Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saskia Trilogy Book Tour ~ Excerpt and 5 Star Review

Eden Forest
Book One of the Saskia Trilogy
Aoife Marie Sheridan

Four banished Angels,A world created by the hands of God,A Kingdom on its knees,A secret protected for centuries,And one mortal can save them all.

Step into Saskia.

City of Secrets

Book Two of the Saskia Trilogy 
Aoife Marie Sheridan


A war awaits her arrival,A warrant for her arrest.She must rise as a princess,And Darkness shall fall.But will their love survive this battle?For Tristan and Sarajane?

Step back into Saskia.

About the Author:

Aoife Marie Sheridan is twenty eight years of age. She lives in Kells, Co. Meath, a small town just outside Navan.  Aoife was raised in Navan but left with her family at the age of sixteen. Aoife has always had a passion for writing but mostly poetry. This is her first time to write a novel. 

Aoife Marie Sheridan studied Accountancy and qualified as an accountant technician. She worked in this profession for several years but with the economic downturn she was made redundant. 

Aoife Marie Sheridan now spends endless hours reading and writing. 

Aoife Marie Sheridan’s first novel Eden Forest placed first in writers got talent.

Goodreads: Aoife Marie Sheridan

Twitter: aoifesheri

My Review of Eden Forest

I will start saying I absolutely loved this book. It was amazing, and was written so well, I felt I was in this world.

Eden Forest is a fun fantasy story that actually takes place on the parallel world of Saskia, which is a repressive kingdom, where descendants of four banished angles live. Mortal twenty one year old SaraJane is the key to the survival of this other world. She is kidnapped and brought to this world where her journey begins.

I will say the concept and the plot are very new to me; it’s not like any other fantasy or paranormal books I have read. I was really pulled in right from the start. I really loved watching SaraJane grow, and I really liked Tristin. He is a hottie.

I think the characters were very well developed and likable. I liked how she made friends quick with some of these people, and was saddened by what happens with one of them. She truly cares for them.

I think it’s always really interesting when an author will combine magic, action and some romance in a book, and this has all of that.

I really am anxious to get my hands on book 2, as I want to see where it goes from here.
I highly recommend, and give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I was provided a copy of this book by the author for my honest opinion.

This review is also at Amazon, and At Goodreads as well as many other places.

Guest Post

Where did Saskia Come from?

“A long time ago in heaven, there were four angels who did their best to always please God. God looked fondly upon his faithful servants. When the time came, the angels were sent down to earth to be born to the mortal world with free will.
The four angels, Veronica, Lucian, Jeremy, and Sarra, watched as the other angels made their transition to life. The four angels talked about being mortals all the time, they did extra things to please God, yet they still remained angels. One day, Lucian convinced the other three angels to follow him, as he believed he knew how to become mortal without God knowing. Jeremy and Sarra were swayed by Lucian, but Veronica was nervous, as she didn’t want to upset God.
That day Veronica was bathing God’s feet. God noticed the conflict within her soul. ‘My child, tell me what troubles you.’
So Veronica told him of Lucian’s plans. God was enraged by this betrayal. He struck the four angels down. He looked at each of their souls and he could see the greed to be mortals within them. So God banished them to a world parallel to Earth. He gave each of them an element. Lucian was given the ability to control fire. Veronica was given an earth affinity. Jeremy, the ability to control air, and Sarra, a water affinity. Spirit was God’s. So each new generation was born with an affinity passed down by our ancestors. God gave them these powers so they could understand what he had created, and in time, he hoped they would understand the values of each element that he had given freely to the mortal world.
He built a wall of fire to divide the worlds and gave them partial immortality so they could pay for their sins. And so forth, our world Saskia was created by four fallen angels”.

