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Authors: Elizabeth Amber

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Raine: The Lords of Satyr

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Lords or Satyn: Raine
Elizabeth Amber

 

 

Reviewers on
Nicholas, The Lords of Satyr:

“A well-written story with enough variety in the sexual situations to satisfy just about any reader. The characters are complex and intriguing and the leading man is the sexiest one this reader has seen in a long time! The author has cleverly set the stage for at least two sequels in the Lords of Satyr series, and based on this book, they will be something to look forward to.”

—Romantic Times Book Reviews,
August 2007

“[Ms. Amber] gives great depth to her characters and the dialogues are smooth and natural. Everything about this story and the elements within worked…a wonderful book that did not disappoint!”

—Paranormal Romance Reviews

“I really didn’t want this book to end, and when I finished I knew that it would stay with me for a while.”

—TwoLips Reviews,
5 lips; Reviewer’s Choice; Recommended Read

“Elizabeth Amber has drawn a world that pulls you in and keeps hold of your heart and mind.”

—Joyfully Reviewed,
a Recommended Read


Nicholas, The Lords of Satyr
has taken a place on my top ten favorite erotic books list.”

—Night Owl Romance,
5 stars

“This is a page turner from start to finish!”

—Fallen Angel Reviews

“Fascinating! Absolutely, positively wicked…a spellbinding story that captivates readers from the first word to the last.”

—Romance Reviews Today

“Both Nicholas and Jane are well-matched, though it took a delicious, tension-filled while for them to figure it out. There is a villainess to surpass all villains, and more supporting villains that fit into the story neatly…It was well-paced—it’s engrossing and easy to read in one sitting. While the romance is lovely, the sex is knock-out hot.”

—Just Erotic Romance Reviews


Nicholas
left me wanting—wanting the next book in this wonderful new series, that is!…I know I’ll be hoping for some cross-over characters to continue these sexy romances with when we’ve come to the end of the three Satyr brothers’ stories.”

—CK2S Kwips & Kritiques,
4.5 Klovers; 5 stars on Amazon.com

“An excellent debut…Very highly recommended.”

—Deborah MacGillivray, author of
A Restless Knight

“Like the fine wines from the vineyards of Tuscany where the Lords of Satyr make their home, these are stories to be savored for a satisfying, hedonistic treat.”

—Kate Douglas, author of
Wolf Tales

RAINE:
THE LORDS OF SATYR
ELIZABETH AMBER

APHRODISIA
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

PROLOGUE

Satyr Estate, Tuscany, Italy
September 1823

S
ome months ago, a parchment letter laced with a disturbing hint of ElseWorld magic arrived at the Satyr Estate in EarthWorld. Penned by King Feydon, it read…

Lords of Satyr, Sons of Bacchus,

Be it known that I lie dying and naught may be done. As my time draws near, the weight of past indiscretions haunts me. I must tell of them.

Nineteen summers ago, I fathered daughters upon three highborn Human females of EarthWorld. I sowed my childseed whilst these females slumbered, leaving each unaware of my nocturnal visit.

My three grown daughters are now vulnerable and must be shielded from Forces that would harm them. ’Tis my dying wish you will find it your duty to husband them and bring them under your protection. You may search them out among the society of Rome, Venice, and Paris. Thus is my Will.

The imminent demise of King Feydon and the news that his three half-Human, half-Faerie daughters are in danger sends the three handsome Satyr lords in search of FaerieBlend brides. Forces that protect the gate between EarthWorld and ElseWorld are at a low ebb when one of the brothers is away from the estate, so they must go singly. Eldest brother Nick has already found and wed Jane, the first of the sisters.

Now it’s second brother Raine’s turn. But he’s been wed before, disastrously so. Though he’s willing to see his duty through by marrying again, he’s reluctant to share his heart…

1

Venice, Italy
September 1823

J
ordan shifted on the wooden chair upon which she’d been carefully posed, causing the drape over it to slip sideways and slither into a heap on the floor.

