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A Demon’s Plaything: The Elite Guards #3
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Lilith has spent her life in the ruins of her mother’s court that the Horde destroyed. Summoned to her father’s court, her entire world is turned upside down. Her father has offered her to the Horde to pay the tithe owed to them, and she’d rather die before bowing to the Horde, but if she intends to keep her secrets, she will kneel to the murderous Horde who destroyed her kingdom, and left it in ruins.
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Lilith watched the moon rising high into the ebony sky, her ice blue eyes following it until it bathed the Night Court in shadows, shadows she loved and preferred over people. The night was hers to rule, to devour the light of any who dared to enter her fortress. All but one man was brazen enough to cross her path, and he was the King and her father.
It was what had forced her to be here tonight, unwilling. Once a year he would summon her here, give her a list of her princess duties, and then she’d retire to her mother’s castle, the Castle of Shadows. It was her sanctuary away from the court she hated and loathed. Plus, the growing list of princes from other castes or courts was a never-ending nightmare, one she wanted to avoid at all cost. Unlike her many sisters who wanted to marry for hierarchy and their place in it.
Lilith, though, she was the legal heir by court law. The highest prize that none had the balls to try for. She was her father’s heir by right, his only legitimate child. She was also the only one who didn’t want the burden of the crown he wore, not that she’d made that notion well-known.
“The king is ready for you, Princess Lilith,” Lothian muttered as his dark, heavy gaze gave her a withering once-over.
She swiped at an invisible piece of lint on her midnight colored dress and righted her quiver that was slung over her shoulder. “Any idea why I’m here earlier than normal?” she queried, her ice blue eyes slowly settling on his as she sucked her bottom lip between her teeth and waited for his answer.
“That is something only he can tell you, if you’ll just follow me,” he indicated with a wave of his arm towards the high, double doors that were glinted with moonstones. “He awaits you.”
She frowned, her face tightening with concernment as she took the lead, dismissing the guard who had to be as old as the castle stones and yet didn’t look a single day over thirty. A benefit of being immortal, un-aging beauty that gave them a certain flawlessness humans and other creatures prayed or sold their soul for.
Inside the braziers were lit, the room was bathed in light and beauty as the heady scent of the midnight blue citrus trees bloomed. Her footsteps were light over the moonstones that covered the floor in a delicate pattern of the Tree of Life, from which Faery drew its power. A giant picture of the Stag covered the wall behind the raised dais of her father’s throne; his gentle matching eyes found her and softened as she approached.
“Lilith,” he uttered thickly with sadness, as if she was a mere child instead of a full-grown woman. “Every year you look more like her.”
Her mother. Liliana of the Shadow Court, who the Horde had slain for fun when her father had refused the tithe they’d demanded. Only where her mother’s eyes had been as dark as the shadows, Lilith’s were ice blue, a gift from her father’s bloodline and the mark of the true heir to his court.
“I wouldn’t know what she looked like, now would I?” she asked, her seething tone mocking him for his weakness to protect her mother against the Horde. Her father had taken down everything of her mother’s, including the pictures that had once filled this palace. He allowed no memory of her to remain, not even her daughter.
“You have only to look into the mirror to find her,” he admonished, hurt filling his words as he watched her slow approach. “I’ve called you here to inform you of your betrothal,” he said after a moment.
“I have no plan to marry anyone,” she countered icily, her heart thundering as his words registered in her mind.
“The tithe is due, Lilith. As it is, the Horde has been merciful enough to allow a marriage in its place, since once again, we cannot afford to pay it. I don’t need to remind you what happens when you fail to pay the tithe to them, do I? You will marry a prince. A brother to the king, and become the first Night Court princess to raise our standards, to rise above being a lesser Fae, and birth a high born child into our court. It isn’t a choice. You will do this.”
“No, I will not,” she hissed, her eyes burning with liquid blue flames. “They took from us, and now they demand we give more?” she scoffed. “And you, you bow to no one. You’re the King of the Night Court, we don’t need to raise our place in the courts, they all fear us, and they fear me. We have always ruled through that fear, and so we shall continue.”