Sneak Peek: The Lost Prince
We’re just one week away from the release of The Lost Prince! How about a little sneak peek of the first three chapters?
Need to catch up on The Lost Legends first? It’s on sale for $0.99 until 11/10!! It’s also FREE with Kindle Unlimited! Check it out here.
And now for the first few chapters of The Lost Prince… (if you haven’t read book one, this WILL be spoilery!)
“Loxley ran through the enemy forces, slashing at the soldiers,” Shane yelled, swinging his wooden sword, “cutting down anyone who stood in his path!”
Phillip stood beside him with his own practice blade as they faced their invisible foe in an empty hall. They moved back to back, working together. The sublevel hall reminded Shane more of a tunnel. It sat empty, hidden beneath the main floor of the castle. Its stone walls left the air cool while torches lit the space in set intervals.
“Shane,” Adalina called out, breaking their focus.
He sighed and lowered his sword as he turned to face his sister.
A small foot stamped the ground as she crossed her arms over her chest with a huff. “This isn’t fair. I want to play too.”
Shane bit back a laugh as he took in her exaggerated pout. He looked to Phillip and saw that his best friend was failing at hiding his own amusement.
“Ada, you are playing.” Shane pointed the end of his sword toward her. “You’re the witch who cursed us. You are a very important part of the story.”
“The witch isn’t in this part of the story,” she argued. “She wasn’t in Rayerna during the war.”
Phillip let out a soft laugh then whispered, “She’s not wrong.”
“Of course I’m not,” Adalina replied, putting her hands on her hips. “I know the story better than either of you. So, I should get to play a bigger role.”
They stared at her, knowing she wasn’t finished. When it came to the Nihryst, seven-year-old Adalina knew more than just about anyone. And she was well aware of that. Their mother had read her the stories nearly every day her entire life. For the past two years though, after his mother’s death, he and Phillip had taken over. Thankfully, she could at least read her special story book version on her own now. Shane was spending more and more time shadowing their father and learning about the kingdom, which meant less time with her.
After a moment, Adalina added, “I want to be the queen.”
“No,” Shane groaned. It was always the same argument. “I’m Loxley. That’s weird.”
“So let Phillip be Loxley for once.” Her argument caught him off guard. A stab of guilt went through Shane at his friend’s stillness. Oblivious, Ada went on, “We can play from the beginning, and I’ll be Queen Mariella in love with him.”
Phillip’s chuckle broke the tension. Shane glared at him, and Phillip cleared his throat.
Looking back to his sister, Shane said, “How about we just go exploring instead?”
Adalina’s shoulders drooped, but she nodded and stomped toward them. Phillip draped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her down the tunnel. “Come on, Princess. You can pretend to be in love with me another day.”
Shane saw her blush. Her crush on his best friend wasn’t a secret. They never acknowledged it, hoping she would grow out of it, eventually. Ever since their mother died and Phillip had carried her away, she was practically attached to the boy.
Shane could still hear her cries from that awful night in his nightmares. She had been lying in her bed with their mother, listening to her usual bedtime story when the queen fell asleep. Adalina’s screams had alerted Shane and Phillip across the hall. They’d ran in and found her trying to wake the queen unsuccessfully. Shane had gone to his mother and shook her shoulder. When she didn’t stir, he’d looked to his friend, unsure of what to do. Without needing to be asked, Phillip had lifted Adalina and carried her away. She’d sobbed as she kicked and hit him, trying to get back to their mother. Phillip took her across the hall while Shane went to get help, knowing it was too late.
Adalina’s giggle brought him back to the present. Shane watched his two favorite people walking ahead of him. Their laughter echoed along the stone walls. He was grateful Phillip could make his sister smile. Her joy was absent too often these days. Something Shane understood all too well. He tried to keep the darkness from showing though, for Adalina’s sake. That night had changed all of their lives in many ways, but for her, he needed to keep up the brave façade. She was far too young to deal with a lost mother and a frequently absent, angry father.
They turned the corner and walked down an incline. The air grew chillier, and Shane pulled his sleeves down farther, still gripping his fake sword in one hand. Nobody used the tunnels anymore. They had wandered the lower levels frequently over the years and never came across others. Adalina always wanted to visit the dungeons that, according to the stories, once held the Nihryst.
A loud, agonizing yell disrupted the silence of the empty tunnels. They froze in their tracks. They were close to the cells, but far enough that whoever was down there would not have heard their approach. A clanking noise, followed by a wailing, made Shane’s heart pound. His stomach twisted as he realized what they heard.
They had seen the devices many times, but he thought they sat untouched for decades. Adalina didn’t even know what they were. He’d just brushed off her questions about them when asked.
