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Authors: Kelly Walker

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Gifted Stone

BOOK: Gifted Stone
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Contents

 

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Important Information

The Day of The Three

Keeping Secrets

Contact me

Other Books

Acknowledgments

 

 

By Kelly Walker

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2012 by Kelly Walker

Published in the United States by Kelly Walker

Version 1.0

 

Cover Design by Kelly Walker

 

All rights reserved. No portion of this book, whether in print or electronic format, may be duplicated or transmitted without written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

 

This book is a work of fiction. All characters, places, names and events are a work of my imagination. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is a coincidence.

 

This book is provided DRM free for your convenience. You are welcome to make additional copies for use across your own devices within your household. You are not welcome to duplicate it for the purpose of distribution.

 

 

 

 

 

For my children,

I couldn’t ask for a better gift than you.

 

 

 

Thank you for purchasing this
Souls of the Stones
story.

 

It is strongly recommended that this volume is read after Cornerstone, not before it. As ‘The Day of The Three’ takes place after Cornerstone chronologically, it will reveal several spoilers if read out of order.

 

The Day of The Three

 

Emariya’s hand lingered in the air, just above the latch to the tower door.

Castle Ahlen didn’t have a dovecote. Instead, the royal pigeons were housed in the top of an otherwise unused tower. The heavy door leading to the spiral staircase did a fair job of keeping the smell of the birds contained.

Although, it wasn’t the thought of the overwhelming odor of the birds that made Emariya pause. What good would it do to go into the pigeon tower if she still didn’t know what to put in her letter?

Her brother had not yet answered the letter she had sent the week before after learning through Khane of her brother’s betrayal. What could she say that she hadn’t already said?

In a week, it would be The Day Of The Three. For the first time, Emariya would be spending it away from her entire family. After their father’s disappearance, she and Reeve had made it a point to continue their traditions. Each of them made two gifts. A gift for each other, and one for their father. Then, on the morning of The Day Of The Three, they’d solemnly open each other’s gifts, and then take their father’s into his chamber. It comforted her, knowing that when he eventually returned, he would know that his children hadn’t forgotten him.

Soon, she’d be able to tell him that herself. At the king’s bidding, Emariya and Torian had agreed to hold a feast for the entire land to announce their betrothal. In two weeks time, as soon as the feast was over, she and Torian would make their way to Sheas to rescue her father.

Emariya began to turn away. She’d head back to her chambers to confer with Jessa. She might not know what to say to her brother, but she did have an idea of something she could do for Garith and Rink.

The door creaked open behind her. Startled, Emariya gasped and spun around. She greeted Torian with a shaky smile, but instead of calming now that she knew who opened the door, her heart sped up at the sight of him.

“My Lady.” Torian returned her smile and offered her his arm. “Were you looking for me?”

“No. I was thinking of sending another letter to Reeve…but I really don’t know what to say.” She paused for a moment and then asked, “Were there any new letters?” She turned her head slightly, lifting her chin as her eyes scanned his, waiting with foolish hope for his response.

“Only another noble family, affirming that they are coming for the proclamation,” Torian said, his tone gentle.

Emariya forced a smile. It was good that the nobles were making the journey, but she wasn’t sure how she felt about them coming to see her.

Torian cocked his head to the side. “Are you nervous?”

Blushing, she nodded.

Very lightly, he trailed his fingers along her jawline, warming more than just her cheek beneath his touch. “Don’t be.” He leaned down and ever so softly brushed his lips against hers. “They will adore you.”

Emariya sucked in a deep breath as her head swam and her heart fluttered. Torian seemed to regain his composure before she did.

“May I escort you somewhere, My Lady?” he asked. “And where are your guards? I’ve told you, you must always have protection.” A slight frown wrinkled his brow.

With a frown of her own, Emariya glanced down the long corridor of the castle toward her own chambers. “I slipped past them.” She offered an apologetic smile. “It was the same guard who was assigned outside my chambers the day of the fire. I’m really not fond of his company.”

“Then I’ll see to it that he isn’t assigned to you any longer, but please…I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you. No more slipping your guards, all right?”

“All right.” There was no point in arguing, and she understood his reasoning. How was she supposed to explain to Torian that constantly being followed by a pair of guards made her feel even more caged than she already did?

“I mean it, Emariya.” His voice made it clear he was not amused.

“I promise,
Your Highness.
” Hopefully her use of his formal title would make it clear that she wasn’t amused, either.

His shoulders relaxed, but his eyes grew worried. Pulling her hand into the crook of his elbow, he began to guide her in the direction of her chamber. As her hand touched his arm, she vaguely noted that the pain which had been quite severe only a week ago was now nearly gone. She couldn’t be sure, but she suspected the gift of the Warrens had aided her herbal remedies in hastening her hand’s healing.

“What is it, My Lady? I have the feeling something else is bothering you.”

Would he be offended if she told him the truth?

“Emariya…”

It wouldn’t be at all proper for her to tell her betrothed the real reason she was sad. She missed her home and her brother who’d betrayed her by sending her to her soon-to-be-husband under false pretenses. How would that make him feel?

