Excerpt from The Servant Prince
“Prince Joron.” Kinnabe ran down the hallway toward Prince Joron’s chambers. He burst into the receiving room frantically looking for him, but the room was empty. “Prince Joron,” he called again.
“Yes?” Joron said groggily as he came out from his bedroom. He had put on a robe to cover his nakedness but had failed to tie it shut.
Kinnabe averted his eyes, amused. The prince had no idea of his beauty or how it affected those around him, both women and men. Small and petite, he had creamy white, perfect skin. His hair was shoulder length, silky and dark brown. He usually wore it loosely tied back but this morning, it hung tangled around his face. That only heightened his allure, like he was fresh from his bed, which he was. His face was sweet with large, beautiful green eyes, a perfect nose, and full, kissable lips. He stumbled to a chair in front of the fireplace, finally pulling his robe tight around him from the chill in the air and not from sudden modesty.
“I’m sorry, my prince, I know you only went to bed a couple of hours ago, but the king is meeting with a commoner, Hawklin Tuso of Ghost Pines Parrish, from the other side of Ice Dragon Pass. His daughter is gravely ill and in need of medicine that is only produced here in the Royal Infirmary. Hawklin tried to make it for the official assemblies three days ago but was delayed. The king is meeting with him outside those usual meetings because he came all this way.”
Joron widened his eyes in surprise. Like Joron, Kinnabe was well aware of the oddity that King Oxys, Joron’s father, would take time away from his customary activities to actually meet with one of his people in need, especially now he himself had become sick. “Really? When?”
“I believe they are in chambers right now, my prince.”
“Damn. Hurry. Help me dress. I need to be there to make sure…”
He ran into his bedroom with Kinnabe shadowing him. Kinnabe shoved his own dark, unruly hair back from his eyes as he followed the prince into the bedchambers. Standing behind Joron, Kinnabe towered over him, but then most men did—and even some women. The prince’s small stature inspired protectiveness in others. At times, his compassionate nature made that protectiveness necessary. Kinnabe smiled fondly at the back of Joron’s head, his eyes wandering down to the beautiful neck hidden by that silky hair. How he loved the prince’s soft skin. He had touched the prince enough in his years of personal service to know firsthand how soft it was.
* * * *
Kinnabe and Joron raced down the hall to the back of the meeting room. Joron had been hidden, secretly listening, three days ago when the official assemblies took place. He had then spent those three days and all last night fixing what the king refused to. He and the castle servants had put together many bundles of fresh vegetables and meats and he delivered them to six needy families in two villages. He brought medicine and medical supplies to four families in another two. He was also able to find some old farming equipment he then gave to a farmer, one who supplied food for a good many families, and deemed that deed as his last duty before dragging himself through the servants’ entrance, up to his room, and collapsing into his bed.
And now another villager was in dire need.
The servants had already been in the hall and set it up for him. He would be unnoticed as he slipped into the chair that had been left there. He could make out the words as Hawklin pleaded with the king.
“Please, your majesty, I was told this medicine would cure her.”
“But you cannot pay for it. That is the problem.”
“I’ll work it off. I’ll do anything. I can come to the castle…”
“I need no help here,” the king huffed.
Joron, although he could not see him, thought his father sounded different, strained, almost as if it were an effort to talk.
“Do not be so insolent as to assume that I will give you a position here just because you are in need. You are obviously lazy and refuse to provide for your family.”
“Sire!” Hawklin’s tone was shocked.
“Be gone. If you have no way to pay for what you want then I have wasted my time with you.” There was no talking for a moment, a sudden coughing spasm coming over the king. When it passed, he spoke again. “Unless…”
“S-sire?” Hope sounded in Hawklin’s voice.
“You have another daughter, do you not? An older one?”
“Yes. Her…her name is Naka, Naka Tuso. She is engaged to be married, sire.”
“Yes, Naka. I have seen her… If you are willing to send Naka to the castle, I am sure I can find many positions for her.”
