A Daughter of Winter
A Daughter of Winter
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Love does not rest, but neither does evil.
🌿 Fae courts & lush world-building
🌿 Glittering balls
🌿 Political intrigue
🌿 2 slow-burn romances
🌿 Adorable animal familiars
🌿 Courtesan turned spy
🌿 family mystery
🌿 A surprise villain
🌿 Forbidden love
🌿 Found family
🌿 Shocking twist
- Print interior with beautiful custom formatting
- free gift with purchase of ebook
- completed series
Read an Excerpt
Read an Excerpt
Laec and Grex were a blur of thundering black flesh, flashing hooves, and flying red hair far ahead of Jessamine. Her mount—which she’d never ridden before, but borrowed from the stables because he looked more awake than the others—a painted gelding named Kitabee, sturdy and stalwart though he was, could not keep up with the Stavarjakian stallion. Tears streamed from Jess’s eyes as she pressed low over Kitabee’s neck, urging him on. Her breath was hot in her throat, her thighs screaming their own burning pain as she crouched above the saddle the way Laec had shown her.
The race had been Laec’s idea. So had the ride. At another time, when things in Jess’s life were humming along the tracks of routine, she would have declined his invitation. But routine had been derailed, along with Jess’s peace-of-mind, not to mention good nights’ sleep. Jess had not been able to see Sasha— or Rialta—in the four days since he had fainted in the lion’s den and been carried away, hidden by a crowd of soldiers, Fahyli and big familiars.
So when Laec knocked on her door—before the palace corridors began to bustle with life, before the stable hands had rubbed the sleep from their eyes—dressed in boots and riding leathers, Jess had agreed. Beazle complained that even the bugs weren’t awake before tucking his wings more tightly around himself and going back to sleep.
As Solana City came into view, Laec slowed Grex to a canter, then a walk, giving Jess and Kitabee time to catch up. They caught their breath as rays of silvery sunlight kissed the highest towers, lighting the terra-cotta tiles and reflecting off stained-glass windows. Flags fastened to the tallest towers whipped and snapped. They could be heard even from where Jess and Laec stood upon a distant hill. Solana’s lion’s head sigil blinked in and out of sight.
A pang of loss tugged at Jess’s heart as she thought of Marion, and of Greta. Marion had lived long enough to know of Jess’s ascension—if it could be called that—to the ranks of the Calyx, but not the many strange turns Jess’s life and talents had taken. Jess was no longer a child. This she felt within—like the hardening of candle wax once the flame was blown out—as she was forced to respond to difficult circumstances, make difficult choices. No, Jess was no longer the naïve and innocent village girl she had once been, no longer the novice Calyx who didn’t know up from down.
She scanned the city walls, the towers, the incredible beauty of the wealthiest kingdom on the continent of Ivryndi. Despite the incredible power and loveliness all her mind could muster was: Where are you?
A visit to the city gaol—a place Jess hoped never to visit again—confirmed that Sasha and Rialta were not being kept there, which was a relief. But it had also become clear that no one was going to give her their exact whereabouts—either because they didn’t know or because they were sticking to the rules. Permission had to be given by one of three people: the justice—who didn’t live at the palace and whom Jess never learned the name of as everyone just called them ‘the justice’—Captain Bradburn, or Ian Peneçek. Presumably, the king and queen’s say-so would work as well.
Ilishec hadn’t seemed to notice that Jess’s focus on her work was basically non-existent. He bustled about the palace in a state of constant fretting and frustration over the way the Calyx had reacted to the quarantining of their familiars. Of Solana’s flora fae familiar population, only Ania and Beazle had escaped the week-long hell of being restricted to life in a small box. Some of the insects seemed to understand and accept their fate, like Sphex, Jalla, and Amarylis’s familiar, a carpenter bee named Xylo. But Bombini, Trea, and Heath’s familiar, Coco, buzzed about their tiny prison walls angrily, eating hardly at all. Others fell into a despondency that would have sent their fae into a panic had the Calyx not been mystically connected to their familiars. Familiars who’d gone dormant had responded to none of the attempts to revive or comfort them: nectar, music, fragrant blooms tucked inside their boxes to be a comfort and a nourishment.
The good news though, was that four days had passed and none of the familiars were acting in the way Moony had before he died. Ilishec reminded the Calyx of this beam of light in an otherwise dark time, but the Calyx were too upset to work until the quarantine was over—and there were still three days to go.
Jess and Laec rode back to the stables and put their mounts in the capable hands of the grooms to be rubbed down, blanketed, fed and watered. They parted ways with hardly a word, and it wasn’t until Jess was bathing away the smell of horse in her suite that she regretted not asking him how he was. How he really was. He cared deeply for Çifta and not knowing if she would survive the ice must be torture.
She chided her reflection as she combed out her hair: “You’re not the only one suffering, you know.”
She donned a long-sleeved woolen gown of deep burgundy, a typical winter dress for a Calyx. She pinned back half of her hair, revealing her ears, before wrapping a thick scarf around her neck and a soft fur cape around her upper body; she felt ready to go outside. Everyone was complaining that this winter was the coldest in a hundred years, but Jess was too distracted to care much about the weather. As she opened the door to leave her room, Beazle swooped from the ceiling and crawled under the hair at the nape of her neck. Jess smiled when she felt him drop off into a doze again almost immediately.
Jessamine spent most of her time in the west keep, hoping for some clue about Sasha’s whereabouts and avoiding the moping Calyx in the east keep.
“But what if they’re being mistreated, or not fed well, or Sasha needs to have a letter delivered?” Jess complained to Regalis as he carved a new handle for an old Kittrell blade that had belonged to his grandfather.
The Fahyli spared her a glance. “They’re fine, Jess. No one is presumed guilty or treated as such before a trial. Their needs are being met. Now leave it alone. Leave me alone,” he added with a cornerwise smile of affectionate annoyance.
Jessamine sat down on the bench beside him. The head of an eagle was taking shape under his deft fingers. It was already so like Ferrugin that Jess should have been impressed. She stared blankly at Regalis’s hands as they coaxed a new shape from the wood, registering nothing.
She sprang up again. “But, where are they?”
“Jess, you’re in my light.” Regalis pushed her sideways, then blasted dust and shavings away from his creation with a quick, well-aimed puff. Condensation misted the air and dissipated on the winter wind. “Why is it important to you, anyway?”
“I told you.” Jess replied a little too quickly. “We’re friends.”
“I see.” Regalis’s tone said he didn’t care.
Beazle shifted sleepily, coming briefly out of his slumber with an exasperation that matched Regalis’s. You’ve interrogated pretty much everyone else. Why not him too?
Who? Jess looked around and caught a flash of sunshine on brown hair and tanned cheeks as Digit walked by the open gate before disappearing behind the stone wall. A moment later Ania hummed by in a straight line.
“Bye Regalis,” murmured Jess, her sights and hope now set on Digit.