Seeking Fire (Dragon Academy #1) Is Out Now!

We’re back in the world of Dragon Legacy trilogy, full of dragons, chosen mates, and all kinds of bonding! However, this new series is more stand-alone and explores how different forging your own way may look like in the world changed by the recent social revolution.

This new series can be read separately from the original trilogy (if you must ;)), but it obviously contains major spoilers for the previous books.

Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


Zaryen defies his family—and tradition—to attend the Academy, the school where humans bond with dragons and create partnerships for life. When he meets his companion, he gets more than he could ever dream of, but that’s only the start of their journey.

Meveris doesn’t understand human prejudices and he understands family rejection even less, but he will do whatever it takes to support his companion and treat him the way he deserves.

They will face backlash from Zaryen’s family, other students, and more, but they will also find love, safety, and courage in each other and those willing to stand by them through it all.

You can find it on Amazon HERE

Watch Over Me (KRK Security #2) is out today!

Here comes the second book in the KRK Security series, featuring hot bodyguards and the geeks who work with them, friends-to-lovers romance, a bit of action (of different kinds), and opening yourself up to a chance of something amazing.


James was comfortable putting his life on the line for his job, because that was what he knew and what he was good at. He was less good at standing by and letting stupid men get away with things, even if they were his clients. He was dealing with it, though—mostly by decompressing at the office, side by side with the man whose voice was a comfort to him on any given day.

Being a comm specialist wasn’t the kind of job Eddie’s family would have ever picked for him, but he enjoyed what he was doing and he cared about people he worked with. If he cared about one of them in particular… Well. Eddie had resigned himself to his unattainable crush by now.

But then they were both thrown out of their comfort zone when two assignments clashed together in a way no one would have predicted, and suddenly an admission of feelings was far from the most dangerous thing they were facing.

You can purchase it on Amazon or read it in Kindle Unlimited HERE

Stand By Me (KRK Security #1) is out now!

Stand By Me is the first book in my brand new series, KRK Security, which will focus on the men working at a private security company located in Washington, DC. For the readers of DC Files series, there are going to be some familiar faces, but if you haven’t read it, that’s okay! This series is a spin-off that doesn’t require any knowledge going in.

Either way, if you like hot men in suits (and out of them), characters falling in love while figuring themselves out along the way, and a hint or two of family dramas, you may like this series as well!

And it starts with…

Clay Jackson was still getting used to living in DC after over a decade of being away, but at least he had a job, now. KRK Security seemed like a dream come true and meeting a cute guy on the first day of his new assignment could be an icing on the cake.

But said cute guy was his brother’s best friend. And his brother? Yeah, he hated Clay’s guts.

Mario de Silva had a terrible taste in men, but it wasn’t always the case. His first crush, years ago, had been quite perfect. Now, Clay literally walked back into his life as if they were in a movie, and Mario was determined not to waste this chance.

No matter what.

You can purchase it on Amazon or read it in Kindle Unlimited HERE

The Final Book in Just Married Trilogy is Out!

Married Since Forever is here! The final book in the trilogy picks up where the epilogue of Married For Now left off.

It’s a second chance romance as its core, with former best friends turned husbands turned who-knew-what. It’s not easy to build back a friendship, but is there a chance to build something different now, too?

Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


As a bridge between past and present, it wasn’t the most subtle approach, but Shawn Kelly tried not to care anymore. He’d been hurt by Kyle cutting contact years ago, and he’d learned not to trust his former best friend turned husband turned… whatever they’d been, that one night.

And yet, if anyone ever made Shawn do impulsive, foolish things, it was him.

Kyle Kelly came back home after years spent abroad, half-expecting to find things as he’d left them. He knew, of course, that Shawn would be hurt, but he also hoped that they would resolve any issues between them.

But being in love… That was the one thing their friendship might not survive.

You can purchase it on Amazon or read it in Kindle Unlimited HERE

Married For Now (Just Married #2) is out today!

Marriage of convenience? Hell yes, we’re doing this again!

Following right after the epilogue of Married Before Christmas, this story is about Tommy and Brandon, two doctors who barely knew each other before, and yet, they go all in now to help Tommy out.

Getting married sure doesn’t solve all problems, but can actually solve this one!

Get it on Amazon/KU


Tommy Medina thought he’d left his past behind and managed to start over. He was a few months into his fellowship, he had his hands full in more ways than one, and he had a harmless crush on a hot surgeon. His life was good.

