Cover & Excerpt Reveal
Chronicles of Estoria Book Two
As a child, Lady Elsabeth Durnfir dreamed of marrying a prince, but after seeing her elder sister’s personality make a complete 180 degree turn after her engagement to Crown Prince Henry of Estoria is announced, Elsabeth has traded in her childish hopes of a fairytale wedding for the equally unlikely hope of inheriting Durnfir Manor and the surrounding land.
Life at court is not something she is interested in, or good at, but in order to help prepare for her sister Alicia’s wedding, Elsabeth must live at court for an entire year. As well as trying to fit in at court while living up to her sister’s reputation, Elsabeth has a secret to keep. But, court is full of secrets that are all about to come to light.
How will Elsabeth survive court without destroying her family’s reputation—and how can she get Prince Frederick, the renowned rake, to stop teasing her?
Genre: Fantasy RomancePurchase links: Amazon ARe Smashwords Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Historical, Mystery
Release Date: September 4, 2014
Publisher: Hartwood Publishing Group
Excerpt & More
Frederick looked at the two sisters and then back at the embroidery before him. I’m not sure what it is, but something about this is making those girls nervous. He sat back on the settle, letting the conversation flow around him while he puzzled out what could possibly have upset the women. Before he could work it out, though, it was time for dinner. Princess Georgiana had already disappeared, as was her habit. She couldn’t stand being around people for too long and needed time alone before big events like meals. King George was escorting Lady Alicia, and Prince Henry was bowing to the young Lady Elsabeth. Quickly, without even realizing he was doing it, Prince Frederick leaped between them.
“If you don’t mind, brother, I would like the privilege of escorting the lovely Lady Elsabeth. She called my escorting abilities into question earlier, and I’m afraid I feel the need to defend my honor.” Prince Henry looked surprised but nodded his head in acquiescence, laughing quietly.
“Oh really, Frederick! Don’t tease the young girl so!” scolded Queen Charlotte as she slid her arm through Prince Henry’s. Elsabeth looked absolutely horrified as she stood there with her gaze flicking nervously to the door through which Alicia had already left. With a grin, Henry gently led the queen toward the dining hall, leaving Frederick and Elsabeth alone again. She was practically vibrating with nerves, chewing on her bottom lip and rubbing her hands. Hands, which he noticed, seemed red. The tell-tale pricks let him know she obviously had the same interest in embroidery as her sister. He coughed and stepped closer to her. Her gaze was focused straight ahead and her lips quivered. If she hadn’t seemed in the throes of a fit of the vapors, he would have found it adorable.
“Come now, are you doubting my ability again?” joked the prince, feeling suddenly as if this had been a bad idea. He’d only intended to do a bit of flirting, but this little maiden seemed terrified. Perhaps his reputation had preceded him. Again.
“No! I just… I never… Oh, gosh—” She hid her face in her hands. “Lissy’s gonna be sooo mad at me!” Frederick grinned and reached out, taking her hands in his, gently pulling them away from her face. This young woman never reacted quite the way he expected her to. Fascinating.
“Not least of all because you called her Lissy again.” He laughed as a blush spread across her cheeks and her mouth dropped open in an O of shock. “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.” With that, he tucked her arm under his and led the way to the dining hall.
The hall was always one of his favorite rooms of the castle, big enough to seat the entire city of Jareen and lined with long wooden tables and benches that were fit to burst with lords and ladies. The raised dais at one end of the hall held the high table, where the royal family sat. The farther away from the high table the benches got, the more common the people around it. It was his habit to sneak away from the high table and join the soldiers and the rougher knights at the outermost tables to drink and jest without fear of his strict sister’s judgment. Georgiana would never brave the rabble to voice her disapproval. Besides, she usually snuck off too, although in her case it was to withdraw to her private chambers.
The high table had never been so full. The king and queen sat in the center, as always, with Georgiana on the queen’s left and Henry on the king’s right. However, Alicia was in Frederick’s normal place at Henry’s side, leaving Frederick no choice but to sit between Elsabeth and Georgiana, not willing to subject one as innocent as Elsabeth to Georgiana’s stern gaze of disapproval.
Food was served within moments of him sitting down; the kitchen had pulled out all the stops tonight. Frederick watched as his plate became laden with thick cuts of roast beef; golden, crispy potatoes, and thick gravy. The servants knew his habits well, giving him only the smallest helping of greens but loading him with still-warm rolls of bread and the thickest of the beef slices they had.
