Spell slinger a fantasy.., p.4
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       Spell Slinger: A Fantasy Romance (Skeleton Key), p.4

           K.N. Lee
 
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  Prince Evan’s blond hair was short on the sides, and long on the top so that it fell over his forehead and into his eyes. He smoothed it back with his hand, and yet kept her gaze.

  Even sweaty he looked good.

  She hadn’t expected the king’s son to be so attractive. He was big, even bigger than her husband had been, with broad shoulders and a lean waist.

  Prince Evan grinned at her, and took his shirt off, revealing tight, sculpted abs.

  Yara held onto her armrest and held her breath as she admired his body. All the while, his chestnut brown eyes watched her.

  Good spirits.

  Why did she want to touch his abs so badly?

  “Lady,” he said, approaching her from the training ground floor.

  Every woman in the stadium shot looks at Yara, jealousy turning their faces pink.

  Yara pointed to herself. “Me?”

  “Yes,” he said, smoothing his hair back again as it fell into his eyes. “What is your name?”

  Yara hoped her voice would come out without cracking, or that she would be able to keep her cool under such pressure.

  “Yareal. Lady Yarael Sttugart.”

  She said it properly, but that didn’t release the tension in her abdomen.

  “Lady Yarael Sttugart,” he repeated. “Lovely name. Join me for lunch.”

  Yara began to reply when Prince Evan turned to head toward the exit.

  It wasn’t a request.

  It was clearly an order.

  A short man with a flat device approached her, a smile on his plump pink face. He gave her a slight bow.

  “My lady, you and your chaperone can come this way.”

  Yara and Keo exchanged glances but nodded.

  “Shall we?” Yara asked.

  “Very well,” Keo said.

  Together, they gathered their elaborate dresses and stood.

  “Any allergies between the two of you? Peanuts? Eggs? Shellfish? Anything we should warn the kitchen about?”

  Yara shook her head.

  “Blueberries,” Keo replied.

  He raised a brow. “That’s new. But, fine. I’ll make sure the chefs omit any blueberries.”

  They followed him down the aisle to the archway that led to the exit.

  Yara averted her eyes, avoiding the looks everyone seemed to give her as she walked by. She wasn’t used to being stared at, even growing up in a town where only a few others had white hair.

  The archway led to a circular corridor that wrapped around the arena with multiple doors opening to the outside parking area.

  Her heart raced, and yet she kept a cool demeanor.

  Does he know who I am?

  She resisted chewing her bottom lip as people were still watching her.

  This was thousands of years in the future. Surely King Loric had better things to worry about instead of one Spell Slinger. He’d never seen her and had no idea of what she looked like.

  Still, white hair was rare. In this new age, the people were a lot more adventurous with their hair color, with dyes and chalks. So, maybe she didn’t stick out as much as she thought. At least one other person in that stadium had to have artificially dyed white hair.

  Maybe Yara should do just that. Dye her hair a color she’d never could have achieved in her own time period. A nice golden color might suit her well.

  She breathed in and strove to calm her nerves.

  Stop worrying, she told herself. Everything is going to be fine.

  She wished she believed that.

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  SIX GUARDS DRESSED IN sleek black suits that resembled the armor from Yara’s time, with the silver breastplates and gauntlets, waited for them outside. Spectators stood back and made room for Yara and Keo to pass them by.

  The sun was bright, beaming its powerful rays onto them. Keo opened a parasol for her.

  Yara was impressed by Keo’s acting skills. The girl could put on a show when necessary. Yara was also used to acting. She’d practiced that blank expression all of her life. First, to keep Pae from striking her at the assumption that Yara was being defiant.

  Then, with her husband so that he wouldn’t accuse her of the same thing.

  One day, Yara would be free to embrace her emotions.

  A shining black car lowered to the ground for them at the edge of the sidewalk. The door was opened by one of the guards and Yara tensed as they approached.