But then the news came about his invalid visa. Now, he was about to lose everything he’d worked so hard for.

He definitely didn’t expect his crush to come to his rescue, that was for sure.

Brandon Sherwood couldn’t truly tell why he was so determined to help Tommy out. Sure, he’d made a promise to himself once, but was he really going to risk it all now for a barely more than a stranger?

Apparently so.

At the first glance, they were total opposites, but as their married life progressed, it turned out they fit better than either of them could ever expect. If only everything else was so easy…

You can get it on Amazon HERE

Oh, and you won’t have to wait long for the third book in the trilogy, either! It’s already on a pre-order and will be out in July.

Last Minute Santa – Rainbow Advent Calendar Story

Here’s a little Christmas story, my contribution to the amazing Rainbow Advent Calendar, where a bunch of authors teamed up to bring readers some holiday cheer!

Last Minute Santa features Daniel and Noa from Married before Christmas, but it should stand on its own. All you need to know is that Daniel and Noa are best friends since college who had to marry for *waves hands* reasons and then they fell in love. Oh, and Daniel and his uncle work in a pediatric hospital.

And if you did read it, this happens a couple days after the epilogue.

I hope you enjoy!


Daniel woke up entirely too early on a Monday morning, especially since it was also Christmas Eve. Then again, he was warm, pressed against Noa’s body, and he still had half an hour until his alarm, so maybe it wasn’t so bad that he got to enjoy himself a little bit before getting up.

After all, sleeping in the same bed with Noa like this was still new. Still exciting.

If someone would tell Daniel a few months ago that he would end up here, married to his best friend and ridiculously in love, he wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, here they were.

He hid his grin in his pillow when Noa nuzzled against his nape.

“Good morning,” Daniel murmured, pressing back into the embrace and tilting his head so that Noa could have an easier access to his neck.

“Good morning,” Noa whispered between soft, barely-there kisses he left on Daniel’s sensitive skin. “Someone’s up early.”

Daniel, half-asleep but still unable to resist a bad pun, pushed his hips against the hardness he could feel against his ass. “Looks like you’re up, too.”

Noa snorted, but lowered his hand from where it rested over Daniel’s stomach to his groin, cupping Daniel’s morning erection through his boxers and squeezing lightly.

“How long do we—”

Daniel’s phone cut him off, and the familiar melody of his uncle’s ringtone threw Daniel out of the moment instantly.

Nothing good came from an early morning call, and with the drama they’d been dealing with lately, it could be about any of the doom scenarios he’d envisioned a while ago.

He pulled away from Noa and reached for his phone.

“Hey, what is it? What’s wrong?” he asked as a way of greeting, turning onto his back and preparing for the worst as he stared at the ceiling.

“Hey, it’s not that bad,” his uncle, bless him, returned right away. “No family drama, no lawsuits, nothing like that.”

Daniel sagged against the mattress. “Good. Okay.” He glanced towards Noa who was looking right at him, hands tucked under the pillow as he lay on his stomach. “But it has to be something, if you’re calling so early.”

“Yeah, well, we’re not lucky enough to skip all the minor emergencies as well.” His uncle sighed. “Larry’s sick, which means we don’t have Santa for the afternoon rounds. I don’t want to call anyone in on Christmas Eve, so I thought maybe Noa would be willing to agree to one more favor for you? Since the last one turned out so well.”

“Ha, ha,” Daniel grumbled, but then raised his eyebrows at Noa, who raised his in an answer. “I’ll check and call you back.”

When his uncle gave his okay and disconnected, Daniel rolled onto his side and lifted himself onto his elbow, looking down at Noa.

“So, here’s the thing…” he started, then bit the corner of his mouth, trying to stop himself from smiling. There was no way Noa would say no to this, and Daniel was already looking forward to seeing him in a costume. “We’re out of Santa and we need him today for the afternoon round we do each year, where Santa visits all the kids stuck in the hospital over the holidays. And you’ve been nominated as a replacement.”

“What have I ever done to your uncle to make me do this?” Noa complained, but he rolled onto his side as well and mirrored Daniel’s position. “Long beard is definitely not my look.”

Daniel chuckled. “First of all, you always look good and you know it. And second, the kids won’t care.”

“Shouldn’t it be someone older? Like Richard?”

“Yeah, well, my uncle and I usually go with Santa, so it can’t be one of us.”

“Clever,” Noa offered dryly, then shrugged. “Sure, okay, I’ll do it.”

