The Angel of Paragon (The Treasure of Paragon Book 10)- Paperback
The Angel of Paragon (The Treasure of Paragon Book 10)- Paperback
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An angel called. A devil answered.
An angel called. A devil answered.
Princess Charlotte is the sole heir to the kingdom of Paragon. But twenty-five years after she helped vanquish Empress Eleanor, her parents still treat her like a child—and it doesn’t help that her sunny angel disposition makes her easy to overlook. When the king and queen leave Paragon for an extended period, Charlie decides to prove her leadership skills by throwing a party themed around a popular Earth holiday.
Environmental scientist Liam Morris doesn’t do relationships or celebrations. In his experience, relationships are nothing but distractions, most of them doomed to fail. Pair that with a celebration… No, thank you. He’d rather spend his days on an iceberg in the Arctic than around a table with his family.
Things get complicated when Charlie snatches Liam from Earth and brings him to Paragon, hoping he’ll help her iron out the details of her event. Will grumpy, bearded Liam be the answer to her prayers… or more trouble than she can handle?
“Happy birthday, Aunt Avery!” Charlie proudly handed over the gift she’d made her aunt and added a kiss to her cheek for good measure. She’d spent hours designing the set of sapphire earrings—finding the perfect stones, mounting them in gold wire, then charming them with a spell she’d performed herself so that they’d always glow from within. She thought they were a suitable gift for a Highland lady. Charlie had taken care to choose a stone that complemented her aunt’s and Xavier’s clan colors.
Avery gasped when she opened the box. “Oh, Charlie, they are exquisite!”
Her cheeks warmed. She’d never been good at accepting compliments, but there was nothing better in her estimation than bringing a smile to someone’s face. “Thank you. I made them dangle so that your powers wouldn’t neutralize the magic that makes them glow.”
Avery’s innate ability as a witch was to nullify magic, although that particular power wasn’t nearly as impressive as her skill with her sword, Fairy Killer. With it in her hand, no dragon, including her mate Xavier, would ever challenge her. Aunt Avery was a total badass.
But she’d also slowed down in recent years. Charlie had noticed that she trained less and slept more when she came to visit these days. With the silver that had appeared in her aunt’s hair and the fine lines and wrinkles that edged her eyes and mouth, Charlie couldn’t help but notice that Avery was the only person in her life who was aging. Perhaps that’s why her mother, Raven, and her father, Gabriel, had invited Xavier and Avery to this special birthday dinner at the Obsidian Palace. Birthdays mattered to Aunt Avery because, as a mortal, she’d only get so many of them.
And Aunt Avery was fifty years old today.
A lump formed in Charlie’s throat thinking about it. She’d read humans could live to be a hundred or more, but she didn’t like to think that her aunt had an expiration date. And what would happen to Xavier after she was gone? Dragons mated for life—their life, not the lives of their mate. He would never love again after Avery. Just the thought sent a twinge of grief through her heart.
Charlie forced herself to smile brighter. The last thing her aunt needed was to be reminded of their dark future on her special day. She disguised the lump in her throat by focusing her attention on the birthday cake that remained on her plate—a scrumptious earthly tradition she no longer had an appetite for.
Age was a funny thing. Technically, Charlie was twenty-five human years old if she counted using her aunt’s age as a guide, but she’d been fully grown for over a decade. Her accelerated maturity was due to celestial magic, the product of being the daughter of a witch and a dragon. In Earth terms, her kind were often called angels, but in the ancient Greek texts in the palace library, she was called a guardian. Neither term suited her. Charlie preferred not to label herself as anything but Charlie, princess of Paragon. Unlike Avery, she was immortal. She’d stopped aging years ago, when she’d surpassed her mother in height and was just shy of being as tall as her father.
“I have one more gift for you, Avery.” Raven glanced at Gabriel conspiratorially. Charlie’s mother and father were always doing that, speaking to each other without saying anything. What she wouldn’t give to be able to read their minds some days.
Dressed in the kilt and linen shirt that was common in his realm and looking serious, Uncle Xavier placed a hand on Avery’s shoulder, as if he knew what was coming and was as anxious as he was excited about it. Charlie wondered what it might be. Her mother and Uncle Nathaniel had argued about something recently and Avery’s name had come up, but Charlie hadn’t caught the crux of their disagreement.
“Don’t keep me in suspense.” Avery placed her hand atop Xavier’s, glancing between him and Mom as if she was having an equally difficult time guessing what this might be about.
