Authors: Danielle Bourdon
Tags: #Control, #Exotic, #Cabal, #romantic suspense, #Spy, #Seduction, #Royal, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #Passion, #action, #Intrigue
The Royal Elite:
Published by Wildbloom Press
Copyright © 2014
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Pressing his back against the rough stone wall, Leander paused to listen to the sounds of the night. The echo of a trickling creek and the distant howl of a feral animal made themselves known above the whispering wind. Leaves rustled. A tree branch groaned. He heard no voices, no telltale snap of debris indicating another human might be close by. Curls of mist shifted through the air like old ghosts, hindering his view of the adjacent forest. He could just make out heavy boughs and thick trunks, the shapes undefined in the darkness. The scents of pine, fir and aspen were almost strong enough to overtake the smell of damp earth.
Trusting his instincts, he crept forward inch by inch, senses honed to a fine point.
Nothing could come between him and his mission.
Creeping to the end of the wall, he waited through a silent three-count and went around the corner low and fast. A shape lurked ahead through the fog, big and bulky, pressed as close to the wall as he was. Leander froze—prepared for—but not expecting to see anyone else out there. On stealthy feet, Leander closed the distance, fingers flexing in and out of his palms. Ready for action.
Ready to take down the enemy.
At the very last possible second, when his fingertips were less than three inches from making contact with a body, Leander suddenly found himself under attack. The bulky shape spun around and grabbed him, wresting Leander's balance off kilter. Faster than he anticipated, the man was also strong as an ox. Leander grappled for a hold, lost his footing, and went down with a hard thud. Fighting off a stranglehold, Leander threw a punch and torqued his body to the right, flipping the stranger over to the ground. A grunt split the night.
Breathing fast, knowing the glancing contact of knuckles to jaw wouldn't last long, Leander scrambled atop the writhing stranger and went for the throat.
“Don't move,” he hissed through clenched teeth, “or I'll open your jugular right here.”
. . .
“To my best friend, Chey. May my marriage be as happy and
as yours.” Wynn Hudson leaned forward to tink her wine glass against Chey's.
“Seriously, Wynn, I'm surprised you're not pregnant already. How many times have I accidentally walked in on you two
in flagrante delicto?
My virgin eyes can't take anymore.” Chey not-so-innocently sipped the wine.
Choking on the berry red, summer sweet vintage, Wynn said, “Just twice! Or maybe...three times. That's all.”
“More than three. There was the time in the grotto, then the beach house, and--”
Maybe four times. And what was the Queen of Latvala doing climbing the south tower, anyway? You shouldn't be taxing yourself like that.” Wynn
sidestepped Chey's whap of retaliation, grinning like a fiend. Chey had to be the most unorthodox queen in the history of the world. With long dark hair, vivid blue eyes and a sassy grin, Chey reminded Wynn of the girl-next-door rather than the co-ruler of a small country.
“I'm allowed to explore every inch of the castle I
in, Winnie. I can't help it that you happened to be exploring someone else's few inches at the same time.”
“Chey Sinclair!” Wynn guffawed and blushed so hard she felt heat creep from her throat to her cheeks to her hairline. Then, under her breath, she whispered, “It's more than a
And don't call me Winnie.”
“I heard that. Leander has turned you straight into a harlot,” Chey declared with a laugh.
Leaning against the counter in the cozy kitchen, suffused light shining down from the ceiling to cast a warm glow over their impromptu 'celebration', Wynn decided to go with the flow. She toasted Chey with her glass again, silently agreeing to the harlot moniker. What could she say? Her fiance was
“He makes me purr,” Wynn said with a mock dreamy sigh.
“Oh boy. If you start naming your favorite positions next, I'm going home.” Chey, sitting on the counter instead of leaning against it—so uncouth for a Queen—had a longer sip of wine. She didn't appear to be going anywhere.
“Look who's talking. You and Sander can't keep your hands off each other for any length of time. If I'm a harlot, so are you. In fact, you're the Queen of Harlots. How fitting.” Thinking herself sly and clever, Wynn had another drink of wine.
Chey laughed. “You're as cheesy as you've ever been.”
“I notice you didn't deny you and Sander are far worse than Leander and me. By a long shot, too.”
“You don't know the half of it.”
“And I don't want to know! Okay, maybe a few details. Does he--”
“Wynn Hudson! I'm not telling you what the King does or does not do in bed.”
“Or in the hall, or the
Wynn studied Chey with a sisterly kind of affection. The two had been best friends for years and their bond was stronger than ever. Even with Chey taking on the role of Queen for a country far from home, the girls acted like it was any other day, in any other year, as if nothing much had changed. Chey was as down to earth as ever, someone Wynn could—and did—lean on when she needed to.
“All kidding aside, have you heard anything from Sander or Mattias about when Leander might come home?” Wynn turned the conversation to a more serious topic. Sander, King of Latvala and Chey's husband, along with Prince Mattias who was Sander's brother, spent a lot of time with her fiance. She hadn't seen Leander in a month. With their wedding coming up in less than a week, Wynn was starting to fret that Leander wouldn't make it back in time. She hoped the king and the prince might have more information.
“I haven't heard anything. I'm sure Leander will be back before the wedding, though. Sander's been gone for several days, too. Some meeting with a foreign dignitary in another country. I had to stay here because of the kids. Elias had a cold and I didn't want to leave him,” Chey said.
