This is a continuation from January’s “Tryst” story for #BlogBattle! This is basically a fun peek into a B story happening behind the scenes of the prequel I’m currently working on to The Beauty Thief. It’s soooo fun to explore this backstory! I hope you enjoy it too.
This is for February #BlogBattle REVOLUTION
Genre: sweet romance, fantasy fiction
by Rachael Ritchey
Kendric twirled the brown leaf between his fingers, his mind lingering on the way the moonlight had danced across Helein’s hair between the swaying branches of the tree where he’d found her waiting, poorly hidden beneath its sparse branches. Now on his way back to his chamber, the hall was eerie, empty, and sparsely lit, but he didn’t care. The fewer who noticed from where he came the better.
He still reeled at the idea she was here, at Castle Taisce. He thought he’d never see her again. The last few years had changed him, but he pushed all that away. Helein was here, and she’d agreed to meet with him.
She’d been warm, if a little distant . . . but she’d been warm. She’d come when he asked, even against her better judgment. That had to mean something. Her hand in his as he kissed it sent sparks of heat running through his body, and she’d not objected when he’d kissed her, however brief.
More than anything, Helein had given him a sprig of hope. She hadn’t said no to marrying him, even if she hadn’t said yes. His desire for her had not ebbed since their days of late-night talks in the Tenbow manor’s kitchen or that stolen kiss–much like tonight’s–under the moon the night before he left. They’d both known their secret affections would never go beyond that last summer of his tutelage in the home of his father’s friend. But . . .
Kendric crushed the leaf in his hand and halted mid-step. His heart hammered against his chest as recognition of that voice registered in his mind. With as much self-control as he could muster, he made a soldier-like arc, facing back toward the way he’d come.
Bowing at the waist, he said, “My lady Grace.”
She stepped up to him and held out her hand. He stared at it a moment too long and hoped she didn’t notice before he took it and kissed her creamy smooth knuckles.
“And where has my wayward fiancé been hiding himself for the last hour? You missed the soprano. She sang the most melancholy songs.”
Grace slid her hand into the crook of Kendric’s arm, and he had to will himself not to stiffen at her touch. She nudged him to turn back the way he’d been heading before, but he could tell she was curious about what was in his hand.
“You know I have no interest in arias and ditties at either end of the spectrum. Music is beyond me, m’lady.”
“No,” she said, a hint of something malicious in her tone, “I suppose you prefer the glories of a moonlit walk above the melodies of a heavenly voice.”
Kendric’s neck muscles tightened and his jaw set as he worked to keep every other nerve in his body relaxed. He loosened his tongue enough to say through gritted teeth, “There is magic in the moonlight for which no voice could compare.”
Grace slid her fingernails along the bare part of his arm–where he’d taken to the less-than-gentlemanly habit of rolling his sleeves up when his father wasn’t around to give him the stare of social death. He did his best not to react to her touch and not to be conflicted over it.
Grace hadn’t really been his choice. No, Grace-as-wife would be his eternal prison. She was a spoiled, conniving witch who’d sunk her greedy, vicious claws into him. He could blame no one but himself. He’d made far too many poor decisions in the last few years.
Seeing Helein reminded him of who he’d been . . . the man he’d thought to be, but losing her had taken more of a toll on him than he’d realized. He’d lost himself somewhere along the way and ended up snared in Lady Grentich’s trap. He’d sold his soul for a few pieces of silver and now looked forward only to a living hell with that lady’s niece hanging on his arm like the leech she was.
But Helein . . . she’d walked back into his life, and he didn’t think he could live without her.
“Kendric? Are you even listening?”
He blinked and looked down at Grace’s perturbed, pouting face. Her plump pink lips turned down at the edges, but he couldn’t help thinking that angry wrinkle between her eyes would one day be stuck that way. It made him smile, even if just a little. “No, my lady, I must apologize. My mind was elsewhere.”
She pulled him to a stop, looked both ways down the hall and then shoved him against the wall. Kendric stumbled, hitting his head as he fell into the stones, their cold burning through his tunic and shirt. “What is the meaning of this, lady?”