Daniel grinned and leaned in to kiss him.

“Thank you,” he murmured against Noa’s lips. “I owe you, again.”

Noa put his arm around Daniel’s waist and rolled them until Daniel was on his back, with Noa towering over him.

“And can I collect now?” Noa slipped his thigh between Daniel’s legs. “A little present for Santa?”

“Sure.” Daniel pulled him closer. “Whatever you want.”

It was Christmas Eve, after all. He could be a little bit late today.


Noa appeared in the doorway to Daniel’s office twenty minutes past two.

“I’m sorry, the traffic was awful.” He walked in hurriedly and took his coat off as he went. Then he paused at the desk. “What is it? You have a face.”

Daniel shook his head, getting back to the here and now as he chuckled. “Everyone has a face, you know.”

“This was your worrying face. Am I too late?”

“No, you’re fine, we still have time.” Daniel got up and rounded his desk to circle his arms around Noa, who mostly smelled like cold winter air but there were hints of his cologne in there as well. “It’s good news, actually. I think.”

“Oh?” Noa put his hands over Daniel’s chest. “What is it?”

“Remember how I told you on Friday that one of our doctors is in trouble because of his expired visa? Turns out he’s getting married, to no other but one of our doctors. We didn’t even know they were dating!”

“And they’re getting married for the green card?”

“Looks like it, yeah. I can’t fault anybody for a quick wedding, though, can I?”

Noa kissed him softly. “Well, we were quick if you count since the proposal, but terribly slow if you count from our freshman year.”

“Let’s agree we were right on time, how about that? And I’m happy for Tommy, especially after our lawyers weren’t much help, but it has taken me by surprise. We’ve been invited, by the way. It’s the day after tomorrow, at Fort Greene Park. A small gathering, just for the ceremony, so I thought we could go, since we don’t have any plans.”

“Sure,” Noa agreed easily. “Now that I’m a married man—”

“Oh, you’re here!” Daniel’s uncle announced from the doorway, interrupting them for a second time today. “Good, good, we should get going.”

“Hello, Richard,” Noa said, sending Daniel a wink as he took a step back. “You’re in a hurry today, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, well, you know how it is, trying to do as much as possible before the holidays.” Daniel’s uncle waved at them to follow him out, so Daniel pocketed his phone and they all left his office. “At least this part is always the best. The kids love it.”

Noa nodded along as he listened to the explanation of how the Santa’s visit usually went, and he had that air of getting-things-done attitude now, focused on the task at hand and ready to excel at it.

Daniel couldn’t look away, itching to tackle Noa in a hug, because he was suddenly ready to burst with all the emotions. Romantic love was so new between them that it was sometimes overwhelming with its intensity. They’d known each other since they were still boys, really, and yet, there were so many things that they were only now discovering.

And Daniel was looking forward to it all. He couldn’t imagine anything better, actually.

But now, they had a bunch of sick kids to entertain.

Which turned out to be better than any other year they had done it, although he would readily admit he wasn’t unbiased about that at all.

Because seeing Noa with the little ones… Damn.

Daniel had long decided that he didn’t want to have kids of his own, but working in a pediatric hospital meant his heart strings were pulled hard from time to time. As a part of the hospital’s administration, he didn’t have a lot of contact with their little patients, but every once in a while, he would witness something or hear something that would make a lasting impression—for good or bad.

This, right now, was one of those good times.

Noa’s face was hardly visible under the impressive beard and mustache, but his eyes, crinkling in the corners as he smiled at something the boy in puppy pajamas was telling him, were shining brightly.

“Tell you what,” Noa told him in a low voice. “You take care of yourself and do what your parents and doctors tell you to do and who knows, maybe you’ll tell me all about that trip next year.”

The boy frowned. “I don’t want to be here next year!”

“Of course not! But who says Santa only visits hospitals, huh? I visit homes as well.”

“How come I’ve never seen you before?”

Noa put his hands on his hips. “Well, I’m quite busy on Christmas, aren’t I? When I’m dropping by people’s homes, I have to be quick to manage them all. That’s why I’m here early, visiting all of you now, so that I can make sure I’ll still be on time everywhere else. Because being punctual is important, you know?”

Daniel hid his smile behind his hand. Trust Noa to offer a life lesson even in the most bizarre circumstances.

