Risque Romance Vol 1- Enthralled

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    ~ Prologue ~
    Dieri

    Voices rose on the wind as he scrambled up yet another incline. Blood seeped from hundreds of tiny cuts, but he couldn't stop, he had to keep pushing forward. The harpies chasing him wouldn't give up and wouldn't be likely to forgive or forget. Not for this particular indiscretion. Their chanting swelled as the howling wind bit at him, forcing him to breathe out sharply. Wasn't this a damn bitch. He'd always thought of himself as a good man, an honest man. His daddy had raised him to be a hard worker, his mama, to be a gentleman. How could one mistake have gotten so far out of hand? He hadn't set out to bed the girl. He'd been minding his own business, lost in his own woes and worries as he prepared to help the family through the winter, as always.

    He was only human though, put an eager maiden in his way, he'd not shove past her. Was it his fault then, that the woman hadn't told him she was married? That she hadn't told him she was burdened with child? He couldn't have known that she'd attempt to implicate him as the father to escape her marriage. Couldn't have foreseen what his eager foolhardiness would bring about.

    His breath coming in pants, he ascended another ridge, until he found himself overlooking the small town below. The only light was from the hearth in each house, they dared not extinguish them. Wicked cold could take down even the stoutest among them. Sickness and various maladies took over this time of year. Winter could be a harsh mistress in Argedava, and the healers here had their hands full.

    The healers were the elite, like royal families in the small settlements they'd managed to eke out a living from. So to find that one had been befouled by the likes of him, Dieri, a poor soldier's boy... well, there would be the devil to pay. The she-bitches in her family had called for a timora. They wanted his blood, and his head. Only that would appease the whore's ancestors. His father had begged him to die with dignity. To preserve their family name.

    He couldn't even fight for his own honor, as she hadn’t told a soul of the babe's existence until after she'd used her wiles to con him into a quick tumble. He had no way to clear his name, as the cards they'd bewitched had proclaimed his guilt.

    Grunting, he spat in the wind, hoping it pissed them off more. Did no one see the farce these fools were plying on the towns? Damned witches. He could barely make out the sight of them, joined hands, skirts blowing around their booted feet.

    The wind tore at him, they were trying to force him over the edge. To take his life to avenge the woman he'd foolishly thought he could come to love as the pre-dawn light had filtered over their intertwined forms. Beasts, all of them. Dignity be damned. He'd lose his life tonight, but they weren't taking it. He'd been raised too proud to be brought to his knees by a herd of good for nothing spell casters who duped men into their warm beds.

    Backing away from the edge of the small cliff as the rocks scattered under his heels, he made his way to Scărișoara. The icy cave was one of the few places the spell casters wouldn't go. Claimed there was evil here. As if they'd not fit in quite well with whatever evil called this its lair. Snorting, he breathed out in the frigid cavern, watching the mist coil upwards. May as well prove it, right? Dropping himself down on one of the ice shelves, he slipped off a sheepskin glove to dig in the small satchel belted to his waist.

    Holding the tiny bottle up to the light, he grimaced. Aconite didn't look like it would please his tongue. Uncorking the glass, he tipped his head back and drank, choking as the bitter taste assailed his senses. Closing his eyes, he let the world fade away.

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