Mom rubbed her palms together in slow circles and rose from her chair to pace the dining room. Charlie tracked her movements. Odd. That’s how her mom acted when she was nervous about something. “We think we’ve found a way for you to take Xavier’s tooth.”
Avery’s face crumpled into a mixture of disappointment and annoyance. “Xavier and I have already tried everything, Raven,” she grumbled. “It’s time for all of us to accept that I won’t be here forever. It’s folly to keep trying. It just sets everyone up for disappointment.”
Charlie’s mother was a powerful witch. If she thought there was a way, there probably was, but Charlie empathized with her aunt’s predicament too. Raising everyone’s hopes only to fail again and again must be devastating. Mom took a deep breath and let it out through her nose. “I know it seems like we’ve tried everything, but I’ve been working with the witches of Darnuith, aided by Queen Penelope. I believe we’ve found a way. And the best part is, we know it will work because it already has.”
Charlie’s heart beat faster at the hope her mother offered, but her aunt Avery seemed far less enthusiastic about the possibility. “Darnuith? You told Queen Penelope about my mortality?”
“Penelope is going to perform the spell to unbind the three of us again—you, Clarissa, and me—as Aborella once did. Once your power is gone, Xavier will feed you his tooth. We’ll wait for the dragon bond to take hold, then rebind ourselves and return our magic.”
A dragon’s tooth could make another being immortal for as long as the dragon lived. Rowan’s mate, Nick; Nathaniel’s mate, Clarissa; Sylas’s mate, Dianthe; and Colin’s mate, Leena, had all become immortal in this way. But Avery’s innate power meant the magic of Xavier’s tooth was neutralized by her own before it could take root. Taking away her power long enough for the two to make the immortal bond was a brilliant idea.
Only, judging by the way Avery shifted in her seat, squaring her shoulders as if readying herself for battle, it was clear she didn’t share Charlie’s fondness for the idea. “Absolutely not!” Avery snapped. “The three of us will be defenseless.”
“Only temporarily.” Mom started pacing again. Beside her, Dad had gone unnervingly still, a behavior Charlie recognized was the calm before the storm. He was becoming agitated, and she suspected he wouldn’t be quiet for long.
“You’ll be at the mercy of Darnuith,” Avery gritted out. “All Penelope would need to do is kill us all when we’re vulnerable and she could take Paragon.”
A deep roar cut through her father’s throat. There he goes. Charlie had to stop herself from leaning away from him in her seat. He’d never been anything but kind to her, but that growl was a threat she could feel in her bones.
“Last I checked, I am still king of Paragon, and I have no intention of handing the kingdom over so easily. No one will hurt Raven or a single hair on the heads of the three of you because I, along with Xavier and Nathaniel, will be there to make sure they don’t. Three mate-bonded dragons are something no intelligent ruler would intentionally antagonize.”
Raven placed a calming hand on Gabriel’s arm and added, “Penelope has proven herself a trustworthy ally. She’s one of my best friends, and as queen she knows that this will put us in her kingdom’s debt. Believe me, Avery, I wouldn’t have pursued this if I thought it wasn’t safe. There is risk, and it won’t be easy, but I believe it will work. She’ll take apart the bond, we’ll lose our powers, Xavier will feed you his tooth, and then the witches will bond us again, as was done before. Nathaniel will be there himself to oversee all of it.”
Xavier gripped his mate’s shoulders and shook gently. “Ye’ve got ta try, mo chridhe. It’ll kill ma ta lose ya, ye ken? I won’ ’ave it. Nah without a fight.”
The lump was back in Charlie’s throat as a tear cut a trail down Avery’s cheek. It was all there in those stormy eyes. She could dismiss her sister, but she’d try anything for her mate.
“Fine. I’ll do it.” Her aunt took a deep breath, her inner warrior seeming to wake up to the idea. “But for the record, I don’t think anyone should get their hopes up.” She directed that at Raven and Xavier with a steely glance at one, then the other. “It’s possible that as soon as I have my powers returned, the effects of the tooth will be neutralized and we’ll be back where we started. All of us need to prepare ourselves for a disappointing outcome.”
Behind her, Xavier’s mouth hooked into a grin. “Ach, I prefer ta hope fur the best.”
“It’s settled then,” Gabriel said. “I’ll ask Marius to man the kingdom in our absence.”