“Okay, that appears to be it,” Noa turned to address all the kids, who were staring at him with wide eyes from their beds. He flipped over the bag to show everyone it was empty. “Yep, no more presents. I have to go, then. Other kids are waiting for me. Bye, everyone!”

The shouts of “Bye, Santa!” followed them out, but Noa paused at the doorway and addressed Daniel and his uncle loud enough for the children to hear.

“Please point me to the elevator that would take me to my reindeers. They are probably getting impatient up on the roof.”

Daniel, swallowing down the laugh, took a step forward. “Of course, of course. Right this way, Santa.”

It wasn’t until the two of them were alone in the elevator that Noa sagged against the wall and pulled his hat off.

“Wow. That was…”

“Amazing,” Daniel told him when it appeared Noa wasn’t going to finish the sentence. “You were absolutely amazing. The kids loved it.”

“Well, sign me up for the next year, too.” Noa took Daniel’s hand in his and tangled their fingers together. “You’re taking me on new adventures all the time, aren’t you?”

Daniel grinned, leaning in to kiss Noa, the beard and mustache be damned.

“There’s no one else I’d want with me,” he whispered as he pulled back. “Now or ever.”

Noa smiled at that and lifted their hands to kiss Daniel’s knuckles.

“Now or ever, indeed.”


If you want to check out Married before Christmas, you can find it HERE.

And for other stories from the Rainbow Advent Calendar, check out the masterlist HERE or the Facebook group HERE. Happy reading!

Married Before Christmas (Just Married #1) is out now!

I’m closing up the new releases this year with a contemporary* story that has marriage of convenience, pretending to be together, friends-to-lovers, and a bit of a Christmas romance.

Married Before Christmas is the first book in the trilogy, but they are all going to be stand-alones with different couples getting their HEA in each book.

Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


Daniel Collins could always count on his biological father to make his life miserable, but the man’s pursuit of ruining Ruth’s Children Hospital was the worst part of it all. Now, with his father dying, there was a chance for Daniel to take over the family trust that controlled the hospital. The main condition of the trust? He needed to be married.

The problem was, he didn’t even have a boyfriend, let alone a husband.

He did, however, have a best friend who saved him more than once over the years.

Noa Alana had a comfortable job in the company he helped create, but he had been feeling restless lately. Daniel coming to him with the most bizarre idea Noa had heard in a while wasn’t exactly the change he was waiting for, but he would never say no to helping his best friend.

A fake marriage could bring out something new between them, but the question was—were they ready to risk their friendship for the unknown?

It’s available on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited HERE

* The book is set in the same world as DC Files series, but it can also be read separately. I’m just unable not to connect my contemporary series together. 😉

Beyond the Sandglass, the final book in the Dragon Legacy trilogy, is OUT now!

Here we are. We’ve reached the last part of the trilogy.

It’s a special moment for me, because it’s been years since I had first come up with the idea of these stories—the individual ones and the overarching plot that spans all three books. I knew from the very start that I wanted to release them all close together, because I didn’t want to leave you hanging for too long between them. And now it’s done! The last book is out and the complete story is out there for everyone to read.

I did my best. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


If you want to read the full summary, you can find it HERE, but be aware that it contains huge spoilers and shouldn’t be read before reading the first two books.

Through the Sandstorm (Dragon Legacy 2) is OUT!

Amazon/Kindle Unlimited

Daryan’s dream had always been to have a romantic bond with his companion. He’d seen it as the best possible option. But when he arrived at the Academy a week before the searching ceremony, he met a dragon who made him feel things he shouldn’t, not now. Not when Daryan was still hoping his companion would be the one for him in every way.

Aderys was happy and settled in his own platonic bond, so when he met Daryan, he had none of his doubts. He was ready, but Daryan wasn’t, so Aderys focused on something else—the spark of a revolution that was going to change Teranea forever, one way or another.

When the pull became too strong—both towards each other and towards the whirlwind of change—Daryan and Aderys would need to decide what they were going to fight for and what they were willing to let go.

Get it from Amazon/Kindle Unlimited

Inside the Sandcastle (Dragon Legacy 1) – Read the First Chapter Here

Inside the Sandcastle, the first book in Dragon Legacy trilogy, will be out next week! In honor of that, I’m sharing the first chapter below.


Naveen looked around his room. It seemed empty to him now, even with all the familiar furniture and the numerous pillows on his bed and on the armchair by the window. But there was almost no trace of his things. What had made this room truly his was now packed in three suitcases and countless boxes, ready to be moved out.

