Are you as excited as we are for the final book in Amanda Bouchet's Kingmaker Chronicles? (Trick question, you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't.)
Our review goes up very soon, but here's a taste of HEART ON FIRE before it comes out next week, on January 2nd!
Enjoy the excerpt!
“Where in the Gods damn bloody Underworld have you two been?” A flame-haired Harpy erupts from a darkened side passage, storming into our path.
I jump, even though it’s just Bellanca Tarva arriving with the explosive energy of someone about my age but not pregnant.
“Gods! You nearly gave me a heart attack.” I scowl at her. Ever since that three-headed monster leaped out at me in the ice caves, dark corridors make me nervous. To be fair, they made me nervous before that, but now it’s even worse.
Griffin instinctively draws me closer to his side, even placing me a little behind him. He doesn’t quite trust Bellanca yet, although I think he should.
Bellanca’s hands fly to her hips. “What’s wrong with everyone here?” she demands, seeming genuinely worried. And spitting mad. Her wild red hair starts to spark, sending hot little flames sizzling down the curls. She bats at them, putting the Fire Magic out. “Everyone’s crying. I can’t find a courtyard where Lystra and I can walk in peace. I thought you’d gone off and gotten yourself killed! You, too,” she adds, glowering at Griffin.
Bellanca’s bald-faced disregard for the proprieties of rank rivals my own, but underneath her prickles and bluster, I think she truly cares, whether she wants to or not. Since her prophetess sister died to protect me and used her last breath to command her younger sisters to guard my unborn child with their lives, Bellanca has attached herself to me like an annoying and highly combustible leech. It was harder to sneak past her vigilance this morning than past the crowd outside the castle. I have a feeling her loyalty, once given, is an unshakable force. I can’t seem to shake her, anyway.
Lystra, the youngest recently dethroned Tarvan royal, has mostly been hiding in her room. Or staring at Kato, but all females over the age of ten do that.
“It was a family thing,” I answer with a worn-out sigh.
Bellanca’s brow clears of the tight, little wrinkles that were marring her forehead. Her stance relaxes, and she nods. For a person who grew up in an abomination of a household much like mine, the word family, said in the way I just said it, explains a lot.
“Well, don’t go running off anymore.” She huffs, clearly still cross with us. “At least not without me.”
I pinch the bridge of my nose, rubbing a little. I feel the start of a headache coming on.
“Who’s in charge here?” I ask pointedly.
Bellanca’s bright-red eyebrows slam together like crossing swords, two fiery slashes across her fair-skinned face. “Oh, that’s nice! Just remind me of how you stole my realm and possibly my birthright.”
“I will,” I say. “And I’ll remind you of how you helped me.”
She pales, making her freckles stand out, and I want to kick myself. I just meant that she’d helped us. She chose our side over her power-hungry, cold-hearted, murderous brother’s. I didn’t mean to remind her of how she wrapped her flaming hands around Galen Tarva’s thick neck and burned her own flesh and blood into a pile of ash.
Not that she did that for me. She did it because Galen had killed her beloved, sight-addled sister, Appoline. Appoline, who took Galen’s knife in her chest for me. For my baby.
Gods, I’m an idiot. I see Bellanca’s throat move on a hard swallow and feel even worse.
“Thank you.” I reach out and grip her wrist. Emotional conversations aren’t easy for me, and I don’t know her well. “Thank you…for worrying about me.”
She snorts, rolling her blue-green eyes and then blowing a smoldering lock of hair out of her face. Her magic has been running amok since the takeover battle. The woman needs to learn some control. Then again, so do I.
“I wasn’t worried. I don’t even like you.” Breaking my hold on her, Bellanca whirls and stomps off, moving into the family room we just vacated.
Griffin’s face scrunches up. He bows his head, and his shoulders start to shake.
Uh-oh. He’s finally cracking. Piers. Me. The baby. It’s all too much.
I lean over and peer into his face only to realize that…he’s laughing?
“What are you doing?” I demand.
“First Ianthe. Now her.” He straightens and jerks his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the great room, still quietly laughing. “I’m accumulating women just like you.”
I scowl, and he tries to stop smiling. It doesn’t work.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demand hotly.
He puts a large, very warm hand on the small of my back and tries to sweep me toward the stairs. When I resist, he keeps pushing, propelling me along.
“It means I’m the luckiest man alive.” He drops a kiss onto the top of my head as I reach for the ornate, gilded railing. “And all together, we’ll be invincible,” he murmurs against my hair.
Heat and pleasure radiate through me, warming my heart. Because Griffin is loyal to me, he immediately loved Ianthe like a sister. She also earned her place with us within seconds of our first encounter, leaping fearlessly to our defense, even though it meant defying a man who’d terrified and abused her. Bellanca earned her place that day as well, but she’s harder to digest.
“Are you coming around to Bellanca?” I ask, starting to climb the steps.
Griffin follows. “She has certain qualities.”
I turn, one eyebrow raised. “Like powerful Fire Magic?”
He humphs. “And a temper to match.”