Chapter 1

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Dannon stood before the gilded mirror, gazing into the face of a dead-eyed man as he pulled his shirt back on. The opulence of the bed chamber around him illustrated vast wealth and great power, and the hopelessness of his own position.

He could see the Queen, Audrianne, watching him in the reflection, a proprietary smile on her face. Though centuries older than him, she was unarguably the most beautiful woman in the realm. She was also the most dangerous. Lying now, naked and sated among a tangle of silk sheets, she looked like some sleek, big cat that had just ripped the guts out of her latest meal. Her eyes glittered with satisfaction and she appeared extremely contented, and so she damned well should, he thought with a grimace. He was exhausted.

How had it come to this? He was one of the most powerful men in the realm. Yet here he was, little more than a whore for the queen's pleasure. Dancing to the music of her choosing, caught so tight in her coils he could no longer see daylight. But there was no one to blame, no set of circumstances he could point to and say he had been forced here against his will. He had accepted her advances with enthusiasm. It had been sordid from the start, and desperately exciting ... and there had been damned little of that in his life. He had long since found that life had lost any novelty or sense of wonder. He had believed he had tasted every pleasure, experienced every decadent offering. But the queen was a step further into the darkness that had made his skin prickle and his heart beat fast.

Too late he had realised his mistake. The novelty had quickly waned for him, but unfortunately the queen didn't agree. She knew damn well he didn't want to be there any longer but the fact she could make him only increased her pleasure.

One wrong move and she would strip him of everything: his title, his land, and the remaining shreds of pride and honour that belonged to him. The only things that were of any importance. If it was him alone who would suffer perhaps he would risk the loss of it, but his sister and mother deserved no such punishment. So he was destined to live his life as her marionette. She need only tug the strings and he danced. It was depressing, humiliating - emasculating in a way that puzzled him considering the delight she took in his prowess. He could only hope she would grow tired of him. But it hadn't happened yet.

"You know what you have to do?" Her voice was sleek as silk, lazy, and yet with that dangerous thread beneath that dared him to displease her.

Dannon avoided her gaze, concentrating instead on the intricate folds of his cravat. "I do."

There was a whisper of silk sheets as she moved on the bed, reaching for a plump, black grape on the breakfast tray her maid had brought earlier. There was no modesty here. The woman had looked him over with a hungry gaze, hoping perhaps the queen would invite her to join them. It wouldn't be the first time. "My contact will meet you once you cross the gate to the human world."

Turning to reach for his waistcoat Dannon looked back at her, not bothering to hide the disdain in his eyes. "You are sure the information is reliable?"

Audrianne smiled. It was a glorious sight, that smile, that had induced many men to do her bidding. It brought her son to mind and he looked away feeling her gaze on him as she watched him dress through heavy lidded eyes. "Oh, I'm sure," she said, her voice a purr of smug satisfaction. "He is supposed to be working for King Auberren but he has agreed to delay the information reaching the king's ear."

Dannon snorted knowing damn well what kind of inducement she had offered to deceive the Light Fae King. He couldn't resist asking though. He wanted to remind her she was just as much a whore as he was. "For what price?" he asked, daring to meet her eyes in the mirror with a derisive look.

He watched as she popped another grape into that sensual mouth and chewed, her eyes full of amusement. "Mind your own damned business," she said.

He smirked and did the cuffs up on his shirt with deft fingers. "So how long have I got?"

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