Tag Archives: arranged marriage

Release Blitz: The Arrangement by Alex Jane

The Arrangement | Alex Jane

A Homestead Legacy Story

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Length: 56,000 words approx.

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Blurb

1895 New York

Gabriel Webster’s pack is in trouble. His father’s failing health and his mother’s untimely death mean that the vultures are circling. It won’t be long before his family’s assets are stripped and his pack disbanded. When an offer of help arrives in the form of a marriage of convenience, he has little choice but to accept.

The arrangement would be the perfect solution, if not for one thing. Gabriel is to marry Nathaniel Hayward, the Alpha who was badly injured in the accident that killed his brother ten years before—and the man Gabriel has been in love with for as long as he can remember.

Trapped in a business arrangement masquerading as a marriage — in a strange, empty house with a damaged husband who barely tolerates him — isn’t what Gabriel expected from life.

But sometimes the last thing we want is the beginning of something more.

And an ending can be the start of something beautiful.

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About The Author

After spending far too long creating stories in her head, Alex Jane finally plucked up the courage to write them down and realized it was quite fun seeing them on the page after all.

Free from aspirations of literary greatness, Alex simply hopes to entertain by spinning a good yarn of love and life, wrapped up with a happy ending. Although, if her characters have to go through Hell to get there, she’s a-okay with that.

With only a dysfunctional taste in music and a one-eyed dog to otherwise fill her days, Alex writes and walks on the South Coast of England—even when her heart and spellcheck are in New York.

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Blog Tour: Innocence & Carnality by J. Alan Veerkamp

Innocence & Carnality | J. Alan Veerkamp

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Publisher: Dreamspinner Publications

Word Count: 126,807

Genres: Steampunk

Buy Links:

Publisher: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/innocence-and-carnality-by-j-alan-veerkamp-498-b

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N16HN1R/

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/innocence-and-carnality/id1450381161

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Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=iAuFDwAAQBAJ

Universal buy link: books2read.com/u/49WvD0

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Blurb

Innocence is his only currency.

The gilded cage of propriety where Nathan grew up as a member of the Deilian aristocracy became a true prison when, at fifteen, his homosexuality came to light and created a terrible scandal. His parents see only one way to preserve their reputation amongst the other noble families: fit Nathan with a chastity belt to increase his value to a potential partner and marry him off as soon as possible.

The recipient of that prize is Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III. After a hasty wedding, Rother whisks Nathan away to the strange and seductive land of Marisol, where Nathan will begin a new life, free to explore the pleasures of the marriage bed, though his life is still not his own.

But Rother’s Delaga House is a place of secrets, dangers, and depravity Nathan can scarcely comprehend. Where friends are few and peril waits around every corner, Nathan must employ all the manipulation he learned from high society, along with his talent for clockwork. Most of all, Nathan must adapt, compromise to survive, and cast off the preconceptions of his homeland.

Because only he can orchestrate his freedom, and it’ll come at a cost.

Innocence and Carnality Meme

Excerpt

“Who told you?” My mother, Lady Margaritte Valencus, huffed in disgust—or at least as much disgust as her practiced expression allowed. Perched on the settee’s edge, she sat tall with her poised back never touching the tufted, embroidered upholstery. A woman of her standing could be expected to do no less.

“Not the person who should have.”

Her lips pursed into a tiny, painted frown. “So in other words, your brothers are the culprits. Sometimes I think they delight in tormenting you, Nathan. I swear they’re like a pair of gossiping old women at times.”

My chest pinched at the news. “So it’s true.”

She paused for a moment and sighed. Having been through this herself, she must have understood my concern. “Yes. Yes, it is.”

I knew this day would eventually come, but the proof brought me to a morose silence. Amongst the elaborately decorated furniture of my mother’s salon, on the end table next to her rested a handcrafted hourglass. The elegant glass bulbs were suspended between a framework of brass and gears. All the fine sand had emptied to the bottom, marking the time left to choose my own future. I wanted to invert it, to start my chances over once again.

Mother turned to the small canvas atop the nearby easel and began dabbing a slender paintbrush to the surface. It was an affectation. The bristles were void of paint, and in my twenty years, I’d never seen her finish a single painting. The possibility of staining her sable and gold brocade gown was unthinkable. Women of Deilian lords were expected to fill their days with arts and crafts, while providing the proper trophy for their husbands.

