BOOK 4 in The Love Mark Series
Adult Fantasy Romance
Orginally published 26 May 2021
About 129,120 words, 408 pages
3-Flame Sensuality Rating
When a mysterious woman appears in Prince Olivander’s life and gives him a taste of forbidden temptation, he’s...well...
You see, he’s been mated to his true love, Unity, since he was thirteen. The love mark tattooed to the side of his face has told him Unity will be his future, his soul mate, and partner in all things, but he questions how he’ll ever experience passion with her after they’ve been separated for years and he’s waited for her to come of age, especially when this intriguing newcomer right in front of him keeps causing him to forget Unity completely.
So just how accurate are these hallowed love marks, anyway?
Amid broiling scandals and palace intrigue, otherworldly visitors and magical ruses, Olivander and his new assistant must discover the truth behind a dangerous curse plaguing the Outer Realms, or else the Outer Realms may cease to exist entirely.
At my question, the young man sitting on a fallen tree log across the campfire from me jumped in surprise and guiltily jerked his attention up from whatever peculiar-looking object he was writing on.
Eyes widening in surprise when he found I was still awake and had vacated my tent, he immediately snapped the mysterious item shut by slapping the two halves together until it folded in on itself and compressed into a smaller version of the original.
Then he cleared his throat and discreetly tucked the gadget under his thigh as he asked, “What’re you doing out of your bedroll, my lady?” Once the item was out of sight, his nervousness seemed to dissipate, and he lifted his eyebrows with reproach before more sternly adding, “It’s late; you should be asleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day.”
My stomach roiled at the very notion.
Because tomorrow, we were set to arrive in the Kingdom of Tipton, where I would begin my training at the most astute ladies academy in the Outer Realms. It was a great honor to get to attend, and I had been dreaming of becoming a learned lady from the moment I’d first spotted a group of them at court. Their beauty and poise and knowledge had just been so alluring. Who wouldn’t want to emulate them?
But now that the time was nearly upon us for me to start there, I felt very unsettled.
“Well, I can’t sleep,” I grumbled, sending my escort a petulant scowl as I caught a piece of my hair and began to nervously wind it around my finger.
Indigo hissed out a long, tired sigh. Then he patted the log in invitation. “Come.”
Since it brought me closer to the intriguing thing he’d hidden from me, I eagerly gripped the skirt of my nightdress, lifted the hem to just above my ankles so it wouldn’t scrape across theground, and I scampered around the crackling fire to plop down next to the knight-in-training.
He was a handsome young man, six years my senior at age eighteen but seven years younger than Ollie, with thick, dark hair and a smile that always made me feel as if I were being let in on a secret joke.
When Olivander had been interviewing soldiers from his father’s royal army to escort meto the academy, I had immediately clicked with Indigo. He irritated me constantly with his unfailingly dutiful ways, he always found something to tease me about, and he was almost as overprotective and stifling as Ollie was. So of course, I adored him and already thought of him asthe annoying big brother I was supposed to have.
“Now…” he started, clasping his hands and setting them on his lap, where he tapped his thumbs together in thought. “Tell me what’s troubling you, Little Bug.”
I rolled my eyes. “I do wish you’d stop calling me that. I’m about to become a learned lady, you know.” And learned ladies wouldn’t dare stand for being called Little Bug.
He’d taken to labeling me the obnoxious term about halfway through our journey because—as he put it—I bugged him constantly with my interested inquiries.
But who could figure anything out without questioning it first? Honestly.
Olivander said my curiosity was refreshing.
“Well, you’re not a learned lady yet,” Indigo countered in that mocking way of his that told me how much he enjoyed teasing me. “So to me, you’ll remain Little Bug until I deem you worthy of a nobler address.”
With a roll of my eyes, I muttered, “I should’ve had Ollie assign you to pig-slop duty instead of being my escort. You’re quite impertinent, you know.”
Instead of growing intimidated by my threat or even indignant, Indy merely threw his head back and shouted out a hearty laugh. “Indeed,” he readily agreed. “Your mate very well probably should have. And yet here I am. Are you sure you even need to attend this academy? I’d say you’ve already mastered that uppity, superior countenance it takes to be a prince’s wife.”
Stung by his summation of me—because I wasn’t uppity, was I?—I let my brows furrow in consternation before I pursed my lips and nodded. “You’re right; maybe I don’t need to attend this academy after all. We should just go home now.”
Home to Olivander.
Indigo glanced over at me and blinked. “Go home?” he repeated in surprise before his eyes glinted in the firelight with understanding and he began to nod. “Ah, so that’s what’s causedthe sleeplessness. You’re worried about tomorrow, are you?”
“I’m not worried.” Sniffing as if he were wrong, I then almost immediately began to wring my hands. “It’s just that Ollie’s going to be over a three-day ride from me. I’ve never beenthat far away from him before. And now, I’m supposed to be that far away for at least six years? It’s just not right. How am I supposed to bear it? I stopped feeling him in my mark on the first day, you know.”
“Well, you did mention it about eighty times,” Indy tried to answer. “So I’d say I’m quiteaware, yes.”
“The first day!” I repeated dramatically, ignoring his sarcasm and talking over him. “What if he gets hurt? Like mortally wounded. I won’t be able to feel it, much less get to him in time to heal his injuries, even if I could feel it. He could die!”
“Hey, hey,” Indigo murmured as he bumped his shoulder gently into mine. “Olivander will be fine. I assure you, he can take care of himself.”
“He said attending this academy was a dream come true for you,” Indigo went on. “It’s all you’ve talked about for the last two years. This is what you want.”
With a moody scowl, I muttered, “I know, but I didn’t realize I’d have to be apart from him if I attended. He has nightmares sometimes, you know. I have to sneak into his room and snuggle up next to him before he’ll calm down again. Who’s going to settle his bothersome dreams if I’m not there?”
Indigo merely grinned before hissing out a sigh and shaking his head. As his gaze moved to the crackling fire, he said, “Do you know why he couldn’t come with you to Tipton?”
I growled out a sound of exasperation. “Because he’s a High Cliff prince.” Rolling my eyes, I added, “It just wouldn’t do for him to reside in Tipton for six years while I attended the academy. Yes, I know all that.” I wasn’t stupid.
It felt like a fist to the stomach. Olivander was my soul mate; the marks tattooed to the side of both our faces said so. And soul mates were supposed to stay together.