The Princess Destiny: Book Two of the Daughters of Prophecy
Liera, princess of Cantara, wants nothing of royalty and the court intrigue that inevitably accompanies it. She’s much happier hiding out in neighboring Talehndor, where the days are warm and life is peaceful. She knows she should have returned to her native land, but what awaits her there is a battle, one that will pit her against her own father for control of the throne.
The sunny weather isn’t the only thing keeping Liera in Talehndor. Cian, the fiercest warrior of a generation, left Cantara in search of the princess he’d loved since childhood. In Talehndor, they can be together in a way they never can be in Cantara. When she was little more than a girl, Liera was forced into a marriage with Cian’s brother, a marriage she wasn’t sorry to see end with her husband’s death. Now, under Cantaran law Liera and Cian are as near as blood relations. A marriage between them is forbidden.
When Liera learns that raiders from across the Sea of Fates are invading Cantara, she knows that her respite from the tyranny of royal life is over. The time has come to face her destiny as the rightful ruler of Cantara, even if it means giving up the only love she’s ever known.
Together, Liera and Cian venture into a cruel, windswept land where enemies lay in wait around every corner and betrayals are as common as the thick fog on the moors. Into this forbidding land, they carry not only their forbidden passion, but also secrets — ones with as much power as any danger they face to tear them apart forever.
If you like romances with strong, capable heroines and adventures — not to mention a hero — that will make your heart race, then download The Princess Destiny today.
Here is an excerpt of Chapter One of The Princess Destiny
Liera stepped back to study the exquisitely embroidered banner that hung over the head table in Talehndor’s great hall. “Lower it a bit,” she directed.
A male groan, more from annoyance than from exertion, sounded as the banner, held aloft by ropes and pulleys, descended.
“If it’s too high, the detail will be lost,” she explained. “Oh wait, now it’s uneven.” She backed farther down the center aisle and cocked her head this way and that. “Raise the left side. No, not your left, my left. It’s too high now. Lower it back to where it was.”
The banner, which was as tall as a man and spanned nearly the entire width of the great hall, stopped moving altogether, and Cian, Liera’s brother-in-law, climbed down the ladder. “Have you any notion of how bloody heavy that thing is?”
Former brother-in-law, she reminded herself. Cian was her former brother-in-law. With the sun catching the copper strands in his hair and perfectly outlining his broad shoulders, the distinction was an important one. He was her husband’s brother—her dead husband’s brother. In stark contrast to Raab, the man she’d been forced to marry, Cian was the finest man Liera had ever known. Still, she knew enough of men, even fine men, to know better than to tell him so.
“It’s not a silken handkerchief I’m maneuvering up there, you understand.” He jerked his head toward the huge banner.
“My apologies. I didn’t realize you were unequal to the task,” she teased. “Shall I call for a kitchen lad to assist you? Or perhaps some of the girls could spare a moment from their sewing?”
He made a disgusted sound deep in his throat, but the corner of his mouth tugged into a reluctant grin. He came to stand beside her. Together, they stared up at the banner.
“It’s so beautiful,” she said.
The banner depicted Talehndor in the full bloom of summer. Midsummer in this land was a wonder to behold. It couldn’t be more different from summers in her own homeland of Cantara. Cantaran women didn’t spend sunny summer days embroidering delicate stitches onto fine linen. No, Cantaran women spent their days spinning wool to make into garments hearty enough to withstand the hard winter to come. The hard winter always came.
“It’s beautiful, to be sure.” He brushed a thumb across her cheek as though wiping away a smudge of dirt, a smudge that might or might not have been there. Liera didn’t much care which it was.
She tilted her head, leaning into his touch. Here, in Talehndor, a land that had no claim on her, she could let her mind entertain the fancies of girlhood, fancies In which Cian’s touch wasn’t forbidden. She didn’t look at him, but she felt his eyes on her and reveled in the warmth of his gaze. He stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “It’s hard to believe that Midsummer is upon us already. It seems no time at all since Yule, but much has changed since then.”
