Happy New Year/1st Chapter of Bound in Fire
Hi everyone, I'm sure I'm like most people- really happy to see 2020 behind us. But through all the mess, the crazy, the what-the-heck, and the stress, I'm really happy for all the work I got done with writing, and getting Of Heart and Wings out in the world. Thank you all for all the love for Raiden and Egan, and for helping this series get off the ground. 2021 will see the rest of the series published, and I can't wait for you all to see how their story continues.
Here's a look ahead-
Bound in Fire- January 24th available for pre-order now on Amazon https://amzn.to/3lN6b8E or here for a signed copy
Talons of Love- April
Scales of Change- Late Summer
Plus there will be few novella side stories or back stories sprinkled throughout.
As a thank you and to help start the new year with a fun little bonus, which may or may not help with the wait for Bound in Fire ;) so with that- here's the first chapter of Bound in Fire, enjoy, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!- With love and big hugs- Debbie
A few weeks ago, I was a nobody; a commoner, a blacksmith’s apprentice. Well, I was a nobody with a big secret, one that I had been careful to keep. It was a secret that could put me and my family in danger. Then my whole world got flipped on its head when I risked everything to save someone in trouble. That someone just happened to be the prince of the Sixth Realm. The very same prince that I now shared a horse with. The same one that I had come to care for deeply. The same one who not only saw me, but truly accepted every part of me.
I sat behind Prince Raiden as we rode toward our town. Following us were a hundred or more men and women on horseback. Raiden had been tasked by his father, King Rodick of the Sixth Realm to seek aid from our ally, Queen Aireen of the Third Realm. She generously sent back these hundred soldiers with us to fight by our sides against King Tarjak and his armies. War was coming soon, maybe even right into our land; but with the help of these people, I hoped we would be able to hold them back.
As we neared the town, I could see people starting to line the road. They were cheering and waving, applauding our triumphant return. I never imagined I would ride into town with people cheering. Normally, I was someone that you could pass right by and not even notice. Of course they weren’t cheering for me, but for Raiden and the troops he brought to save our realm. My heart was bursting with pride for him. He deserved every minute of the people’s revelry. I had been so impressed by the natural way he handled Queen Aireen, as well as the speech he gave to incite the sea of soldiers that now followed us. He was born for this; had been trained for it all his life. Even still, some things couldn’t be taught. Not every leader is one people gladly followed. Raiden was an easy person to follow, people were compelled by his good, kind, compassionate heart. I knew I was.
When we came through the town’s outer gate, roars of cheers lifted from the growing crowds within. The sound thundered above the sea of people. Raiden waved to the crowd and would reach down to shake hands with those that were out-stretched toward him. My eyes blurred at the sight. I had never seen so many people within the Sixth Realm. Then again, with the fear of the impending battle, all the realm’s people who lived in the outlying areas were brought into the town for protection. There were a lot more people than usual within the town’s walls.
Through the commotion around us, I thought I heard my name. I inhaled deeply, calling upon the dragon’s stronger senses. I heard my name once more. I was able to peer through the crowd, focusing in on the individual out of the masses. I found them. A wide smile broke across my face, as I waved. My two little sisters and my mother were farther back in the crowd, but I connected with them. My sisters were jumping and waving excitedly, my mother beamed with pride and joy at the sight of me riding into town with the prince.
Tarrock, my step-father, stood next to her, his mouth agape. I took maybe a little too much pleasure in seeing his complete disbelief. Tarrock and I never really got along, he didn’t understand me and certainly thought I was up to no good on my regular nightly disappearances. Now for him to see me in the fine clothes Queen Aireen had gifted me and to see me riding in front of the procession, his discomfort made mine entirely worth it.
I never wanted to be in front of a crowd like this. Yet, here I was. Nobody knew who I was, except for the people that came behind us. We had had days on the road for them to see me as Raiden’s companion. He was the only reason I was here. If it weren’t for his asking me to stay by his side, I would be quite content to disappear into the crowd and not be at the center of attention. When he looked at me with his green eyes filled with affection and promise, how could I possibly refuse? I would do anything for Raiden. ANYTHING. In a short amount of time, he had become very important to me. I craved his presence, merely being close to him warmed me deep within, more than the fire that burned in me, that burned in her.
We rode through the castle gates into the courtyard. The king stood at the top of the castle’s steps. I had only met King Rodick briefly before we left on our journey, but I knew enough to recognize the gleaming pride in his expression as he watched his son draw nearer. Raiden halted the horse at the base of the steps. He helped me down from the horse’s back and dismounted fluidly in front of me.
