head. “Oh my Gods.”

He smiles, “Anyways…. In the beginning, that would have been Nehill, Esme, Jaina and Jordan, and then Calhoun. Then, over time, different siblings started joining in. For about ten, maybe eleven years us gemlings were extremely close, from all Seven Families.”

As we slowly continue down the path, I ask, “Then what happened?”

He squeezes my hand. “Oh, the usual. The drama of our parents seeped into our dynamic. Or some of the males thought it was lame to play with the females. And the closer we reached Maturity; our differences became more obvious.”

“Like what?”

“Like my mutation or Calhoun’s blindness. Who’s going to be King or Queen versus who’s going to something lesser or nothing at all. Who was looking for a mate and who was loitering…. That kind of thing.”

Thinking about my own pre-Mature years, I nod thoughtfully. “Must have been difficult.”

“Yes… well….” He looks to me, “that’s the nature of politics, I’m afraid.”


Caderyn


Steam rolling out of the bathroom around her, Lara comes into the bedroom with damp hair and the little silky dress clinging to her skin. As my gaze follows the curve of her body, I can see the little bumps of her stimulated nipples and the point of her hip as she leans on one foot. Her cheeks still flush from the heat, I have to say as beautiful as she was today, I much prefer her clean and natural and so uniquely her.

In the same sleep pants, I get up from the bed and walk directly to her. Sliding my palms against the dip of her waist, I pull her to me. Her smile is instant, and she giggles, “Hi.”

Kissing her takes some time, then I brush the tip of my nose across hers. “Hi.”

I know she can feel me, and I can smell her. When I pick her up, she quickly wraps her legs around my waist, and her arms around my neck. There’s a nervous but excited energy between us as I take her to the bed.

Heart pounding, hands trembling, I carefully set her down on the edge. Locked in a kiss, she pulls me down as she falls against the fur blanket. One of my hands flat, the other moves up her bare thigh, pushing up silk as I palm her hip.

When her little fingers wrap around my wrist suddenly, I immediately stop. I search her face, “What’s wrong?”

Her expression is clear, it’s not that she wants to stop, she just feels hesitant. A type of self-conscious hesitance I recognize. “I’m not….”

I lift my hand off her hip and bring it to her face. Brushing my thumb across her cheek, I stare into her eyes. “You are magnificent, my amore.”

When she’s comfortably against the pillows, I carefully slide my hand up her thigh, kissing the inside slowly. This time she lets me lifts the silk and I see what provoked her: scars - two, long scars across her right abdomen. When my fingers trace them, she inhales and grows tense. But after I kiss them, her whole body relaxes.

It is my privilege to protect her. It is my privilege to make her feel loved. It is my privilege to make her feel like the most exquisite female alive. And I will do everything I possibly can to make sure she knows it all to be true. Tonight, tomorrow, forever.


Delara


Gods above, it’s never been like that. Strawberry lemonade still on my tongue, hot breath on our skin. Fingers holding, fingers clutching…. The scent of rain lingers in the chilled air and his skin smells of dried burning oak.

He holds me when I need it, caressing my body just so. We just fit. Mind, spirit, body… we fit as two parts of a whole. And the way his surprised moan of an exhale catches after I kiss him again, I know he’s mine.

Resting my cheek against his shoulder, the world seems so far away. As my fingers brush against his scales, tomorrow seems impossible. How do I have all these plans for my life when I can’t even imagine leaving tonight? I have become his. And that’s not going to change. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever.


Caderyn


Midmorning sunlight finally reaches us, and I wake to Lara’s groan. She curls into me, hiding her face against my chest. A thin sheet covers the lower half of her body, her right arm falling perfectly over her breasts, her massive mess of hair fans out behind her across the bed.

My fingertips drift down from her temple to her chin as I unabashedly admire her beauty. There’s a pulsing fire in my chest when I think about our night together. When she had looked at me with an undeniable hunger, I’d never been so aroused, seizing with triumph. Then when she looked at me with an overwhelming expression of gratitude, my heart exploded with pride. If I hadn’t been in love before, I sure as shit am now.

At different points, I was so overwhelmed, so thankful, that I would have done anything she asked of me. A primal instinct kicked in and I wanted nothing more than to make sure she was completely fulfilled. Worshipping her not just as my Queen, but mia dea, her pleasure and happiness became my priority.

