Emperor’s Assassin Bride (Dazon Agenda #6)

Jordan Saunders has the misfortune of being Emperor Aryk’s ideal genetic partner and future mate. The power-mad emperor doesn’t care if she wants the union, and he’ll use any tactic to claim her. She’s appalled when her mother tells her she’s brokered a ceasefire with Dazon, but Jordan is the cost of securing the peace. Involved with Sash Darvig, she can’t stomach the idea of marrying the ruthless emperor. Fortunately, her mother has a different plan in mind. She isn’t going there to marry him, but to assassinate him.

Sash doesn’t take the news well and realizes too late Jordan is his mate. By the time he has his epiphany, she’s already gone. He’s determined to rescue her, but that proves difficult when she won’t allow him to “save” her from her critical mission. She has to kill the emperor or die trying, even if it costs her the love of her life.

This is the final installment in the series. For maximum enjoyment, the Dazon Agenda should be read in order.

Excerpt

Jordan’s stomach was rumbling, and she remembered she had skipped breakfast, having woken late and rushed into the office. It was a little early for lunch, but the cafeteria would be open, and food was all she could think of once she realized she hadn’t had any since dinner the previous evening.

She pushed away from her desk and stood up, pausing to stretch for a moment, before leaving her office and heading down the corridor in the direction of the cafeteria. Unlike the stereotypical café, the cafeteria in the consulate was delightful. In the months she had been living on the Moon consulate, she hadn’t yet encountered a dish that didn’t taste really good, all the way up to amazing.

She was so busy speculating on what might be on the menu for the day that she didn’t comprehend someone was following her until it was just the two of them in the corridor, and he took advantage of the moment to shove her into an alcove maintenance people used to change the power packs that provided light, heat, and atmospheric control for the Moon consulate.

Before she could cry out, a large body pressed against her own, and a hand clamped over her mouth and most of her face, due to its large size. Her eyes widened as she got a look at the Dazon male holding her captive. He was the tallest and broadest one she’d ever seen, and she wondered if the emperor had chosen him because he was efficient, or because he was also likely to make whomever he retrieved tremble in fear?

From what she knew of Aryk, it seemed likely he’d want his messenger boy/delivery person to inspire fear and cooperation. She squared her shoulders, determined not to show terror or capitulate.

Being determined not to show any fear didn’t make it any easier not to feel it, and she gulped down the lump in her throat as she realized he was holding her close because he planned to fold out of the consulate with her. She eyed the device on his wrist with interest and surprise, realizing it was quite different from the ones she had grown accustomed to seeing on the Dazons living on the Moon consulate or mingling among Earth’s population. “How did you get through the security shields? They’re supposed to keep out anyone without authorized access.”

For a moment, he looked like he wouldn’t answer, but then he shrugged. “It’s a prototype with different capabilities than their old model.” His voice was rough and gravelly, and he imparted each word as though it cost him dearly.

She was going to have to be content with that answer, because he clearly wasn’t going to explain the finer nuances of how the bracelet managed to bypass one of the most sophisticated computer systems in existence, at least to her knowledge.

She licked her lips as her stomach churned. “What do you want with me?”

He gave her look that was part exasperation and part amusement. “I’m certain you know what I want with you, president’s daughter.”

She rolled her eyes. “I have my own identity, you know. I’m Jordan Saunders, not just Evelyn Saunders’ daughter.”

Her would-be abductor smirked at her. “Fortunately for you, you’re about to acquire a new title. Empress.”

His posture had relaxed as she spoke to him, though he was still watchful and alert. She figured this was the best opening she was going to get, especially since he was about to press a button on his bracelet. As he looked down, she brought her knee up into his groin as hard as she could, pleased by the air rushing through his lips in a pained hiss. He collapsed to his knees, but he was still solid and hard to move. As long as he held her, he could fold away with her, and no one else would know what had happened to her. They’d speculate, but they wouldn’t know for sure.

That sent a pang through her, and it fueled her desperation. She leaned back against the wall as much as she could, gathering her momentum, and lifted her feet to kick him as she braced her back against the wall.

He saw it coming, but he was still moving sluggishly from what was likely to be intense anguish in his genitals, and he didn’t get his arm up in time to block her. She kicked him square in the face, making him drop backward. As soon as she regained her footing, she scrambled over him and ran down the corridor, screaming for help.

Guards surrounded her in seconds, and she pointed to the alcove where the abductor lay, hands between his legs as he moaned softly. “You need to arrest him, but first, take off the wrist device or else—” That was as far as she got before the abductor winked out of view, clearly having managed to press the button on his folding device before security could reach him. She let out a small sigh. “Never mind.”

Another group of Dazon soldiers filled the corridor, and she was mildly surprised to see the station commander among them. She inclined her head to him when he stood before her, feet shoulders’ width apart and arms at his sides, hands clasped behind his back. “Commander Darvig, I didn’t expect to see you for a minor security breach.”

“That anyone could breach the system requires personal attention. Will you accompany me to my office and debrief me on the events that occurred?”

She nodded, falling into step beside him a moment later. They were surrounded by guards and other Dazon soldiers, so she was unsurprised when he didn’t start questioning her until they had reached his office, and the hydraulic door closed behind them with a hiss, isolating just the two of them from the guards posted outside.