Chapter Seven

It’s so dark I can barely see two feet in front of me. Tristan walks behind me, and Legis leads the way. I don’t know where they’re taking me. Or what they want. Neither of them has said anything since taking me.
Legis stops abruptly, causing me to smack into his back.
He swings around, grabbing my arm to steady me. These guys move unnaturally fast.
“Legis, what’s wrong?” Tristan asks from behind me.
“Sir, I need some light.” He looks back at Tristan as he speaks.
“I shall lead and you stay behind her.” Tristan pauses as he walks past me. “Don’t try to run. I am in no mood to chase you.” He takes his position in front of me. Tristan does not move straight away. Instead, he holds out his hand in front of him and whispers, “Lux.” I can see a light radiate in front of him. I jump back, slightly startled.
“Let’s move,” he commands. Legis nudges me on. We start walking again. I’m trying to peer over Tristan’s shoulder to see where the light is coming from, but he’s too tall, so I just stare at his back.
After a few moments, Tristan makes a hand motion for us to stop. Then the light goes out. He swings around and places his hand over my mouth, startling me, while pulling me back into his chest. Legis stands as still as stone, not even blinking. We wait. I can’t hear or see anything, only Tristan’s heart beating fast. I’m too close to him for comfort. I can feel his muscles tense in his chest and stomach.
He makes a hand motion to Legis to get down. Then slowly he lowers himself and me to the ground, never taking his hand off my mouth. He lies down on his side right against me and pulls my hands to his chest, holding them with his other hand.
The heat radiates off his body against mine, making my back feel cold. I can now hear the shuffling in the distance. Maybe it’s Josh.
I try to scream, but my sounds are muffled. Tristan whispers in my ear. “Stop or we all die, you stupid girl.” I try to scream again and pull my hands free, but I can’t get them out of his iron grasp. So I bite his hand until I taste blood. He doesn’t even flinch. I know it’s hopeless.
The movements pass us and I can now hear there’s more than one person. Tears roll down my cheeks when I realise I will not be heard or rescued.
Tristan looks at me, his jaw muscles tensing. It feels like forever we lie like this; then Tristan speaks. “I am taking my hand away.”
I look up into his eyes and know straight away I shouldn’t have, as my stomach flutters. I drop my gaze and manage a nod of my head. Tristan removes his hand slowly, but he still holds my hands against his chest. He doesn’t say anything, just watches my face. His green eyes have softened. A blush rises in my cheeks. I can’t take much more of his closeness.
“What are you staring at?” I’m getting annoyed now. Well, I’m uncomfortable with this gorgeous guy staring at me. He lets go and stands up.
Legis moves up beside us. “Was it Clive?” he asks.
“I think so. It sounded like there were three of them. It must have been Taurus and Felix, also.” Tristan looks down at me still on the ground and grabs my wrists roughly. I’m about to protest when he pulls me off the ground.
I look at his hands still on my wrists. There are no teeth marks. “I bit you. I… I tasted your blood.”
He withdraws his hand. “We need to move now.”
“But I bit you.” Tristan ignores me and starts walking away.
We come to a clearing where two huge horses, black as coal, are waiting. They don’t stir when we come closer, just stand there obediently.
“I’m not getting on that horse until someone tells me where I’m going. And why.”
They both ignore me. Instead, Legis retrieves a leather roll from behind a tree and unravels it, revealing three black cloaks.
Legis and Tristan put theirs on and fasten them around their necks. I start to panic. These guys are lunatics.
While their backs are turned, I slip off my high heels and move quietly away. My heart is racing now. My mind screams, Run! So I do. The minute my feet hit the woods’ floor, noise rises, alerting Tristan. I run and don’t look back.
I can hear Tristan calling my name as he takes chase after me. The rocks and sticks dig into my feet, but I ignore the pain and push my body harder. I can hear Tristan behind me, his heavy boots breaking every twig under them. He reaches out to grab me. I try to pull away but fall awkwardly, taking him down also. I land beside the trunk of a large tree, slamming my side into it before falling onto the ground. I let out a whoosh of breath.
Tristan rolls off his back and comes over to me. “Move your hands. I need to see if you’re hurt badly.”
I move away. “Don’t touch me.”
“Fine. Get up, then, and walk.” I stand using the tree for support. My side is burning, but it doesn’t feel as if anything is broken, just a lot of bruising.
“You’re an asshole.”
Legis comes rushing through the forest, a little out of breath.
“You got her.”
Tristan just nudges me on. “Move.” We make our way back to the clearing.
Since they grabbed me from the ball, neither of them have hurt me or threatened me, and Tristan only knocked out Josh.
Which meant, more than likely, they wouldn’t hurt me. But why take me?
We reach the clearing again. Tristan comes towards me with the black cloak and places it around my shoulders. As he ties it at my neck loosely, I watch his hands. Definitely no teeth marks.
I don’t know why, but tears run down my face silently.
Tristan’s hands pause and he tilts my chin up so our eyes meet.
His gaze is soft, concerned, and my stomach flutters. I feel so angry with myself—that I can find him so attractive under the circumstances. He lets my face go abruptly, the coldness seeping back into him, and he jumps up on the horse and stretches out his arm for me to take. I could run, but he would just catch me, so I have no choice but to take his hand. Tristan pulls me up on the horse as if I weigh nothing.
“Hold on tight,” he commands.
“Why?” I ask. He kicks the horse and we launch forward. I grab his waist tightly.
“That is why,” he says.
I don’t reply. I’m just praying I don’t fall off. We dodge trees so closely I can see the veins on the green-brownish leaves. My heart is in my mouth. I close my eyes tight. My stomach isn’t holding up well. Maybe not seeing every tree in such detail will help. We come to an abrupt stop, and I open my eyes. We’re fifty feet from the cliff.
Tristan speaks in a language I don’t understand. He says a few sentences gently, but his body is tense.
Just then, the ground trembles under us.
I grab Tristan tighter. “What’s happening?”
Fire shoots up through a long crack that has opened just at the cliff’s edge. It roars up into the air. Tristan kicks the horse and charges for the wall of fire, Legis beside us. Just as we hit it, they both say “Aeirus” in unison, while I scream and shut my eyes tightly. My ears pop as if I’m on a plane just at take-off.
Now I can’t hear anything at all. I feel the sensation of flying.
Have we gone over the edge? It doesn’t feel like falling, and I’m still holding on to Tristan’s waist.
I open my eyes slowly and wish I hadn’t. We’re in a large bubble, the two horses side by side. When I look down, their hooves aren’t touching the bubble, but floating. Outside, the fire rages all around us. It looks like we’re moving at an incredible speed by the way the fire licks past us so quickly.
I start hyperventilating. Oh God, what’s keeping the fire away? What if it breaks? My breathing becomes harder.
Tristan’s voice is strained as he calls to Legis. “Can you hold it? She is panicking.”
“Yes, sir,” Legis replies. Their voices seem far away and everything is turning dark. Tristan swings himself around and grabs me before I fall off the horse. He places me in front of him so I’m facing him. His lips are moving, but I can’t hear anything, and then I black out.

