The Lost Princess #3
by JP Roth
The island of secrets, and the lover’s cave broke velvet’s heart. that’s more, the spell she needed to save her brother required the life of the duke who haunted her waking moments and disturbed her dreams. unable to kill henry, velvet ran from the temptation of him to the waiting arms of napoleon, and the french throne which came at a heavy price.
On the high seas, velvet struggled with her desire to take back her father’s throne, and save her people from a tyrant, or find freedom for herself espionage betrayal, passion, and sacrifice teach velvet what matters on her dramatic quest to run from true love. but in the case of destiny, can one ever run fast enough?
Duke, assassin, pirate and betrayer, henry will do what he must to keep the girl he has come to adore even sacrifice his own life. difficult really when she insists on escaping his advances and spurning his ardent touch. with lines to cross, mayhem to cause and a thousand questions of magic which will never be answered, for the duke, there is only one question which truly matters—how do you get the girl who has no need of a knight, regardless of the shine in his armor.
Locked in eternal combat, and kisses fraught with secrets and lies, velvet and henry will learn the most painful of lessons—in a world of revolution, turmoil and political unrest, love is still the bloodiest battlefield of all.
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Release Date: April 25, 2023
Genre: Fantasy Historical Romance
A Red Satin Romance
Silence drenched the night. Henry stared at her, and the world stopped spinning. In Velvet’s twisting heart, her guilt battled shame and crimson rage. Henry’s eyes traced the lifts and curves in her wings, roved over the long feathers that ran atop each other like waterfalls of crystal snow. When he spoke, his voice was low. A rasping whisper stained with shock and his own fury. “When did you know it wasn’t a dream?”
Velvet had no words. She pressed her lips in a thin line and shook her head. She owed him nothing. Nothing! So why, oh why, did she want to fall to her knees and beg him to understand and forgive?
“How long, Marie?”
“I did not know for sure until I flew just now.”
“Liar,” he darkly accused. He straightened then, and black mists poured from his shoulders, filled the indigo pool under his feet with writhing darkness. “No matter, by your own choice, you are mine.”
“Nay!” she cried. “You did not take me. I am still a virgin.”
“Give me a moment for this water to roll off my back and I will quickly remedy that.”
“I wholeheartedly beg you not to,” said Zoe, sounding deeply distressed. Mid eye roll, he turned his back on them both, muttering about women and the spells and incantations they cast on all unwary men.
Velvet rounded on Henry. “You do not own me. Why would you believe such a thing? Because you shared a dimensional fantasy of mine? Or is it because you received a useless piece of paper from a mad king that says I belong to you?” Velvet kicked away the remnants of the broken irons under foot. “Or perhaps you believe such foolishness because you made a silent promise with a kiss, then put me in chains?”
“Yes, to all of the above,” Henry said with disdain, then took a single step toward her, his beautiful lips twisted into a terrifying snarl. “After what passed between us that night, you owed me more than silence.”
Velvet made a strange, strangled sound in her throat. She searched for an angry response and found none. He was right. She had owed them both far more. “I will not be owned by you, or any man,” she finally said, speaking the only truth she knew.
His look seemed to sear through blood and bone, and she felt his eyes ravaging her very soul. He was clearly furious, and red rage painted the chiseled lines of his flawless face, but there was more. Desperate craving, raw desire, and an emotion that felt like pain. He moved again and reached her in two long strides.
Velvet wanted to skitter away from his touch. It was the craving that held her feet locked in place. She felt it too. A wretched heat coursing over her in sizzling waves. She wanted him, wanted him in all the ways it was possible to want another person. If he put his hands on her as he clearly meant to do, Velvet feared she would either submit, or burst into visible flames.
The reels of black steam continued to pour from his skin; it swirled up and around them, creating a barrier to all of the outside, cocooning them in their own hidden world. The clashing sounds of the battle above faded as the darkness encompassing them thickened. The golden light spilling off her wings tangled with shadows.
He reached out to touch her cheek, and for the briefest moment, his features softened. “Say what you will,” he whispered, “there is no running from this, from us. I am irreparably trapped in your orbit. You are my fate, as I am yours. Destiny often finds you on the path you take to avoid it.” He brushed a lock of damp hair from her eyes, his exhale washed her cheek, then he locked his teeth.
Velvet saw a muscle ticking in his jaw and his face was all harsh lines and dark shadows again. “You look like an angel, Marie. A truly spellbinding shell, it is a crying shame that what is inside is bolstered by deceit and lies.”
Velvet flinched. It felt as though he slapped her.
Henry stepped back a pace and took her hand. “If you still don’t want me, even knowing that night was real, perhaps there truly is no hope.”
Velvet heard a bleak misery in his tone and knew she had hurt him in ways she did not fully understand. Again came that odd, wrenching impulse to throw her arms around his neck, fall to her knees and beg him to look at her once more as he had before he knew her truth. But the rage on his face froze her limbs and tied her tongue. He dropped her hand, his eyes flicked once more over her wings, then he looked past her—through her—as if she had simply ceased to exist.
“Come,” he said, and there was a terrible chill in his voice, “let me show you the bones of your predecessors in the cave beneath the glass. The burning letters carved in the cliffside are a code, one which was fairly easy to decipher for a spy, assassin, and villain, as so oft you have called me.”
“I thought you said there was no way to reach the bottom of a bottomless pool.”
“Apparently I was wrong,” Henry said, and dug his hand in the pocket of his wet trousers to withdraw a stone of unknown color. It seemed an ancient thing, so old it rivalled the very fabric of time.
