| Victory (Mine to Take 6)Melena Ni Coro is in the midst of deception and war. Her master and lover Valerian wars against his brother, while closer to home one of the women of his harem plots against Melena and puts her life on the line by betraying Valerian. Discovering the viper in their own nest is paramount.
As for Valerian’s war against Vicktor, it can only go well if it ends in Vicktor’s death. It took a threat to his favorite’s life to ignite Valerian’s war against Vicktor. A war over a woman, but equally a war over ideals. The Jorku nation needs a fair leader.
For Valerian, honor and loyalty are paramount. When his woman does not do as he commands he takes it hard. But Melena teaches Valerian there are different kinds of loyalty…
Victory (Mine to Take 6)
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Copyright ©2018 Jacquelyn Frank
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Melena Ni Coro walked into the women’s tent wearing a simple dress with a cloak that tied at her throat. Valerian Jorku, her lord and master, had very specifically dressed her, although he had not seen fit to tell her why. And it seemed a strange thing to dress so carefully just to walk across the camp and take a bath.
But clearly Valerian had his reasons. Just as he had his reasons for sending her all the way across camp to bathe when they had a perfectly serviceable tub in the command tent in which they slept.
The camp was a hive of activity as it scrambled to make itself mobile, but when Melena stepped into the harem tent the flap shut out all the hubbub outside.
It was darker in the tent than it was out in the morning light. When she entered she gained the attention of all the women in the tent. There were a bevy of female servants serving the two women who sat regally on comfortable chairs, playing a game of cards. The servants were filling a great copper tub in the center of the room, bringing buckets of steaming water in.
Hassa, the senior shisha, ruled over all with a firm grip. She was by nature a warm and pleasant woman, having welcomed Melena with open arms. Daria had been much colder and more aloof.
One of these two women had betrayed Valerian. Melena and Valerian were inclined to believe it was the vain and self-important Daria who had done so. Every new distraction presented to Valerian meant more of his attention would be focused away from the senior shishas. When the day came that Valerian would finally be allowed to sire children, whoever was closest to him would most likely be the first to bear him a child.
Valerian was forbidden children until Vicktor had a healthy son born to him. So far Vicktor’s harem had only produced female children… although there were two pregnant at that very moment, one ready to drop a child any day. The day Valerian was allowed to have children by Vicktor’s laws could be close at hand… closer still if Valerian moved against his brother… which was exactly what he was doing.
Melena paused as she thought about it. The women of the harem had ways of preventing conception. They took a noxious draught once a month, and it prevented any children from taking root. She could stop taking the draught and could potentially provide Valerian with his first child.
She shook her head. No. She would not bear a child in war. A child could be used against Valerian… a child would be a weakness. It was bad enough his women were a weakness. He felt responsible for them… as was right. But his women, the remainder of whom were still in the fortress, could be used against Valerian… or slaughtered to teach him a lesson. Valerian had already sent runners to beat any spies Vicktor might have in his camp to get the rest of the harem out before Victor became aware of his brother moving against him, but it would be a race. There was no telling when a spy would discover Valerian’s intentions and when they would race to warn Vicktor.
It was important the army move quickly. The longer they took to reach the fortress the more time Vicktor had to raise another army to meet Valerian in the field of battle. Valerian wanted to get as close to Vicktor as he could before that happened. Ideally all the way to the fortress gates. But he was preparing for anything. He was leaving no avenue unexplored or unexploited, and he was making every effort to gain a following — to win the attention and support of the nobles that controlled most of the remaining men Vicktor might call up into arms. It would come down to whose side the most powerful nobles chose. Valerian was hoping that they were tired of Vicktor’s iron and often insane rule. He was hoping they would rise up against him.
Melena pushed all thoughts of war aside for the time being. She had closer concerns for the moment.
Valerian had instructed her to simply take a bath in the women’s tent. He had not told her why, only that she was to do it. She had not questioned him because it had been a command and she did not question his commands. However she was curious. What was he hoping a bath could do?
She walked over to the copper tub, nodding a greeting to both Hassa and Daria.
“Melena. How good to see you,” Hassa greeted her warmly. “You have been so in demand by Valerian he has not let you up for air. I confess I am jealous. It has been some time since he has paid me such attention.”
“He will grow tired of her eventually just as he has the rest of us,” Daria said meanly. She dismissed Melena from her attention by playing a card.
“Don’t be jealous, Daria,” Hassa scolded. “Or be jealous, but be kind. There is no need for rudeness.”
Daria sniffed, uninterested in making peace. She snapped her fingers and a servant filled her cup of wine.
Melena ignored her cattiness. She had a chore to attend to and that was all. She gave Hassa a smile and reached down to run her fingers along the water of the tub. It was hot and comfortable. She reached for the tie at her throat and pulled it. A slave was immediately there to catch up the cloak, and another came to take the rest of her clothes.
She had grown more used to being served in such ways. She had been a farm girl used to toiling and taking care of her family. No one had ever taken care of her. Now Valerian saw to it she was catered to at almost every opportunity. But having come from nothing, she empathized with the slaves who had to silently obey every command and anticipate every need.
When she was naked she stepped into the tub and stood in its center. It was a small tub, but large enough to sit in if she kept her knees drawn up. She was just about to do so when there was a clatter from the table where Hassa and Daria were playing cards. Hassa had knocked over her cup as she had surged suddenly to her feet. She rushed across the room and accosted Melena.
“Where did you get that?” she demanded angrily. She reached toward Melena’s throat, and at the last minute it registered to Melena that Hassa was going for the collar around her neck. She caught Hassa’s hand in hers in the nick of time, struggling with the other woman a moment. “Thief!” Hassa cried. “When Valerian sees what you’ve done he will kill you!”