Chapter II

It was by a feather-light touch that he had awoken. Like a flutter of wings against his cheek, the intoxicating scent of lavender whirling about him as he opened his eyes and understood it hadn’t been a dream.

She was alive. Elizabeth was alive. And she had kissed him good morning from the place where she had slept beside him. His back barked in protest as he shifted from his seated position on the floor of her cottage, feeling as if he had been thoroughly beaten from where the settee had apparently dug in all night. Prince Ferryl hadn’t even remembered falling asleep. He had only remembered that kiss of hers—the one that had shifted the entirety of the firmament, had changed his whole world—and the ensuing conversation. Of dreams forgotten and remembered once more, of a purloined past that had been mercifully restored. He couldn’t recall when that conversation had drifted into dreamless sleep as they sat arm in arm against the settee on the floor of her small sitting room. The fire that had burned brightly in the hearth only a few hours ago had died to nothing more than embers.

But he didn’t really care when they had fallen asleep, exactly. For she was beside him, waking as she stretched her lithe limbs, the feel of her curves in his arms a welcome, beautiful distraction. He buried his face in her neck in response.

“Good morning to you, too,” she said as she tilted her head back, giving him better access. He obliged her by peppering kisses along her honeyed skin.

Providence, this woman, this love of his life.

She was alive. And she was back.

He would never let her go again.

His lips found their way to her mouth, and he claimed her with a savagery that could only come from loving and missing one person for so long. She ran her hands through his hair and he took no small amount of satisfaction from the little groan that escaped her as he pulled her onto his lap.

“I wonder if you have any idea how much I love you, my Lizybet,” he said onto her skin, his lips migrating down her cheek and neck to that inviting place where it met her shoulder.

“An inkling,” she said, with a smile in her voice.

Lavender encircled him once more, threatening to intoxicate him into oblivion. Heavens above, that scent. He had loved it for years. He knew it, because he remembered it, thanks to the magic that found him with her kiss last night. But while he knew the scent, he had never thought to ask why she seemed to wear it so often.

“Why is it that you always smell of lavender, my love?” he asked as he dared to pull aside the shoulder of her dress to kiss the alabaster skin he found there.

She didn’t immediately answer. And while he might have remained distracted by the velvet softness of her shoulder, he found himself slightly curious as to her silence.

“My love?” he asked, lifting his head to meet her eyes. It was heat that kissed her cheeks. A grin threatened his mouth.

She fussed with a toggle on his jerkin, not daring to meet his eyes. “It’s embarrassing, Ferryl.”

“Embarrassing?” he asked, lifting her chin.

She bit her lip, likely knowing the effect such a thing had on him. But he was as stubborn as she was. Perhaps more. So he merely draped his arms around her waist and waited.

She sighed in resignation, pursing a smile. “For my sixteenth birthday, Mary gave me a vial of lavender water, but I thought it was too fine a gift for a servant, so I wouldn’t wear it. I put it away, thinking such things should only belong to someone important.”

Her cheeks heated once more, and he didn’t resist the urge to kiss them as she continued. “But then one day I decided…I wanted to know, you see, what it might be like…” She finally dared to meet his eyes as she said, “I knew I was falling in love with you, Ferryl. And I wanted to pretend—just for one moment—I wanted to know what it might be like…to be your princess.”

Rose colored not only her cheeks but her neck and her décolletage, but Ferryl did not laugh at her, did not poke fun.

“So I washed my hair with the lavender water and put on my best dress that day. And you…”
Oh, he remembered. He remembered that day, indeed. She had walked to the stables, her hair falling in soft, humid curls about her shoulders, her dress so simple and yet so invitingly fitted to her slender waist…

“If I recall, I think I told you that you smelled like an angel,” he said, laughing at his adolescent attempt at flirtation. He had wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful creature he had ever beheld, too. But even knowing the closeness they shared—had always shared—the thought of revealing his feelings for her had terrified him then. So he had opted to flirt instead.

Apparently it had worked.

