Home > Lacey's Warriors (Bondmates #6)

Lacey's Warriors (Bondmates #6)
Author: Ann Mayburn

Prologue


Chel

 


A crisp, frosty air blew over the dormant orchard, the breeze stiff enough to send the flags bearing the green and blue flag of House Westfall snapping on the four towers high above Lady Casey Westfall’s manor in Northern Kadothia. The late morning sky roiled with clouds as the promise of one of the famed Northern Continent blizzards built far above. Ignoring the sting of the wind, Chel stared into the churning mists with unseeing eyes, his mind sorting continuously through streams of data coming into his crystal implant.

His blood brother, Gwarnon, was sending Chel a live feed his meeting with a Smuggler Prince who was also a Kadothian informant. They hoped their spy had information about any Earth women recently smuggled into the Bel’Tan galaxy bearing a resemblance to Roxy Westfall, Lady Casey’s sister.

Soft, rhythmic footsteps came from the flowering winter garden below, the manor guards on high alert. A young Earth woman who was just beginning to settle into her role as a Kadothian Matriarch, Lady Casey was beside herself with worry and grief. Because Chel was so physically close to the Lady, her strong emotions trickled through their shared bond. Her grief and fury mixed with his own.

Lady Roxy wasn’t only his Matriarch’s sister, she was the key to Chel and his blood brother Gwarnon finding their own bondmate. Months ago, Chel experienced a true dream— he met his future bride in his dreams. Chills still raced over his skin as he clearly remembered dancing with his golden-haired beauty at a Harvest Festival thrown by Lady Roxy. At the time, Chel had no idea who hosted the ball, but he recognized the mystery Matriarch’s husbands, Nosa and Cormac. They watched Chel and Gwarnon dance with fond smiles, the kind shared between good friends.

At first, Gwarnon expressed skepticism that Chel true dreamed.

After all, his vile mother, Lady Melissi, had convinced Gwarnon that his Matriarch died long ago. Years before, Gwarnon lost his first blood brother in an ‘accident’ just when his blood brother supposedly found their Matriarch. Gwarnon had barely survived their loss—his mind broken, his heart shattered, and his will to live gone. If it wasn’t for Gwarnon’s loyal friends, he probably would’ve ended his own life. Instead, he’d managed to somehow deal with the fact he would never find the love of his life, that he was doomed to die to the madness.

When Gwarnon met Chel, and once it became clear they were blood brothers, Gwarnon broke the news that their Matriarch was dead. While Chel had no proof, he felt deep in his soul that Gwarnon was wrong, that their Matriarch was still out there. They’d fought bitterly about it, and Chel had let it go after he realized Gwarnon’s mind would never be changed.

It wasn’t until Gwarnon had a true dream about their mysterious alyah—and woke with a fresh love bite on his neck and scratches down his back to prove it—that he’d finally allowed himself to believe. Allowed himself to hope.

Worry threatened to overwhelm Chel, but he used the old Healer trick of making himself intensely focus on his surroundings to clear his mind.

The icy rain began to change to snow, and large flakes edged in gold and pale purple began to drift down over the manor grounds. Lorn and Nast—Lady Casey’s husbands and the Lords of this manor—had done a good job preparing the Territory for her, but no land came alive until there was a Matriarch to bond with it. Since Lady Casey had taken over the Territory, it had begun to transform and prosper. Right now, the towns, hamlets, and farms in the Westfall Territory were celebrating an unusually good harvest of their popular wine. He could hear distant merrymaking, but his heart held no cheer.

Behind him, the blue gilded doors leading into the manor swung open, momentarily bathing him in warm and light as the sky above continued to darken.

A tall man with his long white hair smoothed back in a club braid stepped out onto the balcony. He wore the gleaming blue casual armor of a Negotiator, his long cream and blue-edged cape marking him Head of the Negotiators flapped about his figure as he shut the door. His grim face wasn’t unusual. Lord Rell was known for his somewhat off-putting nature—when he stared, it was like he could peer into your soul. The only time Chel had ever seen Lord Rell relaxed and smiling was when he was with his Earth bride, Lady Paige—who just happened to have grown up with Lady Casey on Earth.

So many connections, so many coincidences. Chel’s High Priest uncle would have said the hand of the Lord of Life was busy moving his pieces into place. Chel sent up a silent prayer, asking the Lord of Life to bless his search for his bride and keep her safe. Losing a Matriarch twice, even if the first time was a hoax, would destroy Gwarnon and Chel would not survive his blood brother’s loss.

Lord Rell stopped next to him at the railing. His breath fogged in the snow filled air as he said, “Senior Healer Chel, I would like to discuss a few security matters.”

Bowing his head, Chel kept his features even. “Of course, my Lord.”

Pressing a button on his wrist, Lord Rell activated a privacy shield. It not only kept anyone nearby from overhearing them, but it also blurred their images.

Once the bubble fully formed, Lord Rell exchanged a much warmer greeting with Chel, clasping his forearm. “It is good to see you again, my friend. How are you faring?”

Lord Rell was one of the few people who knew Chel and Gwarnon were blood brothers, but Chel trusted him not to say anything. Not because Chel was ashamed that Gwarnon was his mate, but because Gwarnon’s mother was hands down one of the most manipulative, sadistic, and brilliantly vile women the Lord of Life ever created. It still boggled Chel’s mind that someone as foul as Lady Melissi could have given birth to someone as honorable as Gwarnon.

“Chel?” Lord Rell asked with concern in his deep voice. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, sorry, my Lord. I fear I have much on my mind.”

In a rare show of empathy, Lord Rell gave Chel’s armored shoulder a brief squeeze. “Finding Roxy is a priority, but not only because she is Lady Casey’s sister and key to you finding your bride. I’m afraid the reasoning is much grimmer. Rumors claim the Hive is trying to acquire all the Earth women they can then bringing them back to their home planet. Afterward, they plan on…experimenting on them and have been using slavers to try to raid the Earth behind our backs. If the Hive gets hold of Roxy, we’ll never get her back. Because of Gwarnon’s extensive connections among the smuggler princes, I need him to search for any records of Roxy being sold.”

More snowflakes whirled around the privacy dome, and the view of the orchard became obstructed by snow. “He is working on that now, my Lord.”

Lord Rell gave an absent nod. “Tell him to be very discreet. I don’t want our enemies alerted that there is an Earth bride somewhere in the galaxy.”

“How—?”

Chel was cut off as an emergency message alert chimed through his mind from Gwarnon.

“Chel,” came his blood brother’s mental voice. “I have found Lady Roxy. I need you to get to the spaceport in Moldune as quickly as you can. I’m sending the coordinates now.”

“Lord Rell is with me. What should I tell him?” Chel’s heart thumped as he sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Lord of Life.

“Put me on holo.”

Holding up his wrist, Chel activated his armor and the holographic image of Gwarnon’s sharp and deadly features surrounded by his blue-black hair appeared.

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