The Ippos King
by Grace Draven
Book 3 in the Wraith Kings series
The demonic horde that threatened to devour the world has been defeated, but at great cost.
Plagued by guilt and nightmares, Serovek Pangion sets out to deliver the soulless body of the monk Megiddo to the heretical Jeden Order for safekeeping. Accompanying him is sha-Anhuset, the Kai woman he admires and desires most--a woman barely tolerant of him.
Devoted to her regent, Anhuset reluctantly agrees to act as a Kai ambassador on the trip, even though the bold margrave known as the Beladine Stallion gets under her skin like no other, and Anhuset fears he'll worm his way into her armored heart as well.
But guilt and unwelcome attraction are the least of their problems. The demons thought vanquished are stirring again, and a warlord with blood-soaked ambition turns a journey of compassion into a fight for survival. When the Beladine king brands Serovek a traitor, Anhuset must choose between sacrificing the life of a man she's grown to love and abandoning lifelong fealty to the Kai people.
A tale of loyalty and acceptance.
The Ippos King is the third book in Grace Draven's Wraith Kings series, and centers around Serovek, a human nobelman from the kingdom of Beladine, and sha-Anhusat, commander of the Kai armies, and cousin to the King regent. Not is all quiet after the war against the demons. Serovek cannot sleep or rest without nightmares of his time as a Wraith King, especially with Megiddo's soul trapped with the demons. He feels compelled to accompany Megiddo's body, still alive but soulless, to the Jeden Order's home. Brishen, on his end, wants to as well, but as King regent to the Kai, he can't. So he sends his commander, cousin, and dearest friend sha-Anhusat as the Kai ambassador - much to Serovek's pleasure. Filled with lust for the strong Kai woman, who can't stand him most days, he anticipates an interesting trip. While Anhusat gets to know Serovek, and her aversion to him lessens, they become close. But when the Beladine king arrests Serovek for treason, Anhuset has to make a choice - to stay with the Kai, her family, and her beloved role as commander, or leave her home to save the man she loves?
Truth time: I didn't like this book. I loved the first two books in the Wraith Kings series, but now that we have moved on to different main characters, I just wasn't enthralled with it. It had the same elements I loved with the first two books: two incredibly different people, two different species who typically do not find each other unattractive, falling in love because of what is on the inside. But for me, there was no chemistry between these two. Anhuset I find kind of ... boring. Her strength - both physically and mentally - is impressive. But I felt her whole personality centered on just that quality. She just didn't seem like a good match to Serovek. As for the storyline, its okay. It makes sense. It's a little long. I was bored, up until the last chapters.
I know this series plans to go on. There is no conclusion to the story as of yet. But this book made me almost ... not want to go on? I hope the next book is an improvement. As long as Grace writes characters with the chemistry that Brishen and Ildiko, I'm game for it. Her story and world building is wonderful, and I would hate to miss out on a conclusion because the characters and romance is unsatisfactory.
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Ildiko: “Bring in more nurses.”
Ildiko: “How many people do you think we should cram into that nursery just to get Her Majesty to go to sleep?”
Brishen slid an arm around Ildiko’s narrow waist to draw her against him.
Brishen: “As many as it takes. I don’t like waking up and finding you gone from our bed, even if it’s in service to the little tyrant.”
Ildiko; “Who has you dancing on a string just like she does the rest of us.”
Brishen: “I dispute that notion.”
Ildiko: “Of course you do.” Anhuset: “I’m not human.”
By her tone, she might well have said “I’m not diseased.” Serovek chuckled.
Serovek: “Implying you’re not weak. Rumor has it the delicate Ildiko Khaskem took down one of your Kai assassins with a shutter pole. By herself.”
They both paused at the foot of the stairwell. Anhuset dipped her head in acknowledgment of his strike.
Anhuset: “Point taken.”
She raised an eyebrow when he stared at her.
