The Shadow Rule: The Stars and Green Magics Book 2 (Ebook)
The Shadow Rule: The Stars and Green Magics Book 2 (Ebook)
Shapeshifting powers, forbidden love, and a kingdom hanging in the balance.
🏳️🌈 Sapphic arranged marriage
🏳️⚧️ Trans and nonbinary main characters
👑 Royal court intrigue
🪄 Space magic
THE ENEMY BY MY SIDE. THE ENEMY IN MY HEART.
Ari will never be the Heir again. Her younger sister, Dressa, was supposed to hold her place, but now Dressa’s stolen her future rulership.
Banished to a resort world to recover from her illness, Ari’s determined to reclaim her shapeshifting abilities and race back to the capital. But a young gardener with a mysterious past is taking too much interest in Ari’s new persona, and a possessive duke is bent on capturing her attention for himself.
Are they both after her heart, or something far more sinister?
Dressa won her freedom, won her bride—and won a kingdom she didn’t want. Now, with an alien crisis brewing, she has to step up as the Heir, and maybe, soon, as the ruler.
Because there’s a secret at the heart of the kingdom. A secret that spans her father’s entire rule and could bring everything tumbling down.
And she’s already let the enemy into her palace, and into her heart.
When no one is who they seem and every smile is a weapon, the Truthspoken must find their way to truth before the kingdom crumbles around them.
The Shadow Rule collects episodes 37-93 of The Stars and Green Magics, previously published in serial form.
Note: This book has main characters who use gender neutral pronouns (they/them/their, fae/faer/faerself).
💡Please check content notes.
Published by Robot Dinosaur Press.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
"A love match isn’t always a thing to be desired. Why tie yourself down when a good seduction will get the same result?"
--Lord Esara Teoh méron Brint in A Guide to Etiquette at the Palace Rhialden Court
Dressa came out of her Change trance slowly, gradually aware of her surroundings. Under the covers, her body held its usual shape, and she sighed deeply, feeling its familiar bounds.
The scent of ocean juniper turned her head to find Lesander, just rolling over to face her.
She blinked several times. Had Lesander stayed there the whole hour it had taken her to Change? No, it had to have been more than an hour. Her mouth was dry and thick, more than a Change would account for. She’d—Adeius, she hadn’t just Changed, she’d slept, too.
Dressa pushed up. The lamp on the end table was on dim, but the room had no windows, no clocks. “What time—”
“Early morning,” Lesander said. “Shh. The Truthspeaker said the Adeium is guarded, and she guarantees the Seritarchus won’t disturb us. She said she spoke with him last night. Came to me after. She said to let you sleep, and to sleep myself.” Lesander yawned wide. “Which I did.”
Dressa’s breath hitched. “What did my father say?”
“You’ll have to ask the Truthspeaker.”
Lesander groaned and buried her face back in her pillow. “Would you mind sleeping a few more hours?”
Dressa wasn’t anything like tired now, knowing her father had been to see Ceorre. She had to know how that had gone. She had to know just how deep in the shit she was. In the courtyard the day before, he’d nodded to her. What had that meant? He couldn’t have approved of what she was doing, not after she’d flat-out defied him and gone over his head to Ceorre.
She looked down at herself, at her own self. Now that she wasn’t Arianna anymore, her mind was not reconciling the urgent fact that she was the Heir—she, Dressa, not Arianna. She herself was the Truthspoken Heir, as herself.
Lesander shifted, pushed up to sit, too. “Are you all right?”
Dressa nodded, her mouth compressed.
Lesander tilted her head, bit her lip. Dressa’s gaze went right there, white teeth on pink lips.
“Am I freaking you out?” Lesander asked.
“What? No! No, it’s—” Dressa pushed her hair out of her eyes. She’d look a mess. Her dark hair in tight tangles, no makeup. Absolutely un-sexy. “I’m surprised I’m not freaking you out.”
“Oh, you are. I’m absolutely freaking out.” But Lesander’s tone was sardonic, the corners of her mouth quirking up.
Lesander studied her, and Dressa, arrested by the growing heat of the look, stared back.
“So, am I your type?” Lesander asked.
Adeius, Lesander didn’t mince words, did she?
“Uh—” Heat. She was being flooded with heat, and she debated the merits of trying to enter a light trance right now to calm it all down. Would Lesander notice either way? Should she tell Lesander she had a crush on her?
Well, but why the hell not? Lesander was her wife.
“Yes. Yeah. You’re gorgeous. And so poised, and—”
Lesander’s lips met hers, hot and full, her hand slipping around the back of Dressa’s neck.
Dressa froze for one heart-stopping moment, hardly daring to believe this was happening.
Then she leaned in and hungrily kissed Lesander back.
Fingers tangling in Lesander’s flame-red, bed-mussed hair.
She tasted earthy, she tasted like morning breath, and Dressa didn’t care.
Lesander pulled back just long enough to breathe against her mouth, “You’re my type, too.”
Dressa knew she should slow down and think a minute, think about what she was doing, about the politics and the consequences, but she was hungry, in so many more ways than one, and Lesander was a goddess and willing and Adeius the soft skin of her neck tasted just as good as Dressa had imagined.
And then they were struggling out of their inconvenient clothes. Sheets were tangled. Skin to skin.
* * *
Dressa lay beside Lesander, their shoulders touching. She stared wide-eyed at the ceiling, her heart still racing.
She’d been with other women before, mostly nobles, and it had always been knowing that it was a fling for mutual pleasure and nothing more. She could never have more.
But this was something more, surely. She was still floating. She wasn’t sure she’d stop floating at all that day.
Lesander gave a self-satisfied snort, then stretched like a cat and rolled out of bed. “We’d better get to the palace, do you think? You’ll need to be seen coming home today.”
