Known scoundrel Jack Avery must earn the queen’s forgiveness by rescuing her missing daughter from the human world. His sources reveal the Princess Noelani is being held by a powerful man who likes a good game of chance. So with twenty borrowed pieces of gold Jack enters the high-stakes game. Only the lady he encounters is no princess. This pretty Kitty makes him want to hear her purr.
Under a memory spell, Kitty recalls nothing before the governor bought her from her parents and offered her protection from those he claims would kill her kind. So what if, in order to control her, he forces Kitty to morph then deprives her of sexual release after transformation. But the crafty card player she is assigned to “entertain” reveals himself as a kindred spirit—a shape shifter—and unravels the lie she’s been forced to live.
Together Jack and Kitty risk it all, for the stakes are high and the prize is worth it…freedom, forgiveness, love.
A brewing adventure to win his ultimate prize.
The phrase pulsed through Jack Avery’s system like an incantation. His stomach, a cauldron of excitement, bubbled with nerves. Glancing briefly at the butler by the thick oak door, he shrugged his cloak off and handed it to the man. The timid butler laid Jack’s coat over his arm and bowed in an elegant dip of subservience.
Jack turned and dismissed the servant without a nod or word in the time-honored way of the rich. Best to play the part properly from the beginning.
Once in the parlor, his gaze darted to the huge stone fireplace and onto the rich fabric framing the windows. The colors shining through displayed the battle of the red brute in the west as it tried to overtake the sun. Bent on escaping, the daylight’s glow raced from the sky.
The room designed to entertain Governor Cedric Sloan’s wealthy guests held a treasure-trove of expensive artifacts—a silver dwarf’s snuffbox, a giant’s ale cup, and a wizard’s gold-plated wand just to name a few. His fingers itched to pilfer one or two, but Jack squelched the idea. His thieving skills would have to rest for the next few days. Another objective reigned supreme.
A soft laugh rang out, and he turned. Near the fireplace stood a petite, young woman, the top of her head barely reaching the man’s shoulder beside her. Yet, her willowy form, encased in a red silky gown, hid none of her curves. The thin straps on her shoulders struggled with the full, rich volume of her breasts, and her narrow waist flared to hips just wide enough to fill a man’s lap as she rode his cock.
The provocative notion of her naked body straddling his eased the tension in the pit of his stomach, and he smiled.
Just part of the benefits of attending this high-priced game. I get to drink expensive wine, eat succulent food, and enjoy the favors of the governor’s prize wenches.
A real step up from my normal lifestyle.
The lady’s brown eyes met his. Interest sparkled in hers, and he nodded a greeting from across the room. She turned and spoke to the man beside her.
Jack glanced around again. No other women in the room met the description he’d been given of Noelani. His gaze fell again on the elegant tilt of the pretty woman’s head, her refined hand gestures, and the graceful sway of her hips as she strolled toward him.
In her early twenties.
Petite with light brown hair.
She could be the princess I’m looking for.
“Can I get you a drink?” The seductive words promised a lot more than a drink, but Jack accepted the words at face value.
“That’d be a welcome treat after the dusty roads I’ve traveled.” He offered his best smile while he studied the lady’s perfect features. If she turned out to be Kesia’s sister, all his troubles would be over. Nevertheless, the next few moments were crucial. According to his informants, if she selected him as her partner for the duration of the party, his plan for their escape would be made that much easier.
The lady smiled and stepped closer.
The sweet fragrance of honey-suckle filtered through his senses. Did she crush the delicate petals against her skin or sprinkle the pollen in her hair? Moreover, where could she find the springtime flowers at this time of year?
“Have you dropped off your stipend for the game tomorrow?” She laid her finely, manicured hand on his arm. The dainty touch sent sparks of awareness through him, and his cock swelled. “The governor likes to put all the money in his strongbox for safekeeping before the party begins.”
Jack reined in his desire and reminded himself of his primary objective—to transport the lady back to Ardenia.
