“You don’t know who I am,” I whispered. He didn’t move—either away from me, or closer—and after an interminable moment, I stepped back and hurried out of the house. He didn’t follow me as I fled into the night. Lylin was not used to being alone—much less alone, hurt, and lost. So when she is separated from her guard and forced to abandon her horse, she counts herself lucky to stumble upon a manor house. Still frightened by those who chased her into the night, she keeps her identity a secret, calling herself Lily as she accepts the help of kind servants, and the compassion of Lord Fallon. When they fall into an easy friendship, she wonders if her secrecy was too hasty. However, as she gets to know the manor and its residents, Lylin discovers that she’s not the only one hiding secrets, and it may be a very good thing that her host doesn’t know her true identity as a member of the royal family.
Author Annette K. Larsen
I was born in Utah, part of a crazy, fun family of nine. I grew up in Flagstaff, AZ and St. Louis, MO before striking out on my own college adventure in Virginia. I decided to try my hand at writing novels after I was married and living in Idaho. I write clean romance because it’s my favorite genre, but often difficult to find.
I have Charlotte Brontë to thank for the courage to write novels. After being bombarded with assigned reading about women who justified abandoning either their families or their principles in the name of love, I had the great fortune of reading Jane Eyre. And that was it: finally, a heroine who understood that being moral and making the right choice was hard, and sometimes it hurt, but it was still worth it. After rereading it several years later, I realized that if I wanted more books to exist with the kinds of heroines I admired, then I might as well write a few myself. My books are about women who face hard choices, who face pain and rejection and often have to face the reality of sacrificing what they want for what is right. The consequences are often difficult or unpleasant, but in the end, doing what’s right will always be worth it. I believe there is no substitute for good writing or good chocolate. Fortunately, one often leads to the other.
Just as I started to relax, the sound of voices made my eyes pop open, and I sat up, forcing my breathing to quiet. The doors at the other end of the stables slid open and someone entered, carrying a lamp and shaking water from their clothes.
“I’m not seein’ things, Lord Fallon. Someone is in here,” a voice whispered. I sat still, unable to move. The lamp shifted, casting two men in ominous shadow.
“I believe you, Giles. That’s why we’re here.” His Lordship sounded not at all concerned, as though he were merely humoring his hired man. He sounded more tired than anything.
“The lamp, Giles.” The light transferred to His Lordship’s hands, illuminating his face and leaving me astonished by his youth. He looked to be in his twenties, and I wondered how such a young gentleman held the title of Lord. “You’re sure it wasn’t an animal of some sort?” he asked as he took his first steps down the long line of stalls. He would find me soon enough, and yet this prospect didn’t terrify me as it had moments ago. Lord Fallon looked not at all frightening. He wore trousers, a loose fitting shirt that hung untucked, and a full-length coat that fell in languid folds from his shoulders. Water dripped from his rumpled hair, sliding down his face and into his well-trimmed facial hair.
“T’weren’t no animal, sir.”
“The horses aren’t agitated. They would be if someone threatening were about.”
When the light fell on me, Lord Fallon’s eyes widened. I tried to push myself to my feet, but he drew a sword that I had not realized was hanging at his side and pointed it at my throat. I fell back against the wall, crouching, my chest aching from the heavy beating of my heart.
“I don’t take kindly to vagrants on my property.” His fatigue had vanished. Now he looked menacing—terrifying.
My voice was barely audible as I forced a reply. “I’m not a vagrant, sir.”
His eyes narrowed in question. “Remove your hood.”
I raised my hand slowly and pushed the fabric back. His eyebrows raised, even more surprised by my appearance than by my voice. The sword lowered. “Giles, take her inside and put her in front of a fire. She’s freezing.” And with that, he walked away and I slumped back to the ground, numb with relief.
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