Desperate to save her world, Empress Zera considers joining Sarc, Lord of Alphxorn. The man subdued her military and now dares to propose marriage. Unless their worlds unify, they face defeat by vicious rag-tag space pirates. But what if this is a ploy? What if Sarc is collaborating with Kudious, the sadistic and brutal pirate leader?
With the heirloom sword of her foremothers, Zera defends her sovereignty. Prophecy states the sword is bound by blood to her true mate. When she draws Sarc’s blood, the weapon cedes confirmation of their union and her defeat. Will she command at Sarc’s side or serve as his slave? What does the desire in Sarc’s gaze promise?
When the pirate lord prepares to attack in full force, Zera must decide. Does she gamble her world’s fate and join with Sarc? Or take her chances fighting pirates alone?
Because if Kudious triumphs, Zera’s freedom–and her world–are lost. But even with the might of both her armies and Sarc’s, will they stop the pirates, or concede the Ruby Throne…
Excerpt – Zera and Sarc’s meeting. Duel for the throne.
Zera’s stamina seemed inexhaustible. Sarc must overpower her in the duel or be forced to kill her. His spies on Seti-Cronus advised him of her abilities with the enigmatic sword handed down to her from her mother, a renowned swordswoman. He couldn’t allow her to see any mercy, compassion, or weakening in his determination. With longing in his heart to hold her and take away her pain, he maintained a fierce façade.
On they fought. Sarc knew he must overpower her in the duel. A thing he now grasped he might not be able to do. The thought of piercing Zera’s beautiful body, ending her precious life, made him ill. He loved her.
Watching Zera, he saw signs she was weakening. Since slashing his forearm, Zera had difficulty holding her sword. After she’d drawn his blood, her sword seemed to become heavy. With a skillful maneuver learned from an old sword master, he judged her declining timing and caught the hilt of Zera’s sword, flipping it from her hand. In performing the trick, her hand was sliced, numbing it. The tactic caused her sword to land, and stick point down in the polished wood floor on which the throne rested.
From the intensity of Zera’s assault and the sudden loss of her sword, she stumbled. She caught herself on the throne’s seat, and sank to the floor, her breathing heavy. Blood ran from the cut on her hand onto the seat of the throne, unnoticed, but near the pool of Sarc’s blood.
Defeat was unknown to Zera and Sarc saw disbelief in her eyes. Zera gasped air, disarmed and at his mercy. She faced possible death without panic, but glancing at the people of her court, he saw her flinch. Fear for their lives and that of her sister passed over her features like a specter. He watched her trying to regain her strength and composure enough to stand. She stilled with the cold, Triplat-steel of his blade near her throat. Her gaze followed the length of his sword to meet his. He didn’t see shock or surprise in her cold stare as he held his sword so close. As victor, he’d won the right. In her steady gaze Sarc saw Zera’s expectation she might join her brother. She chanced a fleeting glance at her sister, Teriana, the sixteen-year-old princess.
Sarc had reports of how, hours earlier, the princess had sworn to fulfill her duties should something befall Zera. Teriana stood on the side watching with large alarm-filled eyes, restrained by an Alphxorn captain. His brother, Phorx, with his arms wrapped snug around her slender waist.
Zera returned her full attention to her conqueror—him.
“You have won…My Lord Sarc,” Zera submitted.
He noticed she trembled and wondered if she considered her fate with him more frightening than death. Possibly, she felt death might be easier.
He guessed Zera was naive of the view she presented. Her slit skirt exposed her muscled and shapely long legs. His scrutiny caressed those perfect twins downward and for the first time he realized…she wore no shoes!
Sarc’s scrutiny moved upward over her pulsating body, taking possession of Zera’s gaze in a moment of amused amazement. The revelation served to bring his attention back to her wide, anxious eyes. Aware a lustful smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and softened his fierce expression he didn’t try to suppress it.
Intent on exercising his rights as victor, he leisurely took full measure of Zera, surveying his prize. He feasted his eyes on her chest, still heaving from their long duel, gleaming with sweat trickling down between swells of her rounded cleavage. Sarc ogled her freely. Zera raised her chin, her gaze showing her anger at his perusal. Sarc was impressed. Even in defeat, her spirit sustained her pride.
She had fought better and with more style than any man he’d ever faced with a sword. Sarc admired her courage. With her beautiful face flushed from exertion, Sarc reminded himself not to allow his passionate and protective instincts to sway him.
By the moons of both worlds, I long to carry her to the nearest bedchamber…now!