Home > Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)(3)

Knightfall (Tangled Crowns #1)(3)
Author: Ann Denton

“Sard!” I tried to say. All that came out was a howling mewl.

I backed away but lost my grip and started to tumble sideways.

My stomach jerked upward from the fall.

Strong jaws latched onto the loose skin on the back of my neck.

My body swung back and forth like a pendulum.

I’m a sarding saddlegoose, I thought. I’m going to die eaten by a wild animal. ‘Here lie the bones of Princess Bloss, heir to Evaness. Princess Peacemaker. Cursed beyond reason. And stupid enough to be eaten by a cat. A bear? Nope, you heard it right. A sarding cat.’

I cringed and rolled myself into a ball the best I could as the bobcat shuffled back down the tree with me.

My heart beat a million miles a minute.

To my shock, the cat didn’t rip into me once he reached the forest floor. Nope, he set off at a trot.

Shite, I thought. Is he a she? Is she a mother? With a den of cubs? Am I going to be torn apart by dozens of inexperienced tiny sharp teeth? Hell no.

I swung my legs and tail and wildly and flung myself around.

The bobcat bit deeper into my skin but stopped before making me bleed.

Panic flooded my veins at that response. That was not a normal predator’s response.

I swiped at the bobcat’s head, and landed a blow, scratching its nose.

The bobcat shook me. But didn’t end the annoying little kitten.

Sard it all, my brain whispered. I don’t think this cat is a cat.

The spy master must have taken Cerena’s last spelled disguise. He must have seen me transform into a cat and chosen an animal strong enough to catch and keep me.

Quinn Byrne was smarter than I’d anticipated.

Clearly, he had orders to bring me back alive. He had no idea what torture awaited me at the palace. Or maybe he just didn’t care.

After all, I was his betrothed. He was one of the four knights my mother had chosen for me.

If he didn’t bring me back alive, he’d never ascend the throne.

With that in mind, I swung my body around. I extended my claws and buried all four paws in his jugular.

Quinn dropped me.

I rolled along the dead blue leaves, skittered to my feet, and ran. I didn’t spare a glance backward. I didn’t think I’d killed him, but I’d definitely done serious damage.

I hope I didn’t kill him—I quashed that thought.

The spy master would have ended my quest and damned me and the kingdom.

The hill ahead was dotted with boulders and I dashed up it, hoping to find someplace to take cover.

I scooted into a narrow cleft between two rocks and found myself in a small cave, a tiny, cat-sized tunnel that burrowed into the hill. It was perfect.

I settled in, determined to wait a few hours, or a few days, if that was what it took. I’d wait until I couldn’t scent that bobcat any more. And then I’d continue my quest for the wizard. The one man in the seven kingdoms who might be able to change the price of my magic.

I curled my tail around me and watched the opening of the cave, gradually drifting to sleep.

My best friend featured in my dreams frequently. That night was no exception. Even as a cat, I felt a tinge of longing.

Connor had grown up with me at court; the son of Duke Doyle, who ran the largest market for exotic good in Evaness, Connor had been my intended for my contingent of knights from the moment I was born. But I’d only grown up knowing he was my best friend. My confidant. The beautiful boy with the dark curls and winning smile. The maids had started calling him ‘lady-killer’ at age six, when he’d bribed them with sweets and compliments.

He and I had been inseparable; we’d been boisterous and obnoxious little shites who ran rings around the servants.

My governess had nicknamed us “peas and carrots.”

The first time she’d done that, Connor had stood at his desk and thrown a quill at her. “We’re like bread and honey!”

He’d been so offended she’d called us vegetables. I suppose, to eight-year-old boys, there’s little more disgusting than being compared to a vegetable. I smiled and stretched in my sleep as I relived that memory. He’d gotten smacked with a ruler for that one.

Slowly, my dreams morphed into a more recent memory. The last memory I had of Connor.

He’d hovered above my naked body, sweat collecting on his neck.

“Are you sure?”

I’d loved his growly voice at that moment. Normally so sweet and happy, eighteen-year-old Connor was the joyous one at court. Every noble loved him. They couldn’t help it. He brought a lively energy into the room with him. His mouth always stretched in a smile.

That night, he hadn’t been smiling. He’d looked almost angry. But I’d known he wasn’t angry. He’d been physically trying to hold himself back. To keep from mauling me after I’d teased him so mercilessly all day.

