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Bring the Heat (Dragon Kin #9)
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HE SAYS . . .
SHE SAYS . . .
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“Your son.” It swept through him. Cold. Brutal. The rage that had made his name for him. The rage that allowed him not to care. About anyone. Anything. Growling now, he said again, “Your son.”
Vateria, not quite the last of the House of Atia Flominia, wrapped her forearm around her offspring’s body. For the first time ever, Gaius Lucius Domitus, the Rebel King, saw fear in his cousin’s eyes. True, absolute fear. Because for once, she cared about something other than herself.
“You wouldn’t dare,” Vateria told him.
But this Gaius would dare. This Gaius, who remembered his sister, trapped with Vateria, tortured by Vateria, would dare many things to right that wrong.
Gaius raised his blade over his head, his entire body shaking, his gaze locked with his cousin’s, enjoying the pain he knew this blow would cause her.
Even understanding that this was wrong, he knew nothing would stop him. Nothing.
Gaius yanked his forearms back a bit more to get the most power behind his attack when he heard Kachka Shestakova scream at him from above, “Gaius, no!”
He fought against her voice. Fought against how right it sounded.
“Do not! He is just child!”
“Vateria’s child,” he reminded her.
“Would this make your sister proud? Or are you finally becoming Thracius himself? Do not do this.”
Gaius’s will began to wane. Kachka was right. Harming a child to get at its mother? That’s what his uncle not only would do but had done.
And now he was about to do the same.
He’d let his sister into his mind and hadn’t even realized it. So, if he did this, she would do it, too. It would be her memory as well as his.
That he couldn’t do. She had enough bad memories to last her a lifetime. He wouldn’t add the guilt of this sin.
Gaius lowered his weapon and, gripping her offspring tight, Vateria reached back and opened a doorway. She was in it and gone in seconds.
* * *
Vateria rolled out of the mystical doorway she’d opened and gripped her eldest son against her chest. He might look human—and mostly was—but he was her son. Her true son. Part human. Part dragon. All hers.
And, for what felt like an eternity, she’d thought she’d lose him to that bastard cousin of hers. He was ready to do it, but his sister . . . weak as always. Vateria could hear the bitch’s words in her head even though she only spoke to her twin. “Don’t, Gaius. Please don’t.”
Pathetic. If the situation had been reversed, Vateria would have cut down any offspring of Gaius’s without delay. And she would have laughed as his child died.
But, like his sister, he too was weak.
Still, Vateria had her son and that was all that mattered.
“Am I hurting you?” she asked, slightly panicked. “Are you hurt?”
“No . . . I . . . Father.”
She hadn’t shifted back to human before going through that doorway. She hadn’t shifted back to Duchess Ageltrude Salebiri. The very human wife of Duke Salebiri. A pretense she had been keeping up for years.
Slowly she lifted her head and saw her human husband and his elite guard across the enormous Main Hall, staring at her.
She carefully placed her son on the ground, but didn’t push him away. He was old enough now, at eleven, to learn what his role would be one day. And what that role would entail.
Vateria moved until she was sitting back on her hind legs. Then she thought of the spell that would shift her to human. In an instant she was covered in flames that also engulfed her son, but those flames would never harm him. They were part of him. When the flame was gone and she was in her human form, she smiled at her husband.
“My dearest . . .”
“Kill it!” the head of his elite guards screamed out.
Swords were pulled and men charged.
Vateria raised her hand and, with the power of Chramnesind, the eyeless god, she tossed them back with a flick of her fingers.
Still staring at her husband, she said, “Call them off or I’ll kill them all.”
The duke gazed at her, their eyes locked.
His voice low, he growled, “In the name of our mighty god . . . kill that bitch.”
The men got to their feet and charged her again. This time, she folded her arms over her chest and unleashed another gift from her loyal god.
Multiple tentacles snaked out from between her legs and out her back, shooting across the room and impaling the guards in their chests—near their hearts but not through them.
With a shove, she pinned their screaming bodies against the stone walls.
Shaking, filled with rage and loathing, Salebiri unsheathed his sword.
Vateria watched him, her son moving behind her. Hiding behind his mother. If she died, all her offspring would die, and she would not allow that.