Series: Fire Dragons of Grieghern #2
Published by: Amber Jantine
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Contributors: Amber Jantine
Buy the Book: Amazon, Smashwords
Rergyn’s expecting an ordinary arranged marriage to the Crown Princess Seira but when he arrives for the ceremony, he’s told that the princess has run away. The truth isn’t quite that simple. When he finds his beautiful bride, she’s just escaped an attempt on her life and is under the protection of the dragons’ age-old enemies: the dread-trolls.
Seira has been fooled once by a sorcerer who claimed to be her long-awaited fiance and nearly lost her life to his magic. Only a surprising power of her own--and the unexpected protection of the trolls--kept her alive. Then a dragon appears and claims to be the one she was engaged to all along. When he shifts to his human form, he kindles an unexpected passion in her body with his touch and his kiss. But she isn't about to let her guard down again. Nor will she let her new soon-to-be husband into her heart.
More treachery awaits them in her kingdom. Seira's stepmother and the sorcerer have formed a devious alliance with the aim of claiming the throne for themselves. The fire-dragon will have to learn to work with the trolls if he hopes to keep his princess safe long enough for him to win the greatest prize of all: her love.
Hidden Magic is a paranormal romance inspired by the fairytale "Snow White." Though it is the second book in the Fire Dragons series, it can be read as a standalone.
Keep running. Do not stop. Do not look back.
Seira stumbled and cursed. Too busy worrying about what was behind her, she had failed to watch where she was going. She wavered and flailed her arms, struggling for balance without stopping for a moment.
If she stopped, they would catch her.
If she fell, they would destroy her.
Their baying grew louder. She had been told they were the dread-trolls, but at the moment they sounded like a pack of hunting dogs.
And they were chasing her as if she was their prey.
They were like men, yet not. Much shorter yet more powerfully built. Each was wielding an axe with a blade nearly as tall as she was. Their faces would be almost human, except for being contorted into perpetual scowls. Large fangs protruded out from their lower jaws, rather like the reverse of a boar's tusks.
"Surrender, Seira. You know you cannot win."
The sound of her former suitor's voice hardened her resolve. Her stepmother had told her that he was a prince. The one who had been promised to her since her birth through an arrangement created by her late father. He had come to court her. Flattered her with a sort of constant attention such as she’d never imagined possible. Taking an interest in even the smallest of her concerns.
And she had begun to believe that she might be falling in love.
But it had all been a lie. She should have realized from the start that it was too good to be true. That his appearance, alone and unattended, was not consistent with the sort of identity he had claimed for himself.
Nor had his manner of dress ever been suitable for a ‘prince.’ Seira had tried to make excuses for it by thinking it merely a difference between the ways of her country and his.
She had wanted to believe in him. Desperately.
It was sheer chance, an overheard conversation just as they were preparing to set out today, that had given her the first true suspicions that something was wrong.
Still, she’d tried to deny the truth.
Until he’d told her it himself. Just before the start of his attack.
Aleks was a sorcerer and a commoner from the northern steppes. Not a foreigner at all. He was also her stepmother's secret lover. He’s spoken at great lengths of how much he loved the older woman. How he would do anything for her. And now he was intent on eliminating the one thing that prevented Queen Regina from taking the throne of [country] in her own right: Seira herself.
There was a chill in the air. It was not yet winter but the trees were bare of leaves. The fallen leaves crunched under her feet as she fled, a noisy announcement of her position. She darted into a thicket of thorn-bushes, biting back the urge to cry out as the sharp spikes—some larger than her fingers—ripped at her clothing to reach her flesh.
The dread-trolls did not hesitate in continuing their pursuit. They appeared unaffected by the thorns. Either their flesh was too thick to be pierced or they were simply too-focused on their prey—too locked on her—to be deterred.
It turned out to be the wrong path to choose for more than one reason. The bushes gave way as the ground dropped off sharply into a high embankment. Seira barely managed to stop. Her toes touched the edge and once again she flailed wildly, trying to halt her momentum before it could carry her over.
Once she was steady again, she looked down. Far below, sharp rocks jutted out from a shallow river.
Another horrible death narrowly avoided.
