Tag Archives: romance novels

The Grey House Chapter One

Natalia looked around the bar from her perch on the second floor. The bar, named Lava, wasn’t too large. There was room for about three hundred people in the two-level establishment. There were tables along the walls, but not many. There were more upstairs, along with couches to promote a more relaxed atmosphere.

The size of the place meant it was crowded, but not overly so. She could duck behind people if she needed to, and still keep an eye on her target. She almost laughed at the word. He wasn’t really her target, but she couldn’t think of a better word.

As the DJ switched from one song to the next flawlessly, Natalia took a sip of her soda and looked around again. She sat on a couch on the second level, watching as people walked through the door. From her perch, she could clearly see the front entrance.

“Hey. You don’t look like you’re having fun.”

Natalia placed a smile on her face and tried not to be irritated at her best friend. Bethany didn’t know what Natalia’s true reason for being here tonight, but that was all right. Bethany was oblivious to the world around her, and Natalia planned to keep it that way.

“I’m having fun. I had a rough day. All I want to do is sit and people watch.” She gave Bethany a real smile. “I did warn you I wouldn’t be much fun.”

Bethany leaned back on the couch. “You haven’t even danced. The songs are pretty good and there are a bunch of people dancing. Come on. One dance!”

Natalia laughed as Bethany’s lighthearted attitude washed over her. “All right.”


Natalia left her perch with Bethany and headed downstairs. She wasn’t looking to approach the vampire tonight, therefore it didn’t matter too much if she missed seeing him. She wanted mostly to make sure he was the type of vampire she could approach. His social media pages made him out to be a rather nice person, but that didn’t mean anything. His pages never once mentioned his true age or the fact that he was a vampire. She didn’t think it was smart for a vampire to use social media, but for some reason, he did.

As Bethany and Natalia found a good spot, Natalia took a deep breath and let her worries go. She would be back in two nights to look for him without Bethany. It would be easier then.


Tony Lam looked like his profile picture. His short, dark hair was tousled, as if the wind had blown it around. He had an easy smile that reached his eyes; a good sign. He was dressed in dark jeans and a plain green t-shirt. He walked around the bar, talking to people and seemed to know one or two. He engaged in conversation with the bartender and ordered a beer in a bottle. From her perch, Natalia watched him carefully and noticed that though he carried the drink around, he never drank from it.

She planned on staying in her perch upstairs for an hour or two, to simply watch him. She had a tablet in hand and occasionally took pictures and typed. She had a fake social media page and blog site up, in case anyone asked what she was doing. She would show curious onlookers her page and let them know she was trying her hand at blogging local events. All the while, she kept Tony Lam in sight, to see what he was up to.

At the end of her two hours, Natalia got up and left the bar. She had watched him enough and he was starting to act as if he could feel her eyes on him. Satisfied, but not yet ready to approach, she knew she would be back. He liked coming to Lava when there was a DJ. The DJ was there Tuesdays and Thursdays. She would be back next week to watch him some more.


Natalia watched Tony Lam for three weeks before she felt ready to approach him. It was late on a Thursday and he was carrying around a second drink. He had stepped into the bathroom a few minutes earlier with a nearly full drink. He came out with no bottle and ordered a second one. She was pretty sure he dumped out his beer in the bathroom sink. He never drank anything.

After he had his second drink in hand, she watched as he stepped outside. It was a warm San Francisco night. There was a patio out back, with tables and chairs. Natalia followed him out, and walked right up to him. She tapped him on the shoulder and smiled.

“Hi. I think I’ve been following you on Instagram. You’re @LonelyTony, right?”

He laughed. “Yeah.” Tony smiled. “And who might you be?”

“Leslie Chander.”

He smiled again. “An actual name. I like that. Most people tell me their Instagram name. My name is Tony Lam.”

“I know. I found you on Facebook, too.”

He smiled. “I hope you’re not stalking me.”

Her eyes grew big in fake surprise. “Oh goodness, no! I saw you here awhile back and then thought I saw you online.”

Tony laughed. “No worries. Buy you a drink or something?”

“Um…” She wanted to turn the talk to something else, and looked around to see if anyone else was close by. A noise in the distance caught her attention, but faded too quickly. “Not really a drinker.” She turned back to him. “You don’t really seem to be either.”

They stared at each other for a moment before he put his drink down. “This doesn’t feel like a social call anymore.”

The noise came again and Natalia’s breath caught. The patio was fenced off, but faced an alley. The fence was shoulder high and was only there to keep people from wandering into the alley with a drink in hand. There were voices coming down the alley and she could now hear them.

“You’re sure he’s here?” The gruff voice chided.

“Yes. Check his Facebook.” This voice was younger.

“I don’t even understand what you said.”

Natalia looked around fast, noticed they were alone on the patio and turned back to Tony. “Are you full?”

He stepped back. “What?”

She glared, but kept her voice down. “Are you at full blood?”

Tony’s eyes went wide.

“There are Slayers coming down that alley. Probably looking for you. Are you at full blood?”

He looked beyond her to the people he could hear but not see, then back to the woman. “Yes.”

She grabbed him around the neck. “Jump!”

It was a command, said softly but firmly into his ear. He did as told, and jumped to the rooftop. Once there, Natalia let him go and peered over the edge. They were only two stories up and she could still see the men coming into the alley. Dean was in front, leading Zechariah. She breathed a sigh of relief and turned to Tony. She moved away from the edge and indicated he should do the same. When they were away from the edge, she realized he was appraising her.

