An Excerpt from Nisha Patel’s Story

In For Their Sins Nisha Patel is Alexandria’s best female friend and the first to teach her the inner workings of house politic’s. Even though the book briefly touches on her past I thought it would interesting to explore her entire history. This short story in its entirety will be published in HallowErotica 2017 on 10/31/2017 and if it is allowed, re-released in my compilation novel with the other characters’ stories. The kindle version of For Theirs Sins is Free Today 8/18 and 8/19 on Amazon.

One night Emily called Savas into her parlor and I was told to wait outside. He returned a few minutes later and his eyes sparkled. He told me to pack a change of clothes and meet him at the stables with my weapons. We were going on a real hunt. I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant but I knew the murderers and rapists we’d been feeding on weren’t a challenge for Savas.

Savas and I rode out of Whitmore that very night and did not stop until the moon was high. A cave lay just up ahead and I could smell the stench of death on the wind. I wanted to gag but Savas silenced me.  The horses were skittish so we climbed off and left them behind. He sent me a mental message to open my senses. As soon as I did I was inundated by the foulest, blackest thoughts I ever experienced. I had to shut it out before I was overwhelmed. “Mordere,” Savas whispered so quietly I almost missed it. He held up six fingers and pointed to the cave. Savas knew all that without ever seeing them.  He pulled me further away to plan.

Savas did not think six Mordere a threat against the two of us. The cave was open and there would be no where for them to hide or ambush us from. We would move in quickly killing as we went leaving the last two to feed us. It sounded simple enough yet I was shaking. Savas was grinning from ear to ear. He lived for this. Drawing his sword he advanced once more and I followed.

We moved in from opposite sides. The first Mordere did not see me coming. I rushed in with my sword and swung at its neck. Blood sprayed covering my face and chest. My sword was caught on bone and the Mordere’s head hung from muscle and sinew. It was still alive and grabbing for me now. I pulled the dagger from my belt and plunged it into its heart. The creature screamed in rage. I grabbed the head and ripped it from the body as it crumpled to the ground.

Another Mordere saw the carnage and ran at me now as I struggled to yank my sword free. I put a foot on the corpse bracing myself as I pulled. The sword flew free and I stumbled backwards. I ducked low as the Mordere reached for me and sliced its legs. It fell over the top of me covering my back in blood. As soon as I gained my feet I stabbed it through the heart. I would deal with the head later.

Savas had the last two Mordere huddled in the back of the cave like scared rabbits. He looked as pristine as when we left the house even though there were four dead Mordere along his path. I gave him a sour look. Either he didn’t want to frighten me or he didn’t want to share the fun. More likely it was the latter.

I grabbed a Mordere and sunk my teeth in. The blood flowed rich and sweeter than anything I’d ever tasted. Only a soulless creature could commit atrocities so dark to flavor the blood so. I savored every last drop drinking more than I knew I was capable of. When I finished I was lightheaded and giddy. Savas had to take the heads of the Morderes then place them outside for the sun to burn. I was still laughing when he returned.

“Could you make any more of a mess Nisha?” He sighed. I looked to my clothes and hands that were covered in blood. “Good thing I told you to bring a change of clothes.” He tossed my pack to me.  I needed to change and wash up. Somehow I doubted in my current state I could do that on my own. Images of Savas washing my back flashed through my mind and suddenly a year of celibacy was too long.

I pulled off my blood soaked shirt and threw it on the ground before I slunk out of my boot and pants. Savas hadn’t been paying attention.  He was cleaning his sword and mine. When he looked up and saw me completely naked he stopped moving. He took in my entire my body then got up. I thought he would react as the other males did but Savas was not like other males. “There’s a stream to the north go wash up and put your damn clothes on.” He pushed me out of the cave. When I just stood there he smacked my ass, and not in a playful way. This was an actual smack that was meant to hurt.

I came back a short while later clean and dressed. Savas had a small fire going and was stretched out on a blanket. It was obvious we were spending the day there. I sat down on the blanket opposite the fire all my giddiness gone. “So what you prefer males?” I asked my ego bruised.

“Not that it’s your business, but no. I’m just not interested in you.” He put his hands under his head and closed his eyes.

I lay down as well staring at the fire. “So you have a lover? Emily did not mention it when she spoke of house politics.”

“I’m outside house politics because I pledged myself to Emily.” He sighed.

