Divided Hearts [Three Hearts 2] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Tonya Ramagos
eBook Category: Erotica/Menage Erotica
eBook Description: [Siren Menage Amour 33: Erotic Fantasy Menage a Trois Romance, M/F/M] Karan does not want a mate. Forget that she is the middle daughter of the Goddess Queen Ina and heir to the love goddess's throne. Tonight may be the night of her customary joining celebration but that does not mean she has to accept the man deemed to be her true heart. What she wishes most is to remain single for eternity. When she finds herself transported through a door between worlds believed to be closed for all time and lands in the magical circle of Eric's casting, she knows she is in trouble. More, she feels that damned pervasive tremor--the sign of destined love--the minute she looks at him. She is determined to ignore the sign but Eric has a different determination in mind. One that will show her pleasures she never imagined and brings the boyishly handsome Cal into her life. [Erotic Fantasy Menage Romance: Contains graphic sexual content and adult language.]
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./Menage Amour, Published: 2008, 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2009
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11 Reader Ratings:
"4 Stars: Tonya Ramagos is a talented author, combining magic/paranormal with romance. The characters are interesting and multifaceted. The plot is well organized and delightful. Fans of romantica will enjoy Divided Hearts."--ReviewYourBook
"4 Cherries: This was definitely a unique and interesting story with two very headstrong characters who engage in a battle of wills and wit that had me smiling. I feel this was an entertaining read with charming characters and a fun romance."--Lilac, Whipped Cream Reviews
Lust did a delightful dance in Karan's stomach, her hands itching to touch, to create. She studied the inked lines on the oversized parchment. Scrawled notes, labels and diagrams joined to fashion a clear picture of the fabulous structure it would become once built. A clear picture in at least the creator's mind, anyway. Her eyes scanned the plans, noted a couple of flaws in the design of a room off the west wing and reached for a quill to make the corrections. An adjustment here, a tweak there. Oh! She could add another partial wall in between those as well. Perhaps curve it in a half circle and...
"Do not dare pick up that quill."
The sharp reprimand snapped Karan into awareness, all ideas for adaptation and creation flittering away like dust blown by a strong wind. The strong wind, she realized at once, issued from her older sister's currently thin lined lips. Gods, but Aithne could be such a nag sometimes!
"Really Karan, you have to dress." Calliope, the youngest of the three sisters, glared at her disapprovingly. "The celebration will begin at nightfall."
Karan cast a glance out the window of her third level bedchamber on the west side of the palace. The sun had already begun its slow dip behind the distant mountaintops. She amused herself for a moment, chanting a silent mantra for the sun to return to its place of day high in the bluest of skies to remain forever shining bright over their land. Her amusement slackened quickly, however, at the knowledge she possessed no such power. She could not even spell the sun to rise a half an inch let alone the great distance it would need to keep them forever in daylight.
"I am dressed." She looked back at the parchment, her attention instantly focused on the design. A stone walk leading to the back. Yes, with an archway that would stretch...
"You cannot wear that to the celebration. For guardian's sake, Karan, you will be looked at askance!" Irritation began to settle in Aithne's tone.
"I am looked at askance anyway." Karan shrugged but did not look up.
"Perhaps if you dressed like the daughter of a goddess queen rather than the son of a peasant, that would not be so."
Karan glanced down at the comfortably stained woolen shirt she wore with a pair of brown leather breeches and boots. She supposed she did look like the son of a peasant. "I hate gowns. They always get in my way."
"But you must wear one tonight." Calliope stepped to her and pushed strands of dark hair from Karan's face. "Do you not wish to look radiant on such an important night?"
Karan barked a laugh. "Next to you, I would not stand a chance." Calliope was the most beautiful of the three, hair as brilliant as sunlight, skin as fair as alabaster, and eyes of cornflower blue. Next to her, no one noticed Karan or even Aithne, though Karan always thought Aithne to be next in line for the beauty throne. Her tumble of long, fiery red hair with highlights of browns and gold, and eyes of sparkling green with flecks of gold gave her both an odd and equally stunning appearance.
