An heir to the throne . . .
Tessana Allisand might have proven that she’s the oldest living daughter of the dead king of Elysia, and that she’s the rightful heir to the Seat of Power, but that doesn’t mean she gets to be queen . . . yet. Forced to wait until her twenty-first birthday, Tess is supposed to be learning how to navigate court life and all the ways she will one day rule the realm. But circumstances and her nefarious uncle keep getting in the way of her education.
A kingdom in turmoil . . .
While Tess is pampered with the luxuries of castle life, the rest of the kingdom suffers under the oppressive thumb of the Ring of Shadows. And while no other ruler seems all that concerned with the evil rebels intent on destroying everyone and everything, Tess alone must find a way to stand up to the dark magic threatening to choke the life from her precious kingdom.
A love shaken by distance . . .
Tessana and Taelon found each other in the depths of the Blood Woods. And just like when they were children, their affection for each other saved the realm. But now, with separate kingdoms to fight for and royal duties to attend to, life is pushing them in impossibly opposite directions. Tess wants nothing more than for Taelon to be at her side. And yet, she will never ask him to leave his own kingdom for hers. Fate seems determined to keep them apart. But it was love that brought them back together. And love that will defy titles, crowns, and destiny.
The swooshing noise fired in the distance. Swoop. Swoop. Swoop. I was only mildly adept with a bow, but I recognized the release of an arrow. But never had I heard so many at one time.
“You’re under attack,” Caspian snarled at my ear.
I lifted my head and looked around at the chaos bursting into action around us. Guards scrambled to dive out of the way of incoming arrows. But too many were slicing through the air and coming too fast. Wave after wave of ill-fated projectiles. I watched a young man who had only just been promoted from page to my protective service get hit in the chest and fall over the balcony’s edge, his scream of pain and panic renting the air as he plunged to his death.
I clung to Caspian’s tunic, terrified and shocked. Another body fell behind me. I did not have to look to know it would be another of my guards.
“Where are they coming from?” I gasped as an arrow crashed and toppled just feet from where we lay. We were high above the castle grounds, and there weren’t buildings or other structures anywhere near this side of the castle. It was all gardens and rolling hills. And miles away, the sheer façade of the Diamond Mountains.
“The turrets.” He ducked his face into my neck as another arrow came whizzing by. It was the most intimate I had ever been with a man. Even Taelon had never pressed his face against my bare skin like this.
Obviously, now was not the time to be thinking of such things. Both of us could die in the next instant. Probably should be more focused on surviving than the way Caspian’s rough jaw scraped against my throat, or the way his chin dipped and brushed my bosom.
But then he inhaled deeply. I felt the breath move through him, down the length of his taut body.
He lifted his head again and smirked. “You smell of oranges and honey.”
There was such an intimate knowledge of me in his voice that I nearly forgot about the arrows completely. Caspian wasn’t like Taelon at all. That had been true since the first moment he spoke to me. But in this way especially. Taelon was nothing but a gentleman, proper, sweet, respectable. Yes, he was roguish and playful too. Clever. Calculating. Wise. But with me, there was always an invisible boundary of regard. Capsian was the opposite. His eyes glinted with carnal things, his hands flexing on my body where he held me—one hand on my outstretched wrist, the other at my hip. His voice was smoke and sandpaper. His skin hot against mine. And still, the arrows zipped by, miraculously missing us. But barely.
“We need to get inside,” I reminded him.
He refocused and looked to the right and to the left. The ballroom and its balcony were set into the castle, nestled between two gradually extending walls that ended in towering turrets. The design gave the ballroom privacy, tucking it away with only a view of the gardens. While I could see nothing but Caspian’s profile and long neck, the bowmen must be set up in the guest rooms and using the windows to get a line of sight on their targets.
Swoop. Then a sick crunching sound made my stomach beat against my spine.
Caspian growled in pain, his body contracting from the impact.
“Caspian!” I shrieked as he became limp over me, crushing me beneath his surprisingly substantial weight. He did not answer. “Caspian, please!” He still did not answer. “Dragon’s blood, Caspian, do not die on top of me!” Still, he did not answer.
I clutched his shoulders, my fingers brushing the hilt of an arrow on his right side. I breathed a small sigh of relief that it didn’t seem to have gone through his heart. I stilled long enough to feel a shallow breath move his chest up and down. Shaking him gently, I tried to rouse him while the party inside finally realized what was going on.
Women screamed, glasses shattered, and guards began moving outside. But as soon as someone stepped onto the patio, they were felled by a barrage of arrows.
I heard someone shouting about the princess and wondered if they could even see me beneath Caspian’s unconscious body.
“Caspian, please,” I begged, shaking him again. “I promise, I will give you a fair shot at being my consort if you will just wake up!”
I knew he hadn’t heard me, not really. But he did suck in a deep breath and make a pained growl against the pain.
His head jerked upward, and his gaze found mine almost instantly. “I’ve been shot.”
It was inappropriate to laugh at a time like this. But was he serious? “I realize.”