“You know what I am.”

“Yes, and I offer you blood for getting us out of here, after you get us further.”

“And why don’t I just leave you here?”

“My name is actually Natalia. I have some questions I think you can answer. I’ve tracked you for some time, Mr. Lam and I’m willing to pay for the information I need.”

“What are you?”

“Human.” She said it without fear. Telling him what she was would give him nothing but advantages.

“And the people down below?”


He cringed. “You know them?”

“I work with them on occasion, but I don’t believe like they do.”

“How do I know I can trust you?”

“You don’t, but I did warn you about the Slayers. I’m not trying to get you killed. I’m trying to get some information and I can help you get out of the city.” Her hand strayed to her small silver beaded necklace, as she wondered if she would have to hypnotize him into helping her. She hoped she wouldn’t. She preferred allies.

“Why out of the city?” He crossed his arms.

“They’re hunting you and other old vampires. Not sure why, but I know they know who you are.”

He sighed. “Let’s go someplace safer. Looks like they’re going around to the front. They might be able to sense me.”

Her hand dropped from her necklace. “Where to?”

Tony picked Natalia up in his arms without a word and ran. After a few minutes of running and jumping, he stopped. When they stopped, he let her go and Natalia saw they were not in the same area, but still on a roof.


“Thank you.”

She leaned against the low wall around the edge of the roof. “You’ll want blood.”

He took a good look at the human. She was tense and her arms were crossed. Tony guessed she didn’t want to give him blood, but would. “Let’s take care of that after we understand what we both want.”

“That sounds fair.”

Tony leaned against the wall close to her. “How long have you been following me, really?”

“The Slayers have been looking for older vampires for a while. I think they’ve known about you for a year or more. I tracked you down quicker.”

“Why me?”

“Well, Mr. Huang Lam, you’ve been in San Francisco a very long time. Like I said, I think you can help me with information. I tracked you here about three weeks ago.”

“I haven’t heard my first name in a very long time.” He shook his head. It was obvious she had done her homework. “I thought someone was watching me. I thought it might be Slayers.”

“They may have been. They don’t always tell me who they’re watching.”

“Don’t trust you?”

“Not entirely.”

“Do they know you work with both Slayers and vampires?”

“No, and I’d like to keep it that way.”

“Ok.” He gave her a skeptical look. “What are you looking to find out?”

“I’m trying to find the vampires that are running this city. I heard there were a few vampires in this area that have been here since the city was founded. I wanted to talk to one who might be able to give me information on the newest problem. Do you happen to know who is trying to be in charge?”

Tony thought about it for a moment. “I don’t have his last name, but there’s a vampire named Christopher who seems to have taken control. He’s been sending people out to try and get others to join him.”

“Why won’t you join him?”

“I don’t like groups. Most vampires don’t like being controlled by other vampires. I don’t know how he’s doing it. I have a feeling he’s killing the older ones off and changing new ones, forcing them to live how he wants.” He shook his head. “The thing is, Christopher seems to have left the area. Edwin is in control now.”

“Is Edwin older?”

“No. Fairly young.”

“I’ve heard rumors of another vampire in the area. An older one. A lot of Slayers think he’s the one who’s really in charge.”

Tony frowned at her. “Who?”

“Vincent Grey.”

Tony laughed. “Vincent isn’t with them. He reached out to me; offered me safety and money if I joined his team.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Told you: don’t like other vampires.”

“What do you know about Vincent?”

“I don’t have too much information. I know he owns a couple places in the area. I can tell you the names of his businesses, and you can find out more on your own.”

“Ok, what are the names?”

“No, this is where we negotiate. What can you do for me?”

“Blood or money.”

He frowned at her. “Don’t play stupid. You’ve already proven you’re not.”

Natalia nodded her agreement. “Human has to try.”

He laughed. “All right. Of course, I want your blood. Especially since you’ve already offered. As for money, I was changed when I was a railroad worker in the late 1800s. I learned to save. I need a place to go. If you want the information, you’ll get me contacts out of the city, away from here.”

She didn’t even pause. “Where?”

“How far East can you get me?”

“I know a couple people in New York, one in Boston.”

“Friendly to my kind?”

“I wouldn’t have listed them if they weren’t.”

“How soon can I leave?”

“You tell me the information I want, I’ll send you a private message on Facebook, under the Leslie Chander profile.”

Tony thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “Blood first.”

She nodded, took a deep breath and held out her arm, hoping he wouldn’t demand blood from her neck. It was more dangerous if he took from her neck. Tony came closer, took her arm in his hands and bent to bite into her tender flesh. He bit her inner arm, near her elbow. She winced at the pain, but didn’t pull away as he drank a few swallows of her blood. When he pulled away, she covered her arm with a cloth handkerchief she pulled from her back pocket.

Tony licked his lips and smiled. “Vincent owns a restaurant called The Ocean’s Edge and a nightclub called The Red Thread. Other business too, but I don’t know them all.”

She nodded and pulled her phone out of her front pocket. She entered the information into her phone then went to Facebook and sent him the information. Natalia looked to Tony.


He grabbed his own phone out of his pocket and checked his messages. There were two names and their contact information. He nodded. “Thanks.”