In my dream, faces of tormented people race through the fire, reaching out for me to save them. The smell of burnt flesh makes me gag, and I recoil. As the hands come through the bubble, reaching for me, all the flesh melts away, leaving only bones. I scream and fall off the horse into the waiting hands of the dead.

I wake with a thud. My eyes shoot open. I’m lying against Tristan’s chest, his arm firmly around me. His other hand holds the reins. I can feel the horse beneath me slow down. Tristan relaxes his grip around my waist, and I look up at him.
“Let me off now.” He stops the horse immediately. I jump down, clumsily landing on sand, white sand. I look around me.
There’s nothing but sand for miles. Oh God, I feel sick. Tristan jumps down and walks towards me. “Stay away from me,” I roar.
Tristan stops abruptly. “I know you’re upset.” But the way he looks at me says he doesn’t care. He holds out his hands in front of him, as if he’s trying to calm a wild animal.
“Upset? Upset? Not even close. Where the hell am I? And what was that… fire?” I ask.
Tristan approaches me slowly with his hands still outstretched.
“We need to move now.” His voice is full of irritation.
I let out a roar. “Like hell I will. Answer me now. Where am I?”
He looks at Legis who says nothing. “I will tell you where you are, but then we have to move.” I don’t answer him. He comes right up to me then, still taking caution not to get to close. “You’re in Saskia and the wall of fire is the passage to get here.”
I don’t even know how to respond. Maybe all this is one big nightmare. I pinch myself hard on the arm and let out a little squeal. I’m not dreaming. I take some deep breaths to calm myself.
“Okay. Okay, so I’m in Saskia… And why am I here?” I can hear the hysteria in my own voice.
“I can’t answer that.”
I let out a roar of frustration. Tristan uses this opportunity to grab me and throws me over his shoulder caveman style.
“Let me down now.”
He climbs up on the horse and places me in front of him. I try to wiggle out, but he restrains me with his arms. “I told you we need to move. So calm down and soon all your questions will be answered, princess.” He spits out the last word. He kicks the horse and off we ride.
“How far back do you think Clive and the others are, sir?”
Legis asks. “They would still be looking, so if we make it to the first resting area in the next hour, we will be a day ahead of them.”

