sci-fi romance book
genre: sci-fi romance book
length: 21392 words / novella
released: June 2009
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Daughters of Lyra: Heart of an Emperor
Princess Sophia, one of the beautiful and strong daughters of Lyra, has had it with the never-ending row of suitors that her father, King Sebastian Lyra I, has lined up for her. When the latest suitor turns out to be the emperor of Varka, a species known for their lack of emotions, nocturnal lifestyle and bloodlust, Sophia wants little to do with him.
But when she greets the emperor and his two attendants, Sophia realises that a Varkan makes her heart beat like no other man before him and might just win her after all. Only, it isn’t the emperor who has caught her eye.
Regis, Count of Sagres, is transfixed from the moment he meets Sophia. She pushes him to the brink of surrendering control to his bloodlust with every beautiful glance and smile she throws his way. But would she ever marry a male who doesn’t know the meaning of love? Fear of the bloodlust makes Varkans retain an iron grip on their emotions, but Regis is willing to surrender control and risk everything to win Sophia. And Sophia will do whatever it takes to make him see that Varkans can love and that she wants no other man in the universe, including triggering his bloodlust and putting the whole palace in danger!
Will Regis’s feelings for Sophia be enough to stop him from hurting her and killing the entire palace? Will Sophia be able to love a man that the universe sees as a monster? And will she still love him when she realises the Varkans’ deception?
ALL OF THE DAUGHTERS OF LYRA STORIES STAND ALONE AND DO NOT NEED TO BE READ IN ORDER.
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Sophia peeked around the corner and watched with relief as her father disappeared into the distance, surrounded by guards and taking the dreaded emperor with him. She had told her attendants to inform the party that she wasn’t feeling well and it seemed her father had decided to take the tour of the city without her. A fatigued smile touched her lips but quickly faded when she remembered what she had learnt by reading all night. She just couldn’t believe it.
She had to find the count and find out for sure.
Her plan could have easily backfired. She had realised that as she had watched her father leave with the emperor. The emperor might have asked his attendants to go with him and then she would have had to find another opportunity to speak with the count alone.
She leaned against the wall behind her and wondered where he could be. The emperor would be gone for a few hours. The palace was so large that it could take her that long just to find the count. She had once spent a whole day trying to find her cousin, Amerii, in this place. They had kept missing each other by seconds. She hoped that didn’t happen with the count.
He had said that his name was Regis. And he had taken her hand. And his touch had been far warmer than she had expected.
With a sigh, she started her search, making sure to hide whenever someone passed, ready to pounce if it was him or disappear if it was her mother or a guard. She had sworn her attendants to secrecy and told them to stay in her room. She couldn’t risk them revealing that she wasn’t sick.
An hour into her search and she was beginning to wonder if the count was in the palace at all. Her feet hurt from walking in the delicate shoes her attendants had chosen for her and more than once she had almost tripped over the long skirt of her deep blue corseted dress. She could barely breathe in it now. Perhaps she should have convinced her attendants to choose something a little more suitable for an expedition. Trousers and flat boots sounded good.
Those two things made her think of Amerii again. It had been a while since she had seen her younger cousin and she wondered where she was in the galaxy. She was probably making a name for herself in the army, just as her father, Uncle Acer, had done.
Blindly turning a corner, Sophia started when she saw someone was there and didn’t relax even when she realised it was Regis. He stopped walking and stared at her. He still made her heart pound whenever she saw him, his beauty otherworldly and entrancing. He straightened his back, standing tall, his long black jacket emphasising his figure, and then his gaze shifted to one side. Sensing he was about to leave down the nearest corridor, she hurried to him.
“I never realised,” she said, the words coming out as one. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves. “I’m sorry if I offended you last night. I never realised that Varkans didn’t know love.”
It had taken her almost an hour to absorb that information and make sense of it. The thought that a species in the universe didn’t know love seemed unbelievable. It was something that she had presumed happened to everyone.
