An Excerpt from Anya Drake’s Story

I recently started writing a series of short stories based on characters from For Their Sins. Many of the people have a lot of history that the reader never heard, or they got a small chunk that never had any real context to it. I thought I would use that opportunity to dive deeper into some of the main characters.

Anya Drake is the antagonist in For Their Sins. If you haven’t read the book and without giving too much away she taught Dracula how to be a vampire. But was she always rotten to the core or was there something that made her that way?

Here is an excerpt from her short story:

Lorcan found me in my dreams again and I was beginning to suspect these were more than mere dreams. He was already naked when he came to me. I tried to resist his touch, his kisses, even his whispered promises of pleasure. I simply couldn’t, it was as if he had some kind of power over me. My will power melted around him and I bent to his will. Very quickly we were having sex. It was wonderful sex, but I didn’t want Lorcan. I wanted Radu.

Lorcan must have felt my desire for him waning. As soon as he climaxed he focused on another way to bring me pleasure. He kissed along my stomach until he reached the folds between my legs. They were still swollen and throbbing from sex so as soon as he licked them it sent chills down my back. He doubled his efforts and soon his tongue was darting inside me. My fingers wound into the sheets and I barely refrained from screaming as I climaxed once more. He glanced at the window. “It’s still early do you want to know true pleasure?” Lorcan tempted. I hesitated.”Be young and beautiful always. Go anywhere you desire, my little Anya.” Still I hesitated. “Have any man you want.” He whispered it was so tantalizing. I wanted Radu. If this guaranteed it then I would do it. I nodded.

Lorcan pulled me close and bit my neck hard causing immense pain. Then there was a sort of euphoria as my life drained away. Soon I began seeing spots. My vision dimmed and went black completely. Then I tasted the worst thing I’d ever had in my mouth. It was vile, smelled like a rotting corpse, and burned my tongue like acid. I tried to spit it out; Lorcan would not let me. I nearly choked as the first mouthful trickled down my throat. The second went down a little easier. The third tasted better. By the fourth it was like honey. I lapped it up as quick as it would come. My vision came back and I saw Lorcan clearly even in the dark room. “Enough.” I felt his flesh healing pushing my teeth out of his skin. I had not even realized I bit him.

Then my whole body cramped. I shook violently then stopped. I couldn’t move I was a prisoner in my own body. “Don’t go anywhere my little Anya.” He laughed as he stepped out of my room and I prayed I was dreaming. I prayed I was having some horrid nightmare that I would wake from any minute. He returned a few minutes later with the maid in tow. “God won’t save you now, you are on the wrong side.” He snarled. “You need to feed this will help.” What was I supposed to do with a person? He threw the maid on the floor beside me and instinct took over. I attacked the poor woman with such savagery that I nearly tore her head off as I bit into her neck. Blood flowed into my mouth and I drunk it down in great gulps. My body uncurled and my heart stopped whatever horrible pattern it was in for one so slow you would hardly call it one.

I looked up at Lorcan. “More.”

He laughed. “I knew you wouldn’t disappoint me.”

For Their Sins Kindle edition is Free Friday 8/18 and Sat 8/19 A compilation novel with this and other short stories should be released in 2018

Freebie ∼ For Their Sins

For Their Sins will be free next Friday August 18 and Saturday August 19, 2017. This is your chance to grab a free copy of my award winning book. This first person narrative follows the life of Alexandria Diego, a very unconventional 300 year old vampire.

Summary:

Alexandria Diego never wanted to be special. She was content to lay in bed with her lover forever. One decision will change everything. Suddenly, Alexandria is launched into a life of infamy, which carries a heavy burden that only she can bear. When a vicious war between her people, the Venandis, and their rivals, the Morderes, breaks out it forces Alexandria to change her tactics and be more cautious. But, when her love is captured by the enemy, Alexandria risks everything to get him back.

 

Excerpt:

We attacked just before sunset; any Venandi was able to tolerate that much sunlight. But the Morderes were still asleep. Their slumber was an unnatural one, that of the dead, and would render them helpless. The familiars were easily subdued either by force or psychic powers. Savas slipped along the front of the villa knocking them out with a psychic blow while others came behind to tie them up and carry them away.

William, Nisha, and Savas were the first into the Villa, spreading out with a party following each. Our goal was not only destroy the coven, but feast as well. We fed on as many as we could, so we could feed the others waiting at the house. It was the first, of such experiences for me. In each room we swept into, Morderes were subdued as needed, but most were sleeping. Some of the latter were nailed into their coffins, to be carried home.