Elizabeth bit her lip again, and so he tilted her chin and claimed her lips once more.

“That was the first time I knew that I wanted you. Not just that I loved being with you—I had known that for years,” he said. “But that was the first time I knew that I wanted to taste those lips of yours.”

“You didn’t, though.”

No, he hadn’t kissed her that day. It had taken him nearly a year to get the courage to kiss her. But by the time he had, he understood that he had been falling for her—slowly, surely, steadily, roots to a mighty oak—for all of that time. And all the years they had known each other.

“I kissed you, my love, when I knew for certain that I would never kiss another.”

For a blinding moment, guilt flashed down his spine. For he had kissed another: Delaney—the Midvarish duchess to whom he was currently, inconveniently betrothed. He had kissed her only last night.

But not because he had loved her—not the way he loved Elizabeth. He had kissed Delaney because he had needed her. Needed her to help him feel something again instead of the numbness that had plagued him from the moment he had thought Elizabeth to be dead.

But she wasn’t dead. Elizabeth was alive. Alive and in his arms, looking at him for all the world as if she too had known she would never—could never—love another.

Providence above, should he tell her that he had kissed another?

“Ferryl?” she asked, her hand on his cheek, looking at him with that way she had of knowing him down to very marrow of his bones. Guilt nipped at his soul once more as he opted to press his brow to hers.

“You’ve always been my princess, Lizybet,” he said, stroking a hand down her hair. “And soon, the world shall know it.”

“Today is your wedding day, Ferryl,” she said with a hint of reprimand.

“Yes, and that is as good a reminder as any that I should get back to the castle and inform my parents of my change in bride.”

She chuckled a bit sardonically. “If only it were that simple.”

“It will be,” he said, making to stand, offering her his hand that he might help her stand as well. “I will settle for nothing less.” Easy words. Such easy words when he knew that when it came to his mother, nothing was ever simple.

There was skepticism in her eyes, which he knew he would find. His Lizybet was nothing if not practical. But behind that skepticism, a whisper of longing. It was the sight of that longing that had him pulling her to him once more.

“Trust me, Lizybet. Nothing will stand in our way this time.”

A coughing fit momentarily stole her attention from him, and when she looked back, that longing had melted into worry and dread.

Because her father was ill. Irrevocably ill. And she had arrived last night only to discover a damning truth—Bedell was dying.

Another cough, this one deeper, more strained, and Elizabeth didn’t hesitate to tear across the small space to the adjoining bedchamber where her father had been sleeping.

Ferryl followed her, thinking he could delay the dreaded conversation with his parents—a conversation that would likely change much more than just the person he would marry. Yes, he could delay that conversation just a little while, if only to comfort the woman he loved at her dying father’s bedside.

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Chapter I

Present Day

Something like a tidal wave of relief washed over General Titus Melamed, retired Commander of the Navarian armies, as he crested the rolling hills that surrounded his land. His home. It had been a grueling journey across the plains that separated Navah from the north of Midvar. A month of dingy inns and sleepless nights. A month of bread too dry and wine too sour. A month of nothing on his mind but starting over.

His horse crested the last hill that separated the wilderness from his land—the land he had inherited at the too-young age of eighteen. His parents had died of the sickness that had spread too quickly through the land, leaving him with nothing but responsibilities. No wonder he had sold his soul to King Derrick. To fight. To win. He had nothing else and wanted nothing else.

The moment his foot hit the earth beneath him upon dismounting his trusted steed, he fell to his knees, breathing deeply, releasing a solemn tear.

He picked up a fistful of dirt, the grit and pebbles grinding against his hand as he let it escape, floating on the breeze like a phantom. The familiar air smelled of summer and sun, cypress and mountain cedar, persimmon and pomegranate. The Midvarish skies shone with lazy vanilla light, the dusk slowly showing her splendor, dancing in a riot of pinks and coppers like a fire waiting to consume the day with one glorious final stand.

Home.