“You sure you don’t need anything else?”

“I want to know more about you, but I don’t think there’s time for that.”

“Even if there was, I wouldn’t tell you much.”

“Fair.” He looked around. “You know where you are?”



With that, he was gone. It surprised Natalia how fast he could disappear. She shook her head then looked around and found the entrance to the stairway. The door was locked, but that didn’t stop her for very long. She was on the street and on her way home shortly after Tony Lam left. By the time she arrived home, she already had a message from one of the contacts she gave Tony. She told her contact Tony needed a safe place to go and the contact thanked her. After that, the message ended. If she had been in distress, the message would have been far different. Knowing Natalia had given the name freely, the contact was no longer worried and would invite Tony Lam into their home and help him get settled.

That taken care of, Natalia searched for Vincent’s businesses online and found a lot more information than she thought possible. When she searched his name before, without the business names, she came up with too many results. The business names narrowed the results to one person. She found public records on his businesses in the area. She also found his current birth certificate and a photo ID. Vincent Grey’s information stated he was in his 30s, but the photo was terrible. Still satisfied with the night’s work, Natalia readied for bed. She had a meeting with Zechariah and the other Slayers early the next day.

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Chapter Five: part two

Eloran stared into the small dining room at his brothers. He was the last to arrive. Seth had taken the head seat. As heir to the throne, it was his right and privilege to sit at the head of the table if King Falk was not in attendance.

To his right sat the Earl of Lothling. One look at Seth and Michael and it was obvious they were brothers. They both had their mother’s blond hair, but King Falk’s hazel eyes. They were also thin like Clara, but had King Falk’s height. Clara, though a powerful woman in her own right, was not very tall.

To Seth’s left sat the next oldest, Randolph, the Duke of Taren and Leo, the Sheriff of Taren. Their mother, Irene, had been large boned, very muscular, with dark hair and eyes. Randolph and Leo were mirror images of the warrior woman.

Laurence was missing from the group, the only one Eloran resembled. Though they had different mothers, they both took after King Falk. Both had brown hair and hazel eyes and were as tall as their father. That was the end of their similarities. Where Eloran liked to socialize, Laurence only did so when his duties as a diplomat demanded it of him. Laurence was a good diplomat, but his skills were best used in small groups.

“Eloran! Come in here and close the door! We grow tired of waiting!”

The young Prince grinned at Leo but did as asked. He took the seat next to Michael, as that was set for him. He looked at his brothers and smiled.

“Before I tell you about the woman I’m interested in, I have a question for you. What do you think about the Finarans?”

Seth cleared his throat, looked directly at Michael, and answered. “They are our allies and will remain so when I become king.” He held his hand over his heart. “May that not be soon, as father is a good King.”

The others murmured in agreement. None of the men wanted King Falk to pass on. He was a good king and father. He treated all his sons with love and respect, regardless of their personalities.

Michael cleared his throat and seemed reluctant to speak. “Some live in Lothling and are quick to help when needed.”

Eloran frowned. “I didn’t know some lived in Grenlacks. I thought they only visited.”

Michael shrugged. “Dwarves and trolls, mostly. The mountains in Lothling are rich in minerals they use.”

The young Prince frowned at Michael. “You seem to be leaving something out.”

Seth cleared his throat, and Michael looked to the Crown Prince. “Damn it, Seth. I will speak my mind. We’re all family here.”

Eloran leaned forward and looked to Seth. “Let him speak, please.”

Seth held up his hands in defeat.

Michael shook his head. “The problem with the dwarves and trolls is that they like their alcohol a bit too much. They are fine on most days, but on celebration days, they drink to excess and cause many problems. Destruction of property – their own and their neighbors – killing livestock by throwing them. They always pay for all the damages, but I fear that at some point, they may kill a human.”

“I see.” Eloran’s words were said softly.

Randolph made a noise. “They’re not all like that. Taren has trolls and dwarves and we don’t have those issues. They’re also trying to help us with the bandits in the Taren forests. They sent elven and troll warriors, who seem to be working out well.” He chuckled. “And Pic is always a fun addition to our celebrations. Especially when drunk.”

Leo laughed. “Well said, brother. But with humans as with Finarans, you will have some that are a bit rowdier and can cause issues. If we have troubles with a particular Finaran, or human, we tell them to get out.” Seeing that Michael had more to say and not wanting to hear it, Leo looked to Eloran and frowned softly. “Why?”

Eloran took a deep breath. “I’m interested in a Finaran. Please allow me to broach the subject with Laurence.”

All agreed.

The young Prince looked to Randolph and Leo. “Have you heard of Gateway?”

Though he had asked the ones that lived in Taren, who were close to Gateway, all four brothers answered in the affirmative. Eloran sighed in relief and continued.

“There is a woman there by the name of Anan. She is the Guardian of the Gate.”

Seth spoke up. “You’re interested in King Nassir’s youngest.”

Eloran smiled proudly. “I wanted to invite her to the ball last night. Klaes stated that due to her position, I should give her more time.”

Seth looked to his youngest brother with some amusement. “I don’t believe it. You’re the youngest of us and the only one to come close to being with royalty.”

The others laughed. It was a running joke with the brothers. The neighboring kingdoms did not have daughters either. The only kingdom with daughters was Finara. Though the countries tried to make a union between Finara and Grenlacks by marriage, it never seemed to work out.

