Eversworn:Daughters of Askara, Book 3

By: Hailey Edwards

Chapter One


Realm of Askara, City of Feriana

Runes burned hot across my wrists where slave bands were inked into my skin. Inhaling the rich mélange that was Feriana on market day, I wished I was anywhere other than here, anyone other than me. Shifting my bag, I patted the bulge weighting its bottom. Good. It was still there.

As it had been the last five times I’d checked.

Guilt flavored each swallow to wet my throat. Remain calm. Impossible when my tattoos stung persistent warning. You have what he wants. All will be well.

I choked on a dry laugh. All was never well. Those who penned fairytales should be stabbed through the heart with their quill.

Pretending interest in the fresh produce, I surveyed the crowd. He was here, but where?

“Isabeau?” A firm hand tugged at my sleeve. “I asked what you thought of these dates.”

I spared them half a glance, then continued skimming the crowd. “You’ve chosen well.”

Lindsay’s smile lit the corner of my eye, and regret tugged at my conscience. She deserved more attention than I could afford to give her. I’d make it up to her later, assuming I had the chance. Procuring supplies wasn’t a priority for me, though I knew it should be. Right now, other worries occupied my mind. Such things as how willing I was to use defensive glamour if I must.

As the telltale burn of building magic scalded my palms, I supposed I’d made my choice.

Another tug at my arm swiveled my head toward Lindsay.

“I’d like to search the scarves, if I may. I had hoped to purchase a mating gift for Emma.”

Emma. What would she think if she knew my reason for being here?

Tugging at my collar, I swallowed past the sensation of her strong fingers wrapped about my throat. As acting consul of Askara, she’d wring my neck for this betrayal, and I would deserve it.

Living at the consulate with her, putting my healing craft to good use, helping ex-slaves begin new lives in either the city of Feriana or its colony…I loved that life. And it was all a lie.

Glamour crackled over my skin, but the only things I concealed were the black spell-crafting runes inked from my forearms to my fingertips. Still, the static shock of power coating my skin led others to believe my concealment was more than cosmetic, a misconception I let flourish.

Given my consulate position, most assumed I was a female Evanti hiding in plain sight.

They were wrong.

“Go.” I indicated my favorite stall. “Enjoy yourself.”

“I will.” Swiping flaxen hair from her eyes, Lindsay cast me a broad grin. Despite being a halfling, she resembled the Askaran side of her parentage more than the human. “I promise I won’t touch anything I don’t intend to buy, and I won’t break anything.” She rushed to add, “If something happened, by accident, I’d pay the damages from my wages.”

“You’re fine.” I shooed her. “I trust you.”

Trust was a broad word. Lindsay wouldn’t break any of the wares on purpose, but she was a halfling mastering self-control late in life. Enslaved in an outland mining camp since birth, she’d had no need for learning social graces, only the art of survival. Relying on the brute strength that characterized her breed saved her from playing the role of camp whore. Now she wanted more, better, and as someone familiar with the other half of the equation, I wanted that for her as well.

Hissing as my skin throbbed with renewed heat, I gasped as the impression of male lips and teeth left their damp sting on my bare neck. Roland. Sultry whispers caressed my ears, beckoned come unto your master, and I was helpless not to obey his summons. Pressure from his phantom fingers compelled me toward a figure coalescing in the shade of a billowing tent. Swirling tendrils of power cloaked him from passersby and elicited a shiver of recognition from me. Inclining his head, he acknowledged me, and his smile made my pulse race with the stirrings of genuine fear.

Fighting the urge to check my bag, I dove into the crush of bodies, and they engulfed me.

When I reached the spot where Roland had stood, he was gone.

“You kept me waiting.” Hot breath hit my nape before he shoved me against a sandstone wall. My shoulder bounced as Roland pressed into me. His hand snaked around my waist, teased the underside of my breasts, squeezing before slipping under the flap of my bag. “Is this all?”

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