Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Southern Shields, Chapter One--An erotic sample.

Hi!  Here's the first chapter of SOUTHERN SHIELDS, my newest novel. I'm not sure of the publication date at this point, and I don't have the cover. I think it will probably be out next year, around Spring, as LOVE BITES comes out in September, 2014. 

Please note that this is an EROTIC ROMANCE novel for people over 18. If you're under that, PLEASE go somewhere else! This book is really, seriously, not for you at all. Your mom would kill both of us if you read it, and I'm too young to die. Thanks!

Alexis Rogers shifted on her high heels, nibbling her lower lip. Her mouth felt dry, probably because every drop of moisture in her body had taken up residence between her thighs. God, she’d never been so turned on.
Especially not from watching somebody else have sex.
And how the hell did Frank turn swinging a bullwhip into a sex act? Not just a kink act—something that aroused you if you had a little twist in that direction. Which admittedly, Alex did. No, he used the lash with sensual precision, as if he were eating out the blonde lying across the spanking bench. Plump, pretty and naked, Tara merely groaned in woozy pleasure.
Thirty people surrounded the two in the basement dungeon, watching with rapt interest. One of them was Tara’s husband, who leaned a shoulder against the cement block wall. Roy was a gangly dominant with thinning blond hair whose hazel eyes were fixed intently on his wife. Though he loved bondage and emotional domination, Roy couldn’t bring himself to hurt his masochistic submissive. He often arranged for someone else to provide the impact play Tara craved.  
Apparently, Frank had volunteered to provide them with the foreplay this time. And foreplay was all he’d be getting out it; Tara and Roy never had penetrative sex with anyone but each other.
That was okay. If all went as planned, Alex would make it up to the big dominant. Or maybe not; she’d have to see.
Still, the Captain—host of tonight’s house party--had been talking about Frank for years. She gathered they’d served together in the Navy before Cap retired and left San Diego to come to Atlanta with his wife.
Now it seemed Frank had moved to the area too. Must have been recently. Alex had never seen the big dominant at any of the very private parties Cap and his wife threw for close friends among Atlanta’s kinksters.
CRACK! The popper—the fringe at the very tip of the bullwhip—struck Tara’s reddening ass. By rights, it ought to sting like a bitch, but Frank had Tara so high on endorphins and adrenalin, it seemed she no longer felt the pain at all. At least not judging by the moan that sounded far more like pleasure than pain.
Which was a testament to his skill as a dominant. He’d built the intensity slowly, starting with a spanking, then progressing through two different floggers—the first deerskin, the second with thinner tresses that made the submissive yelp at the sting. The blows he gave her were hard, but not too hard, letting Tara sink into the sensations and get properly turned on. Only then had he got out the bullwhip.
Between clusters of strikes, Frank gave her erotic caresses, stroking her pussy and reddening ass. The combination of pain and pleasure had sent her flying on her body’s natural endorphins and adrenalin. Alex knew from experience that the high was similar to what some runners felt during a marathon—a floating, delicious euphoria. Pursuit of that erotic high was what drove subs like Tara—and Alex herself, for that matter—to seek out dominants like Frank. Skilled, a little sadistic, with a keen understanding of a submissive’s darkest needs.
Yeah, Frank definitely knew his way around a sub’s body, just as the Captain had said.
Now the overhead spotlight pouring down on the blonde caught the wet glisten of rosy vaginal lips. She lay with wrists and ankles cuffed to the bench’s legs, the wedge shape of the custom-made bench raising her hips higher than her head. Offering up her curvy little ass to her sensual tormentor.
Pacing around Tara, Frank dealt out another set of carefully measured blows, watching her with an absorbed erotic intensity. He seemed acutely aware of every twitch of her full ass, flex of her fingers, and heartfelt sensual moan. He moved like a bullfighter as he swung the whip in practiced, hissing arcs, using a blend of athleticism and grace that was all the more impressive considering his size.
Frank was big. Really big.
