Excerpt from the upcoming sequel to Shadows of Lela
Here is the second scene in the first chapter of Veil of Mist! (Did you read the first scene? If not, you can read it here.) This picks up where the final chapter of Shadows of Lela left off. SPOILERS AHEAD – If you haven’t read Shadows of Lela Book One, this excerpt will definitely spoil the ending, so proceed at your own risk 🙂
VEIL OF MIST
By Tessonja Odette
Chapter One, Scene Two: New Beginning
My eyes fluttered sleepily as we walked through the dimly lit hall of Verlot Palace. Larylis squeezed my hand, and I shook my head to clear my mind. Sounds of harp, shuffling feet, and muffled laughter followed in our wake. I felt as if I’d never been down these halls before. Every step I took seemed significant, like each one was sealing my fate.
In a way, it was.
I was now a married woman, hand-in-hand with the man I loved, the man I’d fought for. The man I’d lied for.
As we made our way along the procession to the Wedding Chamber, each step we took brought us closer to consecrating our marriage—and closer to the conversation I was dreading to have.
At the end of the hall, we came to a set of doors I’d never cared to enter before. Two guards pulled them open and stepped aside. A candlelit room was illuminated within. My heart quickened.
Larylis and I exchanged a brief glance and then turned to face our retinue. The harpist ceased his playing; the crowd quieted.
Breah, one of my chambermaids, came to me and began loosening the laces of my gown, removing pins, jewels, and sashes, and let down my hair until it cascaded past my shoulders in waves of gold. A young man went to Larylis and removed his cloak and tunic until he was left in a plain undershirt and trousers.
I pursed my lips as our audience watched our undressing as if it were the most normal process in the world. Of all the ceremonial flair I would have wanted on my wedding day, this would never had made my list. I never understood the ritual procession to the Wedding Chamber. Why did an audience need to witness such a thing? At least our kingdom has advanced beyond the need to fully witness the consummation. I shuddered at the thought.
I scanned the crowd, finding my mother as the only familiar face aside from Breah. It was no surprise Father was missing from the procession, just as he had been from my wedding feast. He’d afforded me no luxury during the signing of my wedding contract, no Godspriest to conduct our ceremony. Nothing but a contract and a quill. His actions made his message loud and clear: I do not approve of your marriage.
When Larylis and I were stripped down to our underclothes, the harpist recommenced, and the group cheered. I kept my chin high and my chest pressed forward, despite my state of undress. I would not blush beneath their gaze.
Mother clasped her hand to her heart and addressed the crowd behind her. “It is now time for the bride and groom to become true husband and wife. Wish them many blessings, so they may bring forth an heir.” Another cheer followed. I swallowed a lump in my throat.
Breah curtsied before me, bowing her blonde head. “Is there anything you desire to be brought to you before we bid you goodnight?”
“Wine.” The word came out in a rush.
Mother’s mouth opened and then snapped shut. She raised an eyebrow as she looked down at my abdomen.
“For my husband,” I amended, placing a hand on his arm. “My husband would like wine. I do not.”
Breah nodded and entered the crowd. A moment later she produced a goblet and bottle of wine and handed them to Larylis.
Mother narrowed her eyes at me, and I met her gaze with a look of innocence. Before she could say anything, I addressed our retinue, “Thank you all for celebrating our wedding night. You have made this moment very special.”
I looked to Larylis. He remained silent until he realized I was prompting him to speak. “Yes, thank you. My…wife and I are…overjoyed that you could be part of this.” His voice was devoid of all emotion. He looked at me as I furrowed my brow, but I couldn’t meet his eyes. “Now get out of here so I can make this woman my wife.” Laughter had returned to his voice, no matter how stilted it was.
The crowd erupted in raucous cheering and departed down the hall. Mother lingered a moment longer before following them. We entered our room and closed the door.
The silence that hung in the absence of the party felt like a shroud. My breaths became shallow, and my limbs trembled as Larylis and I took in our chamber, looking everywhere but at each other. The room was elegant and spacious, and the bed enormous, piled high with plush pillows and velvety blankets, all in shades of deep red. Tapestries displaying romantic scenes of courtship and lovemaking spanned the walls.
