Heart beating rapidly in her chest, pounding in her ears, Shanna cast the letter into the fireplace, braided back her hair, and firmly knotted her robe. Then informed her bodyguards she was going alone for a walk in the garden. One of them would shadow her anyway, but he’d keep his distance, and she would be able to speak privately with Kallaar.
She had an ally. A real, true ally—and somebody she already knew and trusted, despite the deception all these years. Part of her still wanted to be angry they had lied, but Kallaar was right: if they’d told her the truth, then it could have been found out by someone else.
On the other hand, it was also disappointing, far more disappointing than she liked admitting, that Kallaar was only pretending to be a suitor to actively help her. It had been much easier to deal with him as a mischievous, flirtatious merchant who would always be at a distance. She’d spun fanciful thoughts here and there, safe in the knowledge they’d never be reality.
But Kallaar was a prince, which meant so many impossible things were in fact possible…except that Kallaar was only here under orders, here to keep a promise. Had he meant any of his flirtations, or were they just one more part of his guise?
Oh, it didn’t matter. She had to marry to help her kingdom, to stop Mercen before all his years of plotting finally came to fruition. No good would come of letting a harmless infatuation spin out of control because Kallaar was more than he’d seemed.
Because Kallaar and Ahmla were more than they seemed, but that was a path she absolutely was not going down. There was hopeless and then there was hopeless, and Shanna did not enjoy making herself miserable.
She’d just settled on a bench by the little water fountain and fish pond when she heard footsteps. Her heart kicked up another notch, and Shanna clenched her fingers in her lap to keep from reaching fretfully for the collar of her robe.
Kallaar came around the corner and stopped short as he saw her, surprise overtaking his face. “My apologies, Your Highness. I was too restless to sleep, but I did not mean to intrude. The guards said I might walk about, though the gardens are usually restricted.”
“Suitors are permitted some privileges, including access to the royal gardens,” Shanna replied. “Please, come and converse with me, and maybe we’ll cure one another’s restlessness.”
Smiling, he approached as bid, but sat on the grass a few paces away instead of beside her. “You have a beautiful home, Highness. I’ve always enjoyed my visits here, with the mountains, the much-cooler air, so many lakes and rivers, all the flowers and plants so different from those back home.”
“Thank you.” Shanna smiled. “I always wondered how a peddler came to speak such excellent Remnien, when all the others I know usually have much heavier accents or pick up the dialect of where they first learned it, and yours is very schoolroom neutral.”
Kallaar laughed. “I always worried that would give me away. My eldest sister is much more skilled with languages. My father is quite stringent about his children knowing multiple languages. I speak three in addition to my own. Between my five siblings and I, we speak about twenty-one different languages. I admit it’s been a useful skill, but I’ve never admitted that to my father because it would make him smug.” His smile widened when Shanna laughed. “I hope my gift was not rude or considered some form of cheat.”
“That is for me to decide, and I find it acceptable,” Shanna said. “Where is Ahmla?”
“I made him go to bed. He does not sleep well when we travel, and I can protect myself in an empty garden—generally speaking, anyway.” He winked. “Mostly I’m so much smaller than my attackers, I can slip through them and run, and having grown up the second youngest in a large family, I am very good at running away from people bigger than me.”
Shanna laughed again. “Somehow, that does not surprise me.” She gave a slight shake of her head. “I still cannot believe the bratty little trader who’s always flirted with me is a prince come to help me under pretense of courtship.” Her levity died abruptly. “Which reminds me—my stepfather wasn’t pleased when you were presented. He reprimanded me more than once to stop wasting so much time flirting with a vulgar, foreign peddler. I think he must have made certain you were what you claimed, so your deception was a good one, but now he knows you lied all these years, and probably thinks we’ve slipped some scheme past him. At the very least, he is angry about being tricked, so have extra care for yourself. Maybe you should have brought Ahmla with you.”
“We’ll be safe enough for now, if only because of how suspicious it would look if anything were to happen to any of your suitors.”
“True.” Shanna wasn’t terribly convinced.
Shanna has spent her whole life waiting—waiting to be old enough, waiting for the day she must pick a consort, waiting for a chance to finally overcome her despicable stepfather… and waiting for someone to finally banish the loneliness that comes with being a queen-in-waiting one step away from being murdered.
On the eve of the two-week event during which she must pick a consort from a bevy of suitors, two strangers arrive claiming to have been invited—though she knows full well they did not receive any such invitation. But the handsome, mischievous Prince Kallaar is too intriguing to resist, and his quiet bodyguard too compelling to ignore…
But she’s learned the hard way never to let anyone get too close, and on the verge of gaining true independence her stepfather will stop at nothing to see she never gets it.
NineStar Press: https://ninestarpress.com/product/waiting-for-you/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B071HTV5XT
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2rJ6Mj1
Meet the Author
Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.
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