As you get older, birthdays sometimes tend to be markers for what you haven’t yet achieved. I think that’s not so bad as long as you try not to wallow. But I think it’s equally important to dwell on what you have. I mean, everything you have in your life right now, your favorite couch, your cat, your purple cushion—those are things that you’d miss if they were suddenly gone. So on this occasion, I was inspired by the practice of gratitude to come up with a little birthday story. This is M/M/F, based on my bestselling ménage book Princess from Totally Bound.
The sign sagged over the front door, the pastel letters peeled as if someone had taken paint stripper to them with an attitude. And the sign wasn’t the only thing sagging. The door hung half on its hinges, and inside the formally immaculate bakery the marble tables for making pastry were overturned. Graffiti ran like blood on the formally sparkling windows.
Princess Seri wrapped her arms around herself, her throat aching as she took in the damage. Not storm damage, but damage deliberately done. Maliciously done.
High heels clattered hollowly as she walked inside her newest franchise, the one not even open yet. She was looking at a dream, a dream she’d had two years ago carrying her twins. A dream she’d lost just as she had her babies. One moment the pregnancy had been going fine, the next she was bleeding on the floor of her first bakery, caught in premature labour.
She’d lived through it, but she hadn’t let herself truly grieve. Instead she’d shut out the pain, shut out her two persistent lovers and dedicated herself to building more franchises.
Because they were safe. Because she knew she could do it.
Because they couldn’t be taken from her.
Ismet’s warm hand squeezed her shoulder. Of course he’d followed her here from the hotel. She’d thought she’d snuck out, but he’d always had a sixth sense for what she was truly feeling—probably came from being one of her world’s top courtesans until he’d been gifted to her.
She turned, burying her face against his muscular shoulder, and he held her. He was strong and golden with beautifully shaped eyes and exotic good looks but beyond all that he was unafraid to love. He had always been unafraid and somehow he had taken her and Tafir, their other husband, an overly aggressive, seething chieftain, and made them both open up and begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, it was safe to love.
Her hand tightened on his shoulder, nails digging in.
“No one would blame you if you cried.”
She laughed, a watery sound. “I would.”
He shook his head. “You never change, little princess.”
She was hardly little, but if he wanted to see her that way, it was okay by her. “If you’re here, where’s Tafir?”
“Tracking down the vandals, of course,” Ismet said, stroking her hair even as his golden eyes studied her. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he brings back their heads by nightfall.”
She rubbed a shaking hand over her face, took a deep breath. “I don’t want him to go to war over this. Just because our old enemy the count has a few friends who owe him favors…”
“He needs to do this. What do you need?”
She blinked, knowing that Ismet was right, Tafir did need to deal out justice—she only hoped there wouldn’t be much of a body count. And what did she need? She swung around, still surrounded by Ismet’s silent support as she studied her workplace. “I need a broom.”
There were ‘bots that could clean up much faster than such a primitive solution, but Ismet disappeared and returned a moment later with a pristine shaker’s style broom fresh from the replicator. He handed it to her and then picked up a belt of tools that jangled together as he attached them to his slim hips. She raised her brows.
“Someone’s got to repair the tables. Does marble glue well?”
She smiled faintly, her darkness fading back just enough to feel the illumination Ismet provided. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Tafir’s rage lit the night as much as the bonfire he walked away from—all that was left of the men paid to hurt Seri. He’d expected to feel satisfaction, another enemy dealt with, but what he felt was hallow, as if he were filled with sand and it was slowly running out of his body.
He couldn’t protect Seri from losing twins with his fists or his gift with a blade. He couldn’t keep Ismet from grieving with her, and growing so thin that only by ordering him and giving him a few bruises had he forced the other man to eat.
He couldn’t heal.
He was a trained assassin, a gladiator.
But when he loved, he loved with vengeance and if all he could do was put an end to some miserable mercenaries, he’d do that much.
When he arrived at the new bakery he saw that the sign was still crooked by someone had fixed the door and the graffiti was also gone. It glowed warm and bright out at the darkened street and he could make out the blurry shapes of Seri and Ismet as they worked into the night, cleaning up.
He paused, fists balling.
He wanted to go to them, to find a way to offer something that would wipe away this entire experience, but he couldn’t do it. Seri would take one look at his bruised knuckles and want to know what he’d done. He wouldn’t tell her, of course, but Ismet was another story. He’d been Tafir’s lover long before they’d met their enchanting baker, so he’d know with one look that their enemies would not be troubling them again.
He rubbed his jaw, trying to think of something, anything he could offer.
He was for shit at building things.
Finally he shrugged and entered the shop and the others paused in their labours, looking at him. And oh, yeah, Seri didn’t need a diagram to figure out what he’d done.
Forestalling her nagging, he offered the bouquet of roses he’d bought earlier in the day. Before the massacre.
“Uh.” Her eyes widened as she studied the flowers, some missing their heads. “That’s nice, Tafir.”
He grinned. He’d say the same thing to their cat if it brought in a still-breathing mouse. “Happy Birthday.”
She blinked and then her posture eased. “Oh. Yeah. Totally forgot.”
Ismet took the bouquet, wrinkling his nose at Tafir and carrying it to the sink. Knowing him, he’d somehow transform it into something worthy of Beautiful Kingdom magazine.
“I think…” He cleared his throat because talking was not his strong point. Especially talking about…feelings. “We need to remember the good stuff.”
“The good stuff?” Yep, Ismet had somehow transformed the bouquet into something exquisite. He was now giving Tafir that amused look that used to infuriate him…and make his blood hot.
Now it just made his blood hot.
“We. Us. We’re…” Tafir made a circle with one hand which belatedly he realized was slightly blood stained.
“Together?” Ismet finished. Then the humor left his gaze as he looked at Seri. “Yes. And it’s the best life I’ve ever lived. Beyond what I could have believed I’d have as a slave.”
Seri swallowed, tears filling her eyes but not falling. She was like him, too much pride. “I think I forgot that for a while. I thought this place would somehow change things, make them better.” She waved around the partially reconstructured space. “But it all has to be inside you first. New beginnings.”
Seri felt love swamp her. Felt surrounded by it even as her men came to her, hunger and resolve in their eyes. What had happened had hurt her. People who liked to destroy as she lived to create had tried to take away from her. But that would only happen if she allowed it to happen.
Her life was what she made of it and since she’d had Tafir and Ismet it had gone from loneliness and fear to taking a chance and coming up lucky.
And maybe, just maybe, one day soon, they’d all try again. They had children now, sleeping at home, but if she could add another franchise, why not another child?
Tafir lifted her onto a slab of marble and Ismet kissed down her neck and she was touching them, touching herself and feeling her spirits and body rising like a lighted ash into the air. Flying.
Princess Serafina hides from passion, working long hours in her successful pastry shop. By royal decree she is forced into a mating-of-convenience with fierce, dark and moody desert chieftain Tafir and the courtesan Ismet with his mesmerizing golden eyes.
Innocent Seri wonders if it is she who will ultimately belong to her two men, masters in the art of pleasure. Watching them together in love-play, she yearns. Once the vulnerability under her pride moves her slaves to possess their mistress, Tafir and Ismet vow to do anything to protect their lady when an enemy from her past threatens her.
Find it here: https://www.totallybound.com/princess
Thank you for reading and may you enjoy your own blessings, purple cushion, couch and cat. I will be giving away a copy of Princess so if you’re interested, please do leave your email.