*Phew* Was buried all week last week in the last large-scale revision of The Rancher's Daughter, cleaning up the last messy plot points, fixing descriptions and dialogue, and making sure everything flows well. The big battle scene took a while; in that scene, Lainie has three different enemies and one unreliable ally (not Silas; he's temporarily indisposed), and the battle is happening on both the physical and the metaphysical planes. I could only do a few paragraphs at a time, then I had to go rest my poor tired brain. *sigh* Lainie keeps getting herself into these situations, and then I have to figure out how to get her out of them.
Anyway, it's on to the final edits and proofreading. If everything continues to go as it has been, The Rancher's Daughter will be out by the end of April. In the meantime, here's a snippet from the book:
A rustling in the forest undergrowth several measures away drew her attention. From the shadows, a narrow pair of glowing, dark orange eyes stared at her. Below them, Lainie could make out a long, furry snout with sharp fangs poking up and down out of the sides of the mouth. Behind the head stretched a body the length of a man, covered in gray fur and set close to the ground on short, thick legs. Even in the dim light, Lainie could see the curving claws, longer than her fingers, that tipped each enormous paw. Two long ears stood straight up atop the head and twitched towards her as a thick tail, the length of the creature's body, swished back and forth through the litter on the forest floor.
Beneath the Canyons, Book 1 of Daughter of the Wildings, is now available at Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, OmniLit, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and DriveThruFiction. Coming soon to Barnes & Noble (which is once again being laggy with the updates).
Update: Canyons is now live at Barnes & Noble!
Still plugging away with final edits on Bad Hunting; in the meantime, here's a sneak peek inside the book, with Lainie and Silas on the trail of a killer:
The next day, thunderheads started building up over the hills early in the day. Silas and Lainie still went on foot, leading the horses, as they continued looking for tracks. Being down in the washes when there might be rain upstream could be a deadly mistake, so they kept to higher ground as much as possible. The humidity made the heat even more oppressive, and the air was filled with a tension that only a thunderstorm could relieve. Rainbugs clicked and buzzed in the brush, heralding a chance of rain, their noise constant and maddening despite its welcome message. By late in the morning, the clouds over the hills towered high and white, nearly black on the bottom, and a curtain of gray gradually thickened across the highest hilltops in the range. Thunder rumbled in the distance. The wind coming down from the hills picked up, bringing a promising smell of rain.
So far that morning, the search had been just as futile as the day before. Then, about mid-day, Silas paused and looked down into the wash they were following. "What's that?"
Surprise that he had found something, and a touch of fear, jolted Lainie out of the haze of heat, frustration, and boredom she had sunk into. "What's what?"
"I thought I saw -- wait here."
He walked to the edge of the wash and pushed aside the thorny brush growing there, then started climbing down the sloping bank.
"Be careful," Lainie called, nervously eyeing the storm up in the hills and thinking of the killer who could be lurking down in the creek bed.
"I won't be but a moment," Silas called back as he disappeared into the wash. Lainie peered anxiously after him, but he was soon out of sight. Almost she wanted to go after him, so he wouldn't be alone down there and she wouldn't be alone up here, but there were the horses to consider --
Without warning, a cold, violent downdraft from the hills crashed into her, followed by a wall of dust. Dirt and sand swirled around her, blinding her, clogging her nose. Behind her, Mala and Abenar neighed in panic, the sound muted and torn apart by the wind rushing past her ears. In her anxiety about Silas, Lainie realized, she had forgotten to hold onto the horses' reins. She spun around and lunged to grab the reins before the horses could run away, and missed, and stumbled to the ground. She came up disoriented, with no idea which way she was facing or where the wash was. Even the sounds of the horses were lost in the roar of the wind. "Silas!" she tried to call out, but the wind stole her voice and blowing grit filled her mouth.
She froze in place. Every child in the Wildings was taught that if you were lost in the wild, you should stay put so you could be found. Wandering around, especially in a blind panic, would only get you more lost. She couldn't be more than a few steps from where she had been and from where Silas had gone down into the wash, she told herself, trying to stay calm. The wind buffeted her side to side and front to back, but she fought it, trying to hold her ground. Even small steps would add up, taking her away from where Silas could easily find her.