I was a step behind Savas as he engaged one Mordere with his blade and another with his mind. I knew then how dangerous he was. I pushed my way into the room fighting off an attack, forcing the male back as more Venandis rushed in behind me. I kept the Mordere occupied, toying with him, until the area was secure. Then I fed on him, a rich, sweet taste, full of evil that only a soulless creature could commit. Somehow Morderes had more blood than humans and I could not finish my prey. Savas gave me a sharp look and I knew I must, the blood was too precious to be wasted. I drank more than my fill and felt a lightheaded giddiness that I’d never experienced before. Removing the head was now beyond me. Savas gave me a knowing smile and did it for me.

“Take the heads outside, I think you can manage that. Be careful though there may still be some lurking. Lars watch her back she’s in blood tidal.” Lars got the same grin, grabbed two heads and followed me out.

The heads were stacked in one pile the bodies another. The sun would take care of both for us. I stretched looking at Lars. “What is the matter with me?”

“Blood tidal, too much blood, it makes you giddy like a human when they are drunk. It will pass.” He pulled his sword and stood guard for me. Savas came out a few minutes later with two Morderes, obediently following, eyes glazed.

“Lars get the chains,” even through my clouded thinking, I could see the trouble he was having with the psychic link holding them. Both Morderes suddenly launched at Savas. He was able to stop the closest one, but the other was still on the move. With his attention divided, he wasn’t able to stop him. My dagger was out of my hand before any of us realized it. The second Mordere was dead, my dagger pierced his heart. “My thanks, Lady Diego.” He punched the Mordere hard in the jaw rendering him unconscious for good measure. I gave a soft giggle, not fully realizing that I saved Savas’ life.

Check the blog later this week for excerpts from a series of short stories I’m working on telling the stories’ of other characters in Alexandria’s life.

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The Dreaded To Do List

At the beginning of this year, pre-book launch, I was a typical working mom. I took the oldest to the bus stop, dropped the youngest off at my mom’s to go to pre-school, then it was off to work my self. On the way home I’d pick them up at mom’s go home make dinner we’d play a bit, bath and bed. After the kids were asleep I could clean the house then do what I wanted. All of this is assuming I worked the morning shift, evening shifts are a different matter, but you get the picture. My To Do list was always short, sometimes it was pay the bills, or call the insurance company, or get the oil changed, annoying things that only I could do because my husband works 16 hour days sometimes.

Post book launch my To Do list never ends. I never seem to have enough time to dobusy anything. I have books to read, novels blogs and short stories to write, my novels to promote and get reviewed etc. Added to that are my typical wifely and motherly duties. My friends and co-workers have no clue everything on that list of mine. I showed one yesterday and she couldn’t believe my list of books to read. I can’t help it, I hate turning authors away, although I do.  I know it sounds like I’m complaining; I’m really not. I just never imagined how much my life would change by publishing a book, well three now.

I wonder sometimes if I’m a little crazy. I hope it’s all worth it. I never intended to be a full time writer, although it would be nice. When I started this I wanted people to read the writing dedicated to my lost father. I wanted to make them happy. I won’t lie I think most authors dream of being the next J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin and I’m no exception. Really I’d be happy for consistent sales at this point.

bookreview

If anyone wants to help lighten my or any authors’ To Do list review their book. It will be one less thing for them to cross off their list everyday.

 

 

 

The Mystery of the Lost Recipe

The Mystery of the Lost Recipe by Jerome Jones is a children’s book aimed at getting kids to eat healthy. This book is about a sister and brother who altruistically solve mysteries in the small town they live in. In this case they are looking for a lost lasagna recipe for a local restaurant. The kids are so excited to help. Their first stop is the restaurant for a healthy breakfast. They order their food and pay close attention to everything around them. When they don’t find their prize its time to move on in search of clues. The cute brother and sister pair ride bikes all over town tracking down anyone who might know what happened to the recipe. After speaking to the restaurant owner they all realize its in the safest place possible. As a thank you the owner shows the duo how to surf assuring they get plenty of exercise.

This book was well illustrated and easy for kids to follow. It gave subtle clues on what healthy meals were as well as showed great examples of a healthy lifestyle. It also showed children that they should be helpful which isn’t always seen today. My only knit pick with the book is its emphasis on orange juice. Even though it stressed “fresh squeezed” orange juice I’m an anti juice mom. Sorry I think it rots the teeth and they eventually get hooked on juice. Let them eat fruit, I say like queen Antoinette would. Ahh never mind.

