Frost and Flame (Gods of War)

By: Gena Showalter

The beast went quiet.

The scent of candle wax and honeysuckle filled his nostrils. Honeysuckle—a scent exuded by every Adwaewethian queen and princess.

Hate honeysuckle!

Light glowed from a chandelier as big as his bedchamber, reflecting off a solid gold floor. On the walls hung portraits of past queens. Seated upon a throne of amethyst and crystal, Aveline raked her amber gaze over him before unveiling a cold smile.

“As delicious as I remember,” she purred. “I approve.”

Just a piece of meat to her. Once, she’d looked at him with love and affection, even adoration. She’d held his hand, and kissed his knuckles, and rested her head on his shoulder, content to just be with him.

Like all royals, she possessed a deceptively delicate appearance, with flawless golden skin, hair as pale as moonbeams, and irises the shade of a sunrise his too-sensitive eyes had only ever seen in pictures. Faint golden runes etched her flesh in swirling designs. A sheer pink gown molded to her every perfect curve: full breasts, cinched waist and flared hips. Peekaboo slits in the skirt provided a glimpse of thigh when she shifted.

For those who preferred their women to look as fragile as glass, Aveline was a vison of loveliness—on the outside. On the inside, however, she was rotten to the core, greedy and corrupt, and Bane despised her with every fiber of his being. To be fair, he despised all Adwaewethian royals so vehemently.

When Aveline made no effort to start the conversation she’d insisted on having, he cut off a curse. “You summoned?”

“Leaving your new wife was...hard, I see.”

Quite. White-hot lust still flowed through his veins. “Why am I here, Aveline?”

She waved a dainty hand, dismissing the guards who stood behind her. Mount and Micah, brothers known for their vicious natures.

Micah blew him a kiss. Mount winked.

The moment the doors closed behind the males, Aveline said, “You’re here because you have something my other elite warriors do not. A reason to win quickly.”

Suspicions danced through his thoughts, and his fingers curled, desperate to hold a weapon. “Do not say—”

“The All War Alliance has discovered another realm,” she interjected. “A vast world known as Terra, with climates and terrains for every preference. There are oceans, mountains, flatlands, forests, deserts and so much more.”

Suspicions confirmed. Dread and aggression surged. “I’ve already done my duty for Adwaeweth, Hivetta and even you, winning two new worlds.” In return, he’d gained scars, nightmares and a deep distrust for others. “I have earned my retirement.”

“In one week, you will journey to this new realm,” she continued, merciless. “You will act as my representative and fight in the next All War. You will win Terra.”

Throughout the galaxies, there were thousands of other-worlds, realms and dimensions. Homes to different species, immortals and creatures of lore. As these worlds had vied for domination, wars had erupted, leaders eager to gain more territories and slaves. The more territories and slaves, the greater the likelihood of winning the next war, and the next. But, in the process, many of those other-worlds, realms and dimensions had been destroyed, rendered uninhabitable. In a bid to save future worlds, leaders formed the All War Alliance, and birthed the All Wars.

Each participating realm sent a representative to the newly discovered land, where they battled to the death. The whole planet became a gladiator-type arena. But there were problems.

As more and more planets were found, more and more representatives were sent to fight. And, because scribes kept records, prospective combatants were able to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors, becoming harder to kill. The result? A single All War could last decades rather than days.

Bane’s second All War had taken thirty-three years. By the time he’d returned home, his betrothed—Princess Aveline—had been crowned queen and decided she didn’t want him anymore.

At the time, he’d been devastated. He’d loved her dearly, had missed her with every fiber of his being. Then he’d noticed the changes in her personality and rejoiced, thinking, Dodged a bullet.

If Aveline ordered another warrior to pursue Meredith during Bane’s absence...

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