Grace, close to a foot shorter than him, leaned in and pressed her palm to his chest. “Do not play games with me, Kendric Selin. You do not know who you are dealing with, and I will not put up with dalliances and trysts. If there is even a whiff of your illicit moonlit rendezvous sliding through the castle halls, you can be sure your precious little maid will disappear.”
Her gaze never wavered and Kendric knew she was serious. “You’re an evil—”
“Stop. Kendric, my dear . . .” she said, sliding her hand down his chest and over his stomach, causing his muscles to tighten. She wrapped her fingers around the handle of the dagger at his waist. “. . . you may not like your role in the revolution to come, but you’ll play out your part with all the beauty of the real thing. Or, if you do anything to ruin our plans, I will end you, so help me. I will make you wish you were never born, but first I’ll make you watch your sweet little maid writhe and beg for mercy.” She slid his knife from the sheath and grazed the tip up to his throat, resting it against his Adam’s apple.
He fought the urge to swallow, angry at himself for not moving faster or thinking through his actions. He didn’t care about his own life any more, but Helein’s—he couldn’t let anything happen to her.
“You have my word.” He wanted to choke on the words, but he needed to find a way to keep Helein safe and not further endanger her life. He wanted to die in that moment. All the hopes and dreams that had welled up at seeing her again were being cut from his soul by the daggers of hate in Grace’s eyes. She would be his jailor and torturer for the rest of his miserable life.
He let the crushed leaf flutter from his hand, a million dried bits showering the cold stone floor.
“Your word is like a pitiful mewling kitten, shoved in a bag and drowning in the river, Lord Selin. If you think I trust your word, you must think me a fool. You’ll keep your word, though, because if you do not behave yourself, you will be the cause of—” she paused and twisted the blade at his throat, “—unpleasant things. And we both know your sensibilities could not handle the bloody scene your wayward eyes will create.”
She stepped back and ran her own finger along his blade. A thin line of blood dripped from the pad. She looked up at him, mischief in her eyes, and licked the drop of blood off. She dropped the knife, letting it clatter to the floor and left him standing in the hall, his back against the wall.
He stared down at his blade half hidden in shadow on the floor and fought back the sudden rage converging and rampaging through his chest. He could feel the tendons in his neck bulging under the pressure, blood boiling below the surface. Almighty help him. He didn’t know what to do.
After who knew how long Kendric felt the fight drain from his body. He slid down the wall and crossed his arm over his knee, his forehead falling to rest on it and his other hand slipping to the floor. But only more torment met him there.
He swept his fingers over the dust of the crushed leaf, a reminder of his crushed love. Crushed over and over. He never deserved her. Not then and not now. Grace was right to keep him from her. Helein would be better without him. But those stupid bits of leaf wouldn’t leave him be, and he had a feeling neither would his feelings for her.
He lifted his head and rested his chin on his arm so that he could stare at the knife in front of him. Love was a strange thing. It could make a man think crazy thoughts, thoughts that might make him noble but could drive him the other way too. He picked up the knife. Yes, love could drive a man to be a fool. So could the loss of love. And, either way, he was definitely a fool.
AND OOOOOO, what a place to end a chapter. What on earth is happening with this Kendric fellow? He’s got some serious problems. Has a fiancee, wants to marry a different girl . . . . Talk about issues! haha
But seriously, as much of a rake as Kendric is, I have a soft spot for him and really want to see him turn his life around. But what is it going to take? It sounds like he’s got himself in a real spot, doesn’t it? A revolution? Oh man, who are we dealing with!? I guess the rest of the story will eventually make its way to the surface.
(for more in this continuing saga revealing backstory behind Chronicle of the Twelve Realms’ prequel head here next: “Legend of Jerishn”.
Thank you so much for reading my short story. I hope you’ll head over to bbprompt.com and read more REVOLUTION stories this month!
Please leave a comment, question, or idea! I’d love to chat!