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One Thousand Kisses

BOOK: One Thousand Kisses
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Table of Contents

When one path closes, another opens—if they survive the journey.

 

The Fey Realm, Book 2

Embor Fiertag, Primary of the Court, has overcome no tougher challenge than the three facing him right now: get reelected, capture the rogue agents who tried to murder him, and improve his love life. The third one should be easy—except he hasn’t exactly told Court trainee Anisette Serendipity she’s his foretold bondmate. Plus, she’s dating his chief political rival and doesn’t seem to like Embor. At. All.

Ani has good reason to avoid the stern, serious Embor. Her wayward sister almost got him killed once, and now he monitors Ani like he expects her to do worse. But Ani’s not the adventurous type. She can’t even break up with Warran Torval, a man she knows she doesn’t want, a man who spends half his time plotting Embor’s downfall.

When Torval attempts to force a bond with Ani, Embor senses her fear and steps in…directly into an unsavory political strategy gone all too right. Forced to flee together to humanspace with a manipulative magical cat, Embor and Ani must find the courage to reveal—and heal—their vulnerabilities before the fabric between the Fey Realm and humanspace is ripped to shreds.

 

Warning: This title contains sex, fairy drugs, rampant gnomes, bloodshed, and cats ruling the world. As they should.

eBooks are
not
transferable.

They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

 

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

 

Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520

Macon GA 31201

 

One Thousand Kisses

Copyright © 2011 by Jody Wallace

ISBN: 978-1-60928-357-5

Edited by Bethany Morgan

Cover by Kanaxa

 

All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

First
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: February 2011

www.samhainpublishing.com

One Thousand Kisses

 

 

 

 

Jody Wallace

Dedication

 

For Meankitty. Because she’s worth it.

Chapter One

 

The child stretched out her arms to be picked up. Dirt encrusted what seemed to be every inch of her skin. Embor Fiertag, Primary of the Elder Court of the Realm, clasped his hands behind his back and regarded the child with suspicion.

“Why are you unsupervised?” he asked the girl.

“Up!” she insisted. Sunlight glinted off her coppery hair. He thought her name might be Petunia of Clan Serendipity, but it could also be Violet. It was definitely not Charles, the third Serendipity triplet.

He also thought if he obliged her, he’d soil his white exercise tunic beyond redemption. Where had the toddler found so much mud in the palace gardens? Her top and short pants were almost as soiled as her skin.

“Up, up, up!” she shrieked, her tiny voice increasing in volume. She flung herself against his legs and gripped. Her grubby toes kicked his ankles.

Because his path in life had led straight to Court, Embor hadn’t been around little ones much since he’d been a child. He hefted the girl under her arms, holding her away from his clothing. She was so small it was hardly a strain.

“Fly?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.

“Flying is dangerous.”

“Fly. Up!”

“Stop screaming.” If she continued to make noise, her cries might attract her mother, and he had no wish to encounter Princess Talista. After she’d nearly gotten him killed in humanspace, he’d avoided her as much as possible. His recent dealings with her husband were more than enough exposure to the mouthy termagant.

Her twin Anisette, on the other hand, Embor hadn’t avoided. In fact, he’d scheduled his exercise this morning because it intersected with her routine. She often walked in the palace gardens in the morning when it was cooler.

Despite relocating twice during his exertions, he’d seen no sign of Anisette—only this child, unsupervised by a responsible adult. That didn’t rule out her mother’s presence, since he didn’t consider Talista to be particularly responsible.

The child regarded him with unblinking blue eyes. “No flying?”

“Where is your mother?”

“I ran away,” the child confided.

“Why?”

“’Cause.”

“That’s not a good reason.”

She laughed. “Fly!”

Embor lowered her to the ground, but she wailed and kicked, her feet dangerously close to his privates. He sighed. Obviously he wasn’t going to be able to put her down until he found her caretaker. He’d have a strong word with whoever had allowed her free rein in the gardens. The grounds were protected by magic, but children could come to harm anyway, or so he understood. There were several fish ponds on the premises, as well as a maze and an extensive orchard.

The girl squirmed, so he placed her on his hip. Her body was hotter and wetter than expected. Perhaps she’d found a pond already. She grabbed his queue of hair and yanked, jerking his head to the side.

The child seemed unusually strong for her age, which he believed to be three. He removed her hand from his hair. She laughed and stuck a finger in his mouth.

“Stop that,” he ordered. She crammed her fingers between his lips, and the flavor of dirt and something salty flooded his mouth.

