Pages

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Borrowed Gift by Mary Waibel

Thank you so much for stopping by all year to read the stories that the other authors and I have shared. It's been lots of fun dabbling in worlds I haven't explored before. But, for me the holidays are a bit nostalgic, so I thought I'd share an excerpt from Charmed Memories, book 2 in the Princess of Valendria series.

***
Will a necklace meant for Prince Trevor's missing fiance bring safety to Bri, the Woodland Guide?

***



Trevor sighed. “I need an amulet for Bri, and there isn’t time to purchase one. Cade might have one, but I don’t want to rely on maybes.”
“She can take mine,” his mother said.
“No. I won’t leave you vulnerable like that.”
“You can’t take her without one. Perhaps Kaylee left one behind in her jewelry box.”
Trevor swallowed hard, remembering the amulet he kept stored in his own jewelry box. One that had been meant for Elsbeth.
“I have one she can use.”
His mother reached out and clasped his hand. “Are you certain? You always said you would never give it to anyone but—”
“I know what I said, Mother,” he interrupted. “But it’s doing no good sitting in my room, waiting. Bri needs protection, so I’ll give it to her.”
“Very well. Will we see you again before you leave?” his mother asked.
“No. We’re leaving in half an hour. That leaves me just enough time to change and pack my things.”
“Be safe,” the king said. “I want you back here in one week with your bride-to-be and Lady Bri safe at your side.”
“I’ll do my best, Father.”
“Send word if you need our aid,” the queen said.
“I will, Mother. Thank you.”
He brushed another kiss over her cheek, not surprised when she pulled him close to her. Turning to his father, he held out a hand, only to find himself engulfed in a bear hug.
“May the gods be with you,” his parents said.
Trevor nodded and hurried to his room. He quickly changed out of his formal attire and into his oldest set of leathers. If he was going to learn anything of use in Faldaera, he would have to do it as a knight, not the royal he was. His normal entourage would draw too much attention, and he’d learned information was more easily traded between commoners than to a royal.
He pulled out a leather satchel and tossed in a couple jerkins, a few shirts, and some breeches. Next came a pair of daggers and a short sword. A second pair of daggers were tucked into his belt before he hefted the bag to his shoulder. At his dresser, he opened a wooden box. He fished out his amulet and pulled it over his head before digging through the rings and medallions for the pouch holding the other necklace.
When his fingers brushed the soft fabric, he reverently pulled the bag out and stroked the black velvet. He opened the ties and poured the necklace out into his hand, marveling at how it still shone after all these years. Closing his eyes, he recalled the first time he saw the necklace four years ago. It was Cade’s inaugural trade, having recently been promoted to first mate on his father’s ship, and both boys were anxious for it to go flawlessly.
The craftsman had followed Trevor’s instructions to the letter, nesting the faceted blue-green stone inside an elaborate twist of silver. Hand-picked especially for Elsbeth, it was the perfect match to his own amulet. He’d been so excited to give it to her, but that day never came.
He opened his eyes and slipped the necklace back into the pouch. An odd sense of betrayal weighed on him as he considered giving the necklace to Bri.
“I know I promised to give this to you when I found you, but I have a friend who needs it now.” His whisper sounded like a shout in the silent room. “You understand, don’t you? If I were missing, and you needed to protect a friend, you’d do the same thing, wouldn’t you?”
It seemed disloyal to give this gift to anyone other than the girl he’d meant it for, yet at the same time, he knew it was silly to put so much stock in a simple gift. If he had to, he’d get a new one for Elsbeth.
He tucked the pouch into his jerkin and headed for the stables. Inside, the stable master watched a group of pages as they brushed down a horse. Trevor tried to sneak past, but the old man saw him and hurried over.
“Prince Trevor.” He bowed. “May I be of assistance?”
“Master Gillan. I’m in need of two horses. Lady Bri and I are sailing from the port this evening.”
“Ah, seeing the young lady back home?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“I see. I’ll have a pair ready in a moment, Your Highness. Might I send a squire with you to bring them back?”
“That would be fine, Gillan.”
Trevor paced while the stable master readied the horses. As soon as Gillan brought the pair out, Trevor picked one, swinging into the saddle as Bri walked into the stables.
“Good, you’re early.” His gaze landed on the pair of bags she carried, and he frowned. “Are you planning on an extended trip?”
Bri busied herself with putting the bags on her horse. “I thought I might stay and see my family for a bit.”
“What about the contest for the pages and squires?” She kept her back to him, and a sense of unease drifted through him. “You mean to stay behind when I leave.”
Bri looked up at him then, her face pale as the moonlight. “Yes,” she whispered.
“But why? I don’t understand.”
“Because I need to move on. It isn’t good for guides to stay in one place. They become complacent and lose their edge.”
Trevor stared at her, mouth opening and closing as he searched for the words that suddenly failed him. When she had offered to accompany him, he had never considered she wouldn’t return with him.
“This seems so sudden, but it isn’t, is it? You’ve been meaning to leave for some time, haven’t you?” She looked away, and he frowned. “Have we done something to displease you?”
“No!” She shook her head, her braid swinging with the motion. “It isn’t that.”