Over all this book was a hit and I’m sure we will read it again soon although, four days have gone by and not a hint of a repeat. I did like the illustrations which sometimes slack in ebooks. I also liked the hidden messages in the fun story. The only detraction was lack of a call back.

 

Triad

3.5-star-rating.

Triad by Guy Estes is a fantasy novel about three gifted people called Chosen. The Chosen are rarely born and there have never been three born at the same time before. They are gifted with long life, beauty, and a major and minor talent. In Triad two of the chosen are born with a major talent of the warrior and one of a sorcerer. One of the Chosen is destined to be taken, another exiled, and the third driven mad.

Triad focuses mostly on Aleena the Chosen warrior destined to be taken. Her journey through the badlands and back home again acts as the perfect metaphor for her personal journey and struggles. Aleena starts as a young girl riddled with guilt and unable to cope with her powers as Chosen. By the time she reaches home again she is a confident warrior woman who embraces what she is.

Aleena meets her Chosen warrior brother Anlon on her journey and their relationship is rocky to say the least. Anlon is headstrong and can’t control his temper. Everything is there for Anlon’s taking, or at least that’s what Anlon thinks. After the two part ways in a very disappointing way for Anlon he can’t let it go. From that point on everything in Anlon’s life is about hunting down Aleena for revenge.

Beazha is the third Chosen sister whose main talent is sorcery. Her presence is felt early in the book but she isn’t formally introduced until the book is nearly over. She seeks out Aleena after seeing visions of her brother’s conquests and destruction. Beazha’s secondary talent is that of the warrior which makes her a formidable foe. When the pair combines it takes overwhelming numbers to capture them. At Anlon’s fortress Beazha must face his sorcerer while Aleena deals with Anlon. It’s an all out fight with good coming out on top.

Triad has all the making of an epic fantasy with dragons, sorcerers, and ugly beasts. The world is magical and believable. Estes has a knack for world building and imagery that makes you want to turn pages. The same illustrative powers tend to get him into trouble and the descriptions bog down the story at times and I found myself skipping some of them.

If you like action this book has it in scores. Aleena and Anlon killed more people than an army. Most of the action sequences were well written with a few exceptions that were hard to follow. Unfortunately, one of those was the final battle between Anlon and Aleena. The main characters felt like restless spirits that were never content unless a sword was in hand. I’m sure this was intentional on the authors part however, it got somewhat tedious.

There were a couple loose ends in the book that were never addressed and even seemed ignored for convenience sake. Honestly the first didn’t have to be there at all and the plot would not have suffered. Aleena’s parents had some mysterious ailment while she was gone and an evil aunt swooped in to “care” for them. When Aleena returns they suddenly recover. It was never said if the aunt was to blame or some other cause. Second, Aleena earns the power of the dragon and never fully learns to control it. Seems like a wasted tool for a warrior.

Triad has realism and plenty of raw emotion that isn’t always seen in epic fantasy. A few hard to follow action sequences and tedious descriptions were detraction from the story. The plot was well thought out and the series has potential, so I am giving this book 3.5 stars.Overall if you want an action packed novel with plenty of violence and some gore this is the book for you.

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If you want to find out more about Guys Estes or his work find him on Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6207574.Guy_E_Estes

 

The Importance of Proper Review Requests from a Reviewers Perspective.

Review requests may seem like a tedious and pointless exercise but they are essential to getting reviews. Let me explain why. Even as a new reviewer I get several requests for reviews everyday. Right now four or five requests isn’t a lot and by any means overwhelming. However, I am not a full time blogger or reviewer. I have a full time job, two kids and writing of my own to do. I review books to build brand awareness and helpbook3 out fellow authors.

When I get a request I don’t want to do the work. I want all the information right there in the email I received. If there is additional content you think might interest a reviewer include a link; never rely on that for all your content and descriptions. If I am busy I won’t click it. If I have a lot of requests I won’t click it.

Unfortunately reviews like everything else today is a numbers game. Your request is easily lost in the crowd. Make your request stand out. Tell the reviewer (briefly) why you are a writer or why you wrote your novel, something, anything, (relevant) to grab their attention and make you stand out.

The other thing to keep in mind is to research your reviewer. Pay attention to their preferred genres so you aren’t wasting everyone’s time. If the reviewer says they will book1consider books outside their genre you should send reasons in your query to convince the reviewer to try your book. Unfortunately, your book is a harder sell than the others. You should also remember if a reviewer typically reviews fiction they probably aren’t your best bet for a non-fiction review unless they specifically list it in their preferences.

