Welcome to Teaser Tuesday! In honor of the November 3rd release of Shadows on Snow, I’ve decided to share a full scene from the book with you all this week!
But first, a few points of business to take care of. Item the first, you can now preorder Shadows on Snow for a paltry 99 cents! The day after release, this will go up to $2.99, so be sure to snag this deal before it’s gone.
Item the second, there’s a big release day event over on Facebook for Shadows on Snow, and a whole gaggle of awesome authors are lined up to spend the evening interacting with readers and giving away oodles of prizes. I may also reveal the cover for my second Flipped Fairy Tale, The Stillness of the Sky, so you really won’t want to miss it!
And now, I present to you, a full scene from Shadows on Snow…
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Per Delphine’s instructions, I wrapped the flower and placed the bundle on a log in the clearing the night following the masked ball. No sooner had I set it down then a large hawk swooped in and carried it off. I scratched at my thigh as I watched it fly away, southbound toward my sisters.
By the light of my small bucket fire back in the stable, I examined the offending spot on my leg. Even in the dim glow, the place the Daymaiden lily rested against my skin looked splotchy and irritated. Hopefully my sisters would be able to do something for it soon.
The next morning I spent time with the horses, showing the royal mounts extra care after the influx of guests stole my attention from them for two days. It was as I finished up with Remy that the stable doors opened, admitting Prince Leopold and Master Grey mid-argument.
“The boy should not be trusted with this, Your Highness,” Master Grey said. “It’s unwise to leave such a fine steed in the care of a simpleton.”
“Are you insinuating that I’m incapable of good judgment, stablemaster?” The prince stopped and turned to the thin, twisted form of Master Grey.
The other man stumbled and stammered. “No, Sire. I would never!” He bowed as low as his misaligned spine allowed. “I only wanted to counsel you against—”
“When I have need of your counsel, I will ask it,” he interrupted, then proceeded on his way. “No other than your stable boy, Rae, is to touch my horse.”
“As you wish, Your Highness,” Master Grey grumbled before seeing himself out.
Pretending as though I hadn’t overheard him defending me, I resumed brushing Remy’s tail, using the long, slow strokes he liked.
“Pay him no mind,” the prince said as he leaned up against the doorway. “His words carry no weight with me.”
“Whose words, Highness?” I asked, feigning ignorance.
“You know whose words. There’s no need to hide your intelligence with me. I’ve seen through your façade already.”
I paused, startled by his statement. Surely he couldn’t see through my glamour. It wasn’t possible. I met his eyes, searching them for any hint he saw me as other than what my magic dictated, but there was only kindness in his gaze.
I looked away to finish Remy’s grooming, uncomfortable with the eye contact. “His misconceptions cause me no harm and prevent him from giving me more work than I already have, Sire. There’s little chance to risk punishment for mistakes when all I’m given is simple tasks.”
“Competence can have much greater rewards, however,” he said. “Eventually I’ll convince you of this and perhaps win myself a trusted companion by my side.”
By his side? Spirits above and below, the mere thought of it slackened my jaw and sent my knees quaking. Everything the man did threw me off-kilter. Was he trying to rattle me?
“I’m only a stable boy, Highness,” I said, reassembling my wits. “I’d be a poor friend indeed to one such as you.”
He laughed, a sound not unlike the musical one of my godmother’s. “One such as me? I’m no more or less than any other. My position affords me little in the way of true friendship, and I see no reason why I should be denied this. Humanity craves companionship. It’s in our nature. Would you begrudge a fellow man his own happiness?”
I set down the brush and frowned at my filthy hands. “Certainly not, Sire, but surely there are those of higher rank better suited to that than I. I’d be of little use to you when you were in need of counsel. We’re of different worlds.”
“All the more reason for your words to be heard,” he countered. “Outside perspective often sheds new light on complex problems, providing unexpected solutions.”
My scowl deepened, but I couldn’t argue with his reasoning.
“Shall we test my theory?” he asked, grinning.
“Fetch my saddle. I wish to ride this morning, but we’ll talk as we prepare for that. Perhaps you’ll have some insight about a problem currently plaguing me.”
Doing as he bid me, but concerned with what he might ask, I hurried away to retrieve the tack. I returned not long after, and we set about the task.
“Do you know much about women, Rae?”
I fumbled with a buckle. “Women, Sire?”
He adjusted Remy’s blanket. “Women. As in, what would frighten a lady so greatly that she would run from me before so much as giving her name?”
Speechless, I stared at him.
“You’ve no idea then?”
My mouth worked at words, but I couldn’t quite find advice for him. “I’m not… A lady ran from you, Sire?”
Prince Leopold frowned and tilted his head to one side. “I wouldn’t say ran, so much as she vanished, quite literally, before my eyes. Do you suppose it was something I said?”
Swallowing hard, I had to be careful. Any encouragement from me could result in him seeking out someone who did not want to be sought: namely, myself. “She disappeared, Sire? Is this a dream you speak of?”
“No,” he said and scratched his chin. “I would have thought so had other people not confirmed her existence as well.”
I switched tactics, shrugging it off and returning to my work with the saddle. “Sounds like magic to me then, Sire. Best advice I can give is to stay away if you can. Dangerous business, magic. More trouble than it’s worth for certain.”
“You didn’t, perchance, return a horse to a young lady in a green gown with a mask of oak leaves night before last?”
I forced my face into a completely impassive expression. “I don’t believe so, Highness.”
“Did you see a woman like that at all?”
I shook my head, trying to relax. All of my lies would be for naught if he suspected otherwise. “No, Sire. I was told to stay with the horses once Master Grey handed them off to me. I only saw a handful of guests, and none wearing green save for an old duke.”
He lapsed into silence, gently stroking the side of Remy’s neck. Seeing him that way, with such an air of melancholy about him, it made my heart ache for him. “May I ask…” I stopped, rethinking my question.
When his eyes met mine, I couldn’t breathe for a moment as I wondered for the millionth time what it was about him that was so extraordinary.
“Speak freely, please,” he said.
Taking a deep breath, I tightened a strap. “What was it about this girl? Is it only that she vanished the way she did that leaves you so curious?”
Another quiet moment followed before he spoke again. “I couldn’t say precisely. Perhaps it was the startling color of her gown, but, truthfully, her mere presence pulled at me from across the room. It was almost as though she avoided me purposefully. Every other lady at the ball went out of their way to speak with me, yet she did not. And when I took her hand…”
Heart in my throat, I prompted him. “Sire?”
He shook his head to clear it. “I’m sure it’s nothing.” After giving the saddle a firm tug, his usual pleasant expression returned to his face. “Everything seems to be in order. Well done.”
I nodded, but my face betrayed my concern with a frown.
Setting a boot in a stirrup, Prince Leopold swung himself up onto the saddle, and I handed him the reins. “Thank you for your help, Rae. And for your counsel.”
“I don’t think I was of much help, Highness, but you’re welcome for it.”
He eased Remy away from the grooming station and towards the door, pausing to leave me with some last words. “Don’t discount an ability to listen. Sometimes, that’s the greatest help of all.”
I bowed to him as he directed Remy outside. Once clear of the door, the prince set off at a brisk trot, soon clear of my line of sight.
Wiping nervous sweat from my brow, I blew out a relieved breath. Perhaps he’d heed my words and let the matter of the mysterious masked lady drop. The last thing I needed was him fixated on me as a woman, as it was already bad enough he insisted on befriending me as a stableboy.
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I’ll be back next week with the big blog tour schedule and an associated giveaway!