Up to that point, Charlie had been content observing from the sidelines and praying Aunt Avery would attempt her mother’s plan, but her father’s words brought her back into the moment. She smiled up at her father and cleared her throat. “No need to ask Marius,” she said brightly. “I will head the kingdom in your absence.”
Her mother paused, looking flustered. “Oh, Charlie, Marius has a wealth of experience from his work as ambassador. I’m sure he won’t mind.”
She shook her head. “I don’t mind. Marius is busy with his own duties as well as his family. I am princess, and I have no other responsibilities. I’m happy to do it.”
“Well, that’s so sweet of you, Charlie, really, but, uh—” Raven glanced at Gabriel as if pleading for him to back her up.
A dull ache started in Charlie’s chest as she slowly came to suspect that her mother either didn’t think she was capable of leading the kingdom in her absence or didn’t trust her with the responsibility. “I am a fully grown adult. Older, in fact, than you were when you had me—”
“But you’ve never done something like this before,” Raven argued breathlessly. “And we’ll be gone two to three weeks. Maybe longer.”
“We will?” Avery flashed her sister a confused look.
“We need to give the tooth time to become part of you,” Raven explained. “Penelope says that if the magic is given time to root in all your cells that when your abilities return, they won’t recognize it as something foreign. Only we don’t know exactly how long that will take.”
Avery closed her eyes for a beat as if she found the idea overwhelming.
Charlie made use of the silence that followed to continue to plead her case. In a kind but confident tone, she said, “I understand why you’d be worried, but I’ve participated in every aspect of running this kingdom from your side for no less than five years. I know the ins and outs as well as anyone, and aside from one meeting of the Elder Council, which I can lead in my sleep, there is nothing but managing the house on the royal schedule at the moment. Besides, it’s not as if Marius won’t be here if I have questions. And if by some twist of fate he’s unavailable, Alexander and Maiara are still in residence, and Colin and Leena are too.”
“She has a point,” Gabriel murmured, eliciting a pained look from her mother.
Aunt Avery and Xavier became suspiciously quiet as they no doubt attempted to avoid getting caught up in the family tiff. Charlie hadn’t meant to make anyone uncomfortable—it just seemed obvious to her that this was her job and one she could easily do.
Her mother coupled her hands in front of her hips. “Listen… Charlie… You’re right. You are ready, but why don’t we let Marius take this one, and then when your father and I return, we can gradually transition more responsibilities to you and create some opportunities for you to practice your leadership skills during shorter absences and under more controlled circumstances.”
A deep well of disappointment opened in Charlie’s chest. “You don’t think I can do it.”
“That’s not what your mother is suggesting,” her father said. “We want to be fair to you. I’ve managed people for most of my existence, and I would never spring a responsibility of this magnitude on someone of your age and experience with this short notice.”
Charlie could hear the note of finality in her father’s voice and frowned at the floor, knowing that the decision had already been made. As disappointing as it was to her, the last thing Charlie wanted was to be a burden on her parents during this already difficult time. If they were worried about the kingdom, they wouldn’t be free to concentrate on the spell that could save her aunt. She’d only wanted to help, not to cause them more worry.
“All right,” she said softly.
Her mother gave her shoulder an empathetic pat. “I’ll tell Marius to allow you to lead Elder Council and to lean on you as much as he needs to.”
Charlie’s smile was shaky as she replied, “Okay. I understand.”
“Then it’s settled.” Her mother turned back to her sister. “Avery, Xavier, let’s plan to leave first thing in the morning.”
Avery clutched Xavier’s hand, her lashes fluttering. “Three weeks means we’ll miss Christmas in the builgean.”
Xavier shook his head. “If this works, it’ll be the greatest gift ya could bestow ’pon our clan. There’ll be other Christmases, curaidh.”
Funny, Charlie had participated in a few Christmases with her mother and human grandparents when she was very young, but it had been more than two decades. Once it was deemed dangerous for her to leave Paragon, their family stopped the tradition, even when her grandparents came to visit. She couldn’t remember much about the Earth holiday or why it was so important to humans. The way her aunt and uncle were acting, it was a true loss to miss it.
“We should make preparations,” her father said before rising to leave the room. Everyone stood to follow, murmuring about what to bring on their royal trip to Darnuith. Charlie was left staring after them, fists clenched. Deep inside, she just knew she was born to lead, and she vowed to someday prove it to them.
- Friends to lovers
- Family saga
- Witches & magic