I face the same problems every other does. I send out requests and never hear back. Assume if you don’t the answer is either no or not yet. Be patient and wait. Search Goodreads and other internet forums for other sources but never give up. In this blog entry I have included a bad example of a request as well as a sample letter of what I send out.

Not so good:

I found your name on a book review website and am looking for feedback on my YA fantasy. You seemed to like that genre and was wondering if you would like to read it?

What I sent out:

Name,
I am an indie author requesting a review of my second book “For Their Sins”. It is a paranormal fantasy that has a slightly different twist on vampires. It is told from a first person perspective and covers the life of one 300 year old vampire. It was a fun project and a great stretch of the imagination. The ebook format is 428 pages long. It is also available in paperback  and I would be happy to send it in what ever format you desire. The link to the Amazon listing for further content and cover is listed  here.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0716SVRDS The summary is below. 
Alexandria Diego never wanted to be special. She was content to lay in bed with her lover forever. One decision will change everything. Suddenly, Alexandria is launched into a life of infamy, which carries a heavy burden that only she can bear. When a vicious war between her people, the Venandi, and their rivals, the Mordere, breaks out it forces Alexandria to change her tactics and be more cautious. But, when her love is captured by the enemy, Alexandria risks everything to get him back. 
It does contain some mature content. 
I would love for you to read it and hope that you enjoy it. Please let me know if you are interested. 
Thanks
R. Tran
I would be happy to answer questions or offer any advice I can. I haven’t been an author long and I’ve had to learn everything as I go. I would be happy for any advice that others can offer me as well.

My Heroes by Guest Author Katie Hart

After reading a book there are two things that always stay with me-the trouble maker (villain) and the peace maker (hero). Character wise, some books really surprise thumbnail_OC Fliker (2)me because some characters can turn out to be heroes in their own right even without saving the day or slaying dragons. For me a hero is someone who acts with his or her heart and in the simplest ways tries to make the world a better place. This got me thinking of my own novel Finding Destiny and who my heroes in the story are. So I thought I’d introduce a few of them.Let’s talk about my robot friends Fumble and Flicker. Fumble has a history that even surprised me when I finished writing his scenes. But to know more about his past you’d have to read the book. However, Fumble is first introduced when protagonist Alex lands himself a visit to the Field of Difference. Fumble goes above and beyond to help Alex find his missing daughter and helps him get back to his family.

 

 

 

thumbnail_Alex

Flicker is one of the first robots, Alex encounters in the story. He helps Alex settle into his new life and shares with him the secret of the curse that would take Alex on a journey to save his family.

Both Fumble and Flicker are heroes to me because they are capable in seeking alternate ways in complex situations. Fumble doesn’t believe in hurting flesh beings and Flicker will do what he must to try help people, especially Alex. They both stand proud in whatever they do and always ready to defend the city against the half-breeds- half- human, half- owls. But they also believe in playing fair. I love their outlook in life and their supportive ways.

Next comes, Missy Talk Alot, another hero or heroine. Now readers might think she is __missy_talk_a_lot_____commission_by_justsilvia-d7mxw0ma funny choice to call a hero. She’s not always nice to people and she was manipulated by Dragonstar and does try to drown Alex. But she has a heart in her doll body somewhere and by the end of her journey in Quill City I do believe she finds her inner hero. She was one of my favourite characters to write about.

Who I see as heroes in books are characters that can spread goodness, in little ways. Like Blossom, Alex’s goodness fairy, whose purpose is to spread goodness to all who needed help. I also have a place in my heart for those heroes who start out cold-hearted and don’t wantto help at all. Then they change over the course of the story and find a way to expose their inner goodness.

There are characters in stories, that may not be intended as heroes but their actions reflected their good deeds and it’s interesting to see them grow up with the story. So who are your heroes in books that you’ve read and why? Leave a comment and share their stories.

 

Finding Destiny

 

thumbnail_Finding-Destiny lr (1)

When eighteen year old Alex’s little sister’s pony goes missing, he sets out to look for her and finds himself in a strange gypsy camp in the middle of a forest. The pony is being cared for by a young girl called Faith. When Alex accepts a drink from Faith’s grandmother, he wakes up later to find himself transported into 2038 to a technologically-advanced, very colourful world inhabited by humans and robots.

