And here’s an excerpt from Alora’s sequel. It should be going to the editor next month!
“Good morning.” Kaevin’s voice was still a bit raspy, though he’d been off the ventilator for two days. Dr. Sanders had said there was some residual swelling.
“Hi.” Alora sat down across the table.
She seemed almost shy. Or maybe she was mad—he really couldn’t tell. Her uncle was out tending the horses while they sat down to breakfast, and it was the first time they’d been alone together since before the fateful trip to Laegenshire. Their conversations had been awkward at best, and her uncle seemed to always be within earshot. She’d held hands with him, but they hadn’t kissed. Not that there had been a need or a private moment. He was acutely aware of the harsh words he’d spoken to her during the battle. But perhaps she’d forgotten.
“I haven’t actually expressed how grateful I am to you for saving my life—for getting me to Dr. Sanders in time.”
She shrugged. “I guess that’s the one bright side of being tethered to me all the time.”
No, she hadn’t forgotten. “Alora, that wasn’t what I meant.” He reached out to cover her hand with his, but she pulled it away.
“What did you mean?”
“I only meant… Sometimes I feel as if… as if I’m not the same person I used to be. It’s not your fault at all. But before we met, I knew I would someday be clan chief. I’ve prepared my whole life for nothing else.”
“So you wish we’d never met? Is that what you’re saying?”
“No, I didn’t say that. You’re my soulmate.”
“Yes, but you wish we weren’t soulmates.”
“That’s not true—I love you.”
“Don’t say it, Kaevin. You don’t even know what that means. We’re too young to really be in love.”
“So you don’t love me any more? Because I made a single mistake?”
“Maybe I’m just recognizing that we spoke too fast when we used the L word. We hardly know each other. Your father and my uncle want to dissolve the soulmate bond. If they find a way to do that, you won’t be tethered to me anymore.”
He ground his teeth together, suppressing the urge to yell. “I didn’t mean those words, and I would take them back if I could. I swear to you, I want to be your soulmate. I will never love another.”
“But I’m holding you back. I’m keeping you from fulfilling your destiny. What if you start resenting me for it?” Her lower lip trembled as she spoke.
He stood and held out his hand toward her. “Please, Alora… Come sit beside me and talk to me.”
His heart clenched as she stared at his hand. One breath. Two breaths. Three breaths. He dropped his hand.
“Wait… I’ll talk to you. But no kissing, okay? Kissing confuses me, and I can’t think straight.” She reached up with shaking fingers, and he grasped her hand.
“No kissing, then.”
He led her to the family room, collapsing onto the couch as she perched beside him in awkward silence. She attempted to withdraw her hand, but he refused to release her.
“Alora, you misunderstood my words. I didn’t say I was in love with you. I said I love you. I’m not certain how those words are interpreted in Montana, but in Laegenshire, it’s a commitment. From the moment I knew we were soulmates, I made a commitment to you.”
“Great, so you don’t even care about me? I’m just a commitment.”
“I care about you even more because I’m committed to you. And I want you to know my commitment isn’t dependent on our soulmate bond—not anymore. Even if the council should find a way to dissolve the bond, I want to be with you for the rest of our lives.”
She pulled her hand away. “I’m not ready for that. It’s too soon for me to commit to marriage. I’m only fifteen.”
“I realize you’re still immature, but I’m willing to wait for you. And as I’m older, I can provide guidance and—”
“Immature? You think I’m immature?”
“I only meant you’re younger, and I’m older. And being a man, I’m naturally stronger, so I can take care of you.”
Alora’s eyes widened as she stood up, glaring down at him with clenched fists. Her face turned a dark shade of red from her neck to her forehead. Her mouth opened, and she took a breath as if to speak. But she snapped her lips together, pivoted on one foot, marched down the hallway into her bedroom, and shut the door with a resounding clunk.
Did I say something wrong?