Mid Week Tease: Empress of Storms #MidWeekTease #MWTease
*bangs head on keyboard* Empress of Storms is now through its second draft and is off to the betas. Now I can go to bed. The scene here takes place after Matthias and Danaë’s first argument as a married couple. Of course, when you argue with a mage, little things like unexpected thunderstorms tend to happen. Oops.
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
When widower King Matthias IV of Ypres is called upon to fulfill a treaty with the neighboring country of Hellas and provide a royal consort for young Queen Danäe, the only Ypresian royal available for marriage is himself. Can he overcome his grief for his late wife and risk letting a blue-haired witch queen into his heart? And can Danäe, only half-trained as a water mage, root out a magical threat against Matthias before it kills the man she’s loved since childhood?
Matthias got to his feet as his wife came back in. The only way to describe her was bedraggled.
His irritation had settled during her absence. He had no idea that she’d been dealing with rumors that she’d killed King Cresus. Suggestions that Luna was his by-blow would be an additional and unnecessary humiliation.
And now, seeing Danaë damp and miserable like this, all he wanted to do was sweep her into his arms and get her warm and comfortable again.
“Shall I have Flavia fetch you dry clothes?” he offered.
She shook her head, damp curls swinging in front of her face. “I can do it,” she said quietly. “She’s tending to Luna. I don’t want to bother her right now.”
She went to her trunk, rooting through it for a night shift. Matthias turned his back to give her some privacy. “I can mull us some wine, if you like?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He went to the small brazier warming the tent, picking up the set of fire tongs hung on its side. He shoved them into the brightest part of the coals to heat, then busied himself pouring two goblets of wine. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re right. Making it look like you’re raising my illegitimate child would be humiliating to you. I won’t do that.”
He could hear the rustle of fabric behind him, but she didn’t reply. He pulled the tongs out of the brazier, eyeing the dull red of the metal, then plunged them into the goblets. The surface of the wine bubbled and hissed, sending up spiced steam.
Picking up the goblets he turned to her, then stopped. She stood there in her dry nightshift, towel in one hand, as silent tears rolled down her face. Dripping off her chin, they made dark spots on the bodice of her shift.
His heart ached. “Oh, little bird,” he murmured, crossing to her. “Please don’t cry. I’m sorry. I was an ass.”
She shook her head, wiping at her tears. “No, you were right. I should have told you about the star chamber,” she said, gulping. “I’m sorry. I was terrified of how you would react.”
He put down the goblets and pulled her into his arms. She pressed her face against his chest, shuddering now. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she cried, her voice muffled by his tunic.
“Shh,” he soothed, rubbing her back. “It’s all right, shh.”
Sometimes a storm had to be allowed to blow itself out. He waited until her sobs had subsided, then kissed her hair. “I’ll tell you what I told Darius,” he murmured. “I have complete faith in you. I know you loved your father and would never do anything to harm him. Whatever happened that day, it wasn’t your intention. And I sincerely doubt it was your fault in the first place.”
She hiccuped softly. “I wish I could believe that.”
His hand came up, cupping her head and stroking her wet hair. “Then I’ll believe it for you until you can.”
She choked out a laugh, pulling back far enough to look up into his face. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you, Matthias, I truly don’t.”
He smiled. “I wonder the exact same thing. Come, let’s get your hair dried, and then we’ll have our wine.”
He plucked the towel from her hand, using it first to wipe the tears from her face, then to soak up the rainwater from her hair. When he judged he’d gotten it as dry as possible, he tossed the towel onto a trunk and picked up one of the goblets, handing it to her. “I don’t think that chair is strong enough for you to sit in my lap,” he said, “so let’s sit on the bed where you can pull the covers over you. I don’t want you catching a chill.”
“A few minutes in the rain isn’t going to make me sick,” she said, but let him take her to the camp bed and tuck her in a sitting position under the warm blankets. He went to the other side, still holding his goblet and shucking down to his tunic before crawling in next to her.
“Not a drop spilled,” she said, giving him a shaky smile. “I’m impressed, my king. That takes talent.”
“A remnant of a dissolute youth. Then again, I have all kinds of talents that you haven’t seen yet,” he said, putting an arm around her and pulling her close before sipping his wine. The warmth and spiced sweetness filled his mouth. “For instance, did you know that I played the flute?”
She was in mid-sip of her own wine and choked slightly before swallowed. “No, I didn’t. May I hear you play sometime?”
“Not unless you long for deafness. I said I played it, not that I played well.”
That made her giggle. “Talents. Did I tell you that our chamberlain also taught us how to juggle?”
“Why in the world would a professional criminal be able to do that?”
“It can entertain a crowd and provide distraction while your partner is jimmying the back window.”
He thought. “I do believe the cook has some rolls left over from dinner. I can have them bring some in if you’d like to demonstrate.”
“I think another time might be better.” She relaxed against his side, her damp head resting on her shoulder. “We’re really married now. We’ve had our first argument.”
“I believe you’re right.” He squeezed. “I’m so sorry, little bird. I didn’t know the last year had been so bad for you.”
“I know. And I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like that.”
He kissed the top of her head. “Is there anything I can do to make things better for you? In Hellaspont?”
He felt one shoulder twitch. “I’ve done my best to be a good ruler, following in Father’s footsteps. The rumors are dying down, despite Pelas’s best efforts.”
“Is that the little toad of a grand magister? Your brother mentioned him.”
“Yes. Also my magecraft tutor. You can understand why I was more than happy to abandon it after Father’s death.” She took another sip of her wine. “Do you know what the worst part of all that was? The look on Mother’s face when she found out about the accusations. It was bad enough to have lost the love of her life, but to find out that her daughter was suspected of his murder? I’d thought she would be on my side like Darius was.” She let out a shuddering sigh. “But Pelas’s accusations found a foothold, even after I was cleared of all charges. From that point on until her death, she avoided me. She’d speak to me if I went to her rooms or if we had to appear in public together, but she never looked at me again. The last time I touched her was in her coffin.” She closed her eyes, eyelashes a sooty shadow against her cheeks. “I didn’t want to watch you turn away from me as well.”
He hugged her again, tighter this time. “I may argue with you, little bird, but I promise I’ll never turn away from you,” he said. “Rest easy in that. I wouldn’t be taking all this trouble to find Lukas if I didn’t want to hear his side of the story. I know it’s slender, but there is a chance he’s innocent in all this.”
She took a deep breath and let it out, relaxing. “You’re a good man, Matthias.”
“I do my best.” He put his own goblet on the side table, then plucked the goblet from her relaxing fingers and placed it next to its twin. “I think we should sleep now, don’t you?”
He eased her down until she was lying flat, pulling the blankets up to her chin. She turned onto her side towards him, giving him one last sad smile before closing her eyes.
He watched her sleep, and wondered how he would be able to protect her with a mountain range in the way.
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