Here's another three chapters of Angel Within for you to read....and don't forget...it's available on Amazon, and right now...it's on offer at just #99C.
‘You whine like a child. Be still!’
‘I swear, you enjoy this too much, Jana.’ Tigan winced, as the tip of Jana’s dagger cut deep into his cheek.
Her azure eyes widened. ‘Maybe I do.’
Straddling Tigan, as he lay flat on his back, Jana made the last cut across his skin. She sat up and cocked her head from side to side while admiring her work.
Tigan dabbed at his bloodstained cheek with a cloth. He checked the amount of blood, then glared at the witch.
‘You have drained me, you cut too deep!’
‘Stop your bellyaching! It is necessary! When I make the final sacrifice, I shall finish the other side.’
The thought alone curled her lips into a sinister grin. Reveling in the suffering of others, she would do anything to accumulate greater power.
As her mother had been before her, Jana was born into witchcraft. In the East, Jana’s mother led a famed coven, and Jana learned her art from an early age. Although her mother had taught her in the ways of magic, Jana sought the darker art after her mother passed. Now she led her own coven and she preferred to work alone, but certain types of magic required additional power. For this reason, she had assembled her coven, hidden away in the mountains just outside Xanderstone.
Jana was held in high regard among other dark sorcerers and witches, and her skills and knowledge outmatched anyone. Seeking power above anything else, she would stop at nothing to earn higher esteem among others in her domain.
Helping Tigan was a means to an end. He wanted to claim everything belonging to the former slave, Kai of Darkmide, and using dark magic, she aided his cause. Her plot neared completion. Only a sacrifice to Samyaza of someone with inherited seraph powers would complete Tigan’s possession.
Her payment, for aiding Tigan, was something she desperately wanted. A child, born of seraph heritage… and the father was already in her sights.
Tigan ran his hands up Jana’s bare thighs. Her skin was as velvet, and he desperately wanted to know whether the rest of her felt as soft.
The touch of calloused fingers evoked a stony stare, and before they climbed higher, Jana slapped them away.
‘You misunderstand our relationship.’
Swiftly rising, though remaining at the side of the bed, she drew in a long breath.
‘We are ready to move to the next stage and require only the sacrifice of the gifted.’ Jana moved towards the window and gazed out at the garden. The warmth of the sun caused her eyes to drift shut. She never enjoyed the cold of winter, and relieved that spring had arrived, couldn’t wait to complete the final phase of her design.
Sitting up and adjusting the hardening bulge in his trousers, Tigan cursed. A jewel among glass and worthless stones, Jana was exquisite, and it was always in the back of his mind that he might bed her. However, she made it clear there could be only one man to have that privilege. It served to fuel his ambitions to rule over Brightstone and Blackhill. Tigan wanted all that Kai of Darkmide held in regard, and he would stop at nothing to acquire it.
History between Kai’s warriors, in particular, Sabe and Kiera, fueled his desires. Rubbing his half-bitten ear reminded him constantly of Kiera. He grinned at the image still imprinted in his memory of her perfect form.
Removing himself from past distractions and smoothing his hand over his head, he watched Jana as she stared out the window.
After Jana advised Tigan she could summon demons and fallen angels, Tigan could think of nothing else. He questioned her constantly, needing to know the details of how a man could become, as Kai once was, possessed by a demon. Jana was eager to enlighten him.
In the last month, Jana had successfully invoked the fallen angel, Samyaza. In return for sacrifices and the promise of a living body in which he could appear, Samyaza granted Tigan unbelievable strength and stamina. The final sacrifice would complete the agreement, and Tigan could call on Samyaza whenever needed.
Both Tigan and Jana turned towards the sound of heavy footsteps, as Roulan entered the room, unannounced.
‘Roulan, how is the surveillance going?’ Jana’s wild eyes fixed on his as he drew nearer.
Jana unnerved Roulan. Still undecided about whether he trusted her, he approached cautiously. He stiffened and raised his chin.
‘It’s fine. I’ve been able to gain access to the castle unobserved. There won’t be any problems, once Kai is out of the way.’
Tigan jumped off the bed. The mere sound of Kai’s name made him balk.
‘It needs to be soon. I’m sick of waiting!’
‘Calm yourself, the full moon approaches.’ Jana glared. He was too excitable. Roulan would be out of Xanderstone before sundown if he knew of their plan.