I played along with her fiction, giving myself time to absorb my own reality. Finding the brass dial embedded in the wall along the ebony wainscoting, I gave it a slow turn. The tension of hidden cogs thrummed under my fingertips and the gaslights grew brighter, illuminating the sanguine, patterned fabric lining the walls, giving her more light to pretend to work with. In the late spring afternoon it wasn’t necessary, yet I did so out of polite habit.

“Thank you, Nathan.”

I leaned against the mantel, fingering the edge of my waistcoat. The layers were snug and tailored, the fine wool properly adorned with buttons of fine metal, befitting a young man of my status. In another hour or two, I would be expected to change into formal dining dress to eat. There were clothing standards for every aspect of our lives. Only certain hobbies were permissible, and employment outside of family investments was unacceptable for the nobility.

With little to spend my time on, I’d grown restless and found hobbies my parents frowned upon. However, if I gave them little trouble, they were content to allow me my eccentricities. How odd they must have found my love of clockwork mechanisms. The precision. The order. Given the expectations my parents laid at my feet, one might think I’d be more attuned to my future requirements. The prospect of a marriage held the hallmarks of opportunity and disaster all at once.

“Do you know who he is?”

“A business associate of your father’s. Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III from Marisol.”

“So far away?” I didn’t want to whine—I was accused of it often enough—but this house and land were all I knew. For all my complaints, I wasn’t prepared to abandon it and my family.

Mother gave me a dismissive shake of her head. “Marisol is an airship ride away. Not far at all.”

“Do you know when?”

“Lord Rother will be coming in two weeks to meet you and hopefully accept your father’s offer. I’ve made an appointment with the clothier. We want you to make a good first impression.”

Well, as if that didn’t make me feel like a commodity. “At least I’ll get to meet him first before I’m shipped off.”

Mother slapped her dry brush onto the end table in her displeasure. “Don’t be droll, Nathan. You know perfectly well how things are done.” “And what if I don’t like him? Will Father force me to go through with it?”

“Most likely. This is an important union for our family.” “He can’t do that.”

She paused for a moment for effect. “Of course he can. Under Deilian law, until you are married or turn twenty-five, your father has final say.”

Pacing in a circle, I waved my hands in the air. “Wonder of wonders…. All hail the land of Deilia.”

Her delicate snarl was sharp and potent. “Stop that. Given your… orientation, there have been pitifully few options in this area to find a suitable mate for you. You don’t remember because you were an infant, but since the plague struck, Deilia has been focused on repopulating. The Monarch demanded it. And because you are unlikely to bear children—”

I stopped and glared at her. “That’s not my fault.” Layers of ire deepened my anger. I hated when she spoke to me like a vacuous noble who’d never been taught a smidgeon of Deilian history. The mention of the Monarch in this context only made it worse. As if I could forget the day I met him and my fall from grace began.

Mother pulled a brooch from her collar. With a touch of her thumb, it spun itself out, expanding into an exquisite fan with translucent blades. Another affectation. I’d been scolded enough over the years to know she didn’t require fresh air to have an uncomfortable conversation. “No, it isn’t your fault, but it’s the situation you’ve been saddled with. It is our duty to follow the plan laid out for us.”


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About the Author

While spending years more focused on visual arts, J. Alan Veerkamp never let go of his innate passion for storytelling, wanting to write and draw comic books when he grew up. Once he discovered M/M fiction, a whole new world opened filled with possibilities.

Why couldn’t you have fantastic and dynamic sexy tales with an M/M cast? He started reading the online tales of authors like Night Tempest, Rob Colton, and Alicia Nordwell, which only fueled his need to create.

Eventually he found GayAuthors.org, and with a little coercive nudge, started sharing his tales with an unexpected level of positive response. The experience and support gave him the courage to cross his fingers and aim for the world of M/M publishing.

Born and raised in Michigan, J. Alan continues to type away, wishing it was practical to use a noisy old-fashioned keyboard that clacks with each strike, if only to annoy his loving partner and spoiled miniature dachshund.