Anhuset: “Don’t look so surprised. Just because you have a talent for annoying me like no other doesn’t mean I won’t recognize you as victor in an argument.” Serovek: “I was. A decade ago. She was proud. Beautiful. Long hair that she wore tied back with silk ribbons.”
Anhuset’s features eased, and she tilted her head to consider him as if he were suddenly a brand new enigma to her.
Anhuset: “You like soft women.”
He chuckled, welcoming her comment.
Serovek: “I like strong women. Soft…”
He bowed to her.
Serovek: “Or not.”
They were both quiet for a moment, staring at the shadow-shrouded mountainside that even the bright moon no longer illuminated.
Anhuset: “I’m not sure I’d know what to do with a hair ribbon,”
Anhuset finally said, addressing the stars above them.
Serovek: “Probably strangle someone with it.”
She choked on the wine she’d just sipped, and Serovek thumped her on the back until she quieted. Then she laughed, and he was lost. There was the magic of the Kai, and then there was the sorcery of Anhuset’s laughter. The purr of a cat mixed with the promise of a warm fire and the sleepy seduction of a satisfied lover, all bound together into a sound that rolled out of her throat and rasped past her lips to bewitch him.
Anhuset: “I will take that as a compliment and bid you good evening, margrave,” Anhuset: “I may not remember telling you I wouldn’t forgive you for having me stab you, but I do remember you boasting that if you survived the galla, I’d share your bed when you returned.”
Every speck of humor fled Serovek’s expression, and the blue eyes went black in an instant. He didn’t change position, but every muscle, relaxed just the moment before, fairly quivered with tension now.
Serovek: “I recall that boast as well.”
He almost growled the words. Anhuset crouched in front of him, allowing him to see her gaze touch on various parts of his body, lingering on his wide shoulders and trim waist, the muscled thighs and especially the impressive erection now ridging the laced placket of his trousers. Beladine stallion indeed.
Anhuset: “I don’t indulge when I’m on guard duty. Nor am I a reward for your victory over the galla, though you have my greatest admiration for your bravery. Maybe one day instead, I’ll have you in my bed.”
He didn’t miss a blink, and the smile he turned on her was meant to slay. In that moment, Anhuset was very glad she was Kai and could focus on the strangeness of his looks instead of their seductiveness.
Serovek: “You once said I wouldn’t survive you. While you were saying hello to my bits with your hand.”
She abandoned her crouch to take a seat in a spot that was a less tempting distance than the one next to him.
Anhuset: “Keep that in mind should I ever extend the invitation.” Her gaze drifted over him, stopping at his groin to stare admiringly at his endowments.
Anhuset: “So the rumors were accurate. I wondered. And doubted.”
He exhaled a combination of a cough and startled laughter before clearing his throat.
Serovek: “Did you now? I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. You're refreshingly forthright.”
The heat of a blush suffused her skin, chasing away the cold. She'd never been one to mince words, but there were times when it was better to keep one's thoughts to oneself. This was probably one of those times. But what was said was said, and she couldn't roll back time.
Anhuset: “I don't know how else to be, Stallion.”
Serovek: “And I'm grateful for it,”
he replied. He swept a hand down his torso.
Serovek: “If it were warmer...well, you aren't seeing me at my best.”
Anhuset: “I've seen you at your best.”
Her tongue had taken on a life of its own, refusing to heed the command of her brain which shouted at her to shut up.
Anhuset: “On the summit of a tor, as an eidolon returned from battling demons, in a fight with those who tortured my liege. The gods were generous with you, but that isn't what elevates you or any man.” Serovek: “Not much in the way of diplomacy there, firefly woman.”
She shrugged and set to work packing the last of her satchels in preparation for disembarking.
Anhuset: “I let him rob me and didn't eat him. That's diplomacy.” One eye finally opened to a bare squint, his gaze made even more hideous by the blood threads marring the whites of his eyes.
Serovek: “Ah gods,”
he said in a rough voice.