Alex, who was good at judging height and weight—she had to be, given her job—figured him at 6’5” or -6”, maybe two hundred and forty deliciously muscled pounds. If there was an ounce of fat anywhere on the man, she couldn’t see where. He’d pulled his shirt off in the dungeon’s warmth, revealing broad, brawny shoulders and the kind of bare torso that rippled in interesting places. His long legs were clad in faded jeans tucked into polished leather riding boots.
God, she’d always had a thing for riding boots.
It was harder to make out the details of his face as he paced in the basement’s shadows. Fortunately, he’d e-mailed Alex a photo a week or so ago.
His features had a kind of stark good looks, with a long, thin nose, cleft chin, and a pugnaciously broad jaw. He wore his black hair in a stern military cut that emphasized the stark angularity of his cheekbones. The total effect might have been forbidding, had it not been for his mouth. Wide, with a plump lower lip and a pronounced upper bow, it looked soft, deliciously kissable.
Alex had wanted to taste that seductive mouth the moment the photo popped into her e-mail.
Patience, she told herself. Cap had said he’d introduce them after the scene. And since the Captain was a notorious kinkster matchmaker, she knew he’d keep his promise.
Powerful muscle rippled along Frank’s right arm and across his wide chest as he popped the whip against Tara’s ass. The sub caught her breath, then let it out in a long, erotic groan.
“Rate it,” Frank ordered, in voice so rich and deep, it seemed to tighten something in Alex’s sex.
Tara didn’t answer. He stalked around the bench, wrapped a huge fist in her cascade of blonde curls, and jerked her head back with a dominant’s showy snarl. “When I ask you a question, you damned well answer. Talk to me!”
“Uh…” The girl panted. Her voice sounded slurred, barely coherent. “I don’t…” Yeah, she was definitely flying. All those endorphins had rendered her barely coherent.
Frank glanced toward Roy. Tara’s husband nodded and picked up the blanket and bottle of water he’d had waiting for this moment.
Crouching by Tara’s head, Frank began talking to her in a low voice as her husband joined them.
“You can tell a lot about a dom by the way he gives aftercare,” Calvin Stephens observed from Alex’s shoulder. “He could have just let her husband handle it, but he’s taking part. Point in his favor.” The submissive turned to the man next to him. His narrow, clever face split in a grin that revealed teeth so white, they appeared to glow against his dark skin. “You’ve always been good at aftercare, Sir.”
Ted Arlington snorted. He was a head shorter than Alex, between the heels she was wearing and the fact she was 5’10” to begin with. Even so, his build was all muscle and power—and he knew how to use it. Any idiot who assumed he could kick Ted’s ass because he was short soon learned otherwise. Beneath the brush cut he had a broad, squared-off, intensely masculine face, with a full-lipped mouth, a round bulb of a nose and a blond mustache. “You’re just saying that because I always give you cock as part of the aftercare package.”
Cal grinned wickedly, dipping his dark gaze to his dominant’s zipper. “And what a nice package it is, Sir.”
“Suck up.”
“But you like it when I suck.”
“You’re pushing it, subbie.”
As the two went into their standard teasing routine, Alex’s gaze slid across the basement in search of Frank.
He’d helped Roy unbuckle Tara from the spanking bench so the two men could wrap her in the blanket. As Alex watched, they helped her over to one of the couches that stood against the big basement’s walls. Pulling what was probably a trail mix bar from his pocket, Frank sank down beside the couple to unwrap it for her. Meanwhile, Roy helped her with the bottle of water she couldn’t quite manage on her own.
“I don’t know about you two,” Alex said, with a nod toward the trio, “but I’m impressed.”
“That’s not saying much.” Ted folded his massive arms and braced his legs apart. His brush cut hair shone pale blond under one of the basement’s recessed lights. “You were also impressed by Gordon.”
Alex forced a smile to hide the sting of pain she felt. “Well, Gordon was very pretty.”
“So’s a coral snake. I still wouldn’t fuck one.”
“Sir, you do know gay men are supposed to be sensitive, right?”
