When Noel's current lord invites King Edward and his son, Prince Mark, to his kingdom for a three-day tournament, Noel realizes his days of living as a free water siren are rapidly coming to a close. After all, everyone knows all water sirens belong to King Edward, who is determined to make sure they never try to take over the human kingdom again. But Noel can't remember a time his peaceful kind ever tried. Resigning himself to a life of being an esteemed prisoner and pet isn't the end of the world, but Prince Mark is known to be just as cruel as his father.
To make matters worse, Prince Henry is everything Prince Mark is not -- charming, kind, and considerate. Noel remembers Prince Henry from years before, though he has vowed to keep his love a secret. But with a three-day tournament and endless banquets throwing them together, just how long can Noel keep his love to himself? Three days is nothing... and yet it will have to be everything.
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Copyright ©2018 Ana Raine
"No harm will come to ye, so long as you obey."
"S'not what I've heard," I whispered, finally letting my doubts slip out.
She shook her head, as if the gesture could shake away all doubt. "Prince Mark will be fair to you. I know it."
"No mortal man could resist your beauty, boy."
I scoffed at that. Beauty? Prince Henry was the true definition of beauty, not me. With my sinewy limbs and pale hair, I was like something from the old folklore stories elders told children to get them to behave. In the Fairy tales, water sirens were notorious for stealing children from their beds and dragging them to the sea -- ludicrous considering I was terrified of the swirling blue mass.
If it weren't for my appearance, I would doubt I was a water siren at all.
I certainly didn't exhibit any of a water siren's usual qualities, so what my use would be was painfully clear. Those who weren't able to serve as guides for King Tauran's ships were used for pleasure.
I tore away from Libby, not wanting to take out my confusion on her. At least I still had three days to enjoy admiring Prince Henry.
Just as I started to turn away, I heard the loud trumpets alerting the entire kingdom to King Tauran's arrival.
"Where are you going?" Libby demanded, eyes wide.
"To clean up." I pointed at my tunic. "You said I should."
She let me go. I did want to clean up... just not for Prince Mark. But I carefully hid why I wanted to look good.
I had lived with Lord Haver since I was a small child, and the castle seemed small to me. But to visitors, it was second only to King Tauran's. I had memorized the twisting hallways and dark corners, knowing the precise way in which to travel if I needed to move fast.
Guards knew better than to touch me, and visiting knights and members of the court were too scared. The aloof water Fairy... a harmless nickname that was going to be the end of life as I knew it. Dramatic, but no less true.
My room was with the other servants, but higher up. Lord Haver had probably meant to keep me away from the water, but he didn't know I was secretly grateful. The vast ocean scared me, the tumbling, tossing waves more frightening than the jousts I had witnessed.
What good was the tip of a sharpened lance when the strength of the water made even the most powerful of men appear weak? If it were true, if I really had been spewed out by the sea, as all male sirens were, then I certainly knew why.
In the great hall hung a large tapestry. The fabric was neither impressive nor expensive, but the message conveyed more than the collection of books in the library could.
"Stunning, is it not?"
I hadn't heard the approaching footsteps and even if I had, I would never have believed they belonged to him. "Prince Henry." I bowed slightly, placing my right arm behind my back and trying to not make eye contract. "Please excuse me."
"Running away?" he asked with a slight chuckle. He had shed his fine cape, revealing a tunic that looked as soft as butter. A light armor was over his chest and left shoulder, but I knew the material was only for show. "Does Lord Haver not permit you to have conversations?"
I should not talk to him. Should not. "I thought perhaps I was impeding your view." I had stood, but my eyes were still fixated on his boots. As a pet, I'd never had to do menial tasks like the servants, but in that moment, if he'd asked me to unlace them, I would have.
"Not at all." But he was too polite to actually say I was a nuisance. "So the tapestry," he reminded me. He lifted a gloved hand, his finger outstretched towards the divide between the sea and land as if he could erase the divide with a simple caress. With his overwhelming beauty, maybe he could. "This depicts your kind coming onto land in order to take control."
I swallowed my disgust. "It does, yes."
"Perhaps because the sea is cold and unforgiving. I do not ever recall such an event."
"Neither do I. Nor does my father, so how do we know the sirens really were after war?"
My shock was too great to explain. "I do not know."
"Males are driven off by female sirens, simply for their sex, correct?"
"So tell me, what sort of water magic can you do?"
I straightened and met his gaze, something I should have known better than to do. Stuttering, I tried to form what I could of a sentence. "I'm afraid of the water, so I cannot do anything."
The corners of his mouth turned upward in a smile, his broad chest shaking slightly with his laughter. "Really now? How odd."
His laughter was addictive, but I forced my face to remain blank. I didn't belong to myself and therefore, could never belong to him.
"You are more beautiful than any other siren I have beheld, but you are frightened of the very place in which you are said to spawn." Prince Henry ever so gently touched my hair, the pale strands a stark contrast to his black glove. "Perhaps you have just buried your true nature."
"I have no desire to return to the sea, my prince," I said softly, closing my eyes shamelessly as his touch moved to the corner of my eye and then my cheekbone. "Even if such a thing were possible."
"No? The sea should mourn your absence, such beauty gone forever."
I blinked. "You think me beautiful?"