Authors: Bethany Averie
Table of Contents
ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND LION
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
ALL’S FAIR IN LOVE AND LION
Cover Design by Fiona Jayde
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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one of the best teachers out there.
Thank you for being my cheerleader!
BIG Thank yous go to:
My husband—my real life hero. I love you with all my heart. My son, who has a great sense of humor. My parents—especially my mom, I love you both! To all my siblings, I love each and every one of you. Especially to Debbie—my very first editor, for helping me. Thank you to my nieces & nephews, you all are a joy.
Thank you to Debby Gilbert at Soul Mate Publishing for giving All’s Fair In Love & Lion a home. Also, thank you to the entire Soul Mate Publishing Team for all you do.
To Tess, for being an incredible critique partner. I still want to check you for writer angelic wings. A special thank you to the rest of the NWHRWA, y’all are amazing people with incredible talent.
Paul J. for your belief in me. Sarah—I miss you so much and I love you, my “sister”. Thanks to Stephen, for many years of friendship. I appreciate you sticking by my side all this time. You’re like a brother to me. To my Girls’ Night Out ladies, y’all rock. Stay awesome.
Last but not least, a deep gratitude for my faith in God, without which, this would not be possible.
Chapter 1: Monroe
Dusk. My favorite time of day. By day, the sunshine casts a glaring reminder on how alone I am. Man-beast shape shifters, like myself, shouldn’t be without a mate. In human form my heart weighs heavily in my chest. Hunting in my lion form has become more of necessity rather than something I enjoy. It’s not the same when you’re alone. Most man-beasts my age have married and started having families. So far, that desired, contented life eludes me.
A growl escapes me. Rising from the black leather chair, I cross the room and rest my forehead against the glass windowpane. Moonlight illuminates the courtyard with eerie stillness as shadows scatter across the grounds, which border the gated, dust-covered drive.
Like my life, the courtyard remains empty. Oh, there are castle servants, who I inherited along with the legacy of the Dubay Castle, but they can’t take the place of a life mate. The ‘yes, sirs’ and ‘no, sirs’ haven’t encouraged much warmth between us and, truly, I’d rather they didn’t get any closer.
Yet, no one in the Third Realm can turn your eye.
Memories of my twenties haunt me. My mother’s voice, forgotten since her death years ago, floats back to me. Death hasn’t stopped the criticisms. Clenching my teeth, I shove the thoughts aside.
Could the human
. . .
I turn from the window. A human and a Thirdling potentially could marry. Others have done it.
“Well, why not? My fellow Council members would understand, wouldn’t they?” The outburst startles me.
Did the servants hear that?
“What about the Council, sir?” Dressed in a black suit, white gloves, and his white hair impeccably groomed, my ever-proper valet stands near the door. He regards me in his unruffled manner.
Impatiently, I fold my arms. “What, Ayres?”
“Your coffee, my lord.” He sets a silver tray on an end table. “And the cooks are annoyed, again.”
“Haven’t they realized I prefer to hunt for my meals?”
“As your parents before you.”
“I’ve never cared what my parents did.”
Ayres raises an eyebrow. “Indeed.”
“Which reminds me, we need to update the castle. Of course my parents didn’t do it. However, it’s the Twenty-first Century. No harm in modernizing the place.”
Ayres’ expression remains unchanged. “You want to add central heating and air to the main rooms? The bedrooms are already altered.”
I nod. “How long will it take to add the changes to the rest of the castle?”
He shrugs. “A few minutes of my concentration.”
With a grunt, I wave my hand. “Go ahead. I believe the ballroom, parlors, and this room are the ones we haven’t fixed.”
He bows. “As you wish, sir. Also, Lord Cantrell wants to know when you’ll hunt with him again. He said to tell you, ‘Jackals can keep up just fine with lions, you miserable cheat.’”
I roll my eyes. “Next time you talk to Bast, tell him he can’t blame me for losing. Lions are far superior.”
“Aren’t you meeting with him tomorrow?”
“No, we chose another day.”
“Right. I’ll have your message delivered immediately, sir. Will that be all?”
“Quite. You may go, Ayres.” I turn around to see him flick his wrist and vanish into the air.
I check around the room. Empty. “Are you really gone, Ayres?” When you’ve got a sprite for a servant you can’t be too careful about privacy. I let my senses reach out. Silence.
Restless, I wander over to the fireplace. Laying a hand against the warm mantelpiece, I stare into the crackling fire. A log breaks in half and sparks fly up the chimney.
In the middle of the room a ripple catches my eye. Relief spreads through me. The shimmering rift between my world and the human realm remains. Where the rift comes from remains a mystery. But, I don’t care. For me, it’s a gift from above.
If I concentrate, will the rift allow me to enter her dreams again?
Once there, what will I have to do to win her? Perhaps she’ll finally believe I’m real. Then I’d have enough power to enter her wakeful conscience.
My heart beats faster. She’s shared with me her desire for adventure, yet she confesses she’s too shy to act upon her ambitions. In her dreams she talks passionately about seeing exotic sights. They are things I can give her, if she’d only believe I’m not just a dream. Will the same emotion spark in her if we meet outside her consciousness?
Her words come back to me.
“I want to encounter things I can’t see in Texas. Maybe I’ll meet one of those strange creatures I’ve read about.”