  What if they got into the car never to be heard from again?

  She forced a smile for the chauffeur and sat down in the back. It was cool inside, air pumping into the car from vents beneath the seat and from the ceiling.

  What a ridiculous thought. Yara would burn that entire city down with her power to rescue her friends.

  She shouldn’t fear them.

  They should fear her.

  THE RIDE TO THE PRINCE’S private estate was much longer than Yara had anticipated. The short detour from the day’s plan was looking to be like more of an extended event.

  “How far is this place?” Yara asked Keo.

  “Only a few more minutes. Don’t worry. We are almost there.” She patted Yara on the hand. “You’re doing just fine. This is even better than we’d planned.”

  “Really?”

  “Yeah. I saw the way he looked at you. We can use this to our advantage.”

  Yara breathed in, and relaxed, leaning back into the soft seat. She glanced out the dark tinted window, mystified by the beautiful city that they passed by.

  White capped trees lined the road, potted along the sidewalks. They brought a hint of nature to the metropolis and its uniformed structures.

  With buildings as tall as mountains and a bustling population, Yara found herself wanting to get out and explore a bit. As they flew through the winding maze of a city, people paused to watch the procession as Prince Evan led the way in his silver car.

  Before long, the car pulled into a brass gate and down a long path that cut through yards of fresh-cut grass.

  Yara sat up in her seat at her first glimpse of the estate. The white building was a stark contrast to the metallic buildings of the city. It was built in the Old Allaryan style: bricks, wood, and stone.

  As she took a look at the windows and shutters she realized that the house was probably built in her time, and well maintained.

  Impressive.

  The car pulled to the front, where a circular road wound around a fountain with a statue of a woman pouring water from a jug into the pool. A walkway lined with pink and white bushes led to a set of wide stone steps that wrapped around the entire front of the house.

  “This should be very interesting,” Keo said, her eyes fixed ahead.

  Yara nodded. Of course.

  She had a king to kill.

  They waited for the chauffeur to park the car along the silver track, and come around to open the door for them.

  Dressed in a black suit, with a bald head, he held a hand out to them and helped Yara and Keo onto the stone path.

  Prince Evan had already entered the house and they followed their handler inside as well.

  Light spilled inside from the dozens of large windows that faced where the sun rose.

  Staff waited for them, all lined up in two rows on either side.

  “Lady Yarael,” a tall older woman said, her eyes going up and down her body. “Do you need to freshen up? Prince Evan has arranged for a team of handmaidens to assist you.”

  Keo spoke for her. “We are fine. Thank you. We barely had a chance to break a sweat today.”

  “Very well,” the woman said, her eyes fixing on Keo’s pink hair. “Follow me this way for refreshments. The prince will join you shortly.

  They nodded and followed her along the shiny mahogany wood floor through the foyer and to a sitting room decorated with traditional furnishings.

  It was a delight to almost feel like Yara was back home. Indeed, this estate was made to keep up with the past. She did notice a few modern signs around the house. A
screen showcased a sports game along one of the far walls.

  As Yara stood inside the sitting room with Keo, she noticed a spread of cold cuts, fruit, cheese, and an assortment of bread set to the right side of the room on a white tablecloth draped over a long table.

  Yara was also surprised to see three men inside, dressed in fine suits and drinking bubbling liquid from their tall, skinny glasses.

  They paused their conversation and looked to Yara and Keo. Their eyes lit up at the sight of the beautiful woman before them.

  “Ladies,” a tall man with shoulder length brown hair said.

  The three men all bowed their heads to them.

  “Hello, Lord Smight, Duke Canter, and Counselor Hexley,” Keo said. “I am Lady Keo of Westerbrook and this is Lady Yarael of Sttugart.”

  “Pleased to meet you both,” Lord Smight said, approaching.

  “Can I get you two a beverage?” Counselor Hexley asked, but had the young man attending the table do so anyway.