An hour later, night has fallen completely. This world is weird. There’s not as much as one star in the sky, even though it’s clear and the moon is red. It’s not creepy the way you would think. It’s breath taking.
We slow down. Tristan helps me off the horse. “We rest here.”
I don’t have the energy to argue. So a nod of my head is all the reply he gets. Not that he notices. Tristan and Legis are pushing sand back with their hands and pulling out of the ground what looks like large rolls of leather. Legis rolls his out.
It is full of blankets, wood, a hammer and a few large pieces of paper wrapped around something the size of a large stone.
Tristan’s holds similar things, but also glass bottles along with what looks like strings of leather.
They set to work. They have tents up within the hour. I have to say I’m impressed by their skills. I pull back the flap of the tent that Legis has erected. There are blankets all over the ground, giving it a cosy feel, yet it’s spacious enough for all three of us to sleep in. I really hope that’s not the case or I’ll just sleep outside.
Tristan starts setting up a small fire. I sit down beside him.
“Is this a different era?”
He pauses what he is doing and considers my question. “In a way, yes. Saskia is very different from your world… I am not knowledgeable enough of your world, but Legis would gladly tell you.”
I look at Legis. “What do you want to know?” he asks while kneeling down on the opposite side of the fire, as Tristan continues setting it up. I feel like saying I want to know everything, but I think about the most basic question I want to ask.
“What is this place? Is it all sand?” I hope the answer to my last question, is no.
“It is a world parallel to yours and in ways no different. The outskirts of Saskia is sand, but that is as far as it goes.”
Okay, next question. I’m watching Tristan from the corner of my eye as he lights the fire. He has no lighter or matches, yet the flames begin to build. “How does he light the fire?”
Tristan looks up at me. Legis speaks then. “In our world, we are born—”
“Legis, enough,” Tristan says, then rises. He lifts the brown paper parcels and opens them, handing each of us bread, cheese and one of the glass bottles. I look at mine. The bread is as thick as three slices of normal bread and the cheese is cut generously.
Is this our dinner?
“Eat,” Tristan says while tearing his own bread. A perfect gentleman.
“No butter. A bit of coleslaw maybe?”
Legis laughs. “Sorry, but this is it. One of the differences in our world. We eat to live, but in your world you live to eat.” I don’t like the statement even if it is partially true.
Tristan ignores us and eats his own. He seems to have no social skills.
I can’t eat anything. My stomach is still unsettled, and as much as this chat seems normal enough, these guys have just kidnapped me. I open the bottle. It has a corkscrew on hinges as its seal. I take a sip first, testing it. It’s wine, white wine, tasty. I take a deep gulp and then reseal it.
“So do you have cities or towns like us?”
Legis looks at Tristan for approval. A nod of his head allows him to answer. “I would not say we have cities, because you will think of large metal structures. Ours are more like large villages. The central point is the castle.”
“A castle. So do you have, like, a king and queen?”
Once again, Legis looks to Tristan for approval and receives it. “Yes, we do.” I sit there and try to picture this village with its big stone castle in the centre. Legis interrupts my thoughts. “We live very simple lives here compared to your world.”
I never would’ve guessed, but I don’t voice that. Instead, I go right back to the start. “So are you going to answer my first question? How did he light the fire?” I look sideways at Tristan; he’s looking directly at me. I blush. Thank God it’s dark. “How did you light the fire?” I ask him directly.
Tristan comes over and sits beside me. “Before we go any further, I need you to understand I am not your friend and I don’t have to answer your questions.” He looks me straight in the eye. “Understand?” His words are cold and harsh.
“Yes, I understand.” My voice comes out in a whisper.
“I am going to scout the area,” Legis says and leaves.
Tristan rises, returning to the opposite side of the fire. “Get some rest. We have a lot of ground to travel tomorrow.” He throws me a leather roll. “Wear these tomorrow,” he says while looking me up and down. “They are far more suitable.”
Taking the roll, I walk to my tent. This guy really hates me and I don’t know why. I push Tristan to the back of my mind. I have more important things to think about. Like why I’m here.
But I know at this stage they will not tell me anything.
I lie down on all the blankets. It’s really comfortable. My mind wanders to Jessica, Dad and Josh, wondering if they’re looking for me. Poor Dad—first Mum, now me. What if they have my mum here in this world? But it makes no sense.

