The Divided Kingdom
Sophie H. Morgan
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd
Date of Publication: 21 April 2015
Number of pages: 318
Word Count: approx. 99540
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Secrets can burn.
Reared from birth to rule the Phoenix territory, Ana fled her future and her past when her parents were murdered. Now she secretly leads a rebellion to stop the human ruler, Edward, from experimenting on supernaturals.
When she finds herself cornered by an assassin, she knows just what to do: Roast him and toast him. Then recognition sends blue-tipped flames licking through her veins. It’s Cade, the royal bodyguard who once rejected her youthful confession of love.
When Cade regains consciousness from the force of Ana’s punch, he’s still reeling from shock—and fury. He’d loved the princess, and for ten years he thought her dead. Though his inner jackal growls with desire for her, she is the key to completing his mission for Edward—hunt down the rebel known as Liberty.
Ana can’t believe Cade doesn’t know the truth about Edward. If she can convince him of it, his blade could turn the tide of the rebellion. But first they must get beyond their past, or the whole kingdom could go up in smoke.
Contains incendiary sex between a phoenix princess with a secret identity, and a jackal shifter who can take a lot of heat. Boys from the “hood”, a king jacked up on enhanced DNA, and killer heels. Anybody got a match?
A smile played over his lips, a knowing one. “You were mine, once.”
When his thumb brushed her cheekbone, dipping down to rub her bottom lip, it was all she could do not to purr. For whatever reasons, this man could get beneath her barriers. He could make her lose control.
But he made her remember the past, something that threatened the foundation of the life she’d built for herself.
The door swinging into darkness. Cold, oozing puddles that cling stickily to bare feet. A young voice, wavering as she called out for her parents. Her locket a dull gold, mottled with red where it lay.
With effort, Ana jerked her chin away from his touch. “Get your hands off me, Cade.” With a thin smile, she added, “Only the vampire has those rights.”
That flash of anger. For some reason, the man in front still viewed her as partly his—the jackal, maybe, claiming her. Except jackals were solitary animals.
A growl rumbled through his chest. Keeping eye contact, he stood. When he leaned forward, she flinched, unable to help herself. Whether she was afraid of being touched or tortured, she didn’t know.
His arms flexed with muscle as he worked at something about her head. Something clunked, and the chains fell away from her with a heavy jangle. They lay on the bedspread, innocent and coiled like a false snake.
Grasping she was free, Ana slid from the bed. “Son of a bitch,” she spat, putting out a hand to help steady her. “Iron?”
She lunged at him, confused when her body refused to cooperate. Her biker boots hit the floor as she landed, tottering, two feet away from her intended target.
Focusing inward, she registered how cold her embers were. They barely glittered, a few halfhearted sparks at her prompting. A breath hissed from her.
Phoenixes radiated at around one hundred and twenty degrees; she’d wager she was operating on about human temperature. The lack of heat in the room and lack of food and water equaled her core running on empty. Even as she thought it, the sparks began to disintegrate, sucking inward to preserve the embers at her core.
Determined, she fought through the weakness, charging Cade.
He allowed himself to be thrust backward. “You’re too cold,” he commented. “Hungry. You can’t hurt me.”
“You wanna bet?”
Her knee jerked upward, narrowly blocked by Cade’s hand.
“Don’t even try it.” He pushed her away, making her stagger from weak knees. “You’ll be on your back quicker than an eager whore. Then again,” he continued, the jackal’s obvious pleasure at the verbal sparring spinning through his wicked smile, “maybe you’d enjoy that.”
With a vengeful shriek, Ana went for him. She jabbed with her fists, using her elbows when that didn’t work. He avoided all her blows, laughing with a gut-deep amusement.
When she used her scissor-kick, she saw her mistake too late as he caught her legs and flipped her to the dirty gray carpet. He was on top of her before she could curse, lazy amusement swirling like phoenix smoke.
