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Authors: Dara Tulen

The Duty of a Queen

BOOK: The Duty of a Queen
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Duty of a Queen

Dara Tulen

2013 ©Dara Tulen

rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in critical articles and reviews.

is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organisations, or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A  F E V E R  P R E S S Book

Where fire meets fantasy on every page…

Edited by: John Sidwell

Cover Art: Samantha Bennett

The Duty of a Queen

For Astrid of the
Grey Stones, her island was her world. The only child of King Iain, she was his
heir, and as such was trained in the arts of combat, diplomacy and strategy,
all of which she was told she would need to protect her people. What none had
foreseen was that it would require far more than those three to save the People
of the Grey Stones.

With her sunset-orange curls and smoky gray eyes, Astrid was the
very image of her beloved mother, the queen who they said had been born of fire
and ash. The princess was as wise, kind and strong as she was beautiful and
many men wished to win her hand, though only one had ever held her favor.
Astrid had always believed that he would be the one she chose to be at her side
forever, and if things had remained the same, perhaps he would have been. But,
in the summer of her nineteenth year, the invaders came.

The People fought with all they had, the war raging through the heat
of the summer and into the cold of winter. No family was left untouched. When
the king was injured on the eastern shore a year after the war first began,
Astrid intervened. As the first day of summer dawned, the princess approached
the invaders with terms of surrender. The day of her birth would be the end of
the war.

And so it would be a marriage between the conquering prince and the
heir of the People of the Grey Stones. She saw him that day, on the battlefield
as he accepted the alliance. He was close to her age, maybe a few years older,
and handsome, she supposed. He was tall, even more so than Astrid's lover who
was the tallest of their people. With blue-black hair and eyes the blue of the
field flowers, Prince Oliver's coloring was not like that of her Jonas who had
eyes as black as coal and hair the color of wheat. The prince was, she had
heard, an honorable and decent man, one whose company she would likely enjoy.
Had it not been for Jonas, Astrid might have had a greater appreciation for the
match. As it was, she did not balk at her duty. She could not place her heart
above the good of her people.

Jonas opened the door to his home before she even knocked. He had
been waiting for her to return from the meeting. The wedding was to be at
sundown the next night. The arrangements had been set into motion immediately
after the alliance had been struck. Delays could be seen as an attempt to waver
commitment. It could also allow the other side to change their mind. Astrid
knew she could not allow that to happen. At first light, the preparations would
begin and she would travel from the village to the shore where the ceremony
would be conducted in the sight of her people and his, making the Isle of the
Grey Stones a part of his empire.

The weight of her sacrifice was heavy upon her as she stepped past
Jonas without a word. She had spent many days and nights in this place, but she
found herself looking around with new eyes. The main room looked the same as it
always had. A roughly carved table and matching chairs in front of a low
burning fire. The summer night was warm, but damp enough to need the flames. A
bench that Jonas's father had made sat off to one side and a rug made of the
pelt of a bear covered part of the wooden floor. She knew that there were two
rooms off of this one, one where Jonas's parents had slept until the sleeping
sickness had taken them both four summers ago. The other room was where Jonas
and his five brothers and three sisters had grown up. The ones who had survived
into adulthood had their own homes.

“It is done?” Jonas broke the silence with a flat question.

“It is.” Astrid turned to face him. He had known, of course, what
she had intended to do.

She had always thought of herself as a strong woman. She had not
cried when her mother and baby brother had died fourteen winters ago. She had
not shed a single tear when she had received her
, the marks
showing the start of her training, or the more elaborate and painful
when she had completed it. Her resolve had been firm the night she had chosen
Jonas as her
, the one who would make her a woman. She had shown
the same resolve when she had made her decision to enter into a marriage
contract with Prince Oliver. Why, then, did she find tears pricking at her eyes
at the thought of this being her final night with Jonas?

“I have a boon to ask, my princess.” There was no mocking in Jonas's
address. Though she had never treated him as anything but her equal, he had
always maintained deference for her station. He only used it, however, when he
was serious about something.

It nearly broke her heart to hear him speak so, but she would never
dishonor him by refusing to acknowledge his request. If it was in her power to
give him, she decided, she would do so.

“Ask.” Her fingers flexed beneath her cloak, the only indication of
her inner turmoil.

“Your prince will take you back to his land to show his people their
new queen.”

She nodded. “Yes.” Her heart gave a twist. As a child, she had once
dreamed of traveling to far off lands, but now that she had gotten her wish,
she found herself willing to trade it to stay among her people, to stay with
him. “We set sail for his land after the ceremony is completed.”

A pained expression crossed Jonas's face, but disappeared quickly.
He understood the necessity of what had been done. He loved her, she knew, but
he was a warrior first, one of the elite who had earned the intricate markings
of the
. “This is my request, my princess. I wish to journey to
your new land as a part of your court, to guard and protect you.”

“Jonas.” Her voice nearly broke. She could not grant him this. She
could not take him with her.

He knew her well and the knowledge showed in his eyes. He went down
on a knee. “My princess, I pledge to you, on the honor of my family, once you
are wed, I will never look upon you as naught but my queen. I ask only that I
not be parted from you. I can bear to never touch you again, but I cannot live
without knowing of your well-being. Allow me to serve you.”

Astrid took a step forward, her fingers deftly working to unfasten
the ties on her cloak. She knew what she was about to say was not the wisest
decision, but she had been strong for so long, her resolve was weakened by what
she was going to do. If she had Jonas with her, she could continue to be
strong. Even if she could not touch him, to know he was there would be enough.