Again, Joron could not see it, but guessed the king wore an evil smile. Joron closed his eyes in disgust and shame. Now it made sense why the king had allowed for this “extra” meeting to take place. Sick or not, his father’s sexual appetite continued to rage. Hawklin was now most likely battling with himself, trying desperately to believe the king meant a job and not what he knew to be the truth. Still, the man’s words were odd to Joron when he spoke.
“Your majesty…are you…”
There were sounds of gasps, movement and murmurings, then silence. Joron sighed as the silence continued, wondering why, when Kinnabe touched his shoulder from behind. Joron turned around and saw Kinnabe motioning for him to follow. He rose quickly and walked out of the room into the hallway.
“What happened?” he whispered.
“The king… He swooned…passed out and…and was carried from the room.”
“He passed out? What about Hawklin? How will he be granted the medicine now?” Joron shook his head in disbelief, then closed his eyes in guilt. His first thought should have been for his father and his illness. The king’s collapsing while sitting on the throne was new, which meant he was obviously much worse.
Blurb from The Servant King:
King Aric of Claymoor Doom should have known things were going far too well. He had Joron safely hidden away, Diagus, although a continuing threat to Joron, had left the castle empty handed, and the Cetin Gang was headed for his dungeons. But when Aric returned to the castle, Cetin gang in tow, he finds Joron has been brilliantly kidnapped by Diagus and now Aric must ride immediately to rescue him. Exhausted, as are his troops, he still heads out. There isn’t a moment to lose.
Because Aric will need to save Joron from more than just his brother’s sick hands. Aric brought with him the letter from Diagus’s dead father. A letter that seemed nonsensical at first but now points a finger at Diagus’s mother as a murderer. With Joron back behind Blade Rain castle walls, Aric is convinced he will be next and he is desperate to get to Joron before that happens.
But there are more pit falls lurking in the shadows. It turns out, Joron is the true king of Blade Rain and Aric’s long dead wife has suddenly and miraculously returned to claim Aric as her own. How can Aric and Joron be together now? Can there possibly be a happy ending?
The sound of the clashing swords was deafening in the narrow alley as King Aric continued to gain on his opponent. He jabbed and dodged, slashed and defended. The leader of the notorious Cetin gang was no match for Aric, and the arrogant asshole finally understood it, as he fell farther back; the look on his face was one of imminent defeat. A final, sudden charge from the king had the Cetin leader's sword out of his hand and clattering to the ground out of reach. Then Aric had his own blade up against the man's throat, the man up against a brick wall.
"Are you done?" Aric ground through his teeth, breathing hard into the other man's face.
The Cetin leader, also breathing heavily, laughed. "What? You're not going to kill me?"
"I should. You killed my comrade and good friend and for nothing more than a couple pieces of silver. Why should you live?"
"Then do it. Slit my throat!"
For a moment Aric held his place, pushing the Cetin leader to the wall. Slowly he smiled. "No. I have a better idea. I think instead you can rot in my dungeons." He pulled off the man and sheathed his sword. "I don't feel like dirtying my sword on your filthy blood."
Besides, it was time to go back.
The ride to Eden Downs, the finding and rounding up of the gang, and now facing the trip back, was taking a whole lot longer than King Aric expected it to. But he couldn't believe his luck in being able to finally put the gang behind the thick, solid doors of his dungeon. He shackled the leader's leg himself, taking great pleasure in seeing the fear written on the captive's face.
And not only was no one killed, no one was even injured.
But now, facing the ride back, the euphoria he had felt when he first learned of the gang's proximity had turned into pure and utter exhaustion.
He reveled in the reason for his fitigue. It was due to his long sessions of lovemaking to a young prince who blew all reason and will out the window, not to mention self-control. He couldn't wait to be back beside that warm body and sink his tongue into any and all openings. He shivered imagining it—the way Joron felt, the way he tasted, all of it. The young man was magic, simply magic, and Joron was his.