Author Website: https://jalanveerkamp.wordpress.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jalanveerkamp/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/jalanveerkamp

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jalanveerkamp/

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New Release Blitz: A Deceptive Alliance by Sydney Blackburn

A Deceptive Alliance | Sydney Blackburn

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 12, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 37200

Genre: Fantasy, twins, slow burn, royalty, cross-dressing, road trip, arranged marriage

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Synopsis

Kel and his twin sister Isabel have traded places before—to escape lessons, to prank their royal cousins, and for Kel to flirt with handsome men at royal balls.

But when Isabel runs away in tears shortly before her proxy wedding to Prince Darin of Pervayne, Kel takes her place, knowing he could cause serious problems between Pervayne and their home kingdom of Karleed if discovered.

Isabel will show up—eventually—and take her rightful place and no one will ever know. The question is, will Isabel arrive before Kel falls hopelessly in love with the servant his sister’s husband has sent along?

What if Kel isn’t the only one pretending to be someone else?

Excerpt

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A Deceptive Alliance
Sydney Blackburn © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Chapter One
Kel was as nervous as any bride as he prepared to take his sister’s wedding vows to Prince Darin of Pervayne. More specifically, the prince’s proxy, a duke to whom Kel had never been introduced.
It wasn’t the first time he’d dressed as his twin, but never for occasions of state—her wedding, of all things!—and never before had the consequences of discovery been so great.
Twins were considered an ill omen in the kingdom of Pervayne, so Kel had been sequestered upon the arrival of the foreigners in a tower that had fallen into disuse. Isabel, who had always known that, as the king’s niece, her marriage would be arranged, had seemed resigned to her fate right until a few hours ago. She’d stormed into Kel’s draughty chamber in tears and swore she would only marry for love.
Kel had tried to reason with her, but that had resulted only in Isabel accusing him of betraying her before she left in as much of a flurry of silks as she’d arrived.
When her maid, Molly, was unable to locate her mistress in order to dress her for her wedding, she’d sought out Kel. He and Isabel spent a great deal of time together, under normal circumstances, and it was reasonable to assume that, even if they weren’t in
company, Kel would know where she was. But he hadn’t.
He had donned a hooded capelet to search out Isabel’s usual haunts, without giving away his close relation to her, while Molly waited nervously in Isabel’s chambers.
Unable to find Isabel anywhere, he’d returned to her chamber, certain she must be there, letting Molly array her for the ceremony.
She wasn’t.
By that point, finding someone in the family—his cousin, the crown prince, for example—would delay the proxy wedding.
Kel and Isabel had been raised in the royal palace after being orphaned at the tender age of three. They knew almost as much about the king’s policies as his own children, their cousins. Kel understood this ceremony, proxy though it might be, was an important aspect of the treaty King Maurice of Karleed had negotiated with King William of
Pervayne.
Now Isabel was gone, the proxy wedding only an hour away, and Kel was in his sister’s undergarments with his sister’s lady’s maid. “You could simply tell the king your sister’s run off,” the maid, Molly, suggested as she combed out Kel’s hair.
“I wish it was that simple. But it’s still a much-needed political alliance and informing the prince’s envoy that ‘oops, we’ve misplaced the bride’ may be taken poorly.”
“She is twenty,” Molly said with the kind of reproof only many years of personal service could get away with. “Time she wed and got over her foolish—”
Kel nodded in the mirror, jerking the brush stroke somewhat painfully. Already his hair, normally worn in a single plait down his back, hung in loose dark waves over his shoulders. It softened the planes of his freshly-shaven jaw and angular cheekbones. “I know of her lovesickness for the gardener’s first apprentice.”
Molly tutted. “If the world did not hold a woman’s virtue higher than a man’s, she’d have got him out of her system by now.”
Kel coughed out a surprised laugh at the lady’s frankness. “You think it’s merely a passion of the flesh?”
“I’m a woman myself,” she remarked. “I know of these feelings. Many a young woman in the palace feels the same for you, I’ve no doubt.”
Kel snorted.
“Pardon my frankness, my lord, but while it is fairly common knowledge among the staff at Castlemere that your eye never falls on the fair sex, many a maid desires to be the one to ‘fix’ you. Granted, many others are relieved to know there’s a man of rank in the palace who’s safe to encounter in a dark stairwell.”
“I hadn’t realized I was so transparent,” Kel said cautiously.
“Oh it’s none of ours what the above stairs get up to,” Molly said cheerfully, adopting a broad, country accent.
“I can see her fascination with the gardener’s first apprentice, though,” he said in a thoughtful, if hesitant tone, still studying his reflection. The chemise he wore had a scooped neckline and only the thinnest of straps to hold it up. The delicacy of the fabric served to emphasize the most unladylike shape of Kel’s arms and shoulders.
Because his sister dodged needlework to join him in the yard learning swordplay, her arms were almost as muscled as his—the sleeves of her gown wouldn’t strain if they were of a close-fitting style.
Molly chuckled. “Simply to look at, he’s a fine specimen, especially when he strips down in the heat, but my mistress believes she’s in love with him.”
“Could she be? I’ve heard love is a fickle thing.”
“It is. But for people like you and the mistress, love and marriage are completely different things, my lord. Marriage is—”
“An alliance, a joining of houses,” Kel finished with her.
“You really should not be taking her place.” She lifted the frothy concoction Isabel was to take her vows in. “Come stand up and let me help you into this. Then we’ll see where we need to accentuate with some well-placed padding.”
“It’s a proxy wedding. If the groom needn’t be here, neither does Isabel,” he said, trying to hide his uncertainty of the truth of his words. “What do you know of padding? Do you dress other men in women’s clothing?”
“Naive child,” she mock scolded, dropping the heavy skirt over his head and tugging it into place around his waist. She quickly tightened the skirt strings. “You think every woman is naturally endowed with breasts ample enough, hips broad enough to suit
herself?”
“I hadn’t ever thought about it, finding neither ample breasts nor broad hips desirable,” he said. His previous adventures in Isabel’s clothing had been wrought in secret, Isabel powdering his complexion paler and lacing him into one of her awkward bodices.
The ivory skirt was full and of a rather stiff fabric that someone had spent a great deal of time sewing pale pink, ivory, and white fabric flowers to, making it seem almost fluffy. “I think you can do without hip padding,” Molly said, giving him a critical look.
She helped him pull the bodice over his head, being careful of the hair she just dressed. She tugged the lacing at the back and then moved to the wardrobe to fetch two small bags. She handed them to him. “Put these in your bodice. It’s millet, which gives a natural enough shape, but it won’t pass a squeeze test. Not that anyone should be grabbing at
your chest, anyway.”
Kel didn’t admit he was familiar with them. Nor did he ask how it was Molly knew of them. He simply did as she instructed. Today would be the first time he’d have to fool people in broad daylight. Including his own relatives.
Molly laced him up tight and fixed his hair before standing back to study him critically.