“Then why are you running?”
She looked away again. “I-I can’t say.” She looked at him, tears glistening in her eyes and his heart clenched at the sight.
“Please, just let it be.”
He swallowed. “Only if you promise me you’ll wait to leave until after the contest.” She closed her eyes, and he held his breath.
Bri’s heart pounded as she thought over what the prince asked of her. If she agreed, she would have more time to spend with him. But she would lose more of her heart, and she wasn’t sure she could afford that. She looked at him, surprised by how anxious he seemed as he waited for her answer.
“Fine. I promise.”
His breath rushed out in a whoosh. “Thank you. You won’t regret it.”
She wasn’t so certain, but it was too late to change her mind now.
“Are you ready to leave?” Bri asked, picking up her reins.
“Yes. Cade is waiting for us in port.”
“Port? I thought we were going to Faldaera.” She gripped her reins until her knuckles turned white.
“We are. Cade has offered us passage.”
“I see,” she whispered.
“Is something wrong?”
“No.”
He raised a brow. “Are you sure?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes, hoping to hide her anxiousness. “Positive. Let’s go.”
“Wait. I almost forgot. Put this on before we leave.”
Trevor handed her a pouch. She loosened the ties and peeked inside. A gasp slipped out as she carefully poured a silver necklace into her hand. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. She held it up, studying the blue-green stone glimmering inside a silver cage. Her first thought was that he liked her enough to give her jewelry, which was quickly followed by the realization she had no business accepting such a thing.
“I-I—” She cleared her throat. “It’s beautiful, Your Highness, but I cannot accept a gift like this.”
Trevor frowned. “It isn’t a gift. And even if it was, why couldn’t you accept it?”
“Do you go around giving all your men such lovely jewelry?” She snorted.
He gave her a sheepish grin. “No. But, if I wanted to, I could.”
She rolled her eyes again and blew out a breath. “I cannot accept this. Gift or not.”
“If you are to accompany me, you will wear it.” He glared at her and she eased her horse a step back. “It isn’t a request, Bri. It’s an order.”
She jerked her head up. In two years he had never given her an order, and it irked that he would do so now over this piece of jewelry.
“Why do I need this?”
“It’s an amulet to protect you while we sail.”
She stared at the necklace, puzzled. It looked nothing like the necklace her father had told her was her personal amulet of protection. Hers was a rounded piece of milky-white sea glass, dulled with age. Nothing like the sparkly, faceted stone the prince had handed her.
“Oh. Thank you for loaning it to me, but—”
“No arguments.”
Bri sighed as she lifted the chain to her neck and fastened it. “There, happy?”
He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes, and she wondered what was bothering him. “Yes. Now, let’s get going before Cade leaves without us.”
They raced out of the courtyard, and she tried to push aside her fears of sailing. It wasn’t that she couldn’t swim, she was as fast as a fish in the water. No, her fear ran deeper than that and wasn’t something she talked about. You couldn’t change the past, so why keep focused on it? Now she wished she’d mentioned she couldn’t sail. Couldn’t risk being in another shipwreck.
The short trip to the docks ended before she could tell Trevor of her fear. Instead, she mutely followed him to the largest ship in port. Men scurried about on deck, pulling ropes, moving crates, and readying the sails to depart. Bri set a hand on her stomach, attempting to still the unease she felt just looking at the tall masts. All she could see were waves cresting over the bow, sweeping her into the watery depths of the sea.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After dismounting, she slung her bags over her shoulder and followed Trevor to the gangplank.
“Are you sure we have to take a ship? Why don’t we ride to Faldaera? It would be more fun.”
Trevor’s lips quirked up. “It’s a four day trek over land. This will be faster and more fun than riding. Besides, Cade has new sails that will carry us to Faldaera by dawn. We can just sit back and enjoy the journey.”
“Overnight? I thought it took two days to sail there,” Bri said.
“With normal sails, yes, but Cade has magic sails.”
They stopped at the end of the gangplank. Cade looked down at them from the deck and waved.
“Permission to come aboard, Captain?” Trevor yelled up.
“Permission granted.”
They walked up the plank, and Bri’s knees shook as the ship bobbed up and down with the waves. The movement was foreign, and she stumbled, her vision greying as her skin grew clammy. Terror clawed at her. She pictured herself in the water, fighting against the waves trying to pull her under the choppy surface.
“Bri?” Trevor’s voice was distant, as if she were at the bottom of a well.
Forcing her gaze upward, she latched onto his sea-green eyes, telling herself over and over he would never let anything happen to her. She stood still as he moved closer, pulling her against his chest. Inhaling deeply, she relaxed into him as the scent of leather, horses, and musk surrounded her.
Bri forgot where they were and why she had been so scared as she settled into his embrace. Her pulse jumped as he slid a hand over her back in a gentle caress. Suddenly the plank shifted, and reality came crashing in. She pulled away, heat flooding her face.
“Sorry,” she muttered, wishing she could jump in the water and swim away.
“It’s fine, Bri.” He stared at her a minute, then teased, “Don’t tell me you can’t swim.”
“No, I can swim fine. I just don’t like ships. The last time I was on one, things didn’t go very well.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just say I know how long I can tread water.”