Avoiding Jana’s stare, Roulan addressed his ally.
‘I just want to be clear. Once Eloise is by my side, I’ll be leading the first assault. You’re still in agreement with that?’
Tigan’s grin spread wider, revealing a gold tooth. ‘Of course, on my honor.’ He bowed and placed his hand over his heart.
It was all Jana could do to keep from laughing. Tigan was a master of deceit.
‘Once Kai is distracted, we will begin.’ Tigan straightened and focused his attention on Jana, avoiding further eye contact with Roulan.
Roulan fidgeted with his tunic. He wasn’t comfortable standing in the same room as Jana, and turning towards her penetrating gaze, he swallowed. The sinister smile she wore unnerved him.
‘If you’ll excuse me, I have much to do.’
Roulan took his leave and, after closing the door, drew in a deep, slow breath and released it. He leaned against the cold wood, his lank, black hair falling around his shoulders. He appeared gaunt, more so than usual. Good looks evaded him, unlike his sister. She’d inherited their mother’s beauty, while he resembled his father. He cursed the day his father, King Garlan of Brightstone, had sought an alliance with Kai of Darkmide. It was he, Prince Roulan, who should be king, not Kai, and he vowed to take back what was his. He didn’t trust Tigan, but he was the only ally he had since fleeing Blackhill, when Adramelech had attacked. Hiding in Xanderstone, he had sought out Tigan, who was still in his debt. Roulan had already paid him in bags of gold. Even though he’d stolen it from Kai’s mines, this didn’t alter anything. Tigan still owed him.
Waiting for Eloise in the dining room, Kai grew restless. She and Anna were busy with ‘ladies’ business, and reluctantly he’d let her out of his sight, on the promise they would reunite at lunch. While he frowned at her request, he appreciated that his overprotective manner had become increasingly irritating, and he granted her wish to take some time without him constantly watching over her. However, that had been this morning, and now his patience stretched as lunch arrived.
Turning towards Leon and Eloise’s voices as they entered the room, Kai’s scowl greeted them.
‘Where have you been?’
Eloise raised her brows and glanced sideways to Leon, who slid into a seat at the table, avoiding eye contact with Kai.
‘I told you, I had business to attend, but now I am here and I’m ravenous.’
Leon barely managed to hold back a chuckle. Gone was the timid Eloise, he once knew, when her father and brother overshadowed her, constantly undermining everything she said. It was a refreshing change to see her so outspoken.
Kai was about to speak, but noticed a glimmer of a smirk forming over Eloise’s face and with a heavy sigh, continued, ‘I was worried, and you said you would only be a short while.’
‘Forgive me, it was not my intention to cause you worry.’
Eloise approached her fretting husband and touching his face with delicate fingertips, smiled.
Instantly, Kai’s furrowing brow softened, ‘I did not mean to snap.’
‘You are forgiven, come and sit.’ Eloise drew out a chair, then smoothed her hands over her belly.
‘Considering the large breakfast I ate, I’m quite hungry; I have no idea where it’s all going.’
‘Pregnancy suits you, my lady.’ Leon smiled, ‘You appear a picture of health.’
‘Oh please, Leon. Don’t say that. Kai will have me with child constantly.’
Kai choked on a mouthful of wine. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ Smiling faintly, he leaned towards her, ‘Practice makes perfect. I seem to remember you telling me that once.’
Laughing, Eloise blushed, and thanked them for their compliments. The smell made her mouth water. Only a few months earlier the slightest hint of anything cooked would have turned her stomach and appreciating those times were at an end, she made a start.
Kai watched out of the corner of his eye, making sure she ate plenty before taking anything further from the platter, as hungry as he was.
‘My lord, it seems…’
‘Please don’t call me that, Leon. I hate it.’ Kai let his fork fall onto the plate as he sighed.
Leon nodded, ‘My apologies… Kai.’
Proud of his continued position as a king’s aide, Leon never expected to serve Eloise, but after the unfortunate events at Blackhill, and her father, King Garlan’s illness, he continued his service to Garlan’s daughter. Pleased Kai bid him stay at Brightstone Castle, he remained loyal and faithful as he’d done to Eloise’s father, and his father before. Accepting Kai as Monarch was not difficult, seeing how much he loved Eloise, and despite his unfortunate beginnings, Kai was a fair and just man.
‘Beros has not yet returned from Blackhill, I’m concerned.’