 

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NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

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Sydney Blackburn is a binary star system. Always a voracious reader, she began to write when she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read. She likes candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach…

Oh wait, wrong profile. She’s a snarky introvert and admits to having a past full of casual sex and dubious hookups, which she uses for her stories.

She likes word play and puns and science-y things. And green curry.

Her dislikes include talking on the phone, people trying to talk to her before she’s had coffee, and filling out the “about me” fields in social media.

Besides writing, she also designs book covers for poor people.

 

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Guest Post: An interview with A Dance of Water and Air author Antonia Aquilante

When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?

I’ve been writing forever, so I honestly have no idea what the first one was! My mom still talks about a story I wrote when I was 8 or 9 for a school assignment. It had a girl on an adventure through Leprechaun Land (the assignment was for St. Patrick’s Day), and I have no idea where the inspiration for that came from, but I’ve always liked creating magical worlds.

I wrote a 60-page murder mystery with a romantic subplot for a short story assignment when I was 12 that was absolutely inspired by all the Agatha Christie books I was reading around that time and the romances I’d just begun to read. That was also when I decided I would be an author when I grew up. As I got into high school, more of what I wrote was fantasy romance. I loved fantasy, but I needed more happily ever afters in them!

Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?

My day job schedule isn’t consistent, so I write whenever I can find the time. I do write every day, and I have daily word count goals to try to keep myself on track.

Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

I don’t outline. I’m not a strict planner. For every new manuscript, I pull out a new notebook—which I pick out from the stack of pretty notebooks I’ve collected based on if it feels right for the story (it’s a little strange, I know). In the notebook, I first scribble out anything I know about the story. It’s usually broad strokes at this point. Then I try to get to know my characters. I write everything I know about them and try to figure out as much as I can.

