I’m super excited to share more of Zinnia and Rhodes’ story! Check out Chapter One from RHODES (Angelbound Offspring Book 4), which releases on December 17, 2019.
I may be a princess trapped in a tower, yet I am a happy one. Why? My Rhodes sits nearby, strumming a new rhythm on his acoustic guitar.
Ah, sweet music.
The tower itself is called the Dragon’s Claw, for it resembles a huge talon that arcs up from ground. All around it, red desert stretches off in every direction.
Yes, it is a prison.
Happily I am on good terms with the warden, who is my sister, Huntress. My parents placed me and my sisters in this tower—that means Kaps is here as well—along with specific instructions for Huntress. Mum and Da trust her judgment. When Huntress tells the guards to look the other way, that’s what happens. Tonight, Huntress ordered the tower’s rooftop terrace to be vacated. Now I may enjoy alone time with my fated mate, what we dragon shifters call our rhana.
It is much appreciated.
Leaning back on my lawn chair, I stare up at the night sky. My Rhodes plays on. The new tune wraps about my soul. Staccato notes pluck at my heart. Long chords follow, moving into a slow refrain that captures Rhode’s inner strength. The song ends. I sigh.
“That was lovely. ”
With the tune has ended, I refocus on Rhodes once more. He is tall and lean with whip-strong muscle. While I’ve been in the Dragon’s Claw, my Rhodes has been training to join the Kathikon, the Emperor’s Guard. The work has paid off. My rhana’s shoulders, arms, and legs now bulge with muscle. His brown hair is cropped short; I long to run my fingers across the shorter cut. He fixes me with his moss-green eyes.
How long have I just been staring at him? Too long, possibly.
I clear my throat. “I’ve no lyrics for you yet.”
“Not a worry. I know you’ll come up with something lovely.”
Usually, I must hear a new tune at least three times before lyrics appear. These first listens are the best, though. I am not torturing myself to find the right phrase or rhyme. The song simply moves through me.
“Please play it again and soon,” I say.
“Happy to oblige.”
My Rhodes grins, and his long lashes add extra emphasis to any expression. The sight makes my heart spark. Turning, he resets his guitar into its case. This is a careful business, by the way. My Rhodes worked hard to rebuild one of his old childhood instruments. Now, any scratch on that guitar would feel like a deep wound to both of us.
While my Rhodes finishes his work, I really soak in my surroundings once more. The roof terrace holds little. Huntress, Kaps and I dragged up a trio of lawn chairs. That’s about it. My parents say we must live here for our safety, yet they give few specifics. And Mum and Da rarely visit, so we’ve had little chance to get more information. Still, Huntress believes it is serious, and I trust her.
That’s when I notice something new.
“Is that a picnic basket?” I ask.
My Rhodes carefully closes his guitar case with a small click. “It is.”
I spent years being held by the Triumvirate on Earth. During that time, my sole source of nutrition was dried protein bars. When I first escaped, I tried all sorts of foods. That didn’t end well. Now I only eat plain burgers. My Rhodes has been worried. He wishes to expand my diet.
My Rhodes opens a basket. Small containers line the interior. “I brought things we can taste together.”
On reflex, my mouth scrunches into a frown of disgust. “There is no forgetting the last thing I tried.”
“Dried chili peppers are not meant to be eaten by the handful.”
I count off more culinary disasters. “Or pickles. Or salt. Or cinnamon. The things eaten here are disgusting. I like my burgers.”
My Rhodes shoots me a sly look. He knows that after that song, I’ll do just about anything he asks. “How about this?” He opens a small container and takes out a little red thing.
“Is that bloody? I won’t eat anything that drips blood.”
“It’s not bloody. It’s a strawberry.”
Vague memories sift through the back of my mind. I recall my life as a child, before I was taken by the Triumvirate. Sunshine spilled out over a bowl of red fruit topped with cream. Strawberries. Delicious. Sitting upright and sideways on my chair, I reach toward the fruit and stop myself.
Delicious, my foot. I also thought that about the dried chili peppers.
My Rhodes sits down beside me on the lawn chair. He holds up a strawberry and pops it in his mouth. “Mmmmm.” Then, he offers another one to me.
I scooch away from him an inch. “Still looks bloody.”
My Rhodes chuckles. I love the way the moonlight outlines his strong frame as his shoulders shake with laughter. “I’ve an idea.” My Rhodes reaches into the basket and pulls out a long checkered napkin. “Cover your eyes and you won’t see a thing.”
I am Furor. Our powers cover the mortal sins of lust and wrath. At this suggestion, something stirs inside me. All of a sudden, I can’t think of anything I want more than to have my eyes covered while My Rhodes does anything. I’d even try more chili peppers if he asked.
“All right.” My heart thuds faster against my rib cage.
With gentle movements, my Rhodes rolls the napkin into a band that he ties over my eyes. “Comfortable?”
I nod. To be honest, I’m perhaps a little intrigued here.
All right, far more than a little intrigued.
“Ready for your first taste?” asks my Rhodes. His voice is the perfect mixture of growly and sweet.
I open my mouth and my Rhodes sets a round something on my tongue. I try to speak past the shape, but it’s not easy. “Isth bumpy.”
“Those are tiny seeds. They don’t taste like anything. You need to bite down to get the real flavor.”
What kind of taste will I find?
I test the item out on my tongue. It certainly doesn’t have the coppery tang of blood. Little by little, I bite down. The flavor bursts with the sweet taste of summer. I chew quickly and swallow. “I remember! Huntress, Kaps, and I ate these when we were little! Great bowls of strawberries and cream!”
“Ready for another one?”
“Oh, yes.” I open my mouth. This time, my Rhodes sets something hard and flat on my tongue. I bite down right away. It is starchy and salty. “Not bad.”
“That’s a cracker. Ready for another?”
I merely open my lips in reply. My Rhodes pops a small square in my mouth. I bite down into the most glorious flavor ever. It is smooth and sweet, creamy and dark, all at once. I stop chewing so I may savor the taste. Without meaning to, a single sound escapes me. “Mmmm.”
“That, my lovely Zinnia, is chocolate.”
With my right hand, I lift my blindfold up a little so I may shoot my Rhodes a sly look. With my left hand, I crook him closer. The meaning is clear.
–End Of Sample–