Alex soon discovers that he is now twenty, married and has a magical little baby girl. A magic he only seems to notice. He soon finds out that he will have to defend his little girl from the half-breeds with everything he has. He travels back through the magic pages of books to try and save her before it is too late and she is lost from him forever.

 

Author Bio

Katrina Hart aka Katie lives in the East of England with her family and her two hyper cats Holly and Smokey. Katie always has a passion for reading and could spend her entire life engrossed in good books. During her online writing course, she fell in love with her own created stories. This led to the creation of Finding Destiny, her first fantasy novel. Finding Destiny is the first of her many published novels and is available in both Ebook and paperback version. She loves writing all the time particularly during the late nights when magical stars are out in the sky.

You can find out more about Katie and her work at the following links:

Blog: : http://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com Website:

http://katrina134.wixsite.com/muses/short-stories

Twitter: @KatrinaHart2015

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Katrina-Hart-1785712648319624/ Finding Destiny

EBook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Destiny-Katrina-Hart-ebook/dp/B00U1WUFSE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Finding Destiny

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Destiny-Katrina-Hart/dp/1543052487/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1499734448&sr=8-2&keywords=finding+destiny Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 Finding Destiny’s

promo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQ3dH0NXa9w

Nosey Charlie Comes to Town

3-star

Nosey Charlie Comes to Town by Yvonne Blackwood is the first in a series of children’s books about a squirrel named Charlie. Poor little charlie is an orphan that goes to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Pete in a city park. Charlie spends his day at play with his cousin all summer. Then fall rolls in. Unfamiliar with how things work in the big city Charlie gets nosey. Several workers spend hours cleaning the park. Then Charlie gets into their litter and leaf bags making a mess. The workers see his cousin and assume Pete did it. They throw a rock and hit poor Pete on the head. His cousin turns out all right in the end and it teaches Charlie not to be so nosey. The book continues on, telling how Charlie and his family have to collect food for the winter. The aunt even sings a song on the importance of their work.

The interaction between the family members is playful and feels real. The squirrels are friendly and happy. The story itself has two good morals and teaching children not be nosey and prepare for the future. However, I don’t know that a children’s story should have people throwing rocks at animals no matter the reason.

Aside from that the first part and the second part felt disjointed. The two parts were unrelated. If the latter was deleted all together it would give the story one main theme that worked. The artwork was coarse as well and did not keep my girls attention. They like Charlie and the other squirrels but that was all.

This book gets three stars because the girls did enjoy reading it that night. With a revision and improved artwork this book has major potential. I would love to see the new and improved Charlie.

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Learn More about Yvonne Blackwood and her works at:

https://www.facebook.com/yvonne.blackwood.92

https://www.linkedin.com/in/yvonne-blackwood-6a6b6918/

Lustre (A Witchlight Novella): Witch in haste…

3.5-star-rating.

Lustre by Jaime Munn is a novella about Nilla Hayes, a witch fueled by sugar. After a disappointing breakup with her girlfriend, who happened to be a werewolf, she’s short on cash and in search of a distraction. A two line text lands her in an unwilling and binding contract with an angel. In Nilla’s world angels aren’t the good guys we are all used to. While Nate the angel is gorgeous he is also a collector of those with supernatural abilities. The book didn’t quite make it clear exactly how the relationship with his collection worked but Nate seemed to gather his subject’s powers and use them for himself giving them a normal life. For some its a blessing, for budding witches like Nilla angels are usually avoided. When one of Nate’s collection gains powers he wasn’t supposed to and suddenly starts killing people Nilla is recruited to find him. Nilla has the normal missteps of any heroine along the way and the book has an unusual twist with a happy ending.

Some of the concepts in this novella were quite new and intriguing. I rather like the idea of a witch converting sugar into magic. It certainly explains where all the raw energy could come from instead of some mysterious force in the universe. An angel as the antihero but not the villain was a great twist as well. Nate wasn’t evil per-say but  he wasn’t someone I would invite for dinner.  That he was scary powerful was a given and Nilla kept reminding the reader throughout the book.

There were a few writing issues that could mostly be overlooked; just a sentence or two that had to be re-read to understand what the author was trying to say. I really enjoyed the novella for the most part. It was the ending that killed me and pulled down the rating; it felt very anti-climatic. The author spent alot of time building up the heroine the angel and the villain. He set clear expectations of what they could and could not do. He also made sure you were sufficiently scared of his villain. Nilla and her friends go into the last “battle” ready to die and nothing happens. There is no fight, no argument, and no real magic on Nilla’s part. (Spoiler Alert) She laid a trap and it worked. Nate came and took care of everything the end. Granted it was a neat and tidy ending and probably the most logical way for it to end but readers don’t like neat and tidy. At least I don’t like neat and tidy. Its probably too many years reading epic fantasy. Who knows?