“Sass me one more time, subbie, and I’ll make you so sensitive you won’t be able to sit for the next week.”
“Oh, would you, Sir?”
“Keep it up,” Ted growled, eying him with the expression of exaggerated menace he reserved for his dom act. Alex had seen his real menacing expression frequently in the course of the job. It was one hell of a lot colder. “As for you…” He turned to give her the same look he’d just given Calvin. “I want to talk to this Frank before you traipse off to scene with him, got me? I don’t want you hurt by some Mr. Danger Dom. I worked too damn long to turn you into a good cop to lose you to an asshole.”
Alex smiled, warmed by both the uncharacteristic compliment and her friend’s gruff concern. “You know good and damned well the Captain isn’t going to set me up with a Danger Dom.”
“Unless I’m really, really mistaken, I somehow doubt the Captain has ever slept with Frank, much less subbed for him.”
“You’re not mistaken, Sir,” Cal assured him. “Cap definitely doesn’t bat for our team.”
“And how would you know that, Cal?” Alex narrowed her eyes in mock suspicion. “Been flirting?”
“With the Captain?” The slender young man recoiled in mock horror. “God, no. He scares me. He looks like Captain Picard’s bigger, meaner brother.”
“You are such a nerd, Cal.”
He put up both hands. “Hey, my mom’s a fan. She raised me on reruns of Next Gen.”
“Your mom,” she drawled, pumping skepticism into her voice. “Riiiiiiight. Tell it to somebody who doesn’t know you and your fanboy buddies. I’ve heard y’all argue about whether Captain Picard is cooler than Captain Kirk way too many times.”
“That’s self-evident,” Cal said loftily. “Kirk is much cooler. Take how he handled the Klingons…”
“Look, this is serious, Alex,” Ted snapped, before she could make a concerted effort to divert him with the Alex-and-Cal comedy hour. “Not that you’ve ever had the sense to be afraid--of anything—but this guy is big enough to hurt you no matter how good you are in a fight. Don’t give him the chance.”
“Don’t worry, Dad, I won’t.”
“None of your lip.” Ted glowered at her. “Just because I don’t do women, that doesn’t mean I won’t whip your little ass as hard as the subbie’s.”
“And that’s pretty damned hard,” Cal put in.
“Yeah, okay, I hear you.” Her gaze slid back toward Frank again.
Ted looked at Cal. “I just wasted my breath, didn’t I?”
“Might as well try to blow out a forest fire like a birthday candle,” Cal agreed. “She’s completely under his evil spell.” His voice turned dreamy. “His muscular, towering, evil, evil spell.”
“I am definitely kicking your ass tonight.”
Which, knowing Cal, was precisely what he’d had in mind.

The redhead was driving Frank Murphy crazy. Alex—they’d exchanged e-mails, but she hadn’t revealed her last name yet--wore the proverbial little black dress that hugged some luscious curves. Throw in those lace-stocking-clad legs and skyscraper heels, and it was no wonder he was finding it impossible to concentrate. Which was unacceptable, especially when he was providing aftercare to somebody he’d just whipped right into subspace.
Focus on Tara, dammit. He’d told Roy he’d take care of her, and he’d do it if it killed him.
Be easier if he could throw a burqa over Alex though. Those legs…God, the Leg Fairy had been good to the girl. Endless as a Fallujah patrol, with long, lean muscle in thigh and calf that flexed every time she twitched a do-me heel. He’d bet his Trident she ran every fucking day. He’d love to have her wrap his ass in those legs while he ground in nice and deep…
No wonder he had a hard-on up to his navel.
Tara, dammit. Get your mind back on Tara. Discipline wasn’t usually this much a problem. Between Iraq, Afghanistan, and his mother—and all their respective IEDs, whether literal or not--Frank knew how to gut it out through almost anything.
Roy looked up at him over Tara’s blonde head. “I can take it from here. Go talk to Alex.”
He stiffened. Was his distraction that damned obvious?