I don’t need to know every detail of the plot to write, but I do need to know my characters. I also make notes on the world, if I need to. A Dance of Water and Air starts a new series set in a new world with a different magic system, so I did a lot of figuring that out before I started writing. Once I’ve gone as far as I can, I start writing and figure out the rest as I go. I jump around, so I have to put everything together at the end and make sure it flows. And make sure everything is consistent because sometimes things change as I write.

Where did the desire to write LGBT romance come from?

I mostly followed the characters to it. I had an idea that became my first published book, The Prince’s Consort, which was a gay romance. I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves love and hope and joy and happily ever after and deserves to see that in books.

I hope my books can bring a little more of that into the world. I’ve been writing more stories with demisexual characters lately—both A Dance of Water and Air and my previous book, The Merchant’s Love, have demisexual main characters—because I want more of them. I’ve always tried to write the stories I want to read.

How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?

How much research depends on the book. I tend to research random things as I go along. With A Dance of Water and Air, I fell down the research rabbit hole briefly when I was thinking about the elemental magic system I was creating. It was all really interesting, though it didn’t all make it into the book. As for giving authentic voices to characters, I think talking with people and reading widely are so important.

What’s harder, naming your characters, creating the title for your book or the cover design process?

The title! I’m horrible at titles. I love naming characters. Names have always interested me (I got some strange looks as a teenager buying baby name books at my local bookstore, but I was fascinated by meanings and origins and connotations), and picking the right name for each character is one of my favorite things.

Titles can be bad though. I either am struck with inspiration once the book is mostly written, or I’m struggling for weeks and begging for help. My mom actually came up with the title for my first book.

 

Blog Tour: A Dance of Water and Air by Antonia Aquilante

A Dance of Water and Air | Antonia Aquilante

Elemental Magicae #1

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Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC

Release Date: October 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 83,600

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, fantasy, trans, magic, elements, court intrigue, arranged marriage, friends to lovers

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Purchase

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Synopsis

Edmund is heir to the throne of Thalassa and a wielder of Water magic. Devoted to his kingdom and his duty to it, Edmund can do nothing but acquiesce to an arranged marriage with the queen of a neighboring kingdom. The marriage and the child it is required to produce will seal an alliance between Thalassa and Aither that is vital to Thalassa’s safety, and far more important than Edmund’s personal misgivings.

Arden is the younger brother of Aither’s queen and a wielder of Air magic. Raised in the politics of the court to support his sister’s rule, he understands the alliance is important to Aither, even as he worries about his sister marrying someone she’s never met. When Edmund arrives in Aither to prepare for the wedding, Arden is tasked with helping him settle in at court. As they spend more time together, Edmund and Arden develop a close friendship, then stronger feelings, but with Edmund’s wedding approaching, they must hide their feelings, even from themselves.

When someone tries to assassinate the queen, Edmund is blamed, and Arden rescues him before he can be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. To prevent a war between their kingdoms and protect them from a dangerous enemy, Edmund and Arden will have to discover who wants to pit Aither and Thalassa against each other and mend relations between the two kingdoms as they evade those searching for them—all while finding a way to be together.

Dance of Water and Air Teaser

Excerpt

The Dance of Water and Air
Antonia Aquilante © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Edmund swam, long limbs slicing through the clear, warm water. His mind quieted in the repetitive motion, in the weightlessness and the comfort of being surrounded by his Element. Everything washed away, leaving him calm and relaxed, the only time he ever was lately.

If only he could stay there.

He imagined it for a moment. Spending his life swimming and sailing. All his time in the soothing embrace of the water, or at the shore or bank, feeling Water’s power, learning to use its magic. It was a lovely dream. A lovely, impossible dream. With that thought, tension—the tension his morning swim had briefly dispelled—came flooding back. He stopped swimming and flipped onto his back, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before letting it out in a long sigh.

The sigh had barely left him when he heard the scrape of a shoe against stone. He bit back another sigh and flipped over again to straighten and tread water in the center of the large pool. His secretary stood on the tiled terrace. Peregrine knew better than anyone that this time was Edmund’s and wouldn’t disturb him unless it was urgent. Disaster or grave injury were top of the list.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning, Highness.” Peregrine would never call him by name when someone else might hear, and Edmund would never try to convince him otherwise. Edmund was far too aware of the dictates of his own position. And far too grateful to have found a friend in Peregrine to quibble overly about how they had to behave in public. “I apologize for disturbing you, sir, but the king has called for you.”