A pair of arms came around her from behind. Relief swept away her panic; Silas --
The grip of the arms tightened mercilessly around her, and the stink of old alcohol and long-unwashed body hit her nose. Terror surged inside her. Before she could fight back, a rope of glowing green power wrapped itself around her legs and arms, stinging her skin and nerves, and the cold edge of a knife blade pressed against her throat.
At the touch of sharp metal on her skin, her cry died in her mouth. In her mind, she saw clearly the scene that Silas would find when the dust storm passed: her lying dead on the ground, her throat carved open, and no sign of the murderer who came and went and went like a spirit, without a trace.
"Stay still and quiet, and I won't have to kill you," a male voice whispered harshly in her ear.
Watch for Bad Hunting, coming soon!
Hi, and welcome to this stop on the Winter Warm-Up Blog Hop, put on by Hops With Heart! I'm Kyra Halland, and I love fantasy and romance - they go together like hot cocoa and whipped cream! We're going to warm things up here with some magical kisses from a few of my books :) So snuggle up, enjoy the sneak peeks, enter the giveaways, and be sure to stop by some of the other participating sites to meet some great authors, discover some amazing romances, and enter more giveaways! Each blog is doing a different giveaway, and there's also a Grand Prize giveaway for a $75 Amazon gift card!
First, from Urdaisunia, Rashali and Prince Eruz are mortal enemies, but it looks like things might be changing:
“So you traded your own hunger for that of the Urdai, and you took all our work, all the fruits of our learning and labors, for yourselves—the dams and canals, the great temples, the palace, even these gardens. You Sazars have no skills or knowledge to make such things, so you had to steal them from us. You didn’t even have writing until you began using ours.”
He flinched slightly, his pride clearly stung by her contemptuous words. “We do have skills and knowledge of our own.”
“Making swords,” she said. “And breeding and training warhorses. Nothing like this.” She indicated the Jewel with a broad gesture of her arm. “You could never make something like this. Even now, you depend on Urdai slaves to maintain the gardens.”
“Not entirely.” Eruz stopped beside one of the low trees with thick hand-shaped leaves—a nariyi, it was called—and plucked a tightly-curled bud from it. “We have skills besides those of warfare.” He looked intently at the nariyi bud, then whispered a few words and blew lightly on the bud. Slowly, the green sepals unwound from around the five thick white petals, which unfolded into a bowl-shaped blossom. The flower’s sweet, rich scent filled the air. “Here,” Eruz said. He took Rashali’s hand and placed the flower in it. “We worship Kuz more than the Urdai do, and he has given us a number of gifts.”
If she hadn’t seen it for herself, she never would have believed it. She looked up at him, her hand still in his, at a loss for words to respond to the wonder he had shown her. “That—that was—”
He bent his head down and covered her mouth with his.
She stiffened in shock, then all her strength seemed to flee and her legs gave way beneath her. He wrapped an arm around her, holding her up against his chest. Deep inside her body, a flame she had thought extinguished months ago came to life. Her lips parted beneath his, seemingly of their own accord, and he deepened the kiss. Time lost its measure, and the kiss went on until a small voice interrupted them.
They broke apart, breathing hard. Mizalilu stood beside Eruz, tugging at the leg of his trousers. The child repeated her demand. “She wants a flower, too,” Eruz said. He picked another bud and made it bloom, then gave her the opened flower and spoke to her. Mizalilu ran back towards the palace, carrying the flower with awed delight.
Next, in Chosen of Azara, Lucie has a difficult decision to make, and Sevry isn't making it any easier:
“Lucie, you have to decide now. What will you do?” His voice was quiet but firm.
“I can’t go with you. Don’t you understand that? I’m to be married in six weeks!”
“If we traveled quickly, you could be back here by then.”
Lucie gave a despairing laugh. She was tired of trying to explain herself to him—and to herself. “And do you think Estefan would still want me then? He’s already jealous, and that was just because I was talking to you. What do you think he would do if I disappeared with you for a month and a half? A broken engagement would be the least of my problems!”
