reluctant to marry her, whatever the negotiations had arranged. But
she never expected to find handsome, arrogant King Rowan obsessed
with his stepsister instead. And before she can determine what course
to take, she overhears her greatest ally plotting to murder the
whatever chaos results. As the assassin hunts his prey, a magic
mirror appears to show Olivia the three paths that open before her .
princess will die—and she will become queen.
great power—but she must also thrust away her own happiness.
she will know love and contentment—but her whole country will
and courage will be tested as she fights to protect her people, her
friends, and her heart. And deciding which to follow will be far from
easy . . .
I’ve heard it said the most important moments in one’s life pass more swiftly than others. Perhaps it’s true.
I only know that all my senses were on alert as soon as my father sent for me, asking me to come to his private rooms. Eighteen years old, I’d never once been invited to his rooms. In the past several weeks, he’d been closeted away much of the time, sending and receiving messages, but I had no idea what this was about—as he didn’t see fit to share such intelligence with me.
Now…he wanted to see me, in his rooms?
I could hardly refuse, nor in fact did I want to. I was curious.
Gathering my long green skirt, I nodded curtly to the servant who’d delivered the message and made my way to the base of the east tower of our family keep. I knew exactly where his rooms were located, even if I’d never been inside.
Upon arriving, I stood with my back straight and knocked on the door.
“Father? You sent for me.”
“Come,” he said from the other side.
With my hand shaking only slightly, I opened the door. Inside, I found a somewhat austere main room that appeared to be a study, with a large desk and chair. There were tapestries of forest scenes on the walls, and an interior door led to a bedroom.
My father, Hugh Géroux, sat behind his desk working on what appeared to be a letter, but he stood as I entered. In his early fifties, he still cut a striking figure, with a smooth-shaven face, dark hair with a sprinkling of gray, and dark eyes.
“Olivia,” he said, as if meeting me for the first time.
We didn’t know each other well, as I was the fifth and youngest of his children. I had two older brothers and two older sisters, and my father had used all four of them carefully to enhance his own wealth and prestige. My mother died of a fever when I was only seven, so my father raised us alone in a manner that was both distant and overbearing at the same time.
My family, the line of Géroux, was among the old nobility of the kingdom. While past famines and civil wars had destroyed several of the ancient families, ours survived. We were survivors. My father respected strength and nothing else.
His eyes moved dispassionately from my feet to my face, as if assessing me. I knew only too well what he saw. I was tall for a woman. He was tall, and I could almost look him directly in the eyes. Unfortunately, the current fashion for women was petite and fragile. My hair was long and thick, but it was a shade of burnished red, and again, red hair was not currently in fashion.
Still, I’d been raised to remain sharply aware of everything going on around me, and it was no secret that most men found me desirable. My face had often been called pretty, with clear skin and slanted eyes of green. I looked best in green velvet.
Though I was not vain, I had also been raised to understand that survival was based on value, and at some point, I’d be given a chance to prove myself valuable. Had that chance finally come?
“You’ll need to pack tonight,” he said. “You leave for Partheney in the morning.”
In spite of my careful awareness of self-control, I nearly gasped. “Partheney?”
This was the king’s city. My family’s lands were in the southeast corner of the kingdom. Partheney was in the northwest, near the coast of the sea. I had never been there.
“You’re to marry King Rowan,” my father said flatly. “His mother, the dowager queen, and I have arranged it.”
I stood still as his words began to sink in, but I still couldn’t quite follow what he was trying to convey. “King Rowan…the dowager queen…is this why you’ve been receiving so many messages?”
His eyes flashed, and I dropped my gaze, cursing myself. Father did not brook questions from his children. He expected only two things from us: strength and obedience. But the slight shaking in my hands grew to a tremble. Had I heard him correctly? I was to marry the king?
Stepping around the desk, he approached me. “Do you know anything of the rumors surrounding King Rowan?”
Unfortunately, I did, hence the reason my hands trembled. Even here, in the isolated southeast, rumors still reached us. In his late twenties, Rowan de Blaise was a young king and had held the throne for only two years. But over those two years, four betrothals with foreign princesses had been arranged via proxy. Envoys had been sent to Partheney to finalize negotiations. In all four cases, when the envoys arrived, Rowan refused to even see them. He’d sent them away.
“I know some of the stories,” I answered my father. “I know betrothals have been arranged, and he’s sent the envoys packing.”
“Yes.” My father nodded. “His mother, the dowager, was the one who arranged the betrothals. She is anxious to see him married and founding a line of heirs.”
“Why will he not marry?”
My father waved one hand in the air. “That is of no matter. What matters is, the dowager has decided to stop seeking a foreign princess and marry him into one of our own noble families. She’s wise and has chosen the line of Géroux. We’ll be linked to royalty, and I’ll be the grandfather of kings.”
The truth of all this hit me, and my hands ceased trembling. I would be queen.
Clearly there were obstacles, but I allowed my initial worries to vanish and let my mind flow. Father expected complete success from himself and would expect nothing less of me. This thought made me brave. “If Rowan has refused to even see the envoys,” I began, “what makes you and the dowager think he will agree to entertain negotiations this time?”
My question was bold, but instead of growing angry, Father only looked at me as if I were simple—which I was not.
“Because as I said, you will leave in the morning,” he answered. “I’m not sending envoys. I have no faith in envoys. I’m sending you. You’ll go to the castle, meet the king, and handle negotiations yourself. You are a daughter of the Géroux. He cannot turn you away.”
“You’ll not come with me?”
“No. That was my first instinct, but the dowager believes it best if the king is given no choice in facing you directly. It will force him to be…polite.” His expression darkened. “And you will not fail to secure him. Do you understand? You will not fail.”
I met his eyes without flinching.
Chaumont discovers she’ll be sold as a bride to the brutish
Volodane family—within hours. Her father grants only that she may
choose which one of the ruthless, grasping lord’s three sons she
welcome dinner for her in-laws-to-be, she finds an enchanted mirror
that will display how her life unrolls with each man, as if she were
living it out in a breath. But there is no smooth “happily ever
after” in her choices.
intrigues and escapes await her in a remote, ramshackle keep, where
these rough but complex men reveal one side and then another of their
jagged characters—and bring forth new aspects of Megan, too. But
the decisions of one teenaged marriage-pawn reverberate much farther
than any of them have guessed . . .
Times bestselling author of The Mist-Torn Witches series. She is
the co-author (with husband J.C.) of the Noble Dead Saga. She holds a
master’s degree in composition/rhetoric from the University of
Idaho and currently teaches writing for Umpqua Community College. She
and J.C. live in a quirky two-level townhouse just south of Portland, Oregon.
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