He knelt on the first step and I beside him. I would have hesitated before, and had when we had arrived at the Third Realm just days ago, but Raiden has made it very clear that he wanted me to be seen at his side and not behind him. With this as the first impression in our own realm, he didn’t want any doubts or questions to arise about my place. Still, it didn’t stop the pounding in my chest or the stirring of the beast within. If the king was surprised to see me kneel before him, he didn’t show it.
“King Rodick, I present these fine men and women of the Third Realm, sent by Queen Aireen to aid us in our fight against King Tarjak. The Queen remains our loyal ally and wishes for us to be victorious.” Though Raiden was speaking to his father, the moment called for the formality of a prince addressing the king, not son to father.
The king inclined his head. “Prince Raiden and Mr. Egan,” my eyes rounded slightly, stunned to hear my name in his formal tone. “You have served your king and the good people of the Sixth well. I thank you for your devotion to our realm. Because of your leadership and your dedication, our friendship with Queen Aireen has gifted us the assistance we require.”
The king lifted his head to address the crowd. “Members of the Third Realm, you have joined us in brotherhood. Your willingness to stand with us, to fight for the people of the Sixth Realm is honorable. Our home is your home, our land is your land. You join the people of the Sixth: people who are strong, who are brave, who are courageous, and who have heart. The Sixth shall not fall. Long live the Sixth Realm!” The crowd erupted in cheers. The king waved at the roaring crowd. His gaze slid to Raiden and myself, a slight smile forming. He indicated for us to follow him into the castle.
We walked up the steps, away from the crowd and the thousands of eyes that had watched our every move. When we got inside the main entrance hall and out of sight of the open door, I finally felt like I could take a breath. Funny, the first time I had come to the castle with Raiden, I nearly lost all control out of the anxiety that had built up in me. I never thought it could feel like a relief to be within its daunting walls.
The king was there waiting for us. His expression softened from the regal countenance he had outside. King Rodick marched up to us and pulled Raiden into a tight hug. Before I knew it, he reached an arm over and pulled me in, squeezing us together. I hugged him back with the one arm I had free. Raiden had told me that his father was not normally someone who showed physical affection. This was the second time he had wrapped me in a fatherly embrace. I’m not sure what that meant, but I understood it was unique.
The king released his hold, drew back, and scanned over both of us. Raiden wore the brilliant green jacket and pants that brought out his eyes. I wore a midnight blue ensemble that felt like satin against my skin. It was a far cry from my usual soot covered leather apron and cotton clothing. The king focused on Raiden, his eyes twinkled as he met his son’s gaze.
“I am incredibly proud of you, my boy. Queen Aireen is a long-time friend to the Sixth, even still, what you have accomplished is nothing short of extraordinary. You very likely have saved us all.”
Raiden bowed his head slightly. “Thank you, Father, for trusting that I could do this. But…” Raiden slid a glance over to me, I wasn’t sure what he was thinking, but I gave him a reassuring smile. He reached over and threaded his fingers through mine. Facing his father again, “I didn’t do this by myself.” I didn’t know if I had been of any help with the queen and certainly didn’t need to be given any credit, but I didn’t speak up to disagree. I understood what Raiden was doing.
The king let his gaze fall to where our hands were clasped between us. This was our first time standing before the king since our relationship changed from a mere friendship. Before we had left on our trip to the Third Realm, the king had confided in me that he thought Raiden was fond of me. He had even told me to tell Raiden how I felt. My feelings were too strong to deny, but without his little push of encouragement, I didn’t know if I would have acted on them so soon.
The king’s eyes crinkled as a big smile stretched across his face. “Very good. Very good indeed. It does this old man’s heart well to see my son happy.”
Raiden beamed at his father’s reaction. “Thank you, Father. I am happy, truly.”
The king turned his attention to me. “Thank you, Egan, for keeping your promise and taking care of my son...and for taking my advice.” He winked at me.
“Well, it was great advice, Your Majesty.” I grinned as the king laughed.
“Of course it was! You think the king would steer you wrong?” Ah, there. Raiden surely got his looks from his mother who passed away several years ago, but his mannerisms and his smile; I could see Raiden in his father too.
“Egan, I hope you’ll join us for the festivities tonight. We’ll be having a feast and some entertainment to celebrate our guests. A little revelry and relaxation for those that have travelled so far to join us.”
At his father’s words, Raiden turned toward me. “Please say you’ll come, I’d really like to have you there.”
I found myself nodding, it was impossible to resist when he looked at me like that.
“I would be honored. Thank you, Your Majesty. I really need to go check in on my family, though.” So much had happened and I hadn’t even been able to say goodbye before we left, except through a letter.