Shane heard her breath catch, and he knew that if she wasn’t putting it together, she at least understood the sound was of someone in pain. She took a step, but Phillip’s arm tightened around her, holding her in place. Whirling around with wide eyes, she met Shane’s gaze. He shook his head slightly, unsure what to do or say.
“Someone is hurt.” Her words were barely more than a breath. When he didn’t respond, she clenched her fists and straightened to her full height. With more force, she demanded, “We have to do something!”
Her eyes filled with tears, and she faced the other direction once more. She shrugged out of Phillip’s hold and marched toward the commotion, much braver than someone so young had the right to be. It only took a second for Shane to shake off the shock. He strode forward, his longer footsteps making it easy to catch her. Shane wrapped his free arm around her middle.
“No,” he whispered. He dragged her back the way they came, but she dug her heels into the ground and fought his grip.
“We have to stop it,” she hissed.
Phillip moved around to block her. “Adalina, we can’t. You know we can’t,” he begged her to understand.
That didn’t deter her though. She yanked and pulled away from Shane’s arms. In one swift move, as she stepped away, Phillip grabbed her by the shoulders, spun her around, and Shane hauled her over one shoulder. He had recently hit a growth spurt and stood a foot taller than her. He carried her back upstairs easily. She beat at his back, and Phillip quickly grabbed her wrists.
No one paid them any attention on the main floor as they made their way up to the royal residences. Adalina yelled for them to let her go, but the passing maids and guards smiled at the trio and continued with their work. They were used to seeing the three of them running around the castle together, causing trouble.
In Adalina’s room, Phillip shut the door behind them. Shane flopped his sister onto the bed and put his sword against the wall. She scrambled up, but they both stood in front of her and held her by the shoulders.
“Ada, stop!” Shane knelt before her. She met his eyes, her own filled with tears. He raised up and wrapped his arms around her small frame. She shook with sobs as he lifted her and stood. He turned and took her spot on the bed, keeping her on his lap. She buried her face against his shoulder. Whispering that it was going to be all right, he gently held the back of her head.
“Shane,” she hiccupped, “someone’s hurting down there. We have to tell someone. Maybe father—”
“Father knows,” Shane said in a soft tone. Since their mother’s death, the king had changed. He’d always had an angry streak, but he had doted on his family for a time. Especially Adalina. He was no longer that man. It was why Shane tried to spend so much time with Adalina—he never wanted his sister to feel the abandonment he faced daily.
“Was it those devices? Do you think the Nihryst were hurt down there like that?”
Her words cracked his heart. She was too smart for her own good. Shane had never liked to see her upset, but when he stepped in as a substitute parent, he hadn’t expected it to consist of so much pain. He was only five years older—not even a teenager yet. But he was all she had. With their father locked in his study at all hours or across the sea, it was just them.
Well, them and Phillip.
He looked to his best friend who sat silently beside them. Phillip reached over and rubbed her shoulder. “No. Those devices don’t look old enough to have been down there when they were.”
Adalina sniffed. Shane mouthed a thank you to Phillip, and he nodded. She would believe him—believe the lie. Shane shifted her to one side then reached for the book on her bedside table. Hoping it would distract her from the truth of the horrors happening beneath their feet, he flipped it open and pulled the cards out from the center pages before turning back to the beginning.
As he read, she calmed down. When they reached the map in the middle once more, she whispered, “I’m going to find them one day.”
She held Loxley’s card firmly in one hand as she traced the golden symbols with her other fingers. Shane kissed the side of her head and tightened his hold around her. “Yes, you will, sweetheart.”
12 years later…
A hand shot out, grabbing Ada around the waist and pulling her into a narrow alley. She didn’t question it. Instead, she grabbed the man’s hand, and they ran through the shadows without a word.
As they reached the end of the alley, shouts rang out behind them. They turned the corner, jogged the short length of the street, and came out to a crowded market area. Melding with the people, Ada slowed to catch her breath.
Barely pausing long enough to pay, Lee grabbed a hooded coat from a vendor and moved behind her. He helped her into the sleeves as they continued to walk.
“Let’s get that beautiful face hidden,” he said, his breath brushing her ear before he tugged the hood up. The face of the princess of Detmarya was well known in the allying kingdom of Rayerna, and she needed to stay unseen.
Ada slipped her arm through his and moved closer as they walked across the market. Despite the crowd and the warm sun on their backs, crisp autumn air surrounded them. The noise of everyone talking over each other, of the vendors making sales, muted out any conversation she might have with Lee.
