by Victoria Saccenti
Cover designed by Scott Carpenter
She’s the mate he never expected. And she has powers she never asked for…
Maya Brown is New York tough. She doesn’t believe in magic—until she’s kidnapped along with her eccentric godmother, Anna. By elves.
Freed by a strange power, and reeling from bizarre revelations about her heritage, Maya follows Anna’s plea to seek out a man named Soren at—of all things—a magical bar. Maya doesn’t believe in love at first sight, either, but when she encounters seven-plus feet of muscle and mood-changing eyes, her body does a full-on reset.
Nothing shakes up Soren Westerberg, Titanian Enforcer assigned to NYC. Until a beautiful human woman with golden skin and lost brown eyes walks into a bar. In one trembling instant he knows that she’s his mate—who promptly faints away in his arms.
Their bond is instant, gloriously intense, and a miracle. Soren’s life scroll never foretold a mate, but now that he has her, he’ll protect her at all costs. Because she’s not just his—she’s also an extraordinary being coming into her power. And ready or not, that makes her a target of his cruelest enemy.
Lord Gustaf Westerberg had reached the edge of his patience. Muttering a string of invectives under his breath, he lowered his dense ebony eyebrows at his reflection. Several times, he’d been tempted to kick the massive gilded mirror before him in utter frustration. His broad fingertips made it nearly impossible to fasten the tiny buttons of his formal shirt and his crisp white vest. Finally, he finished with the last button and flexed his fingers, encouraging blood flow. He pulled a linen handkerchief from the pocket of his slacks and wiped his damp forehead dry.
With a bit more composure, he turned to pick up the oblong black velvet box on his dresser. He selected the essential choice for tonight’s event: his silver-and-sapphire cuff links. The stunning heirlooms had belonged to his father, Lord Troels, who in turn had received the pair from his father long centuries ago. Family tradition dictated that the ancient set, fashioned with the Titanian symbol, the wide T and Celtic ribbon wrapped around the middle, should be passed down through the ages from one Titanian leader to the next.
He linked the cuffs and dropped his hands to his sides. A soft movement behind him got his attention. Beatrix had entered the master chamber. Draped on her right wrist was his bow tie. A wooden hanger with his tailcoat jacket dangled from her left hand.
“I detest these functions.” He smiled, contradicting his words. “But they’re all worth it just to see you dressed like a goddess, my love. Älskling, you are a vision.”
Indeed, she was. Her gossamer gown embroidered with silver thread, tiny sapphires, and diamonds encased her beautiful lithe body within a shimmering cloud. The high neckline demurely covered her phoenix mate mark from strangers’ eyes. The crimson bird, poised for flight, was private, his to enjoy and love, no one else’s. She piled her fire-red hair—a nod to her Scottish ancestry—in a high twist anchored with sapphire-and-silver combs. He had to resist the temptation to pull that silky cascade down and run his fingers through it as he inhaled its delicious scent.
“And you are a such a charmer,” Beatrix responded, a light blush covering her cheeks. She hooked the hanger on the mahogany valet stand. With a soft swish of skirts, she stood next to Gustav.
“Will you do the honors?” he murmured.
“Always. Can’t let you receive our guests with a crooked tie.”
“It’s the twenty-first century. By now, all of us should’ve learned to relax, be less stuffy. I can say the identical ancient formalities and pleasantries wearing a T-shirt and jeans.”
Beatrix laughed, a musical trill that delighted his heart. “Ah, yes. Except Ambassador Devon is a stick-in-the-mud representative whose ego needs to be massaged with as much pomp and circumstance as he can get.” She lifted the tips of his collar, slid the tie in place, and made a bow with unerring accuracy. “There, you’re perfect.”
She returned to the valet stand, held up the jacket, and helped him slide his arms through.
“How do I look?”
“Be still my heart.” She fluttered her eyelids. Her dark blue irises sparkled above her perfect straight nose. “I’ll explain in detail when the banquet is over.”
He turned to her. “That’s it. I’m canceling dinner and sending everyone home with a doggie bag.”
“No, sir.” Laughing, she grasped him by his wide shoulders and, despite the height difference of a foot and half between them, turned him around with ease.
“You’re a tough customer,” he sighed, opening the heavy paneled door. “After you, my lady.” He stood aside, allowing Beatrix to exit their chamber first.
Ornate bronze sconces, spaced every ten feet, illuminated the arched corridor outside their door. Wrought iron railings lined the open spaces under each arch and the elegant round staircase that led downstairs. The muted sounds of violins playing in the main level and soft conversation streamed upstairs. Despite the raging winter storm outside, his sturdy windows safeguarded the sophisticated environment, ideal for negotiations and treaties.
Utterly pleased, Gustaf offered his arm to Beatrix.
