Authors: Melissa Wright
The Frey Saga:
Copyright 2012 by Melissa Wright
Copyright 2012 by Melissa Wright
Amazon Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Small lines of text curled deliciously around the page, leading through a decadent city, a torturous romance, a wicked betrayal. Molly’s hand traced the intricate pattern of runes that interlaced and surrounded the illustration of the temptress, Floret Shade, and she became distracted from her reading, smiling as she studied the long golden hair that seemed to float on the wind and mingle with the folds of her gown. Such a rich gown, beaded in an impossibly complex design that one would likely never even notice, considering how the bodice, cinched unfeasibly tight, presented her bosom. And, as if the display were not enough, the pale skin was dappled with droplets of jewels that glistened in the twilight, ensuring her prey would be ensnared. But, despite that abundance, the rest of her was thin, excruciatingly beautiful, and petite. Bare feet drifted over the ground, unbearably tiny and ethereal. But not fragile, not weak. Molly sighed as she rolled over, hopelessly yearning for that sort of strength and beauty.
She felt the cool grass beneath her skin and became aware once more of the passage of time. It was nearing dark and if she didn’t return quickly, her father would skin her. She tucked the book into her satchel and hiked up her skirt to run through the tall grass.
His sharp tone cut through her daydreams of fairies and she froze, forgetting for a good half minute to drop her skirt back down. He stared at her furiously.
“Father.” She struggled for a moment, deciding whether to come up with some sort of explanation. But she couldn’t know if he was angry about the late hour or something else she’d done (or forgotten to do). She settled on a brief, “Hi,” and a smile.
It was the wrong choice.
He grabbed her arm to haul her back toward the village, chastising her the entire way about wasting time on foolish tales of fairies and magic when there was work to be done. She hoped he didn’t see her roll her eyes, but after a few more steps, her temper got the best of her. She jerked her arm free and glared at him. “I am certain you don’t intend to let the neighbors see you treat me this way,” she spat as she straightened her arms flat against her sides and stomped the remainder of the way back.
He followed her at a brisk pace and shut the door firmly behind them before starting up again. “Molly, a young woman cannot be traipsing around the forest as you do.” She stared blankly at him, wondering how much longer the scolding would carry on. “You have to see, a lady must protect her virtue.” She snickered; her virtue had been lost long ago, when she was but six and ten, to handsome John Black under the shade of the heart tree. The apparent lightheartedness on the subject of her virtue infuriated her father.
“Molly, it is time to choose a husband.”
She bit down hard against the words that would come and he saw her defiance.
The insult stung and she stewed for a long while after he left her alone in the cabin. And then, eventually, she began to prepare their dinner and her mind wandered from the resentment she felt to consider the various options available to her. Joseph Black, John’s older brother, was a farmer and she could imagine herself only too quickly in a muck smeared apron, carrying slop to the pigs or on her hands and knees tending the crops. Or James Black, their cousin, who’d earned his living hunting and trapping. Would he expect her to skin and tan hides? She’d missed her chance with John, he’d long since married another as he seemed unable to forgive her for kissing one of the Baker boys. She couldn’t even consider the preacher, who’d made his interest in her quite plain, without giggling. No, she couldn’t see herself with any of them. And that was how she'd ended up without a husband so late in her years. She wanted more.
When her father returned late, he seemed in unusually high spirits (especially considering Molly had allowed his dinner to get cold). As he sat at the table, she eyed him suspiciously from her chair in the corner of the room. She would have dismissed herself to her room but she was in the middle of the tale of Bonnie Bell and, no matter how often she’d read it, the story made her skin crawl. Her father finished his meal and stood, humming a cheery tune as he carried his dish to the basin, dipped it in, wiped it dry, and returned it to its place on the shelf. Molly sat up.
Her gasp of horror shut him down a third time. Jackson was more than ten years her senior, and those years had not been kind. She knew her father would not allow her dismissal on such vain grounds, so, heated, she chose another argument. “He’s married thrice.”
“He is widowed,” her father insisted, “and you would be his third.”
“His third widower,” she shot back, “is that how you would see me?”
He stood to face her. “I would see you married before my years are over and no one remains to care for my only daughter.” His declaration deflated her and she stared at the floor as he continued, “Jackson has made an upstanding offer and I urge you to consider it.”
She didn’t respond and, after a moment, he went to his room. She felt guilty, and relieved the conversation was over, and distraught about the entire matter, until she heard him stop just outside his door. She froze.
“And if you refuse the offer, you will inform him yourself.”
The next morning, guilt had her up early. She hated spending long days inside, sewing and mending and such, so she pulled down a basket and headed out to pick berries. As often happened when she set out with good intentions, she ended up lying on the creek bank, perusing the collection of fairy tales, empty basket at hand. Her father had advised her that by simply leaving the book at home, she could avoid such issues, but she’d thought him ridiculous. She would never abandon something of such importance; she carried it with her everywhere, even sewing a hidden pocket in the back of her gown. It had been well aged when she’d found it and though she endeavored to keep it well, the pages were tattered and worn. She had drifted from those pages, imagining a life among the magic and dreams told within, when a sharp sound pulled her from her reverie.
