Thank you for signing up! As promised here’s your exclusive preview of Part Two of the Pleasure Hound series.
Jian and Chanyn’s unexpected feelings for one another put everyone they care about in danger. For Jian’s temple to survive, he must watch the woman he loves marry another. To secure her and Khial’s future, and fulfill the request of a dying Dain, Chanyn must become pregnant with an heir.
Can spoken vows trump the truth in their hearts?
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So this is love.
It was nothing like in the books. Chanyn couldn’t focus. Food had no taste. There was a physical ache in her heart. She knew it was too soon to call it love, but he’d touched her deeply, and then walked away.
So this is heartbreak.
It was nothing like in the books. Chanyn couldn’t focus. Food had no taste. There was a physical ache in her heart. She knew it was too soon to call it over. He still might come back.
Chanyn trudged through the paths of the gardens. Dain’s mother returned to the Goddess many years ago, and still her flower garden thrived. Dain believed his mother’s love was so deep it had yet to run out of her garden.
Chanyn did not discount Dain’s belief. Flowers and plants that had no business growing in the southwestern part of the continent thrived in the soil. Thanks to her time in the reference section of her former home, she could identify many of the plants before her. She picked out the rare Desert Lily straight away. The plant’s tall green shaft reached her breastbone. Its blooming, white petals hung low.
Chanyn turned away. She shook her head, trying to clear the carnal images the innocent plant brought to her mind. Farther down the path, Ocotillos stood tall and plentiful. Chanyn stretched a hand towards the red buds. They were hot and throbbing, ready to burst into bloom at any minute.
She pulled her hands back and covered her heated face.
That night, the last night they spent together, she’d thought Jian felt what she did. The way he held and caressed her. The way he looked into her soul. The way he kissed her until she couldn’t tell where she ended and he began. Jian had pressed her body into his as though he would join them together permanently.
But the next morning he’d separated himself so easily, left so fast. He’d said holding her through the night had been a mistake, unprofessional. Had she just been a job to him?
An ornate white bench sat a few paces away, surrounded by a flowering bush. Chanyn settled down on it and surveyed the bush. She ran her fingers down the petals of a flower that looked like a rose, but not quite. The stem had a thick, sturdy hide. The fragrance was musky, not sweet. The deep blue petals, which were shaped like the chambers of a heart, looked soft, but felt rough. As her fingers caressed the petals, the bloom slowly closed itself off, shrinking away from her touch. Chanyn’s index finger caught on one of the sharp thorns.
“Ouch!” Chanyn yanked her hand away from the fickle bouquet. She placed her hands in her lap and sighed.
From a distance, she heard the gravel of a conveyance approaching. Her heart kicked into gear. She bounced up onto her toes and took off towards the edge of the property. The soles of her shoes were flat. She’d given up on heels the second day of her stay.
Chanyn reached the edge of the property before the car stopped. Her body ground to a halt, her stomach clenched, the disappointment a heavy weight. It was only a deliveryman.
Chanyn chastised herself. Monks were humble beings. They didn’t own extravagant things like conveyances. If Jian were coming, he would walk.
The deliveryman left his package and was off. Chanyn watched him go down the street. She knew where the Temple of the Pleasure Hounds stood. She’d walked by the property for the past two days. Dain had had an appointment that kept him away for a full day. As he left, she’d noticed wariness in the corner of his eyes. Before she could ask him what the matter was, Khial herded him out the door. Chanyn assumed the pressure behind Dain’s eyes was disappointment in her behavior with Jian, and driving her tutor away with her silly overtures of love; aborted before she could even lay her feelings on the table.
Tired of her life of leisure after only a week, Chanyn asked to accompany Rianald as he ran his errands. She’d wanted to see the city, she told him. And she had wanted to explore this new land she now lived in. It was not what Chanyn expected.
The part of the city where they lived was clean and safe. The building faces all freshly painted. Round domes sheathed the tops of all buildings, the tips pointing toward the Goddess. The grass below grew green and level. Women strolled the streets in finery. Some were on the arms of men but mostly the men trailed behind. Unattached men looked Chanyn over with interest, glancing first at her ringless hand, then her breasts. The women gave Chanyn curt, suspicious glances. Many spoke rudely behind their hands. Chanyn heard the words “wild” whispered more than once. Not one female came up and asked Chanyn where she got her dress, or paid her a compliment on her shoes, like they did in the books. When one female’s flowered cap caught Chanyn’s eye, Chanyn approached. Only to have the girl grow wide-eyed and retreat behind her males. Chanyn didn’t approach another soul.
With Dain away, and Khial forever attached to his hip, and Jian missing in action, for the past two days Chanyn had been alone. It was worse than five months alone in the ruins without her mother. People surrounded her, but the distance of the crowd crushed her spirit.
Chanyn wrapped her arms around herself at the memory. Then her ears perked up. A sweet sound lured her back to the house. She knew it was Khial playing his instrument. He and Dain were back. Chanyn made her way through the home, up to the second floor. The music lured her past her bedroom.
She’d never been this far into the recesses of the house.
Rianald came out of a door. When he saw her he smiled, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. He looked down at the door, hesitated for a brief second, and then left it ajar. He passed Chanyn with a slight bow and continued on down the steps.
Chanyn looked at the door, hesitating. This was obviously both Dain and Khial’s bedroom, a bedroom she no longer yearned to share.