Much had changed. At Yule, Liera had been betrothed to Kaid, the man who was now king here in Talehndor. It was not a union either party had desired. Kaid was not a bad man, she knew now, but his heart had belonged to another, as had her own. The marriage had been the machination of King Grear, an evil man who tried to use Liera to gain power and wealth for himself. Had it not been for Cian, Grear’s evil plan would have succeeded.
Cian’s hand slid down to rest at the small of her back. His touch was light, but it sent sensations coursing through her. He lowered his head and brushed his lips against her temple. He lingered there, and she felt his breath quicken. Would he lower his lips still more? Would she let him? As close as they’d been since Yule, they had managed to keep some space between them—at least physically.
She faced him and longed to reach for him, to feel him against her. “I’m glad you came for me. The Goddess knows you didn’t have to.”
He whispered in her ear. “Are you, Liera? Are you truly glad?”
She pulled back to look at him. “That you rescued me? Of course I am glad. How could you even ask such a thing?”
He would not meet her gaze. “I only wonder if you might not be having some regrets about how things turned out here.”
“Aye, from what I’ve heard, had I been but a day later, you’d be the queen here now. It seems a role you might have grown to enjoy. And the king, he is far from the ogre we had been led to believe he was.”
She took in a deep breath, then another. “I’d be queen here, you’re right. I’d be married to a man who would be made miserable by the very sight of me, a man who would forever be in love with another. If what you’re asking is do I regret that I am not destined to spend the rest of my life in a marriage not of my choosing, then the answer is no. I faced that future once already, or have you forgotten?”
“No,” Cian said more sharply than she had ever heard him speak before. “No, I am not likely to forget that.”
It never failed. Raab was dead, yet here he was between them again, as much as if he stood here in the flesh.
Liera laid her hand over his. “Let us not argue, not with the Midsummer feast so near.” Earlier, she’d been rearranging flatware and stemware on the head table to see which set went best with the new banner. Now, she dropped her hands and fussed about with the gleaming plates and polished goblets. “It will be a festival the likes of which we have not seen before. There will be musicians and tumblers and all manner of entertainments. I’ve spoken with the cook, and she’s preparing a special dessert in honor of the occasion. I think it involves peaches. The orchard on the south end of the castle grounds is positively bursting with them. Seamus returns with the other lads every evening sticky from head to toe and smelling of peaches.” She knew she rambled, but if she just kept talking, maybe she wouldn’t have to face the look of disapproval on Cian’s face.
“Cantara, too, is beautiful in the summertime,” he said.
A chill, as though blown down from the Crater Mountains, chased away the warmth of the moment. She stopped moving. Had he felt it too? The pull of their homeland? Liera knew she should have returned already, but Talehndor was safe, and life here was so much less complicated than any life she could have in Cantara.
Cian picked up a golden goblet and turned it this way and that, causing sparkling light to dance around the hall. “How is it that you come to be so involved in the planning of the Midsummer feast?”
“It isn’t as though Aerdrin can do it, not with her time so close. The poor woman is miserable. She’ll need all the rest she can get before the babe comes. I don’t think I got a full night’s sleep until Seamus’s second naming day.”
“What of Banna? I understood she handled such duties as these before His Highness and Aerdrin were wed.”
Liera pointed to where Banna, her long blond tresses nearly covering her face, lay slumped over a table, sound asleep. “Little Aeri is cutting a tooth, and seems to do most of her complaining about it at night. Banna only just finished the final touches to the banner early this morning. I hadn’t the heart to wake her.”
“Ah, that’s very kind of you. They have much need of you here in Talehndor then.” His words might have been generous, but she knew him well enough to know that there was more to what he said.
Hanging in the air between them was the knowledge that Cantara needed her more. The restless pull that she’d been trying to ignore for nigh on two moons now gripped her, body and soul. It unsteadied her so that she had to brace herself against the back of a chair. The feast was so near, and Seamus, how could she take her son away from this place of safety and into the dangers and uncertainties that made up life at the royal court of Cantara? “Must we speak of this now?”
He set the goblet on the table with more force than was necessary. Banna jolted awake. She looked from Liera to Cian and, taking in their expressions, rose and hurried from the hall.