She flicked her finger at him. “Not yet. The ambassador is in the antechamber to your office.”
“Devon said he had some important matters to discuss before supper, so I ushered him in there.”
Frowning, he grasped her hand. “The situation with Roald and his mate was happily resolved. I haven’t heard a peep from Soren or Brant in New York. I wonder… Maybe he’s aware of the recent unexplained deaths. However, we’ve kept a tight lid on that matter. If he knows, it means someone in the inner circle leaked the information.”
Beatrix eyed him intently. “That’s why I brought him to the antechamber.”
“Let’s go find out.”
She resisted his tug. “Do you think I should go in with you?”
With Beatrix in tow, Gustaf opened the door to the antechamber and scanned the room. The ambassador was nowhere to be seen. Giving his wife a worried side-glance, he opened the door to his office.
The single bouillotte lamp on his mahogany desktop illuminated the circumference around its base. Otherwise, the rest of his office was basically dark.
Holding his long white hair away from his eyes, the ambassador bent over Gustaf’s desk, intently studying a Titanian family scroll. When he heard Gustaf and Beatrix enter, he jerked up his head.
“Riveting read, isn’t it? May I help you find anything…Ambassador?” Gustaf couldn’t suppress the twinge of sarcasm in his voice.
Straightening, Ambassador Devon flicked his hair over his shoulder, revealing a beet-red pointy ear. He offered an apologetic look at Gustaf as he released the ends of the scroll. The edges curved up, wanting to return to their original rolled position.
Gustaf huffed softly. Beatrix squeezed his hand. Her discreet warning to hold his temper reached home. After centuries together, Beatrix knew when he seethed with anger. What the hell was the ambassador doing searching around the Titanian family’s most intimate records?
“Well, I… You see, uh… Titanian scrolls are legendary. Items of great interest for those of us who’ve never seen one.” Color tinged the ambassador’s usually pale skin. “I saw this one just over there.” He pointed at Gustaf’s tall mahogany cabinet and shrugged. “And couldn’t resist the temptation. It’s quite beautiful, with all the gilded lettering and mysterious symbols. I suppose you know what everything means.”
The ambassador was an unflappable minister. He must’ve honed deceit and subterfuge to a fine art through long years of service to his race. Despite all that work, the lie still glared in the elf’s expression, and that was the problem. Gustaf’s stomach churned with impotence. He couldn’t call him on it without creating all sorts of alliance debacles, scandals that would rip apart relationships.
Beatrix squeezed his hand again. He took a deep breath and calmed his fury. He went around the desk, picked up the scroll with the tips of his fingers, and moved to the ornate cabinet where the rest of the family’s ancient scrolls were stored. With slow and deliberate gestures, he opened a drawer, tucked the scroll inside, and slammed it shut. The message to the ambassador was clear: I know you snooped and went through my belongings without my consent.
“I understand you want to discuss certain issues, Ambassador.”
Ambassador Devon’s face grew redder than his ears. “I…ah. Perhaps after supper is best.” With that, the elf slipped around Gustaf and Beatrix and crossed the antechamber. Instead of waiting for his hosts, he disappeared into the hallway.
Gustaf blew out his cheeks. “What is he up to, älskling? Doesn’t he understand I could kick his uppity ass out of my house? I’m so angry, I could pull all that stringy white hair out of his scalp. That was a complete breach of etiquette.”
“Yes.” She nodded. “But think of the diplomatic consequences before acting. Could you tell which scroll he was reading?”
“Hmmm… I’m almost certain he was reading the scroll that follows Soren’s and maybe part of Hagen’s path. Son of a bitch. He’s given me itchy ants all over my body.”
“I don’t like it either. We need to study the scroll. There’s something in Soren’s path he wanted to learn.”
“Evidently, but what?” Gustaf rubbed his chin. “And why was he snooping? He could’ve asked. Elves are supposed to be allies, not spies.”
Beatrix kissed his hand. “Supper and guests first. When they’re gone, we’ll come back and check what’s in it. It’s possible a new symbol appeared. Sound good?”
“Yes, my love.”
“Remember, Soren isn’t alone in New York. Brant is with him. They watch each other’s backs.”
“Thanks for reminding me. That makes me feel a little better.” He offered Beatrix his arm, feigning a calm he didn’t feel at all. He wouldn’t stop worrying until that bastard left the ancestral home and he could check every detail in Soren’s scroll.
Award-winning, multi-genre author Victoria Saccenti writes romantic women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and paranormal romance. Her stories explore the twists and turns of human interaction, the many facets of love, and all possible happy endings.
After thirty years of traveling the world, she’s settled in Central Florida. She splits her busy schedule between family and her active muse at Essence Publishing. However, if she could convince her husband to sell their home, she would pack up her computer and move to Scotland, a land she adores.
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