Today on First Kiss Friday, we welcome romance author, Sylvie Grayson, and an excerpt from her SciFi/Fantasy Romance, “Prince of Jiran, The Last War: Book Five.”
Shandro, Prince of the Penrhy tribe of Jiran, disagrees with his father, Sovereign Pollack, on nearly every issue that arises between them. But his goal is to uphold the family values in spite of Pollack’s conniving moves as he deals with the hotbed of competing nations surrounding them.
Then Shandro is sent on a mission across the mountains into Khandarken to bring back Princess Chinata, a bride for Emperor Carlton’s Advisor. In exchange, Jiran and the Penrhy tribe are given a peace agreement, protection against invasion by the Emperor’s troops. This seems a good trade, as Carlton is hovering on their borders with his need for more land. However, not far into the journey, it becomes apparent someone is not adhering to the terms of the peace accord.
Near the tribal border, Shandro and his troops have come under direct attack from unknown forces. He digs deeper into Chinata’s background to find strong ties to the New Empire. Is it too dangerous to bring Princess Chinata into Jiran? Or as her escort, does Shandro become her defender against the Emperor’s troops?
First Kiss Excerpt
As the Penrhy riders approached the foothills, it began to snow. The flakes came down like feathers, lingering in the air and landing leisurely on leaves and branches, ending with a flourish on the bare ground. Shandro rode with Haggskyll in the centre of the troop, the women following in pairs behind them, surrounded by mounted guards.
The falling snow was beautiful, and Chinata seemed particularly taken with it. Shandro heard her soft voice among the cries of the other women, and reined in to glance around. Her head was thrown back as she tried to catch a flake on her tongue. He laughed and she glanced his way, colour flooding her cheeks.
His smile widened. She self-consciously looked away as Haggskyll nudged his horse. Yah, best to mind his business and not get too attached to the woman. But he couldn’t resist looking back now and then as the flakes came faster, covering the ground in a pristine white blanket. As late afternoon approached, the boughs of the trees held a light dusting and the wind became stronger. They rode on, the women less excited, tucking their cloaks tighter and pulling shawls and scarves close.
By dusk it was a full-blown blizzard. He couldn’t see two feet in front of him. Kiggundu had already called a halt, fixing his sights on a clearing at the side of the track in front of a deep cave. It looked like a good spot. They immediately began to set up camp, the men rushing to get shelters erected before it was completely dark.
The cooks arranged their gear in the entrance to the cave and lit the fireheat. Soon water was bubbling and hot drinks were available. It was one of the few times Shandro ever saw his men line up and patiently wait. It was damned cold.
Where was the Princess? He glanced around and saw Haggskyll talking to Lena outside a small tent. That must be where the women were. He walked in that direction, watching Kiggundu set the guards and work out the night shifts among his men. It was a rough night to do guard duty, but they had to remain alert. There had been too many signs that all was not right on this journey.
Haggskyll raised his head as Shandro drew close. His cheeks were red. From the cold? Perhaps not. He had the distinct impression his guard had been about to kiss the woman. By the graves. Didn’t he have a discretionary bone in his body? Bad enough that he cut a wide swath through the women back home.
“Hagg,” he growled in irritation. “Take Lena to fetch some tea for the Princess. The cooks have the fireheat going and a line is forming already.” The guard turned away and held out his hand. Lena placed her fingers in his big fist and walked by his side toward the cave.
Shandro stared. So that’s how it was. Hagg moved damned fast. Turning, he lifted the tent flap and stepped inside. Chinata was removing her cloak, the fur covered with an outer layer of snow.
“Let me help,” he said, stepping forward and removing it from her hands. He gave it a good shake through the tent opening before handing it back to her. “That should do it. It’ll be dry by morning.”
Her cheeks turned a becoming pink and her gaze skittered to the side. “Thank you.” Her voice sounded soft, breathless. But that’s how he felt when he was near her. Breathless.
“Can you make yourself comfortable here? It’s just until you’ve had dinner. We’ll bed you down in the cave. It’s warmer and better protected. Some of the men will sleep here.”
“Oh, I see. I wondered…”
“Yah, we don’t want you sleeping in the cold if we can help it. We won’t always find a shelter, but we’ll do the best we can.” He pushed a damp strand of hair back from her cheek. “Has it been a hard day?”
She shivered at the touch of his fingers.
“Are you cold?” His voice was low. “Can I warm you?”
She glanced quickly away. “No, no. I’m fine.”
“Chinata.” She looked up as he lowered his head. It was just a fleeting kiss, no more. A mere meeting of mouths, yet his heart was galloping in his chest by the time he lifted away. She remained motionless, as if frozen in place by his action, so he lowered his head again.
Her skin was tender to the touch, long dark lashes brushing her cheeks as her eyes slowly closed. He pressed his lips to her soft mouth, then to a suddenly red cheek and against each eyelid. Moving back, he knew he’d stepped over some line. This woman was promised to another, and it was his job to bring her through the border without harm. His breath came in and out harshly as his lungs laboured in confusion and regret. He was worse than Haggskyll. “I’m sorry Princess. It won’t happen again.”
Was that disappointment he saw in her eyes? He ducked under the tent flap just as Lena appeared with a covered tea bowl. “She’s waiting for you,” he said in a surprisingly steady voice and walked away.
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