Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon
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For all the dreamers of the world who never give up, no matter how hard life tries to knock you down. You are the bravest of the brave and stand as heroes for us all.
To my readers, who are ever my source of comfort and joy. Thank you so much for all the smiles you've given me. And to my friends and family who understand my weird, quirky ways and are willing to share me with the voices in my head.
To my agent and editor, and the staff at St. Martin's (and my copyeditor), who work so very hard on our behalf to make each book the best it can be. You, too, are our silent, unsung heroes. You take a lot of fire in the background and yet march ever onward into the face of opposing forces to make sure we have the books we all cherish every month. Thank you for all you do.
May we never see a day where we live without our imaginary worlds and people to transport us away for our escape on those hours when we need it most.
“Where are my clothes? And what did you do with my towel?”
Furious and defiant, Galene Batur lifted her chin with a dignity she definitely didn't feel as she faced Fain Hauk in the male locker room of their school.
Her worst enemy. Lying bastard.
Seething, she raked a glare over his perfect naked body. A body that earlier this day would have left her breathless with heat.
But nowÂ â¦
Now she wanted every inch of that lush, caramel skin flayed off his bones. Most of all, she wanted his betraying heart in her fist.
“It's true, isn't it?” she asked breathlessly.
Fain scowled at her. “Is what true?”
“Are you in love with a human?”
“Don't you dare deny it! Merrell Anatole just told me that he saw you and Omira Antaxas having sex yesterday! Yesterday! After I left you and went to get ready for the party! How could you?”
The color faded from his face, confirming her worst fear as he stammered, no doubt searching for a believable lie.
For a full minute, she thought she'd be sick. Tears filled her eyes as she struggled to breathe. No wonder Fain had asked her to leave a few minutes ago when she'd been trying to give him what she stupidly thought was joyous news. He no longer loved her. Merrell had been right. Fain didn't care. She'd lost him completely.
To a human!
“You're pledged to
A tic started in his jaw. “By our parents. Before we even started school. Neither of us had a say in it.”
As if that mattered? A pledge was a pledge. To an Andarion, it was as binding as marriage. And he was supposed to honor his word.
. No wonder he'd refused to touch her again all these weeks since his birthday. He'd barely come near her after she'd given him everything she had of herself. Her heart and body.
Her very soul.
Now she knew why. And here she'd stupidly thought he might have gone stralen. That, she could have lived with. But thisÂ â¦
she would have never believed. Not of her precious Fain. He'd promised to love her forever.
There's only you for me, Stormy.
Agony choked her. “You've betrayed me!”
He looked away. “I'm sorry, Galene.”
Furious, she snatched her pledge ring from her finger and threw it in his face. He didn't react at all as it struck his chest and bounced away. Damn her bad aim! The least she could have done was put out his eye!
How could he do this to her after all these years? Tears choked her even harder as his words shattered her heart.
Worse, they shattered her dreams. She'd come here to share with him the most blessed news. This was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.
Instead, it was the most miserable.
was the most miserable!
Since their parents had pledged them over a decade ago, she'd lived only for the day when they'd marry. Had dreamed only of a life partnered with Fain Hauk.
Now he'd not only dishonored her, he'd done it with a human. A
“Where are my clothes?” he demanded again. “What did you do with the towels?”
She'd hidden them both, but damned if she'd tell him that. “Why don't you ask your
?” She started for the doors.
Fain caught her. “Galene! This isn't funny.”
She snatched her arm from his grasp and bared her fangs at him. “No, it isn't. At all! You have shamed me and I curse you for it, Fain Hauk. I hope you spend eternity in utter agony!”
Before he could recover, she shoved his naked ass through the doors, into an auditorium full of sentient beingsâparents, students, and teachersâand locked the doors behind him.
This was their graduation.
In more ways than one.
A tiny bit of regret went through her over what she'd just done to him, but she refused to let it take root. He deserved it, and more.
This is about payback.