Trevor’s eyes widened. “You fell overboard?”
“I’d rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind.”
He studied her for a moment, and she struggled to keep from squirming.
“Nothing will happen to you. You have my word.”
Still unsure, Bri nodded and took a step forward, stumbling as the deck rose and fell with the waves.
“Easy,” Cade said, stepping forward and taking her hand. “It takes a bit of getting used to, but you’ll have your sea legs under you in no time at all. We’ll make a smiling seaman out of you before we arrive in Faldaera.”
“I just want to be back on land as soon as possible,” Bri said, pulling her hand away and clutching her bags tightly.
Cade grinned at her before looking over to Trevor. “I see you got my message?”
“Yes. I appreciate you offering to take us.”
“Well, I figured it would be the best way for you to get in and out quickly without your usual entourage.”
Trevor turned to Bri. “Speaking of that, while we’re traveling, you can’t treat me like a prince. I’ll just be Trevor, knight of Palindore.”
“Why?” They had never traveled with such secrecy before, and doubt about their trip set in.
“No one can know about our journey. There is much at stake, especially if things don’t work the way I hope.”
She frowned, not liking his explanation, yet knowing from experience he would say no more. “Well, if you expect to pull that off, you need to stop acting so royal.”
Cade chuckled. “She has a point.” One of the men called out, and he sighed. “If you’ll excuse me while I see to this matter? Then I’ll show you to your quarters.”
“Take your time,” Trevor said. “We’ll be here at the rail watching the waves.”
Bri followed Trevor to the side of the ship and looked down at the water. Light from the setting sun glinted off the glassy surface just behind the cresting waves. The water was so clear she could see the seaweed floating beneath. Instead of the brownish-green she had expected, strands of red, yellow, and black flowed together. Every so often she thought she caught a glimpse of a fin flitting in and out of the underwater vegetation.
The peacefulness of the setting calmed her nerves, and she soon found herself adjusting to the gentle sway of the ship as it lifted and fell with the motion of each wave.
Love.
The word echoed in her mind, and a tingle coursed through her body. A deep longing for something filled her, but before she could think about it, something shifted in the water and three pairs of eyes looked up at her.
“Trevor?”
“Hmm?”
“There are mermaids in the water.”
He looked where she pointed, leaning far over the rail. Water shot up from the side of the ship like a geyser, followed by the flash of scales. Two of the creatures stood on top of the waves, undulating on their tails. One had jet black hair, the other platinum blonde. A moment later, a red-haired one joined them, and they stared up at Bri and Trevor.
Their tails were a mixture of silver, gold, and bronze. Eyes, black as night, peered out from faces with skin as pale as milk. The black-haired one shifted higher, moving toward Trevor, her webbed hands reaching out as if to touch him.
“They’re so fierce looking,” Bri said.
The mermaid smiled, revealing a mouth of sharp, pointed teeth.
“They certainly are,” Trevor said. “In fact, these three are here to protect us.”
“What do you mean?”
“The merfolk are pledged to watch over those of royal blood who travel on the water. We have a contract with the Merking.”
She looked at him, certain her face revealed her disbelief. “And just how do they know you’re a royal? Does someone send an announcement to them?”
Cade laughed as he stepped up to the railing. “That would make it quite difficult for some members of the royal families I know.” He waved at the three mermaids, smiling when they threw mock kisses his way. “No. Those to be protected have a special piece of jewelry they wear that the merfolk sense when it’s in the water.”
“Like this amulet?” Bri asked, holding up the one Trevor had given her.
“Is that—” Cade started to ask.
“Yes.” Trevor interrupted, sending a stern look to Cade.
Bri stared at the two men, watching their moment of silent communication. Whatever Cade had meant to ask was clearly something Trevor didn’t want said aloud. She looked at the amulet, more certain than before there was more to this piece of jewelry than she knew.
Cade stepped forward and tapped the blue-green stone. “This tells the merfolk you are to be protected under the treaty with Palindore.”
Bri looked at Trevor. “Do you wear one?”
Frowning, Trevor pulled an amulet from beneath his shirt and held it out for her to see. Bri’s eyes widened. His amulet was a larger version of the one she wore. It was obvious the two were a set.
“Your Highness, please,” she said, embarrassed, yet deep down thrilled he had bestowed this special necklace on her. “I cannot accept this. It isn’t proper. Clearly this is meant for your bride.”

She reached up to remove the necklace, but Trevor grabbed hold of her hands, his grip just shy of painful. “No. You will wear it. Promise me. When we’re back in Palindore, and you no longer need protection at sea, then you can return it.”
***
I hope you enjoyed this teaser from Charmed Memories. Want to know more about the story? Stop by my author site to read the first chapter and see what others have said about the book.


Twisting tales one story at a time. 

YA author Mary Waibel’s love for fairytales and happy-ever fill the pages of her works. Whether penning stories in a medieval setting or a modern day school, magic and romance weave their way inside every tale. Strong female characters use both brain and brawn to save the day and win the heart of their men. Mary enjoys connecting with her readers through her website: marywaibel.blogspot.com

***