“You done good, Frank,” the man reassured him. “I’ve never seen anybody send Tara flying this high. It’s going to take me an hour to pull her down out of orbit—assuming she stays awake that long. I only know about Alex because Cap’s been talking about setting you two up since he heard you were moving back to the area.”
“Ah. All right. Look, thanks for trusting me to scene with your wife.” Smiling, he shook the other dom’s hand and rose. “You’re a lucky man.”
“Don’t I know it.” Roy gave Tara a tender smile as she leaned against his shoulder. She sent him a slow, dazed blink in return. “See you later, Frank.”
“Later.” Pivoting, he looked around for his host, wanting the introduction Cap had promised him.
“Nice scene, son,” a voice rumbled from behind him. “You flew that girl higher than any Space Shuttle ever went.”
Frank turned with a smile. “You’d have sent her higher.”
“Now you’re just flattering an old man’s ego.” Captain Kyle Miller was a tall, spare man, wiry and tough, with a fringe of gray hair around his otherwise gleaming bald head. His intense blue-eyed stare had a way of making even Frank want to drop his gaze. The intimidation factor was increased by his hawkish nose and wide, thin-lipped mouth. The black golf shirt he wore with black slacks revealed biceps that were still respectable, though he was old enough to have done two tours in Vietnam as a Navy SEAL. He’d stayed in after the war, making the jump from enlisted man to Officer Training School, eventually working his way up to captaining a destroyer in the course of his forty-year career. But in his heart, he was still a Navy SEAL.
Not, all in all, a man to fuck with.
“Let’s go get you properly introduced,” Cap said, and turned to lead the way through the crowded basement. It seemed his kinkster guests were all setting up their own scenes, now that Frank’s bullwhip demo was over. “Y’all made any contact yet?”
Frank shrugged. “Exchanged a few e-mails, a photo or two, chatted on the phone a couple of times. Enough to know our tastes are compatible and both of us have tested negative for STDs recently. I’ve been so busy getting all the requirements done for the new job—not to mention stuff with my mom—that I haven’t managed to set up an actual date yet.” He frowned. “She hasn’t told me much personal stuff, beyond that she’s not married.”
Cap shrugged. “I’m not surprised. She’s pretty far into the closet, as far as the scene goes. Most everybody at the party tonight is.”
“Including me.” Being known as kinky could get you fired or ostracized, especially in the socially conservative, highly religious South. People had even lost their kids over being in the scene.
Which was why, as in the movie Fight Club, many kinksters never publically discussed anything they’d done, where they’d done it, or who they’d done it with.
The price of running your mouth could be entirely too high.
As his attention focused on Alex, Frank put out a hand to stop his friend. “Who’s the guy glaring at me from beside her? The dom that looks like a blond fireplug standing next to the black sub in the harness. I thought she wasn’t involved with anybody.” The man wore the black leather pants and black T-shirt that constituted a popular uniform for dominants everywhere, just as that leather loincloth and artistic arrangement of straps was a common costume for male submissives.
The old SEAL laughed. “That’s Ted—he and the black kid are a couple.”
“So what’s with the glare? They in a ménage with Alex?” Frank was the last man to poach. Not after what had happened a year and a half ago.
“That’d be damned near incest, the way Ted is about that girl. And no, they’re not related--you’d just think he was her daddy, he’s so protective.” Cap grimaced, as if at an unpleasant memory. “Ted absolutely hated her last dom, not that you could blame him. That one was such a prick, he should have worn a condom over his face as a warning to the rest of us.” Correctly interpreting Frank’s wary expression, he added, “Don’t worry about Ted, I’ll deal with him. You concentrate on Alex.”
Frank frowned, wondering if all that was an indication the sub was going to be more trouble than she was worth.
Then Alex turned, pivoting on those incredible legs, gleaming red hair curling around her shoulders, that black dress hugging bra-challenged breasts and curvy hips. When she saw him headed toward her with Cap, a smile lit her pretty face.
On the other hand, what’s life without a little trouble?

