A warrior with a destiny, a woman with a gift. Can loving the enemy restore a broken kingdom? Or will forbidden love destroy it—and them—first?
Prince Arn has a destiny—an ancient throne—but he’s not waiting for fate to deliver when he can act now, before his enemies organize against him. The healer Aerid longs for her barely remembered homeland. Marked out by her gift and her foreign looks, she insists she is no witch. The swordsman Naed hopes to honorably defend his uncle’s holding, but he harbors a secret fascination for the exotic healer. Prince Arn’s campaign against Aerid’s homeland throws them into a triangle of forbidden love, betrayal, and heartbreak. Only when they realize love is blood-kin to friendship, and neither is possible without risk, can they forge a new alliance and restore a kingdom.
2011 EPIC Winner in Fantasy Romance, The Wild Rose Press
Aerid could not recall how she came to be in the Great Hall, or how water and bandages materialized on trestle tables there.
Naed sat slumped against the wall while Yormoc tugged off his tunic and armor. Blood painted Naed's arm, but she could see the wound was only a finger in length.
“Get me up, fool, or ‘tis your hide I’ll line my chair with!” Her master Dranoel sat up, took in the guards at the door, and his ashen face paled further.
Yormoc examined the cloth he had been holding to his gashed jaw. “They haven’t killed us yet. ‘Tis like they don’t mean to.”
Dranoel visibly fought for control. “Mayhap the bastard Prince has some honor, then.”
“Some honor!” Aerid sputtered. Did no one but she understand what they faced? “Belike they’ll be keeping us for their sport, killing us one by one to feed their savage appetites. These be Tolemaks we speak of, and what be they if not barbarians and their master a Prince of Savages!"
Dranoel blanched at her words. Yormoc froze. Even Naed’s head came up. But not a man of them stared at her.
Cold dread filled Aerid. She whirled.
In the doorway stood a scarlet-cloaked figure so tall his ebony hair brushed the cross-beam, so lean Aerid sensed nothing but bone and muscle and will, a will so strong it emanated from the deep-set, stone-gray eyes. High cheekbones gave his face a noble, arrogant look. The curve of his lips mocked her. The scar cutting across the left side of his face from behind the eyebrow to the corner of the chin mocked nothing.
“Pray, go on.” The Prince of Val-Feyridge planted his boot on a bench and rested a hand on the upraised knee. “Or have you lost your nerve?”
Excerpt from CHAPTER TEN
Shivers racked Aerid, coming so hard and fast she had bitten her lip bloody, but she refused to make a sound while the Prince rode with her clamped to his body. Her life depended on saying nothing until this man—the Demon Himself for all the cruel efficiency with which he had dispatched their attackers—gave her leave to speak.
Trees whipped by; a bit of moonlight beamed down on a narrow track, and always the horse’s mane lashed her face. She had given up breathing, gulping air whenever the horse’s stride loosened the Prince’s grip a fraction.
The horse slowed, and the Prince straightened in the saddle, allowing a sliver of night air to slide between their bodies. She shuddered at the shock of it, realizing the skin under her tunic was damp with the sweat soaking through his. She had ceased to feel his heartbeat as separate from hers. Both thundered in her ears, and the sweet scent of fresh blood—on his hands, his clothes, his weapons—mingled with horse lather, man-sweat, and her own fear.
He guided the stallion off the track and into a stream. Krenin followed, as did a riderless horse that had raced with them out of the village. Aerid guessed it was one of those that had charged her in the square. Instead of crossing, the Prince headed the stallion downstream, letting it pick its way through fetlock-deep water. Krenin made no comment. Aerid stole a glance in his direction, but the Prince’s Second seemed still in control of his horse although he slumped over the animal’s neck. Around them, water rushed and hissed over stones, the sound echoing the blood-rush in her veins.
The Prince’s arm tightened, drawing her hard against the planes of his chest. Aerid sucked in breath, digging her fingers once more into his tunic sleeve. Every movement reminded her, perched sideways as she was on the saddle pommel, all that kept her out of the water and away from trampling hooves was the strength of his arm—and that arm was trembling. Not with the fear still rattling through her, for he was Tolemak and a warrior. Nor with weakness, though the wound she had stitched a scant seven-night before could yet give him cause. No, in that moment when he had recognized her—in that awful moment after the shock—she’d seen all too clearly the fury vibrating through him now. And the knowledge that it had not abated even a whit made her flinch when he bent and his voice lashed at her ear.
“Tell me, witch, and tell me true—does Krenin know who you are?”
The question itself startled Aerid, not its harshness, for she had expected that. Twisting her head, she caught a glimpse of eyes like coals in a face dark and set.
“I mean,” he said, each word measured and knifesharp, “either who you are or who you pretend to be.”
She flushed, knowing full well what he meant. “I—I think not, m’lord. ‘Twas dark and—”
“Then you’ll do nothing to enlighten him. Hear?”
She heard him clearly despite the water-song and hoof splashes she was sure prevented their voices from carrying to Krenin. She understood, too, what underlay his warning. He wanted no one to know that he, the exalted and invincible Prince of Val-Feyridge, had been tricked—trapped—into sparing the life of an Adanak—and a woman!—only to cover the fact he and all his army had been duped into believing—for weeks!—that she was a boy, and a D’nalian. Oh, he had chosen well the moment for his question, Aerid thought, a rush of indignation beating back her shivers.
“Aye, m’lord, ‘tis safe with me, your secret.”
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