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Lost in a world she doesn’t recognize, Rowena struggles to find her place.Yet her abilities with a blade and the loyalty of a fierce falcon don’t discourage the heated advances of the handsome Prince Caedmon, and the connection between them seems much deeper than her troubled heart can recall.
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Water rained down his body. His sodden shirt clung to each sharply defined muscle in his chest, his leather pants glued to the contours of his rigid thighs. Her heart tripped a beat at the magnitude of sheer, gritty determination forged in the scowl on his brow.
Prince Caedmon was a man on a mission. That was a nice idea for a change.
He finally made landfall, fisted his hands and increased his pace. A few trumpeters blew a half-hearted attempt at announcing his arrival, but their notes blurted like a fat man’s flatulence and faded listlessly in the air. Some people knelt, others remained standing, and several bobbed like apples in a rain barrel, unsure which action to take.
Another victory at denouncing their absurd rituals. Rowena chuckled under her breath. Bravo, sir. Well done.
He locked onto her and she grinned, even when his penetrating stare pierced her like an arrow and he clenched his scruffy jaw. The real icing on the cake would be if he ignored his father. But no, that would never happen. Even as the thought occurred, Prince Caedmon strode straight for King Austiere’s open arms.
Except…wait a second. He wasn’t heading for his father. He marched straight for her.
All the amusement fled her body. She glanced left, then right before meeting his formidable gaze a second time. Of course. Distracted by his gallant swim to shore, she’d forgotten. His dismissal of the pageantry didn’t have anything to do with defiance. He thought them still engaged.
She withdrew a step, but her shoulder blades bounced off the front of Marcelene’s ample bosom. Dammit! Pressed inside the crowd, no other escape route was available. And time was quickly running out. Her pulse leapt and her fingertips tingled as if she’d touched Fandorn’s lightning catcher. She couldn’t seem to draw any air. Great tits above, what was the man planning to do?
Prince Caedmon shoved past his father, seized her around the waist and fell to his knees, burying his face in her skirts. Rowena instinctively placed a hand on his back. Blessed tears of the nine. What had they done to him? Who…or what was responsible for his wretched state?
In one swift stroke, she gleaned a small measure of what he had suffered. Those first few months after he disappeared. The despicable way she had been treated. Those who weren’t terrified by her appearance only befriended her for their own gain, their vows of loyalty abandoned the moment they learned she held no sway in court. And the insufferable way she had cowered in their presence, consistently saying the wrong thing, trying like hell to fit in. Only so they could call her mad, spread vile rumors and laugh in her face. To these abhorrent people, Prince Caedmon had returned, and gratefully so…which meant wherever he had been, the conditions were much, much worse.
She covered the side of his head with her other hand and narrowed her eyes at the stunned, expectant faces of the crowd. By the great path of Helios, if anyone even looked at him the wrong way, she would claw their eyes from the sockets!
She sharply inhaled and tossed her shoulders back. Oh, no…no, no. She had been fooled by such grand displays before. And no matter what affectation this prince exhibited for her benefit, the day would come when his demeanor would change.
He was, after all, one of them.