on November 18, 2022
Series: Esperance Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, New Adult
Source: eARC from Author
Twelve strangers. Six marriages. One year in Esperance.
Amryn has many reasons to hate the empire. Her latest is her forced marriage to General Carver Vincetti, better known as the Butcher. If he learns even one of her secrets, he will kill her. And Amryn has many secrets. Not only is she an empath with forbidden magic, she's also a newly recruited rebel intent on destroying the empire—starting at Esperance.
Carver knows the rebels have infiltrated the remote temple of Esperance. His job is to hunt them down before they can wreck the emperor’s new peace. Despite the demons that haunt him, Carver is intent on his mission—but he’s not prepared for Amryn. From her fiery red hair to her surprising wit, his new wife has captured his attention. The attraction that flares between them is undeniable. Now he just has to determine if she’s the enemy.
When the newly married couples become targets in a violent game, Esperance becomes more dangerous than anyone anticipated. Carver and Amryn are about to discover that no one is exactly who they appear to be—especially each other.
As he stepped into the light of the nearest glowing lamp, she had to fight the urge to step back.
He stopped a couple paces away from her, and his voice was low as he said, “Make a fool of me again, and you’ll regret it.”
Amryn’s pulse skittered, but self-preservation bled away under the blunt edge of his intoxication, which she felt full-force now that they were relatively alone. She lifted her chin. “It doesn’t seem like you need help to play the fool.”
Rivard’s expression hardened. He took a menacing step forward, and Amryn tensed.
She felt someone step up behind her, and without looking she knew it was Carver.
“Do you really want me to hit you again today?” Carver asked, his voice dripping with threat.
Rivard’s hands curled at his sides. “Keep your wife in line, and we won’t have a problem.”
“Never speak to her again, and maybe we can avoid problems.” Carver’s words were low and deep, and the anger pouring off him tightened Amryn’s skin like the searing heat of a fire.
Rivard gave them both a silent glare, then spun and stalked down the hall.
Amryn’s heart continued to stutter in her chest, and Carver didn’t look away from Rivard’s retreat until he’d disappeared around a corner. Then Carver’s full focus shifted to her, and their gazes locked.
His blue eyes burned. “Did he harm you in any way?”
“No,” she said, feeling a little breathless under that direct stare.
“What did he say to you?”
“Nothing. Truly. I think he was just drunk and upset from losing at cards.” And having his nose broken, though she didn’t say that.
Carver’s hard expression didn’t alter. “For my sanity, I’m going to ask you to stay away from him.”
“I didn’t seek him out.”
“Good. Don’t. And if he ever threatens you again, taunt him all you want—after you’ve informed me, so I can break his jaw.”
A low chuckle broke free.
He frowned. “What?”
“Just something Argent said.”
“What did he say?”
“That you’re not prone to violence. I don’t really believe it.”
He stared at her a moment, then rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess I still haven’t managed to make a good impression, have I?”
“No. You’re either stabbing people over dinner, breaking noses while I’m at tea, or threatening to break jaws. What am I to expect next?”
He cocked his head, studying her face. “I’m wondering the same thing.”
The flush she felt had nothing to do with the lingering effects of Rivard’s intoxication, and everything to do with how closely Carver was standing.
She cleared her throat. “You quit the game?”
“You left,” he said. “I wanted to escort you back to the room.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks remained too warm under his gaze. Saints, maybe she’d sipped too much brandy tonight, because she found herself saying, “You didn’t care about escorting me to dinner.”
Carver’s expression softened. “I’m sorry. I truly lost track of time, but I won’t let it happen again.” He offered his arm. “Shall we?”
Slowly, she curled a hand around his bent elbow. The instant she touched him, she felt Carver’s throb of attraction.
It only amplified her own, and that was completely disconcerting.
He walked her to the suite in silence, and when they entered their apartment, Amryn instantly pulled away from him. Her heart pounded, and she balled her tingling fingers into a fist. “Goodnight,” she said, purposefully not looking at him as she stepped toward the hall that led to the bedroom.
“Amryn, wait.” His voice was pitched low; deep and slightly rough.
She turned to face him, and in the dim glow of the lanterns the servants had lit, her breath caught at the sight of him. At the way he looked at her.
She had studied him intently at the altar, but now, standing alone together in their suite . . . it was like seeing him for the first time. The dark hair that fell over a deeply tanned brow. Those piercing blue eyes set under thick eyebrows. The high cheekbones and angular jaw that look sculpted by the Divinities themselves. The cords of muscle that ran along his neck, and the exposed column of his throat. The line of his mouth.
Despite his reputation, and the fact that he was her enemy . . . Carver Vincetti was undeniably the most captivating and handsome man she’d ever seen.
Of course, that only made him more dangerous.
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