A moving object crashed into the tall privacy hedge that enclosed the exercise area. Embor tensed as the bushes trembled. Assassination attempts weren’t unheard of, and Embor had become increasingly unpopular in the past five years.

More inside the Court than out of it, but most coups sprang from the inside.

He gathered magic to transport himself and the child to safety, perturbed it wasn’t instantaneous.

“Violet?” called a feminine voice, an edge of panic evident. “Where are you, kitten?”

Not an assassin. Not the tot’s mother.

Anisette.

“She’s here,” he said.

Anisette’s slim form squeezed between two bushes. A yellow gown, stains on the skirt and bodice, shimmered around her like a butterfly. Her dark red hair had partially escaped an upsweep, and a twig pronged out of the top.

The day had grown hot. Embor’s mouth dried like the desert in Xerode. It reduced the terrible taste of Violet’s fingers.

“By the spirits! That little monkey is going to run me ragged. Thank you for… Oh. It’s you.” Anisette curtseyed and added, “Elder Embor.”

“Fair met, Princess Anisette.” He inclined his head.

From the time she’d arrived at Court, Anisette had been gracious, studious and led into temptation by two things alone—her sibling’s antics and the eligibles at Court who hoped to discover that rarest of relationships, a bondmate. Her high status meant she was pursued by many. She’d even countenanced that slimy bastard from Clan Torval.

Embor wasn’t a monster. He was in his fertility phase. He’d been told he wasn’t unattractive. He was the Primary, for Ka’s sake. Yet Anisette was friendly to everyone but him.

Apparently her niece shared her unfathomable sentiments. The child’s gaze fell upon Anisette, and her small body, which had been resting comfortably against him, stiffened.

“Ani!” Violet howled, bursting into tears. She began to struggle in Embor’s arms as if he’d pinched her.

He set her down.

“Come here, honey.” Anisette opened her arms, casting Embor a sharp glance. The child flung herself into the princess’s embrace. “What did you do?”

Her response took him aback. Few in the Realm were foolhardy enough to rebuke the Primary of the Elder Court. Not only was he one of the most magically gifted fairies alive, but his political power was second to none. Her eyes narrowed as she inspected him in a way that reminded him of his twin and fellow Primary, Skythia.

“Nothing.” He stifled the urge to question her skills as a caretaker. He’d made an effort this year to be less exacting with her in hopes she’d grow comfortable with him. In hopes she’d treat him the way she treated others.

His strategy had not succeeded. Yet. Hence his new tactic, crossing paths in a casual setting.

Anisette glared at him over the child’s red curls. “You must have done something. She’s a baby, Elder, not a Court trainee.”

He considered what the child might have found upsetting. “I refused to fly her.”

“You can’t fly anyway.” She examined Violet’s face and body, as if searching for evidence of Embor’s cruelty.

“I can remain aloft temporarily.” Something stung inside him, in the area of his heart. It wounded him that she thought he’d hurt a child.

“That’s all you did, refuse to levitate?”

“That’s all. Violet is unharmed.” He flicked dirt off his long-sleeved tunic. “I can’t say the same for my clothing.”

She ignored him, cooing to Violet, “Did the mean man scare you?”

“I peed,” the child said cheerfully.

Embor paused, his hands hovering over the damp imprint of Violet’s body on his torso. “When did you do this thing, Miss Violet?”

Anisette’s gaze flew to his face in horror. It wasn’t how he wanted her to regard him, but Violet’s admission should put her mind to rest. The child had cried because urinating on oneself was distressing, not because of anything he’d done to her.

“Need new bloomies,” Violet suggested.

Anisette’s lips tightened. “Violet, you’re a big girl. Big girls peepee in the potty.”

“I’m a baby,” Violet said. “Ga ga.”

“You’re not a…” Anisette closed her mouth when Violet tried to put her fingers in it. “No, no hands in the mouth. Nor the nose. Violet, stop. You’re dirty, and you shouldn’t have run from me.”

Embor observed the byplay closely. Anisette seemed fatigued by Violet, yet her patience and love were unmistakable. It was said there was something uniquely magical about parenting. Since fairies without bondmates sacrificed a portion of their magic to bear young, it must be true. Otherwise their race would have died out long ago.

He should take this opportunity to show Anisette he was interested in something besides politics. What could they discuss? He dredged his sluggish brain for ideas.