I’d pressed my breasts against him during dancing lessons, swiped my hand ‘accidentally’ over his manhood when I passed in the hall, even sat on his lap during a minstrel’s performance that evening. He’d endured it all with nothing more than a flash of heat in his eyes. Then I’d drug him down to the summer garden, to our secret spot.

For the first time, I’d peeled off my clothes in front of him, enjoying the way his eyes had bulged and his jaw went slack. It had sent a delicious tingle down my spine to my core.

Because with Connor, unlike with anyone else in the world, I’d known his reactions were for me. Not the crown.

“I’m sure. My coronation and our wedding are the day after tomorrow,” I’d told him.

His eyes had lit up at that. “I know. I can’t wait—”

“I want you first. Before that. Before—” I hadn’t mentioned the others. I hadn’t even met Quinn Byrne then. My marriage was a political arrangement. The only consolation had been that I would love at least one of my husbands.

Connor’s eyes had darkened with understanding. He’d opened his mouth to argue, but I’d cupped my breasts in my hands and drew his attention to them.

“Anything you want, Bloss Boss,” his eyes had dilated.

“Kiss me. Everywhere,” I’d ordered.

“Yes, my queen.” He’d smiled at my command and taken to his task with reckless abandon.

He’d trailed kisses down my neck and dipped his tongue into the hollow of my breast bone. He’d bladed that beautiful tongue of his and traced hot spirals onto each breast, ignoring my nipples until I begged him, ordered him, and finally grabbed his face and shoved it where I’d wanted it.

Only then had he suckled me, flicking his tongue back and forth, drawing out the sweet agony.

“How are you so good at this? Who’ve you done this with?” I’d gasped, wrenching his head up so I could read the truth in his blue-green eyes.

He’d blushed. “No one. But I’ve watched. A lot.”

I’d arched an eyebrow at him. “How?”

He ducked his head to pop my nipple back into his mouth. He’d sucked it briefly before rubbing his body along the length of mine and whispering, “Your secret corridors. I love to use them to spy on the nobles.”

I’d burst out laughing. “You would.”

He’d given a little shrug. “My spying’s all for your benefit anyway. All of it.”

“Even the dirty bits,” I’d grinned.

He’d winked. “Especially the dirty bits. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know how to do this.”

He’d trailed his fingers down my belly and then side to side along my thighs. Gently, softly, he’d started to circle my opening, spiraling again. His spirals had gotten smaller and smaller until—

A noise startled me awake. I jumped and hissed, hitting my head on the top of the cave.

What the bloody hell?

Men’s voices echoed around me. It took me a moment to realize that my small tunnel led to a bigger cave. Cautiously, I trotted down my tunnel, hoping against hope that Quinn hadn’t followed me here.

As the tunnel widened, I slunk toward the shadowed side. Firelight started to flicker along the cave walls as my tunnel opened onto a large cavern. A group of men crouched in a middle area free of stalactites. A fire jumped and flickered at their feet. The smell of roasted rabbit permeated the space. I fought off a cough brought on by the smoke cloud that hovered over the top half of the unventilated cavern.

The largest of the men, a man with a patch over one eye and a rough looking scar on his arm, stood. He spoke. “His orders are to bring the beast under cover of night. He says it will automatically be drawn toward the princess.”

The man holding the spit, a scrawny middle-aged fellow, scoffed. “It’s all well and good for him to say that. Ain’t it? But I’ve seen those things. The monster’s more like to rip out a hundred heads than get the right one.”

“This is his plan.”

“Well let him drag it ‘cross the border then. An’ let him try to keep it hidden. An’ let him—”

The big man stepped closer to his complaining companion. His arm swung like a hammer. I heard the thwack of his fist smacking down. The scrawny man wobbled where he stood. Someone else scrambled to scoop up the spit, so that their dinner didn’t burn. Scrawny fell back on his butt, dazed.

“Anyone else have a problem with the plan?” Big guy glared at his companions. One by one, they shook their heads no. “Good. Then in a few weeks, we should be rid of Princess Avia.”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered #3)
» Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2
» Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1)
» Never Look Back (Criminal Profiler #3)
» I See You (Criminal Profiler #2)
» Hide and Seek (Criminal Profiler #1)
» No Offense (Little Bridge Island #2)
» Burn You Twice