“Has he threatened you?” A dangerous edge entered his voice.
It would be too humiliating to admit that she was afraid of her own fiancé. “No, he’s just very angry. But don’t you see? If I leave with you, I would be cutting myself off from my family and friends, I would have no home to come back to, no one who cared about me. No one would want me. My life would be over.”
She tried to turn away, but Sevry caught her arm and she couldn’t pull free. “Lucie—”
“Don’t you understand what you’re asking of me? What I would have to give up? What I’d lose?”
“I know, Lucie. Believe me, I know what it’s like to lose everything.” She looked up at him, and caught her breath at the genuine sorrow and compassion on his face. “Fate, the gods, history, other people’s decisions can all leave our lives in ruins, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “I wish your family wouldn’t choose to deal so harshly with you. I wish their love and concern for you was more steadfast. If I could—” He stopped speaking and stepped closer to her. She was powerless to move away. His free hand brushed her cheek, as though he was trying to comfort her, then moved to the back of her head, tangling in her hair. He tilted her face up towards his, and his mouth pressed down on hers.
A sense of unreality mixed with absolute rightness shocked through Lucie. This was what she had longed for; this was how it was supposed to be between her and the man from her visions. Her arms went around him, and he embraced her in return. She leaned into the warmth of his body and pressed herself more eagerly into the kiss. His mouth worked hungrily against hers, his tongue brushing at her lips, tasting her, then exploring more deeply as she parted her lips for him.
And then it seemed there was only one breath, one heartbeat, one body between them. Heat bloomed deep inside her belly, and she felt herself melting against him; she was his, she would go anywhere, do anything, give up anything--
No. She pushed him away and slapped his face so hard she felt the sting all the way up her arm. “I can’t!” She turned and ran from him, fighting to hold back her tears until she was safely away.
Finally, from Sarya's Song, when Sarya returns from her self-imposed banishment from the Skola, her and Adan's complicated friendship grows more complicated:
And then the last voice she wanted to hear called out, “Sarya! Sarya dyr-Rusac!”
Panicked, she tried to push her way through the crowd towards the Masters’ offices, but Adan caught her by the arm and spun her around to face him. “Where have you been? You left without a word to me or anyone –”
“I didn’t realize I needed your permission to leave.” She tried pull away from him, but his grip on her arm tightened.
“I didn’t know where you were or what had become of you,” he said. “I didn’t even know if you were alive or dead!”
Around them, people were stopping to stare. Sarya tried to turn away from Adan, but he moved with her, giving her no choice but to keep looking at him. “I just need to speak to the Council of Masters about something,” she said, “and then I’ll be off again.”
“Why not? You said yourself I don’t belong –”
“Damn it, Sarya!” He pulled her against him and pressed his mouth to hers.
Sarya’s legs nearly went out from under her in shock, but he caught her behind her back with his other hand and held her securely. His mouth was warm and hungry against hers; his upper lip and chin were scratchy with late-afternoon whiskers. She told herself she should push him away instead of melting against him while he kissed her as though he were starving and she was his banquet, but she was too busy melting and couldn’t do it. Laughter and whistles came from the crowd around them. “You show her who’s in charge, Muari!” someone called out.
Adan finally let her come up for air. She stood gasping, her knees wobbly and her heart racing, torn between slapping him and dying from embarrassment and – Great Creator God, what a fool she was – wishing the kiss hadn’t ended.
Enter the Winter Warm-Up Love and Magic giveaway to win an ebook 3-pack of Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song!
***Winner has been notified by email***
And enter the Grand Prize giveaway for a $75 Amazon gift card!
Grand Prize giveaway not run or sponsored by Kyra Halland/Welcome To My Worlds
Welcome to this stop on the Fall Into Romance Blog Hop, put on by Hops With Heart! I'm Kyra Halland, and I love fantasy in my romance and romance in my fantasy. Enjoy some magical falling in love moments from my stories, and be sure to enter the giveaways further down! I'm giving away an ebook Love and Magic 3-pack (containing my novels Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song) and there's also a grand prize giveaway sponsored by Hops With Heart for a $75 Amazon gift card! Also make sure you check out some of the other great blogs participating in the blog hop - the Linkup list is at the bottom of the post.