Since he was allowed to take no more than three suitcases to the Academy, he didn’t know why his father insisted that Naveen cleared out his room completely before leaving the royal palace. His older brother had been forced to do the same when he’d left for the Academy, and now, whenever Caleen would visit, he couldn’t even use his old things because they were packed away somewhere and he never stayed for long enough to justify pulling it all out of storage.

Like right now.

Caleen was coming to escort him to the Academy, as tradition dictated, but he only planned to stay at the palace for one night. Naveen had no idea why his brother was always in such a hurry to get back to school. It seemed like he only came to visit when it was required for him to be here.

Naveen wondered if it would be the same for him. Would he also prefer the Academy over his own home?

He had been dreaming about going to the Academy for years now, ever since he’d heard about a place where nobles from Teranea met and bonded dragons from Paryada as companions. The pairs learned to fight together, to share thoughts and emotions, to become more than just a sum of their individual parts. They also belonged to each other for life, which interested Naveen the most, even if he knew better than to say it out loud, in fear that it might be misinterpreted.

Or interpreted just right, which he feared even more as he grew older.

Would he find what he was hoping for in the Academy, though? Would he find his place there, just like his big brother had?

He walked up to the window and stared at the neatly raked palace grounds he was so used to seeing, the rows of sand in the royal colors of red and black interrupted by small trees at even intervals. There was something soothing in that sight as he traced clear-cut lines with his gaze—something he would sorely miss when he left.

At least this would be here whenever Naveen got back. His things might have all been packed, but nobody could put this view away. The next time he was here, he’d be able to count the rows and the trees or know right away which of the ground keepers tended to them last.

Four knocks on the door pulled him back to the present.

“Come in,” he said and turned just in time to see Caleen enter.

Naveen rushed towards him and sank into his brother’s embrace, closing his eyes.

His shoulders relaxed. Life had always been easier with his brother by his side.

They’d been close as kids, but the distance and nearly four years spent apart had distorted that. Once they were in each other’s company, they fell back into the familiar closeness, but in between Caleen’s visits, there was little contact between them as neither was partial to writing letters.

At least at the Academy they were going to be together again for a while.

Now, Naveen hugged his brother hard until Caleen pulled back with a chuckle, ruffling Naveen’s hair.

“I thought I told you to stop growing.”

“Not my fault you’re just short,” Naveen tossed back. It wasn’t quite true—Caleen was an average height among the Teraneans. Naveen was not. “They didn’t announce you. When did you arrive?”

“Just now. Mother sent an entrance notice to the gate guards, so I was free to skip the formalities there.”

“And where’s Taveris?”

Caleen’s dragon companion was hard to miss, towering over everyone at court, even other dragons. He was also adamant not to leave Caleen’s sight if possible, so Naveen was surprised he wasn’t at his side.

“Just outside the door. We are learning the art of not being overbearing,” Caleen said, rolling his eyes, before speaking louder. “And that includes not using our hearing abilities to eavesdrop on a brotherly conversation.”

Naveen laughed and glanced at the door, but nothing happened.

“I see you’re making progress,” he teased, pulling his brother to sit with him on the bed. “Come on, talk to me. How are the trials going?”

The last portion of the Academy training included several trials for both companions to determine whether their bond and their individual skills were ready for the maturing of their relationship and graduating or not.

“They’re going well. Joking aside, we are still in need of training in certain areas, but we’re hoping we’ll be done after the wind season passes.”

Only a few moons more, then. It looked like Naveen wasn’t going to get much more time with Caleen, after all.

“And do you know what you’re going to do next?” he asked, trying to ignore his disappointment.

Caleen had been looking around the room, but at that, he turned back to Naveen.

“I have some ideas. It depends on a lot of things, though, so it’s too early to talk about it.” He paused, tilting his head. “For now, at least.”

“Father is going to expect—”

“I know what the King expects,” Caleen cut in. “But let’s focus on you now. How are you doing, are you done packing yet?” he asked, pointing his chin towards the wall Naveen’s things were lined up against.

“I am. Although I have to tell you, that limit to three suitcases is lizard’s ass. There’s nothing but bare necessities in there.”

Caleen nudged him with his shoulder. “First of all, language. Second, three suitcases are more than enough, you will see. Half the things you think you need, you won’t. And half of the rest won’t fit into your room anyway. Trust me, it’s better to pack smart now than having to repack or throw away stuff in the Academy’s front hall.”