Good God, he’s huge, Alex thought, staring up at Frank Murphy as Cap introduced them with a flourish. She wasn’t used to being towered over, especially not in heels that had her scraping 6’1”. If he got drunk and disorderly on me on the street, I’d have to shoot him. Otherwise he’d kick my ass.
Of course, if she did shoot him, the rest of the female population would probably rise up en masse and lynch her. If anything, the man was even more mouth-watering up close than he’d appeared from across the room. His chest alone seemed to take up her entire field of vision. And she definitely approved of the view.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Alex,” Frank said, engulfing her hand in a big, scarred palm.
“I can definitely say the same.” His eyes were deep and gray, staring into hers in the kind of hypnotic dom stare that made her want to give him anything he wanted. Especially if what he wanted was her. She suspected her smile looked besotted. Her nipples had drawn into tight points. His eyes flicked down to the tight silk bodice of her dress, then flicked up again, darkening hungrily. She swallowed. “Impressive flogging demo.”
“You do seem to know your way around a whip,” Ted observed coolly from her shoulder. His tone indicated some skepticism that Frank’s other skills were as well-developed.
Frank laughed, a dark, lovely rumble that made her pussy tighten. “Thanks. I sacrificed a lot of pillows to the bondage gods to learn how to use a lash.” Doms were often told to practice learning how to use a whip by practicing on pillows and stuffed animals.
“Got any references?”
“Yes, and I already checked them,” Alex told him, not for the first time. He was deliberately trying to yank Frank’s chain, and it was starting to annoy her.
Cap moved up behind Ted and clapped a hand on the shorter man’s beefy shoulder. “Come on, Ted, I’ll get you a beer.”
“I don’t drink when I’m sceneing,” the cop replied shortly, his gaze still locked on Frank’s in challenge.
“Then I’ll get you a Coke.” The SEAL pulled Ted away. Cal rolled his eyes, gave Alex a wink, and followed them.
One thick, dark brow lifted, Frank watched them head for the refreshment table set up beyond the bondage gear. “Protective, isn’t he?”
Alex sent a smile after her friends. “Can’t seem to break him of the habit.”
A woman cried out, the sound halfway between pain and pleasure. Someone else shouted, the sound ringing over Jim Morrison’s throaty croon demanding that someone light his fire.
Alex had to raise her voice to be heard over the snap and whish of a flogger and the yelps of its target. “Want to step into the other room? We can’t exactly talk in here.”
“That depends. Will Ted feel driven to defend your honor?” Frank grinned, but there was no malice in his gaze as he looked toward the corner where, judging by his expression, the SEAL was attempting to reassure the blond dominant.
She slid an arm through his, enjoying the warm play of his bare biceps under her hand. “I’ll protect you.”
“Well, if you promise….”
Alex laughed. “Pinky swear.”
“Got a deal. Want something to drink? I’m dry from that flogging.”
“Sure.” She followed him over to a cooler and took one of the canned soft drinks he handed her. Neither of them reached for a beer. Ted was right; only an idiot scened when he was drinking. BDSM was dangerous enough when you were playing stone sober. Besides, the whole point of kinky games was the pursuit of a different kind of high.
Rising to her tiptoes, she said into his ear, “Want to head for the gym?”
Frank nodded. “If it’s available. It’s for damn sure we can’t negotiate if we can’t even hear ourselves think.”
The Millers’ basement was huge, running the whole length of the house. They wound their way through the dungeon with its bondage gear and party furnishings and across a short hall to the home gym.
Frank flipped on the light, revealing a treadmill, a wall-hung flat screen, and a set of free weights. A couple of thick padded mats probably did duty during yoga or self-defense practice. Or, knowing the Millers, sex.  
Best of all, the room had a door. Alex didn’t hesitate to close it, cutting the noise. Frank was right; there was little point in negotiations if neither of them could hear what they were agreeing to. And once you were bound hand and foot and a big guy was standing over you with a whip, it was a bad time to discover you didn’t have the same thing in mind.
