An innocent escapade to gather mistletoe takes a treacherous turn for Princess Silvana and her best friend…
While gathering mistletoe for the upcoming Yule celebrations, Princess Silvana, and her best friend, Lady Adara, are attacked by an unknown assailant…
Silvie is sure no man can ever love her now that she looks beastly. Especially not Keiflan, the dashingly handsome new captain of her royal guard. Her scars are ghastly, and she knows she should discourage him, but he treats her as if her disfigurement doesn't matter.
To Keif, Silvie is the most mesmerizing woman he has ever met. He knows he is playing with fire. She is forbidden fruit, but he can’t bring himself to back away from the princess, even if it means losing his head.
Dara’s tawny eyes glowed with amusement, and her cheeks flushed pink from the chill in the air. “You should have let the stable hands gather the mistletoe.” She brushed a strand of sable hair from her face and offered Silvie her hand.
Silvie took it, rose to her feet, then dusted the snow from her riding leathers. “If I had let them try to gather it, we’d be cooped up in the castle right now. Besides, they wouldn’t have climbed as high and would have brought back sparse bunches. And I’m loving this. You know how much I hate being confined inside.”
Dara scrunched her nose, “I do, too, and it is a glorious morning.” She spread her arms wide, tilted her face to the sun, and slowly turned in a circle. “Remember when we used to make snow fairies?”
“That seems so long ago. When we didn’t have a care in the world,” Silvie said and sighed wistfully. She dropped to the ground on a large patch of snow with a peal of laughter and began scissoring her arms and legs just as she had done when she was a child.
Dara snorted and fell to the snow with a soft thud as she followed Silvana’s example. “I can’t believe I’m participating in this sill—” Her words ended in a gurgling sound.
What is Dara doing? Eating snow? Silvie wondered and was about to turn at the same time something hard hit her forehead. She felt wetness across her cheeks. Ice from the branches, maybe?
“Dara?” Silvie sat up and closed her eyes, using the back of her hand to wipe her face. She encountered a sticky substance that felt more like syrup than water from melting ice.
She blew warm breath on her freezing cold fingers, but as her lips touched her hand, the coppery taste of blood settled on her tongue. Her eyelids popped open, and she held her hand up, seeing the blood on the tips of her fingers.
“Dara?” she yelled but got no answer. “I think some ice cut my forehead, and I’m bleeding. Dara?” she called again, scanning the area behind her.
Her friend’s body lay on the ground not far from her. The pure whiteness of the snow beneath her painted a deep crimson. Blood seeped out steadily from a wound in her chest, and her eyes stared sightlessly up at the trees.
Silvie let out a blood-curdling scream, then another. She tried to scramble to her feet to go to her friend but only made it to her knees when a man dressed in black leather, a hooded cloak covering his face, lunged at her. Glowing red eyes glared at her as he lashed out with a sword, slashing her face. The searing white-hot pain made her eyes water, and tears rolled down her cheeks. He stabbed at her again. The point of his sword nicked a rib painfully before digging into her abdomen.
She had no defense against the attack. She’d left her sword in its leather sheath attached to her saddle, and her Fae magic wasn’t yet strong enough to use to defend herself. Gods, please. Help me.
Silvie knew she was losing too much blood. Her stomach began to roil, and a clammy chill settled over her skin. Gritting her teeth to keep them from chattering, she dropped to the ground. She kicked at her attacker while trying to crawl away on the slippery snow to get to her horse and her sword, but he was too quick. The man snatched her by the foot, dragging her closer, and continued to stab and slash at her. She tried to ward off the blows with her hands to protect her face, only to feel the blade hacking at her fingers. She let out another piercing scream, but it faded too quickly, her voice weak and hoarse from her pleas for him to stop.
As suddenly as her attacker had appeared, he disappeared. The forest had swallowed him as if he were a specter.
Silvie tried to get up, but she couldn’t move, her body so damaged she could feel the chilly fingers of death gripping her soul. The only sounds breaking the silence of the forest were the rattling of her breath and a disjointed prayer that fell from her trembling lips. She wasn’t going to make it. She knew that without a doubt. The blade had pierced her body repeatedly, damaging internal organs and puncturing her lung. Her mouth filled with blood. Each time she tried to take a wheezing breath, more seeped steadily into her mouth, causing her to cough and choke.
“I’m…so…sorry, Father,” she whispered before darkness overtook her. She felt herself falling, tumbling, faster and faster, into the deepest abyss…