Before opening her eyes, her hand reaches up to mine. She hums “mmm,” then, “Good morning.”

Gods that voice. The blissful sleepiness doing something to me all over again. “Good morning, bellissima.”

As she turns flat, her lower back arches in a stretch, her perfect breasts pushing up into the air. “I don’t know that I’ve ever slept that well.”

I slide my palm across her stomach, “Me neither.”

After a deep, moan-like breath, she looks over at me. Her plump lips smile softly, “My amore….”

“How about some breakfast?” Let me feed you, let me take care of you.

She nods, “Okay.”

I give her a peck, “Okay.” I get out of bed quickly and locate my linen pants. “I’ll be right back.

She’s reached one hand under her head, the other lays across her stomach. Her giggle is quiet, carefree. “I’ll be here.”

Going down the back stairwell, I’m dropped right into the servitore’s pantry. Curving around the doorway, I see Calhoun in front of a teapot on the stove. “Hey, fratello!”

He turns around, “Cade! Good morning.”

I notice no gloves, “Careful, I’m shirtless.”

He nods, “Not like a need that image, either.”

I chuckle as I start picking through the food left on the counters. “You might want to be careful around Lara, as well.”

Just as the pot starts whistling, he looks my direct with the cocked brow. “Oh yeah? Last night… you two…?”

I leave one full bowl of fruits on a tray and start building another with toast and sausage. “We may have….”

He smiles wide, “Finally! And now you’re bringing her breakfast in bed? What a gentleman.”

I watch him make his drink, “You know how it is. When you are together for the first time… it’s like this animal instinct takes over.”

He nods in rhythm with dipping the teabag. “Keep her safe, keep her happy… you feel like you want to kill an animal and bring her the meat.”

“Right?” I balance the large plate, the full bowl, and a tall glass of apple cider across the tray. “I just can’t help myself.”

He smiles. “I’m really happy for you, fratello, truly.”

After all these years of crippling loneliness? “Me too.”


Delara


Knowing not if it is because he’s a royal or because he’s a Pure-blood, I’m a little taken aback with certain habits Cade is now showing. I’d read about mated males a long time ago, but it’s way more intense being on the receiving end. Intense but extremely endearing.

I now understand what Alli had meant, and I now understand why divorce is practically unheard of. After bringing more food than I could possibly eat, he waited until I was full before picking something for himself. I lifted a strawberry to feed him, and I thought he was going to cry. Then, I asked him what our plans for the day were and he listed all these wonderful suggestions just for my enjoyment. When we came back home to dress for our cena at the Palace Of Emerald, he wears his royal rapier for the first time and keeps his hand on it as we walk together.

His waist-length doublet is a beautiful black and silver damask fabric; his slate cotton shirt underneath with long sleeves; and his black suede pants tucked into his leather boots. My maiden’s bodice is made of the same design; the skirt having an uncanny resemblance to the Midsommar one yesterday, and Alli helped me braid half my hair from my temples to the nape of my neck.

When we come to the Palace Of Emerald’s courtyard, I’m glad to see that Calhoun and Alli are in very similar ensembles but in shades of purple, (though hers is an empire waist to accommodate).

Just as Cade had said The Villas are the same across The Seven Kingdoms, I notice a significant similarity in the Palace Of Emerald to the Palace Of Onyx. Though, when we’re lead inside their monochromatic scheme is of green, gold metal, with creams, and warm woods. Their tapestries depicting forests and the Midsommar Festival, the tables are covered in ivies and Summer roses.

With my arm wrapped around his, I lean into him, “This place is beautiful.”

He nods, “It’s one of my favorites. I think you’d really enjoy Palace Of Garnet, as well. When I have to Viaggio as Minister not only will I be touring our territories, but also meeting with each of The Seven Families…. If you can take the time away from work, I highly suggest you join me.”

Thankful of his respect, and selfishly not wanting to miss such an adventurous opportunity, I squeeze his arm. “I’d love to.”


Finally, back at The Villa, as Cade takes his bath, I wander around the garden in the peaceful night. Coming across a bench under lamplight, I sit and just try to decompress from the royal cena. So proper, so official, so many interesting persons asking me an endless number of questions. It was so much to deal with. I hadn’t been prepared.

After a long while alone, I hear someone coming my way. Thinking it must be Cade, I’m surprised to see Calhoun. Even though his other senses are incredible, I still take the polite route and announce my presence. “Good n