“Ah, yes, very well. Family is important and they no doubt are anxious to see you. Why don’t you bring them along tonight?”
“That is very generous, sir, are you certain?” King Rodick had said it casually, but that was anything but casual for my family. They had never been within the castle’s battlement walls, and certainly never within the castle itself. Now, to attend royal festivities…
“Yes, of course. After all, you are courting my son. I should like to meet the people that matter to the one my son cares for.” The king’s smile was genuine and kind. I was courting the prince, it seemed so unreal. Surely it must have been a dream. If it were, I never wanted to wake up.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” I bowed my head. Raiden squeezed my hand. I slid a glance over to him and he seemed overjoyed. I would be bringing my family to the castle, my sisters were going to completely lose their minds.
The king dismissed himself, leaving us alone. Before either of us said anything, Kairn, Raiden’s twelve year old brother, came out of nowhere and tackled Raiden. Raiden released my hand just in time to be able to catch his brother and keep from falling to the ground. The brothers’ laughing was contagious and I joined in. I had met him the night before we left and had joined the brothers in their wild game of kickball through the halls of the castle.
“You’re back! I saw you two ride in together, and the whole army behind you. It was amazing! Like something out of a legend. Do you even realize how incredible that was?” Kairn chattered, excitedly.
Raiden chuckled and scruffed his brother’s hair. Kairn swatted his hand away. “Thanks kid. I have to say, it felt like something out of a legend.” It really had, ones that I had read about in books, but never thought I would be a part of.
“Hi Egan!” Kairn smiled at me and tilted his head. “How come you’re all dressed up like my brother?”
“Hi Kairn, it’s good to see you again. The Queen of the Third gave me this outfit to wear.”
He looked like he was studying both of us, puzzling something out. “But, you look like you match, like a couple.” I felt my cheeks warm. I did not know what to say to that.
Raiden sidled up next to me and put one arm around my waist. “That’s because we are.” I looked over and saw his lips curve up.
Kairn simply nodded. “Huh, okay. Egan, are you coming to the party tonight? Maybe we can play kickball again.” I chuckled. Well, I guess that was that.
“Yes, I’ll be here. I’m not sure I’ll be able to play tonight, but I will soon, I promise. My little sisters are going to come tonight, though, maybe you can teach them.”
Kairn wrinkled his nose. “Girls? I don’t know. Maybe.” Raiden and I shared a grin.
“Hey kid, let me talk to Egan for a minute okay? I’ll see you in a little while.” Kairn harrumphed and trotted off.
Raiden turned me to him, placing his hands on my waist. “Hey, we match.” Amused desire danced across his face.
“Ha! Yeah, I guess we do.” I rested my arms on his shoulders. I took my time, looking him over. I admired everything about him; how his silky black hair brushed his shoulders, that little ridge on his nose from when it once was broken in training, his grass green eyes that had a shine in them. The look on his face made my heart soar. I thought about how we were donned in our fine attire, Raiden was as regal as ever and I looked vastly different than usual. Then, I thought about the festivities to come.
“What am I supposed to wear tonight? What about my family? They don’t have anything like this and I’ve been wearing this suit too long; I’m afraid I’ll be ripe if I wear it later as well.”
“Don’t worry about that. Tonight will be a casual celebration with all these soldiers here. It will not be a formal event. It’s likely to even get pretty rowdy. A last hurrah before the preparations for battle. Should be fun.” He smiled at me, tugging me closer. His hands no longer at my sides, but wrapped around my lower back. My arms folded around his neck. I quickly looked all around us. After seeing that we were alone, I leaned in the rest of the way until our mouths met. He responded, deepening the kiss. I lingered in the kiss for a moment before pulling back and resting my head against his. My lips pulled into a smile. By the stars! The way Raiden made me feel; every part of my being came alive. Even my dragon seemed to stir at his affection.
Raiden placed one more light kiss on my lips before stepping back. “Go, see your family. I know your mother is dying to see you. I’m really looking forward to meeting them later.”
“I am too. I’ll see you tonight.” I felt one side of my mouth pull up as I walked away in a dreamy state. I was floating on air. I even looked down once to ensure my feet were still touching the ground. When Raiden had first asked me to join him on his trip, I had been entirely unsure about it. But over those days on the road and the time we spent in the Third Realm, our friendship evolved into something I had never really dared to hope for.
I was completely enamored with Raiden. He knew the deepest parts of me, the parts no one had ever known. He has seen me as a fearsome beast and he’s seen me as the shy, awkward apprentice. Somehow, he liked and even wanted all of me. It was an exhilarating feeling.