Suchen und Finden
The punches and kicks that rained down had ceased to hurt hours ago. I was numb. I felt no pain, could only hear the sound of flesh on flesh, a hard boot against my already broken ribs, the hiss of air as I struggled to breathe through what had to be a punctured lung.
“Where are the females? Where are the queen’s daughters?” The voice did not belong to my tormentor, but to one of Alera’s highest-ranking clerics. “Three females entered. None of them exited the building. Where are they?”
“Still inside, I guess.” I had no idea where they were, was still reeling with the revelation that the female whose Ardor I soothed, The One, my mate, was the future queen.
“The citadel is empty. The sanctum was searched by the royal family.”
“There is no royal family on Alera.” That was the truth as far as I was concerned. Or, at least it had been until Trinity and her sisters arrived. Queen Celene’s cousins, those deemed unworthy by the citadel and unable to light a spire, had not earned the right to call themselves royal. Most people on the planet agreed. If they did not, we would have had a new queen years ago.
“The royal family searched the citadel. It was empty. Where did the females go? How did they escape?”
Trinity and her sisters weren’t found inside the citadel? Where were they?
The large male doing the dirty work was a man I’d never seen before, but the inked markings covering his body indicated he belonged to the clerics’ private army.
An army they had systematically denied creating the past few years as they jostled for power after the queen’s disappearance. No one had claimed the throne in the twenty-seven long years since. And now, no other would, except my mate. Three decades of plotting and scheming brought to an abrupt end by the light of a few spires.
I tried to laugh, but the sound came out as a wheeze. “Worried that your evil… plans to take over Alera… are ruined?”
The cleric was not amused and he nodded at the brute beating me to continue. Still smiling when the first blow landed over my already broken ribs, I clenched my teeth and endured, focused on the hem of the long, elaborate cape wrapped around the body of the cleric sitting a few steps away. The cell was cold, but I knew the soft, black shell and even softer silver lining would keep him warm in much worse conditions.
Beneath, he was dressed as all the clerics were, in a fighter’s uniform with a ceremonial dagger at his hip. I knew he had been trained to wield the blade better than any standard Coalition fighter. The uniform cloth was an array of sharp angles in silver and black while an expanse of white crossed his chest and shimmering silver graced his arms. The silver was tradition, a token of their eternal service to and respect for the royal bloodline.
And apparently, a complete lie. At least where this male was concerned. He was a master-level cleric, an expert in hand-to-hand combat—yet he refused to get his hands dirty with me—and I’d seen the links of silver chain around his neck proclaiming his status to the world.
Despite his youthful frame, I estimated he was near sixty years old with deep lines around his eyes and mouth, not from laughing, but scowling… as he was doing now.
More of me was broken than whole. The taste of blood filled my mouth and I had to wonder if I were spitting it up due to internal bleeding, or if my mouth filled with the dark liquid because my lips and cheeks were flayed open.
I didn’t focus on any of that, nor the questions they asked. All that filled my mind was her voice. Her scent. Her taste. The feel of her pussy as it had clenched and milked my cock. The soft feel of her hair as it brushed over my chest when she’d kissed her way up from pleasuring my cock with her mouth. That had been an experience I’d been waiting a lifetime to have fulfilled.
I thought only of Trinity. My mate. The One.
There was no fucking way I was going to die now at the hands of the clerics. They might be brutal and vicious, but I would survive. For her. My cock had only just awakened and there would be nothing that kept me from returning to Trinity, to sinking between her parted thighs again. To ease her Ardor, which had yet to be resolved.
She would be suffering, aching with a need that returned with a vengeance. I knew she wouldn’t seek out a consort. She would need me—my cock—to soothe her.
I would get out of these chains, out of this barren, cold, evil room and satisfy her in any way she needed.
I was no longer a servant to the Coalition. I was a servant to my mate.
The fact that she was an Aleran royal only doubled my loyalty.
Tied to a chair, my ankles bound to the front legs, my arms pulled behind me and cinched behind my back, the punches rained down. There was no way to protect against them.
Another strike had my head flying back.
I didn’t bother to lift it. I knew what was next, the indescribable pain of the neurostim devices. The technology was designed to heal, but had been modified to stimulate pain receptors in the body… and nothing else. No bruises. No physical damage. Hours of torture. The practice had been outlawed decades ago for driving people mad.
The cleric cleared his throat and the brute paused his strikes, which was almost worse than the continued assault. It gave me time to feel everything he’d already done to me.
“Princess Trinity announced herself to one and all. But who were the other two? Her sisters? I need their names and descriptions from you, Leoron. One way or another, I will get them.”
“Fuck you.” I was proud of the sisters, of my mate. They’d thought ahead, Destiny and Faith covering themselves, remaining hidden from the cameras as they’d bolted into the citadel. I’d thought it odd, at the time. But then, I’d assumed they’d come out the way they went in. Through the front door.
Instead, all three of them had vanished into thin air.
Just like their mother had, twenty-seven years ago.
The cleric sighed. “Use the stim.”
I cringed before the small device touched my flesh. The moment it did, I bellowed in rage and in pain. The device was impossible to defeat, sending a burst of power through every nerve receptor in my body.
My body arched off the chair as if I were having a seizure and I had no control of the movement. When it was pulled away, I slumped over like a bag filled with sand. Dead weight. My limbs, my head too heavy to hold up for another moment.
Silence. Cool, cold silence.
“He’s no longer responding.” The big brute said, his voice bland. It was as if he’d done this before, as if I were just a single person in a long line of many who’d been tortured in this room. And died. As if he were bored.
“Stop then. I want him to suffer. He’s no good to me dead.” The cleric’s order was soft, but annoyance was clearly audible in his tone.
“He hasn’t given up anything. Not one word about the spires. Who the other two royals are who entered the citadel. He hasn’t even said why they were with him.” The deep, gravely voice of the one who had beaten me filled my head. “I’ve seen his kind before. He’ll let us kill him, but he won’t break.”
“He will.” My hair was gripped, my head lifted by the cleric. While my eyes were open, I could barely see the male before me beneath the swollen eyelids. “He will. But not today. Tomorrow morning is soon enough. Cut him loose. Water. No food.”
The cleric released his hold on me, and I felt my head fall forward. I tried to lift it, but it was as if the stupid thing suddenly weighed a hundred pounds. Perhaps I was in worse shape than I’d realized.
With a grunt, the giant released my restraints. The bindings fell away from my arms and legs, and he kicked the chair out from beneath me. It tipped and I fell with a hard thud to the stone floor.
The cold felt good against my swollen face.
“Do we give him a ReGen wand this time?”
The question made me wince. For several hours now, they’d beaten me to the brink of death before healing me with a ReGen wand just enough to start again. I knew this could go on for days. Weeks.
I didn’t care. I would survive. For her. Trinity. My mate.
The cleric’s laugh was pure evil and I shuddered, faced with the evidence of my stupidity. For years I’d believed the clerical order when they’d claimed their soldiers were just for protecting the citadel and the queen’s future. I’d believed their stated purpose of serving the people and having no ambition to rule Alera themselves.
I’d been wrong. Three families were powerful enough to fight for the throne. Just three. But the clerical order had its own army, spies, a network so vast I wasn’t sure they could be beaten if they decided to take the throne. And if they had allied themselves with one of the other power-hungry families?
War. We were on the brink of war. And I was falling hopelessly in love with the female who would be at its epicenter.
The cleric stepped on my hand as he walked away, crushing the already aching digits...