The Queen's Assassin

Jaymi Hanako

It was supposed to be an easy job: Get in, assassinate the queen, and get out. Instead, his fellow mercenary is dead and Madoc is chained in the dungeon, fighting his unwelcome attraction to the woman who defeated him—the queen...
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It was supposed to be an easy job: Get in, assassinate the queen, and get out. Instead, his fellow mercenary is dead and Madoc is chained in the dungeon, fighting his unwelcome attraction to the woman who defeated him—the queen’s bodyguard, Raine. When she interrogates him about the traitor who hired him, he propositions her. He’ll tell her what he knows, if she’ll spend one night of passion with him.

Raine isn’t just a bodyguard—she’s his target, the queen. Magic amulets allow her to switch identities with her bodyguard, and also let her assume a disfigured appearance that discourages anyone from looking at her too closely. Madoc’s offer takes her completely by surprise. Though she knows she can’t trust a mercenary, she can’t deny she’s attracted to him. Her need for answers gives her the excuse to indulge in her desires—at least for one night.

What starts as a sexual power play soon turns into a connection that is more than physical. But Raine’s enemies haven’t given up their quest for her throne, and they intend to destroy the one person who could reveal the truth behind their treachery: Madoc.

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    The Queen's Assassin
Excerpt
It was supposed to be an easy job: get in, assassinate the fragile little queen, and get out. Madoc knew all the finest arts of dealing in death. He’d killed his first man during the tribal warfare that so often flared on the steppes, taking out the rival chieftain who’d ordered the death of one of his brothers.

That was his first and only personal kill. By sixteen, he’d been a full-fledged mercenary.

In ten years, he had never failed. Never come close to being caught.

This assignment should have been no different.

His employer had supplied the most detailed maps of a target’s planned travels he had ever received. They looked like they had been created by someone with deeply intimate knowledge of the monarch. Her Royal Majesty was accompanied by only a handful of servants and a single bodyguard instead of her usual large retinue. Isciana had fallen on hard times during the recent chaos, and even the queen understood that magnificent traveling parties were an unsupportable expense.

Her single guard had appeared to be a young boy. Inexperienced and easy prey. Oh, how deceptive first appearances could be…

Outside the cell, keys turned and bolts slid free. He counted six locks. A bit excessive, perhaps? Maybe he should be flattered they considered him such a threat.

The door opened.

When the bodyguard he’d fought entered the room, he rattled the heavy chains binding his wrists above his head and the matching restraints on his ankles in restless frustration.

He knew the truth now.

Not a boy. A woman. Skilled beyond any man he’d ever encountered—and a bit of a magician too. Still, if not for a surge of misplaced desire, he would not be here now.

Madoc raised his chin and straightened his shoulders as much as his bonds allowed. No point in accepting his humiliation in silence, and talking made it easier to hide how much he wanted her. “Come to gloat over your lucky victory?”

She smiled. The expression caused the hideous scarring on her cheek to appear to collapse into itself. She wore a melodramatic black leather patch over one eye, on the same side as the marks in her skin. Her good eye twinkled with mirth. Her hair was nearly as black as the patch, making her seem to melt into the shadows beyond the flickering lamplight. “Whatever makes you feel better, assassin.” She quickly sobered. “Her Majesty wishes a word with you. Against my better judgment, I might add.”

“What? Don’t you trust me?” Madoc grinned, and the bodyguard snorted. It sounded almost like a laugh. “I suppose I should be flattered.”

“Insolent wretch.” The cultured, haughty tones preceded the monarch’s grand entrance. Her dress, made of layers of rare silk embellished with gold thread, was relatively subdued by the standards of her court, but still worth more than he could ever earn in his lifetime.

Her diamond-encrusted crown looked more suited to a formal ceremony or fancy ball, making it a rather ostentatious show for a dungeon. Feeling insecure in her position, was she? Nice to know he’d had some effect.

All the grandeur made the one necklace she wore look even more out of place. Just a thin chain with a pouch-shaped pendant, both made from gold, but there were no gems.

It did not look like something a queen would wear. What could be its meaning? Though he’d traveled many lands in the course of his work, he’d never seen anything like it.

She gave him a quick look up and down, but somehow managed to do so without truly dropping her aristocratic nose. It was obvious she found him lacking in many ways.

Her snobbery made it easier for Madoc to call up a second dose of bravado he didn’t quite feel. He grinned, hoping the expression didn’t look as false as it felt. “Forgive me for not bowing, Your Majesty.” He shook his chains again. “I’m afraid I’m a bit too tied up to follow protocol at the moment.”

