By Stella and Audra Price
Book three of he Duvall Inc series
The holidays are a time for giving, so when Marsh decides to give Jane a real Christmas, complete with family and friends, he never expected everything to go haywire. Meeting his family is only part of the problem. His parents, the reigning royalty of his race, are going to be a surprise to Jane, but no more so then his station as crown prince, a fact he had kept hidden from her till now.
Throw in a conniving princess that contracts his death, an engagement ring and his quirky and outlandish parents, and Marsh has his hands full, just presenting Jane as his consort.
Two days before Christmas, Trent Duvall, Janey’s Silent partner in the assassin syndicate shows in Austria and informs them of the fact that a special member of the Duvall inner circle has gone AWOL, and its up to Jane and Marsh to help him get him back. With the help of Malcolm Frost and a few choice friends, Trent and Marsh leave Jane in Austria and go to Africa to retrieve their family member, and usurp the position of a murderous and insane Fallen Angel.
And you thought your holidays were stressful.
Book three of the Duvall Inc series is one you wont soon forget! It takes a new turn, shows a little skin and a lot of what family for an assassin is really all about!
The ending of Gifts will leave you desperate for more of this series. I know I await it eagerly.
9.5, Howling Scribe
Gifts is another mustn’t-miss from the dynamic sisters Stella & Audra Price. Run, to not walk, to your nearest e-book outlet and pick this one up immediately upon release. Caution: do not read without an ice pile or partner near at hand!
5 SWORDS, Frost Reviews
The villa was dark when he finally arrived twenty-five minutes late, battling traffic coming from the roads around the Vatican. December was always traffic hell in Rome due to the Holy City's existence—all these pilgrims coming in hopes of forgiveness made him shudder. They had yet to figure that their savior was just a man, a talented and charismatic man, but just a man nonetheless. It was the belief that made him grand and that was the man's greatest trick of all.
Janey. His Janey. He pulled into the driveway and shut the car off. He got out and carfully grabbed the holocaust lilies and the shopping bag before locking the door. He punched the code into the door's keypad and it opened for him, the lights coming on automatically. It was good to be back at the house. He knew from calling the office that Janey had gone to meet a client, so he had a few minutes to get everything set up. He went to the kitchen and unpacked the shopping bag--two New York strip steaks, a bag of mussels, salad fixings, fresh baby spinach and a bottle of Merlot.
Putting the water on to boil for the mussels, he took his coat off and draped it on the nearby chair, leaving his scarf on. He grabbed paprika, garlic, pepper, oregano and salt from the spice cabinet and over seasoned the water, leaving it to come to a boil. He then grabbed the fresh rosemary and some garlic and sunflower oil, throwing them in a pan on the eight-burner stove and sautéing the herbs before pouring the mixture into a bowl where the steaks floated in a generous portion of Merlot.
He let that sit as he made the salad, adding fresh basil and red olives to the mix. As he was setting the spinach to cook the water for the mussels began to boil, and he emptied the bag into the swirling heat. Minutes later he was setting the kitchen island with plates and two crystal goblets when he heard Janey's code being punched into the door. He waited, knowing the smells coming from the kitchen would draw her further into the house out of sheer curiosity. Marsh rarely cooked.
After a few moments she appeared in the doorway, looking tired. She'd kicked her shoes off at some point between the short walk from the door and her suit jacket had been discarded. She held a manila folder in her hand. "I have something for you." she said, waving the folder and leaning against the door frame.
"Yeah? Well, can it wait till I put the steaks on?" he said over his shoulder. "Wine's poured already."
She bit out a strangled laugh. "Sure, take your time, love." She pushed off from the door, throwing the folder on the table along with the knife. Sitting down, she took the wine glass staring contemplatively into it. "I have had the worst day today. I really hate working on the weekends. In fact, I hate leaving bed on the weekends. I'm going to ban it."
"You do what you have to pet, you hungry?" He turned to kiss her and spied the dagger. "Okay, what is the Dagger of Wormritz doing on our table?"
She nodded to the folder. "Like I said, it's been an interesting day. I got the crap beaten out of me by Trent. I got shot, passed out, twisted my ankle and was offered a hit on you. Not all in that order. Tell me, do I look stupid?"