I stay in the tent for a while, unwrapping the leather roll.
It contains a white tunic, trousers, socks and boots. I start to change straight away, but keep my cloak on over the outfit. I can hear Tristan telling Legis he’s on guard and then Tristan goes to the other tent.
I lie there biding my time. I don’t have many options. Only when they are asleep, I will escape. Going back the way we came is not an option, but at this moment, I just need to get away from Tristan and Legis.
After waiting another two hours, I creep from my tent.
Legis is asleep by the fire. Carrying my boots in my hand, I pass Tristan’s tent and hold my breath. As I tiptoe past, sweat gathers on my neck. If he wakes, what would he do? Kill me?
Fear makes me move faster. Once I pass, my speed picks up.
When I glance back, the glow of the fire is far away. Now I only hope that Legis told the truth about this place not being all sand, or I will die of dehydration. But I’ll take my chances.
After my boots are on, I stand still to let my eyes adjust to the dark. The red moon casts only a small amount of light. The temperature drops the farther I go into the desert, causing me to wrap my black cloak tightly around my body. West seems the best direction to go; it’s far away from Tristan and Legis. I just hope it will not take too long to come across normal ground, and then I can figure out how I’m going to get out of this mess.
The first hour I gain a lot of ground and am feeling positive about the decision I made, but as the hours slip by and sand is all I see, my thoughts turn to fear of never seeing home again.
This god-forsaken desert could take my life yet. My thighs burn; my throat is dry.
How long have I been walking? Looking up at the sky tells me a few hours. It’s starting to get brighter and the temperature has risen. When I turn away from the sky and try and focus on my feet again, dizziness washes over me, causing me to stumble and fall face first into the sand. The need to sleep pulls at me; my body feels exhausted.
When was the last time I ate? Saliva flows into my mouth at the thought of food. I swallow it to try and tame the dryness in my throat, but it does little good. I once read that you can drink your own urine only once in a dire situation and it would not poison your system, and this definitely qualifies as a dire situation. The thought of that makes me get up onto my feet and walk, my steps are slow and clumsy.
Movement in the distance makes me stop. I squint, but my eyes can't focus properly. The dizziness settles as I stand still for a few moments. I refocus. Nothing, no movement. So I keep pushing farther with the feeling of dread. Catching movement again, I stop. It's closer now, but it doesn’t seem possible, unless whatever it is, is moving at an incredible speed. A horse? No, no dust or sound. Tristan? I freeze. No, he’d be coming from behind me. At this thought, I turn around and laugh at the emptiness I’m faced with.
God, I feel as if I might lose my mind out here. The cloak on my shoulders feels as if it weights a ton. I strip it off with no energy to carry it and dump it on the sand, hoping a wind will rise and cover it over, hiding the path I have taken. Maybe being in the tent with water and food wasn’t so bad. Then I scold myself for such weakness.
“No, he took you from your home.”
My newfound anger pushes me on. The movements are all around me now, but it must be my imagination, as they seem to move when I move. Noise comes from my left, no, my right.
I strain to listen. The noise comes again. It’s like the hiss of a snake, only louder. Then it’s all around me. I turn in a full circle but can’t see anything. My head spins, causing me to fall onto the sand again. Closing my eyes, I try to let the dizziness pass. I roll over on my back, keeping my eyes closed.
Keep it together, Sarajane, I tell myself, but the prospect of dying makes laughter bubble in my throat. I let it out. My laughter soon turns hysterical and I feel like crying. I open my eyes and every part of my emotions turns to fear.
A white grotesque face looks down at me. It shimmers as I try to focus. I question what I’m seeing, if it’s real or not.
The creature hisses at me, showing off a long black tongue that slides between black pointed teeth. Eyes that are hollow and empty stare at me. Fear runs through me as more faces appear around me. I shut my eyes and pray for this to stop and repeat to myself, This is not real, over and over again.
But when I look up, they’re still there, staring at me with hungry black eyes.
Digging my elbows into the sand, I push my body up. The creature closest to me rises off his haunches and places his foot on my chest, pushing me back down. His body is human-like, only hunched and twisted. The others start to look impatient.
Growls rise deep in their throats.
I hold my breath, afraid to breathe. What are they? Frozen with fear, I don’t move as much as a muscle. The creature’s inhuman growls start to rise.
