Tiger's Promise

Tiger's Promise by Colleen Houck Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Tiger's Promise by Colleen Houck Read Free Book Online
Authors: Colleen Houck
stems and breaking limbs from the trees. Then he lifted
     his arms and the ground shook, the frozen fountain cracked, and I stumbled and fell.
     I bit my tongue hard rather than cry out. Thrusting out his open hands, blue sparks
     shot from his fingertips and blackened the trunk of a nearby tree. Clenching his fists,
     he snuffed the power out, and with a determined stride, he left the garden, heading
     down a different set of steps than the ones I’d used.
    I waited a long time before heading back to my sleeping chamber, and once I did, I
     carefully washed my feet and climbed into bed, but sleep eluded me. Instead, I stared
     at the filmy material draped over my bed and prepared myself for the morning to come.
    When daylight found my chamber, I waited for my father to come collect me. I’d expected
     him to appear immediately, but as the morning hours passed and not even a maid came
     to my chamber, I ventured out. I didn’t find anyone, guest or servant, until I entered
     the great hall, and when I did, the one who sought me out was not my father nor his
     right-hand man, Hajari, but King Devanand, my would-be suitor from Mahabalipuram.
    “Oh, my dear. This is tragic. Tragic news indeed.”
    “What is it?” I asked him as I adjusted the veil more tightly about my face. “What
     has happened?”
    “Have you not heard?”
    I shook my head in response.
    “The king has been murdered.”
    “Is…is it possible?” I asked, suspicion already filling my mind. “How did he die?
     Was the villain discovered?”
    “Not as yet. Your father is investigating.”
    “I see.”
    “At first, it was believed he simply expired in his sleep, but as the women tended
     to him, his nightshirt fell open. That’s when they saw the black marks on his chest
     near his heart.”
    “Black marks?”
    “Yes. The area surrounding his heart was burned, but the blackened skin was not enough
     to kill him. Still, it is enough proof to raise suspicion.”
    “I see. What is happening now? Where is my father?”
    “He is organizing the troops. They are to defend the kingdom until such time as a
     new king has been established. He worries that a usurper may try to take the throne,
     and he does not wish that to happen.”
    “Of course.”
    He patted my hand. “Unfortunately, this means there will be no plans made at this
     time regarding your future. You should know, though, that I have made my intentions
     very clear to your father. He assured me that I would be among the first to know when
     everything settles down. Until that time, all the guests are to return as quietly
     as possible to their own domains.”
    “I understand.”
    “Ah. There’s your father’s man. I’ll leave you in his care then. Until we meet again,
     lovely lady.”
    The king squeezed my hand and reluctantly gave me over to Hajari, who took my arm
     in a bruising grip. “Where have you been?” he hissed in my ear.
    “No one came to collect me this morning,” I replied coldly.
    “Your father is waiting for you. Come.”
    He dragged me down the hall and through several passageways, relishing the opportunity
     to show me he was in charge, though both of us knew it was only temporary. Sure enough,
     his demeanor entirely changed the moment we entered the room where my father sat surrounded
     by the late king’s advisors. When he saw me, he dismissed the group.
    “Did you sleep well, my dear?” he inquired politely as the last of the men left and
     closed the door behind them.
    “Yes, Father,” I answered with my gaze trained on his feet.
    “I suppose you heard of the king’s demise,” he said, and from his tone, I couldn’t
     tell if he meant it as a question or a statement. I decided it was best to say nothing.
    He waited for a few seconds and then confirmed what I already suspected. “Tragic,
     isn’t it? Of course, you are aware of what this might mean for you.”
    “That I’m not to be married after all?” I ventured quietly.
    “Oh, you will be

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