Home > Delighted (Masters and Mercenaries #24.5)

Delighted (Masters and Mercenaries #24.5)
Author: Lexi Blake

 

Table of Contents


Book Description

About Lexi Blake

Also from Lexi Blake

Acknowledgments from the Author

Discover more 1001 Dark Nights Authors

Discover more Blue Box Press Authors

Foreword

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue: A Glimpse of the Future

Discover 1001 Dark Nights Collection Nine

Discover More Lexi Blake

Not Time to Lie from Lexi Blake

Discover the World of 1001 Dark Nights

Special Thanks

 

 

One Thousand and One Dark Nights


Once upon a time, in the future…

 

I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.

 

I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.

 

I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.

 

One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.

 

Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.

 

Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.

 

Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.

 

As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.

 

 

Chapter One


“Hey, Boomer. Do you want a smoothie?”

Boomer slightly adjusted the light that sat over the three small eggs he’d rescued from overeager kids the day before. The temperature seemed right. He could usually tell by touch. This wasn’t his first rodeo. He glanced over to the cat sitting on his desk, her eyes wide as she stared at the eggs. “Don’t change on me now, Sheba. You are the rare cat who gets along with birds. Play nice.”

He scooped up the cat he’d nearly died for a few years back and strode out of the little room he used as an office, shutting the door behind him before calling out to the woman in the kitchen. “Sure.”

Mae Beatrice Vaughn stood in the middle of his kitchen, two green smoothies in her hands as though she’d known exactly what his answer would be.

Probably because when someone asked him if he was hungry, the answer was almost always yes. He wasn’t picky. He liked pretty much everything. Cookies? Good. Meat? Good. Healthy veggies pulverized into an approximation of soft serve ice cream? Good.

He’d lived off MREs for weeks. He didn’t complain.

Mae placed the smoothie on the counter in front of him and took a sip from hers. It was weird to see her with black hair. She’d dyed it shortly after they’d gotten back from their last op together, but he was still getting used to it.

“How are the new recruits coming along?” Mae asked.

She was staying with him for the week due to her recent run-in with a bad guy. Girl. Woman. He wasn’t sure how Julia Ennis would want to be referred to, but he knew she was bad and she probably wouldn’t hate getting another shot at the cutie he viewed as a sister, hence the recent change in hair color.

But then most of the men and women he worked with felt like family. The company he worked for—McKay-Taggart—treated him far better than his blood family ever had.

“I would say we’ve got a couple of weeks before they hatch. Most birds’ eggs that size take about three weeks. I think they’re robins, but I wasn’t the one who found the nest, so I can’t be certain. It’s weird that they’re here at all. Most birds lay eggs in the spring.” One of the kids in the building had found them in a park and brought them back out of curiosity. Boomer would never have disturbed a nest, but once the damage was done, he felt the need to try to save the birds. Especially miracle birds. He didn’t know a ton of trivia, but he did know that 86 percent of birds laid eggs in the springtime. School had never been easy for him. It had taken way too long for him to get any help with his dyslexia, but the teacher who’d finally figured it out had used books about animals to get him interested in reading. One of the first books he could remember enjoying had been about birds and their habits. September was the least likely time to find wild birds laying eggs here in Texas.

It felt a little like fate to find those eggs.

“You are like the military masculine version of Snow White,” MaeBe announced, her lips tugging up in a grin that he was happy to see. She’d been down for months, but her natural exuberance was coming back.

“I’m not sure what you mean.” It was good to see her getting back to some kind of normal. Her new normal included military training and having to move around frequently, but she seemed to be settling in.

MaeBe gestured around his two-bedroom condo. “Because when you walk in a room it’s like all the animals follow.”

The statement was punctuated with a bark as Sprinkles jumped as high as she could, obviously desperate for attention. But then the Chihuahua always wanted attention. Mae picked her up, cuddling her close.

“I’m a sucker for a hard-luck case.”

Mae’s smile turned slightly sad. “Lucky for me.”

His second dog bounded in, drooling like a loon and trying to get MaeBe’s attention.

“You are not a hard-luck case. Down, Puddles.” Puddles was a hard-luck case. The pit bull mix was the sweetest dog in the world, but he looked really scary. Right up until the moment he actually got scared, which was a lot, and then he peed. Hence the name Puddles. Boomer tried hard not to startle the poor guy.

Mae grinned and reached her free hand down to pet him. “Don’t. He’s a sweetie.”

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