I smiled realizing what was going on. “Your Emily’s warrior and her lover then.” He sat up looking at me. “It’s really not that hard to figure out.” I admitted.”

“Yet no one else in the house knows.” Savas told me.

“Your secret is safe.” I assured him. “But if you weren’t Emily’s lover would you…”

“No,” he was getting annoyed. “Some females are trouble; you Nisha are one of those females.”

“But some trouble is worth it.” I smiled.

 

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 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.

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.

Finding Peace∼ a short story part 1

I have been super busy this week between a trip to Tennessee to see one of my best friends,book reviews, nine hour shifts at work, and getting ready for a trip to California this weekend. So I thought I would try something a little different this week and the next.

The following post is the first part of a short story I wrote after a day long marathon of Disney movies. I was sick and suddenly thought I could do better, maybe maybe not. I purposely left out character descriptions and most scene descriptions so the reader could use their imagination. Let me know what you think.

Samantha watched as her brother James stood before the entire kingdom for the announcement of his coming child. It would be a grand day indeed now that their family’s succession was assured. Their father King Edward thought James’ wife Carolyn was the best woman in the world save their mother. Since the day they’d married he’d hounded the young couple to have children. It was the same for her other brother David and his wife Diana. They hadn’t even been married a year yet and father wouldn’t leave them alone.

Samantha was the eldest girl but the third born. Her mother died shortly after she was born and her father remarried three years later. She had two younger siblings by her step mother, Juliana and Jonathon. All were present today for the King’s grand announcement but Samantha was already planning her escape. These social affairs annoyed her to begin with, but this was by far the worst. The whole idea of marriage was absurd to her. Being a wife, at the beck and call of a man was repulsive no matter what her status would be. She wanted no part of it. And having children, the very though made her want to scream.

A duke strolled by with his wife and children in tow and Samantha saw her opportunity to escape. She melted into his pack of children and slipped out a side entrance into the servants halls. She was laughing as she strode towards her room until she saw her father’s aide directly in front of her.

Samantha sat in her room sulking later that evening after a stern lecture from her father. Carolyn slipped in quietly trying to smooth things over as always. She was the closest thing Samantha had to an older sister but she couldn’t get over the fact that Carolyn embodied the very thing she hated most.

Carolyn sat on the bed “What’s really bothering you Sam?”

Sam turned away “Nothing, you know I hate royal functions.”

“Yes, but I also know you’ll do just about anything to make that man smile, and he specifically asked you to be there.”

Samantha heaved a sigh “Did you and James have to have a baby?”

Carolyn moved closer and put her arm around Samantha’s shoulder “Actually we did. The kingdom needs an heir and your brother will be king one day. Besides that we wanted to have a child.”

“Why?”

“It’s not something I can explain, you’ll understand one day when you’re married.”

“I’m not getting married and I’m not having any children.”

“Samantha, of course you will.”

“I won’t”

“You only say that because you’re young.” Carolyn said trying to talk some sense into her.

“I’m 14, I know what I want and what I don’t want. And I don’t want to be given to some man I barely know to play his wife and bare his children.”

“Samantha!” Carolyn huffed as she stormed out of the room. She and James had only met a few times before their marriage was arranged. Samantha hadn’t meant to be cruel, but she’d meant what she’d said. As a princess the same could happen to her.

 

James paced back and forth as his father read the letters from King William of their neighboring kingdom. The situation between their lands had been tense to say the least for years. As it stood now they were on the verge of war. Peace treaties in the past had failed and the latest one was running out soon, a more permanent solution was needed. King Edward looked to his son he’d tried everything and the last thing he wanted was a war. “Father you have to accept.” James implored him.

“How can I?” he asked.

“Because what he proposes is the best answer. Besides, Samantha will understand eventually.” James replied urging his father to accept the treaty.

King Edward sat down at his desk and pulled out a piece of parchment “Dear God, I hope your right.” He said as he dipped his quill in ink.

Samantha walked through the garden with Juliana when a maid summoned her to her father’s office. Samantha was afraid she was in trouble again, but couldn’t think of anything she’d done. She followed the maid obediently wondering what was going on.

Her father was waiting on her and smiled as soon as she entered the room. He dismissed all the servants and sat her down on the sofa. He retrieved a large box with a smaller one on top. “What’s this?”

“Just a small gift.” He said handing her the large box and reserving the smaller one. “You may open it.”

Samantha pulled off the lid and was surprised to see a fine gold gown. “A dress father?”