His arms caged her as an old dimple flashed. “What did I say?”
His weight suddenly pressed down on her abdomen slashes. A wince tugged at her face before she could stop it, a hiss pouring from between her teeth.
His face changed immediately. “Fires above, Alana, you should have said something.”
“I thought you’d hurt me if it was necessary.” She shoved him off her. He let her, a hunter tracking her as she stumbled away. She dropped into the chair he’d claimed earlier, unwilling to admit her jelly limbs. “You’re all mouth.”
A slow smile spread over his face while his eyes altered to a dark velvet. Damn. She’d always been a sucker for the shadow-drenched eyes.
He stalked nearer, the jackal’s satisfied rumble curling out of his mouth as strong hands came down over hers on the chair’s arms.
She couldn’t dislodge him. Curses spilled from her as panic, not for her life but for something more prized, surged up her throat. “Don’t you come near me, Cade Lorin.”
“All mouth?” he repeated, his voice that dark drawl he’d once whispered her name with. “I’ll show you all mouth.”
Character Name: I go by Ana, but if you want the fancy-pants version, it's Princess Alana of the Royal House of Farrah
Character Bio: You don't really want to hear the whole sob story, do you?
So I was born in the High Lands - the phoenix territory - as Princess Alana. I hated it. I won't go on and on about how I didn't fit in, my parents wanted me to be different, felt stifled, blah blah blah. My bodyguard, Cade, a jackal shifter, was the only person who saw the real me - the me who wanted to learn archery, the me who loved pranks and sneaking cake from under Cook's nose. I fell in love with him, and the night I declared it, he pushed me away. The same night, incidentally, that my parents announced my arranged marriage to the human high ruler, and then were murdered. AND I was accused of the deed. I was just eighteen.
I know. Us phoenix types are great, aren't we?
I needed to get away, from the suspicions, from Cade. I ran to the Southlands, to the broken human cities, determined to hide in plain sight. Thank holy fires, I managed to run into possibly the only gutter gang with hearts and was absorbed into their group, under the leadership of the enigmatic vampire, Trick.
Fast forward ten years and I'm co-leader of the gang now called "The Hoods". We patrol the treacherous neighbourhoods, fighting back the scum of humanity and other supernatural races. And like shadow warriors, we lead a rebellion against the twisted high ruler I was once promised to, fighting to save the Southlands from tyranny under the figurehead people call Liberty - me.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
Okay, I'm awesome, but I know Trick would say I can be stubborn and prideful, and I can hold a grudge. Like for-ev-er.
But my loyalty once given couldn't be broken by a Greatsword or even a laser bolt from a flashgun. I'd fight to the death for the people I consider under my protection.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
Well, NOT that I'm a princess. I'd rather drink acid than go back, despite my occasional worries about my people. Phoenix nobles are brutal bastards. What can I say? If something about me is worth knowing, I'm not shy about telling people.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
Ah. The whole princess, ruler of the High Lands, ultimate power thing. Though sometimes I think Trick suspects.
And that I still have nightmares about walking in on my parents' murder scene. Stepping in their blood.
What are you most afraid of?
Death doesn't scare me. The battles I fight every day force me to stare death in its ugly, skeletal face and death blinks first. No, what I'm most scared of is failing people, like I did so often when I was growing up. So many rely on me as Liberty, as Ana of the Hoods. I don't want to disappoint them.
What do you want more than anything?
To kill Edward, the human High Ruler and free the people of the experiments he's doing on Others (what we collectively call all the supernatural races)
What is your relationship status?
Single and fine with it. I like sex, but being a phoenix means if things get too hot, so can I - and then my partner's on fire. Tad embarrassing. Besides a relationship means giving over your soul to a man, and since Cade slapped mine back like it was a tennis ball, I'm good with being single.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
Slum chic. I've got to dress in black to blend, tight clothing so nobody can grab something when I'm fighting, and my tough-ass biker boots my fellow gang member, Faer, bought me when I joined.