When the laughter died down, Eloran looked to his brothers. “Does anyone know why Laurence dislikes the Finarans?”

“Lora, his mother, hated them and passed that hatred onto her son. Father tried hard to show us that the Finarans are the same as humans. Most of our mothers felt the same way. When Laurence was born, father had a war to avoid and was not able to instruct him as one on one, like he did with the rest of us.”

Seth shook his head and continued as he thought back to his childhood. “I’m surprised that Laurence has any tolerance for them. He does not act out toward Klaes, but Lora did.”

“But why?”

The others shook their heads, and Randolph spoke for Leo and himself. “I’ve no idea. When father married Lora, Randolph and I were already training to be guards.”

Seth sighed. “She always seemed to look down her nose at the Finarans, as if she thought she was better than them. I tried asking her about it once. She said something about the Finarans being indecent, then told me that if I knew what was good and right in this world, I would stay away from them.”

Michael touched Eloran on the arm to gain his attention. “Look, I may not always be happy with the Finarans in Lothling, but I won’t stop you if you you’re happy. And don’t worry about why Laurence doesn’t like the Finarans. Worry about how to make him change. It is what we all must do. If you are serious about this one, that is.”

All the brothers laughed and Eloran looked to Seth. “Does this mean you won’t mind if I ask a certain princess to your birthday celebration?”

Seth raised his glass and waited until the others did the same. “Eloran, if you want to be with this woman, then I say, bring her. It will be a fine day when we meet the woman that helped you to grow up.”

As the others laughed, Eloran allowed himself to smile in pleasure. He did not feel as if he were different, but if his brothers felt it, and for the better, than so be it. He would not argue against it.

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Chapter Five: part one

Prince Eloran stood gazing over the guests, trying not to fidget. He didn’t want to be here, not without Anan. If she were here, he could talk to her. At the moment, there were five women nearby, all giggling and trying to get his attention. In the past, he would have walked over, looked at one and whisked her onto the dance floor. At the end of the evening, the woman would have found herself in his bed.

Tonight, he ignored them. He wanted Anan. As she was not here, he kept to himself. He nodded to his brothers and other men in the room, but no one came to talk to him. It was his own fault.

From a young age, Prince Eloran avoided serious talk. He was the youngest of six children, all sons. His father’s other children were given land to oversee and other important positions when they were ready.

When King Falk approached Eloran on his sixteenth birthday, Eloran declined a title and position, stating he wanted more time to think about what he wanted from life. The King indulged his youngest and gave him more time.

On his birthday for the next four years, King Falk asked Eloran if he wanted more responsibility. Eloran always asked for more time. This year, on his twentieth birthday, the King asked kindly if he would ever want to do anything. Eloran shrugged.

It wasn’t as if he did nothing. Eloran visited his brothers and brought messages from the King and to the King from his sons. He went to his brothers mainly to visit, but brought information if it were needed. As he did not cause too much trouble, the King was reluctant to force him to do anything. Now that he had met Anan, Eloran felt extremely lucky that he held no official position. It meant he might visit her any time he wished.


He looked to his right as his brother Michael clapped him on the shoulder. Michael was the second oldest. He held the title of Earl of Lothling, which was a province in the southern part of Grenlacks.

“Brother. How are you?”

“Good. You’re not dancing. My wife remarked on this. Her sister is here tonight if you have no one in mind.”

Eloran looked to Kristen, who stood some steps away with other women. He gave a small bow and the woman curtsied. “Thank you. Though I find Kristen’s sister to be an attractive woman, I want to be alone tonight.”

Michael peered down at his brother. “Completely alone or just without a woman?”

He smiled. “Without a woman.”

“That is rather odd. You always find a woman.”

Eloran shrugged. “I have found a woman, Earl. She’s just not here.”

Michael looked surprised. In the past, if there was a woman Eloran wanted, she always ended up at celebrations, whether or not she was invited. “Why not?”

The young Prince sighed. “That’s complicated.”

The Earl of Lothling stared at his brother for a moment. Though they were brothers, they were not that close. Michael always leaned more toward the politics of the kingdom. He and Eloran never had much to say to each other, even as children. Eloran always kept things uncomplicated and light. Michael didn’t know what was going on with his brother.

Eloran saw the confusion on his older brother’s face and smiled. “All will be revealed in time, Earl. If you would like, I can explain tomorrow over a meal. I would prefer not to be too public about things at this moment.”

Michael nodded. “All right, then. Have lunch with me tomorrow.”

“Yes, Earl.” He gave a slight bow.

“Why in the world are you calling your own brother by his title?” Came a loud booming voice.

The brothers looked over and saw Leo. Fourth son of King Falk, he was nevertheless the largest. With dark hair and dark eyes, there were rumors Finaran blood ran through his veins, namely troll. Having seen a real troll, Eloran knew that was not true. Leo’s mother Irene, had been taller than King Falk, and large with muscles. Pic dwarfed them both.

Eloran smiled to Leo. “You never seem to care if I addressed you by your title, Sheriff. The Earl of Lothling prefers the recognition.”

Leo slapped the youngest Prince on the back. “That is true, but you have never before today decided to actually listen to his preference. Why the change?”

The Earl gave Eloran a strange look. “He’s right. That makes two things that have changed about you.”