“I want to know,” he said with a solemn edge to his voice, his gaze not leaving hers. “I have studied it but do not understand it. I want to feel what it is that other species in this galaxy place such importance on... but I never will.”
The idea of that made her sad and she took his hand on impulse, squeezing it. He looked down at their joined hands, his eyebrows raised and eyes wide.
“Varkans must be able to love. You must feel attached to something. You must be capable of feeling it.” Her own words sounded stupid to her ears. Her heart told her that he would know if he could feel love. Someone on the Varkan planets would have felt it by now if the species could.
“What symbolises love?” He moved closer to her, his fingers closing around hers. He raised her hand. “Does this?”
Sophia’s eyes widened. “No. Maybe for some people. This is... sympathy perhaps.”
“What symbolises love to you?”
She stared at the floor, at their feet only inches apart. She could see herself in the reflection on his black boots. What was love to her? Her thoughts strayed to her parents.
“A kiss,” she said with confidence and a smile as she remembered how her parents would kiss when they thought no one was watching. To her, a kiss was love. It held love or it had no meaning.
Before she could even squeak, Regis had grabbed her, dragged her into a dark room and was kissing her. Her eyes were wide as his mouth glided over hers, sending thrill after thrill chasing across her skin and buzzing along her nerve endings. She closed her eyes and hesitated for only a moment before clutching his upper arms and returning the kiss. His tongue brushed her teeth and she parted her lips to let it pass, her own coming to meet it. He backed her into the wall, his body against hers, the pressure of it making every inch of her burn with desire. No one had ever kissed her like this. It was intense, mind-blowing, and even though she knew that she should stop him, she couldn’t bring herself to push him away.
She wanted to cling to him, to hold him and beg him to never let her go. She could kiss him forever.
Her tongue brushed his canines and she flinched at their sharpness.
His fingers closed around her upper arms, pressing in and gripping them so tight that it hurt. She wriggled against him but he deepened the kiss and pushed her against the wall so hard that she struggled to breathe.
A metallic taste filled her mouth.
She couldn’t breathe.
Her heart exploded with panic, thundering at the thought that she was running out of air and Regis wasn’t letting her go. She released his arms and pushed her hands against his chest, trying to shove him off her. His grip tightened again and she whimpered in pain. His mouth didn’t leave hers. She shoved him again, closing her eyes so tight that a tear ran down her cheek. With one final push, he stumbled backwards.
Sophia choked on the air as she breathed deep, her heart still pounding with fear.
Before she could say anything, Regis pulled her back into his arms, holding her so gently that it confused her. He said something that she didn’t understand, a language similar to the one he had sung in, and stroked her cheek. Closing her eyes, she leaned her head against his chest, too tired to fight him again. Her head felt light but heavy at the same time. It spun occasionally, making her legs feel weak. She had never been so frightened.
“I am sorry, your highness,” he whispered into her hair, his fingers still caressing her jaw and hair. “I was not in control of myself.”
Sophia coughed and drew another lungful of air as she thought about what he had said. He wasn’t talking about the kiss. It was what had happened afterwards. It was her blood.
“Understand that I would never consciously hurt you,” he said and she frowned.
Stepping out of his embrace, she reached out behind her and touched the control panel beside the door. The lights slowly came on.
Regis flinched away but not before she saw how red his eyes were. Crimson. Not the dark red they had been before. She continued to frown, wondering what had happened to him to make him almost hurt her.
He turned away. “Do not look at me like that... do not look at me at all!”
Suddenly, he was gone. The window was open and the warm midday breeze was drifting in, tousling the long thin curtains and washing over her.
She hadn’t even seen him move.
Her hand rose. Her fingers pressed against her lips. He had kissed her and it had been nice, more than nice, until she had cut her tongue on his teeth and everything had changed. He had changed. Her blood had altered him. Could this be the bloodlust that the books and computer spoke of? She’d thought it was just a figure of speech, something to sum up their violent nature in battle. Did it mean something else? She didn’t understand.