Another snort of laughter came from the bodyguard’s direction, quickly suppressed. The queen showed no sign of amusement. Typical of these humorless royal types, he supposed. Not that he knew much about aristocrats. His birth was far from noble. But he’d heard the stories just like everyone else.

And the stories about the queen were interesting, to say the least. The rumor mill couldn’t agree on whether she was as ruthless as her ancestors or a weak and frightened mouse who was ultimately unsuited to rule. He no longer believed the latter, but it remained to be seen how bloodthirsty she would be. “Tell me who hired you.”

“Can’t do that.”

She looked shocked, as if she had expected instant obedience. His attempt on her life should have proved he was no loyal subject of hers. “And why not?”

“Never saw his face.” His employer’s voice had been broken and husky. Not too deep and not too high. Madoc had recognized the accent: the harsh roughness of the northern tribes. He had spoken in the same manner during his youth but had worked hard to alter it—to give his voice a faint degree of civility—for even an assassin could not afford to speak like a barbarian. It made potential clients skittish. “And my employers demand their privacy, as can be expected.”

“They paid you enough for your silence?”

He hesitated. It was said a very inventive torture chamber existed somewhere in this palace. Madoc liked to think his tolerance for pain was higher than most, but he’d also believed he could never be bested by a woman. And yet he had been. “Yes.”

Her hand flew to her side, reaching for a sword that wasn’t there. Odd. The queen was never armed, and it was said she had no skill at combat. But the motion appeared to be true reflex. The sort of reaction only honed by years of training. “We shall see about that. Won’t we?”

“Your Majesty.” The bodyguard stepped forward. “I would like a chance to speak with our guest. Alone.”

“I do not believe that is necessary, Raine.”

The bodyguard gave the monarch a sharp look, as if the other woman had said something she shouldn’t. But what could that be? Her name? Why would she want to hide the fact that she and the queen shared a name?

If that was the queen’s name. He couldn’t be certain. His employer had not mentioned the name of his target, only her title. It wasn’t necessary for what he needed to do, and this was the only job he had been hired for that came close to anyone among the royal court. Most of those who sought his services were in the more distant provinces.

And before Madoc had left the steppes to begin this profession, he’d had little reason to pay attention to the politics of succession in Isciana. The land the nomadic tribes lived on belonged to no country. They had no reason to care about the actions or identity of a distant queen. Unless, of course, she tried to bend them to her will.

Besides, the name he remembered might not be the queen who was in power now. Madoc had spent much of the past five years in a neighboring country—a civil war among the nobility there had given many opportunities for work—and just before he’d left Isciana, the crown had passed through three, or perhaps four, different monarchs.

“I insist.” Raine’s quiet voice filled with authority, and she met the haughty gaze of her queen as if her equal.

A brief and silent battle of wills followed. Surprisingly, it was the monarch who relented. She turned and sailed out of the room.

The bodyguard walked with a heavier step than expected from someone so slender, and her chunky boots made a ringing thump against each stone as she paced the cell. Though he was bound, she seemed to be keeping a deliberate distance. Interesting.

Did he make her nervous? Dare he hope he had gotten into her head as much as she seemed to have gotten into his?

“Assassin. This would go much better for you if you cooperate.”

“Madoc. Not ‘assassin.’” The words shocked him. He never gave his true name to anyone, especially someone who wanted him dead. “I’d like you to call me by my name.”

“And I would prefer not to.”

“Please?”

A hint of astonishment swept across her face. “Why?”

He managed something close to a shrug, despite the chains. “I don’t know. Felt right.”

She visibly shook all over, though he couldn’t understand the cause. It was a momentary show of vulnerability. Nothing more. She turned and took one step closer, her expression and her voice rigidly under her control once more. “It seems you’re content with the price paid for your silence. But what will you ask in exchange for the name of your employer?”

“I told your queen. I don’t know names.”

“Then tell me everything else. Everything you know. What price is that worth?”

Nothing, was his first thought. Talking in just the vaguest of terms could earn a man a knife in the back. Even mercenaries had their code of honor, after all. Then again, there was something worth the risk. “I want one night with you.”

The woman froze. “I don’t understand.”

“Alone. Without these chains to get in the way.”

“You want another duel?”

Could she truly be so innocent? He thought his interest in her was damned obvious, if only she looked in the right direction. “I want you.”

“Impossible.”

