The Diamond Gate
The duke then cemented other political and trade alliances with the blood of his other children: Crown Prince Eric, Prince Ascendant Jonathan, Princesses Rose, Pearl, Celeste, Grace, Lily, and Hope. The two youngest princes, Roderick and Simon, were yet too young to be married off as benefited Nuygenie.
The passage beneath was blocked and sealed with iron. The sisters did not discuss all they had lost. No one ever asked them if they had even wanted to be rescued.
This is the story after the faerie tale.
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“I am not entirely certain,” she replied soberly, thoughtfully. “You see, she loved him, loves him still.”
“The faerie prince who held her in his arms every night. He was exceedingly handsome, wealthy, and witty. He made her laugh and paid her compliments.”
“And you? Did you love your faerie prince?”
The question was rudely bold and he had no leave to pry. However, she forgave the intrusion and favored him with a pained look and an honest reply. “I did, but now I am not so sure.”
He glanced at his fiancée and back at his dance partner. “I do not have fine, sweet words.”
“We may be princesses, but that does not mean we expect a soldier to speak like a courtier,” she replied with a little grin more genuine than anything that had crossed her face the entire evening. “Above all, remember that a princess is still a woman. Treat Aurora like a thinking, feeling woman and she may look favorably upon you.”
Did such emotional creatures really think, he wondered. Aloud, he asked, “Do you really believe so? I’d not cause her anguish, but neither will I let her fancies destroy my future.”
The princess looked him bravely and boldly in the eyes and he was startled to notice they were the deep, dark green of forest moss. She had not missed the glint of determination and ambition in his eyes, nor did she fault him for it. “I do not believe she will ever love you, but she may begin to like you and with that you must be content.”
Rose’s stark pragmatism shocked him. Were not all young, pretty aristocratic ladies silly with romantic fancies such as sung by balladeers? Did they not spend their idle hours embroidering fine tapestries and finer love stories of heroism and handsome princes? And was he not the subject of one of those very ballads, one of those very heroes, if not so young and handsome?
“We’re not as frivolous as we may seem,” she commented quietly, correctly interpreting his silence. “And we understand that our privileges and comforts cost us.”
The music drew to a close, but he continued the conversation as they walked slowly back to the sisters.
“And what price will you pay?” he inquired.
Authors and freelancers live on hope, but Monday served up a heaping bowl of discouragement.
Blow #1: The book tour for Focus ended on June 30. I can't complain about the company's performance, because they did what they promised. Unfortunately, Amazon records only a single copy sold during June. One copy. One. With book sales being dismal, I know something has to change. I received some suggestions, but dislike them all. Maybe I'll just have to grit my teeth and do them anyway.
Blow #2: The trainer sent an update on Teddy, the pony I rescued from the kill pen. He's not nice. He beats on the other horses. The trainer tried giving him a lesson in manners via the "donkey solution," which is usually effective in teaching ill mannered horses to behave in the herd. Donkeys don't take any guff. The donkey solution failed. I authorized the trainer to have a veterinarian administer a blood test to see whether Teddy has more testosterone than a gelding should. If so, we're likely dealing with a bad situation called cryptorchidism, meaning that he has a retained testicle. Surgery to find and remove the offending testicle is expensive--and that's assuming the veterinarian can find it. In the meantime, the trainer has confined Teddy to a stall.
Blow #3: That hit this afternoon, quickly dashing hopes. I submitted a bid for an editing project. The prospective client responded with a request for an immediate interview. OK, I can do that. I got on Skype as instructed. Then the discrepancies began to pile up. While asking and answering questions via Skype chat, I called the company the interviewer supposedly represented. Boy, did I get an earful! The company does not need an editor, they are not hiring, and they're really mad about someone using their company as a front to deceive people. I appreciated their candor, but am disappointed by another possibility crushed.
It's difficult enough to make a living as a freelancer; that does not help.
12 Tales of the American Old West
“Good morning, Miss Durand.” The smooth voice of Jesse Cordoba behind her interrupted her thoughts as she looked over the meager selection of books displayed on a single shelf. “You look lovely today.”
Disappointed in the paltry selection of reading material, Angelica looked up at the handsome gambler and gave him a polite smile, an empty smile that meant absolutely nothing. “Why, Mr. Cordoba, it’s delightful to make your acquaintance again. What brings you to this fine establishment this beautiful morning?”
He held up a tin of tobacco. “Replenishing my supplies.”
She peered at it and recognized the brand. “Ah, my Cousin Horace favors that particular blend.”
“Whenever I stay in a location for more than a few weeks, I have it shipped to me from New Orleans,” he said.
“New Orleans is a fascinating city. I consider it my home,” she replied and reached for a book on the shelf. It was dusty. She glanced at the cover and flipped through the first few pages. She murmured, “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” She looked at Jesse and asked, “Have you read any of his work?”
“No, I can’t say as I have,” Jesse admitted, looking haughty and superior, a man who did not sully his mind with such frivolous things as fiction.
She turned that polite, empty smile on him again. “Well, I suppose I’ll just have to take a chance.” She glanced at the eight other books languishing on the shelf. “I’ve already read Rudyard Kipling’s work. Immensely entertaining.”
Jesse accompanied her as she headed toward the counter to pay for the book. He said, “I am surprised at your choice of purchase. You look like the kind of woman to take great interest in ribbons and lace.”
Expression turning frosty, she turned toward him and asked, “Do I look like I need further embellishment, sir?”
The corners of the man’s mouth curled upward a tiny bit as he leaned toward her and whispered into her ear, “You are quite aware that your beauty needs no improvement, madam. I should like to see it unfettered by cloth.”
Cheeks flushing at his effrontery, Angelica leaned away from him. “Sir, you are impertinent. You should not say such things to me.”
He chuckled, a dark, sensual sound. “Madam, you cannot expect me to think you untouched. You sat in a saloon for over an hour and watched our game before summoning the brass courage to join us. You’re no delicate lady.”
Angelica’s expression congealed into icy disdain. “Nor am I a prostitute.”
He chuckled again and ran a finger down her cheek before she could avoid the touch. “Oh, I’m sure you don’t charge for it and I know I never pay for it.”
Angelica’s hand whipped out and slapped him in offense. “Sir! You are insulting.”
A shadow loomed over them and a heavy hand settled over Jesse’s right shoulder.
“Don’t insult the lady,” a baritone voice growled.