Discovering Beros by accident, Leon noticed his dominant presence among the men, who had become unruly since Prince Roulan’s absence. With Kai’s approval, Beros was appointed captain of the guard, and after only a short time, became a trusted member of the household.
Beros volunteered to courier correspondence between Brightstone and Blackhill but Leon suggested someone of lesser rank should take the position. He convinced Kai and Leon to give him the role, maintaining he enjoyed the excursion, and only after some investigation by Leon, did the reason for his insistence become clear.
‘He may have found a distraction on the way home.’ Kai winked at Leon and grinned, ‘I’m sure he has a young lady waiting in one of the outer villages, I expect he’s getting…’
‘Taken care of!’ Eloise interrupted.
Both men chortled and exchanged knowing glances. Beros was a handsome man, with numerous admirers. The female servants fell over themselves to catch his attention; piercing blue eyes and a perfect smile dazzled them senseless.
With Eloise suitably fed, Kai poised his fork over the last piece of chicken, ‘He’ll be fine.’
‘Did you save any lunch for me?’
Everyone turned to face the door as Beros and his wide grin barged into the room, his shaggy hair disheveled from the journey.
Kai stuck his fork in the chicken and waved it at Beros. ‘You’re late.’
‘Lame horse hindered my return.’
‘Was there anything for me from Blackhill, Beros?’ Eloise smiled, hopeful Nissa had written to her.
‘Yes, my lady. I gave a letter to Anna for you, it’s waiting in your room.’ Beros bowed and gave Eloise a warm smile.
‘Thank you. Now sit… I’ll call for more food.’
‘There’s no need, I had a full satchel of food to eat on the ride back. The cook at Blackhill made me a veritable feast! But I will have a glass of wine, if I may?’
‘Sit!’ Kai commanded, pushing a goblet of wine towards him as he sat, ‘What news is there from Blackhill?’
Beros blew out a breath, ‘Tigan’s followers are growing every day. His bandits and rogues are raiding towns along the borders.’ Resting his elbow on the table, he leaned towards Leon, ‘We need to be more vigilant; he could start moving our way.’
‘I agree.’ Leon nodded, ‘We’ll place more guards in the border villages and towns, and have sentries posted further beyond the boundaries, to alert at the earliest sign of movement.’
Feeling unsettled, Kai listened and his brows furrowed. It took a moment for him to realize Eloise was staring at him.
Eloise smirked. ‘Remember our conversation in the early hours? Regarding a visit to Blackhill?’
‘After what Beros has just said, about Tigan’s growing army, you think I would leave now?’
‘The problem isn’t here Kai, you and Leon should go over to Blackhill.’ Eloise glanced at Leon and raised her brows.
‘I have to agree with Eloise. We can set off after lunch.’ Earning a bright smile from Eloise, Leon grinned.
‘But Kai doesn’t need to go…’
Beros received a kick under the table and quickly hushed, taking a drink, he glanced over the rim towards Eloise.
Kai’s eyes narrowed at Leon then quickly darted to Eloise. ‘Don’t think I cannot see what you two are up to. I’m not leaving Eloise unguarded.’ Kai leaned back in his chair and brushed his hands over his head and breathed out an agitated sigh.
Pushing to her feet, Eloise moved slowly behind Kai and smoothed her hands over his shoulder.
‘Kai, please… Beros will guard me, and at the first sign of trouble, he will send word to you at Blackhill.’ She stared at Beros, ‘Won’t you Beros?’
Nodding and smiling, he conveyed his reply.
‘You should help Sabe, he isn’t used to dealing with things the same way you are. I’m sure he would appreciate your counsel.’ Eloise continued.
It was silent for a few moments, before Kai shook his head and grinned.
‘You are determined to be rid of me, are you not?’
Eloise giggled. ‘That is not my intention, you need your friends. Will you go?’
Sliding her hands underneath golden locks, Eloise massaged his neck. Leaning his head back, he closed his eyes and savored the touch.
Embarrassed at their cooing, Leon and Beros shuffled in their seats until Kai sat up with a start.
‘It’s settled then, Leon and I are to travel to Blackhill.’
Leon grinned, ‘We can set off now, and be there by tomorrow evening.’
Kai frowned. ‘We’ll need time to prepare food and clothing.’
‘Everything is taken care of.’ Eloise put a little space between herself and Kai, her pleased expression caused Kai’s brows to raise.