A summons from Father certainly counted as a valid reason to disturb him, especially with the rising tensions between Thalassa and their neighbor, Tycen. It seemed Edmund would be cutting his swim short this morning. He struck out for the terrace where Peregrine waited, swimming with steady but unhurried strokes. He wouldn’t dawdle, but if there had been reason to rush, Peregrine would have said.

Soon enough, he reached the terrace and pulled himself up to sit on the edge. Peregrine handed him a towel. He wiped his face first and stood to strip off his soaking wet swim pants and dry the rest of him. Peregrine wouldn’t care about Edmund’s nudity, and he didn’t worry that someone else would come upon them. The pool he chose for his swims wasn’t the largest of the many on the palace grounds, but it was the most private. The terrace they stood on was the only one that connected to the palace, and it was shaded from view. The rest of the area was screened with trees and shrubbery. The smaller terraces on the side opposite them were even more secluded. He’d spent much time in the pool, which was fed by the same underground spring as the rest of the palace waterways, and on the terraces over the years.

Once Edmund was dry, Peregrine handed him the robe he’d left hanging over the back of a chair when he’d arrived. He’d also left a book there—he’d been far too optimistic about his time when he came down here, apparently. He thanked Peregrine and shrugged into the blue-green silk. It was new, something he hadn’t really needed, but he liked the color against his brown skin and the feel of the smooth, cool silk.

“Any idea what my father needs?” Edmund stepped into his sandals and picked up his book from the table.

“None.”

He raised his eyebrow at Peregrine in surprise. Edmund could always rely on Peregrine for more information than seemed possible about everyone from the maids to the king. He’d long since gotten over any misgivings about Peregrine’s seeming omniscience and begun to rely on it. For Peregrine not to have an inkling of what was brewing… Odd. And slightly disturbing.

“I guess we’ll find out.”

Not immediately, of course. A summons through official channels called for more formality. Edmund couldn’t appear in the king’s presence in nothing but a thin robe and sandals. Peregrine kept pace as Edmund walked to his rooms, informing him of other court news and gossip that he might find interesting or useful as they walked.

Edmund’s rooms were a floor up from the garden pool. A guard stationed near the door jumped to open it for Edmund as he approached. He nodded but didn’t slow as he sailed through the door, Peregrine at his heels. His sandals made soft tapping sounds on the green and white tile of the entryway. His sitting room opened up in front of him, curtains fluttering in the breeze blowing in off the ocean below. He had no time to relax there or even to eat the breakfast that was sure to be laid out in the dining room. Instead, he turned left, taking the short hallway leading to his bedchamber, dressing room, and bathing room.

He went directly to the bathing room. Wide windows let in sunlight over the large tub, empty because he usually bathed after breakfast. There was no time to fill it, let alone soak. He settled for rinsing the salt from his skin with water from the basin and briskly rubbed a towel over his shoulder-length hair. Having it drip all over his clothing while he met with Father just wouldn’t do. When he’d squeezed as much of the water from it as he could, he left the towel and went to the dressing room.

Peregrine was there, laying out clothes.

“That isn’t your job,” Edmund said.

“I’m aware.”

“I can select my own clothing.”

“I’m aware of that as well. Put them on anyway.”

Edmund laughed and did as he was told. Peregrine was only saving him time and knew what would be appropriate for him to wear, considering the meeting with Father and the day ahead. He pulled on undergarments and slim gray pants and dropped a sleeveless white shirt over his head. Peregrine held out a dark teal jacket for him, helping him shrug into the embroidered silk. Edmund murmured his thanks and fastened the jacket over his chest, fingers working quickly over the row of little silver buttons. When he was finished, he stepped into shoes and fastened the silver and aquamarine drop earrings Peregrine had just pulled from their box into his ears. It was the only jewelry Peregrine had chosen, and as he looked in the mirror, Edmund had to admit he was probably right in that. The clothing didn’t need more.

“Thank you,” Edmund said.

“My pleasure, Edmund.”

“Perhaps I should have you dress me every day. You have an eye for it. Much better than anyone else. Do you think you’d prefer it to being my secretary?”

Peregrine sent a stern frown at Edmund. “Funny.”