“It’s beautiful.” My voice sounded like a child’s. I turned my head and smiled at my husband.
“It is,” Larylis agreed without looking at me. He set the wine and goblet on a table next to the bed and then moved to stand at the window on the other side of the room.
I went to the table and poured the wine, draining the goblet in two gulps, then filled another. The burn of the fiery liquid was pleasant, creating a buzzing in my mind and a calming in my stomach. I took another sip, letting my muscles relax.
Larylis turned toward me, eying the cup. “What about the baby?” The pain in his voice was raw.
I averted my gaze and drained another goblet. I swayed to the side as I set it back on the table. It’s time for that conversation.
I sat at the edge of the bed and put my hands in my lap. “I’m so sorry, Larylis. It was the only way.”
I looked over my shoulder at him still standing by the window. “Yes! You heard how insensible my father was! It was a last resort. I waited until I was sure nothing else would work. I told you I would do anything to avoid marrying Teryn. Did you not think I meant it?”
Larylis strode toward the bed. “But you lied! You lied about us. You made me lie. My own brother thinks…”
I stood and went to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “He wasn’t mad. If he was, he wouldn’t have helped us the way he did.”
Larylis shrugged away from my touch. “That doesn’t matter. Teryn thinks I betrayed him. He thinks I bedded his betrothed.”
“It isn’t far from the truth. We both agreed it was what we wanted.”
“I agreed to love you. To kiss you. To have passionate, stolen moments. But we agreed not to go too far. We agreed not to…”
“I know. And we didn’t.”
“Are you even conflicted about what you’ve done? Our families think we not only had a treasonous affair, but that we also made a baby from it. Neither of those claims are true, and they almost got us killed.”
“But they didn’t.”
Larylis turned away from me. “How do you not see the problem here? Our marriage is built on a lie.”
Tears pricked my eyes, and my throat felt dry. My voice came out weak and quavering. “This is what we wanted. You are what I’ve always wanted. I’m sorry I lied, and I’m sorry I hurt you, but I had to do something. Someone had to do something.”
Larylis turned back around. His face was crestfallen. “You’re right. I did nothing.”
“That’s not what I meant.” But it was true; he’d done nothing to stand up for me or our love.
Larylis released a deep sigh. “What you did was wrong. I don’t know if things will ever feel right between me and Teryn because of it, but I know why you did it. I just wish you hadn’t had to.”
“We can wish all we want, but what’s done is done. We’re married. We’re together. I know you love me, and I love you.”
Larylis reached out and put his hands on both sides of my face. “You’re right, I do love you. This may not be the wedding of my dreams, and you may not be the sweet girl of my childhood, but you are mine. I promised to know and love the real you, and that’s what I’m going to do. Forever.”
My smile stretched over my face. In that moment as Larylis looked into my eyes, deep into my flaws, past my lies, and beyond my cunning, I felt truly seen for the first time. My father may have seen me as a soiled traitor, and my mother may have thought me an irresponsible harlot, but Larylis knew the truth. Beneath it all was a girl in love becoming a woman for the very first time.
Our lips melted together, lighting a fire of passion between us, a fire that burned me in the most delicious way. I was both excited and terrified as we fell together onto the bed.
Larylis pulled his face a few inches away from mine and brushed my tangled hair away from my cheek. “Mareleau, Princess of Sele, daughter of King Verdian and Queen Helena, do you take me, Prince Larylis, Crown Prince of Mena, son of King Arlous and Queen Bethaeny to be your husband in life and love?”
I brushed my lips gently against his. “I do.”
Copyright 2018 Tessonja Odette
I hope you enjoyed reading this excerpt! In Chapter 2, Cora reunites with her brother for the first time since being imprisoned at Verlot Palace. I’m SO excited for the release of Veil of Mist on July 3rd. For more bonus content, visit the World of Lela page.