Dressa blinked at her, her mind and body still unattached, not computing the things of the ordinary world.
Lesander looked back down at her from tugging on her shirt, fastening the buttons. She smirked and stalked toward the door.
“Where are you—”
“Just the bathroom. I’ll be back.”
Dressa sighed in a relief that held her chagrined.
Adeius, what was happening? How had they gone so far, so fast? She’d been expecting weeks of probing Lesander’s wishes—she hadn’t at all expected Lesander would like her right back. Would things be awkward now? They hardly knew each other.
They knew a lot more about each other now than they had an hour ago. And she couldn’t think about that again if she wanted to get anything done today.
Dressa rubbed her face, got out of bed, and dressed herself.
She had to be careful. She had to be so careful, because Lesander made her crazy, all of which was currently heightened to the state where when Lesander came back in, the hair around her face curled from splashing water on her face, she wanted to seize Lesander’s collar and drag her right back to bed.
Had she been the one in control? Had Lesander? She didn’t know. Both. They’d been so entangled. She’d never felt that synchronous with anyone in bed before. She’d never been with someone who hadn’t, on some level at least, been afraid of her and her power.
Dressa stood near the bed, breathing more heavily than she could smooth away.
Lesander was a Javieri.
Lesander was her wife. Her consort.
Lesander watched her, and some of the bravado left her posture. She approached slowly, more tentative this time, and held out her hands.
Dressa took them and pulled Lesander against her, she couldn’t help that, just to feel her warmth again.
“I’m not your enemy,” Lesander said, as if she’d read Dressa’s mind. Or more likely, her body language.
Dressa closed her eyes as Lesander pressed her lips to her neck. She shivered, and she’d have to stop this soon or they’d be back in bed again, wouldn’t they? Not that she didn’t want that with everything in her. She curled her toes into the floor against the need.
She gently pushed Lesander back. No, Lesander wasn’t her immediate enemy. But she wasn’t sure why Lesander had decided to kiss her before, she wasn’t sure why Lesander had wanted to sleep with her. Had it been innocent, had it been mutual attraction, mutual comfort? Or had it been a deliberate seduction? Lesander absolutely had evaku training. This was the Rhialden court, where such seductions were common maneuvers. Had Lesander seen Dressa’s crush on her and leaned into it? Had she truly felt attraction in return?
Ceorre’s warnings about the Javieris were running through Dressa’s mind like blaring sirens. The Javieris wanted to overthrow the Rhialdens. They wanted to be close to power. It didn’t get much closer than this.
“You’re upset with me,” Lesander said, her posture growing more closed.
Dressa saw the tactic for what it was, saw Lesander trying to put her on the defensive. Was it a deflection of true hurt, or did Lesander want to push on her emotions?
Dressa sidestepped the statement, taking a gamble of her own. “I’m the Truthspoken Heir. You understand that I can’t, absolutely can’t, trust you on word alone.”
“Because I’m Javieri?” Lesander spat.
Dressa refused to be moved by that ire, either. “Yes. I’m not a fool, and you’re not a fool. Can we agree to that?”
Lesander swallowed, and Dressa watched her throat constrict with growing heat again. She wanted to press her lips to Lesander’s silky neck. Again.
Lesander inhaled sharply, half turned, let it out again. “I was prepared for Arianna. I was not prepared for you.”
That hit Dressa with a thrill to her stomach, but she still held it apart. “In what way?”
Lesander made a frustrated sound. “Do you want me to outright admit I’m trained to manipulate?”
Dressa shrugged. “So am I. I only care what you’re trying to do with it. With me.” She had to ask. She just had to straight out ask—she had a sense Lesander would appreciate that far more than subtlety. “Why did you want—” Her throat closed. She waved at the rumpled bed. “Why did you want to be with me, why right now?”
“Because you’ve been driving me crazy since I saw you, two—no, is it three days ago now? Three days ago. Arianna is not my type, and I felt zero attraction from her. I knew that would be a loveless marriage. My parents knew that—your parents knew that. I think they wanted that. I knew I’d definitely not get to have—” She waved at the bed. “And I didn’t want that with Arianna. But you are—” She took in Dressa, as if the statement was self-explanatory.
Dressa bit her lip, and she did work to calm her body’s heat then. In this conversation, she couldn’t just be Dressa. This conversation was about politics.
But she was reading sincerity from Lesander. Not fully sincere in all angles, no. But there in most of them, and strong where they were. Of course Lesander would have her secrets. As Truthspoken, so would she.
Dressa stepped closer again, and closer, cupping Lesander’s cheek. As Arianna, Lesander had towered over her, but as herself, Lesander was only a centimeter or two taller. She could look her straight in the eyes. Lesander leaned into the touch. Dressa was watching closely. That was not a response Lesander could easily fake.
And neither was the hunger when their lips brushed again.
Lesander pulled back first, resting her forehead against Dressa’s. “We need to get to know each other. I get that. But Dressa, please don’t tell me I can’t share your bed. That was incredible.”
She couldn’t say no. The words would not come. She didn’t want to say no.
Who did she have in her arms? Her enemy? Her lover? Her wife? Only time and observation would tell that.
Dressa stretched up to kiss Lesander’s forehead. “Let’s go. You’re right that I need to make a show of coming back. And you need to be there to greet me.”
Was it crazy that she was looking forward to that moment, where she could embrace Lesander as herself in public? Or should she be more sedate? She didn’t publicly know Lesander—she as Ondressarie would not have spent the last day and night and this morning with her.
She ran her hand down Lesander’s arm, tugged her fingers, and then let go. “Come. The day’s show awaits.”
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