Since Alyra's memories have been stolen from her, she hasn't been able to remember much about her childhood and much of her life in Racah. There's been many holes in her memories which have left her with many questions, especially questions about why Tarek has been so insistant about pursuing her across Alburnium, but not returning her to Racah.
The White Road Tales explains what happened during her "lost years" and the level of deceit and ruthlessness Lord Darnel, self-proclaimed King of Racah will stoop to.
In Captured, we followed Tarek and his family into Racah where they tried to adjust and make the best of their situation. His father insisted everyone would cooperate and most importantly, lay low and avoid contact with the royals at all costs.
However, no matter how much Tarek tried to follow his parent's directives, he simply couldn't stand by and watch the Princess make a life-threatening mistake.
Stolen is the second book in the fantasy romance.
The story continues
Tarek closes his eyes, but she is always there. Princess. His love. She has stolen his heart. Despite his parents’ warnings about being involved with the royals, he steals away to be with her.
Together, they look for the way out of the evil kingdom of Racah. Their love grows. Tarek is desperate to get Princess away from King Darnel, but the dark lord has other plans and powers.
Secret medallions and powers, secret love and temptation, and secret passages amid confusion combine to bring a tale of love … perhaps stolen.
Here's a sample from Chapter One:
Tarek crumpled the scrap of parchment in the palm of his hand. Since Ben slipped him the note, he'd read the scrawled words over a hundred times.
Meet me tonight at our secret place.
No signature. But then, neither of them ever addressed their correspondences in case one was intercepted by the wrong people.
Tarek grinned as he shifted on his narrow cot. The mat of woven reeds rustled under his weight. He froze, listening to the silent cottage, not wishing to wake anyone. Through the open window, the moon still hung low in the sky. He could sneak out early, have a fire built and ready.
Anticipation tingled inside his chest as he rested his chin on the sill. He breathed in a lung full of pine scented air to steady his racing heart. The snow had melted a few weeks ago, but the air remained cool at night. Yes, he’d leave now, he couldn’t wait any longer. He eased off the bed and began to gather his things.
He searched the pile of dirty clothes for his sweater and wondered if, Vesia, his twelve-year-old sister, had borrowed it again. Her soft snores came from the other side of the blanket separating the sleeping loft they shared. He decided the risk of waking her wasn’t worth the extra warmth.
Quietly, he slipped into his boots, then slung his quiver and bow over his shoulder. Scooting onto the ledge, he listened once more for his sister's steady breathing. Vesia couldn't find out he'd defied their parent's rule about staying away from the Royals.
He scanned the shadowy yard for any late-night activity. Princess always wanted to meet at midnight when most in the castle were sound asleep and she could sneak out without being detected.
Tarek hooked the tip of his boot into a crevice between the logs of the cottage wall then lowered himself down far enough to where he could let go and land on his feet. A shock wave of pain shot up his legs, but he shook it off after a few trembling steps.
His first stop was the woodpile near the side of the house where he’d stashed his packed hunter's bag after receiving Princess’s note. The lid of his coin jar poked out from the dirt hole. He checked the contents to make sure Pop hadn’t found his stash. The old man wouldn’t think twice about “borrowing” the whole lot to get him a seat at the gambling table in the tavern.
After burying the jar deeper behind the woodpile, Tarek searched the dark grounds and servant’s cottages again to make sure all was clear. Seeing no movement, he took off at a jog toward the woods.
His steady pace caused beads of sweat to gather over his back. By time he reached the deep woods, he pushed the hood of his cloak off his head and left the front open to allow the chilled night air to sweep over him. The sound of a stream told him he was close. He slowed to a walk and soon spotted a flickering light moments before the smell of burning wood hit his nose.
She'd already built a fire? That was his girl! He smiled, pleased she'd been practicing, despite their three week separation. Hopefully, she'd not set anything in the castle on fire.
He approached the campsite like a hunter. His steps tread light and his gaze peered through the dense branches until he caught sight of her red curls. Her back was to him as she faced the silver tinted pond. She also wore a black cloak with the moon and stars emblem of Racah on the back. She'd probably swiped the garment from an unsuspecting soldier.
Tarek stopped and watched Princess for a moment. She hated that title, but she couldn’t remember her real name or anything else about her past, and refused to pick a new one. Such a strange girl. Despite her eccentricities, he loved her more than he ever thought he was capable of loving another person.
She held her bow and arrow loaded, but relaxed in her hands, seemingly lost in her thoughts. Was she even paying attention to her surroundings like he'd taught her? He purposefully stepped on a twig, snapping it in half. She didn't flinch.
A low growl of irritation rumbled in his throat. He picked up a small pine cone to throw at her when suddenly she spun around, pulled back the string and let the arrow go. It hit the tree trunk two feet from his head.
"Bet you thought I didn't hear you." She laughed.
He let out a breath and yanked the arrow loose. "Good thing you're still working on your aim, I think."
Her hands went to her hips, the bow dangling between her fingers. "I hit exactly where I intended. I'm just glad you weren't closer to that tree."
He tossed the arrow down with his bag and quiver. "Right."
Before he could say another word, she bound into his arms. "I've really missed you, Tare."
He hugged her back, lifting her feet off the ground as he spun her around until she laughed. "Missed you too." Setting her down, he held her at arm's length. Her mouth smiled, but something seemed off in her golden eyes. They were dull, distracted and kept darting down instead of meeting his gaze as she usually did. "How have you been? Everything still peaceful between you and your step-father?"
Her shoulders sagged. "I really wish you wouldn't call him that. He's just Darnel." She pointed to the crackling logs. "I built us a fire. While he's busy meeting with his advisers, I sneak down into the dungeons. Nobody will spy on me there. I can shoot my bow and build fires unhindered."