The artist’s charcoal paused.

“Sia tranquillo!” he snapped. “Be still, can’t you?”

“Simple enough for you to say,” Jordan grumbled, retrieving the drape and attempting to pat it back into some semblance of its former placement. “I’ve been sitting in this position for so long I’m stiff as a sailor’s cock.”

The artist flexed his charcoal-smeared fingers. “Taci! Silenzio, you vulgar creature! No one’s forcing you to come here and display yourself in such a manner.”

His charcoal resumed its scratching upon the sheet of vellum perched on an easel before him.

“No. Of course not,” Jordan murmured solemnly. “I do so thoroughly enjoy having my portrait sketched.”

The artist shot her a probing glance that sought to permeate her disguise, as though it had suddenly occurred to him she might actually possess feelings. Then he waved a hand as though to flick any concern for her away.

“And well you should,” he huffed. “I lower myself in doing this sort of work. Why, I’ve created portraits of the finest families in Venice! I’ve sketched the daughters of the Patricelli family. The sons of the Tuchero. Even descendants of the Medici!”

“Impressive.”

The artist nodded, then sighed and set about his task again. “But I’ll not be signing the revered name of Vito Mondroli to this day’s work, I can assure you of that.”

“One can hardly blame you,” Jordan agreed. The trace of levity in her voice went unnoticed. An artist at work was rarely a good conversationalist. She yawned and peered wearily from the eyeholes of her gilded bauta mask. She was exhausted.

Last night she’d had the dream again. As always, it had come to her in three parts. Not as connected acts in a theatrical play, but as three isolated and unrelated incidents.

First had come the long-eared brown rabbit.

Second, the droplets of blood splashed upon her thigh.

Then third and last, the ribbons had appeared. There were seven of them, in all the colors of the rainbow. They’d reached to her from a storm, beckoning like wild, elongated fingers. They’d come close to tease and caress her cheeks with their slippery, satiny smoothness. If she could only grab what they offered, they promised to pull her from the storm toward safety. Toward happiness.

The same dream had persisted every night for the past week, leaving her hollow-eyed today. She’d soon know what it all meant. Ever since she’d turned thirteen, such dreams—always in three parts—had come to her nightly, foretelling hints of the future.

It was late afternoon now, and Jordan wanted nothing more than to return home and seek her bed. But she had many hours yet to go here.

A dozen or so dramatic strokes of charcoal later, Vito Mondroli whipped the rectangle of vellum from his easel. With a twist of his fingers he flipped it toward her.

“There, what do you think?” He actually sounded like her opinion mattered.

Jordan angled her head, studying it. “I think my mama will most likely hang this one above the mantle in the grand salon facing the campo.”

Mondroli looked scandalized.

“I’m joking,” she assured him, rolling her shoulders and stretching her back. Really, the man had no sense of humor.

He pivoted his work back toward himself and scrutinized it. His eyes darted up to snag hers.

“You don’t fool me,” he said, scratching a finger along the bridge of his nose and leaving a trailing black smudge behind. “You may pretend you’re not ashamed to be cursed with such a body, but under that mask I’ll wager your cheeks are bright red.”

He was right. Jordan
was
ashamed. But not of her body. Only of the fact that it was on display in this way.

At least Mondroli wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing his barb had struck home, she consoled herself. He wouldn’t dare attempt to see her expression below the mask.

Before Signore Salerno had left them alone in the theater together, he’d made it crystal clear to the artist that he wasn’t to attempt to learn her identity or to take any liberties whatsoever with her person. Fear of losing a commission always kept the artists in line, were they tempted to touch.

Jordan rubbed her bottom and forced a jocular tone. “Only my rear cheeks are blushing I assure you, Signore Mondroli. But I imagine they’re only numb from that last sitting.”

This time the artist snorted in a manner that was almost a giggle, appearing as surprised to hear himself emit such a sound as she was. In the throes of amusement, his face contorted into unbecoming angles and his horse teeth were grotesquely exposed. It was most unattractive, and she vowed to herself not to make another jest in his presence.