Serovek: “We made love, didn't we? And I don't remember any of it.”
He shifted position, cursing from the pain it caused him.
Serovek: “You weren't jesting when you said I wouldn't survive you.” Serovek: “Ugly you might find me, firefly woman, but I think you're beginning to like me,” Serovek: “Had I known you liked my arse, I'd have invited you to squeeze it long before now.”
She surprised him further by bending to nibble his chin. The playful touch lit a fire in his body as powerful as if she stroked his cock. The touch was as brief as it was powerful. Anhuset's own smile was a faint lift of one corner of her mouth. She gave him another squeeze.
Anhuset: “It's an exceptionally nice arse, margrave. I'll admit to admiring it more than a few times, but consider it a mercy as well as a compliment. It's one of the few spots on you that Chamtivos didn't pummel black and blue.”
Serovek: “Don't let any of that stop you from touching wherever you please,” Anhuset: “You may not survive me, margrave, but I'll do all in my power to make sure you survive this stupid hunt.”
His heart raced even faster at her words. That was an invitation, a declaration that he was welcomed into her bed and into her body. But this was Anhuset, and he never made assumptions regarding her, no matter how sure he might be.
Serovek: “So my reward for living will be dying from swiving you at a later date?”
She tapped his shoulder with one claw.
Anhuset: “Don't presume. It will be me swiving you.”
She stroked his matted hair, fingers catching in the strands stuck together with dried blood.
Anhuset: “A reward for the pair of us. And I'm not in the habit of killing my lovers. You'll live.”
Anhuset: “Barely.” Anhuset: “Do you always court death?”
she asked, a growl underlying her question He dabbed the corners of his mouth with his napkin.
Serovek: “Rarely, though some might consider courting you one and the same.” Serovek: "Return to Saggara on Magas.”
He'd turn himself over to his captors without struggle. Magas though was his and his only.
Serovek: “Rodan has always coveted him. He's out of a mare from Nadiza's lightning herd. The king doesn't get my stallion as a bonus.”
Anhuset: “He shouldn't be getting my stallion either.”
She glared at him as if he were the one who instigated all of this. Serovek: “That honeyed tongue you said I had? Not only useful in seducing a prickly Kai woman. The king knows my value to him. I'll talk my way out of this one.” Anhuset: “I'm here to make you the subject of idle gossip in every tavern, brothel and court gathering in Timsiora,”
she teased. The lines at the corners of his eyes deepened with his answering smile.
Serovek: “You've never done things by half measure, though I can't guess what you did to make me even more a target for gossip mongers than I already am.”
While her public declaration to all and sundry that she and the margrave of High Salure were lovers had been done for a specific purpose, she wasn't ashamed that others knew. She didn't know how Serovek might feel about it.
Anhuset: “I announced at the entry gate that I was your lover and had come to visit you. I'm afraid I've diminished you in the eyes of your countrymen.”
Sincere confusion and puzzlement settled over his face.
Serovek: “How would such an announcement, a true and glorious one I might add, diminish me?”
She must have made an odd noise because his eyebrows crashed together.
Serovekk: “What's wrong?”
If she weren't made of hardier stuff, her knees might have buckled. No practiced charm or seductive quip would ever equal in power what he just said to her. It was a punch to the gut in the best way.
Anhuset: “Nothing. Now that I'm here.” Anhuset: “We didn't speak long. My horse was tired, and we were both eager to get home.”
She didn't mention Magas's name, knowing word would get back to the king who, according to Serovek, coveted the stallion. He stroked her knuckles with his thumbs.
Serovek: “You were always patient with your steeds,”
he teased. She snorted.
Anhuset: “This one, like all stallions, requires it, but they do the job adequately if you ride them hard enough and keep a steady hand.”
His sputtered laughter made her grin.
Serovek: “Gods, firefly woman, how I have missed you.” Anhuset: “We live for those we love. We die for those we love. This is a privilege, Serovek, not a sacrifice.”