It won’t keep me from reading another Witchlight Novella but another ending like that would. For the most part its a good quick read with some interesting ideas. A side story on Nate might be an interesting read as well Jaime.

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Find out more about the author at:

http://www.jaimemunn.com/

http://fb.me/fantasynextdoor

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15997812.Jaime_Munn

Finding Peace ∼ a short story conclusion

Princess Samantha strode through the halls of the castle for the first time in three years. Once in her rooms she sent for her servant Anne. She pulled off her fox wrap and laid it across her bed. Anne stepped inside her room. “My lady you’re back.”

“Anne would you be so kind as to send for Carolyn and ask her if I could borrow a black dress. Please have some dinner sent up for me then take the rest of the evening off I shall not need any help dressing.”

“Yes mam.”

Carolyn stepped into Samantha’s room “Sam is it really you?”

“Carolyn I missed you.”

“You’re a woman. James will be relieved to see you. But where have you been?”

“Avoiding my destiny. God I’ve been so stupid.” Samantha said sitting on her bed. “I’ve messed everything up and now I did not even get to say good bye.” Sam sobbed.

Carolyn had two children now and Diana was pregnant with her first. Samantha barely recognized her two younger siblings and her father’s illness had wasted him away to a shell of a man. Even if she had made it home in time she would not have known him still she could have said goodbye. James yelled at her for over an hour about disappearing. Samantha didn’t care about that all she cared about was how deeply she knew she’d hurt her father. Every free moment she prayed for forgiveness somehow she hoped he would hear her.

Samantha was brought out of another silent prayer when James said King William and Prince Richard were already on their way. She was to be married in three months. She’d already resigned herself to give up Vincent but to do so, so quickly was too much. She was doubly over in mourning.

The funeral was a long drawn out affair. Samantha hadn’t seen Vincent in the crowd and was thankful she couldn’t bear seeing him so soon. She would have to face him eventually but not today. After arriving back at the castle she trudged up to her rooms wanting to be alone. She’d never been so sad in her life.

Anne waited for her but Samantha wanted nothing. When she said so Anne grew worried. “But you had no breakfast miss you must eat. I’ll get you tea and biscuits.” She offered.

“Thank you” Samantha was surprised by the change. The girl always hated her before she left. Of course Samantha was not very nice to her then. Anne returned quickly setting down her tray. “Anne,” Samantha waved her over. “Sorry for the way I treated you before. It was not right.”

“No need your highness.”

“I want you to have this.” She handed Anne a silk hair scarf the girl always admired.

“I can’t,”

“I know, but take it anyway, you always liked it.”

“Thank you my lady.”

“Anne I promise no more gifts but I will be nicer.”

“Thank you my lady,” Anne smiled and slipped out of the room. Sam looked to the fox wrap draped over a chair and smiled. A shadow slipped across her door and the door slammed shut, the key ground in the lock. She rushed to the door. “James? What are you doing? Let me out.”

“You’ll stay right there until the prince arrives and he can keep an eye on you. I won’t let you escape again.”

“I will not run, let me out.” He started to walk away. “James really where would I go? Why would I go now when I’m the one who came back?”

“The driver said he picked you up at a Count Vincent’s house. I don’t know who he is but you are not going back.”

“A man James?”

“Yes we all know how my sister feels about marriage; yet another reason to keep you here. But tell me Sam why fight so hard to get out if the man meant nothing to you?” He walked away.

“I just want to say goodbye.”

 

Carolyn came the next morning to let Anne in with their breakfast. She sat down across from Samantha at the breakfast table. And waited for Anne to leave. “What happened while you were gone Sam? James mentioned a count.” Samantha sighed and told Carolyn everything that happened as they ate breakfast. Carolyn looked to Samantha finally “I am sorry I can not let you out.”

“But all I want is to say good bye.”

I know Samantha but marriage is built on trust and James trusts me to keep you here. I will see that he gets a letter though.”

“Oh thank you  Carolyn.”

“To say goodbye only no rescue attempts.”

“I came back for the good of my people.”

Carolyn got up from the table “I know it’s hard to do what is right but what you are doing will save countless lives.”

“Thank you Carolyn.”

 

Vincent received a letter from Meredith and went to the library to read it alone. He settled into his chair before opening it.