She glanced around but couldn’t determine what it was because of the babble of the creek. She stood, narrowing her eyes at a motion a short distance away, and followed the sound, leaving her basket and book in the grass. As she approached the dark mass, its movement increased dramatically and she could see that it was a small animal, frantic now at her advance. It seemed to be caught among some weeds and abandoned fishing lines near a shallow on the other side of the creek. She stepped closer to the bank and leaned forward, trying to judge the depth. There was no way she could cross at that point, but she was fairly certain there was a rocky area a little further down. She’d never actually crossed there, she wasn’t even allowed to be this far out. The ball of fur whined and she realized it was a pup.
Excited now, she ran down the bank, searching for the rocks, worrying the entire way whether the pup had been abandoned by its mother, or supposing she was hidden away in the brush, wondering if there were more pups, contemplating whether her father would allow a mutt to run the village. When she saw the rocks, she leapt in, not bothering with searching for the best path. She splashed across and nearly fell, but managed to only soak the hem of her skirt. When she reached the far bank, the pup called out again and she was off.
He shuddered and yowled as she came close. She put her hands up in a calming gesture and slowly stepped forward. It was too much, he struggled violently and pulled free of the tangle. She followed him, aiming to grab his body from behind, but he was fast and her boots were slick. She slipped twice and muddied her skirt and apron before righting herself and starting after him again.
They ran and ran. The poor little fur ball was exhausted and he finally gave, dropping onto the fallen leaves with an exaggerated sigh. Molly approached this time in a lowered stance, crawling the last few feet. She crouched and watched him for a long while. When his breathing finally slowed, she leaned forward to her knees and then her belly as she lay on the forest floor beside him and reached out tentatively to touch him.
He was so soft. She was amazed by the feel of him and took to petting the silky fluff, cringing at the few bald spots he’d created by tearing free. She cooed, and it only took a moment before he warmed to her, nuzzling his little black nose against her arm and inching closer.
They lay in the shadow of the trees for some time, until the pup became restless again and began to whine. Covered as he was in fluff, she could feel the bones of his ribs, the narrowness of his stomach. Slowly, she stood, taking him in her arms to carry him home, regardless of her father’s likely reaction.
It only took three steps to realize she didn’t know which way was home. She hadn’t noticed how far they’d come in the chase, so far that she’d lost the sound of the creek. She glanced around and, clutching the pup to her chest, headed toward what appeared to be an opening in the canopy of trees. If she could get out of the forest, she could find the creek and her path.
But when she reached the clearing, she was encircled by trees. She narrowed her eyes, a challenge to the dark forest, and headed back in, determined to find her way back.
Nearly an hour later, she realized someone was following her.
It had crept up on her, that feeling of being watched, that sensitivity to the softest noises at her every turn. She slowed, forcing herself to only glance back momentarily, not to run. There was nothing there but trees and shadows. She breathed deep as she turned back to continue, and then froze.
Standing casually in her path was the most terrifying, beautiful...
in existence. He could not but be a creature, for he was no man.
Riven stood before the human girl, waiting for the instinct of flight to kick in. He looked her over as she stared blankly back at him. Her skirts were caked with mud, her hair a tangled mess.
, he thought as he tried to estimate her age. No more than one and twenty, he was fairly certain, old enough for breeding stock at any rate. She was thin but her hips appeared adequate, sufficient bosom.
, he decided. As his eyes returned to her face, he took in her expression, saw the coy smile, the flush of her skin. She was flirting with him.
She lowered the animal she held to present herself more fully. He closed the distance, grabbed her arm and yanked her toward him, her face contorted only a moment before smoothing as she pressed into him. He recoiled, moving her back by her upper arm.
She glared at him, understanding now that her advance was unwanted. “Well, you’re the one gaping at me,” she huffed, indicating her chest with a glance.
He stared at her, baffled, as she struggled to release his grip. He had never understood these creatures, but she was the oddest of the lot.
“Remove. Your. Hand,” she demanded firmly.
“Calm yourself,” he instructed in as even a tone as he could manage. She did just that, crossing her arms and slanting a hip. It seemed surprising she had accomplished the posture, given that one arm was solidly in his grip and the other held a young dog.
She raised her brow, both questioning and challenging him at once.
He allowed himself a small nod; she would do just fine. There was no doubt Lord Asher would be pleased.
And Asher had been pleased. The girl had not even required persuasion. It seemed she took in everything, understood the whole of it, and accepted gratefully her place in the matter. The only emotion appeared to be pride as she gladly accepted the honor a king offered to bestow her.
It was effected quickly and before the next moon they were crossing the hidden passages again, Riven, the blissful human girl, and her unborn child. They rode for days, stopping often in consideration of the fragile condition of the girl.