He went to her and gathered her up in his arms and kissed her fiercely. "No, pet, you don't. Trent was here, was he? I thought I smelled old man aftershave. So, who wants me dead?" he asked in an amused voice as he set her back down on the chair and moved back to the stove to turn the mussels off.
She shrugged, taking a sip of wine. "No clue, not one of mine. There's photos...interesting ones."
"Photos? No shit." He turned from the stove, grabbed the envelope, and took out the shots. he whistled. "Well, I'll be damned. The Braven sisters, so which one approached you? Had to be Lillian right? Damn cow. Though these shots, they aren't me...the older ones, yes, they are me, but these. Seems the sisters learned how to work a tangible glamour. Interesting."
"Indeed. I must say it is quite a likeness, though, not exact but very close. Exactly who are they? And why do they believe that I must be on the same level of intelligence as a mealworm?"
Marsh sighed. "Well, that's complicated, and they will both pay dearly for upping my timetable. How about we eat and I'll tell you? Steaks are done, how you like it, pet..."
She nodded, her stomach growling. "Sure, I haven't had a chance to eat anything yet. Unless coffee counts."
"It doesn't. You know that." He smirked and speared a thick steak on her plate, then meted out some spinach and then gaveit to her, doing the same with his own. He filled a bowl with mussels and placed it on the table as well, and sat across from her. "The mussels are spicy just like you like, pet." He winked and grabbed his glass, pouring some more wine, then sighed. "So, where do I begin, eh?" he asked absently. He was pissed off, his perfect romantic evening fucked to hell because a spoiled princess wanted what she saw as competition out of the way. He said as much to Janey as she forked a rare piece of steak and spinach into her mouth.
"Royalty, eh?" She sipped her wine. "Well, I suppose that explains a lot."
He shrugged. "Don't be mad at me for not telling you, pet, I could care less about what I am by birth."
She looked up at him, her fork paused mid-strike. "I wasn't talking about you..."
He smirked. Janey wasn't stupid, nor was she oblivious, so she had to know at some point. "The Braven sisters are twins, fraternal, of one of the main houses of Jenai. Like my mother, they can ascend to be a Djinn's consort and possible queen. Apparently they take that seriously."
"Enough to piss the hell outta me? Boy, do they not know me; I've already had Trent bitching at me about my judgment."
"Well, they aren't the brightest crayons in the box, I'll grant you that. Trent came to piss you off? It's been a while, eh? Let me guess, he doesn't approve of our relationship?"
"Not really. He questions my judgment and thinks I've been slacking. He also said I was fat..."
"Well, you are pudgy." He grinned at her and forked a mussel into his mouth, chewed, and swallowed. "So how much did they offer for my hit?"
"She started at fifty mil but I worked her up to two-fifty. After all, you're worth it."
"Shit, two-fifty? That's it. I must be overestimating you, love." He reached down and brought the long midnight blue velvet box and set it before her. "Happy Christmas, pet, even if it's early."
Her eyes lit up and she grinned, reaching for the box. "It's not like I'm going to kill you, love, I needed her to agree to a price and I didn't want to accept something to cheap or they would have suspected something. I mean, really, I'm not just fueled by my own greed. I have depth and layers. A lot of the time I kill people because I don't like them, and if I can find somebody who'll pay for that death then I'll consider it a job well done." She stroked the box, lovingly dragging it in front of her. "I didn't think we were doing Christmas, it's not really my thing, even Ko's given up on it this year." She guiltily lifted the box to inspect it.
"Christmas really isn't my thing, either. I mean, I'm all about consumerism, but the actual thought behind it all for me boils down to the all mighty dollar. Technically we aren't doing Christmas, we are doing something else." He watched with small amusement as she opened her first present.
"Well, if we're not doing Christmas then what are we doing..." She gasped sharply as she opened the box, small sparkles of light reflecting on her face. "Marsh...My God..." She trailed off, truly speechless for the first time since he'd met her. "I..." She shook her head grinning at him. "It's beautiful."
"It pales to you, pet, but yes, it is beautiful. You approve?" he asked in a joking tone, knowing full well she was enchanted by the jewelry.