One of the creatures moves closer to me very slowly. As he moves, he keeps glancing over at the one who pushed me down, so I assume he’s the leader. It licks its lips. A whimper of fear rises in my throat as it reaches me. My noise attracts the attention of the leader. He grabs the creature just before it touches me and throws him on the sand. The creature slams its fists into the sand while looking at his leader. It points at me.
My mind goes frantic. Eat, as in eat me? Get up!! Get up!!!
I scream in my head.
Rising on shaky limbs, I get to my knees. Sweat gathers on my forehead from exhaustion. When the creature sees me trying to get up, a high-pitch squeal leaves his throat and he charges.
The others are pounding the ground with their feet and fists while screeching. He is an inch from me, his eyes wild with hunger, but that’s as far as he gets. An arrow is embedded in his neck. Blood splatters across my face as he crumbles to the ground.
There’s an eerie silence amongst the creatures as they focus behind me. I look around just as Tristan and Legis move forward.
The leader of the creatures digs his feet into the sand like a bull, causing dust to rise, and throws his head back, letting out a deafening screech. They charge.
Tristan takes three of them out with arrows in a matter of seconds, while Legis fights on the ground with two swords, decapitating anything that moves. I stay on my knees, too shocked to move. It’s over in minutes. Only one lives—the leader—but he has a long gash down his torso. Tristan places his foot on his chest, the same action the creature did to me.
Has he been here that long?
Legis brings water to me. I gulp it down as Legis looks at me with disappointment. “You could have died,” he says. I ignore him and pour water all over my face, feeling a little more alert.
He helps me rise on shaky legs. My attention returns to the creature under Tristan’s boot. Tristan has his sword pointed at its chest.
“Exile, you are a long way from the mountains.” His tone is harsh.
The exile looks at me. “Smell.”
This causes Tristan to sneer cruelly. “You lie.” And he slices off the creature’s hand. It goes berserk under Tristan’s foot, but doesn’t get loose. “Why are you here, exile?” Tristan’s voice is even harsher than before.
The creature is squealing in pain, but he manages one word.
“Smell,” he says again. Wrong answer. Tristan slices off his other hand.
Oh God, I feel sick.
The creature is screeching in pain. It sounds like a dying cat.
Two pools of blood stream from his wrists where its hands once were.
“Stop it, Tristan. This is cruel,” I shout at him. He looks at me but keeps his foot on the creature’s chest as it trashes under him.
“Be quiet. I will deal with you later.” His tone is deadly; his eyes are filled with anger. Feeling very afraid, I take a step backwards. His attention is back on the creature again. “Last chance, exile.” He raises his sword.
The creature looks afraid, shaking its head in a pleading gesture. Just before the sword reaches him, he speaks. “King Paulus.” The blade pauses at his throat.
“Where?” Tristan asks.
The creature’s features take on a resigned look. I think he’s done talking.
Tristan pushes the blade harder. “Where, exile?” And then to my amazement the creature throws his head forward, pushing the blade into his own neck, killing himself. Blood gurgles in
its throat.
Bile rises in my throat, and I look away as Tristan pushes the creature off his blade using his foot and wipes it clean on his trousers. He slides the sword into the holder on his back.
Then his intense gaze turns on me. My muscles tighten as he moves towards me, breathing heavy with anger. He grabs both my hands, pulling them together without speaking, and from his belt extracts rope that he uses to tie my hands together.
“I’m sorry,” I say in a panicky voice, but he keeps tying knots in a complex way. I yank my hands to try and stop him. “I said sorry. Please don’t.”
He shoves cloth into my mouth, cutting off my protests, and ties a piece over it to keep the gag in place. I’m still protesting, but nothing I say is understandable. “If I have to tie you to me, I will.” He shakes me. “Do you understand?” I nod my head as tears fall from my eyes.
Tristan’s face softens slightly. Hating to show him any weakness, I look away from his gaze. He places me in front of him on the horse and Legis mounts his own. We make our way back to camp. I try to keep my body straight, but I’m too weak and I slump from exhaustion. I start to drift off but panic every
time I see the creatures in my mind.
“Sleep. You are safe now,” Tristan says and wraps an arm around me so I won’t fall off. He holds the reins in his other hand. The warmth from his body and his heartbeat lulls me too sleep. I feel safe with his strong arm around me. I just wonder what price I’ll pay for his kindness, and then my thoughts are no more as I fall asleep.

