Excerpt from the final book in the Lela Trilogy
Here is Chapter Two of Shades of Prophecy! Note: this excerpt comes from the unedited beta edition of Shades of Prophecy.
SPOILERS AHEAD – If you haven’t read Shadows of Lela Book One or Veil of Mist Book Two, this excerpt will definitely spoil the plot, so proceed at your own risk 🙂
SHADES OF PROPHECY
By Tessonja Odette
Chapter Two: Vows
Within the quiet solitude of our bedroom, I closed my eyes and released a heavy sigh.
Teryn came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
I grinned. “Some guests were more enjoyable than others, but for the most part, no. It wasn’t so bad.”
His heart beat a rhythm on my back, reminding me we were alone. I’d dismissed my queensmaids after they’d helped me undress and brush out my hair. While it was common for them to leave me alone in my room with the man they considered my husband, Teryn had yet to spend the night in our bed. Night after night, we’d part with a kiss, and he’d retire to sleep in the adjoining room. Tonight, that would change.
As if he’d read my thoughts, he brought his lips to my ear. “Do you want me to stay?”
My heart quickened, and my hands began to tremble, but not in a bad way. Despite how tired I was from our overlong evening, I found myself growing alert as I turned to face him. “Yes. I’m ready.”
Teryn took my hand and led me to the middle of the room. We stood across from each other and clasped our hands together. His chest heaved, and I could tell he was trembling as much as I was. “The real question is, am I ready?”
I felt some of the tension between us fade. “You better be. I’ve been waiting forever.”
He laughed. “You’ve been waiting? Well, it would be treason to make a queen wait any longer.” He took a deep breath, and his expression turned serious. “Queen Coralaine, daughter of—”
I shook my head. “Please, just Cora. We’ve had a night full of meaningless formalities. Let our own vows come from our hearts.”
His lips turned up at the corners. “Just Cora, then. Cora, the unicorn girl, who shot two arrows at me and nearly killed me. Cora, the fierce warrior who could likely best me in any battle. Cora, the woman who needs no rescuing, even though I would risk my life for her time and time again. Cora, the woman I fell in love with and continue to love more and more every day. Cora, the queen at my side who I wish to grow old and gray with. Do you vow to be my wife? I need no other promises from you, no requests, no demands. Do you simply agree to share your heart with me from this day forth?”
My bottom lip trembled as tears ran down my cheeks. “I do.” He slid a simple circlet of gold around my shaking finger. It was my turn, but I found it hard to speak past the lump in my throat. “I don’t know if I can be as eloquent as you, Teryn. Your words bring me more joy than you could ever know. Your presence in my life has been a greater blessing than I ever imagined. Your love for me is a warmth that steadies me in the darkest of places. There is nothing I want more than to have you at my side as my king, my best human friend, and my husband. Do you vow to love me for who I am as we grow and change?”
His eyes were as wet as mine. “I do.”
I slid his ring on his finger, and his hands moved to my face. Our lips met as I wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed his body to mine. With that, an eager passion began to bloom. Our kisses grew stronger, our breathing heavier.
He stepped back to remove his shirt, revealing only one scar—the one he received from Morkai—on his bare torso. The place he’d been stabbed by Valorre had been healed without a hint of scarring. I put my hand there, then moved it over his rapidly beating heart.
He placed his hand over mine. “I love you, Cora.”
I lifted my hand and brushed it over his cheek, as he’d done to me many times. “I love you too, Teryn.”
His lips crushed against mine, the pressure between our lips like the sealing of our vows and the signature of our hearts. We lost ourselves in each other’s limbs, hearts hammering as we explored the new, previously undiscovered landscape of our love.
With my head on Teryn’s chest, I closed my eyes and reflected on how much had changed in less than a year. Just a year ago, I thought I’d live the rest of my life in peace with the Forest People. I never imagined I’d fall in love, much less marry, and I never could have expected I’d reclaim my title and kingdom. Now here I was, Queen of Kero, married to a man I loved. My heart swelled with gratitude, but it didn’t fill completely; I couldn’t help but regret that the road to my current joy had been paved with so much blood.