It was Leo’s turn to look confused. “What was the first?”

“He doesn’t want to be with any woman here and has not invited the woman he wants to the ball.”

Leo’s eyes grew large, then he laughed. “You’re not yourself! The woman you want must be very special!”

Eloran blushed slightly and then laughed and shook his head as Seth and Randolph found their way to the others. Seth was the first to speak.

“Usually you all find your way to my side. What is it that keeps you amused this time?” He kidded. Though the brothers did seem to gravitate around their eldest brother, the Crown Prince didn’t mind if his brothers found somewhere else to be.

Leo spoke for Eloran. “Young Eloran has a woman in his heart and she’s important enough that he didn’t think it prudent to sneak her in for the celebration!”

The men all laughed. Randolph looked at Eloran with a keen eye. “He’s not getting upset.”

The others turned to Randolph for an explanation, but Leo seemed to understand. “You’re right, by gods! If we had chided him like this before, he would have gotten upset and left.” He leaned in closer to his brother. “You must let us meet her.”

“I will. In time.” Eloran’s voice was quiet, but perhaps only in comparison to Leo’s.

“You must tell us about her then!” Randolph was just as loud, and was almost as big as his brother Leo. They shared the same mother.

Eloran looked to his brothers, and wondered if he should tell them about Anan. Only Laurence held reservations about the Finarans, but he didn’t want any of his brothers to talk about her to Laurence. He sighed. He didn’t want to keep this secret.

“I want to tell you, but I refuse to tell you here. I’m having lunch with Michael tomorrow. Why don’t we all meet then and I can tell you all about her?”

The brothers made loud victorious noises and agreed to meet for lunch the next day.

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Chapter 4 part 3

Eloran found his father in his private room, about to have dinner. The King invited his son to join him. Father and son spoke of small things as they ate. Once dessert was served Eloran asked about Anan.

“I would like permission to invite Anan to the ball.”

The King gave a small laugh. “I take it your visit with her went well?”

Prince Eloran smiled. “Yes.”

He nodded. “One moment.” The King turned to a guard standing nearby. “Fetch Klaes for me.”

“Yes, your majesty.”

As the guard turned and left the room, the King looked back to his son.

“Klaes seems to know a bit about Anan, and I would like his opinion on this.”

“She’s Finaran, father. An elf. Youngest daughter of King Nassir.”

King Falk nodded. “Klaes informed me of this when you first mentioned her. As I am not certain how this would be seen to the Finarans I am inclined to ask my advisor. Hold your thoughts until then.”

“Yes, father.”

They spoke of the weather until Klaes arrived a few minutes later. He bowed to the King and Prince.

“How may I help you, your majesty?”

“Prince Eloran would like to invite Princess Anan to the ball tomorrow.”

Klaes shook his head. “It would not be prudent to ask her. She would accept, but there is not enough time to make arrangements.”

Prince Eloran frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“She is the Guardian of the Gate. Should you ask her to the ball, she would have to leave now to arrive in time to ready herself for the ball. If she leaves, she also does not have time to ask for a replacement for the Gate, meaning that no one would be able to leave or return to Finara. This can be a dangerous thing. If you wish her to accompany you to a ball, Prince Eloran, invite her to your brother’s birthday celebration that will take place in one month. This gives her time to accept, and find a replacement. If King Falk agrees, of course.”

Prince Eloran nodded, as did the King. The King spoke. “And should the invitation be sent to her father, King Nassir, or to her?”

“It depends. If it is Prince Eloran inviting Princess Anan, then the invitation can go to her. If it is the King asking for his son, then it should be sent to King Nassir.”

“What will King Nassir do when he finds out about the invitation?”

“If Anan tells him, he will think nothing of it and she will be free to come as a human. If the King of Grenlacks sends the invitation, she can still come as a human, but she will thank you publicly as the King’s daughter.”

The King looked to his youngest. “Laurence will not be back for Seth’s birthday, but there will be guests that may give you problems.”

Prince Eloran nodded and sighed. “I will speak with Anan after this ball and see what she would like to do. Then I will decide. I care not what the world thinks of us, but I want her to be safe.”

King Falk nodded. “Do as you please son, and know that I am behind whichever decision you make.”

The Prince sat taller in his chair. “Thank you, your majesty.”

Father and son smiled to each other, the King dismissed Klaes and King Falk and Prince Eloran continued with their dinner.

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Chapter Four, part two

“Do you have siblings?”

They lay in bed as the sun came up, speaking softly. Anan woke from her light doze to answer his question.

“Yes, a lot of them. My father has three wives, two of which are still alive. I am the youngest of nine girls.”

He made a surprised noise. “Nine?”

She raised her head off his chest to look him in the eye. “Yes. Nine. That’s why I became a warrior.” She paused then corrected herself. “That is why five of us became warriors and trainers of magic. We knew the throne would never be ours. When this position became available, I wanted the privilege.”

Eloran smiled down at her. “Princess.”


His smile grew into a grin, but instead of saying more, he pulled her closer and kissed her.


Eloran returned to the castle as promised, but went to his mother first. He found her, as always, in the garden. He sat beside her and kissed her on the cheek. “Lavender.”

She closed her eyes and smiled. “I know what that means to the Finarans. Did you place a twig of lavender behind her ear?”


“And what did she do?”