And now, on with the romance!
From Chosen of Azara, a wanderer named Sevry, whom Lucie has seen in mysterious visions, takes shelter at Lucie's father's house, and Lucie makes an astonishing discovery:
* * *
Lucie moved into a foreign ballad that her mother, Rinata, had taught her. She had been told many times that she had the sweetest voice in the Lower Districts, and wasn’t shy about singing in front of people. She didn’t understand the words to this song, but she could feel the mixture of sadness and strength in them. The tune was in a minor mode, almost tragic except for a subtle thread of love and tenderness that ran through it. This was one of her best songs, and she wanted the man from her visions to hear her at her best. Not that she really cared what he thought of her, of course; she just wanted to put her best face forward for a guest.
She sang, letting the feel of the music and the lilt of the language guide her singing. After a moment, she realized that another voice had joined hers, a fine baritone though somewhat rough from disuse; it was the stranger singing quietly along with her. He knew all the words, and pronounced them with more ease and certainty than Lucie did.
Lucie’s fingers faltered on the strings. Flustered, her heart bursting with a wild mix of emotions, she managed to make it through the rest of the verses and the last chorus. “I’m sorry,” she stammered when the song was done. “I’m tired. Good night.” She fled the hall, clutching her lute in both hands, the stranger’s voice still echoing in her mind.
From The Lost Book of Anggird, after attempting to magically Heal Perarre's cold, Roric suffers the consequences, and comes to an uncomfortable realization:
* * *
He slid down along the wall to sit on the floor next to the washstand, fists clenched in frustration, tears in his eyes. The pain was bad enough, but he hated the sickness, the shame, the feeling of helplessness that came along with it. He felt like he was trapped in that dark hour twenty years ago, shortly after coming to the University, when he had crouched in a hidden corner with the point of a stolen kitchen knife pressed against his throat, trying to will himself to plunge it in, to put an end to the memories and pain and shame and to make sure that no one would ever discover what he was. The life he had painstakingly built for himself since that day, the respect and reputation he had gained, all seemed to crumble away under the onslaught of misery that Healing brought upon him. Why had he done this to himself, just for the sake of temporarily relieving a simple head cold?
Because her illness was his fault, that was why, a reproachful voice inside his head pointed out. It was disgraceful the way he had been overworking her. Had she really thought that he would dismiss her if she became ill? If he wasn’t careful, he would drive her away or wear her down completely before he even had a chance to begin the most important research he would ever do.
And, in any case, what right did he have to interfere in his employee’s personal habits? What had he been thinking, to insist that she go swimming in the frigid waters of early spring? He had been born in a place where icy winds blew unhindered for three-fourths of the year. Though he couldn’t bear pain, tolerance of the cold was bred into every particle and sinew of his body. It had been stupid of him to assume that Miss Tabrano would have the same tolerance.
He sat in misery, waiting for the pain to ebb away. As it faded, a memory of smooth, warm skin beneath his fingertips came unbidden into his mind, along with the realization that, regardless of pain, illness, and propriety, he had enjoyed having an excuse to touch her. More shame flooded through him — how could he have taken such advantage of Miss Tabrano in her illness? But he couldn’t bring himself to regret that brief moment of unexpected, unfamiliar pleasure.
And that was more alarming than any amount of pain.
And finally, here's a sneak peek inside Beneath the Canyons, book 1 of my upcoming fantasy-western series Daughter of the Wildings. Lainie Banfrey can't help feeling a little smitten with Silas Vendine, the stranger in town, even though she knows he's probably trouble (please note, this is not the final edited version!):
* * *
Lainie tied Mala to a post outside the mercantile and looked at the list she had written on a scrap of paper. It contained five or six things her father had meant to tell her to get the other day when he sent her to buy nails but had forgotten. Ever since Blake's death, he was distracted and forgetful, lost in anger and memories and grief.
As she read the list, a shadow fell over the paper and she felt a presence beside her. She looked up to see Mr. Vendine standing there. A burst of excitement and shyness leaped up inside of her, and she tried, unsuccessfully, to keep from smiling.