Not to mention, my kingdom isn’t even mine.
I lifted my head and looked at Teryn. His eyes were closed, a contented grin on his lips as he stroked my hair. “Do you ever feel guilty that we’re ruling a land that doesn’t belong to us?”
His eyes fluttered open. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I will do whatever it takes to keep Kero safe, but our kingdom is only ours because Lela got separated from El’Ara.”
Teryn furrowed his brow, staring at the ceiling as he considered my words. “That’s true. However, Lela was discovered as a new and unpopulated land in our world, and our forefathers settled here. No one knew any better.”
“I know they didn’t. But we know the truth. Lela belongs to another realm. A realm that is dying without it. Doesn’t that bother you?”
“It does, I suppose, even though the beings of that realm tried to kill you. That bothers me more.”
I remembered Etrix and how he’d tried to help me in his own way. And Garot, with his love for storytelling. “It’s strange. Even though they did what they did to me, I don’t feel anger over it. I’d grown up hearing stories about the Ancient Realm, about the Elvan and the Faeran. I pictured them as these perfect beings of pure love and generosity. While they are incredible beings, they are far from perfect. They still feel fear and judgment. When they found me, someone they considered a threat to their world, they did what they thought was best.”
“If only they knew they were convicting the mother of a prophecy meant to save them.”
A hollow feeling struck my gut. “It wouldn’t have helped if they’d known about the prophecy. Without me being able to fulfill it, they would have considered me worse than an invader.”
“You really don’t think they knew about the prophecy?”
“I don’t think so. They seemed resigned to their fate and didn’t seem to know any way to stop what was happening.”
Teryn brushed the tangled hair away from my forehead. “Is that why you feel so guilty?”
A lump rose in my throat as I pulled myself to sitting, pulling a blanket over my bare chest. “My child was supposed to be their hope. Somehow, he was supposed to make El’Ara whole again. He was supposed to stop the Blood of Darius.”
“We don’t even know if the Blood of Darius is still a threat. And if he were, how could a baby stop him?”
I shook my head. “Prophecies are strange. While I don’t have much experience with them, I do know that they never tell the full story.”
“Whatever the case, there’s nothing we can do to help them,” Teryn said. “Besides, you said time passed differently in El’Ara. A day passed there while weeks passed here. That means they may have centuries to find another solution. Perhaps another prophecy will emerge. This time, Morkai won’t be around to stop it.”
“I hope you’re right.” I bit my lip before my eyes locked on his. “What about us? What are we going to do about our side of the unfulfilled prophecy?”
“An heir? If I prove to be truly barren…”
Teryn lifted his hand and pressed it to my cheek. “We will figure that out in time. No need to worry about that yet.” One corner of his mouth lifted. “For all we know you may be with child now. And if not, we can always try again…and again.”
I felt my heart stir at the mischievous glint in his eye. “Is now too soon?”
His hand moved down my face, fingers trailing down my neck until he reached the sheet that covered me. With a gentle tug, it fell away. My breath quickened as his eyes drank me in. Even though my first instinct was to curl forward and hide myself, I sat taller, shoulders back, while my cheeks burned from his gaze.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered.
I leaned forward to claim his lips with my own, when the moment was shattered by a knock at the door. We froze and turned toward the sound.
“Your Majesty,” said the muffled female voice on the other side, a frantic quality to her tone.
I quickly wrapped the sheet around me as I answered, my voice a breathless croak, “Yes? What is it?”
“It’s me, Breah. Queen Mareleau…her baby. She’s asking for you.”
Copyright 2019 Tessonja Odette
I hope you enjoyed reading this excerpt! In Chapter Three, Mareleau makes a confession, while Cora discovers a startling secret about the ancient prophecy. For more bonus content, visit the World of Lela.