The skirt of her LBD was just loose enough to let her lower herself down on the stacked mats. Frank sat next to her, stretching his long legs out and crossing his booted feet at the ankles.
“I really was impressed with the way you helped Tara find subspace.” She popped the top on the Coke and took a sip. After she swallowed, she added, “Wasn’t surprised, though. Both those subs had a lot of good things to say about you.” She might be an adrenalin junky, but Alex wasn’t stupid; she’d called his references. It wasn’t a good idea to play with someone you hadn’t checked out, since BDSM did attract its share of assholes. God knew she’d found that out the hard way. “They said you play responsibly, push just far enough without going too far, and have a chivalrous streak that’s surprisingly wide for a guy who likes using a whip. And judging by the way Cap sings your praises, you may be his favorite person on the planet—except for Mrs. Cap, of course.”
“Cap’s a hell of a guy. He taught me the ropes when I was just starting out on the scene.” Frank eyed her over his Mountain Dew. “He thinks a lot of you, too.”
“Really? Cool.”  She leaned back on her elbows, and didn’t miss the way his gaze skimmed the length of her legs. “What’d you think of my limits list?” The question didn’t sound quite as casual as she would have liked, though she hoped her tension didn’t show.
He grinned, flashing white teeth. “I’m shocked—shocked, I say--by your kinkitude.”
She grinned back. “Smartass.”
Some doms might have been offended by the cheerful insult, but judging by his chuckle, Frank obviously didn’t take himself that seriously.
She liked that about him. A lot.
Sobering, he brushed the back of her hand with his thumb. “Our tastes do seem to align pretty well.”
She’d thought the same thing when she’d read his list of hard limits—things he absolutely wouldn’t do—soft limits—things he’d consider doing—and fantasies. It had read a lot like the one she’d written about her own tastes.
On the other hand, she’d thought she was a good match with Gordon, too.
He studied her thoughtfully, as if sensing the battle between her doubts and her desire. “Why don’t we see how this evening goes?”
Alex blew out a breath. “That might be wise.”
He started to lean toward her, only to stop. “May I kiss you?” A polite dominant never touched a sub without permission.
Her heart began to pound. “Yes.” She swallowed, cleared her throat. “I’d like that.”
Hot approval flared in his eyes, and he lowered his head toward hers.
His lips felt just as soft as they looked, tasting of Mountain Dew and masculinity. One big hand came up to cup her cheek, his fingers long and strong and warm. His broad body curled around hers, making her feel sheltered, protected. It wasn’t a sensation she was used to. She was surprised at how seductive it was.
She reached for him, feeling the hot flesh of his ribs under her palm.
And sighed, melting into him.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. If so, let me know on my Facebook page. Thanks!

Angela Knight

Thursday, April 03, 2014

An Excerpt from "The Once and Future Lover" in WICKED GAMES.

A pair of chairs had been set up for the royal couple under a bright red canvas awning draped over a wooden frame. Merlin and Nimue stood waiting beneath it, looking deceptively young, like children playing dress-up in tunics of embroidered silk. The pair bowed deeply to the king and queen.
Chattering courtiers fell silent and rose in acknowledgment as Gwen and Arthur entered the courtyard. Catching Merlin’s gaze, the king dipped his chin in a nod of acknowledgement.
To Gwen’s grim pleasure, most of the onlookers appeared worried as they watched him stride onto the field. Mordred’s followers wore expressions of anticipation, as did four lords Arthur had defeated in the battles that followed Uther’s assassination. Gwen made mental note of them, in case she needed revenge later.
She was not in the mood to turn the other cheek.
The kingdom’s elite Knights of the Round Table had gathered in a tense knot off to one side of the awning: Galahad, Bors, Gawain, Tristan, Percival, Marrok, Kay, Cador, Bedivere, and Baldulf. Like Arthur and Lancelot, they were dressed for war in helm and hauberk, shields on their arms and swords hanging at their belts. Mordred stood stonily at the head of his own eleven, though his followers included at least another twenty, most of them the sons of the wealthy. His resemblance to his sire was uncanny, save for his greater height—and the green eyes, as pale and feral as a cat’s.