“Your 15th birthday is approaching I thought we could have a ball.” He smiled at her. Samantha smiled as well knowing it would make him happy if she wore it, not to mention it would be the first time he’d thrown a ball in her honor.

He opened the smaller box “And this was your mother’s she said it had been in her family for years.” He gently lifted a pearl pendant on a delicate gold chain out of the box. “She said her mother gave it to her on her wedding day but I thought a few years early in your case would not hurt.” He said placing the chain around her neck.

She lifted her hair out of the way for him with one hand and delicately fingered the pearl with the other. “Oh father its lovely I… a few years early?” she looked up at him. “What do you mean?”

Her father knelt down before her and took both her hands “Samantha you know we are on the verge of war, this marriage could stop it forever. King William’s son is only a few years older. It is a fine match and you will be a queen. I thought we could invite him to the ball so you could meet the boy.”

“But father I must protest,”

“I know Samantha, but this our last resort. He will make a fine husband.”

“How could you? I won’t do it, you can not force me.”

“Samantha be reasonable.”

“I am. I told Carolyn the same thing last month. James married someone he cared for. David was engaged before even you met Diana, but me? I am engaged before I even give consent.”

“Samantha it is for the good of both our countries, surely you must see that?”

“There must be some other way.”

“There is none.”

“Well I do not care. I will not marry him.”

“Samantha you will.”

“I will not and if you say I must then you will lose a daughter.” Samantha said as she stormed out of the room.

 

Prince Richard knocked on his father’s door and Sarah let him in. The king was still at breakfast but he had said it was important. His mother was mad at him again, but that would pass quickly, it always did. The two never really could stay mad at one another. King William saw him and waved him forward.

“Have a seat Richard please.”

“Your Chamberlain said you wanted to see me.”

“Sarah fix him a plate please.” King William asked the maid avoiding Richard’s remark.

“Just bacon and eggs Sarah.” Richard said politely. Sarah curtsied and fixed him a plate before scurrying away. Richard thought it odd that she would leave before the meal was over, but he figured she had other duties to attend to.

“I received word from King Edward yesterday, it seems his son Prince James is expecting a child.”

“This is what you asked me to breakfast to tell me?”

“Well there was that and matters of the peace negotiations.” Richard stopped pouring a glass of orange juice. “I put a proposal to him a short while ago and am happy to say that he has accepted. It means a lasting peace between our peoples.”

“That’s wonderful news.” Richard congratulated him helping himself to a biscuit.

“I’m glad you feel that way. Then I have your word that you’ll do your part in this?”

“I’ll do what I can of course.” Richard said jovially.

King William put his elbows on the table and folded his hands. “King Edward has a daughter a few years younger than you.” Richard sat back in his chair his good mood lost. “It’s already been arranged. When she’s old enough you will be married.”

“That’s it, I don’t get a say in this?”

“No,”

“Do I at least get to meet her?”

“She’s turning 15 in two months and her father is throwing a ball in her honor.”

“15, are you joking?”

“Now Richard I’m sure this isn’t any easier on her.”

“She’s a girl all they ever want is to marry, what difference does the groom make to her? Besides I don’t want her to know it’s me when we meet. If she does they’ll have her dressed up like a doll and she’ll be on her best behavior. No if I have to meet this girl I want to do so on my own terms.”

“Richard please, you are a prince there are certain matters of decorum you must follow.”

“Father really, you’ve already arranged my bride can I at least see what I’m getting into?”

“Fine, but Richard I beg you behave yourself.”

 

Count Vincent arrived at the castle the day before Princess Samantha’s birthday ball. He was escorted to the throne room to be presented to King Edward as soon as he arrived. None of the castle servants noticed him what was one more courtier. Walking past an open door he noticed a servant boy in seemingly new clothes and cap speaking with a maid. Normally the scene wouldn’t have caught his attention, but the boy’s clothes were new, it was odd for a servant to have new clothes. The maid noticed his attention and closed the door. Count Vincent moved on.

The king received him warmly, but seemed anxious over the impending arrival of Prince Richard. Count Vincent was sure it was only natural since the prince would marry his daughter. He excused himself from the king and retired to the rooms provided for him.