“When would you have us speak of it? Every time I try to broach the subject with you, you either talk over me or hurry from the room on some just-remembered errand. Don’t you want to return to Cantara?” His look was both hurt and accusing.
Guilt assaulted Her. Yes, she wanted to go back. No, she wanted to stay here forever. “You ask me that even as you stand there in a patch of sunshine? What were you doing all morning Cian? No wait, let me guess. You were playing with Seamus and the other children. Mock sword battles again, was it? What do you think you would have been doing this morning in Cantara? You know as well as I that there would be nothing pretend about any sword battle you’d have there. How can you question why I delay rushing back to a land that holds such turmoil for me?”
“You won’t face such trials alone. Be it here or in Cantara, my place is by your side.” He reached for her.
She shouldn’t take his hand, shouldn’t let him pull her against him. Regardless of their feelings, it could never be between them now as it once was. Much, so very much, had happened since then. The past was a coiled viper between them. Here in Talehndor, the viper had remained still and silent, content to sun itself by the glow of rekindled romance, but in Cantara, the viper would rise between them, full of poison and pain, and it would strike.
“It isn’t so simple a matter as you believe.” She laid her cheek on his shoulder. He put an arm around her waist and with the other, gently stroked her back. If he knew all the things that land had done to her, he would never ask her to return. If he knew the things she had done, he’d leave her now and never look back. Wouldn’t he? She couldn’t be sure, and as long as they remained in Talehndor, she didn’t have to be.
“Nothing is ever simple—I know it well—but you are the true ruler of Cantara. Your father has no blood right to the throne. His claim to it comes through your mother’s lineage. Everyone in Cantara knows it. He doesn’t command the people’s loyalty, only their fear. He maintains order by threat of violence. If the people had another choice, they would accept it readily.”
Liera was saved from making further excuses by the sound of footsteps pounding down the staircase. She hurried to Aerdrin, an unassuming figure who happened to be the most powerful woman in the known world. Aerdrin was Queen of Talehndor and Arinkell, which along with Cantara made up the land south of the Crater Mountains, but her power went far beyond titles alone. She was a wielder of the elements, one with the ability to command fire, earth, water, air, and in Aerdrin’s case, even spirit. Liera had seen her defeat an entire army all on her own. But now she looked anything but powerful. Her eyes were wide as though horror stricken, and color was high in her cheeks.
“Your Highness,” Liera dropped a curtsey, a habit so ingrained in her that despite becoming as close to Aerdrin as a sister, she had yet to break it.
Usually, Aerdrin huffed or rolled her eyes at such displays of respect, but this time, she failed to notice it at all. A spirit stone, a tool that she used to see into the future, rested against her forehead. Whatever had sent her here in such a hurry, it did not bode well.
“I have seen…” Aerdrin shuddered, closed her eyes, and then made an effort to focus on Liera. “King Brensus has sent emissaries to the land beyond the Sea of Fates. Bands of warriors may even now be making for Cantara,” she said before her gaze dulled again.
“When?” Cian demanded. His sharp tone was in contrast to the gentle way he helped Aerdrin to a nearby chair.
Aerdrin blinked, seeming only then to realize that he was present. She looked from Cian to Liera, then removed the chain from around her forehead and returned it to the velvet pouch she always wore on a braided cord around her neck.
“When, Aerdrin?” Cian urged.
Liera went to Aerdrin, who had gone quite pale. “Are you certain spirit travel is safe in your condition?”
Aerdrin wiped sweat from her brow. “This vision came to me all on its own. I only used the stone to see what more I could learn.” She looked to Cian. “To answer your question, I don’t know, and yes, I did try to find out. Time is irrelevant to spirit, so clues to whether things are past, present, or future, are very few, but my sense is that the invaders are near.”
Grim determination replaced Cian’s usual good nature. “We tarried here too long.”
He was right. Liera could not meet his eyes. Guilt caused her stomach to churn. “Are you certain my father sent for these invaders?” Few things her father did surprised her, but sending across the Sea of Fates to enlist the aid of barbarians seemed unthinkable even for him.
“I saw gold, chests and chests of it, being loaded onto a ship bearing the Cantaran flag, and I saw those ships set sail across the Sea.” She looked to Liera and frowned. “I’m sorry to bring you such news.”