“Accepted it.” He looked to his mother with a serious expression on his face. “Mother?”

She looked to him and frowned. “What is it, dear?”

He looked around, saw they were in fact alone, but still leaned in to whisper in her ear. “She’s Finaran. An elf. Princess Anan.” He pulled back. “I know the King’s name, but I never learned his children’s names.”

Camilla smiled. “She told you then?”

“You knew.” He gave her a slightly surprised look.

“Yes. I knew when you told me her name and position. I felt it best to let her tell you.”

He nodded. “I love her.”

She gave a short laugh that was almost pained. “Don’t let Laurence know.”

“What is his problem with the Finarans? They want nothing from us.”

“Well, that’s not entirely true. There are plants here that do not grow there. There are also minerals in Grenlacks that they use.”

“Yes, but the same could be said of humans and Finara. We trade with them.”

She nodded. “You would have to ask your brother why he hates them.”

“When he gets back, I may.”

Though Laurence did not like the Finarans, he was a great diplomat, and was currently in another kingdom to the north negotiating a peace and trade agreement. His mission would last several more months, but everyone was optimistic that both kingdoms would gain from the agreement.

After some silence, Eloran sighed. “Do you think father will allow me to invite Princess Anan to the ball?”

Camilla laughed. “Is that why you found me so quickly? To ask me that first?”

“Yes. Do you?”

“My dear, there is only one way to find out. Go ask your father.”

Eloran nodded and left to find his father.

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Chapter Four: part one

A loud knock woke her and Anan quickly realized the knocking was coming from the Finaran side. She bolted out of bed when she remembered she never removed the spell that told others to wait. Anan saw the Prince was still asleep and pulled on her robe. She hurried to the door. Only those with powerful magic would dare knock when she asked for privacy.

Anan opened the door without thinking. She made a small noise as a large man swept her into his arms.

“I don’t like when you keep me out, lass.” His loud voice echoed in the small house.

Laughing she pushed at his massive chest. “Put me down, Pic. You’ll not have me this night.”

He stopped twirling her around, and placed her on her feet. “Oh?”


Both Anan and Pic looked to the other side of the room, where Eloran stood in only his pants. Anan smiled at him, but looked to Pic. “Close the door. Don’t change yet.”

He did as instructed as Anan went to Eloran. She took his hand and brought him to Pic. “Prince Eloran, this is Pic, King of the Trolls.”

Eloran stared at the troll for a moment, trying not to be terrified. The man was massive. He stood taller than the doorframe, and was twice as wide. Trolls had wrinkled skin from head to toe. But it wasn’t so much wrinkles as excess skin piled up on top of tough muscled. The extra skin aided them in being able to slip through tight crevices in the earth.

Though Pic’s wrinkled face made him look mean, his eyes, green of budding leaves, showed nothing but kindness. He wore tight clothing that showed off his massive muscles, but Eloran felt the man had never hurt another. Eloran bowed to the King.

“It is my pleasure, your highness.”

Pic advanced on Eloran and stared him down. He gave him a quizzical look then sniffed him. “Hmmm.” Without another word to Eloran, he turned to Anan. “He’ll bear your mark soon. ‘Tis a pity. I looked forward to my visits with you.” He leaned in and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. “Be happy, love.”

Anan stared at Pic. “What are you talking about?”

His loud laughter shook the walls. “You’ll see.”

She frowned at him in confusion. “I thought trolls could only see the past.”

He winked. “Sometimes the future presents itself to those who know how to look.” He held up his hands at her increased confusion. “No more questions. I must be off.”

“Please wait. I tried to explain the Gate to Eloran, but I couldn’t be clear. Would you mind showing him?”

Pic looked to the human and to Anan and nodded. “I can and I will.”

The large troll walked back to the Finaran door, opened it and stepped out. He took a few deep breaths, and walked back into the house, repeating a spell over and over. Anan made sure she and Eloran were out of the way. Pic spoke the words of the spell and walked a straight line from the Finaran side to the human side of Anan’s house.

As he walked, he changed. He shrank, not only in height, but also in body mass. It was odd to watch, but interesting as well. It was as if there were many Pics instead of one. He left trails of himself, but by the time he reached the human door there was only one. He was also human sized, and rather good looking. Eloran bowed to the King.

“Thank you, sire.”

Pic nodded, and looked to Anan. “I’ll be gone for a few days. If I come back and you’re occupied, do I have permission to enter?”

“Always, Pic.”

He nodded again, opened the door and left. Anan went to both the human door and the Finaran door and whispered spells. The spells would alert her to visitors needing passage. Done, she turned back to Eloran.

“He doesn’t mean to be rude.”

He shook his head. “That wasn’t the impression I got.”


He went to her and took her in his arms. “It was as if he didn’t want to speak of his feelings, and if he acknowledged me overmuch, he would reveal something to you.” He gazed down at the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. “Have you slept with him?”

“I did.”

Prince Eloran considered this for a moment. “I’m not surprised. He is rather handsome. He sounded unhappy at having lost the privilege.”

She slipped her arms around his neck. “He’ll get over it. He has three wives.”

Eloran looked surprised, but nodded and let her go. “So this house is a gateway.”

“A gate, yes. The people of Finara use this house to look human. Those with a lot of magic can walk the path and change, or can simply change. Those without a lot of magic must use a guide.”