He tipped his brown, flat-brimmed leather hat to her. "Good morning, Miss Banfrey."
She was being silly. She had only just met him; she couldn't be smitten with him already, and if she was, she was a fool. With an effort, she managed to respond with dignity. "Good morning, Mr. Vendine."
"More errands for your father today?"
"Yes, he always thinks of things he meant to tell me to get right when I've just made a trip to town."
"I certainly hope you have a better day for it than you did the other day."
"I hope so, too." Having someone to talk to about it, someone friendly who wasn't all wound up over the situation, made her words come spilling out in relief. "Once they've done some shooting, they usually calm down for a while before they start getting all riled up again."
"They? The miners?"
"All of them." Lainie waved a hand, encompassing the whole town. "The whole damn-fool lot of them." Suddenly she felt self-conscious of her own babbling. "Anyhow, Mr. Vendine, thank you for keeping watch over me the other day. If you'll excuse me --"
He touched her shoulder as she turned to go into the store, stopping her. "If I could speak to you privately for a few moments, Miss Banfrey, I'd appreciate it. Maybe on your way home?"
His voice and his handsome face and dark eyes were very serious. Not a trace of flirtation or even friendliness, though his manner was certainly polite. Although he had been so kind to her, she was suddenly afraid of what this stranger might have to say to her. He had a slightly dangerous air about him, as of a man who keeps his own secrets. Did he know about her power, how she had tried to protect herself with magic the other day? Or was there something else going on with him? The ranch hands had heard rumors he was a bounty hunter; did he think she knew something about a fugitive he was hunting?
"Please," he said. "I mean you no harm. It's important."
"It's a distance back to the ranch," she said. "Four leagues and some."
"My horse could use some exercise. I'll saddle him up and meet you back here by the time you're done with your business."
"My Pa don't want me riding out with men he don't know."
"It won't take long. I just have a question or two I'd like to ask you."
Just a question or two. There couldn't be any harm in that. Finally, she nodded. "All right, then."
"Thank you. I'll be waiting here for you." He tipped his hat again, then walked away towards Mundy's Boarding House. Lainie watched him go for a moment, then went into the store.
Enter to win a Love and Magic eBook 3-pack (Urdaisunia, Chosen of Azara, and Sarya's Song) from Kyra Halland/Welcome to My Worlds! (One winner)
***Winner has been notified by email***
And the grand prize giveaway from Hops With Heart!
Grand Prize Giveaway not run or sponsored by Kyra Halland/Welcome to My Worlds
Be sure to check out the other blogs in the Fall Into Romance Blog Hop, Sept. 19-22!
So last night as I was procrastinating, er, taking a breather from revisions on The Rancher's Daughter, I decided to fool around with making a new cover for A Cure for Nel, and Other Stories. I've never been very happy with the old cover. The landscape art I used didn't say much about the stories in the collection, and the title was hard to read. I had a piece of stock art I'd thought about using for Sarya's Song but ended up with the great cover by Design by Katt instead, and it kind of made me think of Leya from "A Cure for Nel," so I put it through Photoshop Elements and here's what I came up with:
I think it came out kind of pretty :)
The collection is only 99 cents at all the ebook outlets I sell through. If the cheap price and pretty new cover aren't enough to entice you to give it a try, here are some sneak peeks from each of the three stories in the collection.
"The Peach Tree"
The Wise Woman was silent. Her eyes were hidden by her hair, but Sula could feel her critical gaze as she judged Sula’s pain and longing. “What would you do to gain what you want?” the Wise Woman asked.
"You Can't Take It With You"
“Quiet, everyone!” Girda yelled. “You’re all being stupid. It wouldn’t bring very much money if we sold it, even on the black market.” She pinned Giorgi with a hard stare. “And none of us knows how to use it except Aric. If he can do with it what Uncle Morgi did, he’ll make us all as rich—as rich as we’ve ever dreamed of being!”
"A Cure for Nel"
Leya left the window and sat on the edge of the bed. “Maybe the wizards know a cure.”