And now he had the notorious Cetin gang in his clutches too. Life simply didn't get any better than this.
But suddenly a dark cloud overtook his musings as he remembered Diagus' intent. How dare the idiot waltz up to Claymoor Doom's front gates with his pathetic little army and demand Joron be returned to him? Fortunately, from the reports he received right before he left in pursuit of the Cetins, he had been told the new Blade Rain king had left the castle alone. He still shuddered to think Diagus had fully intended to take Joron away from him.
It was true, however, only the king had the right to barter the freedom of any of his royals. It was one unwritten law that was a known fact among the royal houses. It kept order when lust for power and lands would bring chaos. But it had to do with wealth and status too. It wouldn't have been a big deal if riches had been what the Amar bastard was after. Aric could play to that tune any day, all day. But King Amar wanted Joron. He also made it clear it wasn't over. But it didn't matter. He would protect Joron now, with his very life. No one would take Joron from him. No one. Not even the spoiled brat Amar.
Aric wished, though, he had made sure Joron received a message he would be gone for a day plus, but time had not permitted it. When he was told the Cetin Gang was in Eden Downs, he had to run. He sent instructions to give Joron anything he wanted, insisting he had to stay in the private quarters of the castle. The doors to that part of the castle were to remain locked and guarded and no one—absolutely no one—was allowed in, and Joron was most definitely not allowed out. He was sure his orders were followed, but suddenly there was a vague feeling of doubt, as if he was double crossed somehow. He thought back and realized he did have nearly everyone, if not all, of his most trusted men with him. He was not going to rob them of this incredible moment of capturing the Cetin gang, just as he himself had wanted to be present. But how could that matter? His servants were his servants. They would follow his orders.
Why did he doubt it suddenly? Could it be everyone who even knew those orders was with him on this journey?
He was very glad he was within a couple hours ride now of the castle. He had to admit the last couple of days had been strange. It had started with his nightmare of that night, the night his wife had died. Seeing Abydell once again throwing her ring at him and racing out into the storm, remembering yet again that scream as she plummeted to her sure death off the high cliffs of Norferry Mire and into the ocean. The dream left him weak and breathless. Then the very new King Amar's disturbing visit, confirming his lust for his own brother and his intent on taking his brother back... Aric had learned directly from Joron of not only his brother's sick obsession but also of the pending intent on Joron's very life, having had the ownership of the Ice Dragon Pass given to him by decree of his father, the dead king. Only Joron's death would reverse that act. Aric was not surprised Joron was sought out to be brought back. But the speed in which the new king moved to do it was disconcerting. Then the sudden sighting and capture of this elusive gang, something that in the past he had never been able to do... Things had been odd, off somehow.
Yes, the uneasiness had settled into his bones. Another point of contention: Diagus' surrender. He simply gave up too easily, left too fast. For the first time, Aric thought about this slowly. Could it have been planned? Why? What good would that have done? Except… except to put Aric off guard. For what purpose? Amar left, and he left alone. He had been assured of it. So what purpose would it serve to put him off guard?
Again he considered the nearly too easy capture of the Cetin gang. Never had he been able to even get close to them before. Usually by time he received word of where they were and they were able to arrive to that location, the gang was long gone. Time and time again, they had either just missed them or were actually days behind. This time was completely different. It was as if word reached the castle about the same time the gang reached Eden Downs. Was that possible?
No. It wasn't.
It had been too easy. Of course. That bastard, Diagus, set this up. Aric wasn't sure how it was done, how Diagus even knew about the gang or could move them into a position like this, and it might even be crazy to think it, but Aric was certain now that had been the plan all along. But Diagus left alone. He knew that. Then why? He kicked his horse into a gallop. The poor animal had been pushed far too hard yesterday and today, but he knew his war steed could take the punishment. He had to hurry back to the castle. He had to see for himself Joron was there, perfect and well. He feared it would not be the case.