‘You’ve already arranged everything, haven’t you?’
‘Of course I have. I knew I could win you over.’ Eloise drew in her lower lip.
With a shake of his head, he grabbed her hand and kissed it. ‘What am I going to do with you?’
‘I’m sure you will think of something, my lord.’ She closed the space between them with a glint in her eye.
Leon nudged Beros. ‘Why don’t you let me know the easiest route to Blackhill, I’m sure you’ve found a quicker route for horse riders.’
‘Of course, there’s a shortcut, it’s not suitable for carriages, but it will take many hours off your journey.’
Beros and Leon moved to leave, before Kai stopped them.
‘I’ll see you at the stables; I need to gather weapons.’ Kai hooked his arm around Eloise’s waist, drawing her close, ‘And sort out my wife.’ A wicked grin spread wide across his face.
‘We’ll wait for you outside.’ Both Leon and Beros hurried from the room, giving the couple some privacy.
Puffing out a huge breath, Kai stared into soft brown eyes. ‘You’ve proven yourself to be a conniving, sneaky woman. Who taught you? I’ll have them flogged.’ Kai touched his nose to hers and chuckled.
‘Maybe it’s natural?’
Laughing, Kai’s lips raked down her cheek before settling over her mouth. Sealing her lips in a forceful kiss, he claimed her, giving her a taste of his strength.
Reluctantly, she broke away.‘I want you to wear this.’ Eloise removed the pendant, given to her from Ellanor, and raised it over Kai’s head. ‘It will remind you of me while you’re gone, ensuring you hurry home.’
Kai frowned. ‘There’s nothing to keep me away longer than necessary.’ His hands skimmed over her belly. Eloise covered them with her own, and smiled. ‘I miss you already.’
Laughing, but appreciating how loved she was, Eloise placed her hands on his chest.
‘We’d better go outside, before you change your mind.’
‘You’re right.’ His growing erection pressed against her, bringing a flush to her cheeks as his cock thickened. ‘There’s a good chance I might.’
He reluctantly released Eloise and hurried to their room. Quickly selecting a few daggers and his favorite fighting knives, he hurried to join everyone outside.
Leon was already mounted and the horses were laden with clothing and satchels of food as Kai raced down the steps to meet them.
He stared at Beros and gave him firm instructions. ‘If the scouts see anything suspicious, you send word to me at Blackhill. You understand?’
‘Of course, my lord.’ Beros bowed.
‘You are personally responsible for Eloise; don’t let me regret my decision to leave her in your care.’
Again, Beros lowered his head. ‘You can count on me Sire.’
Kai gave one last steely glare before turning his gaze to Eloise, taking her hands in his. ‘Please don’t overwork yourself, you need rest.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. Now, go.’
Giving his wife a final kiss before turning to mount his horse, Kai glanced towards the mountains at the gathering storm. ‘Are you going to do something about that?’ He quickly returned to look at Eloise and presented her with a dazzling smile.
Giggling and searching past his shoulder towards the blackening sky, Eloise nodded. ‘Of course, leave it with me. Be safe, and hurry home my love.’
‘Beros, she’s in your care until I return.’
Spurring his horse, Kai and Leon started their journey. It was only moments before he glanced over his shoulder to watch his wife wave him goodbye.
He was not altogether happy to leave, but knew Beros was more than capable of protecting her. Gathering pace, Kai and Leon began the trek towards Blackhill.
‘I thought he might change his mind.’ Eloise blew out a long breath before turning to Beros with raised brows.
‘Sincere apologies, I almost ruined your design, my lady.’
‘Oh, it’s alright, if you had returned earlier, I would have confided in you. Everything turned out right in the end.’
‘You are wise and beautiful, my lady.’ Beros bowed and gave her a wide grin, causing her to blush. ‘If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to speak with the guards and send the sentries out beyond the border.’ Beros lowered his head and waited for permission to leave.
‘That’s fine, I need to take care of the storm.’
He quickly changed his mind about leaving. ‘May I watch?’
Surprised by his question, Eloise frowned.
Beros explained himself for his sudden change of plans. ‘I’ve heard about your ability, but unfortunately have never witnessed it at work.’
Eloise smiled. ‘Then stay, it will take but a moment.’
‘Your gift was originally from a seraph, is that correct?’ Beros inclined his head as he stepped closer.
