Fifty years of war have led up to this.
Prince Galian spends his days ministering to the sick in Kylae, but his nights strategizing how to change hearts and minds of his people. With the death camp closed, the country is becoming more volatile, and even King Grieg may not be able to maintain control over the warring factions.
Across the Great Madion Sea, Theo Kallistrate seeks an audience with the Raven rebels, rumored to be brewing insurrection against President Bayard. But they don't trust her, and progress has been achingly slow. When the war takes a major turn, Theo and Galian find themselves front and center in a political firestorm that could end with their union…or their funeral.
The Union is the final book in the Madion War Trilogy, which readers have called, "fast-paced," "compelling," and "not to be missed."
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The mid-afternoon doldrums usually hit around three or four. Summer in Norose was stifling, as the winds off the Madion Sea stopped, and the hot, moist air hung between the tall buildings. Although the hospital was cool to keep away infection, it didn't keep away the malaise.READ MORE
To boot, it was a slow day. We hadn't had many scheduled surgeries, and except for a few cases of heat exhaustion, there'd only been a couple of admittances since my shift had started that morning. Dr. Maitland, only two weeks returned from his sabbatical to the country of Herin, had sent home a quarter of the staff, and was considering sending another few if things didn't pick up.
He'd offered me the afternoon off, but I couldn't take it. Even Maitland didn't know that my purpose at the Kylaen Royal Hospital was twofold. To the world, I was Dr. Galian Helmuth, resident. But I was also a courier on behalf of my mother, Queen Korina.
For the past six months, the messages had been mostly innocuous. Mom was having me receive responses to questions she sent through other channels. Usually, the most I had to remember was "yes" or "no." Sometimes, I didn't even know the question I had the answer for. Mom said it made things safer, just in case I were found out or my contact was a spy.
But I wasn't completely blind to what we were doing. I knew my mother had her hands in several things—most importantly, fomenting rebellion in the island country of Rave, but also in trying to placate several competing interests in Kylae. Our barethium stores had begun to run low, thanks to my efforts—I'd closed the death camp that processed it. But the businessmen who dealt in the material were growing restless.
I glanced at the time—nearly four. The first time I'd received a message for my mother, I'd been a nervous wreck and had driven the nurses crazy. But now, I was an old pro and I had a process. Five minutes before the meeting time, I'd roll over to the nurse's station and start a conversation with Nurse Rima, the charge nurse. I'd ask her about her two grandkids, and she'd go on and on about them. Eventually, I'd casually ask if we'd had any new cases, and then make my move.
"Dr. Helmuth, your car is ready."
I blinked, too focused on Rima to process immediately what the person had said, at first. I turned to my right and found a blonde, brown-eyed sergeant standing in the hall. Her hands were clasped behind her back, her yellow hair pulled into a military bun. The dress uniform of Kylae's military was immaculate, the same one that my guards wore when ferrying me to and from the hospital.
"Dr. Helmuth?" she repeated, with a nervous glance at the nurse eyeing her suspiciously.
I leaned against the counter, sharing a smile with Rima. "I'm sorry, there must be a mix-up. I don't get off for another three hours."
She took a hesitant step forward. "Your mother has summoned you."
"Tell her to wait," I said with a small shrug. "I can't just leave."
The ghost of a scowl appeared on her face, and it was all I could do not to smirk. Rima was still surveying the sergeant as if she were an unknown agent, but then turned to me. "Doctor, I think we've got it covered here. If your mother needs you—"
"Oh, Mom always needs something," I said with a laugh. "But if you think you guys will be fine without me…"
"I am sure of it."
I paused. "Let me go check with Dr. Maitland first. I'll see you later, Nurse Rima."
"Always a pleasure, Doctor."
I pushed myself off the counter and started down the hall. The hurried clacking of boots followed me and I could practically feel her irritation at me. "Dr. Helmuth—"
"Sire or Prince Galian, if you please," I said, glancing behind me. "We must stand on ceremony, after all."
That earned me a true scowl. "We're on a bit of a time crunch here."
"This will only take a second," I said, holding open the door to the doctor's lounge.
Dr. Maitland sat at one of the tables, a steaming mug of coffee in his hand and the newspaper splayed out in front of him. He glanced at me, then the sergeant still glowering at me, and a smile appeared on his face.
"Dr. Maitland, it appears I have a royal summons," I said. "My mother needs me."
Maitland shrugged and winked at the soldier. "Who am I to overrule the queen of Kylae?" He pushed himself to stand and gathered the paper and coffee. "Does Rima have your files?"
"Yes," I said with a nod. "Just keep an eye on Mr. Bernard for me. I don't like the look of his blood pressure."
"Will do," Maitland said, patting me on the shoulder. "Give my regards to your mother for me." He closed the door behind him, and the soldier let out an impatient growl.
"If you don't—"
I crossed the room in three steps, pushed her against the wall, and covered her mouth with mine.
She leaned into it for a moment, then shoved me away roughly. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
The pale makeup had smudged, revealing darker brown skin underneath, and several black strands of hair had fallen from beneath the wig. Even when she was made up to look like a Kylaen, I would've known my Theo anywhere. If not from the sound of her voice, then the adorable way her nose crinkled when she was angry with me. Based on the number of lines on her nose, she was livid.
"Sire or Prince Galian?" she huffed.
"All the guards use my title," I said, but I couldn't keep the smile off my face. I'd honestly just wanted to see her reaction.
"And parading me around the hospital? We could've been seen! That nurse was giving me the side-eye—"
"Rima gives everyone the side-eye," I said, running my hands along her curves. My fingertips slipped underneath the uniform and found warm, soft skin. "Hi, by the way. I missed you."
She relaxed, but only a little. "I missed you too, amichai. But Kader is waiting. We need to get back to the castle and debrief your mother."
"You were gone a long time," I said, ignoring her warnings. "I was worried."
"You needn't have," Theo said, but her face softened a bit. "Kader knows what he's doing."
"But I'm not there, and I don't like it…"
She sighed deeply, and I could tell by the way she pressed her lips together she was holding in a comment. Perhaps about my usefulness while sneaking around an enemy country. So, I saved her the trouble of responding and kissed her again. This time, she leaned into it, giving me entry into her mouth. I crushed her against the wall, making sure she knew just how worried I was, and wondering if I should lock the door.
When a soft moan escaped her lips, she must've remembered where we were, because she pushed me back. "We can't. Someone could see us."
"Then why'd you come to the hospital to get me?" I asked with a smirk. "You can't possibly expect me to keep my hands to myself."
She opened and closed her mouth, and I could almost see her face growing redder under the makeup. "I…that's…"
"Admit it, you wanted to see me all doctorly," I said, pressing my hips against hers. "It turns you on—"
She glared at me. "Pompous princeling."
"You fell in love with me," I said with a shrug.
"Be that as it may," she said, glancing behind me. "We need to go. People are already curious about why I'm here."
"I'm having a consultation with a patient," I grinned, reaching for her again. "C'mon, let me give you a physical. Ooh, even better, I can give you a GYN exam—"
She slapped my groping hands away, but I knew she was on the verge of letting me take her then and there against the wall. Her visits to Kylae were few and far between, lasting only hours before she and Kader left again. We hadn't made love once, not since our stolen night in Jervan before this whole mess began. If I'd been miserable when she was an ocean away, these brief interludes were torturing me. I just wanted an hour alone with her when she wasn't rushing off to the next mission.
"Amichai, we have to go," she said softly.
I sighed, knowing she was right. "Fine."COLLAPSE