  “Thank you,” Yara said, accepting her own bubbling drink.

  “It’s a cocktail,” Counselor Hexley said, stirring his drink with a long white stick. “I believe it’s made with chilled champagne, berries, and sweet and sour tonic.”

  He watched her, and Yara realized that he was waiting for her to taste it. She drank a tiny sip and smiled.

  “It’s delicious,” she said and took a bigger sip. She wasn’t lying. It was one of the best drinks she’d ever tasted.

  Lord Smight stood next to her, closer than she was comfortable with, but she smiled at him nonetheless.

  “You’re from Sttugart, you say? Where exactly is that?”

  Keo spoke. “The south,” she said and pulled Yara along by the hand toward the chairs set before the windows.

  ‘Sit with me,” she said, sitting down on the plush seat and folding her gloved hands over her crossed knee.

  As soon as Yara sat down, she had to stand back up as Prince Evan entered the room.

  Dressed in a white suit, he brightened the room with his kind smile

  Everyone bowed to him as he walked in.

  Yara dipped into a low curtsey, her head bowed. When she looked back up, he was walking straight toward her. She stood to her full height and tried to contain her anxiety.

  A million scenarios raced through her head as she watched him. None of them were good.

  “Lady Yarael,” he said, reaching for her hand.

  Yara smiled. “Hello, Prince Evan. Thank you for the generous invitation to your home. We are deeply honored.”

  He kissed the back of her hand and let go.

  His touch did something to her. It left her feeling warm and antsy, like she needed more. Just being so close to him was something magical, and she didn’t like it. She hated it. Her heart was not made to be divided, and somehow she knew that was exactly what would happen if she stayed in his presence.

  A thought worried her. Since his father was a sorcerer, he must be one as well. What if this was all a trick? What if they had to the same idea and sought to seduce Yara so that she would forget her quest?

  That could very well be the case, but she didn’t sense any sorcery.

  Could he be that good?

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  LUNCH WAS DELICIOUS. After downing a glass of champagne, she loosened up a bit and realized just how famished she was.

  They ate outside in the garden at a long table set under a white canopy. Yara devoured sliced roast beef, grilled vegetables, and the best smothered potatoes she’d ever tasted. She licked sour cream from the corner of her mouth and blushed when she noticed Prince Evan watching her.

  She dabbed her mouth with her cloth napkin and took a drink from her second glass of champagne. This time, the server poured a dash of orange juice into it.

  “Dessert,” the server said, as one server removed her plate and he placed a glass bowl of pudding before her. “Chocolate pudding with fresh strawberries.”

  Yara looked down at the sweet smelling dessert and noticed how full she was.

  “Prince Evan,” Counselor Hexley called from his spot at the table to Yara’s right. “What is your father planning to do about the new Metas that are surfacing in the south district?”

  Prince Evan lowered his glass, his brown eyes darkening as he rolled them, as if he’d heard that question too many times.

  “Perhaps you can discuss that with him,” he said and stood.

  Everyone followed suit and stood from the table, with a nod of their heads.

  Prince Evan looked to Yara, his eyes brightening again. “Would you join me for a walk, Lady Yarael?”

  Yara swallowed, and exchanged a glance with Keo.

  “I’d be delighted,” Yara said. “My chaperone will accompany us.”

  He shook his head and motioned for her to come. “I don’t think that’s necessary. I promise I won’t bite.”

  Keo pursed her lips but remained silent.

  Oh my, Yara thought, nerves starting to set in. To be alone with the prince frightened her. But, this was what they wanted to achieve all along. Perhaps this could lead to her being invited to the palace. She didn’t know how she’d gain entrance otherwise.

  Yara straightened her dress and nodded, leaving her seat at the table. She made her way around the table to the white path. Prince Evan held an arm out, and Yara linked her arm around his.

  Together, they left the gathering to walk toward the pond. She watched the geese swim and play in the crystal clear water that was almost the size of Asher’s lake on Westerbrook Manor.