Eloise nodded, ‘I was unaware of where it came from until Teila, the High Priestess, from the Temple of Truth, informed me. His name was Anael. It seemed he fell in love with my ancestor, and granted her the gift, instead of lying with her.’
Beros raised both brows. ‘I’m unaware of the tale.’
‘Oh, it’s no tale. It sounds like a fantasy, and when I first realized I had the ability to control the elements, I never thought about where it came from. But I’ve seen Anael with my own eyes, I felt him.’ Eloise drew in a deep breath as she recalled the events of the previous year. ‘He is my protector.’
‘Then you are truly blessed, my lady.’ He bowed his head, then lowered his eyes to the ground.
‘In many ways Beros, I believe I am.’ She touched a slender hand to his shoulder. ‘Shall I show you?’
‘I’m ready.’ He smiled while scanning the dark sky.
Closing her eyes and standing tall, Eloise balled her fists and raised them outward. Concentrating, she stilled her mind. It took moments before a breeze gathered and Beros marveled at the sudden change around them. It felt calm, and yet the wind gathered. It was eerie and unnerving.
He watched Eloise closely, examining her delicate features; she was such a prize, and fortune favored Kai.
The wind picked up its pace and watching the mountains and the dark clouds overhead, his brows raised when they moved quickly. Swirling in the air, gathered by the wind, they dispersed.
‘That is truly amazing, I’m impressed, my lady.’
‘Thank you.’ Eloise beamed a smile. ‘Now, please excuse me, I’d like to take a long bath.’
Lowering his head again, and once Eloise was out of sight, he sprinted towards the garrison to attend pressing duties.
After Eloise and Kai left for Brightstone the previous autumn, Nissa was lost without her duties. With no mistress to occupy her time, she pleaded with Kiera to teach her how to use a sword and bow and reluctantly, Kiera agreed. With daily tuition and ample encouragement, Nissa flourished, leaving Kiera surprised at how quickly she mastered the sword.
Sabe questioned Nissa’s actions, but after she appeared in her new clothes, tight leather trousers, which clung to every curve, and a fitted lace-up bodice, begging to be untied, he enjoyed sparring with his intended; although he found himself distracted to the point it caused him harm.
‘Sorry!’ Throwing down her sword, Nissa raced towards Sabe as he examined the tear in his shirtsleeve. ‘Did I cut you?’
‘Thankfully, no, only a graze.’ Raising both brows, he grinned, ‘You do realize you’ll have to pay for this and it’s going to cost you dearly.’
Nissa giggled. ‘Is it?’ Retreating, her eyes raked down Sabe’s lean body. The soft, black leather pants bulged and brought a widening smile.
Nodding as he mirrored her steps, he kept a steady distance as they both edged towards the door. ‘I’m afraid so.’
There was a moment of silence as tension lingered in the space between them until Nissa squealed and ran inside, with Sabe in hot pursuit. Racing down the hall and up the stairs, she barely made it to the bedroom door before he caught her.
Pressing her between the cold stone and his heated body, Sabe fastened her hands above her head.
‘Hmm, what am I going to do with you?’ Sensual lips grazed across her chin and jaw until finally resting against her ear, hot breathy words sent a shiver coursing through her. ‘Don’t answer, I already know.’ His tongue flicked across the soft skin of her neck, tasting her before his teeth nipped the tender flesh.
Nissa sighed and made no protest. Her body ached for his touch. They were to marry in a few weeks and she wanted to make their wedding night special, and despite Sabe’s enticing words and attention, she resisted his advances, although for how much longer, she wasn’t sure as caressing lips and exploring hands drove her insane.
Once more feeling her body surrender, Nissa closed her eyes when soft lips brushed across her neck. Temptingly seductive and without mercy, he taunted her. Sinking to one knee, exploring hands covered her body with seamless movements. Untying the chord on her pants, he quickly peeled the soft leather lower, and without any protest from Nissa, Sabe slipped the soft pad of his thumbs inside her undergarments.
‘Sabe…Oh please… You should stop!’
‘Are you sure, sweet lady?’ He stared up with seductive eyes and grinned.
‘No…I’m not, but you must, because…’
‘SABE Come quick!’
Kiera’s cries found his ears, and he groaned. ‘I should be so lucky.’ Rising and sighing against Nissa, he relinquished his hold. ‘I swear your virginity is charmed.’