Wynn's shoulders slumped to hear Chey knew nothing of when Leander might return. “It drives me crazy that Leander has to go off where ever, for however long, and I don't get details.”
“I know. Sometimes Sander won't tell me where he's going, either.”
“Do you think if I asked Mattias, he would tell me? Leander is usually doing things for him more than Sander. Or at least I think that's the case. It was when I met him.” Wynn finished her wine, then poured herself another half glass. The spacious kitchen of the cottage she and Leander lived in, decorated in warm earth tones with new granite countertops and a fresh paint job, was Wynn's favorite room in the house. It was all the fine detail built into the architecture that she'd fallen in love with: carved cabinets of pine, a domed ceiling with beams bowing to a peak, mullioned windows and tall archways leading into the dining room, living area and halls. Tucked into a short, fat turret, the gently rounded shape added to the allure. The cottage itself was old, situated on Pallan Island off the coast of Latvala, property of the king and queen. Calling it a 'cottage' was like saying there was a few drops of water in the ocean. It better resembled a mini-castle. Sitting empty for years, Chey and Sander had no issue with Wynn and Leander moving in.
“It never hurts to ask,” Chey said. “Except Mattias isn't here, either.”
“He's been spending a lot of time with that girl, Alannah.” Wynn had met her a few times and discovered that past Alannah's quirky exterior and social awkwardness, the woman wasn't half bad.
“Yes, he has. Though when she called me day before yesterday, she wanted to know where Mattias was.” Chey's brows arched. “I told her I had no idea.”
Wynn frowned. “I think we need to corner all the men and just ask them what they're doing when they disappear. It can't always be meetings and lunch with foreign diplomats and 'boring' tours of exotic palaces in the far East.”
“Your pre-wedding stress is showing,” Chey said.
“I can't help it. Leander needs to be here for this.” Wynn couldn't deny the pressure she felt having Leander gone and out of touch this close to the ceremony. She glanced at the windows, unable to see anything thanks to the press of night against the panes.
“Have more wine,” Chey said. She slid off the counter, landed lithely on her feet, and snagged the bottle out of an ice bucket. Filling Wynn's glass half full, Chey winked over the rim. She put the bottle back and dried her damp palms on a pair of inexpensive jeans. The queen, far from silks and satins and velvets of court life, wore denim and cotton in Wynn's presence.
“You always know how to make me feel better,” Wynn said.
“That's the wine talking.”
the wine make me feel better.”
“I'll tell you what. Why don't we go over the check list again? Make sure you've got everything in order for the big day.”
“But we just did that an hour ago.” Wynn appreciated that Chey was doing her best to distract her from thinking about Leander. She picked up the freshly poured wine for a swallow.
“How about the napkins for the tables? Did you fold those yet?”
“I totally forgot about the napkins! Let's go.” Wynn, careful not to spill her wine, snagged Chey by the elbow and dragged her to the six-seater dining room table where a menagerie of wedding paraphernalia awaited.
One way or another, Wynn decided, she would take her mind off her wayward husband-to-be.
. . .
The body beneath Leander went still. Breathing through his nose, Leander applied enough pressure against the stranger's throat to constrict the airflow. He took a shot to the side of his face for it a moment later. Pain lanced along his cheekbone and jaw, radiating from the punch.
And then, a shocking thing happened.
“Leander, get the hell off me,” the King of Latvala rasped.
As if he'd been burned, Leander let go of Sander's throat. Head ringing from the blow, he got to his feet and hauled Sander up by the hand. “What are
doing here?” he whispered.
“I could say the same about you.” Sander ran both hands through his hair, raking the golden blonde strands away from his face. Leaves and twigs dotted the dark clothing Sander typically wore when skulking about with the Royal Elite.
Leander, dressed almost exactly the same, moved his jaw back and forth to reassure himself it wasn't broken. Sander had a mean right hook.
And a mean left one, too.
The Royal Elite, a band of like minded men from the upper echelons of society, intervened during periodic crises that sprang up among their kind. Kidnappings, attempted assassinations, and other threats of monetary or bodily harm. Like many of his brethren, Leander got involved with the group to fulfill a need for excitement, mystery and the inevitable rush of adrenaline that came with saving a life.
Pulling Sander against the wall, Leander said, “You're supposed to be in India or something, aren't you?”
“Apparently we're on the same mission.” Sander kept his voice down. He brushed ineffectually at his clothing, lips pressed into an annoyed looking line.
“Apparently. I'm going in first.” Leander wouldn't take no for an answer.
“Don't get cocky just because you flipped me over. I'll drop you like a stone.” Sander snorted as if he'd just been playing with Leander during the scuffle.
Leander knew it wasn't far from the truth. Sander had skills—for a King. He snorted, too, then continued creeping closer to a doorway inset into the wall. With a quiet twist, he manipulated the handle and stepped inside.
Sander caught the door on the backswing, closing it with a quiet tap of the latch.
“Try to not to make so much noise. One day, you'll get us killed,” Leander whispered.
“Or, I could end you right now and put an end to your waiting.”
Despite the barbs flying back and forth, Leander smiled. Sander, king or not, could give as well as he could take. Leander listened intently as he descended a set of shallow stone steps into deeper darkness, the scent of an earthen basement rising up to meet him.