  Again, they touched, and Yara found herself holding her breath at being so close to him. Gooseflesh ran along her arms as she avoided looking at him.

  She still wasn’t convinced he didn’t use some black magic on her. There was no reason her heart should be fluttering inside her chest the way it did whenever they were close.

  “Did you enjoy your meal?”

  Yara nodded. “I did. Thank you for the invitation. I can’t think of any meal as delicious as what we had today.”

  She bit her bottom lip, hoping he didn’t think on that comment too much. She was a lady. Of course, she should have had food that good before.

  “You’re welcome to come anytime. Just call first,” he said with a grin as he looked down at her.

  She licked her lips. “That is kind of you. I won’t bother you, though.”

  “On the contrary. Please do. Bother me whenever you want. It gets kind of boring in my home.”

  “Does your father visit you?”

  “Not really. I see him once a week for Sunday supper. He actually has all of his children come to him once a week for Sunday supper. It’s best that we keep those gatherings to a minimum,” he said. “He can be quite controlling.”

  “Really?”

  Prince Evan cleared his throat. “I can’t believe I said that to you. Please, forgive me. I shouldn’t be saying such things. Tell me about you.”

  Yara wanted to say that she didn’t mind, but decided not to look nosy. “There isn’t much to tell. My life is also pretty boring.”

  “Come now. That can’t be true. Do you travel often?”

  “No. But, I plan on settling in Allarya. I like it here. You offer much more than the countryside.”

  “How old are you, Lady Yarael?”

  “Twenty-one,” she replied. “How old are you, Prince Evan?”

  “Twenty-five. And, call me Evan.”

  He stopped just inside the entrance to the estuary.

  Yara gasped as he grabbed her by her forearms and pressed her back against the glass wall.

  “I know exactly who you are,” he said, his face serious as he searched her eyes.

  Yara started to tremble. “Let me go.”

  He let her go as if she were on fire and raked his hands through his hair. “Pardon me,” he said. “I just knew I had to get you in private. I’m sorry. I got too excited.”

  Yara wanted to run, but something kept her planted there.
She narrowed her eyes. “Why did you want to get me in private?”

  Evan’s eyes widened. “You’re Yara Ortuso,” he said.

  Yara’s face blanched. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  He took her hands into his own, and Yara snatched them away.

  “I screwed this up,” he said. “I am the leader of the resistance. I have kept my identity a secret so that I could fund those that want to overthrow my father.”

  “What?” Yara couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

  Could it be true? Was Evan the anonymous leader that Keo had been following for the past five years. And if he knew who she was, how long before the king got word of her presence?

  Yara pushed a fallen tendril of hair from her face. “Why would you want to overthrow your father?”

  Prince Evan straightened his shoulders. “He’s not my father.”

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  YARA LOOKED OUTSIDE THE DOOR.

  No one was coming.

  She let out a breath of relief and turned back to Evan.

  “What do you mean?”

  Evan nodded. “He stole us. All of his children. We were born human, but he has been experimenting on us.”

  “Dear spirits,” Yara said.

  “The spirits can’t help us,” he said. “But you can. I’ve been studying every prophecy ever written down about you. And, now you’re here.”

  Yara shook her head, wringing her hands. “This is worse than I even imagined.”

  “Tell me about it. He’s been experimenting on my all of my life. And if one of us dies, he just has his scientist go out and find another poor child."

  He took a step toward her and she raised a hand.

  “How do I know that you’re telling me the truth?” She was prepared to defend herself if he was up to something. But, there were no warnings in her head, or any notions not to believe him.

  Evan removed her hand from before him and pressed it to his chest. Her eyes widened, wanting to wrench free from his firm grasp.

  “Do you feel that?”

  “Feel what?”

  “My heartbeat, Yara. King Loric doesn’t have one. He never did.”

 
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