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Authors: Linda Winstead Jones

Bride by Command

BOOK: Bride by Command
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Table of Contents
Praise for the Children of the Sun Trilogy
Prince of Swords
“Allow yourself to be swept into a world where good and evil battle, where goddesses and princes fight demons and shape-shifters. This is a world Jones excels at creating, [an] exciting, colorful realm.”
—Romantic Times
Prince of Fire
“Linda Winstead Jones pens a perfect romance laced with strife, mystery, and an intense passion hot enough to singe your fingers.”
—Romance Junkies
Prince of Magic
“Punchy battle scenes and steamy lovemaking will please genre fans, but it is Jones’s gift for creating complex heroes and villains that lifts this story out of the ordinary.”
—Publishers Weekly
Praise for the Sisters of the Sun Trilogy
The Star Witch
“Bewitching . . . A fabulous, climactic romantic fantasy . . . filled with fascinating twists, beguiling.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Well done! Very sensual.”
“A fantastic denouement . . . For an action-packed and thrilling romance,
The Star Witch
is just what the doctor ordered.”
—Romance Reviews Today
The Moon Witch
“I can hardly wait to find out how she will [entwine] all the threads she has created! . . . This series is just too good to miss.”
—The Romance Reader
“An enjoyable romantic fantasy that grips the audience . . . Action-packed.”
—The Best Reviews
“A unique and imaginative realm . . . Prepare to be swept away!”
“[W]ill enthrall . . . Lushly imaginative.”
—Publishers Weekly
The Sun Witch
“Entertaining and imaginative, with a wonderful blend of worlds and technology and magic. The characters are different and engrossing; the villain is fascinating.”
—New York Times
bestselling author Linda Howard
“Charming . . . Winsome . . . The perfect choice when you want a lighthearted and fun, yet sensual, romance . . . with all the magic of a fairy tale.”
—Bookbug on the Web
“Fabulous . . . The story is spectacular and this author is unforgettable.”
—Road to Romance
“Amazing adventures unfold . . . Marvelously captivating, sensuous, fast-paced.”
(starred review)
—Affaire de Coeur
Berkley Sensation Titles by Linda Winstead Jones
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
printing HISTORY
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / March 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Linda Winstead Jones.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01227-7
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY® SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

With special thanks to
Allison Brandau, Wendy McCurdy,
and Christine Zika.
The Columbyanan Palace in the Sixth Year of the
Reign of Emperor Nechtyn Jahn Calcus Sadwyn Beckyt
First Night of the Spring Festival
he had dismissed the last of his advisers, Jahn gave a tired sigh and sat heavily in the crimson padded chair which dominated one corner of his spacious and ornate bedchamber. There were times when he found peace in this private room he called his own. The bed was large and comfortable; the furnishings were finer than anything he had known before coming to Arthes; there was a fire whenever he wanted or needed one; and there was no skimping when it came to the scented oils which burned here and there, lighting the dimmer corners and adding a sweet scent to the air. Here there were no demands made of him. The demanding moments took place in the ballroom or his suite of offices. This chamber, decorated in imperial crimson and made as comfortable as any man could wish for, was meant for pleasure and rest and rare peace.
But tonight Jahn could find no peace. What had he done? In a fit of pique he had set in motion a ridiculous contest which would end in his inevitable and unwelcome marriage. Perhaps he would have a bit of fun along the way, as he watched those around him scramble to make this concept work, but would it be worth the trouble? He could just as easily have instructed any one of his ministers to choose a bride for him. They all had very strong ideas about which woman would make the best empress. The ladies were all talented or intelligent or beautiful or came from a fine bloodline which would strengthen his ties with a country or a tribe. It wasn’t as if love or physical attraction would play any part in his decision, no matter how the game was played.
Being emperor had its advantages, and he was not ignorant of them. His word was law. Literally. If he wanted something, anything, all he had to do was ask and it was delivered to him. Loose women, his favorite type, cared only for pleasing him. He had his own army at his command. His days of indulging in physical labor and answering the commands of others were over.
And yet he could not have the simple luxury of falling in love before marriage. He could not choose to remain unwed, if such a lifestyle suited him. This extraordinary palace was often more a prison than a home, and there were days when he could almost feel the walls closing in on him, as they did now. Marriage and the resulting fatherhood would only imprison him more surely.
He was trapped.
Still sitting, Jahn began to unfasten his long, cumbersome robe. He was damned tired of crimson, especially on this night when he had set the wheels of change into motion. One word, and the sentinels who were positioned outside his door would fetch one or two of Jahn’s favorite ladies, and they would make him forget that he was as much a prisoner as a ruler. They would make him forget everything. Melusina, perhaps, or Anrid. Just the thought of them made him grin. Melusina had a wonderful laugh that always made him smile, and Anrid possessed great, white breasts so soft he could happily fondle them for hours.
Once he was married, he would give them up, he supposed. He
keep all the women he desired. He
continue to live as if he were not a husband, as if he had no bonds, no boundaries. His marriage could, if he so chose, be approached as if it were for nothing more than politics and for the sake of producing a child. And once the empress caught a babe, he could banish her to some remote corner of the palace, bringing her out for holidays and social affairs and such, and resume his lascivious lifestyle.
But he would not. Jahn was determined that he would not become his father. No matter what his weaknesses might be, he was a good ruler who put the needs of the people first, always. He had not been trained all his life for this position, he had not been born and bred with politics in his mind and his heart. But he knew how to make people like him, when it was necessary, and he was good at surrounding himself with capable followers who did their jobs well and in the process made him look as if
were capable.
And unlike his father, once he was wed he would be faithful—even if it killed him.
Knowing his carefree days were numbered, Jahn found the energy to leap from his chair and rush to the door, blasted crimson robe halfway undone. He opened that door swiftly to reveal four sentinels whose duty was to keep their emperor safe. Jahn’s eyes fell on Blane, a quiet and sensible and slightly rotund man who had been with him from the beginning.
“Melusina,” he said sharply.
Blane nodded once and turned away.
“And Anrid,” Jahn called after him. If his days were numbered, he might as well enjoy them all to the utmost.
Morgana Ramsden had crept from her soft bed, escaped through her bedchamber window, and walked a relatively short distance from her fine home to hide in the shadows of the forest and watch the servants and villagers dance around the bonfire and celebrate the season of life, of fertility. Morgana had heard whispers that for some it was also a season of sexual awakening, of virile men and welcoming women, a celebration of pleasure given and taken, of life begun. Knowing how protective her stepfather was, it was no wonder she was not allowed to attend such a common celebration, that she had been forbidden even to observe the festivities from afar. What her stepfather didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
Morgana led a blessed life for the most part, a much easier life than those of the plainly dressed girls who danced around the fire and laughed out loud and flirted with brawny men. She watched in awe as a young woman with wild, dark hair all but pressed her large, round bosom in the face of a momentarily startled man and then danced away, laughing. The man recovered from his surprise quickly and followed, and he laughed, too. Any one of those girls would likely do anything to be in Morgana’s position, and yet she often envied them their laughter and freedom.
BOOK: Bride by Command
12.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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