Cian, who had been crouching beside Aerdrin, rose slowly. He made a bow to Aerdrin and offered a last, desperate look to Liera. “I will depart at first light,” he said before walking slowly yet resolutely out of the great hall.
“I’m sorry,” Aerdrin said again when he had gone. “I should have spoken to you privately.”
Liera waved away the apology. “Don’t think of it further. We were near to quarreling already.” She called for a serving girl to bring a cup of water for Aerdrin. “You look pale. Shall I send for Jacia?”
“No need. I am here.” Jacia, who possessed the incongruous skills of both renowned healer and feared warrior, entered, already reaching into the ever present pouch of herbs at her waist. She intercepted the serving girl. “Take that water away, and bring me a cup of boiling water instead.”
“With some honey,” Aerdrin called.
“No honey,” Jacia contradicted.
The serving girl looked from one to another, her eyes big and round, then left the great hall at a run.
“I hope you two are happy,” Liera scolded. “The poor girl is near to an apoplexy of fright. She looked like a mouse that found herself in a den of lionesses.”
“You are no doubt preparing to ply me with one of your foul herbal teas,” Aerdrin said to Jacia, “and I swear to you now I will sick up from the taste.”
Jacia didn’t deny it, nor did she replace the handful of herbs in her hand. “You had a vision. What did you see”
Aerdrin shuddered from the memory, then recounted the particulars of her vision again.
Jacia turned to Liera. “You will be departing soon then?”
Liera raked her fingers through her hair and wouldn’t meet her friends’ gaze. “I can’t take Seamus into that kind of danger.”
“You mean you aren’t planning to go at all?” Jacia looked stunned.
Liera didn’t answer. How could she. She might look like a woman in possession of herself, but she felt like she was being torn apart. Her duty to her people and her duty to her son—they warred inside her, each staking claims on her heart. “You are both warriors; I am not.”
“I was no warrior until destiny demanded it of me,” Aerdrin said.
Liera dropped into a chair. “I want no part of war and battle and fighting. I’m tired of living my life in accordance with the desires of men.”
“I can think of one man whose desires you wouldn’t find burdensome,” Jacia said. “You won’t go back to Cantara alone. You follow Cian, and a finer backside I have never seen on a man.”
“Jacia! Is there nothing you won’t say?” Aerdrin chided.
“Do I lie?” Jacia retorted. “Never mind, you are newly wed and have eyes for only one male backside, but trust me when I say that Cian’s is quite fine.”
Liera shook her head. “There can be nothing between Cian and me.”
“Oh but there could be,” Jacia said. “It is a simple matter of both getting between the sheets at the same time. From what I’ve seen, Cian wouldn’t argue over finding you in his bed.”
“He may think I am what he wants, but I am not.”
Jacia tossed her long braid over her shoulder. “Funny, he doesn’t strike me as a man who lacks knowledge of his own mind.”
“His own mind, yes, but there is other knowledge of which he is ignorant.” And Liera intended for him to remain that way.
“Cian is loyal to those he cares for,” Jacia said.
“He is at that,” Liera agreed, “and he is loyal to his family, just as a good son should be.”
“Is it loyalty to his family that has kept him in Talehndor these many moons?” Jacia’s continued probing finally pushed her too far.
“Do you think me a fool, Jacia? I am aware of Cian’s feelings. He is a good man, but he can never be my man. Besides, the only man I must concern myself with is Seamus. Cian can take care of himself.”
The serving girl returned chewing her lower lip. She set the cup of boiling water on the table nearest Jacia, bobbed a hasty curtsy to all three women, and left the hall at a run. Jacia dropped the handful of herbs into the cup while giving Aerdrin a look that dared her to protest.
Aerdrin scowled as the steam from the cup reached her nose. In contrast to her face, her voice was warm and soothing. “Liera, it isn’t Cian who has been chosen by destiny to save the people of Cantara. You are as vital to their survival as I was to that of the people of Talehndor. Destiny is a cruel master, I know it well, but to make an enemy of destiny is to lose the battle before it has begun.”