‘Dearest Vincent,

I am afraid I bring bad tidings. It is with a heavy heart that I must say we can not be together. I am afraid that even under other circumstances our relationship was doomed from the start. A very wise woman once told me that a marriage was built on trust and trust is built on honesty. I fear that neither of us were being very honest with the other. The time has come for me to tell you my secrets. I am Princess Samantha. I ran away before my 15th birthday because I did not wish to marry anyone let alone a man I never met. At that time I thought of only myself and what I wanted, or should I say did not want.

Then I met you and you changed that. Suddenly I cared about more than myself. It was innocent at first, I merely wanted to make you happy. Then we became friends. I was happy when I found out you were getting married and rearranged the room I’d started. But one night as I lay in bed thinking I found myself picturing the two of us entering the room together. I tried to avoid you then but you were persistent.

I came to realize I loved you but did not want to cause another woman to lose such a fine husband. I threw myself into my work then hoping only to finish the room before you could do something rash. Then it was too late and I found myself hopelessly in love and lost in dreams of you. Your marriage proposal woke me most frightfully, pulling reality back down around me and you witnessed my horrid reaction. For that I am truly sorry. The next day I decided to run away with you. When I went to market I intended to buy supplies to ready our escape. I’m afraid my selfish ways had returned. But as I walked that long road I heard the peasants speak of their troubles: their illness and hurts, their children’s hunger and husband’s hard work. I heard also of many who’d moved here from the border towns to escape the strife and struggle my marriage was to end. An old woman sat in a rocker still moping over a long dead son lost in a border dispute some ten years ago. Ten years and she still greaves. I could prevent such sorrows. I could return home and help my future husband make the world a better place. So you see my love, I have learned my most valuable lesson too late to spare you grief but just in time to save so many others.

I will always cherish the love we had and can only hope Prince Richard is as good a man as you. Go to your bride and be happy always. I will keep you in my prayers for a long and happy life.

Love,

Your Meredith

 

Vincent sighed as he ran his hand over the royal seal at the bottom of the letter. There was no question it was her handwriting and it certainly explained a lot. He went to the desk in the corner and immediate wrote a reply.

Carolyn knocked on Samantha’s door and waited for a reply. She answered drying a few tears. “There is someone here to see you.” Samantha looked confused as Carolyn opened the door wider.

Samantha brightened when she saw Henry behind her “Henry, but what are you doing here?”

“My lord asked me to deliver this message your highness.” He smiled at her as he handed her the letter.

“Thank you Henry would you like to have a seat?”

“Thank you highness but I do not think you will be so happy to see me once you read what my master has written.”

“I can not hold you responsible for Vincent’s actions besides I already know it says farewell.” She said sitting down.

“My lady will make a fine queen, its no wonder my master tried to steal you away. Goodbye Miss Meredith I hope I will see you again soon.”

Samantha smiled “I would like that Henry.”

“Your majesty” he bowed to Carolyn as he left. Carolyn closed the door as Samantha opened her letter.

Princess Samantha,

How I long to call you Meredith and yet that is not your name. Please forgive me when I say that is always how I will think of you. I understand why you have left but admit it does not make it any easier. You are a better person than you give yourself credit for and will make a fine queen. I pray Prince Richard is worthy of such a noble woman. I want you to know that I will always love you first and foremost but will comply with your request. I will try to be as loving a husband to my unknown bride as I would have been to you.

Always,

Vincent

 

Samantha let the letter fall to her lap numb. She knew what it would say but had not expected to feel the emotion it contained. It hit her again as it had the first night: he was gone. Soon he would be replaced by a man she’d never met. A man she’d never met by no one’s fault but her own. She started to cry but didn’t really care. She flinched when Carolyn touched her hand. Samantha had forgotten she was there. “I can see why you fell in love with him.”

“Oh Carolyn,” Samantha sobbed.

 

Less than a week later the castle was in an uproar. Prince Richard arrived earlier than anyone even James expected. Samantha didn’t really care what she wore but Carolyn insisted she wear a fine blue gown to bring out her eyes. She chattered on and on about how certain aspects of their marriage would be better if they found one another attractive. Samantha was suddenly worried, somehow that aspect of married life had been forgotten. It was one thing to be the man’s queen and right hand; at his beck and call during the day. That she could submit to but would the marriage bed be so easy. Samantha turned to Anne who had brought the news of his arrival. “Have you seen him Anne?”

“The prince my lady? No but the others said he was quite dashing.”

“Now you’re worried?” Carolyn asked.