Then there is me, Karan thought. She moved away from Calliope to the mirror. The reflection that stared back at her had a head full of dark hair the color of tree bark, eyes so bright gray they were often confused with lavender, and skin darkened by her many hours in the sun. Scratches and scrapes marred what could have been the perfect flesh of her arms and even one narrow jagged line along her jaw she had gotten when the branch of a tree slapped her in the face during her journey for fresh sculpting and building wood that morning.
"But tonight you will," Calliope argued. "For tonight is your night. All eyes in all the lands will be for you."
Karan's stomach churned at the thought of so much attention. "Not if I do not go."
Calliope gasped, obviously horrified. "What do you mean if you do not go? You must go! It is your duty as one of the daughters, as one of the land."
"Is it because of the spell?" Aithne asked far more calmly when Karan did not answer. "Are you afraid?"
She was, Karan admitted silently, though not entirely for the reason her sister suspected. "I do not wish any of this. I do not want to wear some fantasy gown. I do not want to attend some lavish party. And I certainly do not wish a man."
"How could you not wish for a man, for love?" Calliope's voice filled with wonderment now.
Understanding, Karan turned on her, and softened. "I never have. You know that, dear sister. It is you who has always longed for love." Calliope's eyes turned dreamy with the truth. Karan rounded on Aithne. "You found your love."
Aithne's wide smile reached her eyes where Karan could almost see tiny hearts dancing in place of her pupils. "I did, yes. I found my love and so much more."
"I do not want that." Frustration built in her chest. She spun and stomped to the window. The sun was barely visible behind the mountains now. "I wish for my life to remain as it is. I like my life and I do not want a man coming into it wreaking havoc and messing me all up."
"You will change your mind," Aithne predicted. "When you find him, when you first look at him and he looks at you and every time after, when you feel the quiver that starts in your heart and shakes you to your toes, you will change your mind."
Karan seriously doubted that but she kept the thought to herself. "Perhaps I am not meant to find him. Perhaps there is no one for me. Have either of you ever considered that? Maybe I do not wish for anyone because I already know there is no one."
"But there is someone for everyone. There is love for all. Someone who will be your everything, who will give you everything."
"I am my everything, Calliope, and there is nothing I wish for that I cannot give myself."
"I believe, dear sister, that is where you are wrong. Your fingers may be quite skilled at many things, but I assure you they can in no way give you the immense satisfaction that your true love's cock can provide."
"Aithne!" Calliope laughed her surprise then gave a small groan. From the dreamy expression that overtook her features, Karan guessed she had fallen into her own fantasy realm, imagining the immense satisfaction her true love's cock would provide her when her turn came.
Karan stared at her older and apparently wiser sister, and bit the inside of her cheek to hold back the grin. Though she would rather gnaw on tree roots than admit it, Aithne did have a point. A very irritating, extremely sexually frustrating point.
"Fine." She moved to the foot of the bed where her gown for the evening lay stretched out and waiting for her. It was purple, no doubt to match her almost lavender eyes, made of satin and lace. She hated lace! "Fine," she repeated, allowing her annoyance to sound in the word. She reached to remove her shirt and the door to the chamber opened. Her mother Ina, the goddess queen, stepped inside and closed the door behind her.
She was radiant, Karan thought as her hands fell to her sides, abandoning the act of undressing to take in her mother's appearance. She was beautiful, even more so than Calliope with her glimmering golden hair, eyes neither blue nor green nor gray but seemingly every shade in between. She wore a gown of the finest materials, a soft pink with deeper reds to accent and trim. The colors of female power, of delicacy, of love all entwined. Karan had been wrong, she decided as she studied her mother. It was not Calliope's beauty that would foreshadow her own but the queen's.
Ina's eyes widened slightly, the only indication of surprise she allowed to show. "Karan, you are not yet dressed? The guests have already begun to arrive."
"I was just getting to that, Mother. I lost track of time." It was not a lie but a partial truth. She had lost track of the time, more simply because she had not cared of it. Building, creating, planning was what she enjoyed most and true love, destiny, or whatever you called it, she could not foresee a man allowing her to continue with such fancies. Men wished to control. They wished for obedience, servitude and children. She was in control. She obeyed no one, served no one. She harbored no desire for a child let alone many, which was why she simply did not want a man.
"She is frightened."