The manor was just as he remembered. Moderately-sized. Nothing too ostentatious, but certainly no shack or cottage. “Just right,” Penelope had always called it. The gray stones were covered in moss and lichens, with vines climbing up the walls like spindly green arms reaching for the realm of the gods.
Inviting, that’s what it was. Like a long-lost friend.

She must have caught sight of him before he saw her, for after his eyes had finished surveying the house, the land, he spotted his wife, standing in the front door, looking directly at him. He was too far away to read her expression, but she stood stock-still—a monument to bygone times.

No matter how glad he was to be back, he would never know if she shared in his gladness until he faced her. Would she forgive all those years of neglect? Of pushing her aside for the king’s duties? Would she ever trust him?

Perhaps the most worrisome question of all—would all of his sins come back to haunt him? How would the gods make him pay for his treachery?

The questions weighed heavier and heavier with each step he took to the house, to her, to his future. The future that he had clung to like a rock in storm. The future that had gotten him through the last few months—a light in the darkness. The future that suddenly seemed full of shadows and doubt.

She, too, began to walk to him. Slowly, tentatively. Every step closer tore at him in a way he hadn’t expected.
Penelope. Wife or enemy?

Yes, she had stayed. But why? Out of hope? Or spite?

It might have been an eternity before they reached each other. An eternity of steps crunching across the expanse of summer grasses between them. Fitting, he thought, that his final steps toward her should feel like dragging an anvil behind him, the weight of nearly twenty years of regret and stupidity a vice that would surely determine his fate.

He froze, taking her in. Her long auburn hair pulled into an intricate chignon at the nape of her neck. Her gown falling around her like a field of poppies. There was a little more silver at her temples than he had remembered. Then again, there was a lot more silver in his hair these days.

Beautiful, that’s what she was. Stunning. A shooting star streaking a dusky summer sky.

“You’re really here,” she said so quietly he almost missed it.

Her smile was tentative but true. And it was hope—hope that coursed through his veins like a summer wildfire. So he reached for her hand. “I missed you.”

She didn’t quite return the eagerness of his grip, her hand hardly clasping his. But he held on anyway.

“You look tired,” she said.

He touched the beard that had grown on his face since leaving Navah and looked down to his dirty clothes and mud-caked boots. He chuckled. “I think you’re being generous.”

She breathed a soft laugh, looking down to their clasped hands. When she finally met his eyes again, there was silver lining hers. So Titus threw caution to the wind and took his wife in his arms, holding her close. To his surprise, she returned the embrace, her breath warm on his neck.

“I missed you, too,” she whispered.

He breathed deeply, relaxing at the feel of her in his arms, taking in her sweet scent, the way her stray auburn tendrils tickled his neck in the breeze. “It’s been too long.”

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Prologue

Fifteen Years Ago

Myron was late. Damned late. And these godsforsaken mountains were freezing, even though it was spring. The snow had melted for the most part, but patches of it remained scattered across the mountain, leaving the loamy forest floor a patchwork of soggy grass, crumbling dirt, and dirty snow.

Titus rubbed his hands together, clinging to the paltry heat that the friction caused, the kidskin gloves a pathetic ward against this icy wintry air. Dark. It was so dark that it was hard to see much more than the hands in front of his face. And he did not dare risk a fire as he waited. And waited. And waited for Captain Myron to return to their designated, clandestine meeting place.

The Navarian Commander looked up to the inky skies through the ceiling of conifers and aspens, marveling at just how bright the stars were here on the side of the mountain. Brighter than normal, somehow. Like he was closer to the gods.

But Titus knew that the gods paid no attention to him. They never had. And judging by the fact that Myron was at least an hour late, the gods very well might be smiting him, just for the Sheol of it.
Not that he didn’t deserve it.

The distant clomp of horses’ hooves tore his attention from the glittering skies, and he squinted to make out any sign of whoever was approaching.
Please let it be Myron.

A bronze Midvarish medallion glinted in the starlight—Myron’s horse. Thank the gods. Titus nearly cried out in relief, but silence was key tonight. Silence and secrecy, the two currencies of Titus’s whole godsdamned life.

