Authors: D Renee Bagby
© 2007 D. Renee Bagby
He crossed dimensions to claim her as his queen—but her reign may destroy his world.
A Bron Universe novel
Adrienne Backett wants two simple little things this spring break: rest and relaxation. After nearly four years of slaving away for her college education, she deserves a holiday. What she gets is pulled into another dimension by a man who claims she's his rightful queen.
Malik, King of Ulan, has until his birthday to find his bride or he must forfeit his throne. When a spell reveals her location, he will do anything, even cross dimensions, to claim her as his own.
As if fending off a lusty king isn't enough of a headache, Adrienne finds herself a pawn in a rival monarch's plot to bring Malik's world to its knees. But is the real danger being stuck in the middle of a power struggle between rival kingdoms? Or the damage Malik could do to her heart?
Warning: this title contains adult language, talking animals, violence, and scenes of near rape.
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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.
512 Forest Lake Drive
Warner Robins, Georgia 31093
Copyright © 2007 by D. Renee Bagby
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.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: July 2007
D. Reneé Bagby
To my dad, who gave me my first romance novel and my love of reading.
To my mom, who knew I could and would do it before I was totally sure what
To Ms. Morse, my high school English teacher and my very first beta reader (and editor).
To Mr. Boyle, my college Creative Writing professor, who taught me to write for my audiences’ tastes as well as my own.
To Panya, who—as my beta reader—was forced to put up with the dynamics of a romance novel when she normally reads straight fantasy.
To Terez, who has to put up with my whining before, during, and after the writing process.
To my husband, who has to put up with everything.
To Liz, my first fan—even if we never did finish that comic.
And, to Samhain Publishing, Ltd. for giving me this chance to unleash my madness, uh, creativity on the world.
March 17, 2006
Adrienne shuffled papers around the desk. She cupped the phone between her head and shoulder so she could lift a stack of folders with both hands. She had put the pen on the desk earlier. By all rights, it should still be there. It couldn’t have gotten up and walked away. Adrienne would like to think she would notice a walking pen…and have a camera handy, because no one would believe her otherwise.
“Adrienne? Adrienne, are you listening to me?” the woman on the phone asked in an annoyed voice.
“Yes, Mother, I’m listening to you. I’m also in the middle of grading tests. The Scantron machine picked today of all days to break. I promised Ms. Evers I’d get the tests graded and the mid-semester marks up on the website before I left for the night.”
“Why couldn’t this Mrs. Evers person do that herself? You’re a teacher’s aide, not a teacher, Adrienne.”
“I know what I am, Mother.” Adrienne sighed. She checked the spot directly in front of her. The pen hadn’t been there the first three times, but she might have overlooked it.
It wasn’t there.
Evers isn’t married—yet,” Adrienne continued. “Her fiancé dropped by with plane tickets earlier today. She wanted to put him off because of this whole mess with the midterms, but I wouldn’t let her. I’m not doing anything important and I don’t have to catch a plane. I’m driving. Besides, I prefer night driving. Less people on the road.”
Against her better judgment, Adrienne moved from behind the desk to search on the floor in her immediate vicinity. She hadn’t put the pen on the ground, but it never hurt to check in case she’d knocked it off the desk while looking for it.
“I just called to let you know I’ll be home tonight after I finish with these grades. I’ve already finished with the tests and now I’m calculating grades. It won’t be but another hour, at most.” What started as a simple conversation had turned into a two-hour-long lecture.
“That’s just my point, honey. Your father and I don’t want you attempting a three-hour drive so late at night,” her mother complained.
“I’ll be fine. Aha!” The pen was on her chair. How it had gotten there, she would never know and didn’t care. Ten minutes had passed while she searched for the stupid thing.
Her mother asked in concern, “What?”
Adrienne shook her head even though her mother couldn’t see her. “I found my pen. Look, Mom, I gotta go. I’ll get to the house in another four hours. Don’t wait up. I’ll be fine. And make sure Castor and Pollux stay out of my room.”
The muffled voice of her father filtered through the phone. Adrienne couldn’t make out what he said.
Her mother translated, “Can’t you let your father come get you?”
“And be home without a car for a week during spring break? No way. Bye, Mom.”
She hung up the phone. Her mother liked to argue a point until the other person gave in just to shut her up. The only other option was to cut her off. Sure, Adrienne would catch an earful once she got home, but she had won herself a few hours’ reprieve.
It was almost eight o’clock. The darkness outside turned the glass of the window near the desk into a mirror. Instead of looking out and seeing the campus below, Adrienne’s light brown eyes stared back at her. She smiled at her reflection. Her hair looked horrible. She smoothed a few errant black strands back over the rows of braids that graced her head. It didn’t help. She would have to redo the braids when she got home.
This late at night, on an empty campus, no one would see her to care what her hair looked like.
If they could see me in the dark
, she thought with a quiet laugh. Adrienne’s cinnamon-brown complexion had the uncanny ability to turn her invisible on dark nights.
