Excerpt from The Given garden, Book #1 The Eden Chronicles, S.K Munt
‘I am sorry, your highness,’ I said woodenly. ‘I displayed poor manners just now, and can only blame my lack of experience for it.’
‘Then let’s see you get some experience so that it doesn’t happen again, hmm?’ Karol asked, and my spine could have melted in fear. ‘And you can start by looking at me, and not over me. I know you probably haven’t seen many naked men before, so I can pardon your flight reflexes- but I won’t have you plunging through a plate glass window in your need to avoid me. Besides, you have no reason to be embarrassed by my nudity Larkin… it is quite all right for you to look if you’d like to, and if the sight of me makes you feel a bit light-headed or aroused, then that’s okay too.’
My pride took a hit from his condescending tone, and my anger spiked at the suggestion that I wanted to gawk at him or that I would have an arousing physical reaction to his nakedness. Maybe Karol Barachiel had a lot of fans in Arcadia who would love to trade positions with me right now so that they could drool all over him, but I was NOT one of them! Before I could moderate my anger, I dropped my eyes to the prince’s half-submerged and fully erect member and said calmly: ‘It is not I who ought to feel embarrassed right now your highness, but you. Legend has it that you are quite well endowed, but from here, it looks as though the Barachiel genetics do not fare as well in chilled water as they so in the stories of your conquests.’ I smiled angelically when his eyebrows shot up like rising gates and tilted my head to the side, examining his (EXTREMELY very large) erection more obviously. ‘Or are you just not hard yet? I wouldn’t be surprised- men so like to hunt and probably grow weary of having old kill dropped into their laps after awhile, right?’
Karol’s eyes narrowed dangerously. ‘Were you sixteen right now, I’d show you just how hard and endowed I am, little bird and the legends would come from between your lips after.’
My heart jumped up into my throat at the threat, but I swallowed it down, safe in the knowledge that he could only banish me for my attitude and not make good on his threat without finding himself on the wrong side of Arcadia’s walls as well, and without his commanding baritone. People over the age of sixteen who preyed on people under the age of sixteen were not just banished in Calliel- they were castrated too and not even King Elijah was above that rule. It was the second hardest form of punishment that we had.
‘Your brother might object to that even if I were, seeing as how I am his plaything, not yours.’
‘Well, if you’d like to keep it that way than I suggest that you follow through on your taunts and actually get into the water as I have commanded you to do,’ Karol retorted. ‘After all, it is our father who has the final say over who remains in the harem and who is tossed into the Wildwoods, not Kohén, and he’s been irritated once this year already by your clever little friend- I doubt he’d take a second infraction so well from within the harem. And disobeying me is a serious infraction, Larkin- we don’t have a glyph for ‘Uppity smart-ass’.’
I glowered at him but obediently walked forward and to the left, submerging first to my ankles, then knees then waist in the warm water. I did so calmly and carefully, barely stirring the pool’s surface, but when I tried to turn away, the prince reached out and snatched up my wrist, forcing me to face him. I yelped, immediately overcome with panic but he just laughed and caught my free flailing hand, bending both of my wrists behind my back and pressing himself into me and up against the edge of the pool. He was hard all over and a tawny brown, cutting a figure that was awe-inspiring and terrifying and as he secured me in place with his hips, I felt his erection press into the gap between my thighs. Terror cloaked my mind immediately and I opened my mouth to scream, but Karol simply laughed and released one of my wrists to cup my mouth.
‘Don’t even consider it,’ he taunted me, his eyes bright in the foggy air. ‘I’m not going to take advantage of you Larkin- we both know that that’s a crime and the Barachiel men are not criminals. Nor do we have to force ourselves on women to find satisfaction.’ I said nothing but he didn’t seem to care. His eyes travelled down over me, and he clucked his tongue. ‘My, my, my…’ he drawled. ‘You’ve done a spectacular job of blossoming, haven’t you?’ His eyes lifted to mine and he smiled. ‘But you don’t care about that sort of thing, do you? You don’t want to be beautiful, and you don’t want to be admired or conquered… you want to be the one who does the conquering yes? Oh, don’t look so shocked- who do you think told Kohén that you’d be able to live as a free woman if he kept his hands in his pockets in your company, hmm?’ His eyes hardened. ‘Who do you think told him that it was a stupid promise to make at such an innocent age? Me. I told him that you could be free, and I told him that it was a mistake to confide that in you because now, you have your heart set on leaving don’t you? Which may not happen if Kohén returns and see how his little duckling has become a swan after all, and reacts physically the way I am reacting to you right now.’
I sucked in a breath from between his fingers as he voiced my gravest fears. ‘He won’t do that,’ my words were muffled by Karol’s palm, so he slid it down to cup my jaw, allowing my lips to move freely while my skin shivered in disgust. ‘I am his friend, and the fact that I’ve grown breasts won’t change that.’
‘You’re both fools,’ Karol argued, looking me over again. ‘And you’ve changed in places other than your chest, Larkin. A man would have to be blind and devoid of every other sense not to notice that! How is a teenage boy supposed to resist such a mouth-watering kill, when it is lain in his lap, as you so eloquently said?’
‘His common sense will prevail, and he has plenty of sacrificial lambs to sate his appetite with,’ I argued.
‘They’re not as pretty or as clever as you are though.’
‘They’re beautiful and willing, but my mind will be of more use to the kingdom than my looks will, and he sees that,’ I said snottily. ‘And the fact that you’d favour my looks over my wit in his position just further proves that the wrong Barachiel boy is going to be crowned next.’
Karol frowned at me. ‘You think I’m weak because I find you attractive?’
‘I think Kohén is stronger and a true Barachiel, like Miguel was,’ I said coolly. ‘And if you want to prove yourself as worthy of the crown, start by letting me go right now. Because for all of Kohén’s teenage hormones, he’s yet to grow hard at the sight of me and shove himself between my legs- even though he’s been entitled to make advances towards me for three years now!’
I half expected a slap across the face for that remark, but Karol surprised me yet again by releasing me and backing away with his hands and lips straining upwards. ‘Damn, you’ve got a spine on you girl…’ he lowered his hands to his sides and winked. ‘I’d very much like to bend it to my will, even if that would be a sign of weakness.’