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"HOW MUCH IS THIS ONE?"

"That one will cost you a kiss. A big wet one. Probably a ten-second Frencher."

Valerian pushed away the basket of oranges he always kept in his room and studied the card Shaye had made. "Without you, I'm nothing," it read. With each day that passed, her cards became more and more poetic. Which was a good thing, since his men needed the cards to lure the female nymphs from their pique. Seemed they weren't too happy about being left with the dragons for so long.

But the sweet cards also meant that Shaye herself was being lured from her past hurts. She was adapting to life here admirably, amusing herself by making and selling cards to him and his men and the residents of the Outer City, where she'd set up shop. Always guarded from demons and other forces, of course. Even the dragons bought them when they came to visit - Darius had needed one for his pregnant wife. The vampires, too, bought them, though they did not visit often. Layel was upset by the alliance between nymphs and dragons. Valerian was determined to unite the two races.

So far Poseidon and the other gods had not returned. Or rather, had not made themselves known. Maybe they would soon, maybe they wouldn't. Valerian had Shaye, and that was all that mattered. He could handle everything else that happened. He'd even promised Shaye he would find a way to take her to see her mother. And he would. What Shaye wanted, Shaye would receive.

Life, at the moment, was all that he'd ever dreamed. Joachim was mated to Brenna and the little woman had become the army's best healer. She patched the men after every training session and battle, and she did it with a smile, followed by a lecture about "acting like babies" when the fearless warriors whimpered at the sight of a needle.

Shivawn was his only reason for upset. The man's mood grew blacker and blacker, and he was spending more and more time in the vampire camp, most likely sleeping with Alyssa (even though he had many nymph females to choose from) and not liking that he was driven to do so. Oh, well. The warrior would find his way. Of that Valerian was sure.

"Well, do you like it?" Shaye asked, pointing to the card in Valerian's hand.

"I love it. But a kiss is too low a price, moon." She sat behind a table and he leaned over it, placing them nose-to-nose. "You should demand sex and nothing less."

She chuckled. "Your men would buy more if I did so, I'm willing to bet."

"I will pay my men's debts," he growled with mock ferocity. "In fact, I owe you for several Joachim purchased and it's time I paid up."

Her arms wound around his neck. "Take me to bed, Valerian."

"That will be my pleasure."

"And mine, love. And mine."

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