When one path closes, another opens--if they survive the journey.
The Fey Realm, Book 2
Embor Fiertag, Primary of the Court, has overcome no tougher challenge than the three facing him right now: get reelected, capture the rogue agents who tried to murder him, and improve his love life. The third one should be easy--except he hasn't exactly told Court trainee Anisette Serendipity she's his foretold bondmate. Plus, she's dating his chief political rival and doesn't seem to like Embor. At. All.
Ani has good reason to avoid the stern, serious Embor. Her wayward sister almost got him killed once, and now he monitors Ani like he expects her to do worse. But Ani's not the adventurous type. She can't even break up with Warran Torval, a man she knows she doesn't want, a man who spends half his time plotting Embor's downfall.
When Torval attempts to force a bond with Ani, Embor senses her fear and steps in...directly into an unsavory political strategy gone all too right. Forced to flee together to humanspace with a manipulative magical cat, Embor and Ani must find the courage to reveal--and heal--their vulnerabilities before the fabric between the Fey Realm and humanspace is ripped to shreds.
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February 08, 2011
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Excerpt from One Thousand Kisses by Jody Wallace
The child stretched out her arms to be picked up. Dirt encrusted what seemed to be every inch of her skin. Embor Fiertag, Primary of the Elder Court of the Realm, clasped his hands behind his back and regarded the child with suspicion.
"Why are you unsupervised?" he asked the girl.
"Up!" she insisted. Sunlight glinted off her coppery hair. He thought her name might be Petunia of Clan Serendipity, but it could also be Violet. It was definitely not Charles, the third Serendipity triplet.
He also thought if he obliged her, he'd soil his white exercise tunic beyond redemption. Where had the toddler found so much mud in the palace gardens? Her top and short pants were almost as soiled as her skin.
"Up, up, up!" she shrieked, her tiny voice increasing in volume. She flung herself against his legs and gripped. Her grubby toes kicked his ankles.
Because his path in life had led straight to Court, Embor hadn't been around little ones much since he'd been a child. He hefted the girl under her arms, holding her away from his clothing. She was so small it was hardly a strain.
"Fly?" she asked, batting her eyelashes.
"Flying is dangerous."
"Stop screaming." If she continued to make noise, her cries might attract her mother, and he had no wish to encounter Princess Talista. After she'd nearly gotten him killed in humanspace, he'd avoided her as much as possible. His recent dealings with her husband were more than enough exposure to the mouthy termagant.
Her twin Anisette, on the other hand, Embor hadn't avoided. In fact, he'd scheduled his exercise this morning because it intersected with her routine. She often walked in the palace gardens in the morning when it was cooler.
Despite relocating twice during his exertions, he'd seen no sign of Anisette--only this child, unsupervised by a responsible adult. That didn't rule out her mother's presence, since he didn't consider Talista to be particularly responsible.
The child regarded him with unblinking blue eyes. "No flying?"
"Where is your mother?"
"I ran away," the child confided.
"That's not a good reason."
She laughed. "Fly!"
Embor lowered her to the ground, but she wailed and kicked, her feet dangerously close to his privates. He sighed. Obviously he wasn't going to be able to put her down until he found her caretaker. He'd have a strong word with whoever had allowed her free rein in the gardens. The grounds were protected by magic, but children could come to harm anyway, or so he understood. There were several fish ponds on the premises, as well as a maze and an extensive orchard.
The girl squirmed, so he placed her on his hip. Her body was hotter and wetter than expected. Perhaps she'd found a pond already. She grabbed his queue of hair and yanked, jerking his head to the side.
The child seemed unusually strong for her age, which he believed to be three. He removed her hand from his hair. She laughed and stuck a finger in his mouth.
"Stop that," he ordered. She crammed her fingers between his lips, and the flavor of dirt and something salty flooded his mouth.
A moving object crashed into the tall privacy hedge that enclosed the exercise area. Embor tensed as the bushes trembled. Assassination attempts weren't unheard of, and Embor had become increasingly unpopular in the past five years.
More inside the Court than out of it, but most coups sprang from the inside.
He gathered magic to transport himself and the child to safety, perturbed it wasn't instantaneous.
"Violet?" called a feminine voice, an edge of panic evident. "Where are you, kitten?"
Not an assassin. Not the tot's mother.
"She's here," he said.
Anisette's slim form squeezed between two bushes. A yellow gown, stains on the skirt and bodice, shimmered around her like a butterfly. Her dark red hair had partially escaped an upsweep, and a twig pronged out of the top.
The day had grown hot. Embor's mouth dried like the desert in Xerode. It reduced the terrible taste of Violet's fingers.
"By the spirits! That little monkey is going to run me ragged. Thank you for... Oh. It's you." Anisette curtseyed and added, "Elder Embor."
"Fair met, Princess Anisette." He inclined his head.
From the time she'd arrived at Court, Anisette had been gracious, studious and led into temptation by two things alone--her sibling's antics and the eligibles at Court who hoped to discover that rarest of relationships--a bondmate. Her high status meant she was pursued by many. She'd even countenanced that slimy bastard from Clan Torval.
Embor wasn't a monster. He was in his fertility phase. He'd been told he wasn't unattractive. He was the Primary, for Ka's sake. Yet Anisette was friendly to everyone but him.
Apparently her niece shared her unfathomable sentiments. The child's gaze fell upon Anisette, and her small body, which had been resting comfortably against him, stiffened.
"Ani!" Violet howled, bursting into tears. She began to struggle in Embor's arms as if he'd pinched her.
He set her down.
"Come here, honey." Anisette opened her arms, casting Embor a sharp glance. The child flung herself into the princess's embrace. "What did you do?"
Her response took him aback. Few in the Realm were foolhardy enough to rebuke the Primary of the Elder Court. Not only was he one of the most magically gifted fairies alive, but his political power was second to none. Her eyes narrowed as she inspected him in a way that reminded him of his twin and fellow Primary, Skythia.
"Nothing." He stifled the urge to question her skills as a caretaker. He'd made an effort this year to be less exacting with her in hopes she'd grow comfortable with him. In hopes she'd treat him the way she treated others.
His strategy had not succeeded. Yet. Hence his new tactic, crossing paths in a casual setting.
Anisette glared at him over the child's red curls. "You must have done something. She's a baby, Elder, not a Court trainee."
He considered what the child might have found upsetting. "I refused to fly her."
"You can't fly anyway." She examined Violet's face and body, as if searching for evidence of Embor's cruelty.
"I can remain aloft temporarily." Something stung inside him, in the area of his heart. It wounded him that she thought he'd hurt a child.
"That's all you did, refuse to levitate?"
"That's all. Violet is unharmed." He flicked dirt off his long-sleeved tunic. "I can't say the same for my clothing."
She ignored him, cooing to Violet, "Did the mean man scare you?"