Giggling, she fastened the laces, as Kiera appeared half way up the stairs.
‘Sabe! Come down here! Now!’
Sighing. ‘Are we under siege?’
‘What?’ His head snapped towards her. Racing to the top of the stairs, he frowned at Kiera, but seeing her distressed expression moved quickly. Flying down the stairs, with Nissa close behind, Sabe’s brows knitted together. ‘What’s happened?’
They all moved into the hall and met with Jace, whose face displayed despair and sorrow. ‘All of the warriors in the camp have been slaughtered.’
Sabe inhaled sharply, ‘This is not good.’
‘Oh no!’ Nissa’s hands flew to her mouth.
‘Everyone?’ Sabe approached Jace in horror. The silence gave him the answer. Sabe raked his fingers down the side of his jaw, ‘Who did this?’
‘Nazar suspects witchcraft.’
‘Do we know any witches?’ Sabe brows rose to Kiera.
‘It has to be Tigan. Maybe he’s sought help?’
Peering into the courtyard, Sabe squinted, ‘Where is Nazar?’
‘He stayed behind, he’s burning the bodies.’ Jace blew out a breath. ‘We told him to return with us, but he was insistent and said it had to be done.’
Cocking a brow and folding his arms, Sabe thought for a moment.
Nissa moved by his side and brushed her hand up his back, soothing his unease, ‘What is the meaning?’
‘I’m not sure, but whatever it is, it won’t be good.’ Sabe placed his arm across Nissa’s shoulder and gave her a squeeze, and for the first time since Kai left for Brightstone, he was at a loss. Unsure of how to deal with the situation, he wished Kai were here. ‘How did Nazar know it was witchcraft?’
‘The bodies were cut. Images and symbols gouged into the flesh.’ Kiera spoke quietly and earned a hug from Jace. ‘It’s no way for a warrior to die.’
‘I agree, sister. Don’t worry, whoever did this will pay.’ Sabe’s gaze raked the courtyard and watched everyone continue his or her business. He was Blackhill’s protector now, and he needed to act.
Sitting outside with the sun moving towards the western horizon, and enjoying a drink, Tigan smiled to himself. He had amassed more men in the last two months than at any other point in his life. Holding out his hand, he examined the scars on his forearm; put there by his witch, he blew out a breath. His body was a mess, but it was worth it. Already he felt the strength swell through his body. The magic Jana had woven was strong; she had a natural aptitude of all things dark. After the final sacrifice, his efforts would be complete, and he would be stronger than any living man.
Wiping his mouth, he turned towards the doorway with wide eyes as a figure swept towards him.
Long, silken hair flowed around Jana’s shoulders, and her clothing, adorned with jewels and gold medallions, glimmered in the afternoon light. Elegant and powerful, a rare beauty stood before him.
‘You look stunning, are you going somewhere?’
Jana’s slow, yet deliberate steps towards Tigan made him frown. The smile spreading across Jana’s face, told him she had news. ‘Kai has left Brightstone, for Blackhill.’
Tigan sprang up and let the glass fall to the floor as his fingers formed a fist, it shattered against the cobbled floor with a smash, echoing around the walls.
‘Earlier this afternoon, my subject just brought word. He will be gone for at least five days.’ Bringing her finger to Tigan’s cheek to circle the freshly made scars, her eyes glimmered with excitement. ‘An unexpected opportunity, would you not say?’
‘Oh yes, are we moving?’
‘Of course, I have already begun preparations. Roulan will be ready presently; he will need escorting. Do you have a preference as to who should attend him?’
‘Jasper can watch him; he’s an excellent swordsman and a good thief too, and I trust him.’ Tigan grew excited. An unforeseen chance gave him cause to wonder if for once, fortune favored him. For as long as he could remember all anyone talked about was Kai.
Now the tables were turning, he would emerge from the shadows and become famous. As everyone once feared Kai of Darkmide, Tigan would assume his place. ‘I’ll send for Jasper; return to your coven, Roulan will be on his way presently.’
Jana brushed the tip of her finger over Tigan’s grinning lips before turning. She would need assistance with the powerful magic she was to perform. Her coven of twelve would give her the boost she needed. Hurrying to her room, she gathered her cape and left for the sanctuary of her hideaway, leaving Tigan to deal with Roulan.