“Is it?” Perhaps it should have been. With the eye patch and the scars, she was far from what anyone would consider a ravishing beauty. Yet her lips were nice and full, and her lone eye—a deep, rich brown—shone with strength and confidence. He’d always liked a woman who was sure of herself. It made for the best adventures in bed. And if one ignored the marks on her skin, she was quite lovely.

Her dark hair was bound close to her head, braided into a tight, rigid order very practical for her profession. What would it look like when loose and flowing? Preferably over her naked body. No. Their bare bodies, tangled together.

During their fight, he’d felt the nicely feminine curves hidden under her boyish attire. She might try to give off a masculine air, but she was definitely all woman. And if she brought even half the fire to bed that she did in battle? Madoc bit back a groan and shifted against his bonds. His pants were growing uncomfortably tight, his cock straining the fly of his trousers.

Uncertainty shimmered from her good eye, but then she stiffened her spine and glared at him. “Don’t say anything you can’t back up.”

He almost laughed. “You really think I’d bluff about this?”

“We’ll see.” She stepped forward and, in one swift motion, pressed her hand to his cock.

Madoc closed his eyes, and his breath hissed between his teeth at the rough, unexpected contact. He heard her answering gasp, the sound harsh and needy. He forced himself to look at her. Her eye had darkened, and a faint flush colored her cheeks.

Not from embarrassment. She wanted him too.

His throat felt as tight as his groin, and his erection pulsed with the need to take her. “Told you so.”

A tremor ran through her hand and passed into him. She molded her fingers against the shape of his shaft. “You can’t possibly—” Her voice dropped to a breathless whisper. “Why?”

Madoc thrust his hips forward, seeking more contact. To his relief, she didn’t pull away. Or maybe “relief” wasn’t the best word. She stroked him through the cloth like a lover would. Up and down in a slow and deliberate rhythm. Though he couldn’t be certain she was entirely aware of what she was doing. “Remember our fight?” he asked. “You ended up beneath me at one point.” Damn. The memory combined with her touch had his cock like stone and his balls tight and aching. Something about this woman aroused him like no other had before. “I want to feel your body under mine again.”

“So.” Raine cleared her throat. “Since you couldn’t defeat me with your blade, you think you’ll be able to make me submit with this sword?”

She punctuated her question with a small squeeze of her strong fingers, and another rough surge of pleasure jolted through him. Did she know what she was doing to him? It was a sensual torture, having her touch him like this when he couldn’t touch her in return. “I can’t imagine you submitting to anyone,” he said softly. “But if that’s how you like it…”

“For someone chained in my dungeon, you sure are cocky.”

Her dungeon? An odd way of describing it, even if she had some duties here on occasion. He would have thought everything in the palace would be called the queen’s.

It was a question he couldn’t ask. Madoc focused on the other part of her statement. “Cocky?” He thrust against her hand.

“Bad choice of words.” But she didn’t pull away.

He nearly whimpered when she squeezed him again. “I promise to make it worth your while.”

“So you say. Words are cheap.”

“Not for me. Not in this situation.”

She stepped closer. Her breath felt moist and hot against his throat. Despite the mustiness of the cell, he thought he detected a trace of her scent: sweet and distinctly feminine. He remembered that fragrance from their fight. It had been his first indication of her gender, and now it sent a fresh rush of need firing through his veins.

“I can’t do this,” she whispered, her voice breaking. “We shouldn’t.”

Up close, her lips looked even more luscious. Soft and sweet and as perfect as her cheek was scarred. Madoc wanted to take a taste, but the chains didn’t have enough slack for him to close the small distance between them. “You want to.”

“No.” She pulled her hand away and took a step back. There was some solace in noticing she was breathing as hard as he. “No,” she said again, a little more firmly. “I have sworn myself to my queen and my country. I can’t just—”

“Not even if it’s the only way to get the answers your queen wants?”

“This is ridiculous.”

“No. This is my only offer.” Talk about letting his cock rule his head, but it was too late to take any of it back now. Far too late. “Take it or leave it.”

Copyright © Jaymi Hanako

Reviews

Customer Reviews

I enjoyed thus short story. Review by Stephanie
Quality
3 Stars

*I received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads.*

I enjoyed this short story. It"s well written. The author gives you just enough detail-keeping it short and sweet, and you're not left guessing. I feel the ending seemed a little rushed, but all in all I really like Raine and Madoc's story.
**The Wicked Reads Review Team**
(Posted on 3/26/2015)

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