She looked down at him and took his face between her hands. That
familiar face that she had known for so many years. She could not lose him,
though if he asked, she would let him go. “Jonas, as my beloved, I should not
agree to this, but as your princess and your future queen, I will gladly grant
you, my greatest warrior, a place on my court as my personal guard.”

She saw the look of relief on his face a moment before she took his
mouth with hers. His arms slid under her cloak and she felt his lips twitch
with surprise as his hands moved across bare skin. She moved with him as he
stood, not wanting to part from him one moment. He pulled her to him, the heat
of his body blazing through his thin tunic and trousers, and she could feel him
hardening against her hip. Desire flared in her belly and she parted his lips
with her tongue. He made a sound like a growl and walked them back until she
felt the table against her back.

Jonas lifted her then, setting her on the edge of the table so that
they were near the same height. He pushed her cloak from her shoulders, letting
his hands trail down over her arms, tracing the familiar patterns of her
She tilted her head back as his mouth broke from hers and began to move over
her jaw and down her throat. The muscles in his shoulders bunched under her
hands, and she could feel his tension as he kissed his way down her neck. She
knew what he wanted, and a part of her wanted it too. Among the People of the
Grey Stones, it was customary to mark their lovers' bodies with mouths and
nails during moments of passion. The marks meant many things. Skill in
pleasure. A mutual possessiveness. Reminders for lovers being parted.

Astrid's heart ached as Jonas restrained himself. She had been
honest with the prince regarding her people's view of the relations between men
and women, but to arrive at her marriage bed with her body bearing the evidence
of another's passion would be a great dishonor. She tugged at Jonas's tunic,
suddenly eager to feel his bare skin beneath her hands. He may not be able to mark
her, but she would leave him with the signs of her love.

His tunic fell to the floor as his hands moved over her full
breasts, his mouth worshipping at her soft flesh. His tongue circled the pale
brown nipple and Astrid dug her nails into his shoulders. She felt him gasp,
then take the sensitive flesh between his lips. Her head fell back, a moan
escaping her lips as desire flared inside of her. He suckled at her breasts,
each pull of his mouth triggering a new wave of fire licking across every inch
of her body.

Jonas's hands slid down over her sides to her hips and he pulled her
to the edge of the table. She lifted her head, looking down at him as went to
his knees again. This time, there was no subjugation in his eyes, only heat. He
took his time, running his hands over her legs, up to her thighs. He placed
light kisses up the insides of her thighs, avoiding the place she wanted his
mouth the most. When he finally stopped teasing, her entire body was tense with
anticipation. The first pass of his tongue made her cry out. Her back arched as
he pressed his mouth against her, his tongue slowly and thoroughly kissing her
most private place. The wave of pleasure made her fall back and only his hands
on her hips kept her in place. She writhed as his mouth took her high again and
again, leaving her body quivering and tingling, aching for more.

“Jonas, my love,” she gasped.

He stood then and lifted her into his arms. As he lowered her to the
rug, the bearskin rubbed against her sensitive skin, making her whimper. She
parted her legs, and he settled above her. As he entered her, she wrapped her
legs around him and pulled him into her, held him against her. She never felt
so complete as she did when he was inside her. Their bodies moved together,
sweat slicked skin glistening in the flickering firelight. As it always was
when they were together, the duties and burdens of their stations faded away,
leaving only them and the oldest of dances.

She kept her promise to herself, her mouth sucking on his skin until
the flesh darkened, her teeth nipping at his throat and shoulders, her nails
raking over his
until his body shuddered with the effort to
continue to drive within her. He took her nipple in his mouth and began to
suck, letting the pressure build until she was stretched taut, desperate for
her release. He bit down and a scream ripped from her throat as lightning
struck her. He held her as her body went rigid, his hips moving ever so
slightly to draw out her pleasure. Just as it became too much, he withdrew from
her and she forced her eyes open. His gaze was on her face as he moved his hand
over himself, finishing his own release. His seed spilled over his hand as her
name fell from his lips.

They would come together more than once that night, she knew, but he
would only ever end in his hand, her hand or her mouth. She could not risk
becoming with a child that was not the prince's, no matter how much she longed
to feel Jonas spend himself inside her, their bodies coming to that place of
ecstasy together one final time.

She awoke before the sun rose, but remained in Jonas's arms. They
had fallen asleep facing each other and now she studied his face, free of worry
in his slumber. She knew she would see him again, now that he would be
accompanying her, but it would not be the same. She would not be able to watch
him sleep, touch him. His body was as familiar to her as her own, and it would
be forbidden to her once she left here. She knew the story of every mark.

The thin white line that cut from his temple to his jaw had come
from a raider's blade. He had been only ten winters old, too young to go with
the men when they fought off the People of the Waters who came every few
summers, but he had taken up the sword when a stray raider ventured inland to
the village. The man had grabbed her, intending to take her as the People of
the Waters had done to other women throughout history. Jonas had fought the man
and killed him, but had been injured badly enough that the healer had feared he
would lose his eye.

that covered his back had been the last rite of
passage for one committed to becoming the elite warriors who served alongside
the king. He had been the youngest to ever begin the training, his voice still
high. Still, he had not flinched when the first of the black marks had been
given. He had completed his training faster than anyone in their history, his
completed on the sixteenth winter after his birth. She had received her
the same day and they had borne their pain together, their eyes locked.

On his right shoulder was a patch of white, slightly raised skin,
the result of an arrow delivered by one of the invaders at the start of the
war. She had taken it out and cleaned the wound herself. Jonas had been furious
that she had cared for him before allowing the healer to tend to the cut on her
back. She still had not seen it, but Jonas had traced it for her, telling her
how it cut through her
from her shoulder blade to the base of her
ribs. If it had been deeper, no healer could have helped her.

BOOK: The Duty of a Queen
7.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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