“So what you’re saying is that I shouldn’t follow your example on this?” Naveen asked, trying not to smile.

Caleen gave him an innocent look on his face Naveen had stopped believing in when he was around eight. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you don’t.”

“Honestly, though. How are you doing?” Caleen bumped his shoulder against Naveen’s again. “I remember how it is, you know.”

“And how was it for you?” Naveen’s head was a mess, but he didn’t want to admit it to his brother. Caleen had seemed nothing but excited to go to the Academy when it had been his turn and he always looked happy to return there. Naveen didn’t want to appear a coward.

And it wasn’t like he didn’t want to go to the Academy. He did. He was just… He had reservations.

“Well, I was excited, of course, but I was also terrified,” Caleen said, as if it was nothing.

Naveen’s surprise had to show on his face, because his brother shrugged.

“You are leaving your whole life behind to go to a place you have been hearing about for years and possibly dreaming about for years, too. You have heard about the hard training, you have heard about the sacred companion bond to make us the best we could possibly be,” he said, voice serious and measured. “And you are afraid you will not measure up, or that you will be the first human in history they won’t find a companion for, or… Or that you will miss home too much.” He tilted his head to the side. “Sounds familiar?”

Yes, Naveen wanted to tell him. Yes. All of it, and more.

But he just shrugged instead.

Caleen put a hand on the top of his head. “You will do well,” he said, and with his touch and the certainty in his voice, Naveen felt his body relax. “You will be challenged like never before, but what you gain—” Caleen shook his head. “There’s nothing like it.”

Naveen watched his brother glance towards the door. It wasn’t hard to guess what he was thinking about—or rather who.

Caleen had never doubted he made the right choice and assured Naveen he would know as well, but it was hard not to wonder. Not to worry.

“It will work out,” Caleen said as if he was reading his mind. “And I will be right there with you, so don’t worry about a thing. No matter what,” he added, “I’m never not on your side.”

Naveen tensed. What did that mean? Was Caleen worried that Naveen would embarrass him over there? Or maybe… Maybe he knew? Maybe Caleen had somehow figured out that as much as Naveen was afraid of not finding a companion, he was also afraid of—

Before Naveen could spiral further down that road, there was a knock on the door. Both he and Caleen stood up.

“Come in,” Naveen spoke up after clearing his throat. His heart was still going too fast, but he ignored it.

Moir, the head messenger of the palace, appeared in the doorway, with Taveris visible behind him. Caleen’s companion positioned himself by the wall on the opposite side of the corridor, blue robes making him stand out the same way his height and pale hair and skin did among most of the residence of the palace.

“The King and the Queen are in the meeting room now,” Moir announced. “Prince Heir, Prince Naveen, you are both requested there.”

For a moment, there was something odd on Caleen’s face, but it went away too quickly for Naveen to read.

He knew Caleen didn’t have the easiest relationship with their father—to put it mildly. While Naveen had never been one for confrontations, his big brother had had a few fights with their father over the recent years, none of which Naveen had been privy to. He’d tried to ask, afterward, but Caleen had always waved it off as nothing to worry about.

Maybe at the Academy, far away from home, they would be able to talk about things they couldn’t here.

Wind only knew Naveen had things to say.

“Thank you, Moir,” Caleen said to the messenger before turning to Naveen. “Let’s go.”

As they left the room and Taveris fell into step on Caleen’s other side, Moir paused.

“Since the meeting is a small family gathering, the companion’s presence is not required. You could—”

“Taveris’s presence is required by me,” Caleen cut in and he used his future-king-voice, one that expected full compliance. He had never used it on Naveen, but Naveen had witnessed it a few times in the past. No one had dared to defy the heir to the throne.

Moir nodded once. “Of course, Prince Heir.”

As they continued towards the meeting room on the ground floor of the palace, Naveen noticed Taveris brushing his hand over Caleen’s shoulder blades.

Over the bonding mark, most likely.

Longing swept over Naveen at the sight, leaving a hollow shell behind. He wanted something like this, he wanted it so much, but… Could it truly be everything he wished for it to be?

He’d heard whispers about the bonds that weren’t platonic but romantic. Sexual.

Would he be lucky enough to get one just like that?

Yet another question Naveen had no time to dwell on now, so he focused back on the present. They were almost there, and Caleen and Taveris were no longer touching. The silence seemed loud in the wide corridor, with the distant noises of the palace barely audible.