He looked her up and down. “You’re a Finaran guide.”

She smiled. “Among other things, yes.”

He crossed his arms to stop himself from reaching out to take her in his arms. “What else are you?”

“A warrior, a protector, an elf.”

Light glinted in his eyes. “I want to see.”

“There isn’t much to see. A spell makes people forget I have pointed ears.”

He smiled and stepped closer. His hands moved to her hair and pushed it away from her ears. They looked normal. “Show me.”

She laughed, but dropped the spell. Her ears became longer and pointed. He stepped back to look fully at her and realized it wasn’t only her ears that changed. She seemed taller, and her features finer. As a human, she looked like a beautiful woman. Spell dropped, she exuded elegance. His breath caught as she looked at him with kind eyes.

“I am Princess Anan of the Finara. My father is the King of the Elves, but also currently the King of all the Finarans. I am a warrior, protector, and Guardian of this Gate.” She bowed to the Prince. “Welcome to my home, Prince Eloran.”

He reached out and touched her cheek. She closed her eyes at his soft touch. “You’re beautiful.”

“Thank you. Do you still wish to share my bed, Prince?”

He smiled down at her. “Nothing could stop me from wanting to share your bed, Princess.”

She smiled up at him and led him to her bed.

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Chapter Three: part three

It did not take long to locate a snare with a rabbit in it, but when she returned to the blanket, Eloran was asleep. She stared at him for a moment, then approached him. She laid the rabbit to the side, sat next to him, and placed her hand on his knee. He woke almost instantly.

“Hello. Were you asleep?”

“Yes. I don’t usually fall asleep so easily.”

“These woods are safe; you are protected, Prince Eloran.”

Eloran reached out and slipped his arm around her waist. He stared into her eyes for a moment before finding the lavender and placing it in her hair at her ear. He wound her hair around the twig to keep it there. She closed her eyes as the scent came to her nostrils.

“The Finarans believe that if one places a twig of lavender in another’s hair, it means that person wishes to kiss the other.”

His breath hitched in surprise. “And what does the person do if they desire the kisses?”

She opened her eyes. “They allow the lavender to be placed in their hair.”

Heart beating fast, Eloran leaned in and kissed Anan. Her lips were soft against his. Her tongue slipped from between her lips and caressed his. The kiss grew with intensity and they clutched at each other hungrily. Anan pulled away to catch her breath.

“Though the woods are safe, there are wild animals that hunt at night. We should return to my home, where we can be safe and warm.”

He pulled her close for a moment. “May I sleep in your bed tonight, Anan?”

She smiled confidently. “Yes.”

“Will you be with me this time?”

Anan kissed him softly. “Yes.”

Eloran kissed her for a moment, then let her go and stood. They packed up the basket and headed back to her home. Anan insisted on cooking the rabbit, and started a stew. Once it was on the fire, she turned to the Prince and smiled.

“The stew will be ready when we’re hungry.”

He nodded and held his arms out to her. She went to him and kissed him. He picked her up and carried her to the bed. They undressed each other slowly, caressing and kissing. They took their time; neither wanted to rush things. There was no need, as they had two days together.

Once they were undressed, they found themselves under the blankets, with Eloran on top. After kissing her passionately, he paused, staring down at her.

She reached out and caressed his cheek. “What is it?”

“I…feel a bit nervous.”

She frowned gently. “Nervous? I somehow doubt I’m your first.”

He gave an embarrassed laugh. “No, you are not my first.”

“And you are not my first, Eloran. There is no need to be nervous.”

“Yet…” he stared down at her, “here we are.”

She had a soft smile on her face. He was beginning to see the differences in her smiles. He wanted the time to learn all her smiles. Eloran inhaled softly as he understood the nervousness.

“I don’t care that I’m not your first. I want to be your last.”

She licked her lips nervously. “And do you want me as your last?”


They stared at each other for a moment, almost afraid of their declaration. Finally, Eloran leaned down and kissed Anan passionately. She slipped her arms around his neck and moaned as he slipped inside her.

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Chapter Two: part four

Three days later, Eloran went before the King. “I would like to travel, if I may.”

“Where would you like to go?”


The King looked to Klaes, then back to his son. “Why?”

Eloran wanted to make something up, had been trying to come up with a plausible lie for the past three days and had come up with nothing. He took a deep breath and tried the truth. He was in a room with his father and Klaes. The truth might be safe.

“I wish to see Anan.”

The King stifled a laugh and Eloran relaxed. “You may go, but you will take a guard. Klaes will assign someone to you.”

Eloran smiled to his father, nearly speechless. “Thank you, sire.”

“It takes one day to travel there. I want you back in four days. In five days there is a ball that you will attend.”

The Prince bowed again. “Yes, sir. Thank you, father.”


Eloran nodded, went to Klaes and the two went to find the Prince a guard.

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Chapter Two: part three

“Hello, mother.”

Queen Camilla turned and smiled to her son. With her long white hair and green eyes, she looked almost nothing like her child. She held out her arms and embraced him. “I was so worried about you.”

“I’m sorry.” He let go and sat beside her on the bench. He found his mother in the gardens, in her favorite spot, by the violets. “It was foolish.”

She tilted her head and looked at her son as if for the first time. “What changed? The last time you did this, you spoke harshly of your father for not allowing you your desires.”