Karan rounded on Calliope. "I am not frightened." She ground the words through gritted teeth. That too was a partial truth. The curse cast upon her at birth--thank you, Daria--the spell that fated her to suffer a heart so divided that fear shall be her death did not raise much alarm. She could not suffer a divided heart if she gave her heart to no one, after all. No. The tiny niggle of fear she felt was in that she might actually experience that pervasive tremor Aithne spoke of, the one that would clearly indicate her true love, her destined man. How had her mother described it the night of Aithne's joining celebration?
It is a feeling in your belly. A quake, a tremble that possesses the heart and the mind. It is a quiver down to your toes of a power the likes of which you have never before felt nor will ever feel in the presence of any other. It hurts and excites, terrifies and pleases. You will know, my precious, when you feel it, you will know.
Could she fight it? Karan wondered. Would she be able to resist?
Of course, she would, she decided stubbornly. She was her own woman, in control of her own life and no amount of destiny, fate or curse would change that.
"You have every right to be afraid." Calliope countered her anger with a cool voice of sweetened reason. "Look at what has been cast upon you, what you must face. What we all must face in the end." Her voice dropped to barely a whisper on the last and Karan knew her sister was thinking of her own time still to come. The curse upon Calliope was the greatest, gravest of them all. Yet she eagerly awaited her turn.
Well, Calliope could have it, Karan decided. If only they could skip hers altogether.
"I am not frightened," she repeated vehemently, though she was silently beginning to wonder whom she was trying to convince by her insistent bravado. She turned back to her mother. "I do not want this. Not the celebration, the mate, the curse, I want none of it."
"Nor do I, daughter." Ina stepped to her and pulled her into a tight embrace. "You must know I would order all to go home if I could."
Karan closed her eyes and allowed herself a moment to revel in Ina's sweet, flowery scent. It comforted her, her mother's scent as much as her mother's arms. "You are the queen. You can do whatever you wish."
"Someday when you hold the throne you will see how wrong you are about that." Ina breathed deep, let it out slow. "Tonight is your celebration. It is the night you are to meet your fated love. The celebration is custom in our land, has been for more millennia than either you or I have lived. It is expected. All who are heir to the goddess throne have such an event when they come of age. I cannot cancel it no matter how much we fear the outcome."
"It could be worse. Our court could still follow the law of arranged joinings," Aithne reminded her. "If not for Mother, that is how it would be for us. Can you image your mate being chosen for you without any say from you?"
"Is that not how it is anyway?" Karan pulled back from Ina's embrace and cocked a brow at her sister. "We still have no say in our mate. It is left instead to fate."
"Yes, but it is the magic of love that chooses our mate now," Calliope said. "Not which land will benefit most by its king joining with the heir to the throne of the goddess queen. Love is the true law, as it should be, as it was for Mother."
"But it was my love for your father that brought about the curse that now shadows each of you." Ina's arms, still around Karan's waist, stiffened.
Karan gazed at her mother, saw for the first time since she entered the chamber the fear in the queen's eyes, the sadness, and the blame. The blame. Because Ina had defied law. Rather than join with Prog, king of a neighboring land whom the reigning Goddess Queen Daria had arranged, Ina had chosen Andrew--a man she loved, a man who was truly her intended, a man who was not full-blooded God but a mixed-breed of God, Fae, and mortal.
"Do not do this to yourself, Mother. You worry of the curse upon us, of my part in it. Do not, for as I see it, if I have no plans to join with my intended, to give away my heart then the curse cannot come to pass."
"You think to break the curse by not joining with your true love?" Aithne asked in a mixture of contemplation and skepticism.
"I do not see why it would not be considered a possibility. You broke your part of the spell." And it damned near killed you before you figured out how. The memory caused bile to rise in Karan's throat.
Aithne had been poisoned. Ubelious, a deadly concoction that, when ingested, killed from the inside out. There was no antidote for the poison. Only one's inner power to heal could reverse the effects. Though demigoddesses, neither of the three had been born with any powers of which to speak. But Aithne found such power in her own desires, she broke the death curse upon her when she had sorted out those desires, and used them to cure herself.
"Perhaps refusing my intended is the way to break mine."
She let them fuss over her as a mother and sisters were prone to do. To Karan's way of thinking, if she were going to suffer through this celebration for them, she would endure no more harm in allowing them to fret over her appearance.
