Title: The Key
Author: Jennifer Anne Davis
November 15th, 2013 by Clean Teen
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance
Recommended Age: 14+
Within these pages lie kingdoms with castles and princes who fall in love with fair maidens, but make no mistake−this is no fairytale.
His father’s kingdom is on the brink of upheaval and at the center of it all is an ordinary girl who could be the key to its undoing. When faced with the ultimate choice, will he choose the girl he’s falling in love with or the kingdom he has sworn to protect?
An ordinary girl with an extraordinary past. All she wants is to be free. What she doesn’t realize is that freedom comes with a price she can’t afford to pay. She’s forced to accept the proposal of a prince she despises, even though her heart belongs to someone else . . . his brother.
Seventeen-year-old Rema lives in a brutal kingdom where travel between regions is forbidden, people are starving, and looking at someone the wrong way can mean death. Nineteen-year-old Darmik is the king’s son and Commander of the King’s Army. He spends his days roving the island, doing his father’s bidding and trying to maintain control over the people.
When a chance encounter throws Rema and Darmik together, they share an instantaneous connection, but any sort of relationship between them is strictly forbidden. Darmik’s brother, the Crown Prince, notices Darmik’s interest in Rema and, in a calculated, political move, blackmails her. Faced with an impossible choice, Rema is forced to sacrifice her heart in order to save her family.
As Rema is taken to the palace with the Crown Prince, Darmik confronts the growing rumor that a legitimate blood heir to the throne exists and is trying to overthrow Darmik’s family. In Darmik’s quest to hunt down and kill the threat, he discovers that nothing is as it seems. Locked in the king’s castle, Rema finds herself a key player in a massive power struggle. When Darmik shows up, she’s not sure if she can trust him. The line between friends, enemies, and loyalty becomes blurred. As truths are unlocked, Rema understands that she just might be the key to finding the rightful heir and restoring peace to the kingdom… if she can manage to stay alive long enough.
Darmik had to talk to her again. He ran to the back of the stables, hoping to catch her alone. He rounded the corner, slamming into her, knocking her to the ground. Big, round sapphire eyes looked up at him.
“I’m sorry,” Darmik stammered, reaching down to help her up. “I didn’t realize you were there.”
“Prince Darmik,” she politely nodded, getting to her feet on her own. Her eyes quickly scanned him from head to toe, lingering on his royal markings that covered his neck and shoulders. The black stallion whinnied and ran away from them. Tabitha sighed, exasperated. “What are you doing here?”
“Um,” he wasn’t usually at a loss of words, but there was something about her piercing gaze that made him forget what he was doing. She cleared her throat and brushed the dirt from her dress.
“Sorry about that,” he pointed to her, indicating the collision. Her eyes darted behind him. Darmik glanced back, but no one was there. “Are you looking for someone?” he asked.
“My uncle. He’s waiting for me. We just came to deliver this horse.” She waved her hand toward the black stallion grazing nearby.
Tabitha certainly was bold, and far more interesting than any of the nobles Darmik had ever met. But then again, she wasn’t from the noble class—she was from the merchant class. Still, she stood out like she didn’t belong to anyone or anything.
“Tabitha?” He took a step toward her, wanting to get closer.
“That’s not my name,” she stated.
“Excuse me?” He remembered her band: Tabitha, seventeen years old, niece of Kar and Maya, not yet married or engaged.
“Aren’t you the commander of the King’s Army?” she asked. Darmik nodded. “Don’t you have an army to run? Or do you only hunt and mosey about, pretending to be of use to the kingdom? I thought King Barjon would manage to keep you busier.”
Was she serious? Nobody had ever spoken to him in such a manner.
“Well,” he began to answer, but she started laughing.
“I go by Rema.” She held out her hand in greeting.
Darmik never shook hands with anyone. Even though he was the commander of the army, he was also a prince, and his men addressed him as such. Shaking hands was for commoners. Her pale hand remained suspended in air, waiting for him.
His hand slid into hers. “Prince Darmik,” he responded, shaking her warm hand, eager for the chance to touch her again.
“I got that part,” Rema smiled. Her breath smelled sweet like apples. She tried pulling her hand from his, but he refused to release her.
“Let me escort you inside the stables.” Darmik put her hand on his arm. She seemed reluctant at first, but he pulled her along toward the front of the stables, not giving her a chance to refuse. “Do you live nearby?” he asked.
When she didn’t elaborate, he forged on. “I haven’t seen blonde hair very often. Does your mother have the same coloring?” As soon as he asked the question, he knew he’d made an error. Her body tensed. He looked down at her, remembering her band said she lived with her aunt and uncle. Rema shook her head, refusing to answer.
Afraid he’d offended her, he continued on. “I’ve traveled to Emperion. Almost everyone there has blonde hair and blue eyes.”
“You’ve been to Emperion?” she asked, squeezing his arm.
“Yes. For training.”
Rema’s eyes widened. “Tell me about it,” she demanded. Darmik smiled in response to her excitement.
“Rema!” a stablehand yelled.
“I forgot about my uncle,” Rema said. “He’s waiting for me. I have to go.” She jerked her hand away from Darmik’s arm and spun around, heading back the way they came. Rema glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him. Then she rounded the corner and disappeared.
Not ready for her to go, Darmik jogged after her. Nearing the corner, he heard the boy say, “We’ll miss seeing you Rema.” Darmik turned the corner and saw the stablehand holding a pitchfork, his face bright red. “You have such a way with the horses,” the boy stammered.
“I’m getting married, not dying.” She smiled mischievously. “You’ll see me again.”
“Rema,” Darmik couldn’t help himself. “You’re engaged?”
The stablehand dropped to one knee and bowed his head.
Rema’s smile vanished. Standing just behind her next to the stables was an older man. The elderly man’s eyes moved from Darmik to Rema and back again. His face lost all color as he knelt on the ground. Darmik assumed this was Rema’s uncle.
Rema’s eyes bore into Darmik’s. “Yes, Prince Darmik,” she answered, kneeling before him. “I am engaged,” she replied softly. “The signed contract was delivered to Lord Filmar today. My band is going to be marked tomorrow.”
Darmik was about to reply when a flicker to his left caught his attention. His brother, Prince Lennek, stood just inside the stables with a devious smile. Darmik prayed he hadn’t drawn any attention to Rema. Lennek leaned against the wall, watching.
“You’re dismissed,” Darmik said, trying to sound nonchalant. He moved past Rema, into the stables. Seconds later, Darmik heard the sound of a wagon pulled by horses, and Rema was gone.
Lennek sauntered over to him. “She was beautiful, in a wild sort of way,” he mused. “She looks like a bit of a challenge.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Might be fun though. And you know how much I love a challenge.”
Darmik had the urge to punch that smirk off his brother’s face. Lennek always knew which buttons to push. Anytime Darmik was interested in something, Lennek had to have it, whether he wanted it or not, just to prove he was better.
Darmik drew in a deep breath, smelling horse sweat and sweet hay. He couldn’t dismiss Rema—Lennek was too smart and perceptive. “Blonde hair is so rare that I found her appearance interesting. Not my type though. Not only is she a commoner, but she’s engaged.”
Lennek’s eyes sparkled. “Definitely a challenge.”
“Laws are laws, Lennek. Some not even you can break.”
“No,” he laughed, “but there are always ways around them.” Lennek strolled out of the stables.
About the Author
Jennifer graduated from the
with a degree in English
and a teaching credential. Afterwards, she finally married her best friend and
high school sweetheart. Jennifer is currently a full-time writer and mother of
three young children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling
her own kids’ creativity. University
of San Diego
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