I am so excited to share with you an excerpt from Empire’s Heir (Empire’s Legacy, Book VI) by Marian L ThorpeThank you to The Coffee Pot Book Club for your invite to take part in the tour.
Some games are played for mortal stakes.
Gwenna, heir to Ésparias, is summoned by the Empress of Casil to compete for the hand of her son. Offered power and influence far beyond what her own small land can give her, Gwenna’s strategy seems clear – except she loves someone else.
Nineteen years earlier, the Empress outplayed Cillian in diplomacy and intrigue. Alone, his only living daughter has little chance to counter the Empress's experience and skill. Aging and torn by grief and worry, Cillian insists on accompanying Gwenna to Casil.
Risking a charge of treason, faced with a choice he does not want to make, Cillian must convince Gwenna her future is more important than his – while Gwenna plans her moves to keep her father safe. Both are playing a dangerous game. Which one will concede – or sacrifice?
© 2021 Marian L Thorpe
In this passage, Cillian, one of the two narrators of Empire’s Heir, and his friend and lover Sorley are alone together for the first time since the death of Cillian’s youngest daughter, whom they both loved deeply.
Fatigue purpled Sorley’s eyes. I held out a hand. “Come here.” He came, slowly, to sit beside me. “The baths?” I touched his hair, spiky and unkempt. He leant his head into my hand. When I kissed his temple, he said my name, helplessly.
“There is no one here,” I said. “And I have done nothing to raise suspicion, not in a house of mourning.” But I moved my hand from his head, years of caution precluding my wish to offer—and find—comfort. He reached out and took it, entwining his fingers with mine on the tabletop. I ran a thumb across his palm. I could find no physical desire, but what lay between us was far more than our rare nights together. A love which, in my many sleepless hours, when only the cat and long-dead philosophers kept me company, I had admitted I did not fully understand.
I heard Gwenna come back into the hall. “Mhairi might follow her,” I said softly, and let my fingers slide from Sorley’s.
“Druisius has gone to train the torpari boys, and your mother will be riding for some hours. Would you tell Apulo I—we—would welcome the baths?” I asked my daughter.
“Of course,” she said. “Sorley? Can I use the table in your teaching room to write notes this morning?”
He nodded. “Go ahead.”
We soaked for a long time, Apulo keeping the fire burning under the boiler, and the water hot. He’d helped me into the pool, as always, and then left us. We did not speak for some time, letting the heat do its work, relaxing the tight muscles of my back and leg. After a while I began to massage Sorley’s neck with one hand: not with any skill, but the touch was as much for me as him. He sighed and slid closer. “Lena?”
“She is angry now,” I said.
“We’re all angry.” Fresh bruises—bite marks—reddened his shoulders. We’d never spoken of them; we never would. Silence and secrets, for so many reasons. He leaned his head back. I stopped rubbing his neck, but I did not withdraw my arm. “I could offer sword practice.” I caught the faintest trace of a forced amusement behind the fatigue and sorrow. Sorley’s voice was a tool when he wanted it to be.
“Wear armour.” He smiled, both of us remembering a day on a riverbank far away in both time and distance now, Lena directing rage and sorrow into sword strokes. He’d barely been able to defend himself.
“Cillian?” The amusement was gone. “What are you doing with your anger? And don’t tell me it’s not there.”
“I am waiting for it to pass.” As Catilius taught.
“Is that enough?”
“It has to be,” I said. “What else can I do? I will write a poem for her, one day, and you can put it to music, but I cannot wield a sword, or throw a knife.” Or express, in any physical way, the hollow ache inside me that frequently flashed into sharp pain. “But, yes, just now I resent my limitations.”
“Do you want time alone when we are finished soaking?”
I had lain or sat awake in the dark for many hours in the last week, alert to Lena’s restlessness and tears. To have no demands on me; to be undisturbed . . .
“No,” I said. “Not yet. Time with you first.”
If that excerpt has tickled your fancy then you can grab your copy over on Amazon. And get this, Empire's Heir is free to read if you have #KindleUnlimited subscription!
Marian L Thorpe
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