Home > The Golden Prince (Royal Conquest Saga #5)

The Golden Prince (Royal Conquest Saga #5)
Author: Nikki Jefford

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Lark

Glowing blue and green lights rippled over the darkened ballroom. Fae dressed like sea creatures swished past jellyfish lanterns and tables crawling with fondant crabs, sand dollar cookies, and turtle cakes made with sugared jelly.

Exotic dancers in shiny skintight turquoise pants and iridescent wing-like fins performed beautiful feats of flexibility in front of the string quartet. The females wore tight halter tops, and the males had scales painted over their bare chests.

Aunt Sarfina had outdone herself again. She knew how to throw the kind of party no noble Fae would choose to miss. No matter what they thought of our family.

I stood tall among the guests, bare-chested, my muscles oiled to a gleaming bronze and gold glitter shimmering over my biceps. Gilded shoulder and wrist plates adorned my skin, my head topped with a bronze crown in the shape of horn snails. Thick gold links circled my neck, hanging halfway down my chest. Some of the males wore full-on flippered tails in fabrics that shimmered and reflected in the surges of light. Many more had gone for tight shiny pants. I was one of the few to arrive in a gold-trimmed black Speedo.

I would have looked a scandal in the mortal world (unless I was performing in an under-the-sea routine for a strip joint). Inhibitions went right out the portal in Faerie. I’d learned to fit in. A little too much, according to my mother. My fathers had been quick to agree, but then, who wanted to argue with a fire-wielding elf?

Now twenty, I’d come into my own fire magic. (Thank you, Mother.) Uncle Liri had been thrilled. He said it added to my allure.

This was his court at present—his and my aunt Hensley’s. They were always inviting me to Dahlquist. Well, ever since I offed Uncle Malon, saving my family’s kingdom from him and his blackguard nephew.

Alok Elmray’s harpy of a mother had been so enraged over his cock-up that she’d spread a rumor across Faerie that I’d been conceived under the influence of lust dust and that this was the real reason my mother ended up with two mates. Mom said Oreal was a raving lunatic. Oreal claimed she’d witnessed the spell placed over my mother. Fae couldn’t lie, so . . . whatever. I didn’t care anymore. The gossipmongers gulped it down like bubbling wine. The nobles already called me “halfling” for most of my life. And then something changed.

It happened after I killed Malon. I stopped giving a fig. It’s interesting how something as simple as not caring changed my standing. That and striking down my uncle. Now they knew what I was capable of. Now I had their respect. Their favor. And, in some cases, their devotion.

Males and females flocked to me. Young and old. I wished they wouldn’t. My cousin Fraya told me if I didn’t want the attention, I should stop dressing like a gigolo.

But I needed their attention. I needed it so I could snub them all. I wanted to shine my beauty in their smug faces until I blinded the insufferable bastards. As though I’d ever forget years of insults flung in my face, cast at my family.

I wanted them to want me so that I could turn around and deny them all.

A male wearing a shark costume and gripping a harpoon glared at me. Well, not everyone was a fan. My view of the indignant shark was cut off by a server dressed as an octopus holding a silver tray with sapphire cocktails. “Would you care for a Deep Blue Sea, Prince Lark?”

A miniature sugared dolphin clung to the rim of each glass.

“No, thank you.” If my family were in residence, I would have gone for it, but they were all back in the elven realm.

On my own, I was the responsible eldest son. I couldn’t count on Uncle Liri or Aunt Sarfina to look out for me. They encouraged debauchery. If I let myself go, I could end up as part of an orgy or sacrificial ritual. Well, maybe not a ritual but definitely an orgy. There were open invitations on that score, but I’d never let these pricks get their hands on me that way.

Bubbles floated past me as a female in a scaled bodysuit blew from a turquoise wand. There were more bubble-blowing faeries waving their wands through the crowd. Aunt Sarfina wasn’t much for the mortal realm, but when she’d seen us playing with bubbles as children, she’d insisted my dad Lyklor bring some back for her.

“At least the mortals aren’t entirely useless,” she’d made sure to say in front of Aunt Hensley, Uncle Liri’s human mate.

I could already see Aunt Sarfina’s eyes hooking me from beside a small group of males dressed like squids. My aunt wore a crown made of real seashells and a clingy pink gown that faded into purple ripples below her knees. The outline of her pelvis and thighs could be seen through the faded section, and a keyhole opening showed off toned skin between her breasts. My aunt looked smashing as usual.

The young and beautiful Cadmi Quickhorn stood beside Aunt Sarfina in a white bustier covered in pearls with more wrapped around her delicate neck. The pearls looked especially good on her dark skin. She wore a flouncy plum skirt with wavy silver embroidery. Cadmi didn’t stand so much as pose. One hand rested on her lower hip, the other on her thigh.

Aunt Sarfina grabbed the female’s arm and walked her to me. Cadmi pushed out her chest and flashed me a sultry smile, raking her eyes over me as they closed in.

Aunt Sarfina nodded at me with a pleased smile. “Doesn’t Lark look like a dream?”

“Like a wet dream,” Cadmi replied.

The females burst into giggles. I smirked and stood straighter, as though I’d just heard something clever.

“Oh, you are a wicked one, aren’t you?” Aunt Sarfina asked in delight. “But it’s true, my nephew is the best catch in the kingdom.”

“I believe you hold that title, Auntie,” I replied smoothly.

Aunt Sarfina beamed.

“Aw,” Cadmi cooed. Her syrupy sweetness did not match the narrowing of her eyes when she speared Aunt Sarfina with a sideways glance. Despite being older, my aunt was still a blonde beauty who turned heads at every party. It didn’t matter that we were family. Cadmi was the jealous sort who saw threats in all females. “Aren’t you going to ask me to dance, Lark?” Pouty bronzed lips puckered at me.

I cocked one brow. “Isn’t that what you’re doing now?” I asked sardonically.

“Is that a yes?” Cadmi demanded.

I gave her the barest nod, but from her squeal, you’d think I’d chased her down for a dance. Cadmi grabbed me by the arm.

“Mind the shimmer,” I warned her in a sharp voice.

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