“I’d forgotten certain things.” Samantha admitted.

Carolyn smiled at her “I’ll talk to James and see if we can slow things a bit. Just get through this first meeting things will get easier from there.”

“Thank you Carolyn.” Samantha said turning back to her mirror.

 

James had Prince Richard tied up with business when Samantha finished so she decided to wait in the small garden behind what used to be their father’s apartments. Her lute was tucked inside its brass trunk before the door just where she’d left it. It needed tuning but was all right. She strummed up a few notes but could not bring herself to sing. The playing was enough to soothe her nerves though. In a short time her troubles were forgotten. “You play so beautifully.” She glanced up and glimpsed a young man she assumed was the prince.

“I’m sorry the maid was supposed to send for me when you were finished.” Samantha apologized as she set the instrument aside. She stood to greet him and saw a familiar face. “Vincent? What are you doing here?” she eyed his clothes. “And pretending to be the prince my brother will have your head.”

He smiled easily ignoring her comment “You look beautiful Samantha.”

“This is hardly the time. You may be able to fool my brother but what happens when Prince Richard arrives?”

“Samantha I am Richard.” She stared at him. James came into the garden with King William beside him.

“Ah Richard I see you’ve finally met my sister.”

“Richard?” Samantha asked.

King William leaned over to James “She’s not slow is she?” James shook his head confused. Samantha was never slow witted. Her tongue was usually quicker than was good for her.

“Its true then?” she whispered to Richard and he nodded. She threw her arms around him without thinking.

“Well now she seems an affectionate girl.” King William commented.

“Thank you for putting it so delicately.” James said staring at his sister. Samantha let Richard go a little embarrassed.

“Would you excuse us?” Richard asked. King William pulled James away by one arm finding some excuse.

When they were alone Samantha smacked him on the arm. “What was that for?”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Instead you let me think I lost you forever.”

“You lost Vincent.” He said as he escorted her to a seat. “Besides your letter arrived opened I could only assume mine would too and I did not want anything to jeopardize the treaty especially now that I knew you would be my bride. The only person of importance I met as the count was your father and confessed it to him after your birthday. He understood my concern and I told him of the home I’d purchased for you. He said you still did not want to meet me which I guess was true since you ran away but that he would send you when you were ready.”

“What about the men you brought there?”

“They would not have jeopardized the treaty so it did not matter.” He took her hand “You put me to shame the day I got your letter. I really was ready to give up everything. I didn’t care, even after I heard the king was dead. I actually thought James might let me out of the treaty. Then your letter came and I realized I was half a man and you dear lady made me whole.”

“But how did your father get here so fast?”

“He was already on his way to press my marriage. I sent Henry to slow him down.” Richard grinned at her. “Samantha will you marry me?”

“One condition.”

“What would that be?”

“No more secrets.”

“I do have a surprise for you.”

“You always have the best surprises.” She agreed.

Richard escorted Samantha into the main hall where their families were waiting. He introduced her to his father before addressing James. “We wish to marry by the end of the month.”

James was astonished “Sam?” she nodded happily “All right we’ll start the preparations at once.” He said before looking to his wife.

 

Church bells rang as they rushed from the church and climbed into the waiting coach. Samantha took Richard’s arm and snuggled into his shoulder for the long ride back to the summer house; her house. The home she’d lovingly decorated for another woman or at least she thought she had. Her only regret was that the bridal chamber would not be finished. At least Richard swore he had not peeked.

The scene at home was very different now. The staff had tripled in size and banners adorned the front walls. The door was opened for her and the hall was as she remembered. Henry greeted them warmly and led them to dinner. Heddy had outdone herself with eight courses of fine French food. That and the wine were making Samantha sleepy yet she did not want to sleep.

She and Richard walked arm in arm to the bridal chamber and her heart pounded in her ears. “We’ll open it together.” He said to her with his most charming smile. She nodded and placed a hand on the door. Inside the candelabras were lit and everything was just as she left it, except the curtains were finished and hung. Heddy must have seen to it after she left. Then she noticed the bed the shears she so tediously stitched gold vines on were finished and hung as well. The covers too had been stitched to match. Across the room hung the guilt mirror she’d bought the first time Richard proposed. It hung exactly where it should. “Heddy and Henry saw to its completion. I must say this is my favorite room.”

“Mine too.” She smiled.

“Is this why you switched my bed?”

“Well, you did pick it out,” She put her arms around him “and now you have it back.” They kissed a long moment before Richard crossed the room and shut the door.