"There." Calliope beamed a wide grin over Karan's head in the mirror. "What do you think?"
Karan studied her reflection for several heartbeats, turning her head to the right, to the left, considering all angles before she was forced to admit her little sister might have been right after all. She would look radiant this night. Calliope had pulled Karan's long, uneven dark strands into an intricate twist with spirals curling on either side of her face at the ears. It should have appeared too girlish for her, too childish, especially with her oval-shaped face and high cheekbones. Instead, the effect was mesmerizing!
"Not bad. It is chic, sexy." She met Calliope's gaze in the mirror and waggled her brows.
Calliope looked confused then shook her head and laughed. "Chic? I know not exactly what that means. You and your strange words again. But I do know what sexy means and I agree. You are definitely sexy."
"What do you think of the gown?" Ina stepped back as Karan got to her feet. "It was made, of course, with tonight in mind just as Aithne's when she had her celebration."
Karan took in her reflection once more, this time from her neck to just below her hips. Again, she found herself silently admitting she had been wrong. The heart-shaped satin bodice fit perfectly, exposing strong, well toned shoulders. The neckline dipped low to reveal a tantalizing valley between her breasts. Lace outlined the neckline, a thin strip that accented and drew attention rather than giving it the frilly girly look she so despised. The waist fit snug, the skirt tapering at her hips then flaring out just enough to offer free movement, but not so much as to get in her way. The hem, to her delighted surprise, stopped just below her calves rather than dragging the floor as royal gowns always did. In a thought, she decided it too was sexy.
She sighed dramatically. "Looks like I am going to knock them dead tonight." She caught the reflections of her sisters and mother in the mirror behind her. Ina winced, Aithne lifted an amused brow, and Calliope looked confused again.
"Where do you come up with such phrases?" Calliope muttered.
"Your father will be waiting outside to escort you to the celebration." Ina stepped closer and wrapped an arm around Karan's bare shoulders. "Are you ready, my daughter?"
Karan breathed deep, pursed her lips, and let the air rush from her lungs. "As ready as I can be, I suppose."
"You look great." Aithne moved up behind her and skimmed a quick kiss over Karan's cheek.
A warmth washed through her, comforting, easing any fear that may have collected in her belly. It was the comfort of her sisters, her mother, of doing what was right, what was just, of performing her duty as the demigoddess of the lands of the goddess queen.
They walked together out of the bedchamber, Karan stopping briefly near the door to slip on shoes of a deeper purple than the gown and a heel that added a good inch and a half to her height. In the hall, she found her father patiently waiting for her, his hands folded in front of him. His slightly robust and tall frame was clad in his royal robes, a crown on top his fiery curls. Of the three, Aithne took after him most. But when he smiled as he did now at the sight of her, Karan could see her own smile on his face, in his expression.
"There is my middle daughter," he greeted, crooking an arm for her to accept. Karan placed her hand at his elbow and leaned in for a cheek kiss. She was barely shorter than he without shoes. The heels put them at exactly the same height. He turned his head, returned the kiss and pointedly looked down. "How did the queen convince you to dress as a girl this night?"
"She threatened to take away my quill, ink, and parchment."
The king laughed, a hearty sound that rippled down the nearly empty hall. "Though I know that to be a joke, I can imagine it would be one of the few threats to work."
"The whole destiny, duty, love thing worked too," Karan grumbled as they began to walk slowly down the hall. She could hear the guests already starting to gather in the grand ballroom below. Distant voices, a few chuckles, and a soft melody of harps and horns.
"Yes, I can see how that too would do it." They were nearly to the end of the hall, almost to the spot where the wall would end. She would then be afforded a view of the crowd below and that crowd their first peek at her before she reached the tall staircase that would take her down. He stopped and turned to her. "There is something I wish you to think about, something to remember as you follow through with this night."
"Father?" The tone of his voice, so serious, so insistent, set off alarm bells in her head. Though King, her father was a laid back soul, rarely brisk or harsh about anything, especially with his daughters, especially with her.
