QSFer Antonia Aquilante has a new MM fantasy book out, Chronicles of Tournai book 8: “The Envoy’s Honor.” And there’s a giveaway!
Second son of an earl and cousin to the Crown Prince, Griffen has worked hard to forge a career in diplomacy for the principality of Tournai, but he never expected his diplomatic skills would be necessary for a problem so personal to him and his family.
A delegation from the mysterious kingdom of Ivria has come to Tournai to make sure the secret of their people—the magical Talent allowing them to change into dragons—and therefore their kingdom itself remain safe. The delegation is concerned for Corentin, an Ivrian, and the man Griffen’s older brother is soon to marry.
The Ivrians seem to want to drag Corentin back to Ivria for the offense of revealing their secret, but Griffen refuses to let it happen. His determination puts him into contact—and conflict—with Kirill, a negotiator for the king of Ivria who possesses the dragon Talent himself. The two clash and connect, getting closer and pulling away as they try to negotiate the needs of their people and an unwanted attraction between themselves. However, just as trust might be growing between them, a plot is uncovered and a member of the Ivrian delegation murdered. Griffen and Kirill must discover who is behind both for the safety of their countries and the people they love…and for a chance to be together.
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Griffen’s day had been utterly normal—boring, even—until the dragons arrived.
The only mildly interesting thing that had happened was Bastien for once being convinced to attend a family dinner at the palace. Griffen didn’t delude himself into thinking his persuasion and prodding had anything to do with his older brother’s decision. No, Philip’s order had gotten Bastien and Corentin, the man he would soon marry, here. The prince rarely ordered his family about—and never in this type of situation, so Philip’s edict had probably been at least half joking—but Bastien was too dutiful to ignore it, despite his preference to be something of a hermit.
Bastien wasn’t truly unsociable—he just preferred to spend his time quietly on their family’s estate of Ardesia and not at court or even in the capital. Since Corentin taught at the university here in the city, Bastien could no longer spend all his time at Ardesia, unless he wanted to be separated from Corentin, which he obviously did not. And since they were cousins to the prince—Philip’s mother had been their aunt—though they were not royalty themselves, they were expected to be seen at court perhaps even more than others. Griffen had no problem with the expectation, but his and Bastien’s similarities ended with their appearances. They looked almost identical but couldn’t have been more different in personality.
What Griffen had never understood was why it was so difficult to get Bastien to casual family gatherings. Tonight’s dinner was not a court function. They gathered in Philip and Amory’s private sitting room—the royal couple having created a homey place for themselves in the grandeur of the palace—sipping drinks and chatting before dinner. Philip and Amory’s son was with them; Philip held the sleepy toddler now, rocking Julien slightly as he spoke with his cousin Cathal and Lord Marcus. Marcus did some sort of mysterious work for Philip, but he was with them tonight because he was going to marry Alexander, another of Philip’s cousins. The match was an interesting one—the older, serious, self-contained Marcus and the mischievous, outgoing Alexander. Faelen, Alexander’s twin, was chatting with Amory, and Flavian, Cathal’s husband, with Maxen, the man Faelen would marry later in the year, bringing them more wine.
No, it most definitely wasn’t a court event or formal in any way.
This family had grown so much in the last few years—and grown closer too. Griffen loved it, was honored to be a part of it. He was tied to Philip by blood, but blood wasn’t what made a family. If only there wasn’t a hint of sadness dragging at him. So many of his family had paired off—more, had found love matches, something rare among royalty and the nobility who were more likely to marry for power or position.
And Griffen…wanted that for himself.
He’d had his share of affairs with various people over the years and parted amicably after each, everyone enjoying themselves and not looking for more. None of those liaisons had ever been serious or had a possibility of becoming so, which had been fine. Then. Somewhere along the way, it had stopped being fine to him.
“Everything all right?”
Griffen jumped a little before facing Tristan who’d come to his side. “Fine.”
Tristan frowned, an expression that always seemed vaguely wrong on his face. A bright smile seemed to go with his shining gold hair and sparkling blue eyes. Griffen had enjoyed his smiles, and other things, during the handful of nights they’d spent together. What they’d shared hadn’t even been something so formal as an affair, and it had been over long before Tristan married Etan, another of Philip’s cousins. Etan was here, too, talking in a corner with Bastien and Corentin—about something related to one of their studies if the faintly perplexed look in Bastien’s eyes was anything to go by.
“You seemed far away for a moment,” Tristan said, capturing Griffen’s attention again.
“Just thinking. I guess I’m easily distracted tonight.”
“I hope by something good.” Alexander winked as he appeared in front of them, decanter in hand, ready to pour more wine for them. His eyes narrowed as he studied Griffen. “Uh oh. Not good?”
Tristan’s gaze sharpened. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Griffen smiled, warmed by their concern. When neither man looked reassured, he added, “Really.”
And there wasn’t—though they still didn’t look as if they believed him. He was just…thoughtful.
A sharp rap on the door saved him from having to convince Tristan and Alexander. Before anyone could move to answer the door, it flew open, and Ligeia tumbled into the room.
Surprise froze Griffen for an instant. His sister had elected to stay home that evening—though Philip and Amory would’ve been happy to have her join them if she wanted—with Patia and Idalia, two of the cousins who’d become Bastien’s wards several months ago. She shouldn’t have been at the palace, certainly not looking wild-eyed and near panic with her light-brown hair escaping its pins and her dress one she never left the house in.
He broke his paralysis and spoke at the same time Bastien did. “Ligeia?”
“What happened?” Bastien continued. “Are you all right?”
She halted a few steps inside, after pushing the door closed behind her—it was amazing the guards had even let her through looking the way she did. “Fine, I’m fine,” she said, breathless. Had she run through the palace to get here? “But…”
“What is it, Ligeia?” Philip asked as her gaze darted around the room. He didn’t exactly use the tone of voice that Griffen identified as more prince than family, but the way he said the words commanded attention, nonetheless. From all of them.
Ligeia focused on Philip immediately and took a breath. “Some people came to the house, looking for Corentin. From, um, his home.”
Marcus and Maxen looked confused, but everyone else froze. They knew exactly what that meant.
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.