Velvet could not contain her gasp. “I have never seen that gem before in my life. Where did you find it?” she asked, reaching for it before she fully comprehended her actions.
Henry closed his hand around the enchanted stone. More reels of black smoke seeped through his fingers and fell around them. “I found it in the cave amidst a pile of bones, and I heard words when I touched it.”
“What did they say?” she breathed.
Henry’s eyes found her again—black saturated the indigo in his gaze. He opened his hand and carefully placed the gem in hers. Chills instantly rushed down her spine, prickled the tiny hairs on her arm, then she heard the words for herself. They bore no resemblance to human sound, more like rushing waves crashing against jagged cliffs, or booming thunder clouds spitting white lightning, yet she understood each word just the same.
The price of life is eternal death.
The images of what she had seen when the wraiths had attacked them only moments ago bombarded her, pictures of the heartbreaking life briefly lived, and the explosion of one witches’ power which had brought so much pain and death. She thought of Minerva and her hollow crimson eyes, forever cursed to wander in some dimension of this haunted island.
Velvet feared if she took Henry’s hand and the final plunge with him beneath the violet water, she would never find a return to any sense of normalcy. She would be forever changed. The thought terrified her.
“And the spell to save my brother?” she whispered, trying not to visibly tremble as the power of the stone surged up her arm and through her bones. She saw that it added a touch of spilt ink to her golden glow.
Henry sighed and ran a hand through his glistening hair. “The spell is right where we expected it to be. It is written in blood on the walls.”
* * *
They went beneath the glassy surface of the violet pool. Velvet held her breath but there was no need as the stone was in her hand, and they swam engulfed in its light. Intrinsically—as it always was when she used the magic of these stones—Velvet knew she could draw air from all the molecules of water that surrounded her. Henry’s face was grim as they took the plunge, stern and stoic despite the adorable little bubbles escaping his locked lips. Behind Henry, past the procession of shadows marching along the dark cliff side, each symbol stood out like a dazzling star, glittering undaunted in their underwater world.
Henry’s cold glare notwithstanding, Velvet was entranced. Rapt. She swayed closer to Henry, gazing at the burnished reflection of each symbol in his eyes. Velvet was forced to bite her lip, so she wouldn’t break into a brilliant smile and make all of this so much worse. If the unyielding set of his lips was any tell, it seemed he may never smile again.
Velvet squirmed in his arms, pressed the palms of her hands against his chest, and gently pushed at him. Stern faced, he let her go. Together, they swam toward the wall. Two hard kicks, and the rocks were close enough to touch. She reached out, her fingertips skimmed the rocks, her touch reverent. Liquid lighting shot up her arm, sizzled through her bones.
Henry seemed to forget his rage. He touched the fire branded rocks and wonder quickly replaced the dangerous chill in his glare. More bubbles escaped his lips as he swung his head to search her face. Velvet saw that telltale muscle still ticking in his jaw as he came to some internal conclusion with apparent difficulty. She could nearly feel the hot energy of his warring thoughts, and assumed he was deciding—yet again—if he should help her, trust her. Velvet’s hands went to her hips, and she couldn’t stomp her feet, so she settled for kicking them. She made a weak sound of distress. Don’t you dare change your mind; her heart screamed.
After a tense moment, Henry’s shoulders sagged, and she knew the internal argument was won. He turned with purpose, a small wrinkle worrying the spot between his brow, then pressed his fingers against thirteen separate symbols in quick succession.
Breath held; Velvet watched his hands move. The water around her felt soft, warm, and thick, like honey that’s not sticky, or one of those little puddings Nora so loved. Velvet moved her own hands, water threaded between her fingers, heavy and enchanting, like she was lost again in that alternate dimension the stones had created or caught up in a fever dream.
Henry repeated the same pattern, thirteen symbols, three times, then his hands dropped to his sides when the pattern was complete. For a second there was nothing at all, just silence and water, then the rocks began to tremble. It was like he had tugged an old book on a library shelf, only to find it was not a book at all, instead the lever which opened a hidden door. Henry kicked his way back to her; his hand was hot as he caught her own.
Velvet took a hesitant breath, staring at the stone’s golden glow for fortitude. The water when it rushed through her lungs was light and airy. Shock of breathing underwater was incidental compared to the wonder of the quaking cave wall. Her eyes were locked to the way the black rocks shuddered and groaned. Cracking apart with booming sounds that sent ripples rushing. Velvet felt tears burn her eyes. She was close. So close. Since the night Queenie poured her noxious spell over Velvet’s head, held the stone of Tamora in her hands and recited those terrible, ominous words, Velvet was finally here. The cave beneath the glass, the cave that held the words she had lied, fought, and killed to read. The words that would save her baby brother and exonerate her from a promise made to her dead mother so many years ago.
Before she thought to do so, Velvet tore her hand from Henry’s grasp, as she swam toward the narrow opening in the cave. She swam down past more jagged cliffs all cast in watery, luminous shadows, swam over strange, tentacled creatures. Translucent mushroom heads bobbing up and down like ghosts in the darkness. She kicked her feet and shot forward through the jagged break in the cliff face, kicked her feet once more, her body surged, and her head broke the water’s surface with a frothy splash. Velvet gulped in a giant breath, wiping water from her eyes, shoving sticky strands of hair from her face. Then she saw where she was, and the world seemed to stand still. She had found it. The cave beneath the glass. She was here.