Jordan surveyed the sheets he’d placed helter-skelter against the walls, standing them on edge along the oak plank floor of the stage as he’d finished. Each portrait captured a different angle of her.

Yet not one of them showed her shiny raven hair, which was cropped just above her shoulders, or her stubborn pointed chin, or the intelligent dark eyes that gazed from her mask.

“They’re good,” she told him honestly, for they were. “Considerably better than the artist Salerno engaged last year.”

Like the progeny of many other wealthy Venetian families, Jordan had sat for more than one portrait. In fact, every year of her life on the fifteenth of September, a series of sketches had been made of her.

However, unlike the portraits of other wealthy young Venetians, Jordan’s would never be hung in her family home. Or in a museum. Nor would it be sold in the Venetian piazettas where artists hawked their wares.

Her mother would never view the drawings she’d insisted Jordan sit for today. She wouldn’t even allow Jordan to speak of the events of this day. Though her mother might choose to ignore what happened here in this theater, Jordan didn’t have that luxury.

If her mother had asked, she could have told her that each year Salerno commissioned an artist to create her likeness, so the smallest changes in her body would be recorded. In the forthcoming months, he would take these portraits of her on tour to other lecture halls in other cities. The success of his business interests all rested on his exclusive access to the notorious creature he exhibited to the public every September—herself.

For as long as she could remember, her mother had told her in no uncertain terms that her birthday belonged to Salerno. It had been promised to him on the very day Jordan had entered the world as a babe, in exchange for his ongoing silence on an indelicate family matter only she, her mother, and he were privy to. Were this secret to get out, it would destroy all three of their carefully constructed lives in an instant.

“Bah, the creator of those other sketches was an incompetent,” said the artist, breaking into her thoughts. She turned to find him admiring his own work. “I apprenticed under a master before the French came. I enjoyed the patronage of the finest families in Venice and beyond.”

“So you said,” Jordan noted.

He clucked morosely and shook his head. “But Venice is poor these days. Patrician families are selling art, not commissioning it. I take such work as I can find. When Signore Salerno offered to hire me—”

His words drifted off as the sound of distant voices reached them. Both their heads swiveled toward the curtain, trying to hear beyond it to the seating area of the small theater.

The voices and accompanying footsteps grew louder.

Jordan’s eyes dilated. “They’re coming,” she whispered.

“Fretta! Affrettarsi! Up on the table,” Mondroli urged, fluttering both hands in distress. “I have one last sketch to complete.”

Ignoring him for the moment, Jordan went to the velvet curtains that separated the small stage where she and the artist were hidden from the rest of the dimly lit theater. She stroked a finger down the central slit where the two drapes met when closed as they were now. One of her dark eyes peered out.

As she watched, Salerno strode into the theater, looking important and successful in his white surgeon’s coat. It was an affectation. There would be no surgery today, only discussion. “A medical investigation” was the wording he had used on the notices he had distributed in order to advertise today’s event to barber-surgeons, hospitals, and other such establishments. The leaflets were effective, drawing learned men of science and medicine to see her, like flies to a carcass.

His coattails fluttered as he strutted down the corridor dividing the theater seats. His hair had thinned since she’d seen him last year. The dark shank of it that remained was slicked back from his head like oily feathers.

A V-shaped flock of medical men followed in his wake as if they were a formation of geese that had begun migrating now that September had come.

Salerno’s sharp gaze cut to the curtain as though sensing she watched. His small eyes were cold black pits, void of empathy.

Jordan’s head snapped back like a turtle’s and she twitched the drape shut.

“Per favore—on the table!” the artist urged.

Carefully, she folded the edges of the curtains one atop the other as though to seal Salerno out of her life. If only it were that easy.

With a sigh, she turned back to Mondroli. “How do you want me this time?”