Shouts sounded through the marketplace, and the people around them scrambled to get out of the way. Lee looked over his shoulder, cursing under his breath as he grasped Ada’s hand and began running again. The people parted, and the two quickly made their way to the far end of the busy square.
She barely heard his words but followed anyway. They turned down another alley, their feet echoing off the stone walls. As they reached a tall stack of crates, Ada yanked on his hand and pulled him behind it. She stood in the corner between Lee and the boxes. He pushed her back as far as possible, his body pressing into her.
Footsteps quickly approached, and they held their breath as a dozen guards passed them. Looking down at Ada, Lee held a finger to his lips. She scowled at the familiar smirk, but he simply leaned down and pressed a quick kiss to her cheek. When the alley grew quiet, they walked back the way they came.
Ducking into dark coves and hiding among crowds, they made it to the open docks. Across from the ships and sailors hard at work, Lee tapped out a pattern on the side door of a warehouse they had bought. It opened, and they quickly stepped inside. With a nod to Stuart, they went upstairs.
At the landing, Lee reached for the doorknob, but Ada grabbed his arm. She turned and pushed him up against the adjacent wall. “You agreed no more stealing. We’re trying to be inconspicuous, remember?”
He sighed, and the bag hanging from one shoulder dropped to the floor with a thud. His hands went to her hips as he grinned. “Old habits.”
She shook her head. “You are incredibly frustrating sometimes.”
“You know you love it,” Lee whispered, pulling her closer.
Rolling her eyes, she fought a smile as she looked up into the bright blue-green eyes she’d dreamed of her whole life. She raised up on her toes and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“So stubborn,” he said before meeting her lips with his own. Her mouth parted, and she leaned fully into him. One of Lee’s hands threaded through her hair.
A throat cleared.
Ada pulled away just enough to turn and lay her head against Lee’s shoulder to look at the figure in the now-open doorway. Ada grinned as Lee sighed. His arms were still wrapped around her waist, refusing to move.
“I was starting to get worried you were caught.”
“You knew what he was going to do?” Ada lifted her head.
“You didn’t?” Brienne laughed.
Ada stepped out of his hold, crossed her arms, and narrowed her eyes at Lee. “Just an old habit, huh?”
Before he could reply, she stormed past Brienne. She greeted the crew sitting around the open space and slammed the door to one of the bedrooms, followed by the bathing room door. At the washstand, she splashed her face with cool water. She was grateful to finally have fresh water again. It was a long two months at sea, and they’d stayed at the castle of Detmarya for only a day before leaving once more.
When they reached Rayerna, they immediately sought out a place in the village of Senfyr to stay and got lucky. The owner of the warehouse had gone bankrupt and was desperate to sell. The bottom floor had plenty of space among the old machinery for their supplies, as well as a place for her to practice her sword fighting with some of the crew. The upper floor consisted of a dozen makeshift bedrooms. She hadn’t asked why the living area existed. She wanted to assume the owner had lived there with his family while overseeing the work below. But that didn’t explain the number of bedrooms, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the truth.
Ada patted her face with a soft blue towel and looked at the mirror. She tied her hair up with a band she’d bought in the market earlier that week. Wandering the familiar streets of Senfyr as someone other than a princess was a strange experience. One she had grown to love. Without her dresses and jewelry, she went unrecognized in the busy village. Occasionally, she’d get a lingering stare, but no one had called her out so far.
Taking a deep breath, she returned to the bedroom.
Lee sat on the edge of the bed, waiting.
“No more lies,” she started. “That’s what you said—we’re in this together now.”
He stood and slowly approached. “I’m sorry.” A hand lifted to cup her cheek. “After a century, it’s hard getting used to having someone to trust outside the crew.”
She sighed and whispered, “I know.”
Lee pulled her into his arms. “Adalina, love, don’t. That’s not what I meant,” he said, understanding the guilt of the curse hanging over her. They’d spent most of their nights talking about the prophecy and what it could mean.
When the cursed become mere legend and a true believer found, the key to their freedom will be presented by the descendant. Only when forgiveness is fully given and the other half found will an act of true love set their souls free. The curse shall be paid for and lifted where it all began.
They had arrived in Rayerna a couple weeks earlier, sure that the place where it all began was there. Lee was born there, he was sent to fight there in the war as part of the curse, and the map in Ada’s book hinted that they’d find the golden healing flower—the Heulwen—somewhere in the kingdom. But they still hadn’t found any key to breaking the curse or their only hope for curing the Kald. Frustration had grown among the crew, though in Ada more than anyone. She knew the flower had to exist somewhere. People throughout her kingdom and the southern islands were dying from the altered sickness, and they couldn’t stop it from spreading through available remedies. Nothing seemed to work.