But would it be a worse fate than to be taken by her enemies? It would be quicker to die on the rocks, as long as she hit them correctly. She was fairly certain of that.
There had long been other rumors about her stepmother, which had declared she had a voracious taste for torture. She had heard whispers of it for years. Yet she had convinced herself that any such acts undertaken by her stepmother had been nothing more than misguided attempts to uphold justice in the land, despite the fact that Seira’s grandfather had passed a royal decree against the practice. Seira had tried to speak with Regina about it, when the rumors had first reached her, but her stepmother had assured her that it was nothing that it was nothing more than slander. A way for others to try to destroy their relationship. To cause chaos in the land before Seira could come of age and take the throne.
What a fool she had been, to believe her. It was a small comfort to think that her father had been equally fooled by his second wife. For surely, he would not have arranged things in his will the way that he had, if he’d known her true nature?
He had left the throne and the crown to his only child, as everyone had always assumed he would, but had also named Queen Regina as both Seira’s personal guardian and regent to the throne.
Both of those roles were to have ended a month ago, when Seira had finally come of age. Her stepmother had suggested that a delay would not be amiss. That it would be better if her coronation did not take place until after her marriage, so her husband could receive his crown at the same time.
That had seemed like a reasonable proposal at the time. But it had been nothing more than a way for Regina to buy time in order to put her more lethal plans into motion.
Seira looked down at the rocks again, then at the dread-trolls that were closing in all around her. There was only one guaranteed way out of this: to jump.
She heard the laughter of her former suitor again. He thought she would take the coward's way out, she was sure of that. To take her own life would be to disgrace her family. Her father.
She could not do that.
She turned to face the trolls. She had no weapons. Only her hands. But she would not go down without a fight.
Let her blood be on her enemies hands, so everyone would know who to blame...
Terror still surged through her, making her blood run cold. Now that the beasts were closer, she could see exactly how long and how sharp their tusks were. A single bite would easily slice her in two.
She raised her hands. "Don't come any closer."
There had been a faint glimmer around her fingers when she'd spoken the words. Much like what she'd seen happen when Aleksandr had first called the trolls to him. Using magic.
But there was no gift for sorcery in anyone in her family, as far as she knew.
The imposter charged out of the trees. Aleksander reined in his horse, steadying the skittish animal as he raised his hands in a similar gesture. "What are you idiots doing? Take her!”
They lurched forward as the light around his hands moved to surround them. He was controlling them through enchantment alone. They may not even have any real loyalty to him at all. Might not even be conscious if everything they were doing.
One look into their eyes told her that the latter was likely the case. Their expressions were blank and void of any sign of voluntary thinking, yet the otherwise dark pupils were glowing with the same blue sparkle that surrounded Alek’s hands.
Not that it was going to make much of a difference.
She felt that energy racing through her again and instinctively kept her palms facing her enemies. “You will not do this.”
Lightning flashed. Blue lightning. Unnatural and spooky. So close that it blinded her for several moments.
Or that’s what she thought it was, at first. But there was no thunder.
Or was there?
Then she realized that the rolling, pounding sound was coming from the ground. Not the sky.
From horse’s hooves.
Aleks’ horse. The animal had wheeled about and was galloping wildly through the woods. Her former suitor was clinging to his mount’s neck, half-falling out of the saddle.
The dread-trolls blinked several times, as if coming out of a trance. The largest of the beasts looked at her with a grimace that could almost be called a smile. He gestured to the others around him and they dropped to their knees before Seira.
“Thank you for freeing us, oh Great One,” their leader said. “We are forever in your debt.”
She was half-tempted to tell them that she had done nothing as she still wasn’t certain exactly what had happened. But then she remembered her stepmother, and how the older woman was not likely to end her quest to have Seira dead.
She looked at the dread-trolls once more. Even if only half the reputation of their kind was true, the seven of them would have the strength to defeat almost any army her stepmother would dare to send her way. “I need your help,” she said slowly, choosing her words with care. If she had indeed managed to enchant them somehow, she certainly did not wish to do so again. The last thing she wanted to do was steal their free will. Not in this. Nor did anything else. “And your protection…”
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