After they were announced to the royal couple, they walked in to the meeting room. Naveen was no longer surprised their parents didn’t choose the smaller, private one, since they hadn’t used that one for Caleen’s visits in quite a while.

For what felt like the millionth time in his life, Naveen was glad not to be the first in line to the throne.

Taveris stayed back, picking his place near the guards as soon as they entered. The king and the queen were sitting in their official seats, but as soon as the door was closed, the queen rushed towards them, not caring for protocol, and Caleen opened his arms for her. Naveen smiled as he watched them embrace. Heir or not, every son deserved his mother’s hug.

Naveen glanced at his father, and he was struck, once again, by the difference between his parents. The king remained on his throne, face unreadable as he watched the family reunion, seemingly not interested at all.

“It’s so good to see you,” Naveen heard his mother say. When he looked at her, she had her hands on the sides of Caleen’s face and smiled up at him as Caleen offered her a soft smile of his own.

“It’s good to see you, too, Mother.”

When they pulled back from each other a moment later, Caleen turned to their father, and as he did so, his whole demeanor changed. His face was blank now, his back ramrod straight, and his voice lacked the same warmth he’d just offered their mother.

“My King,” he said with a nod. “Father.”

“I welcome you, Prince Heir, as you are here to take part in the Passage.”

“I am honored to travel the path with the next man in our royal line,” Caleen recited his part of the traditional exchange. “I vow to ensure his safe passage from the door of the palace to the gates of the Academy, through the sand and the wind, and whatever our destiny will put in our way.”

The king turned to Naveen.

“Once you leave here a boy at tomorrow’s dawn, you will return a man with the mark of a warrior and a spirit to match it. You will return stronger than you think, and doubly strong by the companion at your side. I await meeting the man you will become.”

The last sentence made Naveen’s breath catch, even if he knew it was a part of the ritual—the words written hundreds of years ago and repeated over and over throughout the years and throughout the kingdom. But in that moment, they were words spoken to him by his father, his king, and Naveen wished with all his might that the man he was going to become would be a man his father would be truly glad to meet.

“I look forward to the passage and the journey I undertake,” Naveen said, hoping his voice came out stronger than he felt. “I vow to become the best warrior I can be and the best man I can strive to be. That is my oath to you.”

That was the end of the traditional exchange, but then his mother, who stood to the side as they recited their parts, came up to him and put her hands on his cheeks just like she had done it with Caleen earlier.

Her touch was comforting and welcomed, as always. He was going to miss it.

“Remember that I will always be there for you when you need me. Distance will not change that, as the winds will always lead me to you.”

Naveen nodded and closed his eyes, overwhelmed, and when she pulled him into her arms, he happily accepted.

With the turmoil of emotions raging through him, he was eager to go back to his room, though, to have some time alone before the farewell dinner.

To his relief, once his mother returned to her throne, the king announced they were excused.

He was about to turn towards the door, when Caleen spoke up by his side.

“If I may ask for a few minutes of your time, my King, my Queen. There is something I wish to discuss with you before we part. Alone,” he added, briefly touching Naveen’s elbow without turning his gaze away from the king.

It sounded innocent enough, but Naveen still tensed under his brother’s touch. It was the first time in his life that Caleen purposefully excluded him from something, and it rattled him. He might’ve imagined their parents tensing as well, but he didn’t miss the way their mother’s smile vanished from her face.

“Your wish is granted, Prince Heir,” the king said, and nodded towards Naveen. “Join your brother’s companion outside, Son.”

Naveen wondered for a moment if Caleen would dare to protest, but his brother stayed silent. Although, since he’d specified his wish to talk alone, maybe he didn’t mind it, after all. Naveen caught the look Caleen sent Taveris, but there was nothing but quiet determination in his gaze.

Surprisingly, it was Taveris who seemed perturbed once the two of them left the room. He stood there, staring at the closed door with a frown on his face. That, if nothing else, made Caleen forget his own issue with being left out.

“Is everything all right?” he asked in a whisper, after glancing around to make sure no one would overhear them.

Taveris looked at him briefly before turning to stare at the door.

“It depends on how this conversation goes,” he said. “But regardless, your brother will explain everything to you soon. He just needed to do this first.”

Naveen looked at the closed door as well. He wished he could ask Taveris to use his senses and eavesdrop, but the walls around this particular room were too thick. No one could hear anything that happened inside.

All they could do was wait.

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