Ada leaned back, tired of feeling angry and desperate for answers. She smiled up at Lee. There was one thing she could do that always made it better. Standing on her toes, she brushed his lips with her own. He didn’t need more of an invitation. His hands tightened on her sides as he deepened the kiss. Her fingers threaded through the soft hair at the nape of his neck, and he moaned into her mouth. He turned and walked her back to the bed. When the backs of her thighs bumped the mattress, she fell back, pulling Lee down with her.
They laughed as they collapsed, and Lee held himself up on his elbows above her. Their eyes met, and the laughter died out quickly. He leaned down, softly kissing her once, twice.
“Ada,” he whispered, lifting himself enough to look at her. One hand was firmly planted on the bed beside her head while the other held her waist. His thumb brushed circles along the exposed skin beneath the hem of her shirt. He cleared his throat, then started again, “Adalina, I—”
She raised a hand to cover his mouth, cutting off his words. “Don’t.”
He pulled her hand away and held it between them. “I know you’re scared, but not saying it doesn’t make it any less true.”
Ada’s eyes stung. She looked away, trying to ignore the hurt flashing across his face. “I know,” she whispered. “But it feels like it solidifies the prophecy. If that part is true…”
“Then, the rest must be,” Lee finished.
He sat up, pulling her beside him. With an arm wrapped around her, she leaned against his shoulder. Their room was the only place she allowed herself to break down. No one outside the door knew how terrified she was about ending the curse.
Lee echoed her thoughts, “I know you’re scared… You don’t have to do this. We can stop this right now, and I’ll take you home.”
She shook her head, wiping at her face as she sat upright.
“No, Loxley, I’m doing this,” she insisted.
They’d had the argument before, and she wouldn’t give in. He brushed away a tear and kissed her brow. “So stubborn,” he repeated for what felt like the thousandth time since they met three months earlier.
“You know you love it,” she whispered, using his earlier words. He chuckled softly before kissing her again.
Someone knocked on the door, causing Lee to groan. Against Ada’s lips, he said, “I’m going to kill her.”
Ada pulled away chuckling and called out that the door was open. It wasn’t a surprise when Brienne walked in.
“Brienne,” Lee said through clenched teeth, “this better be important.”
She shrugged one shoulder and leaned against the doorframe. “Ren is back.”
“He thinks he found it.”
Ada stood abruptly, tugging Lee up with her. They moved back to the open room beyond where Ren sat at one of the tables surrounded by their crew.
“Captain,” he said as they joined. He nodded his head toward Ada. “Princess.”
She smiled, but Lee held up a hand. “Wait, he’s allowed to call you that without getting yelled at?”
“Seriously? That’s what you’re concerned about right now?” she snapped.
“All right,” Brienne cut Lee off as he opened his mouth, no doubt to argue back. “Stars, shouldn’t you two be getting along by now?” She didn’t let them reply. “Ren, tell them.”
“I was talking with a maid from the castle. She told me that the gardens there are unlike any other. Apparently, the royal family takes great pride in their rare plants.”
Ada had spent every summer at that castle since she was six. For countless days, she’d played among those plants with her brother and Prince Michel. Even Phillip tagged along a few of those years—more so when they were older, and he became a guard. As they grew up, Ada had stopped chasing after the boys, and instead, she began wandering the paths with Michel at her side.
She knew those gardens well, but that didn’t stop the nervous, excited fluttering that filled her stomach at Ren’s next words.
“There’s a rumor that the Heulwen is hidden there among the other flowers.”
Ledgers, books, and piles of papers flooded the large oak desk. For days, Shane and Gwyn had combed through every word in the king’s study and the hidden laboratory beneath the castle. There was nothing about a cure for the Kald anywhere. Frustrated, Shane slammed the last book shut and threw it aside. It’s thud startled Gwyn, but she was used to his outbursts at that point. She needed the cure for her father just as much.
“We’ll figure it out.” She stood to move beside him.
Shane turned in his seat and looked up, shaking his head slowly. “Gwyn, there’s nothing here. We’ve looked through everything.”
She motioned for him to scoot back, and he obliged. Once there was room between him and the desk, she stood fully in front of him. She put a finger under his chin, forcing him to meet her gaze.
“We are going to figure it out,” she told him again. Her fierce tone matched the look she gave him. “Viktor is down in the dungeons now. We’ll get him to work on it.”
“And you’d trust anything he made?” Shane asked with a raised brow. Only a few weeks ago, she’d tortured and stabbed the man, demanding information. He’d told them there wasn’t a cure to the new strain of the Kald infecting their kingdom, and Shane had started to believe him.
“Of course not. That’s why we test it on him first,” she said.
