This is one that looks absolutely fantastic. What's even better is that it's from fellow Naughty Nights Press author, Delena Silverfox, a feisty lady with a wicked sense of humour!
Sometimes surrender requires the greatest strength.
Norelia, Imperial heir and zealous second-in-command of the Endless Army, is cornered by a wager against her father, the Emperor.
The stakes? To marry the winner of the next Summer Games in order to ensure the continuation of the Imperial line. Confident she will win, she is devastated when a mysterious contender named Reoth defeats her and claims not only the title of Champion, but claims Norelia as well. A misplaced note reveals Reoth and her father placed wagers on Reoth's ability to "tame" her, proving it was all a game after all.
When her father is killed in a surprise invasion, the Empire stands on the brink of war and Norelia is thrust into the center of it with Reoth, a man she'd sooner kill than trust. As Reoth admits knowledge regarding who is behind this invasion, can Norelia determine where his true allegiance lies before the Empire, and her heart, are destroyed forever?
“It's a damned pile of steaming horse shit.” She trailed off her cursing, muttering to herself.
Beyond the window, streamers of every color fluttered in the salty breeze from the coast. Throngs of people in every shape and color imaginable choked the streets as yet more new arrivals paraded in from ever-further corners of the Empire. Men strutted, blown up with their own bravado, waved to the cheering crowds, catching garlands and little folded paper luck tokens as they passed. Buskers set up at every street corner, shaking their tambourines and cistrums. They played fuddles, pipes, and drums as they sang and laughed. Tumblers and every manner of street performer added to the festival atmosphere.
It was just another influx of fools, for the gods' sake!
“Oh, Noria.” Her cousin sighed behind her. “Let them have their fun. The Games come but once a year, and it's a holiday for everyone. Only the most necessary work gets done, and you know the City is awake for nigh a week during.”
Norelia gripped the wide windowsill until her knuckles were white. “That's during the festival, you oblivious ass.” She growled in frustration. “And that is ten days away! This is his fault.”
Of course, by “him” she meant her father, who had sent an Imperial decree announcing their wager as a contest. Men who had never set foot in the capitol before were now flooding its gates. Tents had been erected outside the city walls to house them all, and it seemed the great city of Lomyr had very nearly doubled in size.
Worst of all, instead of the usual banners depicting images of the emperor, the sun god, and the harvest goddess –as was usual during the Summer Games– there were drawings and banners and even murals of her likeness everywhere. Everywhere!
“As if I were some godsdamned prize.”
“But you are.” Valia laughed. When Norelia whirled on her, reaching for a sword at her hip that was not there, Valia laughed harder, though not with malice. “You are the prize, Noria. Oh, don't you glare at me in that tone of voice,” she joked. “You know it's true.” When Norelia didn't stop glaring, Valia made a delicate vexed sound and fluttered into a lounging chair across the room. “You're a legend, darling, and the people love you. You bring nation after nation under our banner, and you stand undefeated. You never married, and it's rumored you have never taken a lover–”
“Because I haven't!” She recoiled at the very thought.
“–and now the men of every corner of the Empire have the opportunity to claim the strongest and most legendary woman in history.”
Norelia scowled at the sacrilege. To claim she was more notable than the great and few Empresses of Lomyr was a gross overstatement.
“Let them have their ten days dreaming of glory, Noria. You will defeat the greatest of them. You always do.” She laughed again. “And even if by the grace of the gods you do not, is it really so bad?” She got a disgusting twinkle in her eye. “Marriage has so many perks, after all.”
Norelia grabbed fistfuls of the silk skirts she'd been stuffed into earlier by the servants her father had sent. Soft, bejeweled slippers hugged her feet and made her slip on the polished marble, and her hair was piled on her head in silly coils and tiny braids. It felt strange with her neck bared, no crest from her helmet trailing down her back.
No weapons, her father had ordered, and the Imperial Guards were instructed to check her periodically to make sure she wore no weapon in the palace. She felt naked. “I have only to think of my soldiers and their camp followers rutting in the dirt at night, whores hopping from man to man with sticky thighs and fistfuls of copper coins.” She had to suppress a shudder. “It's disgusting, and messy, and the noises...” She swallowed against the need to gag.
Valia giggled and clapped her hands. “That's the best part, dear! Oh, the noises!” She somehow managed to invest the word with a quality that made it seem delicious. It was the way Norelia would talk about a good steak dinner after claiming a battlefield.
She shook her head. “Nothing's better than a hot bath and a good, fresh steak after sticking the opposing army's general's head on a pike.”
Valia just winked at her. “Well, it's not steak, but it's still a fine cut of meat.”
Norelia grimaced. “You're disgusting.” She squeezed her eyes shut and grit her teeth. Gods. She had to win!
Released 31st July through Naughty Nights Press! Also available at all the usual places, All Romance eBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo. But please keep in mind due to limited access to internet, this has had to be pre-scheduled, before the release, so the only link I had available was direct to Naughty Nights Press. It's the best place to buy from!