A lost princess…
Tessana Allisand had a family once. A home. A title. A future. Until one night when everything she loved was taken from her. Secreted away to an isolated monastery in the farthest region of the realm, Tess was raised in the silence of monks and the loneliness of tragedy. And there she would have stayed if the dark magic that killed her family hadn’t finally found her.
An impossible quest…
With her identity discovered, Tessana must face the home she fled all those years ago. The Crown of Nine must return to its rightful place and Tess must be the one to carry it across the nine kingdoms. And when she arrives? She’ll need to convince a dying kingdom that the crown that has belonged to one hundred kings should be given to a queen.
A rebellious prince…
Taelon Treskinat was in love once. With a princess. The daughter of a slaughtered king. He risked everything to save her, to make sure she survived. When that same princess tumbles back into his life no longer the scared little girl he remembers from childhood, he must decide where his duty lies. With the girl that will threaten everything he knows and loves. Or the kingdom he will do anything to protect.
“Did you say you were travelers?”
I jumped, startled by the gruff voice near the tavern door. His voice cut under the guffaws of the men watching us leave and if I had been less jumpy, I might not have heard him at all.
I looked up to see a man leaning against the door frame. He was almost entirely hidden by a black cloak with a hood draped low over his eyes. I could just make out a scruffy beard covering the lower half of his jaw.
“Who?” Oliver stared wide-eyed at the man. “Us?”
“Are you travelers?” the cloaked man repeated slowly.
“Y-yes,” Oliver answered for us. “We’re on our way to… to… to visit an aunt.”
I elbowed my friend in the side and found great satisfaction in his low grunt. But honestly, Oliver. Our aunt?
“Papers,” the stranger demanded.
I studied him and tried not to panic. The rest of the men of Tenovia were built as thick as their trees. They were made for hard work in their forests, chopping down ancient wood, and hauling lumber to all corners of the realm. The stranger didn’t have that build or height, yet he was no less threatening.
His cloak didn’t help. I imagined all manner of weapons tucked into the folds. His gloved hands rested on the hilt of something that promised to be especially sharp. And he kept his face tilted away from us so that all I could see was that strong jaw.
If I could only see his face, then I could relax. I would be able to…
“Papers?” Oliver squeaked.
So much for a guardian to protect me. It looked as though I would be the one defending Oliver.
“You must have travel papers if you’re not from Tenovia. Otherwise we’ll have to assume you’re with the rebels.”
“We’re not!” Oliver squeaked. “We’re not with the rebels.” He glanced at me fidgeting nervously, shifting from one foot to the other. I poked him in the back to get him to settle down.
It didn’t work.
“So you have papers,” the stranger assumed.
Oliver’s voice could barely be heard, “Not exactly…”
“Then you’ll have to come with me,” the stranger told him. “You’re trespassing.”
They would find the crown within minutes. We’d only been on the road for two weeks. We’d only been outside of Heprin for one day!
“They’re with our horses outside,” I lied as quickly as the thought came to me. “They’re out… side. With our horses.”
“With your horses?” the man asked dryly. “Outside?”
He swept his hand to the side, flashing tanned skin. He pushed the door open while I considered how a man in this kingdom could have skin that bronze. The men behind us were all pasty and neglected by the sun.
“By all means,” he drawled. “Lead the way.”
Oliver walked out first, giving a furtive glance over his shoulder. I followed right on his heels, pushing his back with my hands. The stranger stepped outside behind us. I could feel his shadowed eyes on me and had to swallow hysteria.
As soon as we stepped into the cool night, my touch firmed.
“Run!” I whisper-yelled in Oliver’s ear. “Into the forest! Go!!!”
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