QSFer Antonia Aquilante has a new fantasy book out:
Legends tell of large cats defending the principality of Tournai, but such creatures have been lost to time.
Or have they?
Prince Philip inherited the throne at a young age, and since then, his life has centered around ruling his country and resisting those pressuring him to take a wife and conceive an heir—forcing him to hide his attraction to men. When kind-hearted Amory is offered to the prince in exchange for more time for Amory’s father to complete a commission, both Philip and Amory are horrified. But Philip agrees to keep Amory at the palace, where they gradually become friends, then lovers. For the first time in his life, Philip is free to share not only his heart, but the magical shape-shifting ability that runs in the royal bloodline.
Neither Amory nor Philip imagined falling in love, and they certainly don’t expect the lengths those who oppose their relationship will go to keep them apart—maybe even resorting to murder.
Amory frowned as he thought. “I’ve never heard of a Talent running in the royal family.”
“Like I said. It’s kept very quiet. It doesn’t show up all the time. It tends to skip generations and skip around within generations.” Philip was quiet for a moment. “I’ve never told anyone.”
Not anyone? Even Vasco? And why did that make Amory feel so special? But Philip still looked worried. Amory stroked a hand over Philip’s hair the way Philip liked. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“I want to, but I’m not sure how you’ll react.”
Why would he react badly to magical Talent? “It’s fine. You can tell me.”
Philip took a deep breath. “I can turn myself into a cat.”
Well, he hadn’t expected that. “A cat?”
“Yes.” Philip seemed to be waiting, and hardly breathing while he did. He was really that worried about Amory’s reaction.
“That’s incredible. I’ve never heard of anything like it.” Amory hadn’t made a study of magic, so he supposed he wouldn’t have. He’d heard of the well-known Talents, the ones everyone encountered like healing and Talents for creating fire and light and the less commonly occurring but still important ones like weather working. But there were stories, old stories, of man-sized cats who had defended Tournai against invasion long ago. The legends were vague, but they persisted, that there was some sort of magical protection surrounding Tournai, and that the cats would always return to defend the country. All to the good, he supposed, since Tournai was a small country, but an important and strategic trading center. Many countries might like to control such a place. But he never thought there was any truth to them. Could the royal family’s Talent be the origin of those stories?
“It’s rare,” Philip was saying. “And useless to me.”
Amory bit his lip. “Can you show me?”
Philip hesitated. “If you like.”
“Please. I want to know all about you, Pip.” He ran his hand through Philip’s hair again, hoping to soothe. “But only if you’re comfortable showing me.”
“I want you to see and to know that part of me too.” Philip backed away from Amory’s chair. Amory rose to face him. “Don’t be scared, all right? I turn into a pretty big cat.”
“I won’t.” He hoped he could keep his promise. Philip looked so worried, and those legends were about man-sized cats.
“Elodie hates it. She doesn’t use her Talent much because she turns into a little ball-of-fluff kitten.” Philip was obviously stalling because he was nervous. A rush of protectiveness moved through Amory, and he wanted to soothe away Philip’s worry.
“I can see Elodie as an active kitten.” He grinned. But then his curiosity got the better of him. “So you can’t control the type of cat, and you don’t all turn into the same type?”
“No, and not all of us do. There’s Elodie. My grandfather turned into a big cat according to my father. Some of the cousins have the Talent, but not all of them.” Philip took a deep breath, like he was bracing himself. “Ready?”
“When you are.”
Philip nodded and closed his eyes. The air around him shimmered with an almost amber light, obscuring Philip for an instant. And then sitting where Philip stood a second before was a huge cat.
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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.