TITLE: THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN
AUTHOR: Jeffe Kennedy
A new power is at work in the Twelve Kingdoms, unbalancing the fragile peace. For the High Queen and her sisters, it might mean a new alliance—or the end of the love of a lifetime…
As a howling blizzard batters the mountain keep of Windroven, Ami, Queen of Avonlidgh, and her unofficial consort Ash face their own storm. Their passion saved them from despair, but Ash knows a scarred, jumpy ex-convict isn’t the companion his queen needs. He’s been bracing himself for the end since their liaison began. When it finally comes, the shattering of his heart is almost a relief.
With a man haunted by nightmares and silent as stone, Ami knows only that Ash’s wounds are his own to hide or reveal. She can’t command trust. But just as they are moving apart, a vicious attack confines them together, snowbound and isolated with an ancient force awakening within Windroven itself. If they truly mean to break their bond, Ami and Ash must first burn through a midwinter that will test every instinct—and bring temptation all too near…
Publication Date:March 12, 2018
“If there is some fire-breathing dragon beneath Windroven, maybe we won’t need much wood for the fireplaces—natural heat!” Ami cast me a brilliant smile from the back of her horse. Probably hoping I’d be so dazzled by her playfulness, the mischief of her joke, that I wouldn’t notice she was bent on cozening me into being happy about going to Windroven. I’d agreed—I had no choice, as there would be no winning this argument with her—but I wouldn’t give in and let her charm me. This was a bad idea, and we all knew it.
I glanced back at the men-at-arms following in our compact procession, though Lieutenant Graves could no more change Ami’s mind than I could. Even the twins, with terrible timing, were docile for once, providing no distraction from Ami’s determined flirtation. I’d argued for a carriage for Ami and the toddlers to ride in for the journey from Castle Avonlidgh to Windroven, but Ami had dug in her heels. On that and everything else.
She might be my lover, but as the newly crowned Queen of Avonlidgh, she outranked me.
Stella rode in front of her mother in the saddle, the two of them wrapped in matching furred cloaks against the winter’s chill—though the little girl kept pushing the hood back impatiently—and Astar rode in front of me, doing his best to drive my horse crazy by pulling at his mane by the fistful. During my time in Annfwn, the magic-filled homeland of my late father, who’d been full Tala, I’d learned a little mind-magic. As a part-blood I wasn’t capable of much, but I had enough ability—I was strongest with animals—to keep a thread of soothing control on the horse’s mind, despite Astar’s worst efforts.
If only my internal beast could be so easily calmed. And if only I were better at steeling myself against Ami’s gift for persuasion. In truth, she did dazzle me—simply by existing—much as I worked to toughen my hide against her charms. When she put real effort into it, I was a lost man. Redundant, as I was a lost man regardless.
Lost and broken beyond repair, even before Ami danced her way from my fantasies into passionate reality.
The old tales warn of the dangers of a man obtaining his heart’s desire, how his fantasy should never come true lest he find his tragic fate in it. I’d thought I’d been careful, that I’d reminded myself enough times that Ami could never truly be mine, not for more than a brief while. But clearly my heart hadn’t absorbed the lesson of those cautionary tales.
The story of my fucked-up life—I seemed to be determined to take the hardest road despite all warnings and good sense, every time.
“Glorianna willing,” Ami continued doggedly, now pursing her rose-petal lips with sensuous intent, and sidling her steed closer to mine, “a dragon resident could melt all the snows and we’d have no winter at all! Wouldn’t that be lovely?”
I resolutely looked away from her and her fierce beauty. Ami possesses Tala blood, too, though the royal kind, and though she can’t shapeshift or perform sorcery, her magic manifests in her inhuman loveliness. She burns brighter than the sun, and if I allowed myself to fall into admiring her, my hapless brain tended to be seared of all rational thought.
“Good!” Ami chirped, an edge beneath the music. “I take it from your non-response that you’re in total agreement with my plan. I’m so glad to hear it.”
The Three curse it, now she’d cornered me. I couldn’t leave it there.
“Going to Windroven is a terrible idea and you know it,” I replied, studying the road ahead. We’d had fair travel thus far, but with all the strange monsters appearing around the Thirteen Kingdoms, it paid to keep alert. “Adequate firewood and snowfall will be the least of our worries.”
She waved that off with a flick of her gloved fingers. “You only say that because you’ve never witnessed a Mornai storm at Windroven. They’re spectacular. They blow in off the ocean, full of sea moisture. When the cold winds of the Northern Wastes hit them, the clouds turn heavy-bellied as a nine-months-pregnant woman—and just like that poor woman, they dump out snow in a torrent of afterbirth, deeper than a man can stand.”
I swallowed the laugh that wanted to rise and gave her a stern look. She wasn’t going to draw me out that way. “That’s disgusting—and crude.”
She blinked at me in contrived innocence, that practiced flutter of rose-gold lashes over the deep twilight blue of eyes the poets never seemed to tire of describing. “This from the man who taught me every crude word I know.”
I sighed for the truth of that. “I’m well aware that I created a monster. But you’re not distracting me. There’s no reason we couldn’t have stayed at Castle Avonlidgh, spent the Feast of Moranu there. The whole winter, even.”
“Ugh. I hate that place. I’m glad to be free of its gloomy walls. I handled the governmental minutiae and now court is on hiatus. Everyone is going home to spend the Feast of Moranu with their families and that’s what I want, too. Andi is in Annfwn and Ursula is still off in the Nahanaun Islands, helping Dafne free her own dragon and whatever else all those letters are so carefully not saying. I might as well be in my own home.”
“Castle Avonlidgh is as much your home now as Windroven.”
“That’s just not true.” Ami’s voice had gone serious, steel in it that so belied her frivolous exterior. “I don’t expect you to understand, but from the first time Hugh brought me to Windroven, I felt at home there. He would have wanted the twins to winter at Windroven. It’s their family’s ancestral home and if all had been as it should, they would have spent their infancy there, taken their first steps on her stones, as all Avonlidgh’s heirs have.” Ami turned her smile on Stella, stroking the toddler’s wild, dark curls. “Hugh might be gone, but I owe it to his memory to raise his children as he would have, had he lived.”
About Jeffe Kennedy
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.
Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA® Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, will be out in August, 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.
She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince.
In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book, The Orchid Throne, in a new fantasy romance series, The Forgotten Empires.
Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.