Title: Hidden In Ashes, A’yen’s Legacy #5
Author: Rachel Leigh Smith
Genre: Paranormal sci-fi romance
Childhood enmity turns to love, with one problem: his heart isn’t his to give.
Lorin is a daro, a Lokmane trained to make humans feel special and valued. As Prime of Arkos House, no one stands between him and the safety of the daros under his care—except his mistress. The dead one, and the new one. He needs to focus on the Essence crisis infiltrating the Houses, and his sister’s safety. Not figure out how to balance his duties with falling in love.
When her mother dies, emotionally wounded Sagira Memeos becomes the Marcasian Empire’s newest High Lady. And reluctant owner of the most sought after daro in said empire. He’s her childhood nemesis, and way too sexy for his own good. With his kindness finding its way into her bruised soul, asking for his help to navigate her succession to ruling high lady probably isn’t her brightest idea.
Lorin wants Sagira. But not if he has to pay for it with innocent lives. She’s a distraction he can’t afford while the bedrock of Marcasian high society is under attack. Not to mention facing losing his sister to the man who wounded Sagira. If the daro houses fall, all hope of freedom goes with them.
“Hello to you too. Your glacial receptionist made me call Amun and he let me in.” Stay calm. Be nice. Apologize. He wasn’t here to let her bait him into a fight. The data chip in his pocket weighed heavy. Turning over his client list so early was an extension of trust, an effort to reach through her armor.
“For you. I came to apologize for going off on you last week. It was uncalled for.” He lifted the bouquet, enticing her to come to him to get them.
The set of her shoulders softened and she inched forward. “Apology accepted. My reaction was uncalled for too. We’re adults now, and we should act like it.” She stopped two feet from making contact with his hand to take the roses.
Cynda had picked a rainbow, including yellow ones and a teal color he and Mrs. Arkos had bred. “They’re beautiful. I love the yellow ones.”
“I thought you might.” He took a step. Pressed the wrapped stems into her hand. “Cynda refused to take the thorns off.”
Sunny smiled, and her entire face lit up. Lorin couldn’t look away from the beauty. “I think she’s trying to tell me I’m prickly and she doesn’t trust me.”
“Can you blame her?”
Sunny lowered her nose to the roses and inhaled their scent. “No. She hates me more than you do. Because of how I treated you.”
“I don’t hate you, Sunny. I just don’t like you very much. There is a difference.”
Sunny laid the roses on her desk, also of opaque glass like the one outside, went to a row of cabinets, and pulled out a vase. “I’ve never liked you either. At least we’re even on one thing.” She took the vase to her desk and began arranging the roses. “What other reason are you here?”
He dove into his pocket. Closed his fingers around the chip, but didn’t pull it out. “To start building trust. I don’t want another jealous mistress who won’t leave me alone.” He held his hand out, fingers open to show the chip. “It’s my client list. You’ll get it eventually. I thought if I brought it, it might get me brownie points.”
“Only if I can redeem them in literal brownies.” She reached for the chip, hesitating before she brushed her fingers across his palm.
The feel of her skin against his made him ache to know more. And revealed a glimpse past her mental blocks. No one had ever treated this gorgeous creature with the tenderness she deserved. Wall after wall of armor kept people away from her, built up thicker than he’d expected. Preventing himself from taking her hand and pulling her against him took every bit of willpower he possessed. She’d slap him, or worse, and he’d deserve it.
She withdrew, chip in her hand. “But no nuts. I’m allergic, remember?”
Rachel Leigh Smith was swept off her feet at the age of six by Magnum, P.I., then again at nine by Frank Hardy. She remembers her favorite romance novels by the hero’s name, so of course she writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family, a half-crazed calico, a ginger tabby lion, and a menagerie of book boyfriends.
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