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Pretty Human (Rags to Riches #4)

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English
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Varrik va’Rin is the lord of an ancient noble house. On Homeworld Kes, his bloodlines are unparalleled and he wields an incredible amount of political and social clout. He’s used to getting what he wants.

So when he sees the strange, delicate human known as Milly, he decides he wants her. And he’ll do anything to have her, reputation be damned.

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Rags to Riches Series by Alexa Riley

Varrik va’Rin is the lord of an ancient noble house. On Homeworld Kes, his bloodlines are unparalleled and he wields an incredible amount of political and social clout. He’s used to getting what he wants.

So when he sees the strange, delicate human known as Milly, he decides he wants her. And he’ll do anything to have her, reputation be damned.

1

VARRIK

I can tell the moment my driver pulls my air-cruiser up to Lady dra’Niiron’s estate that this party will be wall-to-wall with people. Homeworld society is filled with the oldest families, and while this gala will be sure to be filled with nobles, it is also going to be full of lower-caste families who cling to their nobility and look for a way to crawl up the ladder. There will be lots of boot licking and obsequiousness as the males and females of each house look to curry favor for their name.

It’s exhausting. I haven’t even stepped inside and I’m already tired and bored.

But…I must attend. As the head of House va’Rin, Lord Lis’thrion, first of the name, it is my duty. I must reaffirm alliances with house dra’Niiron and consider other potential alliances. It is all a game of names and favors, of secrets, lies and information, and I am one of the biggest players.

I’m also one of the most bored. But it’s to be expected after decades of such events.

“Lord va’Rin,” Lady dra’Niiron coos as my driver opens the door and I step out onto the ornate terrace that leads up to her family’s estate. Flowers and vines are carefully sculpted and teased to cover the silvery balustrades, and fountains tinkle in the distance with delicate wines from exotic planets. The entire effect is a carefully orchestrated mixture of a casual country estate and old money. Lady dra’Niiron herself wears the sweeping, pale yellow robes of her house, her symbol heavily embroidered on silk. Her long hair is swept into a high ponytail that arches between her bejeweled, capped horns, and she gives me a sweet smile, extending her hands out to me.

I take them in mine, noting she has a ring on every finger. Up close, I can hear the rustle of jewelry underneath her collar, even if it cannot be seen over her ceremonial house robes, and I bite back a smirk. Even now, she must coat herself in wealth to reassure herself of her house’s place. This is not just a house party then, but ambition showing itself. I’m not surprised. I’ve been waiting for Lady dra’Niiron to make such a move.

If I had to guess, she’s going to show her wealth and power during this party, and then casually propose a marriage alliance between our two houses. Some jaded part of me suspects she’s expecting me to propose, but that won’t happen.

I never chase.

I’ll entertain the thought if I must, though. As the only adult male in house va’Rin, it’s my duty to procreate and keep the family name—and wealth—at its height. House dra’Niiron isn’t an equal, but they’re growing in power.

“So glad you could make it,” the lady says in her most charming voice as she leads me inside.

“As if I could miss such a feast,” I say drily. “A month-long house party? You are too kind.”

“I know the weather is dreadful back where you’re at,” she says, voice smooth. “All the heat and rain this time of year. I thought, what better place for Lord va’Rin to stay than with me and two hundred of my closest friends?” She smiles again, less sincerely. “Let me show you to your rooms. They’re in the same wing as mine.”

“Convenient,” I murmur.

Lady dra’Niiron chatters as she leads me through her house, and I see all her wealth has been put on display, from delicate ooli vases on tables to ssithri tapestries that hang from the walls. Her home is garish in its decor, but it’s all designed to show just how much wealth she’s acquired. She’s showing off in the hopes of acquiring a mate…and I know just who she has in mind. She gives me another sly look as we head up the stairs.

“I’ve a little gift for you,” she says.

“Just for me? You shouldn’t have.”

She winks, giving me a playful look. “Gifts for all my honored guests, of course. Something I think that’s tailored to your needs or wants.”

“I see.” I admit, I’m curious as to what it is she thinks I want.

I follow behind her as she opens the gilded double doors to what I assume is my chamber. There’s delicate furniture artfully placed in the room, and the finest draperies hang from the massive windows that look out on the city below. There’s a plant-covered balcony with statuesque columns, and in the center of the room itself is a large canopied bed, practically big enough to fit my entire household staff and so many decorative pillows the bed looks crowded while empty. “Quite the set-up,” I murmur, since she’s looking at me expectantly. “Is there a pillow shortage on Homeworld now?”