Dain and Khial were in love. And so was she.
Dain told her she had a choice in whom she would mate. He’d promised she would not be forced. Chanyn knew Dain wanted to protect her, but she also knew he didn’t love her. Dain loved Khial and he was being kind to her, like a friend. That was all there was between them. Friendship. And Chanyn was glad for that friendship, but she knew a marriage couldn’t be founded upon it. Especially when there were more than two people in the relationship.
She decided to go in and tell Dain that. When she pushed the door open a bit further, she froze.
Deep brown furniture with black accents lay on the outskirts of the inherently masculine bedroom. A large sleigh bed dominated the area. Dain lay in bed, his eyes closed. Chanyn opened the door farther, and went in. Even from far away she could see that he was ill. His cheeks looked gaunt, sweat dampened his forehead.
As though sensing her, Dain opened his eyes and looked straight at her.
Chanyn saw the same joy he always displayed at seeing her. Dain was a truly loving person, and though she didn’t love him in an intimate way, she did love him.
Chanyn read stories of small fish swimming under the bellies of great whales for protection. When Chanyn looked at Dain she felt her heart grow to the size of a whale. Her heart hurt to think that anything could be wrong with her friend.
Khial stopped playing and turned to see what caught Dain’s attention.
“Good morning, my lady.” Dain pushed himself up to sitting.
Chanyn came to the opposite side of the bed from Khial and sat upon the mattress. Taking Dain’s hand in her own, she said, “You don’t look well.”
Dain’s handsome face folded into a mock frown. “I just woke up. Let’s see you first thing in the morning with bed head.”
Chanyn felt Khial tense. She looked up and for once, Khial didn’t scowl at her. But that was only because he looked too weary to manage the expression.
“What’s wrong, Dain?” Chanyn asked.
Dain straightened himself with Khial’s help. His face paled with the effort. His golden hair lacked its usual luster.
Chanyn hated it. She wanted to push him back down. She wanted to fold him in the covers to keep him warm. To swim above him, keeping him under the protection of her belly.
“I’m ill, Chanyn.”
“I can see that,” she said. “Can’t we go to a physic?”
“We’ve been,” Dain said. “Just yesterday. There’s nothing that can be done. I’m going to die, Chanyn.”
Chanyn’s heart missed a beat. Her mouth lost its sense of taste, her body ached. Falling in love, having your heart broken, and hearing that you would soon lose a friend all felt exactly the same.
“It’s my heart,” Dain continued. “I was born with weak muscles. They didn’t expect me to live past a year. But my parents told the doctors if my heart ailed me then I only need to be showered with love. And that’s what they did. They took me home and celebrated each day of my life. I’ve lived far longer than I was meant to. I’ve had a wonderful, full life. I’ve known love.”
Dain looked over at Khial. The other man grit his teeth and gripped his instrument, but it was the look of vulnerability on Khial’s scowling face that broke Chanyn’s heart once more.
Dain turned back to her. “I’ve been given far more than I could have ever asked for. And then, when I thought things could not have gotten any better for me, I met you.”
Chanyn gasped. “Me?”
Dain grinned. “I thought you were an angel when you saved us from that boar. I was right.” Dain squeezed her hand. “There’s not much I can make right in this world, being a man. But I can leave the people I care about in the comfort that was given to me.”
“I don’t understand what you mean, Dain.”
“Khial’s family wealth was claimed by the Sisterhood for his mother’s crimes. My wealth cannot pass to Khial being that he’s a man. When we are bonded, all of my wealth will pass to you, and both you and Khial will be cared for.”
Chanyn looked to Khial for clarification, but he would not meet her eyes. She’d come into this room to break the engagement with Dain. The worst she expected when she crossed the threshold was losing a friend, losing a home. She’d never fathomed that her friend’s life would be put in her hands. But as she was about to learn, it didn’t end there.
“My uncle will contest the transfer of wealth when I’m gone. To ensure that he cannot, I’ll need to leave an heir. A male heir would make things difficult, but not impossible for my uncle to win a case in a court of law. A female heir will leave no room for argument.”
Chanyn trembled. Not in the way when Jian touched her. Not in the way when her mother raised her voice.
Dain reached for her other hand. “I’m sorry that I won’t be here to walk the gardens with you, or teach you those board games.” He tried for a smile but failed. “I know I should have told you from the beginning. It was wrong of me to mislead you. But I couldn’t stand the thought of you alone in those ruins. And I didn’t want you in a union with males who didn’t care about you. I hope this doesn’t change your mind?”
How could she do this? Have a child with another man? A dying man. Her dying friend whom she loved, but in a non-intimate way. Her friend who’d withheld information, but only because he thought he could give her the life he felt she deserved. Neither her heart nor her mind knew which way to turn.
“The monk, Brother Jian, has agreed to help.”
Chanyn’s mind went blank and her weary heart hit the floor.
“He has a few conditions, though,” Dain continued.
So, Jian had agreed to this scheme with a head level enough to make stipulations. Chanyn’s mind fogged. Ice ran through the chambers of her heart.
“He insists that we formalize the bond before we begin any conception rituals.”
Meaning Jian wanted Chanyn to understand that he was beyond her reach before he touched her again. So, she had her answer on whether or not he felt anything for her.