Here's something fun - I've been tagged by Isabella Norse to play #LuckySeven Snippet. Here's how it works: In your current manuscript, go to page 7 (or 77), count seven lines down, and post the next seven lines. Then tag seven other writers to play along!
So here's my seven lines, from The Rancher's Daughter (adjusted to make complete sentences) [note: Silas is left-handed. I don't know why; he just is]:
* * *
He itched to have it out with Storts, but getting in a gunfight with someone who appeared to be one of the town's wealthiest citizens was not a good way to lay low. And he didn't want Lainie to get caught in the middle of a shootout. He wrapped his left arm around her shoulders, as much to keep his hand away from his gun as to comfort her.
"Damn it." Lainie's voice was muffled by her arms. "He cheated! Everyone would have noticed if he'd played the Fire Dragon that early in the game! I would have noticed! How stupid does he think I am?"
* * *
Hm, who to tag now? How about T.F., D.A., M.H., A.L., Zoe, Lauren, and Mindy! (None of them know I'm tagging them; it'll be as much a surprise to them as it is to me!)
Last year for Father's Day, I wrote a tribute to my amazing dad. This year, since the role of fathers is so essential and yet so often undervalued and overlooked, I want to emphasize the importance of fathers in my own writing with this sneak peek look at one of my characters who is a father, Prince Eruz from Urdaisunia:
A FEW DAYS after that, Eruz sent for Rashali to meet him in the gardens again. This time, the prince brought his young daughter, Mizalilu, with him; he explained that the child’s mother was awaiting the birth of a new baby and had little attention to spare for her. Rashali watched the little girl run along the garden paths, and pictured her own daughter in Mizalilu’s place. Fresh grief squeezed her heart. “My Lalana was the same age,” she said without thinking.
The prince was silent for a moment, also watching Mizalilu. “How do you survive such a loss?”
She shrugged, wishing she hadn’t said anything. “Along the rivers, so many children die, it’s only to be expected. Still, you hope that you’ll be the lucky one, that your child will be spared… And when she dies anyway, you either die too, or you live on. I chose to live on.” To destroy the Sazars who caused her death, she added in her mind, but didn’t say out loud.
Mizalilu had brought a sack of raisins with her. She ran ahead, tossing raisins on the ground while Luzak the peacock trotted after her, gobbling the treats. Eruz and Rashali followed, keeping the little girl in sight. “I told my father that moving the Urdai away from the stretch of the Uz the Kai-Kalle want might be more complicated than we thought,” Eruz said. “I didn’t tell him that the Urdai would fight, only that there would be considerable difficulties involved in relocating such a large number of people.”
“Did he decide against it?”
“He only said that we may have no choice, but he’ll wait to take action until the Kai-Kalle’s and the Sanghs’ intentions become clearer. I did tell him that I hoped to persuade you to convince the villagers to cooperate.”
“I suppose you can tell him that.” Not that she would ever agree to do such a thing, but letting him tell the king that she might seemed like a harmless concession.
Mizalilu had run ahead and now came back to them. The bag of raisins had been discarded somewhere along the way, and the child’s small fists were now filled with flowers and pebbles. Rashali watched the little girl’s shining dark eyes and smooth, flushed amber cheeks as she showed her father her treasures. The prince’s worries and burdens seemed to fall away as he squatted in front of his daughter, admiring the things she had found and replying to her babble. This was yet another odd thing—that a Sazar nobleman who needed a son as an heir would love a daughter so openly and completely.
They walked on in silence, along one of the ponds that dotted the Jewel. Mizalilu ran around to the other side of the pond, and stood there throwing her pebbles into the water and laughing at the splashes they made.
I am so excited! After more than a year, I decided it was time for my first novel, Urdaisunia, to have a cover refresh. I love the picture on the original cover, but I felt like it doesn't do much to convey what the story is about. So I asked Mominur Rahman, who did the Daughter of the Wildings covers, to do a new cover for Urdaisunia, and I love what he came up with!
Here's the full wrap-around illustration, without text:
And here's the ebook version, with text:
The paperback edition is uploaded and awaiting file approval, the ebook version will roll out across the various retailers over the next few days or so.