“Where have you been?” Titus growled as Myron dismounted his dapple mare.

“We were delayed,” he said, carrying a limp bundle in his meaty arms.

“I take it you got one,” Titus said, stepping across the space between them, reaching out for the cadaver sprawled in the captain’s arms.

“The boys found several for you to choose from,” Myron said, making to hand over the child. “But they took such a damned long time about it, I just chose one for you and brought her as quickly as I could.”

Titus took hold of the bundle of ebony hair and dirty nightgown, taking just a moment to steal a glimpse of the child. A little girl.

A breathing little girl.

“What in Sheol is this?” Titus barked. Stirring. Godsdamnit, she was stirring!

“The tincture is wearing off,” said Myron casually. “You’ll want to find some more of it if you want to keep her quiet. She was the quietest of them, but gods, Titus, little girls? What in Sheol are you planning to do with them?”

“Not them. One. I said I needed one,” Titus barked, the weight of the child in his arms suddenly unbearable. “A dead one!” he added.

“What?” asked Myron, furrowing his brow. “You never said that.”

“Yes, I did!” Titus barked.

“You damn well did not! You just said to bring a little girl. You never specified that she needed to be dead!”

The girl stirred in his arms, her eyes fluttering. Tiny. She was so godsdamned tiny. He hadn’t expected that.

“Shit, Myron! What am I supposed to do with her?” Titus asked, the panic welling.
Myron reached to his belt, pulling out a dagger.

And in the matter of a heartbeat—one single heartbeat—Captain Myron slit the throat of the little girl in Titus’s arms. Blood, warm and thick, glistening in the moonlight, poured down her neck, across Titus’s arms. Bile burned in his throat as he watched the light leave her heavy eyes, as he felt her go even more limp in his arms.

He looked up to Myron, reeling from the shock. “What. In. Sheol. Is. Wrong. With. You,” he growled.
Myron snorted a laugh. “You’ve gone soft, Titus. You’ve been working for that damned Navarian king too long. Grow some balls and finish your job—whatever the Sheol it is.”

Rage. Rage and disgust and downright nausea roiled within him. It took a considerable amount of effort not to lunge for his sword and gut the haughty bastard. But that would require putting down the girl, and it just didn’t feel…right.

Myron turned his back, slinging a foot into the stirrup of his horse, a useless smirk on his drawn mouth. “Good luck, commander,” he purred. “The gods know you’ll need it.”

And then Myron was off, flinging himself onto his trusted horse and turning back toward the direction he had come in one fluid movement, leaving Titus standing dumbfounded in the mountain forest, holding a dead little girl in his arms.

It took him a moment to gather his thoughts and figure out what in Sheol to do. Her warm blood still dribbled down his arm, and blinding guilt nearly crushed him. He had meant for them to bring a dead child. A dead one. The whole point had been to avoid this very situation. Not that Myron needed to know that.

Titus knelt on the ground, setting down the tiny little girl as carefully and gingerly as if she were his own. He took off his cloak, the black wool merging with the midnight and darkness, the Navarian seal expertly embroidered on the collar catching starlight. He laid it across the girl, wrapping her still-warm, blood-soaked body in it before scooping her into his arms again. The only warmth he could offer her. The last warmth she would ever know.

He flung her over his shoulder, grunting as he mounted his own horse, setting off down the mountain, into the foggy mist below, knowing damn well that he just added murder to a very long list of the reasons why Titus Melamed would burn in Sheol.

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Oh my stars, friends, I am SO EXCITED to show this to you guys. You all went NUTS over the trailer for book 1 (The Promised One) well…. hold on to your hats because this video is going to BLOW YOUR MIND.

It’s not a book trailer. It’s something like you’ve never seen before. Not for a book, anyway. This is going to give you a little insight into what inspired these books, why I’m writing them, and what they’re about.

I hope you love it. I know I do. I mean, it’s LEGIT, y’all.

