THE TRAITOR’S GAME
Magically bound to the man who should be her worst enemy.
Chloe de Montesse dreamed about returning home to a peaceful life. But now she has an inconvenient marriage no one wants to let her end, a diplomatic scandal to navigate, and old troubles swirling around her. As well as trying to determine who might want her dead. And that’s just the beginning…
Lucien de Roche has avoided marriage for years because his heart belonged to a woman he could never have. Now he has her, but he knows he’ll have to let her go again because their marriage is a sham. So he still can’t tell her the truth. But he will do everything in his power to keep her safe…
Chloe de Roche stood by the bed where her husband, Lucien, lay sleeping, and resisted—as she did every night when she crept into his room—the urge to lay her hand on his chest and reassure herself that the steady rise and fall of each breath wasn’t a trick of the eye.
It was entirely unnecessary for her to be there. She could feel him through the bond they shared. She knew he was sleeping. She could be safely back in her own bed doing the same.
Not standing in the dark, her palm tingling with temptation.
It was foolishness. Recklessness.
She had no idea how she would explain herself should he wake and see her standing there.
Just checking that you’re alive.
Just remembering why I shouldn’t have married you.
Just trying to forget what it felt like when you kissed me.
None of those seemed sensible things to say.
The last one was barely a sensible thing to let herself think.
She curled her fingers tight, pulling her hand back to her side.
And then, just as she did every night, she told herself that this would be the last time.
Check on him, that was. Not resist the urge to touch him. She would continue to do that.
As she had done every night for the month they had been staying at Imogene and Jean-Paul du Laq’s estate, Sanct de Sangre. The month before that, Lucien had still been under the care of the healers in the Temple of the Goddess near the emperor’s palace in Lumia.
Then it had been different. He’d been unconscious for most of a week and then mostly in a healer-induced sleep for several more.
She’d stayed by his side. Held his hand. Slept next to him either in a chair or on his bed.
She told herself it was only because the healers had suggested, in the way of healers where a suggestion was really an order, that the bond she shared with Lucien was, in part, what was helping him heal from the effects of the Andalyssian poison that nearly killed him.
But the truth was she hadn’t been able to leave him, her fear for his life outweighing her common sense.
As he’d regained some strength and begun to be awake more hours of the day than not, she had grown more cautious, not knowing what was coming next.
There had been a plan for this ridiculous marriage of theirs. Appease the Andalyssians by marrying and finish their mission. Then dissolve their bond and get a quick and discreet divorce when they were safely back in Lumia.
So far they’d only managed one out of four. And she wasn’t entirely sure she could even count one. The Andalyssians had been appeased by their marriage, yes. Or at least Sejerin Silya, the most powerful of the Andalyssian seers and the one who had demanded they marry, had been.
Presumably the patrarchs as well, given one of the priests had married them. King Mikvel himself was more neutral. She didn’t think he had been as outraged as Sejerin Silya had been by the fact that she and Lucien had spent a night together in a cave after a storm had separated them from a hunting party. But he couldn’t afford to lose the goodwill of the seers and disrupt the fragile state of affairs in his court.
But any good toward the diplomatic cause their wedding had achieved had, no doubt, been undone when Chloe had thrown all the weight of her newly gained title around to rush Lucien home to Lumia after someone had poisoned him at their wedding banquet.
And then there was the added complication of the unexpected passenger who’d used Chloe’s headlong flight as cover to steal away as well. Irina Uleniska. Younger sister of the just-crowned Andalyssian queen. A whole diplomatic incident in one small stubborn package.
When they had reached Lumia, well, that hadn’t gone to plan either. The healers insisted the bond she and Lucien had formed to save their lives could not be dissolved yet.
That it was necessary for Lucien’s recovery.
So, she discovered, was her marriage. The authority she had as Lucien’s wife—as the Marquesse of Castaigne—meant she was the one with the power to make decisions for him. To protect his best interests.
Even if that meant overriding his mother and his siblings when they suggested he should be immediately taken to Terre d’Etoi, the de Roche estate, when he was in no fit state to travel. Then, as he showed the first signs of recovery, overriding everyone else who immediately started making demands on his time.
They had left her with little choice but to accept Imogene’s offer for her to bring him to Sanct de Sangre once the healers said he no longer needed round-the-clock care. The estate of the Duq and Duquesse of Saint Pierre, Jean-Paul du Laq and his wife, Imogene, also Chloe’s closest friend. A safe haven where it might actually be possible for Lucien to recuperate free from the demands of his rank and his duties at the Imperial judiciary.
Rain rattled against the window, making her jump. She stepped back from the bed and crossed the room to check that the glass was closed. The last thing Lucien needed was to catch a cold.
She eased the velvet curtain back gingerly, not wanting to make any sound. The windowpanes were like black mirrors with the night behind them. She got the vague sense of movement, the trees in the garden beyond dancing in the wind, but the runnels of rain along the glass obscured the view. It was late for a winter storm—Goddess, she was tired of winter—and the chill coming through the glass despite the wards didn’t seem strong enough for snow, but the rain was fierce besides, the water painting patterns that swirled like the inky depths of a scrying bowl.
She watched them as she tested the window latch, making sure it was shut tight. The movement was almost hypnotic, and for a moment she thought she saw a swirl of images. A raven swooping down across a starry sky, a crown sparked with light, and then…flames. She blinked, startled, and realized the last was merely the reflected light from the fireplace, the glow of embers made large by the movement of the water.
She pulled the curtains closed again, shaking her head. Water mage she might be, but she’d never learned much of scrying beyond the basics. She’d been called to care for her mother not long after her Ascencion, and while she’d finished her studies at the Academe, she’d chosen to focus mainly on her earth magic, having more use for healing and Herbcraft then than the more esoteric paths of water.
She was no foreteller or Andalyssian seer. Merely tired. She should go back to bed.
Denying all the feels
When the past just won’t let go
Forced marriage, political violence, death, abuse of power, misuse of religion, female oppression, death of a parent (historical), parental illness (historical), tattooing, death of a spouse (historical), fire, morgue scene, family dispute
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Series: Daughter of Ravens (book 2)
Next book in series: The Rebel’s Prize
Publisher: emscott enterprises
Publication date: 1 November 2022
ISBN ebook: 9780645294828
ISBN paperback: TBA