“They demanded their richya back,” Vaush said, taking a deep breath as the corset released its death grip on her midsection.  “A bold move.” 

He unlaced her lower foundation garments. “Nostrom refused of course.” 

Vaush scoffed. “On what grounds?” 

“Ostensibly, a contractual loophole allowing Nostrom to pay the richya back over a ten year period.”

Wearing nothing but satin underpants, brazier and stockings, she walked over to the clothing rack, the bots presented her with choice of a cream-colored, silk lounge wear ensemble. “And the truth?”

 “The truth…,” Comron hesitated, allowing himself a moment to admire her form from behind, those long, honey brown legs, that firm, round derriere and slender waist, the crown of dark, silky coils cascading midway down her back.  “The truth is, they don’t have Warbrenger’srichya.”

Vaush laughed as she pulled the camisole over her head and turned to look at him.  “This is too rich.  What do you mean they don’t have it?”

“The richya is all gone, they used it to pay for any number of their campaigns to seize control of regional governments, and not to mention, raiding their stockpiles of richya.  But they’ve overextended themselves, over sold it in the market, issuing paper with the agreement that the investor could collect on it at any time.”

“Only they’re selling worthless certificates because the richyas all gone, right?” as she spoke, her eyes poured over him, making him feel naked even though he was in full Praetorian guard attire, complete with body armor.

“More or less, they have small stores…enough to pay Warbrenger a fraction of what they owe.  At the close of five years, they’ve only repaid a tenth of the sum.”

“Warbrenger must be livid…though in public—” she said, closing the distance between them.

“They’re the strongest of allies.  But you’re right, Warbrenger is growing restless and Nostrom rightly suspects this.  Now add that to the fact that Warbrenger has been forced to sustain the failing regimes of the Hrollaugr-Nostrom Hegemony because theirs is the only viable economy.”

“So Nostrom steals their richya and then forces them to lend exorbitant amounts to failing states,” she ran a hand slowly across his breastplate.  “He’s treating Warbrenger like a vassal state.”

“Precisely, but Warbrenger’s tired of being Nostrom’s bitch.  Now Nostrom suspects Warbrenger may make a break for it so he’s launched this full scale surveillance operation so that Warbrenger can’t break wind without Nostrom knowing about it.”

“Does Warbrenger have any idea of this?” she asked, tracing a finger over the metal nipples of his breastplate.

The corners of Comron’s mouth curled up a tad.  “They’re about to.  And also that their six trillion in richya has vanished.”

She stopped as the full impact hit her.  “Frithes gates, Comron.  We have to manage this disclosure carefully.  Otherwise the fallout could precipitate a war.  That is not how I hoped to begin my reign.”

Comron shook his head.  “Warbrenger’s military might isn’t what it once was at the height of the rebellion.  They’d require a very powerful ally to challenge Nostrom’s warhorses.”

Vaush cast a rather sly look with those dazzling hazel eyes.  “So we offer the Novoxian Imperial Army as ally.”

“That would definitely level the playing field.”

Her brow furrowed as her hand slid down his abdomen.  “But then we’re discussing war again.  No, I won’t have our Empire torn apart by civil war when we need to be preparing for the Murkudahl invasion.  Yet, I wish to break the Hrollaugr-Nostrom Hegemony,” she said, placing a hand on her hip and raising her eyes to the ceiling.  “We need Thalonius to kneel without shedding blood, the only way he will do that—”

“Is if he felt overwhelmed, vastly outgunned.”

Vaush’s eyes narrowed.  “Which he would be if he were up against Warbrenger, Novoxos and,” her brow rose, “the Hinter Worlds.”

As Comron listened and realized the scope of what Vaush was proposing, he suddenly realized he’d underestimated his clever wife and that she would prove to be a formidable Empress.  How could one person house so many talents? He was awed, but apprehensive about the development.

His sharp tone conveyed his concern, “The sweeping scope of what you’re proposing is quite an undertaking involving several key players that we haven’t yet approached or determined their allegiances.”

Her hands found the claps on either side of his body armor.  “So you’ll expedite the process by using the Chronicle, Comron.  Find out what you need to know to lay the ground work to make this happen.”  A demure smile stretched across her full lips.  “Look what you’ve already done for the Imperial Treasury with the knowledge you’ve gleaned from the Chronicles.  The treasury funds have nearly tripled, before long I will be the wealthiest monarch who ever sat on this throne.”

“Yet if I don’t slow down, the Imperial Commerce Inquisitor will be knocking at our door on suspicion of securities fraud and violations.”

Vaush tossed her head back, laughing irreverently and Comron wondered if she were getting a little too drunk on her own burgeoning power. 

“Let them launch an investigation into my financial affairs.  What will they find?”  She unclamped the four clasps on his breast plate, then pressed her hands against his chest, backing him up against the wall.  “I can’t help it if my private Economics Strategist happens to be an ingenious visionary with uncanny instincts.”  Her sultry, hazel-eyed gaze poured over him once more and suddenly he couldn’t remember his point.  “You wear this uniform well, my lord husband.  I couldn’t take my eyes off you at the coronation ceremony,” her tone grew husky as she helped him remove the heavy armor. “I’ve been waiting for this moment all morning.”

“Vaush…”  His blood quickened as desire shot through him like a blazing arrow.  That she could reduce him to this with mere words was maddening and exhilarating all at once.

 “I know I’m asking a great deal of you,” she murmured, her hands slid under his tunic, she raked her nails down his rippled abdomen.  “But armed with the Chronicle you are my single greatest asset and you will accomplish this task for me.”  Her hands slipped down to unfasten his belt and britches.  “Yes?”

He nodded eagerly, to what, he didn’t care.  He only knew he’d go out of his mind if he didn’t have satisfaction soon. She was so close, her natural scent laced with jasmine scented soap and exotic spice filled him.  He inhaled deeply, essence enhanced pheromones heightened his arousal, blocking out all else, that is… until her hand slipped down into his underpants and gripped his shaft firmly.  Already hard, she stroked him stiff as an iron rod as she continued their discussion.

“You will help me take down the Hegemony and establish my reign.  And when it is done, we will announce to the world that you are my husband, Royal Consort to the Empress.  No more hiding in this uniform…except maybe when we’re alone in the bedroom and I want to ravish you.”

 He drew Vaush to him, meeting her lips for a slow burn of a kiss.  She tasted sweet as honey as his tongue danced with hers, but his need mounted quickly with the need to devour her.  Enough of this slow torture!  Abruptly, he reversed their positions, forcing her back against the shelf wall, a few items tumbling down in the process, the bots scurried to pick them up.  Indeed, he would do his Empress’ bidding, but first he’d have his reward.

He hoisted her up now breathless with need.  Vaush wrapped her firm thighs around his waist and arched her slender neck back as he ran his hungry mouth down the length of it, biting passionately.  He squeezed her breasts eliciting a sharp moan from her.  His mouth slid down over her heated flesh, took in her nipples, his hot tongue slathered over them and then sucked them ravenously.  She raked her nails over his muscular shoulders and down his back, her hips grinded against him, letting him know she was dying for him to be inside her.

He fisted a handful of her hair, pulling her head back. “Tell me what you want,” his tone was demanding and gruff.

Van Laven Chronicles

Award winning best selling book series