WindFall [WindTales Book II]
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by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Category: Romance/Dark Fantasy
Description: An Unholy Marriage: Prince Kaelan Hesar made the mistake of falling in love with a girl of whom his Jarl did not approve and was thrown into prison because of that love. His heart broken, his spirit crushed, he was sold in marriage to the highest bidder and forbidden to ever see his love again. Lady Gillian Cree, fleeing the unwanted attentions of a man she'd been ordered to marry, stumbles upon a derelect manor house in the midst of a snow storm and discovers true love never dies. The second novel in The WindTales Trilogy, prequels to WINDKEEPER! Rating: Sensual, some violence, language.
eBook Publisher: New Concepts Publishing, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
6 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [567 KB]
Reading time: 362-507 min.
It had been days since Nicholas Cree and his sister, Gillian, had eaten. Their bellies rumbled; their heads ached with hunger; their fingers and toes were numb with cold, their lips blue. The snows through which they were wading had turned their limbs stiff and they could no longer drag themselves through the building drifts.
It had been foolish to try to escape in the dead of winter; they knew that now. The horses had run off the second day, frightened away by the snarling of timber wolves. Gillian had added to the problem by trying to cover their tracks with blowing snow that had escaped her control to become a roaring blizzard. The young woman who rarely used her ancient powers as a weather witch to influence Mother Nature had blundered badly. Utilizing the only supernatural abilities instilled in her, she had unleashed meteorological forces she did not know how to control. As a result, Nicholas had lost his direction in the blowing snow and they had been wandering uselessly for several hours. In the whiteout that encased them, there was no glimmer of hope; no light toward which they could guide their tired bodies.
Now, almost to the point of exhaustion, the two young people took refuge beneath a low rocky mountain overhang and sat shivering as they huddled together, trying desperately to blend the dwindling heats of their rapidly chilling bodies. All that was left was the heartless, icy death that awaited them during the long, frigid night.
"I'm sorry, Gilly," Nick croaked through cracked and bleeding lips.
Gilly Cree used what was left of her strength to squeeze her brother's hand. "You did the best you could, Nick," she answered him.
Nick pressed his face against the wet wool of her coat and sobbed, his tears freezing on his chapped cheeks as he cried. He could not feel the trembling of his sister's cold fingers as she stroked his damp hair.
"I don't blame you, Nicky." she whispered. "You tried to help."
The wind whipped past them, sending clumps of pristine white flakes, heavy and damp, cascading over the overhangs its protests to the world around them.
"I didn't want it to end like this," Nick sobbed. "Oh, God, Gilly! I didn't want it to end like this!"
She began to hum to him, a lilting tune from their Chalean childhood, hugging him to her as best she could. Her voice broke now and again as happy memories of their growing up together flitted unbidden across her mind's eye. As she let the tune dwindle away, she imagined she could hear someone calling to them from out of the wind.
But that was just a painful wish, she thought with bitter regret, for no one knew where they had gone. No one, not even their beloved sister, Adele, had been made privy to their hasty plans to spirit Gillian out of Hellstrom Point and away from the unwanted attentions of Rolf de Viennes.
"He'll not find us in Serenia," Nick had sworn to her as he had helped her pack her small valise. "We'll find work in Boreas; change our names. Everything will be all right. You'll see!"
They had left Virago on the night before her wedding to the man her father had decreed she spend the rest of her life with, despite the fact he hated the de Viennes family almost as much as Gilly hated Rolf.
"It's a matter of honor," her father had shouted at her. "You'll take him to husband and not argue about it!"
"The man is vile!" Gilly had argued with her father. "I can not walk the corridors of the Keep without him trying to paw me!"
"It is past time you were married," her stepmother had said icily. "The de Viennes family is important in the Realm. They are people of means. You could do worse than Rolf de Viennes."
"How so?" Gilly had shouted at her stepmother. "He has asked for the hand of every eligible maiden at court and has been turned down by them all. Can you not see the man is...."
"It is settled!" her father, the Duke of Warthenham, had hissed at her. "I owe the Hesar family a debt of honor and I will see that debt paid!"
No amount of honor could force Gilly to accept Rolf de Viennes or even make her consider spending her life at his mercy. His reputation alone, one of cruelty and viciousness, had turned Gilly's heart to stone with fear; but every argument she had made to her father, every tear, every tantrum, each session of pleading, had been met with stony silence.
"I won't let Papa give you to that lecher, Gilly," Nick had pledged. "Not if my very life depends on it."
As the guests began to assemble two months later at Tempest Keep, the mighty fortress of the Hesar family where members of the peerage had taken their marriage vows for generations, Nick and Gilly had made plans for her escape.
Now, here in this godawful cold; in this desolate place where nothing stirred and warmth was just a fleeting memory, Nick's life might well end because he had loved his sister too much to see her shackled to a man she could not abide.
Gilly lifted her head, hearing the phantom calling once more. She tensed, hoping against hope that it was not a posse sent to bring them back. Praying, as she hugged her brother closer to her breast, that no trackers had been close on their heels when they had crossed over into Serenia.
If they had crossed over into Serenia. Nick was not sure. For all he knew, they might well be in Virago still.
"Do you hear that, Nicky?" she whispered to him, bending down so she could place her lips to his ear. Above the keening of the arctic wind, she doubted if he could hear her otherwise. "Do you hear it?"
"What?" he asked tiredly, his eyes closing against the spreading warmth and lassitude that was beginning to envelop him.
Again the ghostling voice came out of the wind and Gilly pushed her brother away, too tired and cold herself to notice the languor that was claiming her own body. "Listen, Nick!" she told him. "Do you hear someone calling for help?"
"Trackers," Nick stated in a flat, emotionless voice. "They've found us."
"No," Gilly disagreed. "I don't think so." Easing her brother out of her arms, she wrapped her heavy coat closer around her shivering body and leaned out beyond the overhang, ignoring the fat clumps of snow which fell heavily on her quivering shoulders. She squinted into the bright white swirl of snow that spun around her and imagined for a moment she saw an arcing light off to her right.
"Come back, Gilly," Nick pleading. His teeth were clicking together so hard he had to clamp his jaws shut to control them.
"H..el..p m..e p..l..e..a..s..e!"
"There! Did you hear it?" Gilly cried out. "Someone is in trouble, Nick!"
"No more so than we are," Nick mumbled as he pressed his back against the unbearably cold rock behind him.
Once more Gilly saw the flare of light, closer now, and she reached back for Nick's arm. "We've got to try to help, Nicholas!" She dragged on her brother's sleeve. "Nicky, please!"
A part of Nicholas Cree wanted to stay where he was; to close his eyes and sleep; to let the frigid wind lull him into the arms of the Gatherer and keep him there for eternity, but another part of him was touched by the pleading in his sister's voice and he stirred, coming to his knees in the snow, reaching out to restrain her from venturing out from under the overhang.
"How do you know it isn't them, Gilly?" he asked, listening intently for the ghostly voice he, himself, had heard calling for help.
"I just do," Gilly said forcefully. "Whoever it is, he's in need of assistance, Nick, and so are we. Maybe he can lead us to safety."
"He may well be just as lost as we are, Gilly," Nick sighed, but he crawled out from under the overhang, stood, and then held his hand out to his sister. "Come on, then. We might as well freeze out here as under there."
Lowering their heads against the onslaught of the pummeling snow and biting wind, brother and sister began trudging their way toward the bobbing light.