Her magics were water and earth; his were fire and ether. She had many friends; he had few. She followed
The Thousand Kisses
, a book of sexually charged rituals to help one find a bondmate; he didn’t.

But they did have one commonality. She loved her small relations; he intended to have children some day. He paced across the neat grass to stand before her.

“Is it standard for children to wet themselves at this age?” he asked.

“Violet is perfectly normal,” Anisette snapped. “Fairy siblings mature at different speeds. Charlie isn’t talking yet and the Court healers aren’t worried.”

Again, she evidenced more passion than was her wont. Anisette had rarely been bold in his presence. He could remember one time only, but the circumstances had been dire.

Today, on the other hand, was just another day in the garden. Either Violet brought out her inner dragon or this was a breakthrough in his and Anisette’s relationship. His compliment last week on her volunteer work at Capital City Clinic must have borne fruit.

Encouraged, he rocked back on his heels. “I’m interested in children.”

She glanced at him as Violet toyed with a pendant around her neck. “I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“I have many interests, actually.” And she was one of them. He cleared his throat. “I’m a private man. I have to be, in order to fulfill my responsibilities. The job of Primary is neither easy nor pleasant. You of all people know several reasons why.”

“The lost ones,” she said in a low voice. “And what my sister did.”

He nodded. This was as close as he intended to come to discussing it. To be safe, he distracted her by reaching for her hair without permission.

She flinched, but he plucked the twig from the swirl of hair at her crown anyway. He offered it to her without comment.

“Oh.” She patted her mussed coiffure. Violet dropped the necklace, grabbed the twig and waved it like a sword. “I must look a mess.”

“I wouldn’t call you a mess.” Her drooping hair gleamed like silk. Her dewy skin invited a man to taste it, to see if she was as sweet as she appeared. Her buttery yellow dress was hiked up to reveal brown slippers and bare ankles.

Anisette was a genteel, sensible woman. She didn’t sweat, she didn’t appear mussed in public, and she didn’t chase toddlers through bushes. He’d never seen her so unkempt. As if she’d just come from her bed.

Or someone else’s.

The thought tightened his jaw. For years he’d watched other fairies court her. He’d watched, and waited, though he could have told her she wouldn’t find a bondmate among those fools.

According to the Seers, Anisette was his bondmate, and he hers. He just hadn’t made any headway. The life of a Primary didn’t lend itself to the complicated task of wooing women. But he was tired of waiting. She was so…

“What would you call me?” she asked, her gaze downturned.

Sweet. Silent. Standoffish.

“Perhaps you’re a bit untidy.”

Her mouth dropped open. “You think I’m untidy?”

“Childcare seems to be a trial.” Embor wasn’t immune to Anisette’s physical appeal. Her appearance, her scent and her parted lips made him want to transport Violet to a babysitter and begin the wooing process right here, in the middle of the exercise field.

Violet quit stabbing Anisette with the twig and told Embor, “I maked a mess.”

“You’ve been in the mud, I think,” he told the child. “I hope you didn’t eat any.” She’d shared dirt with him, after all. She might consider it a delicacy.

“Ewwww!” she yelled.

Anisette jounced Violet and stared up at Embor. “You look less than stellar yourself, Elder.”

“Grime seems to be a talent of this child.” He plucked a leaf from Anisette’s hair, brushing his fingertips against the warm silk. “I understand she’s like her mother.”

“She is indeed.” It pleased him she didn’t avoid his touch this time. “Charles and Petunia are more like their father.”

Embor hoped the children took after their father’s personality, not his magic. Ninety-nine point nine percent of all fairies had birth siblings with whom they shared magic and a bond. Single-birth fairies like Jake Story had been secretly adopted into humanspace for eons because their wild power threatened the Realm. The system had endured with few glitches until Talista had taken it upon herself to abscond to Las Vegas and couple with a man she thought was human.

So many changes had been set into motion as a result, the least of which were the triplets.

“In what way,” he asked politely, “are the children like their father?”

Ani pursed her lips before she answered. “They aren’t as challenging. They don’t run as fast. They have brown eyes and brown hair.”

He risked another leaf, this one near her ear. “Red hair is attractive.”

She smiled. “They’re all beautiful children.”

He hadn’t meant Violet. “Why are you tending her?”

“Jake and Tali had a meeting with the Agent Oversight Committee.”

As the AOC’s Las Vegas ring agents, Jake and Talista monitored the conduits that connected the Realm to humanspace. The AOC coordinated the network and tracked single-birth fairies.

BOOK: One Thousand Kisses
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