Freed: A Shadowed Love Story
After mortal invaders slay a Shadow Shifter woman, Queen Ella knows there is more blood on the horizon. As the most powerful Sensitive in the village, Ella has always known she’s destined to save the kingdom. But her task seems impossible. She must move the Well of Souls to a new realm to save her people or risk failing the Ancestor gods.
The woman King Falon loves will never love him back, despite a binding marriage built on regal decorum. Falon’s first duty is to his people, and he only wants to provide the Shadow Shifters with a safe future. He must assert his power to gain the respect of the warriors.
Harder still, King Falon must accept the salvation of his people lies with his own Queen Ella, a woman who speaks madness... a woman he’s always loved, but hardly knows.
King Falon looked up at the darkening sky, and a heavy burden settled inside his chest. Where were their Ancestor gods?
From his castle balcony, he stared over the hills of his homeland in Northern Britain, the place the Shadow Shifters had always called home. Their history and their hearts were embedded in these lands.
The mortals had always been a danger, but his people had escaped their persecution. That was no longer the case. The martyrs wanted to annihilate the Shadow Shifters, a race who thrived in the darkness, who thrived in the shadows, who thrived in the night.
Holy believers were coming for them, without any understanding of what they attempted to
fight. The Shadow Shifter village had remained protected on these hills, with their ancestor gods watching over them. Now, their existence was threatened.
“It isn’t your fault.” The sound of Pavel’s voice came from behind him.
Falon couldn’t bear to face his oldest friend and advisor. “Then whose is it?”
“We knew we couldn’t stay hidden here forever.”
“Why must they attack during my reign? Why must this fall to me?” He sighed. “For centuries, peace existed for our people.”
New to the throne, newly wed, newly orphaned. Too many firsts weighed on his shoulders. He didn’t know how to handle the burden.
Pavel seemed to read his mind. “The Ancestors would never give you this challenge if they didn’t believe you capable of discovering a way to provide for our people.”
His friend had so much faith in bodiless apparitions. As the Spirit Teacher, perhaps Pavel had to have faith. But Falon struggled. He’d always struggled.
“That girl--” He couldn’t finish. Seeing the mutilated body of one of his people had made bile rise to his throat. His people had looked to him for answers, and he’d nearly crumbled in front of them.
“You did your duty per our traditions and honored her family.”
Falon had done his duty, but the young girl’s face. He’d never forget it.
Pavel sighed. “After their savagery, it could be this night, it could be a fortnight. I do not have the answers.”
“We must prepare the Warriors.” To stop his people from being destroyed.
“What other choice do I have?” He glared at his friend, freeing his frustration.
“I’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect our lands and the Well of Souls. We can’t afford to allow the mortals access to our sacred power source.”
His friend might have too much faith. Falon studied their lands for another long moment, watching the sun fall into the lure of the mountains.
“Of course I will.” But when he glanced back again, Pavel was gone. He had a way of disappearing.
Falon knew he couldn’t dwell on the events of the past week. A young girl was gone, killed by bloodthirsty strangers, but the rest of his people remained. He could not allow her tragic death to befall the whole.
He strode through his private chambers to an adjoining room, deciding not to use the shadows to shift so he could take a deep breath and collect himself. After passing through the doorway, he came to an abrupt halt.
His breath caught at the sight before him. A woman of supreme elegance stood in the last flickers of light, staring out at the disappearing sun from her balcony.
Heavy, thick robes lined her luscious form. Beautiful velvet in a rich blue color fit snugly to her curves. A crown of entwined flowers sat proud atop her head. Her delicate profile showed her true regal magnificence.
Light hair curled down long and brushed against the fabric of her dress. She stood, ethereal, like an Ancestor goddess in his midst. Perfect. Untouchable. Supposedly his.
She didn’t turn to look at him, although he knew she always knew when he entered the room. This was a woman of ultimate power, the strongest Sensitive in the kingdom. And one of only a few in the village who seemed to glow with magic.
And so far out of reach. He wanted her with a desperation that made him ache. But he often thought his wanting of her would be the death of him. He couldn’t allow it to be the death of his kingdom.
“We’re expected for the evening meal.” His tone was rigid.
Her stance remained the same, as if she couldn’t hear him.
Ella made him question himself in a way no one ever had. As a royal and now a king, he wasn’t used to scrutiny. No one seemed able to read his shortcomings as easily as his wife.
His patience frayed. Defiance was not a battle he needed to wage this day. Especially against the one woman who was supposed to stand by him always. Newly married and he’d already learned. The wife he’d married for love would never love him back. And she’d never be on his side.
War. Ella’s blood boiled with the truth. The scent of blood drifted on the horizon. As the sun faded behind the mountains, her people’s safety faded with it. She felt this truth as surely as she felt her nails curling into her palms.
Loss. The wind swirled with it. Inevitable sacrifices lingered in their future, but she couldn’t define what they risked. Everything inside her yearned to place the pieces into a discernible pattern, something she could give to the king to use. But for the first time in her life, answers eluded her.
Were the Ancestors punishing her? She stared into the angry gray clouds and questioned. Something she’d rarely had to do. As a Sensitive, she’d always known the truth. Not now. Everything was changing, evolving, yielding, one day into the next, a whirlwind she couldn’t stop.
Despair. She could feel the pain in the air, like a blade suspended in time, destined to kill through the ages, destined to harm. A tear slid down her cheek. She was supposed to save her people. She’d always known it. But how?
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About the author:
Kinley Baker is the author of the fantasy romance series, Shadowed Love. She read her first romance at the age of thirteen and immediately fell in love with the hero and the genre.
She lives with her husband, Benjamin, and her dog, Joker, in the Pacific Northwest. Ruined, Denied, and Freed are all available now from Crescent Moon Press.
Look for a new paranormal romance series in 2013. As a firm supporter of all supernatural lifestyles, she writes fantasy, paranormal, and futuristic romances.
You can find Kinley at www.kinleybaker.com