“Is it my imagination, or does Mordred and his pack of dogs look entirely too confident?” Gwen murmured to Arthur.
“You’re not imagining anything,” he growled. “They expect me to lose. I won’t. Too much rides on this.” His gaze lingered on her face in a way that told her he was talking about her more than his throne.
Gwen stared up at him, struck by the savage determination in his eyes. Shed always known Arthur loved her, of course, but on some level she’d thought he loved his country and his knights at least as much. It was startling to realize he held her dearer than any of it.
His knights started toward them. Arthur and Lancelot advanced to meet them, with Gwen trailing. She broke step as her attention fell on one particular face among those seated around the courtyard.
Gwen and Morgana Le Fay had become unlikely friends soon after Arthur’s former lover appeared at court with her young son. At the time, Gwen hadn’t expected to like the woman, had only meant to pretend friendship as a way to quiet any rumors that Morgana and Arthur were still lovers.
And the ruse had worked. Gwen did not have a reputation as a pliant wife; the court reasoned that if she’d become friends with Morgana, there must be nothing to all those lewd whispers.
Yet if the friendship had started out as pretense, that soon changed when Gwen realized Morgana was as witty and bright as she was beautiful.
Best of all, she was loyal. Morgana had never tried to use their friendship to wheedle riches or favors as too many others did, and she never repeated anything the queen said to her. She quickly became the dearest friend Guinevere had ever had, the one person, other than Arthur himself, whom Gwen trusted without question.
Which was why Gwen worried for her friend now. Morgana’s lovely face wasn’t just pale, it was almost ghostly, and her green eyes looked huge with anxiety.
Gwen couldn’t blame her. No matter what her own feelings were, Morgana would soon have to watch her son either die or kill his father. Another woman might imagine all the riches that would come her way as the mother of the new High King. The healer wasn’t that woman. She was far too intelligent not to see the implications.
Her anguished gaze met Gwen’s. The queen glanced at Arthur, now deep in conversation with his knights, then gestured Morgana over. Her friend shot off the bench and started toward her.
Gwen was so intent on the healer, she ignored the soft ring of approaching chain mail. She realized her mistake when Morgana’s eyes widened in horror.
A male hand clamped over Gwen’s right upper arm hard enough to bruise. Hot breath gusted against her ear as Mordred whispered, “After I’ve killed him, my sweet stepmother, I’ll fuck you. In your cunt and your mouth. In your ar . . .”
She wheeled and slapped him with every ounce of her body weight behind her hand. As he released her in shock, she jerked the dagger from her jeweled belt sheath and plunged it toward the only unarmored part of him she could reach: the underside of his jaw.
Her knife wrist slapped into Mordred’s palm. For all that he looked like a bullock, he was fast.
“You ungrateful cur!” Gwen raged. “I will die before I ever let you touch me!” She lunged at him, her sandaled feet thumping harmlessly on his booted shins, her free hand curling into claws as she went for his eyes. He grabbed her wrist and jerked her off her feet. He didn’t even have to work at it. She was distantly aware of outraged male voices, drowned out by Arthur’s furious bellow.
Gwen barely heard them. She was utterly focused on Mordred’s face, so disturbingly like Arthur’s—except for those cruel eyes. “If you kill my husband, by the womb of the Virgin, I’ll see you dead. Get out of the habit of sleeping, boy. My assassins will come at you from behind every tapestry and column, every rock and hedgerow. You’ll know every smiling friend could belong to me, just waiting to dig that viper’s heart out of your . . .”
“Shut up, Gwen!” Morgana screamed.
Blinking, the queen realized her friend had both arms wrapped around Mordred’s forearm as she desperately tried to keep him from hitting Gwen.
Then Lancelot was there, his fist slamming into Mordred’s jaw so hard, the prince dropped Guinevere and staggered back. She hit the packed dirt of the training field, her head striking hard enough to send stars shooting behind her eyes.