"That’s good to hear. I’m glad you’re practicing." He pulled a blanket from his bag and spread it beneath a sprawling oak. He sat, leaning back against the tree for support. She curled up beside him, and wrapped her hands around his arm.
She rested her head against his shoulder. "It's nice to not feel so incompetent and stupid."
"Hey," He nudged her head with his shoulder. "What have I told you about saying negative things about yourself?"
She rolled her eyes. "That if I can't speak kindly about myself, nobody else will either."
His arm went around her as he hugged her tighter against him, her body warmth chasing away the evening chill. "That's right. And you need to be careful about practicing. Make sure nobody ever sees you."
"I'm trying to be good. I swear."
He pressed a kiss against her temple. "You don't have to try. You're already that way naturally. You only need to be extra careful. I don't want you to take any unnecessary risks."
She shifted so they were face to face. Her finger traced a line along the downy hair covering his jawline. He didn't move, fighting the urge to kiss her.
"I love you so much, Tare," she whispered, cupping his face in her hands. Her cool fingers tempered the burning in his cheeks. Strange how a just a few months, some encouraging words, and providing her with opportunities to figure out her capabilities had brought such a change.
"I love you, too." His feelings for her might end up being the death of him, but he no longer cared. "Someday soon, we won't have to worry about being found out. Someday, we'll get away from here, find a nice town to settle in and live in peace."
Her eyes widened, glinting with excitement. "Have you found the passage the other's used to escape?"
He shook his head. "No, not yet. Still looking. Maybe while Darnel is gone, we can explore together."
Her lips turned down into a slight frown. "I'm afraid to leave during the day, while his men are watching. Though, anymore, it seems I've become invisible again, which is a good thing. I guess."
Tarek chuckled, shaking his head. "Why do you say that?"
"Because, they all seem too preoccupied with some kind of project Master has planned. I try to listen in. I'm curious over what he's up to now. And why he's suddenly taking these mysterious trips. When I'm around, they grow quiet. When they wish to talk, they send me away." Her head rested against his shoulder again. "You were right about trying to get along with him, though. If I'm not causing trouble, he seems to forget I even exist."
"Let's keep it that way."
"I… just… it's…."
His heart ached at her isolation. The servants, along with her tutor, were afraid of her. Or more accurately, afraid of what happened to those who were assigned to her. A shudder shot through him at the memory of the blood Darnel spilled when her last instructor failed to keep her in line.
Tarek narrowly escaped having his own throat cut, and knew full well, the king kept his daughter isolated and confined on purpose. Only nobody had figured out what that reason was.
For the next hour, they sat holding each other, talking about their daily lives.
"Wish we could see each other more often." She mused after a pause in their conversation. "Ben grumbles over passing our letters. And I worry what will happen to him if someone found out."
Tarek considered other possible ways they could keep in touch. He always made sure to burn the notes she sent him and told her to do the same.
"Can we meet tomorrow night?" he asked.
She nodded. "Master won't return for another couple of days."
"Good. I have an idea, but I'll need to check on something." He stood, hating how the cold seeped into the warm place where's she'd rested beside him. After helping her up, he kicked dirt onto the fire while she shook out his blanket and rolled it to fit inside his bag. They walked through the woods, fingers entwined.
She squeezed his hand. "Let's meet a little earlier so we can spend more time together. Can we?"
He would suffer from lack of sleep tomorrow already. At least she could sleep during the day, and probably did, if she wanted. "Yes. I'll come soon as possible."
They stopped near at the edge of the woods. He didn't want to leave her, but the band of pale pink in the east told him he needed to return home before Ma got up to start breakfast. And she was always up before the sun.
Princess grabbed the edge of his cloak and pulled him down until their faces were only inches apart. "Thank you for—"
He shook his head, placing a finger over her lips to stop her words. "You never have to thank me, love. Trust me, I come out of purely selfish motives. I enjoy spending time with you. It's what makes this place bearable." His hand hooked around the back of her neck as he leaned in and brushed her lips with a soft kiss.
"Same here," she responded in a breathy whisper. As her mouth formed to his, her fingers wound into the wavy hair at the nape of his neck, sending a pleasant shiver down his spine. The scent of apples and soap filled him as he buried his face against her neck. His favorite place. For a long moment, they simply held each other. Her arms circled around his waist, while he traced circles over her back.
Though Tarek relished these stolen moments, her closeness caused him to tremble. He hugged her tighter, wondering at his nervousness. Then, as he considered the nervousness in his heart, his mind wandered to a time when he found an orphaned fawn in the woods, so shy and skittish at first. He'd coaxed and bribed it with slices of fruit and bowls of creamy milk until it finally started eating right out of his hands. Soon the deer followed him everywhere possible.
Tarek hugged Princess tighter. Unfortunately, the deer never reached its second year. One day while Tarek was away in town, a hunter came upon his spindly legged friend. Instead of running at the sight of danger, it stood still, waiting to see if the stranger would feed it as Tarek always did, making an easy target for a hungry hunter.
He quickly pushed out of her embrace.
"We better get back." He kissed her once more, then waited while she headed toward the garden gates in the castle wall. Tarek, his heart feeling suddenly empty, headed in the opposite direction toward the servant's quarter behind the castle.
The cottage remained dark inside as he circled toward the back and climbed up through his window. Instead of falling into his bed, he hit something that let out a loud squawk before throwing him onto the floor. Eyes wide, Tarek stared up into his sister's angry glare.
"I know I'm going to regret asking this," she said in a deadly calm and quiet voice. "But just where have you been all night, brother?"
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