Oh, and here’s the official blurb for The Purloined Prophecy (The Chalam Færytales, Book II):

“She was the one believed to fulfill the prophecies, you see. She was the long-awaited one. That is why she was killed, no doubt. And that is why there are those who swear she lives.”

A single kiss saved their fabled love. But the same magic that saved them might also destroy them.

Prince Ferryl knows that war is coming for the kingdom of Navah. It doesn’t help that he is betrothed to the niece of the enemy king. But now that Ferryl’s memories of the love of his life Elizabeth have been restored, the real questions begin: Who has magic? Who is using it against them? And who is Elizabeth, really?

When a dying prophet insists the answers to their questions lie in the peaceful kingdom to the north, Prince Ferryl and Elizabeth—with the help of a few friends—set off on a journey to the mountains in search of an absolution that will save the kingdom—and hopefully their love once and for all.

But a prophecy long-since forgotten awaits them—and an unexpected twist of fate may damn their love forever.

*****

Yeah…. you should probably go ahead and pre-order it. You know you want to now. <3

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Guys… GUYS. The official countdown to the COVER & TITLE REVEAL of Book Two of The Chalam Færytales series has OFFICIALLY BEGUN!

Are you as nerded out as I am???? Oh man, I can’t wait!!!

Mark your calendars, spread the word… BOOK TWO IS COMING!

And if you haven’t yet, mark it as to-read in your Goodreads profile today! Let’s get the word out!

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Maybe you noticed it… maybe not. But in The Promised One, there are a WHOLE LOT of Hebrew transliterations. Pretty much every proper name, including all the places, provinces, towns, castles, kingdoms, plus all the character names (except a few — more on that in a bit) are Hebrew in origin.

What’s with that?

There’s a pretty simple explanation, actually. The book is an allegory of the Old Testament. (Well the first four books, to be precise. And yes, you guessed it, the books after that will be an allegory of the New Testament. You’re welcome.)

So I spent quite a while researching ancient Hebraic folklore, traditions, fare, culture, even currencies. I took some liberties, of course. I mean, it’s fantasy, kids. But in general, most everything you read is based on the ancient Hebrew culture. So of course, all the names had to be Hebrew.

And let me just tell you… finding a non-ridiculous transliteration spelling of some of the Hebrew words I wanted to use was… challenging. It’s a guttural language, to say the least. So as with some of the tradition and folklore, I took some liberties with spelling too. But it’s so cool to know that every name has meaning, and everything is rooted in the culture that gave us the Bible.

So without further ado, here are some of the more popular proper names in The Promised One, and their meanings (and pronunciations, because I’m generous like that).

Places:

Navah (nah-VAAH) — Hebrew; means “home”

Midvar (MID-vahr) — Hebrew; means “wilderness”

Haravelle (HAH-ruh-vell) — Hebrew origin: HAR, means “mountains”

Benalle (beh-NALL) — Hebrew; means “wisdom”

People:

Ferryl (FEH-rill) — Irish*; means “brave one”

Elizabeth (ee-LIZ-uh-beth) — Hebrew; means “promise of God” (hint, hint)

Delaney (de-LAY-nee) — Gaelic*; means “from the black river”

Michael (MY-kull) — Hebrew; means “which man is like God”

Meria (muh-RY-uh) — Hebrew; means “rebellions one” (Ha! I love this!)

Aiken (AY-kinn) — Hebrew; means “made from oak trees”

Erel (EH-rill) — Hebrew; means “hero”

Bedell (buh-DELL) — French*; means “messenger”

Derrick (DEH-rick) — Germanic*; means “rich or powerful ruler of all people”

Other:

Chalam (CHAH-lumm) — Hebrew; means “dream”

*There were just some names that no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a Hebrew transliteration or name that fit their personality. And sometimes, if I found the word, it did not an eloquent name make. So I took some liberties from other cultures to find just the right names. Although I must admit to you that when it came to the name Ferryl, I just liked it. It was perfect. Sorry, not sorry.