Except, she thinks she’s quite ordinary and therefore none of her wishes will come true. How can she? Every day she proves she’s extraordinary by teaching high school English. Something I haven’t the patience to do.
How different she is from the unmarried women I’ve known in my world. The women here take their powers for granted. Yet, she has a strength that has nothing to do with magic.
I draw closer to the shimmer dancing within the dim firelight.
Sasha. How do I convince her I’m real?
Should I tell her I dreamt of her for a month before the rift appeared? That in my dreams I sensed an inner strength, which intrigued me? How when I discovered a way into her dreams, I couldn’t believe my good luck. Now she has a chance to get to know me, and maybe she’d fall in love with me as I’ve been falling for her. Would my confession make her believe?
Those nights I saw her in my dreams, there was something special about her. Her inner strength still calls out to the lion within me. Should she ever be given the chance, she’d surprise me and herself at what an amazing creature she could become. She has a grace about her, and sweetness, which would lighten the darkness in my life.
Determined, I focus my thoughts on one thing: entering her dreams.
For now it’s the only way. Creator Lord, one day, grant I can be with her in truth.
“Monroe? Is that you?” She brushes aside her pale hair. Her lips curve upward in welcome. Her blue eyes sparkle in the sunlight. She’s always happy on her fantasy island.
She’s a vision.
“Yes, it’s me. Do you mind my presence here?” My pulse races. I can’t bear to leave her. My feet sink into the gritty sand as I cross the shore and stop mere inches from her. The wind picks up, sending the scent of salt tinged with her floral perfume. She tugs at her tangled hair. More of her intoxicating fragrance floats toward me.
My fingers itch to run my fingers through her silky tresses. I clasp my hands behind my back.
She bites her lower lip. “No, you can stay.”
Feeling more a boy than a man of thirty-five, I restrain myself from licking my own lips.
What would kissing her be like?
I give myself a mental shake.
No. Don’t follow that train of thought; you’ll lose control.
Again the customary ache squeezes my heart.
When will she be mine?
She tilts her head toward me, her brows knit together. “Will you tell me about yourself? I mean, you’ve told me your name. But not much else.”
“Because I want to know more.”
“Sasha, I’m not sure you’d believe me.”
Frustration radiates from her. “Why do you sidestep me?”
I shove my hands into my pockets. “The truth is complicated.”
“Tell me anyway.”
“My fondest wish would to have you as my wife.”
She steps away from me with a nervous laugh. “Wife? I don’t know you well enough to marry you. Besides, who would marry a shy, wrapped-up-in-her-job orphan, like me? I’m a nobody.” She sits on a log, her hands trail in the sand.
If only she knew
. “My parents are dead, too. Besides, I would marry you.” I place my foot on the log and rest my arms on my knee. “You can’t see the strength you possess. The power surging within you. You aren’t a nobody.” Does she realize her heart cries out to mine? Somehow our hearts recognize in each other the missing parts of themselves. I’ve never experienced the sensation before. My fellow Thirdlings described it to me, but, until I met Sasha, I hadn’t felt it.
Several minutes pass and she still hasn’t uttered a word. Finally I say, “Do you understand?
The silence thickens. Then, without warning, the air shimmers and a shrill ring echoes across the beach. The ocean begins to blur. Sweat drips down my spine.
No, not now!
When she wakes, I’ll be sent home. I can’t miss this opportunity. Images of peaceful beaches and long, soothing massages play before us. I grasp at them, praying one will entice her to stay. It’s no use. A puzzled expression crosses Sasha’s features, then another ring fills the air. Before my frustrated eyes, her image begins to fade.
I reach for her, but a breathtaking force smacks me in the chest. I’m thrust back into my castle in the Third Realm, beyond human reach. Knocked against the den’s stone walls, I let out a roar. The sound reverberates throughout the room. Her waking never hurt so much before.
I get up and regain my chair. Somehow, I must make Sasha mine. She hasn’t yet realized the inner power she possesses. I could show her. Set her free from her shyness. Our hearts would be one. After all, they do recognize each other.
what will I do if she refuse me?
An overwhelming sense of loss nearly drowns me. I’ve fought the loneliness for far too many years.
The rift affords me a look into her world and I watch as she extends her arms above her head. Her honey-colored tresses cascade over her slim shoulders.
Can I even convince her I’m real?
I rub my temples and the oncoming doubts.
I have to try. Otherwise, she’ll go on thinking I’m an illusion.
Sasha rises, dressed in a green satin nightgown. When she enters her bathroom, I turn away. I won’t dishonor her by watching.
Once she’s dressed, I refocus. I have a thin window of opportunity to enter her consciousness before she’s surrounded by others to break through the rift and enter her mind. Perhaps I’ll make her believe.
If I can even accomplish the task. Anything could happen. The rift could close, cutting off my one entry to her. She could reject my presence in her mind and throw me out. Either way, I have to try.
In her car, she’s distracted by the traffic and reviewing her schedule for the day. Studying her face, I sense anticipation and hope. A perfect opportunity for me.
I concentrate my energies on seeing what she does . . . the road stretching out before her . . . the smooth feel of the steering wheel in her hands . . . her foot on the accelerator. Then, I’m inside her head.
Now for the hard part: convincing her I’m not just the man of her dreams, but also the man of her reality.