It was, for any number of reasons. Only one being that Peregrine was frighteningly efficient in his present position and far too good at it to do anything else. In fact, he was far too skilled to be anything except a royal secretary, and it was Edmund’s good fortune to have him.

“Shall we?” Peregrine didn’t mention that Edmund shouldn’t keep Father waiting, but he didn’t have to.

“Yes. Catch me up on any changes to my schedule as we walk.”

Peregrine did so, barely consulting his notebook. Edmund listened carefully as they left his rooms and strode through the palace corridors. His own wing, reserved for the rooms of the royal children, was quiet as it was only occupied by him and Kerenza. His sister would still be abed—she preferred to rise late when she had the opportunity—and he had no appointments that might bring anyone to his office until later in the day. When they passed out of the wing, the entrance marked by a three-tiered fountain decorated in mosaics of blue and green tiles, the corridors became more populated. But everyone gave way for the prince and his secretary, bowing as Edmund passed them.

Father’s office was near the council chambers and other administrative offices in the main block of the palace. He worked sometimes in the small private library attached to his rooms, but all his official meetings took place here. If Edmund had any doubt that today’s summons was serious and formal, it would have been dispelled by the location of the meeting.

Peregrine knocked when they arrived, and a moment later, the door was opened by Father’s secretary, who bowed and stepped aside. Edmund bowed slightly as soon as he entered the room, then walked closer to Father’s desk. Peregrine remained back near the closed door. Father looked up from the papers he was examining to study Edmund with a keen eye. Edmund was sure Father was cataloging every detail of his appearance from his attire to his still damp hair.

Father was dressed formally, as Edmund would expect. His jacket was green, heavily embroidered in gold and white, the color vivid against his dark skin. The circlet of his rank sat on his head amid black curls now streaked with gray. Edmund had not worn his own circlet, deeming it unnecessary for the day he had planned; he hoped he wouldn’t regret that decision. The set of Father’s features caused Edmund’s stomach to churn unpleasantly.

“You called for me, Father?”

“Yes. Come sit down. I need to speak with you.” The seriousness of his tone did nothing to alleviate Edmund’s sudden concern.

Edmund took the chair across from Father’s desk, hoping he properly concealed his anxiety. He’d been trained all his life to mask every emotion, so he’d best be able to. He looked at Father and waited for him to speak.

“As you know, we’ve been pursuing an alliance with Aither,” Father said.

And, of course, Edmund did know, though he hadn’t been involved in the negotiations. Aither sat at their western border. Theirs was generally a friendly border to begin with, trade flowing freely between the two countries, but Father and his council had hoped that the looming threat of Tycen’s aggression might worry Aither’s young queen as much as it had them and would tempt her into an alliance. Edmund hadn’t been informed about the state of the negotiations in some time. Had they gone horribly wrong?

“We’ve come to an agreement with Queen Hollis.”

“You—” Edmund stopped. He’d been so sure Father was going to say just the opposite that he couldn’t believe what he’d heard. “That’s wonderful, Father. Did the final agreement go as you’d hoped?”

“We got what we needed from it.”

“Good.” And yet the relief Edmund should’ve been feeling didn’t come. Father didn’t look as if he’d just concluded a successful negotiation, didn’t look as if he was pleased by the outcome. Or…no, not as if he was displeased, but too serious. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all. However, the promises of increased trade and mutual protection were not enough on their own to secure the alliance we needed.”

Edmund wasn’t surprised, though he hadn’t been privy to the particulars of what Father wanted, aside from Aither standing with them should Tycen press their aggression. “What did they ask for?”

“Queen Hollis and her advisors required more assurance of our compliance, and truth be told, I wasn’t upset to have more of theirs. They’re Air wielders, so they’re different from us, but Water and Air are compatible. Even if I would have preferred an alliance with no deeper entanglements.”

“Father?” A rush of cold spread through Edmund’s veins.

“You and Queen Hollis will wed with the expectation of a child being born within two years. The alliance will be secured by blood and all the stronger for it.”

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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Tour Schedule

Read My Interview With The Author Below

10/8 – Mirrigold: Mutterings & Musings

10/9 – Love Bytes

10/10 – Bayou Book Junkie

10/10 – Divine Magazine

10/11 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

10/12 – Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

10/12 – AL Boyd

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