He sighed. “We’re not infecting him.”
“Ada is still out there too,” she continued as if he hadn’t said anything. “She will find the flower, and I’m sure it will work.”
“If it even exists.”
“Like the Nihryst?” She leaned back against the desk. “Stop being so negative. It’s bad for your health.”
He laughed quietly and took both of her hands in his, lacing their fingers together. They’d grown close the past few months, and he hated the distance between them since he was injected. He thought back to those stolen kisses before trying to sneak Michel out of the castle. Before her friend Marley was killed in front of them. There was comfort in having her there with him, but he wanted more. “Do you have any idea how much I wish kissing you wouldn’t infect you?”
She let out a breath. “Shane, you can’t say things like that. You’re betrothed.”
“To a woman who doesn’t love me and lives across the sea.”
“Lady Saundra will be good for you,” Gwyn said. “She will make an excellent queen.”
“If I live long enough to be king,” he muttered.
Before she could respond, the door banged open.
“Shane, do you…” Phillip froze in the middle of the room. “I’m sorry. I should have knocked.”
Gwyn straightened, pulling her hands from Shane as Phillip started to back away. “No, no,” she said, rounding the desk. She walked across the ornate rug, grabbed him by the sleeve, and dragged him to one of the chairs facing Shane. “You stay. I need to go check on my father anyway.”
She sent a wink toward Shane and quickly left, shutting the door behind her. Shane waited for his friend to continue with whatever he’d come in to say, but Phillip just stared at the floor. He toed the carpet with his boot.
“Phillip, is everything all right?”
His friend sat down and finally looked up. “I’m really sorry about that. I’m so used to it just being us, I didn’t think.”
“There’s nothing to apologize for.” Shane began closing books and placing them in neat stacks. “What did you need to ask me?”
“Oh,” Phillip started, “I was going to ask if you want to do the induction at the end of the week.”
While Shane and Gwyn searched high and low for a cure, Phillip had been charged to weed through the guards in the castle. They would move on to the rest of the soldiers next, but it was vital to secure the new king first. Anyone loyal to his father was given the option of leaving the military completely or moving to a position outside the palace walls. With either choice, they would not be on the premises. Most chose to join the navy crews. Detmarya had limited jobs for a royal guard relieved of their duties.
Phillip stepped up to do the work, and Shane couldn’t help but be proud of his friend. “Yes, but I want to hold a ceremony.”
“Good. We’ll get that arranged.” Phillip nodded. “It would provide a way for those remaining to pledge their loyalty to you and the kingdom as well.”
“Agreed. Showing the people we are still a united front is important.” Shane stood and moved around the desk. He leaned back against it, crossing his ankles. “There’s also another reason we need a ceremony.”
“Why?” Phillip’s brow creased. “We cannot have your coronation until the council and heads of the noble families have signed the agreement.”
“I wasn’t talking about for me.” Shane smiled down at his confused friend. “I need a new captain.”
Phillip stared a second longer before his eyes widened. He stood suddenly, his chair almost toppling over behind him. “But I’m not even in the running. I’m not old enough, experienced enough. It should go to—”
“It should go to someone I trust,” Shane interrupted. “Someone I know will do the job well.”
“Shane,” Phillip said. “The older guards are not going to like it. They’re not going to listen to me.”
“They will,” Shane said with confidence. He uncrossed his feet and took a step forward. “You have gone above and beyond for this kingdom. For me. There is no one I trust more.”
Phillip swallowed and pushed a hand through his blond hair. It had grown in the past weeks, and it curled around his ears.
Shane laughed and tugged on a lock. “You need a haircut.”
He walked around Phillip toward the door. Phillip called out for him to stop, and Shane turned, waiting.
“You’re sure about this?”
Shane moved back across the room to put a hand on his oldest friend’s shoulder. “I trust you with my life. I trusted you to find and protect Ada.”
“And I betrayed you both by working with your father,” Phillip whispered, looking down at the carpet.
Shane gripped his chin and tilted his face up. The irony of his earlier position with Gwyn was not lost on him. Phillip was just as stubborn. “He had your family. You know neither of us hold that against you. I know you would never hurt Ada or me. You do whatever it takes to protect the people you love.”
Phillip seemed speechless—something Shane had rarely seen in their two decades of friendship.
“And now, I’m asking you to do that for Detmarya. Be that loyal protector for my people.”
With a deep breath, Phillip stood taller and nodded. “Of course.”
Shane patted his shoulder and then turned once more. At the door, he looked over his shoulder. “Come on. I need a drink after all this.” He didn’t wait for a response. He knew Phillip would follow, just as he had their whole lives.
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