“What were you thinking?”

She arched a brow at the even tone, which betrayed nothing. “I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific.”

“What were you thinking to go wandering around the consulate without an escort? When you made me promise not to post guards outside or inside your office, I reluctantly agreed with the caveat that you would send for an escort any time you left your office. Why didn’t you do so?”

Jordan groaned softly. “I honestly forgot, Sash. I was hungry and preoccupied with thoughts of eating, and it didn’t occur to me. I’m still getting used to having someone shadow my every movement.” There was a heavy dose of bitterness in her last words she hadn’t intended to reveal.

He frowned at her severely. “You don’t have the luxury of just forgetting or being lax with your safety. If Aryk gets his hands on you, you know what fate awaits you.”

She nodded, surprised that she had been so careless. Perhaps it was because it seemed like such a distant threat, though she knew folding technology made it easy for Dazons to cross the galaxy as long as they had the right coordinates and avoided any black holes. It was vaguely surreal that someone she had never met was supposedly her ideal genetic match, and he was determined to have her as his mate whether she agreed to the idea or not.

That shouldn’t surprise her, since he and his cohort, Dr. Ha, had been perfectly fine with killing twenty percent of the Earth’s population after infecting everyone with the retrovirus that made all human women compatible mates with Dazon males. Presumably, human males would be compatible mates with Dazon females as well, but there simply weren’t enough Dazon females for anyone to know for sure. The ones who were of breeding age were stuck in breeding facilities, and when they retired, they were probably too old and too highly prized in their own culture to be bothered with finding a human companion.

“Jordan, dammit, are you even listening to me?”

She blinked, realizing she hadn’t been. With a rueful curve of her lip, she shook her head. “I’m sorry. My brain went off on a tangent. What were you saying?”

“I asked if you knew how he got through the computer’s defenses? It’s programmed to filter out any unknown Dazon presence and refuse to allow the folding to complete.”

She shrugged again. “I’m really not sure, but he did have a different wrist device than the rest of you wear. It looked more complicated. When I asked him the same question, he was vague with his answer, but it seems like they found a way to bypass the filtering protocols on the security system.”

His jaw tightened, and his anger was obvious. “That means they could take you any time or any place. You can’t be alone at all. Ever.”

She rolled her eyes. “I refuse to be followed around all day every day. It would drive me insane.”

His lips compressed into a tight line. “You need to be protected.”

“I protected myself today.”

He snorted. “You were lucky he didn’t shield his testicles, and the next team might not make the same mistake. Next time, Aryk could send ten or more of his soldiers to retrieve you, and you’d have no way to escape him.”

She crossed her arms over her shoulders, feeling a bit obstinate, but finding the idea of being shadowed intolerable. “I know the risks, and I know what he wants from me, but I’m prepared to endure a little risk rather than have someone with me all the time. It’s not like I know any important trade secrets, or any information that would help Aryk win the war, so let me take the risk. It’s my life.”

His expression softened, and he suddenly moved forward, pressing her against the wall behind her. “I won’t lose you. It’s too risky, and you can’t knowingly put yourself in danger. Agree to having a protective presence with you at all times.”

Her hackles rose at the bossy tone, but it was the tender concern in his gaze that swayed her. With a nod, she gave in. “Fine. Give me my own security detail, but they aren’t coming in the bathroom with me, and they don’t get to come into the bedroom.”

His tone deepened, and he lifted a hand to push a strand of hair off her face before cupping her cheek. “The only Dazon coming in your bedroom is me.” A second later, Sash’s head descended, and his lips covered hers.

Each kiss was like the first one, and it sent a wave of heat spiraling through her. She wrapped her fingers around his uniform front, holding him closer against her as she gripped silky black fabric and savored his mouth on hers.

The kiss was far too brief, and he ended it by dropping a light peck on her nose. “I have things I must attend to at the moment, but I’d like to see you tonight.”

A spurt of mischief guided her as she brought a hand to his neck, brushing against the spot where the button lay that allowed her to strip him of his suit in seconds. “Or you could make time for me now.”

He growled low in his throat, but it was a sound of pleasure and not anger. His fingers went to her neck, performing a similar maneuver. Since moving into the Moon consulate, she had adopted the Dazon uniform as her own, enjoying the simple ease of shedding the uniform, while still providing secure coverage. One of the technicians at the uniform shop had specifically modified her suits for her, allowing a broad range of color choices. Today, she had gone with lavender, but now she wore nothing, just like Sash.

He kissed her again, and his hands moved over her body with easy familiarity. He paused to cup her hips as he dragged her closer to him, his kiss turning possessive and demanding rather than gentle as it had been.

She clung to him, enjoying his arms around her. During the day especially, he was far more likely to treat her with distant friendliness than as though she meant something more to him. It had been like that from the start, even after they had first become lovers.

She wished she could separate how she was feeling from how she was acting just as easily. There were alarm bells in the back of her mind reminding her not to betray any emotional reaction to the sex as his hands moved down her body. She wasn’t Sash’s mate, or he would have told her she was by now. That meant this was strictly a temporary liaison, and she was already far too emotionally attached to him, since she knew their fling would end, likely sooner rather than later.

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