A chance meeting between a prince and a peasant results in consequences that will not only change their lives, but also the kingdom.

Cover by Zillah Designs.


41. Chapter Forty One: Samera

      I was going to burn in hell.

      That’s where murders went, rapists and adulterers too. People like me went there as well, people who had sex before marriage, people who had lain with someone they weren’t about to marry.

      Hunching my shoulders, I pressed my head to my knees. I was knelt in front of the altar at the Church of the Divine Goddess, praying that she wouldn’t make Khyber or Omer pay for what had happened. It had been my fault. I was the one that should be punished. I knew what had happened had been wrong, but I couldn’t forget the feeling of Khyber’s skin on mine, or the way he had whispered my name in between our kisses. A tear slid from my eyes and I laced my fingers through my hair, pulling until it hurt.

      Please don’t take anyone else from me. I’ll be a good wife to Omer, I promise. Don’t make someone else suffer for my sins.

      The sound of a door opening made me jump and looking up, I found the Head Priest watching me. Getting to my feet, I wiped the tears from my cheeks.

      “Are you alright, Samera?” he asked, walking over to me. He was concerned and smiled at me kindly.

      I opened my mouth to confess my sins but stopped myself. Instead I gave a mute nod. What if the priest told Omer? I didn’t think he would but I couldn’t be sure. Omer could never know what had happened. It would destroy him.

      “Nervous?” The Head Priest placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently. “Don’t worry. Try and enjoy yourself. You’re starting a new part of your life. Where is your dress? The ceremony will start soon.”

      “It’s here.”

      Turning, I saw Torrance stood nearby. In his thin hands was the traditional Retani wedding dress; a full-length brown dress that had long sleeves and a high collar.

      “You can get ready in my room,” the priest told me. “I will come and get you when it’s time.”

      Torrance followed me to the Head Priest’s small room. Ever since he had become involved with Kale, Torrance’s once dark brown hair had changed to grey and after Myra’s murder his green eyes had lost their spark. Losing his best friend, my father, hadn’t been easy for Torrance either.

      I took the dress from Torrance and thanked him. Laying it out over a wooden chair, I noticed that Myra had sewn a pattern into the edges of the material. I blinked away tears, feeling guilty.

      “I’m sorry, Samera,” Torrance said quietly.

      “What for?” I glanced up at him to see that his cheeks were wet.

      “Your mother’s death.”

      Flinching, I looked away. I didn’t want to think about that horrible day. The sound of metal on metal and my mother’s piercing screams filled my ears, making me nauseous.

      Torrance placed a hand on my shoulder. “I asked her to meet me at the shipyard. It was my fault she died.”

      Just like it was my fault Myra was dead.

      “What we did was wrong, I know that, but your mother was lonely and I cared for her.” His voice was soft and I held his gaze. There was love in his eyes. “I wish you hadn’t been there to see her die.”

      I covered my mouth with a hand to stop myself from sobbing. I could remember the day as if it was yesterday. My mother had said that she was going to the docks, kissing my head before she left. After a while I had decided that I wanted to see the ships. I had found the two of them in the shadows. Shocked at seeing me there, my mother had run. The supports that held a nearly-completed ship had collapsed and my mother had been crushed.

      Shaking my head, I whispered, “It was my fault. Everyone around me dies.”

      “That’s not true.” Torrance drew me into his arms, holding me carefully. “You will make Omer a wonderful wife. I will be proud to call you my daughter-in-law. Speaking of which, you should get ready.”

      “I’m sorry about Myra.”

      Torrance’s face flooded with grief. He must have hated me; his son had chosen me over his wife, and I was living in his home, rubbing that very fact in his face. Leaving without another word, Torrance closed the door behind him.

      I reluctantly changed into the wedding dress. The material was coarse and scratched my skin. Running a thumb over the pattern I forced back tears.

      A knock on the door made me glance up.

      “Samera, it’s time. Are you ready?” the Head Priest asked.

      I nodded and followed him to the altar where Omer was waiting. He was clothed in a shirt and trousers that matched my dress. Omer was clutching his cane for support and burst into a grin when he saw me. He had been waiting for this day for most of his life. There was no one else but the priest present as the wedding ceremony was a private and very intimate affair.

      Gesturing for us to kneel, which Omer did with great difficulty, the Head Priest told Omer to place his hand on mine before wrapping a white ribbon around our joined hands. It was supposed to symbolise purity. As the ceremony progressed and the time when I would be pronounced Omer’s wife neared, my thoughts went to Khyber. He had wanted to run away with me. He had been prepared to throw everything away for me, for our love. Would he suddenly appear wanting to stop the wedding? My heart in my throat, I half wished that Khyber would arrive and save me from a life at Omer’s side, a life with a man I didn’t love.

      But he didn’t.

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