How much of a rebel are you?
Trick question? Since I'm leading a rebellion, I'm gonna go with....fairly rebellious. And I chafe against taking orders. Trick's always saying my need for independence is going to get me in trouble one of these days, but the vampire's always been melodramatic.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
Definitely stirring the Hoods up into protecting the neighbourhoods and launching a campaign against Edward's tyranny. The human bastard's going down.
What is your idea of happiness?
I'm not even sure anymore. I obviously want peace, but then what am I supposed to do? At the moment, happiness is chilling with my gang, drinking in the camaraderie, and being in the bloody midst of a fight, battling with claws, dagger, or bow, back-to-back with the Hoods. The idea of Cade never enters my mind. Nope. Never.
What is your current state of mind?
Pensive, yet hopeful. We're making good headway into the shadowy siege against Edward, even with the disturbing news of a Merc - a kind of assassin - being hired to hunt Liberty. But it's fine. Nobody knows who she is. He'd have to be something special to find the truth.
What is your most treasured possession?
I kept the bow Cade taught me to shoot with. I still remember crisp, windy mornings, his warm, muscular body behind me, the dark scent of him as he corrected my position. I take it with me every time I patrol for luck.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Hot-headed. But, duh, I'm a phoenix. Fire literally swirls in my veins, in my gut, ready to explode with my emotions. As if nature wanted to emphasise that, my hair echoes fire, shimmering with thousands of reds and oranges. It's chopped off now, partly because it makes me too recognisable. And partly because Cade used to stare at it with such longing, as if he wanted to stroke a hand down its length. Bastard.
What is it that you, most dislike?
About myself? Didn't I tell you that I'm awesome? But if I had to find one thing, it'd be how hard I find it to control my emotions enough that fire doesn't slip from my body and turn everything to ash.
And I'm too skinny. But that's as a result of the gutter diet, not cosmetic.
Which living person do you, most despise?
I feel like a broken record, but Edward. I cannot explain the entirety of his twisted mind, what his perverted aims are for the human race as he cuts into Others... He is the closest I know to evil.
What is your greatest regret?
That I didn't punch Cade for his bland rejection of my feelings. Any man does that now gets a quick and fierce introduction to my trusty dagger.
If I'm allowed two regrets, my other one is that the last words I spoke to my parents were shouted in anger. I went to their chamber to argue their decision to barter me off like property. We said things we can't ever take back. And though they weren't the greatest parents ever, I still loved them.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Confidence. To challenge me, to face battle with a laugh, to smile that smile that knows you're picturing him naked.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
As a friend? None of this girly frou-frou shit. They've got to thumb their noses at the inevitable opinions that girls can't fight as a man. *blows raspberry* So, in a way, it's the same thing: confidence.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
I don't get time to read or watch screen shows, but I loved Robin Hood when I was a girl, which was why I based the gang's name on his noble antics.
Which living person do you most admire?
Trick is my co-leader, my frustrating, infuriating brother-in-blood. He fights against the cravings for blood, against draining his victim dry daily, hourly. He plays his cards close to his chest, only letting his emotions out with me and Faer, but is kind to victims. He's possibly the last of his kind, vampires having been almost exterminated in the Kingdom Wars, and I know that isolation must play on him. But he never lets on, just keeps pushing on. When I met him, I knew right then: I have to have that same determined spirit.
But don't tell the bastard. He'll have an even bigger head than he already does.
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
That I was born royal. If I was born Jane Ordinary, the concern for my people that nibbles at the back of my mind wouldn't be there and I'd be truly free.
What is your motto?
Fight the good fight, kill clean, and don't let the bastards get you down.
Sophie H. Morgan is a paranormal romance author with a love for hot guys, sassy heroines and HEAs that seem impossible. Currently residing in England, Sophie divides her time between her two crazy spaniels and plotting how best to drive her characters into each other’s arms. Ashes is her first book.