He shrugged and tried not to smile. Camilla saw it though, and smiled warmly.

“Who is she?”

Prince Eloran gave an almost embarrassed laugh. “Is it that obvious?”

She placed a hand on his cheek. “It is to me, but then, you always had a hard time hiding your smile with me. What is her name?”


“How did you meet?”

“She helped me to Gateway when my horse threw a shoe. She took me to her home, fed me and allowed me to spend the night. She gave me some tea and I had the most amazing dream.”

Camilla tried not to look too surprised, as she wondered how much her son knew about the woman. Anan was not an uncommon name, but the Queen knew who held the Guardian of the Gate position. Camilla also knew a bit about the Finaran dreaming tea.

Camilla’s mother was an elf, and had passed down some information to her daughter. No one knew Camilla was half elf. Other than her ears looking slightly pointed, she had no obvious physical elven features, and none of their abilities.

The Queen knew how to find certain plants and how to use those plants to help others. She had not had the dreaming tea in quite some time though, as the plant did not grow on the castle grounds, and she didn’t want to ask for it. There were some in the Royal Family that did not like the Finarans or their abilities.

“What was your dream, son?”

He sighed happily and looked towards the flowers. “Anan and I were sitting on a blanket, by a river, talking and eating. I placed a flower in her hair.”

“What type of flower?”

He frowned, then shook his head. “It was purple, but lighter than your violets. I think we have the plant in the garden.”

Camilla stood and held her hand out to her son. “Walk with me. Show me.”

Eloran took his mother’s hand, and stood. “Is this important?”

“I’m curious. My only child seems taken by this woman and I would like to understand more.”

Mother and son walked quietly into the gardens, lost in thought. Eloran did not know Camilla was part Finaran, and neither did King Falk. They knew she understood plants, it was one of the reason Falk married her, but they did not know her lineage. Lora, King Falk’s last wife, taught her child, Laurence, to fear the Finarans. For her own safety, Camilla kept her lineage quiet. Now she wanted to tell Eloran, but felt it was not the right time.

Eloran thought mostly of Anan and when he might see her again. He wanted it to be soon. He liked her. He sighed and looked about the garden, letting his eyes fall on random flowers, trying to see the one from his dream.

He didn’t know the names of most of the flowers, but the colors, vibrant reds, greens, blues and yellows, subdued purple and orange, didn’t reveal the right flower from his dream. They walked slowly, but eventually, they came to the end of the gardens. Eloran sighed.

“I didn’t see it.”

Camilla faced her son and smiled. “It’s all right. I had a pleasant walk. Did you?”

He gave his mother a warm smile. “Yes, I did. Let’s get back to the castle. It’s probably dinner time.”

Camilla smiled and they walked back to the castle arm in arm.

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Chapter Two: part two

Eloran knelt before the King, his head bowed. “I am sorry, your highness. This will not happen again.”

“I was terrified Eloran. Your mother was, too. Why did you do this? Did you really think to find out anything about the Taren bandits?”

He kept looking at the ground. The King, Eloran and Klaes were in a private room. The King did not discipline his children in public. “I thought to find out more information, yes. I did not realize how foolish an endeavor it could be.”

“This is not the first time you’ve said this to me. How do I know you mean it this time?” King Falk looked both fed up and worried.

Eloran heard the worry and the disappointment in his father’s voice and looked up. He placed his hand over his heart. “On my honor, father. I will not do this again.”

The King looked surprised, but it quickly faded. This was the first time Eloran used that phrase. Usually, Eloran muttered an apology quickly, without much conviction. The king nodded. “All right. I believe you. Go see your mother. She was terribly worried.”

Eloran stood, bowed and left the room. King Falk turned to Klaes. His advisor spoke.

“His horse threw a shoe and forced him to stop. A Finaran found him. Her name is Anan. They spent some time together, but they did not sleep together.” He paused as the slightest of frowns creased his brow. It disappeared before the King could see it. “They seem taken with each other.”

A glint of recognition came to the King’s eyes. “Who is she? The name sounds familiar.”

“She is the youngest child of King Nassir of Finara. She is a fierce warrior, which is why she was appointed as the Guardian of the Gate.”

The King nodded in thought. “Did she place a spell on him?”

“No, she would not do that.”

“But he’s willing to change because of one visit with her?”

“Anan has a way with men, sire. They love her, sometimes after just a moment with her. She does not tease, she does not flirt, she exists and men want her.”

The King stared at his loyal advisor for some time before speaking. “You sound very sure of yourself.”

Klaes bowed. “I was her tutor, your highness, before I came here. She turned many heads, but not consciously.”

“Yours perhaps?”

The advisor continued to bow. “She was too young for me, sire.”

King Falk sighed heavily. “Is she dangerous?”

Klaes stood tall, a little offended by the implication. He put aside his displeasure at the thought of Anan with another man and answered the King truthfully. “Quite the contrary, sire. She would be a good match for your son. You have thought about a marriage between our two worlds. This would be to your advantage, and theirs.”

The King sighed heavily again. “Will they see each other again or was this a one time occurrence?”

“They both want to see each other again, but are not sure when that will happen.”

The King nodded. “As long as he does not run off without telling anyone, I am not opposed to it.”

Klaes bowed to the King. “Yes, your grace. Thank you.”

King Falk nodded and turned his thoughts to other matters.

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