Waking up some time later, I’m lying on my side. I smile with warmth and contentment. There’s a heavy blanket over me. My hair is loose, and a curl falls onto my face. I raise my hand to push it back and that’s when I feel the rope biting into my wrists. My hands are tied. Sitting up too quickly sends a rush of dizziness through me. I regret the action straight away, as my head is spinning. It slowly resides and all last night’s events come back to me—trying to escape, the creatures, Tristan’s anger and his kindness. A blush rises in my cheeks when I think of his arm around me.
Struggling to my feet is harder than expected without the use of my hands. It’s hard to balance, but I make it upright and steady myself. Tristan and Legis’s voices make me pause.
“Why would King Paulus want Morrick’s daughter?”
“To use her against him,” Legis replies.
Tristan lets out a heavy breath of frustration. “King Paulus is smarter than that. If he wanted to get at Morrick, why not take Clive or Luna? Morrick does not even know her.”
“Maybe Paulus knows something we don’t,” Legis says, but doubt clouds his voice.
What are they talking about? The creature mentioned this King Paulus.
My stomach growls, reminding me it’s been nearly two day’s since I’ve eaten anything. I leave the tent.
Legis is turning a rabbit over the fire, and he looks up at me. “Good morning.” I’m surprised he’s spoken to me after last night’s events.
“Legis.” I sit on the log across from him. Tristan gets up and leaves without a word. So he’s still angry.
Legis focuses on the rabbit. When he feels it’s done, he takes it off the stick that has been pierced through its body and starts cutting it up with a small dagger. He places three large leaves— they look like dock leaves, the ones you use when you get stung by nettles—on the log beside him and equally divides the rabbit meat between the three of us.
He hands a leaf across to me. “Thank you, Legis.” I raise my tied hands since he obviously missed that small detail. “Could you untie me?”
“You will have to wait for Tristan to come back.” Legis doesn’t meet my eyes; instead, he starts eating his own meal.
“I haven’t eaten anything in two days. Untie me, please.”
His face darkens. “If I were you I would stay quiet.” So he hadn’t forgotten last night after all.
A half an hour later, Tristan returns from wherever he was.
All of Legis’s food is gone and mine is cold at this stage. Tristan looks at the two leaves on the log and then at Legis. He kneels down in front of me with a small dagger. “If you try to escape, I will tie your hands and legs every day. Understand?”
When he looks up at me with his green eyes, my breath catches in my throat. This close, I can see flecks of gold amidst his iris.
Also, a few days’ growth of stubble has started to appear, giving him a rugged look.
His eyes search my face. “Do you understand?”
A blush creeps into my cheeks. How long was I staring at him?
I drop my gaze and lift my up my hands. “Yes, I understand.”
He cuts the rope.
Rubbing my raw, red wrists gives me some relief. Tristan hands me my leaf of rabbit meat. I take it and start eating immediately.
“I never heard you in the desert.” I was more thinking out loud. It was something that had bothered me—two horses coming through the desert, yet they were silent.
“You were ready to collapse when we found you,” Legis says, causing me to look at him.
“Yeah, I was.” But I should’ve heard them.
Legis turns to Tristan with a look of surprise and curiosity on his face.

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