However, he liked Sloan’s clever rule. If a man didn’t contribute the required gold coins to the game, the governor shouldn’t waste resources entertaining him. “No, I can’t say that I have. I arrived just a few moments ago.”
“Then let me show you to the study, and I’ll fetch you a drink.” She touched his arm again and stepped into the foyer.
He bowed his head slightly and played the unfamiliar part of a refined gentleman. “And you are?”
She fluttered her hand over her face and brushed a wisp of light brown hair from her brow. “The governor calls me Kitty. It’d probably be best if you did, too.”
“What an alluring name? It makes me think of a cat with its lips covered by a luscious coat of cream.” Jack stared at Kitty’s mouth, and his tongue tingled at the idea of tasting her rich, flavorful lust.
She giggled and wove her hand through the crook in his arm. The soft swell of her breast bumped against his arm. “Oh, you’re naughty, but I love the alluring image.”
“Then, I hope you’ll let me have a taste later.” He didn’t crowd her but allowed her to step back. She led him across the entranceway to a door on the other side.
Remember she’s a princess.
She paused with her hand on the knob. “Maybe, but first let me introduce you to the governor.” She opened the door with a flourish and waved her hand gracefully for him to precede her into the room.
Jack crossed the threshold and observed the huge man behind the large oak desk. Dark hair, round face, and shoulders that filled the width of his jacket and demanded more, the governor, as Cedric Sloan liked to be called, glanced up. His gray eyes narrowed on Jack.
A twinge of apprehension shimmied over his skin then dissipated just as quickly. No man has ever bested me in a game, and none ever will.
With a slight dip of his head to acknowledge the introduction, he ignored the dangerous glint in the governor’s stare. After living with the underbelly of the world, little frightened Jack. He scanned the lavish space. Across the room in front of a stone fireplace sat a large round table. Seven chairs crowded around the edge, and a stool rested near a tall wingback chair. “Nice place. Is this where you’re holding the tournament?”
The sound of the governor’s chair ground against the stone floor and pulled Jack’s attention from the priceless artifacts in the room and back to the man. Tall and wide, the man stood a hand short of a giant’s shoulder.
Were the rumors true? Was Sloan’s father a Timberland giant? Did that explain the source of the man’s wealth? After all, Sloan’s estate included all the property that once belonged to giants.
“You must be Jack Avery. I don’t believe we’ve ever met.” The governor extended his hand in greeting. “You must be a very good friend of Captain Havyn Westmore. He gave you a glowing endorsement.”
Jack smiled and stepped forward to shake the man’s hand.
Havyn would probably rather see him dead. Nevertheless, Kesia, Havyn’s wife, wanted her sister back, and Jack had arranged to enter the governor’s card game so he could make it happen. “Yes, we served in the war together.”
“Right. And did you bring along the required stipend?” The man’s voice cracked with emotion. Which side had the governor been on in the dispute between the humans and the giants?
Jack tugged his squashed fingers from the governor’s grip and dug in his pocket. “I believe the cost to play is twenty gold pieces?”
“Yes. I charge a hefty price as an entrance fee to eliminate the scoundrels of society.”
The leather pouch caressed Jack’s fingers, and he drew the small sack from his pants. “And when is the game over?”
“Three days or until only one man has won all the money.” The governor’s gaze shifted to the woman behind Jack. “Kitty, why don’t you show our guest to his room and make sure he’s comfortable?”
Ignoring the two, Jack opened the small pouch. After counting out twenty pieces, he closed the bag and slid it back into his pocket. “And this will be all I’m allowed to use in the game?”
The governor nodded and indicated a basket on the corner of his desk. “We all start with the same amount. If you run low on funds, you’ll not be allowed to contribute more. A handicap we’ll all live under.”
“Fair enough.” Jack trickled the coins into the straw container and enjoyed the sweet music of them clanking together.
Kitty touched his arm. “Then if you’re ready, I’ll show you to your room.”