A pair of booted feet came down on either side of her hips. She looked up woozily to see Arthur standing astride her, his sword raised to protect her. “By the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I am still High King of Britain! Any man who lays hand on my queen dies now!”
“She’s gone barking mad!” Mordred spat. “I but spoke to her, and she tried to bury her dagger in my throat!”
“You threatened to rape me!” Gwen had just enough self-control not to screech the words loud enough for the entire court to hear. Above her, Arthur froze.
“Mordred!” Morgana cried in stricken betrayal. “Guinevere took us in, treated you like her own . . .”
“Because she knew she’d never give Arthur an heir,” Mordred sneered. “That blond bitch is as barren as a salted field. Which is to the good, or she’d have surely presented our king with his champion’s brat.”
“You lying lickspittle cur!” Arthur launched himself at his son, sword aimed at the prince’s throat. Mordred parried and retreated, his gaze icy with calculation.
Arthur’s knights lunged at Mordred’s followers with a chorused roar of outrage. The prince’s men bellowed and drew their weapons. The air filled with clangs and curses as the two groups began to fight.
“Get up, Gwen, before you get trampled!” Morgana swooped down and helped her to her feet.
“Get the queen off the field!” Arthur bellowed at Lancelot, stalking his son with murder in his eyes.
Lance planted his palm against the small of Gwen’s back, urging her toward the dubious shelter of the awning. “Move!” Galahad backed along behind them, keeping an eye out for would-be attackers as he brought up the rear.
“No!” Gwen set her feet, looking back at Arthur. “Protect your king! I’ll go . . .”
Arthur’s sword bounced off something invisible in a cascade of blue sparks.
“Enough!” Merlin’s roar could not possibly have come from the throat of the beardless boy he appeared to be.
Both men flew off their feet as if dragged into the air by an invisible giant. It dropped them again to land, staggering. Everyone else froze in astonishment as Merlin stalked between the two groups of warriors. “You will cease!” the wizard snapped, “Or I will leave this little world of yours to drown in blood, as your vicious nature apparently dictates!”
“He threatened to rape my queen.” Arthur glared at Mordred, who snarled back like a reflection in a demonic mirror. “I’ll see him dead!”
“Kill him, then!” Merlin spat, stepping right against the king’s chest with an expression so savage, the larger man retreated a step in sheer astonishment. “And then watch as humanity sinks into darkness because you lacked the strength of will to control your ugly temper.”
“Who do you think you . . . ?” Arthur began.
Merlin talked right over him. “You are supposed to be High King of Britain, Arthur Pendragon. If you can’t put the good of your people above your pricked ego, you are no good to me.”
“A threat to my wife is not an ego prick.” Arthur glared at Mordred. “Especially not when it’s my own son who threatens her!”
I do not care!” Merlin roared. “This is your test, Pendragon. And you are failing it!
The sound of his voice was like being plunged into a frozen lake. Every hair rose on Gwen’s body in atavistic terror. She wouldn’t have been more astonished if the stripling wizard had turned into a dragon.
She wasn’t alone, either. Every face she saw drained of blood in unison. Men as well as women cried out.
Gwen had never seen her husband retreat from anyone, including other kings, but he actually took a step back from Merlin. Even so, he didn’t let his gaze drop as he curled a lip. “You’ve made your point. I might as well slay my bastard in ten minutes as now.”
Catching Lance’s gaze, he jerked a thumb at the pavilion and the chairs standing there. Lance dipped his head and sheathed his sword. “My queen?” He offered his arm.
Gwen schooled her face, concealing just how shaken she was behind her best regal air, and placed her hand in the crook of his arm. “Morgana, attend me.”
Mordred’s mother blinked once. “Of course, your majesty.” She fell in behind them, all three of them ignoring the astounded stares of their audience in the stands.

WICKED GAMES is out now.  I hope you'll take a look at it; you'll find it here on Amazon, as well as at your local bookstore and B&N. 

Angela Knight