Not long after Frederick demolished his first roll, the king called for a toast to the happy couple. This was a precedent that would set the theme for the evening, for every few minutes there was yet another toast. Frederick sipped at his wine, sometimes only pretending to drink, knowing the evening meal was going to be long the toasts were not likely to stop, and he hadn’t quite recovered his head from the night before. However, after the fourth or fifth toast, he noticed Elsabeth swaying a little in her chair as a servant dashed forward to refill her wine goblet. The flush in her cheeks confirmed his suspicions as another lord stood to toast the couple. The prince leaned in to Elsabeth and whispered in her ear. “Pace yourself, sip the wine or simply pretend to drink. If you get too drunk, you’ll fall out of your chair, and then what would Lissy say?”
Elsabeth hiccupped, her big blue eyes staring at him from under her dark, long lashes. Seeming to have to concentrate on her motions, she nodded and put the cup down, glaring at it suspiciously. A smile tugged at the prince’s lips as he watched her frowning at her cup as though the cup itself were to blame for her inebriation.
Georgiana leaned past Frederick to glower at the young woman. “Is she drunk?” she hissed, eyebrows knitted tightly with judgment. Frederick felt that same knot in his stomach that he had felt earlier when Elsabeth had floundered under the queen’s questioning. It was almost a protective feeling, which didn’t make sense, as he didn’t know her at all. Besides, I never go after innocents—I only ever pursue women who understand that I’m not promising anything.
Nonetheless, he turned in his chair and rested his chin on his hand, careful to position his elbow quite obviously on the table, blocking Georgiana’s view. His distraction worked. “Get your elbow off of the table at once! Are you a heathen?” Georgiana’s whisper could cleave wood, the tone was so sharp. With a flash, she hit Frederick’s elbow with the bottom of her fork, causing him to curse and rub at the offending body part.
“Jeez, Georgiana. Is there really a need to turn to violence?”
“It’s all you men seem to understand.” She sniffed and turned away, focusing on her own meal once more.
New to the castle, the servants played it safe by putting a little of everything on Elsabeth’s plate. But, Frederick noticed her request second helpings of everything except the gravy. If the way she gazed longingly at the steaming tureen was anything to go by, he suspected her refusal of the gravy was in accordance with her wish to lessen the chance of spilling on herself.
Frederick sighed and sat back in his chair, watching Elsabeth play with the food on her plate. He felt himself smiling again as he watched her keep dropping her potatoes, her coordination suffering greatly from the amount of alcohol she consumed. There was something endearing about her, but it’s not like he could bed his future sister-in-law to get her out of his system.
“Will you tell me something?” he asked, leaning forward to take her fork from her slack grip. She pouted at him, following the fork with her gaze.
“Sure,” she mumbled, watching as he speared a golden potato and waved it tauntingly before her.
“Why were you so floundered by my mother’s question? Surely there are things you enjoy doing?”
“Of course,” sighed Elsabeth, gaze still focused on the potato he held out. “But I promised Alicia I wouldn’t tell about the embroidery and nothing else I do is very ladylike.”
“What do you mean by ‘not very ladylike’?” He fed her the potato and speared another.
“Well, I teach the village children to read, and in return they teach me dancing. Alicia says I shouldn’t dance like a commoner. I like to walk through the gardens while the dew is fresh, but it ruins my dresses. I don’t much care for fashion, but I like sewing.” She opened her mouth patiently, expecting a reward for her answer. He obliged, holding out the second potato. Spearing a third, he twirled it while he contemplated his next question.
“Why can’t you tell anyone about your embroidery? That’s a very ladylike hobby. You must have seen how much my mother enjoyed the piece Lady Alicia made.”
Elsabeth shook her head and wobbled slightly in the chair. “I have a secret. Lissy made me promise.”
“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” he whispered, leaning closer and teasing her with the potato, touching it to her lips and pulling it away before she could bite. A swipe of her tongue across her lips almost made him forget why he was trying to get information.
With a moan, Elsabeth nodded. “Okay, but you can’t tell anyone! Lissy can’t sew at all, so I can’t tell anyone that I can, or they might notice that my work is identical to the work that Lissy claimed as her own.” With a triumphant grin, she leaned forward and snatched the bite of potato, chewing happily.
Frederick sat back in his chair, watching Elsabeth as she reclaimed her fork and enthusiastically attacked her vegetables. Why would Alicia lie about that? It’s not as though Henry would care if she were able to sew or not. Yet she made her sister promise to keep it a secret? Frederick didn’t think Elsabeth was lying, but it gave him something to think about. He knew how the court worked, a skill with embroidery got you close to the queen—could Alicia have planned it all in order to get herself close to Henry? He shook his head clear of such thoughts. Henry is cautious, and Georgiana is like a hawk. There’s no way anyone would be able to trick their way into the royal family.
He focused on Elsabeth once more, smiling as he watched her eating with such exuberance. She seemed completely at ease, now that her inhibitions had melted away. It was hard not to laugh at her disastrous attempts to feed herself, her coordination having suffered greatly, but he didn’t think he could feed her again. Not if she was going to moan in pleasure with every bite.
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