She nodded heartily, her hair bouncing around her face. "I do. I most certainly do."
"Good. I knew you would when I had it commissioned. You have one more, love, though for this you'll need to close your eyes," he said and watched her, palming the ring box from his jacket and waiting.
She grinned at him. "You know you're making me look bad?" she teased as she shut her eyes.
"All will be forgiven in but minutes, pet." He opened the small box and turned it to her with the ring facing her. "Open it, pet, and say yes."
"Yes?" She frowned, opening her eyes and looking at him. Her gaze fell to the box and widened in surprise. She looked up at him, the shock clear on her face.
He smirked at the look. She really didn't think he ever would do it, it was written all over her face. "Well, you going to say it? Or do I have to take it back?"
"No!" she started, snatching the box quicker than lightning. She looked down at the ring then back up at him. "I mean, yes...I do mean yes." She laughed, pushing the box at him. "You have to put it on me...at least, I think that's how it works."
He grinned and got up, quickly making his way around the island to stand next to her, and grabbed her hand. He took the ring out of the box and kissed her, and as he did, his fingers slipped it onto hers.
She kissed him back hard, pulling back to look at her hand. "Its perfect, it really is." She kissed him again, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him tightly to her.
He chuckled. "I'm glad you like it. If you didn't it was going to be hard justifying half a mil otherwise."
"Well, I'm worth it." The grin on her face widened as she moved to watch the glistening ring. She kept it on, turning it and holding it up to the light. "You do realize that a lot of money just got won and lost in my office They've been betting on this for months. I think Malcolm was in for a few thousand Euro," she told him quietly, watching the ring sparkle.
He laughed and kissed her again. "Eh, it is the season of giving, after all, isn't it?"
"I guess it is." She laid her head on his shoulder, her gaze still not leaving the ring. "It was a surprise, nobody expected you to buy the cow...Not in the human way. Are we really going to get married? With chapels and guests?"
"That's up to you, pet. You're mine already, the binding like a human marriage. I don't require it, but if you wish to we will." He smiled at her and rubbed the pad of his thumb on the nape of her neck.
She nodded. "Maybe. It certainly would be interesting...although, maybe not entirely a good idea. Guest wise, I'd hate to have to work out the seating arrangement. There are some people you really shouldn't sit next to other people, and I think I know most of them."
"True, though seeing you stunning in a white gown would be worth it. A lot of bets would be won then, too, no doubt."
She laughed. "Yeah, and a lot lost, too. Security would be a fucker; we could just do a private thing. Me, you, and very few other people. Somewhere bright and hot so we don't get any unwanted demons or vampires."
He laughed. "You do know Mal can withstand sunlight, right? I don't think he would show. Taylor, he'd show regardless, even just to see you in the dress and use it against you."
"I know, but the bright light irritates a vampire's sensitive eyes. If Taylor shows he better bring presents, or at least one big one."
"I think we could count on that, pet." He pulled her close to him and nuzzled her behind her ear. "But we don't have to decide now. We do have forever. I do have one more surprise, though."
She pulled back from him, raising a questioning eyebrow. "You do? Hmmm...Let's see, you cooked, you gave me an exquisite and beautiful choker and you proposed." She counted them off in her hands, and at the mention of proposal she grinned and flashed the ring at him. "What else is there? You realize I'm being spoiled, I'll come to expect this sort of thing every Christmas."
He smiled and swallowed hard. "Remember how I told you I was going to take you to meet my parents?"
"Kind of..." She said carefully.
"Well, it's a little more complicated then just stopping by my parents for the holidays. Which is why I didn't spring it on you last minute, like, when we were at the citadel itself."
"This holiday? Like as in...What citadel?"
"The birth of Christ coincides with the highest of holy times for Djinn. We call it the Birthing. The scrolls say it's when we were breathed to life is the deepest desert of the true continent. Tradition is that the nobility of Djinn congregate at the Citadel in Sumeria, but the last three hundred years it's been at my parents' palace in Austria, for seven days of festivities."
"Uh huh...their place." She worried her bottom lip for a second before taking a deep breath. "Marsh, exactly how royal are you? Just to clarify."
He coughed and looked at her. "Really royal, like crown prince royal."
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