April in Atlantis
Atlantis, the war room adjacent to the throne room, April 1st…
April stalked back and forth past the scarred wooden table that dominated the room, fists clenched at her sides, muttering creative suggestions under her breath in ancient Atlantean as to what the king and Denal could do with their idea. She’d expected to be kicked off the team after she’d been so rude to the man she’d only later found out had been an actual freaking prince. Instead, they’d hit her with this.
King Conlan, tall, dark, and gorgeous in that uniquely Atlantean royalty lineage way, leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure the throne would fit up my ass, and if Cerberus ripped my arms and legs off, my wife and son might be rather annoyed with you.”
She froze. “You heard that?”
Denal, one of the king’s elite fighters and now the leader of her team of Poseidon’s Warriors—or Denal’s Desperate Dozen, if you hung out in taverns for any time at all—blew out a sigh and shoved his hands into the pocket of his faded jeans. “You see, Conlan? Hopeless. This is a terrible idea. Also, April, I know you haven’t spent much time around royalty–”
He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “But a little respect might be nice. Or I’ll take you to the training grounds and kick your ass.”
She scowled. Unfortunately, this was a threat that carried some weight. Denal had been a warrior for longer than she’d been alive, because Atlanteans lived very long lifespans. He was unbelievably hot, in that “look at me and I’ll kill you” feral kind of hot way, but she hadn’t the slightest interest in bedding him. She just wanted to impress him.
To impress the king.
Great start, fool.
She abruptly knelt and inclined her head. “My apologies, your highness, if I have offended you. Well, of course I offended you. Gah. I mean, the throne up your ass thing might have come across worse in translation…”
She smacked her forehead. After muttering dire insults to the king, she was now questioning whether he could understand ancient Atlantean, the language of his royal ancestors.
Maybe she could stab herself in the kidney next and get the pain over with faster.
“April. For Poseidon’s sake, get up. And if you call me ‘your highness’ again, I’ll be the one kicking your ass on the training grounds. My sword play is a little rusty these days, but I can take on a youngling like you.”
She leapt to her feet, a hot rush of denial searing up her throat, ready to boil forth in a mass of words, when her brain kicked in: He’d said a youngling.
Not a female.
She was a youngling, compared to his five hundred or so years, so it would be ridiculous to be offended, and she was getting tired of looking for offense from every corner. She’d made it—she’d been accepted into Poseidon’s Warriors, even if on a misfit kind of team.
“Look.” Denal strode over to her and poked her in the shoulder. Hard. “Try not to be a jerk. I’m telling you, as the head of this insane team of misfits, that you’re going to be an ambassador to the wolves.”
She refrained from poking him back and gave herself a hundred points for her massive amount of restraint. “For how long?”
“A year.” Denal studied her face and then glanced at the king, whose face was impassive. This was Denal’s decision, then.
“Six weeks,” she countered, without much hope, but it was fun to watch that nerve in Denal’s jaw jump.
“Six months, and if you argue with me again, it’s going to go back to a year,” he said, his eyes narrowing.
“I’ll take it.”
The king stood up and stretched. “I have politics to play, crushing boredom to endure. Or maybe I’ll go chase my son around the garden for a while. April, do a good job. If you put me in the middle of the wolves’ civil war, we’re going to have a problem.”
His eyes darkened, and the genial king façade disappeared, so that April saw the dangerous predator lurking beneath. Conlan had been a fierce warrior for hundreds of years before he took the throne, and she could tell that nothing had changed.
“Yes, your highness,” she stammered, taking a step back.
Conlan’s face lit up with a huge grin. “You did it! I warned you. Now you can meet me on the training grounds in an hour for a bout. You’d better warm up your sword arm, warrior, because I’m not holding back.”
Denal groaned. “Don’t hurt my newest team member, Conlan. Do you know how hard it is to find good fighters?”
April blinked. He thought she was a good fighter?
“It’s not hard at all,” the king said, his calm voice completely at odds with his narrowed eyes. “Or else somebody at the younglings’ training academy needs to lose his or her job.”
Denal raised his hands. “Fine. It’s not hard to find good fighters, but it’s hard to find people with the skills and temperament to be one of Poseidon’s finest, as you well know.”
He thought she had the skills and temperament to be one of Poseidon’s finest?
April swallowed. This meeting hadn’t gone at all like she’d imagined. She’d thought she was going to be booted off the team. Instead, she found out she was one of Poseidon’s finest, who was going to be an ambassador to the European wolves, after she sparred with the king.
She needed a drink.
Conlan pointed at her. “One hour. Be there or I’ll track you down.”
She nodded to them both and then walked out of the room. Maybe she’d have that drink after her sword fight…
With the king.
In one hour.
She started running.