And to celebrate the new cover, here's a sneak peek into Urdaisunia for the Weekend Sneak Peek! After being parted from Rashali under difficult circumstances, Eruz finds her in a Scorpion Nest (group of Urdai rebels) that's about to be raided by the Sazars:
“If I can save this Nest, that might make up for the lives I took there. And now that I know you’re part of it—” He pulled her into his arms again. “No matter what else happens,” he said against her hair, “if you’re safe, then that’s something that’s right with the world.”
Welcome to this weekend's Sneak Peek! Today we're going back to Chosen of Azara, as Princess Juzeva meets her new husband, the man she's being married to for political purposes, for the first time (Ilvana is her mother, the queen):
“And here is Idan, Crown Prince of the Madrinan Empire,” Ilvana said. She gestured towards the young man standing between the Emperor and his advisor. “Your future husband.” Prince Idan was tall and well-built, with red hair, a strong-boned, handsome face, and clear green eyes. His clothes and armor were less elaborate and more practical-looking than his father’s. Though he was young and handsome, his expression was grim.
This was the man she was to spend the rest of her life with, the man who would be the father of the children she had never planned to have. Fighting back a sudden urge to flee from the room, Juzeva curtsied to him.
The Prince stepped forward and bowed to her, then spoke in formal, carefully-pronounced Savarunan. “My lady Juzeva, I know this duty is difficult for you, as it is for me. We are both forced to give up our own desires for the sake of peace between our lands. But I promise you that from now on I will look forward, not back, in the hope that we can be, if not happy, at least content with our destiny.”
Juzeva hadn’t expected such a courtly speech. The Prince had clearly spent a great deal of time practicing it, and Juzeva found herself moved by the effort. If nothing else, she would be married to a gentleman. She bowed her head to him, grateful for his courtesy and thoughtfulness. “I thank you, Prince Idan. I too will do my best to make our union a successful one.”
She watched the Prince take his place beside his father again. Her gaze slid past Sajur Golu’s face just as the priest was hiding a look of deep contempt. Another prickle of revulsion or fear, or both, crept up her spine.
“Let us be done with this, then,” Queen Ilvana said. She and Ezdar moved to a table which stood beneath the great middle window, where a scribe waited with the marriage and peace treaties. The scribe began reading the documents out loud. Juzeva didn’t bother to pay close attention; it made no difference whether or not she knew what they said. The terms had all been worked out already. She had had no say in them, and her opinion and consent had not been asked. The essence of the agreements was that, in exchange for a marriage-link to the Savaru royal family, which would bring with it a significant voice on the Queen’s Council and a healthy portion of the profits from Savaru’s rich fishing, farming, handcraft, and mining enterprises, the Madrinan Empire promised to not run its armies over the land. A bloodless defeat for Savaru, a quick and cheap victory for the Empire.
Welcome to another weekend sneak peek! In this scene from Sarya's Song, Adan is being punished for attacking Master Uldo over something that Uldo did to Sarya, and Sarya has come to offer moral support:
Adan was kneeling in the center aisle before the altar, wearing only a pair of knee-length linen underdrawers, chanting the tropes of repentance in an undertone. Sarya looked at his lean, muscular back. His skin had a natural light bronze tone, and there was a dusting of freckles across the tops of his shoulders. She wondered what his back would feel like under her hands. Then, appalled, she scolded herself. The man was in Penance because of her; she was here to offer support, not to lust after him. She was only having those feelings because she was slightly – just very slightly – drunk and she had never seen his bare back before.
Carefully turning her mind to more virtuous thoughts, she examined his back for signs that he had been lashed too hard. In the low light, she couldn’t see any sign of lashing at all. The Hierarch must have been smart enough to not put Master Uldo in charge of Adan’s Penance. That would have been a disaster.
She tore her eyes away from Adan’s back. “Idiot,” she said. “You didn’t have to go and get yourself in trouble on my account.”
He stopped chanting. “It’s no trouble.”
“Why did you do it?”
“If you don’t know, there’s no point in me trying to explain it to you.”
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