Later that afternoon Count Vincent went to the market to buy the princess a small trinket. It was after all her birthday. As he wandered through the stalls he caught a glimpse of the same boy he’d seen at the castle. The boy was headed into a darker section that didn’t look to be a reputable area. The count followed curious what he was up to. From a spot across the way the count watched the boy produce a silver comb. A man took it form him and offered a copper coin. The boy was being cheated.

“I didn’t steal it it’s my mom’s” they boy said harshly.

“A copper coin’s all you’ll get.”

“Give it back then.” The boy reached for the comb, but the man pushed him away.  “I said give it back.”

“Take the coin.” The man growled.

“Give him back the comb and we won’t have a problem.” The count said from behind the boy.

“Ah my lord the boy and I had a deal.” The man smiled revealing black teeth.

“No we didn’t.” the man pushed the boy and he fell down. His hat fell off letting loose a mane of light brown hair.

“A girl,” the man gasped.

“There now do you really want to cheat a young girl?” The count offered the man an out. The man handed over the comb and disappeared into the crowd. The count helped the girl up and she quickly tucked her hair away. He handed her the comb.

“Thanks,” she huffed turning away.

“Wait please, I saw you at the castle may I ask what your doing here?”

She shrugged “The maid is a friend, I needed money so I came here to sell this I thought it obvious.”

“My lord,”

“Sorry,”

“I’m a count. I’m assuming you are a peasant so you should address me as my lord or by title.” The girl started to walk away and the count caught up to her. “Sorry what I was hinting at was that I could help with your financial situation. As it turns out I am in the process of acquiring a summer home for my father and it could use a lady’s touch in its decorating. That is if you were interested in a job.”

“And what of your mother? My lord,” She added hastily.

“She’s much too busy at home.” He smiled at her. “A small sum and room and board sound all right?” She nodded. “Two conditions.” She looked to him worried. “First you must wear suitable attire.”

“And second?”

“I shall need to know your name.”

“Meredith.”

“Vincent.”

“Count Vincent,” she corrected and he smiled at her.

“Ah Henry, would you take this young lady to the summer home and have a dress sent for her. Let her pick out something small for the princess and have it sent to me at the castle as well.”

“Yes my lord.” An older gentleman said taking Meredith by the arm.

 

Meredith walked through the empty halls of the large summer home. Suddenly she was lost as to how to furnish a home and was hoping the count would at least allow her to find other employment before throwing her out. She heard footsteps behind her and thought it was Henry. “Henry I’m fine really you’re not my servant you’re the…” she turned “Count Vincent, you’re back early. How was the ball?”

“Cancelled, I’m afraid. The princess was feeling ill.”

“More like making a statement about her coming marriage… my lord… I’m sorry I should not speak ill of the princess. It’s just the servants say she wishes to marry no one.”

Count Vincent smiled easily “I can only imagine having the groom picked for her made the matter harder. But I thought all women wanted to marry?”

“Hardly, it’s the last thing I want my lord.”

He thought a moment before changing subjects, “So what do you think of my father’s new home?”

“My lord it’s very nice but I’m sorry to say I have no idea where to begin. When you said it needed a woman’s touch I thought you meant a few paintings some tapestries or mirrors not rooms of furniture.”

“Not all the rooms are empty.”

“My lord I’m sorry I misled you but I can not do this. I will begin looking for other employment immediately.”

“Nonsense the furniture maker arrives tomorrow you merely have to pick a style. We’ll learn together all right. Then on Friday we’ll go to the market and start on the rugs and linens. You can sew?”

“I can but that’s a lot of sewing my lord.”

“Then you’ll need help.” He took her arm and walked with her back towards an empty room.

“My lord I don’t think you’re supposed to do that.” Meredith commented as she glanced at his arm.

“Pish posh, your still a young lady besides no ones around.”

“What about Henry? He’s always around my lord.”

“Then we’ll have to fix that,” he smiled. He stopped in front of a pair of double doors and threw them open. The room was large and spacious with plenty of light and made of tan stone. “This is to be my mother’s room. Do with it whatever you like. I want it to be special though so take as long as you like.”

“What does she like?”

“Imagine it’s your room and do what you will.”

Meredith stepped into the room and looked around “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

“Of course,” he eyed over her plain brown dress. “I thought I asked Henry to get you suitable attire?”

“My lord? But this dress is fine.”

“You may be a servant and on any other girl that dress would do but on you it looks like a rag. Besides you and I will be spending a considerable amount of time together and you should have something suiting.”

“Thank you my lord.” She replied trying to hide her embarrassment at his remark.