Speaking of night, if she didn’t get to work soon it would end and she would be stuck on the highway in morning rush hour—exactly what she wanted to avoid.
Pen in one hand and a calculator in the other, she started to tally up the midterm grades of the students from the Introduction to Literary History class. Adrienne was glad she’d already taken Ms. Evers’s course. The teacher used harsh and rigid rules in her classes because she loved the subject. That love had transferred to Adrienne, and in another two months, she would graduate with an honors degree in literary history.
The only thing she looked forward to more than graduation was spring break. That time had come, albeit an hour later than what she had quoted to her mother. Adrienne punched in the last grade, gathered up her stuff, and bade farewell to the English department building.
She made sure she had her car keys in her hand and Ms. Evers’s office keys in her purse before the building door closed behind her. After hours, the door had an automatic lock that needed a key code Adrienne didn’t know, since she was a student.
Adrienne followed the lighted path to the parking lot a few yards away. Her car seemed to smile at her, like it knew they were headed home. The restless movements of her hand made her keys jingle at her side. Just a few more feet and she would be on her way home for rest and relaxation.
“Spring break has officially started,” she declared.
“Yes, it has,” agreed a man from the shadows.
Adrienne gasped in surprise. She clutched her purse to her chest as the man who had spoken stepped onto the path in front of her.
There was another man with him. He kept to the shadows the large oak trees cast in the lights of the street lamps.
It took a while for Adrienne to register the face of the man who had spoken. He’d traded his designer shirts and tailored slacks for a non-descript black tee shirt and jeans. He’d even covered his blonde hair with a black skullcap.
“Josh?” she asked to make sure.
“In the flesh, teacher’s pet.”
Adrienne gave a nervous laugh. She took a step back from the men. “What are you doing on campus this late? I thought you would be halfway to Europe…or someplace equally as expensive.”
“I thought I would be, too,” he said with an offhand shrug. “I mean, I had the tickets and was all set to leave. Just one problem. Go on, ask me the problem.”
Something didn’t feel right. Adrienne looked around for an emergency phone. There wasn’t one in sight.
, she thought.
She looked back at Josh and her car, which was a few steps past him.
“What’s the problem?” she asked, hoping to stall until one of the night security guards came along. Maybe he wanted to scare her. It was late at night and people had to get their jollies somehow. She wished they had chosen another target, but as one of the last remaining students on campus, she was the lucky winner of the booby prize.
“You,” he said flatly. He started up the path towards her. “I pride myself on having pretty good scores. I mean, I pay enough money for them,” he said with a chuckle. “This semester has been crap for me, though. It took me a while to figure it out, but it’s all started and ended with you.”
“Me?” she asked as she backed up more. She needed to get back to the building. Adrienne may not know the code, but there were still a few teachers there doing last-minute grades.
“I knew I would have to be careful with the bribes these last two semesters. Seniors are under more scrutiny. All my planning went to pot when I found out our teacher was a lazy bastard and he left it up to our peers whether we should pass or fail the senior sem.”
Now she understood. “You plagiarized that paper. I might have overlooked a quote here or there, but I found the exact same paper on the internet. I had to point it out to the professor,” she explained in what she hoped was a stern yet somewhat sympathetic voice. She didn’t feel any sympathy for the lazy prick. He only needed to think she did.
Josh’s sneer let Adrienne know he didn’t buy it. “Who, in turn, took it to the dean of the English department and then the president of the school. I’ve been expelled. Seniors don’t get second chances. One mistake and you’re out of there, bucko.”
“Oh, shit.” Adrienne turned tail and ran. The building wasn’t that far away. She could make it.
Why had she worn a long skirt today? She grabbed handfuls of the skirt and hiked it up to her thighs so she could run faster.
“This was your one mistake, Adrienne,” Josh yelled after her.
She screamed when someone tackled her. She barely had time to raise her hands to keep her face from bouncing off the ground. Her assailant flipped her onto her back in one move. It was Josh’s friend.
Adrienne started hitting him with her purse and kicking him. The man grunted. Her attack didn’t seem to faze him in the least. He smiled at her and beckoned her to hit him more. She obliged him because she might land a lucky hit and get away.
“How do you like Greg? He’s an old buddy of mine from back in high school. We used to con idiot girls into sex, then tally up our points with a few other friends. I won, even though some of those twits needed convincing, like you.” From his back pocket, Josh produced a credit card-sized digital camera. He clicked a picture.
The flash dazzled Adrienne. She squeezed her eyes shut before he flashed another picture. Stars danced around the backs of her eyelids.
“Don’t do this.”
“That’s what the other girls would say. ‘No, please,’ or ‘Stop, don’t do this, I beg you’. In the end, they all loved it. It’s not like I’m going to kill you or anything. I’m going to take some nice little pictures of Greg and you. Not showing Greg’s face, of course. After spring break, you’ll go tell the dean you switched out my paper with one you found on the web. Call it academic jealousy or some shit like that. Make up something that sounds plausible and pathetic. You look like you can do pathetic.”