"You fear--" He broke off when she winced at the word, put his free hand over hers at his elbow, and squeezed. "There is nothing wrong with admitting to fear but because I know you will not," he smiled, "I will say it for you. You fear the man meant for you though you know not who or what he is. Trust in this, my daughter, he is your destiny for a reason. He, above all others, has been chosen for you. Love does not pair those who are not worthy of each other."
"Are you saying my love will not wish me to be someone I am not?" Though she did not see how that could be, she kept her tone neutral, her expression blank.
"Aye, that is exactly what I am saying."
"Do you not worry of the spell as Mother does?" As I do, she added silently and had to suppress a wince, because even to herself, she had not truly admitted concern over what had been cast upon her, over what might come.
"I shall not tell you that love will never harm you. That would surely be a lie for it is often the one who loves you most who will cause you the most harm. Do think on this though, to not love, to not allow yourself to recognize your true heart will surely cause you an agony beyond any. Aithne has proved that and did so by nearly sacrificing her life."
Stunned, Karan blinked at her father. It was the first he had spoken of Aithne's near brush with death, of how close he had come to losing his first born. "But how did she prove what you say? The curse upon her spoke of a desire so great it would cause her death. In the end, it was not desire but a poison that nearly killed her."
"No. You are wrong, daughter. Did she not gain the power to heal herself when she realized her true desire? Aithne desired two men. Desire is an emotion far from love itself. Only when she allowed herself to love one of those men did she gain the power to break the curse."
It was a new outlook she had not thought of. She wondered if Aithne had thought of it in that particular way. Had Calliope, or the queen? "You never said this to any of us."
"I did not see the need. Aithne is safe now. She is healthy, with child, and has the man of her heart's desire."
"My part of the curse speaks of a divided heart. If I do not give my heart, how can it be divided?"
"Ah, but daughter, you heart is already divided. You are caught between your duty to love and your desire never to mate. There can be no better definition for a divided heart than that."
"Andrew, are you to keep her talking in this darkened hallway all night?" Ina approached, her voice scolding but with a lace of teasing to match the twinkle in her eyes when she reached them. "The people of our land await."
"Yes. Yes." He gave Karan's hand, still resting in the crook of his elbow though gripping it a bit harder now, a light squeeze. "We shall go. You do look lovely this night. Have I told you that yet?"
Karan forced a smile. Had he referenced her beauty? With all he had said she could not remember and was not so certain she cared. "Thank you, Father, and you shall be the most handsome man at the ball."
"You are too kind, daughter, far too kind." He began to walk, slowly leading her to the end of the hall.
It felt as though she were approaching her death, taking her last steps to an awaiting guillotine. Could he be right? Was her heart already divided? Before she could even begin to contemplate the question, they reached the top of the stairs.
The music below, a curious mix of drums, strings and brass, stopped in mid-song, a single horn stepping in to blast the announcement tune of the royal family. Karan forced her grip at her father's elbow to slacken though it wanted to squeeze, to jerk. She wanted to run. They paused on the first step, fixed their attention on the awaiting crowd. People, old and young, tall and short, robust and slim, full blood and half-breed, stared up at them with seemingly bated breath. The women looked both envious and excited, the men each hopeful and ready.
Karan's gaze scanned the faces. She wanted to linger on the women for they presented no threat, no harm. As she skimmed over the expectant expressions of the men she found herself thinking, Do not dare. Do not dare feel anything for these men. It was all she could do not to cover her belly, not to focus on the pervasive tremor she would feel the minute her eyes latched with her intended's.
Silently, she continued to will her senses to remain dormant. Slowly, with a gentle urge of her father's arm, she took the next step down, and the next. Closer, easier to focus on the faces. Handsome faces. Dark hair. It was the men with dark hair that caught her attention most, caused her gaze to skitter to a halt. By the guardians, she loved dark hair on a man. Long and short, royally groomed and warrior messed, it did not matter. But, while she felt a healthy stir of hormones kick around in her bloodstream, nothing shook her. Nothing awoke that had never made its existence known before. Other men moved forward in the crowd, the better to see, and the better to be seen. Nothing.
Was it possible? Could it be?
Only when she reached the last of the stairs and met the last of the gazes staring back at her did she dare to believe. He was not there. Her destined heart was not present.
Karan smiled and accepted the hand of the first man who asked her to dance. * * * *