Authors: Ciana Stone
RUFFLE MY FEATHERS
The Seven: Book 2
Copyright 2015, Ciana Stone
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, businesses, places, events, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 Ciana Stone
Cover by Syneca Featherstone
All rights reserved.
I feel like I should keep pinching myself to make sure this is real. Two weeks ago, I was worried about being evicted from my apartment and today I'm on a private jet, flying to The Hamptons.
Talk about a lucky break. I'm thanking all the powers that be. I never dreamed I'd get this kind of opportunity. And the strange part is that it's all because of my friend, Ellie Whitehorse. Oh, wait, make that Ellie Whitehorse Marsh. She's married now. And living in Florida.
I found her on Facebook and we reconnected. We only live an hour apart. She has a beautiful place and oh wow, is her husband a hunk! Not only that, he's a genuinely nice guy.
It was such a blessing to reconnect with Ellie. We hadn't spoken in over a year. To be honest, I thought she'd forgotten about me. Her cell phone number had been discontinued and even the emails I sent to her bounced back.
So when I found her on Facebook I was a little worried that she wouldn't respond to my private message. But she did and now it's as if no time has passed at all.
When I heard what had been going on in her life, I felt a bit like I'd taken a trip into Alice's rabbit hole. Not only has Ellie personally met Augustus Thurinus, the Prince of Vampires, but also she's friends with the romance writer Layla Storm who's marrying the Vampire Prince.
And get this, Ellie is Fae. WTF? Fae? I thought she was kidding but she's serious. When she went to Florida to see the land her father left her, she discovered the truth of her birth and she found her brother and is looking for her sister who are also Fae. What's even stranger is that her dad was some kind of Fae King.
I knew when the announcement was made about The Seven that everything was going to change. Whether it'd be for the good was anyone's guess. A lot of people are gung ho about the Preterhumans. A lot more are scared shitless.
Me? I'm just trying to make ends meet and if they need a make-up artist, I'm their gal.
Which brings me to Ellie's call the other day. Thanks to her friendship with the bride-to-be, I've been hired to be the makeup artist for the wedding party. Well, for part of them. Apparently, the mother of the groom, the Queen of Vampires, has no need for such things. Yet she demands it of all the other members of the party.
Whatever. I'm just over the moon excited. Not only am I going to make enough off this gig to pay my bills for the next six month but I get to be at THE event of the year. Hell the event of the century.
I just hope I don't make a jackass of myself staring at everyone.
Nevaeh yelped as she whacked into the heavy porcelain planter positioned on the sidewalk just shy of the entrance of the building. That hurt, but even the pain didn't interrupt her gawking at her surroundings.
Holy hell, just how rich is this woman?
She'd been met at the airport by a private limo and driven to what had to be one of the biggest houses in the world. It looked like a darn resort. The driver had deposited her at the rear of the estate where she was met by a man in a dark suit, complete with the kind of earpiece microphones worn by the Secret Service.
The man had escorted her to what he referred to as the "southern pool house." She'd be lodging there for the duration of her stay and it's where she'd set up to do makeup for the wedding party.
Her escort opened the door and held it for her to enter. She expected him to follow her in, but instead he closed the door after she entered. Nevaeh could see him through the glass of the door, headed back the way they'd come.
She set her bags down and turned around to look at the place. Wow. The room she stood in had to be fifty feet wide and at least that long. The wall housing the door she'd entered was entirely of glass, looking out over the Olympic sized pool and enormous surrounding patio with covered pergolas and statutes larger than life. A heavy metal fence that rimmed the raised patio area and looked out over the slope of the yard to the Atlantic. Across the wide expanse of pool and patio was another structure identical to the one she stood in. The northern pool house?
The furnishing were expensive, without a doubt. Why one of the knick-knacks on an end table probably cost more than she made in a month.
This great room, as she thought of it, seemed to be the hub of the house. There were doorways on the remaining three walls – large, towering affairs. She chose the one to the right since a massive dining table with a dozen chairs was positioned on that side of the room. The kitchen had to be nearby and she could use a glass of water.
"Woo." Neveah stopped just inside the kitchen with an appreciative woot. Man, talk about a dream kitchen. All stainless steel, top of the line appliances, granite countertops in a creamy color scheme that perfectly complemented the dark wood of the cabinetry.
She went to the massive refrigerator and opened the right side door. It had been well stocked with water, soft drinks, beer, and milk, juice of every variety, protein drinks, and soy products. And that was just the drink selection.
Fruits of every variety imaginable along with at least a dozen different kinds of cheese, meats and fresh vegetables had the shelves and drawers packed. But arranged in a perfect sort of order so that it looked like something out of a magazine advertisement.
Neveah took a bottle of water from the refrigerator, opened it, and chugged down half of it. She was lowering the bottle from her mouth when the sound of someone speaking her name had her whirling around.
"Neveah?"A lovely dark-haired woman stood at the doorway.
"Hi, I'm Layla. I'm so happy to finally meet you. Ellie has told me so much about you that I feel like I should know you."
Nevaeh wasn't sure what to make of that comment. Ellie knew her as a woman struggling to establish herself in an industry that was hard to break into. So what did Layla think of her – that she was a loser who Ellie was trying to do a favor?
"Ellie tells me that you're really talented and well – hey, look at me, I can use all the help I can get."
That shocked Nevaeh. Layla was a lovely woman, with creamy skin, bright eyes, hair that had shine and body and a figure that women would find enviable.
"I think you look great."
"Oh thank you, that's sweet, but … well have you seen my husband?"
"Huh? I thought you were getting married in two days?"
"Oh!"Layla laughed and walked to the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of water. "Well, the truth is, we kinda got married last month."
"Ok, right, Ellie said you had a wedding at her place. But you're having one here? I'm confused."
