Sasha may be a noblewoman, but just because a powerful lord asks for her hand, it doesn’t mean she’ll accept.
Sasha is used to a life of comfort and wealth, a life she forsook when she fled an arranged marriage to a wealthy but cruel lord. Posing as a maid in her cousin’s castle, she struggles to hide the magic that runs in her bloodline.
But her magic won’t be ignored. When dreams turn to nightmares, Sasha decides to seek the one person who can explain her visions to her—a lore keeper.
On the road, Sasha is attacked and loses her way in the enchanted wildwood. A woman alone is easy prey for the dark creatures who rule the forest and its tangled web of secrets.
As she tries to escape, she encounters a knight—a former servant of the Dark Queen, a dangerous man known as the Raven.
Sasha strikes a bargain with the Raven, but will she escape from the forest or lose her heart in the enchanted wildwood?
Chapter One Preview
A scream of terror died in my throat as the nightmare gave way to reality. I bolted upright, one hand pressed to my mouth while blood rushed to my ears. Beads of sweat gathered around my neck and dripped down my back. Ripping the covers off, I stumbled out of the heavy blankets and paced, my feet sinking into the padded carpet of my borrowed room in my cousin Cedric’s mysterious castle. Hiding in the castle hadn’t been my first choice, and with my nightmares intensifying, I knew I had to make yet another life changing decision.
With shaking fingers, I pulled on a silk robe to keep the chill away and hoped my scream hadn’t woken anyone. But none disturbed my rest. I posed as a maid to hide my identity. I was a shameful maid, but visitors came to the castle only once a year. Betty, the housekeeper, did most of the work herself, occasionally giving me minor grievances for not helping more. But she understood my plight. I was a noble, not some servant. Pretending to be a maid could not change the fact I was used to others waiting on me hand and foot. Not the other way around.
I fumbled for a candle and lit it with the quick strike of flint against stone. I almost screamed when I caught my shadow in the mirror and settled down on the stool in front of it, dropping my head into my hands before studying my reflection. My father used to tell me my eyes were the color of copper and he nicknamed me his “little Jewel”. But now my eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep and the nightmares that frayed my nerves. I was tall and willowy with an oval face and high cheekbones that accented my eyes and mouth. Wisps of my bright yellow hair tumbled out of the bun I’d twirled on top of my head. My sunlight colored hair was a sharp contrast to my dark skin. I got my darker coloring from my father and my hair from my mother. Unlike me, she was a pale beauty while I was a dark one, but just like her, I was strong-willed and stubborn to a fault. Because the women in my family were renowned for our beauty, I assumed life would be easy. I did not expect trouble to find me, nor nightmares to flood my dreams.
Watching the candle light flicker, I took a deep breath and recalled my dream. Betty said that dreams were nods to the future, and recalling them, or writing them down, could help unravel what might happen. Dreams were omens to keep one from falling into folly or to assist with making the right choice when a decision came. A question had been in the back of my mind before, but now the dream seemed to make it clear. I rubbed my thumbs across my wrists, an old habit to help calm my nerves. I closed my eyes, and I was right back in the dream.
* * *
Shadows surrounded me, and although I could only make out vague shapes, I knew they were the trunks of old trees. I stood in a glade, lost, alone, searching for the way out while a voice called to me, thin and whispery. Sasha. Come to me, child. Come and discover your destiny.
Shadows blurred into one unending stream of darkness. The ground below me opened, and I fell into a nameless void while the wind streamed around me and that voice shouted my name. Sasha! Not down there, not to where the Goddess sleeps.
Velvet feathers, darker than ink, swirled around me, and then came the caw of a raven as it flew after me. I opened my mouth. A scream tore out, too late. I was hurled, weightless, into darkness.
* * *
My eyes came open but the darkness clogged my throat. It was within me, around me, pressing in as though it would take my life. I fought to stay in control of my panic while I watched the flame flicker, casting more shadows across the room. It was foolish to be afraid of the dark, but I needed the light. I needed the sun.
The stool tumbled to the floor as I leaped up and paced back and forth. My silk robe swept the floor with each turn. There would be no more sleep for me tonight. I had to stop the recurring nightmares; I had to find someone who could help me. As I paced in the wee hours of dawn, an idea came to me. My family was not close, and I was an only child, but Mother had spoken with disgust about her mother’s mother. A woman who hadn’t been born into wealth and continued to live as a common peasant. Mother Misha. She was a fortune-teller who lived in Capern. The city would take two weeks to reach by foot, faster by horse, but it was spring. The trade routes were opening back up and if the fates were with me, I could secure passage with the next traders and get answers. I sat down again to put ink to parchment and scribbled a note. My blood ran cold in my veins at the thought of leaving, but I knew it was time.
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