Sophia went to the window and looked out at the bright square below, but couldn’t see Regis anywhere. There was so many questions that she wanted to ask him. He had to be back in the palace somewhere. The Lyran sun was too strong for him without his visor. She was about to go to find him again when she thought the better of it.
He had told her not to look at him.
She had felt his shame and horror. A moment before she had broken free of his arms, she had felt his remorse. And before that, when he had been kissing her, she had tasted his hunger.
If she went to him now, while he was still feeling such muddled emotions, he would turn her away. She needed to give him some time alone. She needed to find someone else to answer the question burning within her.
Looking back out of the window again, she smiled when she saw her father walking the square alone.
He would answer her.
She took the quickest route down through the palace, unable to leap from windows like Regis. She had read Lyran Imperial Army reports that stated Varkans had strange abilities—a strength like no other species, bones that wouldn’t break when they leapt from great heights, and an urge for violence that made them natural soldiers. She wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t witnessed it herself.
Coming out in the square, she looked around for her father and spotted him walking towards the garden.
“Father!” She ran after him, lifting the skirt of her deep blue dress so she didn’t trip. He turned and gave her a smile.
“I see you are feeling better,” he said and placed his arm around her shoulders. The sleeve of his loose pale blue shirt tickled her neck. She looked up into his near-black eyes and smiled at the concern in them. Her father had always made her feel better. “Although you are a little flushed.”
Sophia touched her burning cheeks. It was Regis’s kiss that made them blaze, not her phoney illness.
“Father, can we walk a while?”
He nodded and they headed in the direction of the garden. Sophia struggled for a while, trying to find the courage to ask her question. It was difficult enough to ask her father this. It would have been impossible to ask Regis.
“What are Varkans?” she said, voice trembling.
Her father sat down on one of the benches in a shady corner of the garden, ran his fingers through the strands of his black hair and then patted the spot beside him. He crossed his legs and adjusted his dark blue trousers. Normally her father didn’t dress so informally but it was hot out today. A smile touched her heart when she remembered how they normally passed hot sunny days swimming in the crystal clear palace lake. Sophia sat sideways, facing him. His pensive expression unsettled her.
“You seem troubled by them.” He cupped her cheek and his brow furrowed with concern. His dark eyes searched hers. “Is it the emperor?”
She shook her head, nerves churning her stomach.
“The Count of Sagres?”
Her eyes widened.
Her father laughed. “Your mother was right. The moment they arrived she knew that it would not be the emperor who captured your heart.”
Sophia placed her hand against her chest and looked at it. “My heart? How can someone who cannot love capture my heart?”
She sighed when her father placed his arm back around her shoulders and pulled her close. It was comforting to feel the weight of it against her and his firm grip on her shoulder. It had been a long time since she had been a child, and since she had turned mating age, but it still made her believe that he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her.
“You must have noticed that it is difficult to sense their emotions.”
“Varkans control their emotions to control their bloodlust. The species do not feed in the same manner that we do. Intense feelings bring out their bloodlust.”
Her hands fell into her lap. Bloodlust. Was her father suggesting what she had feared, insinuating that Varkans drank blood for sustenance and that it affected them? When she had been close to Regis, she had been able to sense his feelings, but after she had cut her tongue and he had tasted her blood, his feelings had been so intense that she had felt them.
Everything he had felt, she had felt too.
She had never experienced another’s emotions before, not like that. It had been overwhelming.
She opened her mouth to speak but her father raised his hand, silencing her.
“I do not think it is I who you should be posing these questions to. I will detain the emperor again so you may ask the right man for the job.” He smiled at her when she gave him an unimpressed look and then rose and walked away.
The right man for the job. Her eyes scanned along the palace and stopped on the room she knew was Regis’s. Perhaps her father was right. Regis was the one she should be asking, even though she was afraid to. He was Varkan after all. If anyone could make her understand the species, it was him.