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His Forbidden Desire (Island of Ys #1)
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Princess Camilla Fitzcharles is willing to risk everything to escape her gilded cage of her life. She’s secured an invitation to participate in the Wild Hunt, a deadly game hosted once every five years. This year’s prize is the one thing that can set her free. Cami just has to survive long enough to win it.
Luca has spent the last fifteen years waiting for vengeance. Now the plans are in motion, and there’s no going back. He couldn’t have anticipated Cami, though. She’s an innocent, a reminder of the life that was stolen from him. Something to be protected, not leveraged in this dangerous game.
This year the Wild Hunt has changed. For the first time since its inception, an outsider is named as the White Stag, the prey the rest of them hunt—Cami. She’s on the run and in danger, and Luca will do anything to keep her safe.
The person she needs the most protection from?
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Princess Camilla Fitzcharles stepped off the helicopter and lifted her hand to shield her eyes. Even with the sun glaring overhead and her stomach tied in knots, she couldn’t deny the truth.
She’d arrived in paradise.
The island stretched out before her in a gentle incline that rose to kiss the sky. Merry lights twinkled from a boardwalk that stretched the entire length of the bay she’d just landed in, creating a path from Pleasure to Pain, the two main entertainment facilities the Island of Ys offered. They promised to fulfill any fantasy a person could dream up.
Cami wasn’t here for either of them.
She had bigger game in mind.
A white woman walked up as the helicopter’s blades slowed to stillness, and even though she’d expected a welcome party, it was everything Cami could do not to stare. The blonde wore a fitted dress that showed off an athlete’s muscled body and full breasts, sheer black tights, and heels that had to be at least six inches. More than her clothing, the thing that caught Cami’s attention was the way she carried herself. This woman was beautiful and powerful and totally secure in that knowledge.
Cami envied her.
The woman stopped in front of her and gave her a shrewd look. “Princess Camilla Fitzcharles. If I had any honor left, I’d send you home with your tail between your legs. This is no place for little girls playing dress up.”
If Cami was a different person, she’d shrink down to nothing in the face of such a direct indication of how this woman found her lacking. How everyone found her lacking. She wasn’t a different person, though. She was a princess, and she’d been taught from birth to brazen her way through situations that made her uncomfortable. She raised her brows. “If you really believe that, then why was I invited?”
“Invited, little princess?” Her red lips quirked into something almost a smile, though the expression didn’t reach her amber eyes. “You weren’t invited. You bribed your way in here.” She propped a hand on her hip. “I still wouldn’t have let you in, no matter how expensive the price tag, but Death answers to no one. The rest of us just dance to the tune she sets.”
The woman behind the curtain.
Cami had only participated in one conversation with her, and it was more than enough. She was as cold as this one fiery, and she scared the hell out of Cami.
Not enough to make her back off, though.
Nothing would scare her enough for that.
She closed the distance between her and the blonde and lifted her chin. “If you’re not going to stop me, then get out of my way.”
The woman whistled under her breath. “Little princess has some claws. I like it.” She gave Cami another once-over, though this one felt completely different. Just like that, her bristling almost-anger was gone, replaced by merry cheer. She grinned, revealing straight white teeth. “In fact, you’re kind of cute in that whole untouched kind of way. Makes me want to do a whole lot of touching.”
Cami blinked. “Um, thanks?”
“I know. You’re dazzled by my beauty. Don’t worry. It happens to everyone.” She linked her arm through Cami’s and towed her down the steps from the landing pad to a paved walkway that led farther inland. “Welcome to the Island of Ys, where all your dreams and darkest fantasies are possible. For the right price, of course. Since you’re here for the Wild Hunt, I expect you’ll keep up with the virtuous thing instead of playing with us. A shame.”
“When does it start?”
She gave a put-upon sigh. “You know what they say about all work and no play.” When Cami just stared, she finally relented. “Three days.”
Three days? She might expire from nerves in the meantime. “Why so long to wait?”
The woman laughed. “You have somewhere better to be?” She bumped her shoulder against Cami’s. “The island can be … disconcerting. We like to get everyone together and settled before the game begins.” She lowered her voice. “It also lets you get a good look at the competition, which is an asset.”
Ah. Of course. She should have thought of that, would have if she wasn’t so off balance. “I see.”
“There are only three women this year, including you. But I’m getting ahead of myself.” Another of those infectious laughs. “I’ll show you to your rooms, and you have free rein of the casino floor until dinner tonight. It’s an obligatory event, black tie required. All the Wild Hunt events will be held in Pleasure, though you’re more than welcome to meander down to Pain as it strikes your fancy.”
“I won’t be doing that.”
“Probably smart of you. Pain has a way of pulling you in.” She grinned, merry and bright, and as dangerous as a flame.
The rest of the walk passed in a blur of lights and colors and sounds. Even though they didn’t go into the casino called Pleasure itself, moving instead around the perimeter, the sight of it made Cami’s stomach sink. She’d heard about what went on in this place. It was one of the world’s best kept secrets … unless a person’s pockets were deep enough.