“You can tell me anything.” He stopped walking and turned her gently toward him, looking deep into her eyes.

Emariya groaned. It was as if he could read her thoughts! She supposed the truth was her only choice, proper or not. “I miss my home.” She chewed her lip, watching his face for signs of the hurt she expected he must feel.

Torian pulled her against him and spoke gently into her hair as he nestled her head beneath his chin. “Of course you do. I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

“I thought you’d be angry.”

“Why?”

“Well, because I thought you’d think I was saying I didn’t want to be here with you.”

“Are missing your home and enjoying my company mutually exclusive?” Torian cocked an eyebrow in the way he often did when he was teasing her.

“I suppose not.”

“All right then. So stop pouting.”

Her jaw dropped in indignation. “I wasn’t pouting.” She glared at him before bursting into a fit of laughter.

“What is it you miss the most about your home?” Torian started walking again.

Keeping close to his side, Emariya answered with ease. “The openness of everything. Sure, we have walls around Warren’s Rest, but I haven’t spent much time within them. I was often in the surrounding hills, alone, free to go where I wanted without fear of anyone wishing me harm.”

“And here you are constantly shadowed by guards, and their presence bothers you?”

“At times, yes.” Not to mention that the soot marks on the walls boasted a constant reminder of exactly what she needed to fear.

“How come?”

“I don’t think being shadowed by the guards disturbs me so much as being unable to go anywhere.”

“But you’ve the run of the castle. I want you to consider it yours. Go where you like, as long as you take the guards with you.”

“That’s just it, though. I don’t want to go anywhere within the castle; I want to go beyond it, but I can’t. Not without crossing the bridge back to the mainland.”

“Absolutely not.” Torian’s voice had turned hard. “The mainland is not defensible. Besides, everything Thalmas has to offer we have here in the castle. If there is something else you want just tell me what it is and I’ll get it for you.”

She sighed. “It’s not that simple… I miss the freedom of not being confined. Of not having walls around me. I miss having the raw ground beneath my feet. Flowers…my garden. Riding through the meadow. I miss…home.”

They paused outside her door and she could feel the longing filling her eyes as they met his.

“You know I would give you that if I could. All of that and more,” he whispered.

“I know.” She stretched up and kissed him gently on the cheek before letting herself into her chambers and closing the door behind her. In her head, she added the words she’d left unsaid.
But you can’t.

One of Emariya’s handmaidens, Kora, was changing the linens on her bed.

“Kora, could you find Jessa for me?”

“Yes, Your Highness.” Kora curtsied and hurried out of the room. Emariya tried to ignore the irony that a handmaiden was allowed to flit about the castle without taking guards with her, yet the prince’s betrothed could not.

Tears began to spill from her eyes. Exhaustion washed over her. So much worry and so much heartbreak had filled the last few weeks. At times, it just became too much.
I will allow myself one good cry
, she told herself, determined that afterward she’d put it behind her. Not wanting to mess up Kora’s half-finished job with the bed linens, Emariya sank to the floor. With her back against the side of the heavy bed, she hugged her knees to her chest before letting her forehead drop.

Liberating her tears opened the floodgates, allowing her worries to flow. The unrestrained emotion surged through her unhindered. “I’m so afraid, Mama,” she whispered. Emariya knew her mother likely couldn’t hear her. She’d tried several times to talk to her mother again, without any success.

A few minutes later, her chamber door opened. Emariya slowly lifted her head, not bothering to wipe away the evidence of the tears.

“Riya! What’s wrong?” Jessa cried out, looking down at Emariya on the floor.

Emariya pushed to her feet. “I’m all right,” she said, but her voice sounded unconvincing, even to her own ears.

Jessa scowled, placing a hand on one hip. “You’re sitting on the floor crying.”

Emariya couldn’t help but laugh. In that moment, her handmaiden looked exactly like her mother’s handmaiden, Mairi. Had her mother ever shared a moment of weakness with Mairi? Try as she might, Emariya couldn’t picture it. She’d always thought of her mother as strong and brave. From all the stories Emariya had heard, she was fairly certain Lady Valencia would never have been caught crying.

“And now you’re laughing?” Jessa’s scowl slipped into a puzzled frown. “What ever is the matter with you?”

Emariya shook her head. “Nothing, really. I was just struck by how much you look like your mother right now, standing there scowling at me like that.” Her shoulders shook as a giggle forced its way free.

Jessa’s expression softened at the mention of her mother and then she, too, dissolved into a fit of giggles. The redheaded girl’s cheeks were turning the same color as her hair, and she gasped for breath. Wagging her finger at Emariya, she puffed up her cheeks and said, “If Mama were here, she would say, ‘Crying is for babies, not a bride-to-be. Now put on your proper face, my girl, and quit wallowing. Go on now. Shoo!’” Jessa made a shooing motion with her hands, which made Emariya laugh even harder.

“I cannot even count the number of times we came crying to her and she’d shoo us out of the kitchen.” As their giggles began to subside, Emariya smiled at the memory.

BOOK: Gifted Stone
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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