Dressing quickly and buckling his belt, Roulan stared out of the window and watched as Jana left the villa. They would be in Brightstone by early evening. He could not have planned it better himself. How fortunate Kai left for Blackhill, leaving Eloise at the castle. The palace had a number of secret passages, which he would use to gain entry. While he had no doubt Leon would have insisted they should be under guard, Leon did not know all of them. Sneaking in and out without anyone noticing would be easy. The only problem was making sure Eloise was unaccompanied. If Jana lived up to her reputation and delivered what she promised, everything would go as projected.
Rubbing his fingers over his stubbled chin, he smiled to himself. Last year his attempts failed, he barely escaped with his life, but this time, it would be different. Now that he had fearless warriors of his own, actually Tigan’s, he would be successful. The aid Tigan and his witch gave was proving useful. Once he claimed what was rightfully his, Brightstone Castle would be his home once more.
Combing lustrous hair, Eloise sat by the window, gazing outward at the setting sun. Already missing her husband, she hoped nothing hindered the journey for him and Leon.
‘Is everything alright, mistress?’
Anna approached Eloise. A daughter of one of the servants in the castle, Anna became ecstatic when Eloise offered her work as her personal aide. She wasn’t the brightest, however, she was the sweetest young woman, always smiling and literally falling over herself to tend Eloise. She meant well, though lacked finesse.
‘Yes, Anna. I was just thinking of Kai.’
‘I expect he will be thinking of you, mistress. I hope one day I find a man as loving as your husband.’
Eloise raised a brow. ‘I’m sure you will.’
Sighing as she teased soft hair through the teeth of the comb, she knew sleep would not come easily tonight; they’d never slept apart since their marriage.
‘Would you fetch some food Anna, please?’ Resting the comb on the nearby pillow, she smoothed her hand across her belly. ‘I feel hungry.’
‘My pleasure, mistress.’
Hurrying out the door Anna bumped straight into Beros in the hallway.
‘Sir, forgive me.’
‘No harm done, Anna.’ Beros placed his hands on her shoulders. She was tiny compared to his six-foot-four stature.
‘Forgive me, Sir, I have work to attend.’ Nervously, she waited for large hands to release her.
‘Why of course. We don’t want to keep our mistress waiting. Do we?’
Beros slid his hands down
arms; his touch was gentle. Any other female in the castle would have welcomed
his attentions, but Anna didn’t. She felt nervous around him and avoided his
Bowing her head and blushing, Anna sped towards the kitchen.
Smirking, Beros continued to Eloise’s room and knocked on the door. ‘I trust everything is in order, my lady?’ He bowed slightly, keeping Eloise in his sights.
‘Thank you, yes.’ She moved towards the table and pulling out a chair, asked Beros to sit. Eager to join her at the table, he made himself comfortable.
‘All the guards are on full alert, and I’ve sent additional sentries farther out.’ He leaned back, ‘Nothing will escape our notice.’
‘That’s good.’ Eloise placed her hand on top of his. ‘I’m sure there’s no reason for concern, but you know how Kai frets.’
‘I would feel the same, my lady. I would move heaven and hell to protect my loved ones.’
Sensing his stare, Eloise blushed and pulled her hand away. Thankful Anna returned quickly with a platter of meat and cheese, she sighed quietly.
‘Here we are.’
Anna settled the plate down, hurriedly left, and returned with wine and water.
‘Thank you, Anna.’
Beros poured water for Eloise and suddenly turned towards the sound of something hitting the floor.
‘Anna!’ Eloise gasped.
Rising, Eloise and Beros hurried to Anna’s aid as she lay in a heap just inside the doorway. Beros gathered her in his arms.
‘Here, put her on my bed.’
‘I’ll take her to her own room, my lady.’
‘Yes, alright, that would be better. She’s always rushing around, I swear she barely eats.’ Brushing a tress of hair from her face, Eloise touched Anna’s forehead.
‘Is it a fever?’ Beros frowned.
‘She feels hot. I’ll attend her.’
‘With respect my lady, you should wait here. Leave it to me.’ he ordered with concern, ‘I have this.’
‘Very well. I’ll send for someone from the kitchen to sit with her, though I want to know as soon as she’s awake.’
Beros nodded and Eloise resumed her seat at the table, although her appetite diminished. After a few moments, she heard scuffling in the hallway, and assuming Beros returned, rose from her seat to greet him, and gasped when confronted with someone else.
‘Hello, sweet sister.’