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Excerpt for The Queen's Strength by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2018 Deidre Huesmann



ISBN: 978-1-77339-742-9


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: Audrey Bobak



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.




THE QUEEN’S STRENGTH


Blood Bonded, 2


Deidre Huesmann


Copyright © 2018


Chapter One


Val had always been one to wake quick and early, even before she started spending nights with her new boyfriend. Before the sun would peek into her cramped studio apartment, she’d be up and in her jogging clothes, slipping the key into a hidden pocket in the waistband of her shorts. She loved breaking into the cool morning air, how dew clung to her face and gave way to sweat as she ran. The sweet smell of grass refreshed by the night’s precipitation.

Early mornings were her favorite for a run: few cars, fewer people. Pleasant smells, better sounds, softer than a dream. Quiet. Calming.

If only mornings with Riker were so nice.

She lay naked on a bed of animal furs, cloaked in the tepid warmth of a mid-autumn morning. Her eyes were open the barest sliver, her breathing even. The slamming of her heart against her ribs sent pulses through her eardrums—unwanted fear. Others occupied the den as well … though they were shifters, unlike her, and most slept in their lion or lioness form.

Riker didn’t. She felt his warm presence at her back, his chest expanding in even rhythm, one arm slung casually yet protectively over her waist. As much as she wanted to cuddle back into him, she didn’t dare move. Not yet.

It had been almost three months since she and Riker had blood bonded, a ritual where shifters allowed their blood to mingle with someone whose soul sang to them. It had been an ethereal experience, more so because Val was the first known human to blood bond with a shifter. An alpha, even. The alpha, the leader of the lions, who perched comfortably at the top of the food chain.

As a result of their bond, Riker’s pride—the lions, not his ego, though the double entendre never failed to amuse her—was less than enthused. In fact, Val still remembered her fight with them in stark clarity, to the point her jaw sometimes ached where one of the shifters had punched her.

Though only one shifter had picked petty fights since, Val couldn’t rest peacefully. She loathed that summer was over, forcing the shifters to share the den. They seemed to hate it just as much as she did. All of them slumbered near the entrance, as far away from her and Riker’s embrace as possible.

Val opened her eyes a little more. Her gaze drifted to one shape in particular. This one hadn’t moved since Val woke, and this was the one angriest with her. Taking eyes off her would do Val no favors.

Lona slept as a lioness most nights, as many shifters did, and Val had come to memorize both of her forms quite well. She had to. Lona had wanted her dead. As dinner, specifically.

Probably still does, she thought wryly.

Lona had sprawled out against one wall, her long, golden back pressed against the rock. How odd that she slept more like a house cat than a true lioness. Val almost smiled.

The urge vanished when one of Lona’s eyes opened. Staring at her.

Hatefully.

Val stared back, refusing to break contact despite the way her blood turned to ice slush. Back off, her look said—or at least, she hoped it did. This is my place, and Riker is mine.

Lona huffed and turned her head, resuming sleep. Whether it was a victory or not, Val wasn’t certain, but the message had clearly come across. Though, not for the first time, she considered bringing a knife to the den. Riker would be pissed. On the other hand, he’d be more pissed if Val’s throat was torn out.

At the very least, she wasn’t concerned about his loyalty. The pride was important, but she was his blood bonded. The very fact he slumbered with her every night made that point as clear as cut and polished crystal.

Val had just finished letting out a taut breath when the arm around her tightened, crushing her back to the warm body behind her. She bit her tongue as Riker’s cock rubbed against the small of her back, hard and urgent, yet not insistent. His expression of desire sent tingles up her spine that wrapped around her torso, hardening her nipples.

Riker’s lips brushed against her neck. “You’re tense.” Though deep, his voice was soft, meant for her alone. The relative warmth of his breath against the morning air was more than enough to make her wet.


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