After this, everyone would laugh at her, just as they were laughing at Fain right now. Once word got out that Fain had chosen a human over her, she would be tainted for the rest of her life. No decent family would ever accept a pledge from hers again.
With his actions, he'd damned them both.
So be it. She didn't need a husband. She damn sure didn't need one whose heart belonged to some
And still the agony of losing him was there. An agony that would only worsen once her parents learned of this. They would be so disappointed in her.
Galene pulled her ornate veil from her hair and let it fall free. Forget graduation. There was nothing here for her, except more humiliation, and she'd had enough of that in her life. She would not go out there and be laughed at or pitied.
Fain wanted a human. She wanted dignity.
And by the gods, she would have it. From this day forward, she would never again trust in anyone. She knew better.
Human. Andarion. It didn't matter. Sentient creatures used and they lied. And she was done with them all.
“You better hope I never lay eyes on you again, Fain Hauk.” Because the next time she did, she
It was all-out war.
Prime Commander Galene Batur stared at the report of the League attack on an Andarion outpost where almost two hundred civilians had been mercilessly slaughtered.
And for what?
Human vanity? How she hated their inferior species. Humans had never brought her anything but utter misery. Now they had brought her a whole new bloody war that would cost the lives of countless Andarions. Cost her the lives of her loyal soldiers who would be forced to protect their repugnant species.
How she wished she could bomb the entire human race into oblivion.
She looked over her shoulder at her lieutenant commander's call. Dressed in the standard red and black Andarion command uniform, Talyn wasn't just her second-in-command and adjutant, he was the only male she'd ever trust at her back.
At twenty-nine, he stood head and shoulders above her, and most everyone else. Muscular and unbelievably handsome, he wore his long black hair in typical Andarion warrior fashionâtiny braids that were held away from his face by a red band. Her only complaint with him was the well-trimmed moustache and goatee he'd started wearing lately. It was a current fashion trend she didn't care for. At all. But he thought it made him look more masculine and sexy.
As if he needed help in either of those departments.
Still, his presence caused her heart to soften. It took everything she had not to reach out and cup his beloved cheek and kiss it tenderly. But he wouldn't approve of such open affection before the rest of their troops.
Her Talyn was always prim and proper. Always circumspect. Respectful.
Talyn saluted her. “I have an urgent message for you from the royal house.”
Galene forced herself not to wince. It must be the tadara wanting information she had yet to gather about the attack.
Sighing that she didn't have more to offer, she headed for the secured line. She placed the link in her ear before she opened the channel.
Instead of Tadara Cairistiona eton Anatole, it was Tahrs Nykyrian who showed on her monitor. Unlike his fraternal twin brother who'd been removed from succession, Nykyrian appeared human with his white-blond hair and green eyes. The only part of him that betrayed his Andarion roots was his set of fangsÂ â¦ along with his height and military prowess. While she might not appreciate his human half, she definitely respected his exemplary war record and battle skills.
She gave him a curt bow. “Your Highness, to what do I owe this honor?”
“I know you're busy, Commander, and I hate to take your attention away from our troops for even a second, but I have serious business to discuss with you. The Alliance has decided that we need a single military leader we can trust to oversee our joint forces and armies as we fight against The League. Your name was the first one to come to our minds, and we are all in agreement. We'd like to offer the position to you.”
Stunned, she stared at him, amazed by the offer. “I'm honored, Highness.”
“If you need time to think it overâ¦”
Was he serious? Who in their right mind would turn this down? This was a dream appointment anyone would kill to possess. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Galene would command the single largest military movement in the entire history of their United System of Planets.
“No, Highness. I would love to lead Alliance forces. I only have one concern. I know that part of our forces are Phrixian and Caronese.” Misogynistic troops and armies that would balk heavily at taking orders from a female commander.
“You'll be assigned a male adjutant for handling themÂ â¦ a well-respected Tavali commander. Likewise, you'll be responsible for dealing with the Qillaq directly, since they won't take orders from a male.”