“On your back! On the table, please!” He spread the square of satin he’d taken from the chair over the top of an elongated table. “Signore Salerno requested a series in all the same positions as in these other portraits of you. The only one I have not yet completed is…”

He thumbed through a stack of likenesses done of her last year, plucked one out, and set it upon another easel nearby. “This one.”

The portrait was only a partial view, she saw. Good. That meant it wouldn’t matter if she put her shirt back on. She looked around for it and then remembered Salerno had removed her clothing when he’d left her with Mondroli earlier that morning.

A cloak hanging on the peg in the corner caught her eye. Detouring on her way to the table, she snatched it up and draped it over her shoulders. It was rich and fine. No holes or other defects marred its velvet or its satin lining. It was Salerno’s.

Jordan turned her back to the table and sat, pulling herself up on it. Swiveling lengthwise, she lay on her back and snuggled the cloak around her shoulders and breasts. They wouldn’t be depicted in this particular sketch.

The legs of the artist’s chair scraped as he moved closer. She bent her knees high and wide, exactly as she’d been posed in the portrait from last year. Mondroli positioned himself like a midwife, his sketchpad resting on the table just between her ankles.

“Si, that’s it.” He flicked a glance at the other portrait. “And spread your, um—”

“Labia majora and minora,” Jordan supplied, reaching between her legs. Over the years, she’d learned all the medical terms for her body parts from Salerno and those he brought to examine her.

Mondroli was already sketching her outline. Once he filled it in, his final drawing would be a close-up of her genitalia. He’d cropped her body so the resulting shape of her belly, nether regions, and lifted thighs formed a sort of M on his page.

Forking two fingers, she unfurled the ruffles of her labia. They were plump and full. Unusually full. In fact, whenever she stood, they hung low on either side of her slit. Turning her head to the side, she glanced at the portrait from last year. It was an accurate, detailed depiction, and showed her labia had been far thinner and more feminine then. What had caused this strange thickening? It was worrisome.

Mondroli cleared his throat. Flicking two fingers up and down, he gestured toward her crotch. “Your, uh, thing. It’s in the way.”

With her hand, Jordan reached to adjust that part of her that had so complicated her life—the shaft of masculine flesh that had grown from her body where a clitoris would have been on any other woman. She lifted it to lie on her abdomen, pointing its tip toward her navel as it had been in the other portrait. Far too large an appendage for a woman, yet rather small for a man, the presence of this rod forever doomed her to hover in limbo somewhere between the sexes. Not quite a man; not quite a woman.

Yet at her birth, a choice in gender had been made for her. It had been decided by her mother and Salerno that this appendage would be deemed a phallus. And that she would live her life as a male. Of late she had begun to fear they had been more accurate in their choice than they knew.

Ever since her labia had first thickened some ten months ago, her phallus had begun troubling her. It sometimes awakened, thickened, pulsed, yearned in the pitch of night. When the dreams came to haunt her.

“Esteemed colleagues!” Beyond the curtains, Salerno’s voice boomed throughout the theater.

Jordan and the artist flinched simultaneously. She snatched her hand away from arranging her privates as though she’d been caught doing something naughty.

“Today you will witness a true marvel,” Salerno proclaimed. “One you’ll surely deem worthy of your travels here for this medical debate. For behind this very curtain, I have obtained for the purposes of medical study, a”—he paused here for dramatic effect—“
person
—of a nature you’ve likely not seen before, nor ever will again. Some may call such creatures monstrosities…”

He droned on, but Jordan tuned him out. She’d heard it all before. “If only he could locate conjoined twins and a goatboy as well, I do believe he’d have the makings of his own carnival exhibition,” she muttered.

The artist ignored her, intent on finishing his work. His fingers moved furiously, his strokes more hurried now that he knew his time at his task was drawing to an end.

Jordan watched him work between her legs, wishing he would slow his pace. She dreaded the examination that would certainly follow this portrait session. However, at the same time, she longed for an explanation for the changes that had taken place in her body over the past year. And Salerno and his medical cohorts could undoubtedly supply one.

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