Layla chuckled again. "You wouldn't be if you'd met my monster-in-law. Come on, let's go sit out by the pool. Oh, did you bring a suit? You can swim if you like."
"No, I didn't bring one."
"I bet there are some in the dressing room. Come on, let's go look. Maybe we can both find something."
Nevaeh followed Layla back through the great room and through the doorway on the opposite side. Layla made a right turn and opened another door.
Nevaeh stopped short and gawked. "Holy shit. Oh sorry."
Layla laughed. "Don't be. I said the same thing. Asha tends to overdo just about everything. But damn, this is like a department store so we may as well take advantage."
"Won't she be upset?"
"I doubt that she ever even steps a foot in here." Layla started going through the swimsuits on a rack, all still bearing size and price tags. "This is just for guests. Oh look, this would look great on you. You have that long lean torso and great legs. I bet you work out regularly."
"I run and do yoga."
"Oh, I think I hate you."Layla gave her a smile. "Just kidding. I used to run but I got lazy and now I really need to get back to an exercise program. Here, try this on."
Nevaeh accepted the swimsuit but made no move to take it from the hanger. "What about you?"
"I think I'll try this red … what are they called? Tankini? The changing rooms are right there."She pointed to two doors on a side wall. "Come on."
Layla took her suit into one of the rooms and after a moment, Nevaeh went into the other changing room. She hung the suit on a hook on the wall and looked at the tag.
Shit on a stick! This costs more than my rent for a month.
"Holy shit!" The sound of Layla's voice startled her. "Look at the price on these things! Good god, I could feed myself for three months!"
Nevaeh felt the smile take shape on her face and relief wash through her. Layla might be marrying a Prince but she sure seemed like a regular woman. "Tell me about it." She raised her voice just a little as she started taking off her clothes. "I've never worn anything this expensive in my life."
A laugh came from the next room. "Well, when in Rome, right? Okay, are you decent?"
"Almost." Nevaeh took the suit off the hanger and stepped into it. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she blinked. Layla was right. It really was flattering. It was fashioned to look like material wrapped around the body. It looped around the neck, crossed over the breasts, around the back, and then again to the front to attach to bottoms that she though were called Brazilian cut because they rose high on the hips.
She opened the door and stepped out to find Layla pawing through another rack of clothing. Layla looked at her and whistled. "Oh my god, that's hot. And I think I hate you. Kidding, just kidding but damn you look great in that."
"I don't see how you could possibly be jealous. You're beautiful and –"
"Luscious?" Layla laughed. "Don't worry. I know I'm not exactly toned."
"But you're not fat."
"No, just soft."
"It looks good on you."
"Thanks." Layla gave her a smile and held up two more hangers, these bearing filmy long shirts. "White or white?"
"White is fine." Nevaeh smiled.
"Then white it is."Layla handed her one of the hangers and removed the shirt from the other. She put it on and waited for Nevaeh to do the same. "Okay, let's hit the pool."
Together they went outside to one of the pergolas. Four long and deeply padded chaise lounges sat in its shade with small tables between each. Layla plopped down on one. "Come on."
Nevaeh took a seat on the chaise beside her. "I have to tell you that I'm feeling really out of place right now."
"So am I, so it's nice to have someone to feel out of place with."
"You feel out of place?" That surprised Nevaeh. "But you're like the hottest writer in the world and you're marrying this Prince of the…"
"Vampires." Layla smiled. "I know, it's kinda hard to really wrap your mind around it isn't it?"
"That falls solidly into the no shit category."
"Yeah, it does. But I'm not a hot shot. Hell, when I wrote that book I was so broke I thought I was going to end up on the street. And trust me, I never expected it to go insane the way it did. In all honesty it probably wouldn't have if I hadn't gotten involved with Augustus."
"What's he like?"
"Augustus? He's … god, I don't even know where to start. He's the man of my dreams. Strong and smart, kind and has a sense of humor. And sexy – oh my god, he's sexy. And he cares. About his people and our people, too.
"I'll tell you a secret. He was once Emperor of Rome."
"I swear. Augustus Octavius, heir to Gaius Caesar. I read up on him and from all historical accounts he was really something. He ruled Rome for forty years and in that time, he nearly doubled the size of the empire. He secured alliances that basically gave him rule from Britain to India and apparently spent most of his time outside of Rome, working to consolidate power in the provinces.
"I read that he expanded the Roman network of roads, founded the Roman postal service and Praetorian Guard, and added a new forum as well as police and fire departments."
"And was he someone the people loved or hated?"
"From what I've been able to find, he was loved by his people."
Nevaeh shook her head. " Kinda hard to take in, you know?"
"Oh do I ever."
Nevaeh look a look around. "So it'd be okay if I get in the pool?"
"Of course it would. In fact, I think I'll join you."
They both rose, shed their cover-ups and walked to the edge of the pool. Nevaeh stuck one foot into the water. "It's not cold."
"Heated." Layla frowned. "Personally I'd prefer it cooler, but I guess rich people like it to feel bath-like."
"When in Rome?" Nevaeh giggled, still balancing on one foot and dangling the other into the water. "Oh god, that's a horrible analogy if Augustus is … well you, know, an ex-emperor of Rome."
"Oh he doesn’t get offended by that stuff. In fact – oh look – Gabriel."
Nevaeh looked in the direction of Layla's gaze and what she saw had shock reverberating through her so strong that she lost her balance. She flailed, trying to regain her footing and Layla made a grab for her.
Nevaeh latched onto Layla's hand and over backwards she went, taking Layla with her.
Gabriel had just opened his mouth to call out a hello when the hot woman with Layla looked at him. Wow talk about a punch. It could have been a totally sexy moment. Could have. But her eyes flew open wide and then she started to topple over backwards.