Princess Sabina has always obeyed her father, King Norwen. But when he plans to marry her to a ruthless prince, she runs away. Soon captured, she’s thrown into a tower cell to await her punishment.
The prison is already occupied — by a terrifying ghost. Hiding her fears, she befriends him, hoping they might help each other. As they grow close, she realizes he’s not a phantom but an enchanted mortal who remembers nothing of his past. Physical contact with Sabina is the key to bringing back the memory of the man she learns is named Killian. The more intimate they become, the more he remembers.
Their shared adversity forges a bond between them, but will they be free to acknowledge their love for each other, or will her ruthless father capture her and drag her away from the man she’s coming to love?
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Copyright ©2021 Rebecca York
Returning to the straw, Sabina curled on her side and drew her knees up, lying with her eyes closed. She had thought she was in the worst trouble of her life when her father had decreed that she would marry Bayard. Apparently, things could always get worse.
When she felt a ripple of movement in the air of the chamber, her eyes blinked open, probing her surroundings. The afternoon sun was dimming, turning the corners of the room into dark wells. She saw nothing, heard nothing, yet now that she was lying here quietly, she sensed an unseen presence watching her. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled, and she sat up.
The sods had primed her expectations, and tension sizzled through her as she waited for the specter to show itself. She must stay awake and watchful, but exhaustion tugged at her. After a few minutes, she dropped off to sleep, and for a few blessed hours, she was lost to the world — until a moaning noise made her jerk awake. Disoriented, she struggled to remember where she was and why.
All the horror came rushing back. Her father had sent men to find her. Now she was in a prison cell that was supposed to be haunted. Moonlight filtered in through the window. But from where she lay in the corner of the room, she could see little. In the darkness, she strained to bring the scene into focus.
Inching back, she sat up and pressed against the wall, creating a false sense of comfort. At least nothing could sneak up behind her. Or might a specter have that ability?
The moan came again, raising the hairs on the back of her neck. It sounded like something out of a ghost story. In the next moment, she felt an eerie vibration in the air around her that sent invisible fingers walking up and down her spine. It was followed by a low hum that steadily increased, jarring her teeth as the sound reached a painful level.
She might have screamed for it to stop if she’d thought that would do any good. Clamping her hands over her ears and pulling her elbows in close, she hunched down, trying to make herself a smaller target for whatever was making itself known in this fashion. But the wind rose to gale levels, blowing through the room like a winter storm. In a desperate effort to find shelter, she pulled the blanket over her head, but a strong gust came out of nowhere, ripping the covering from her fingers.
It was a deliberate assault. Or mayhap a display of power. Clenching her teeth, she fought not to scream. The presence in this room, whatever it was, wanted to scare the spit out of her, and it was doing an excellent job. The bowl and pitcher, plate and cup on the table began to rattle. Then one by one, they flew off the horizontal surface and bounced against the wall. She put her arms over her head for protection, but none of the flying objects hit her. After they’d crashed to the stone floor, the slop bucket clattered to its side.
There was nowhere for her to hide from the whirlwind. All she could do during the storm was flatten herself against the wall, her fists clamping around handfuls of straw. She would have sworn the room was rocking, although she didn’t know how that would be possible. She let out a sigh of relief as the swaying stopped, but there was more to come. A finger of wind came down, poking at her body. Touching her face, her neck, her breasts, then farther down to the juncture of her legs.
She slid to the side, trying to get away from the too intimate assault, wondering how much more of this she could stand. “Stop it,” she shouted into the tempest. “Stop it! You’re not going to drive me mad with these childish tricks.”
She wasn’t sure where the bold words came from, mayhap from her frustration at one more indignity.
The wind had lessened in response to her order. Encouraged, she sat up and stared across the room. There was nothing to see, only a sense of whirling air. “Stop your ridiculous temper tantrum,” she ordered. “If we’re locked in here together, don’t you think it’s better to be friends?”
The wind calmed.
Building on her success, she switched to her best princess voice. “I’d be grateful if you cleaned up the mess you’ve made with the bucket.”
For a long moment nothing happened. Then in the dim light, Sabina saw the wind attack the puddle that had spread onto the floor when the makeshift chamber pot had tipped over. As she watched, the liquid began to flow toward the crack at the bottom of the door, then out onto the landing. She hoped one of the human vermin out there would slip in it.
“Thank you,” she said politely.
The bucket righted itself. The other items in the room began returning to the table one by one, as though someone was gathering them up and carrying them. But she still saw no one. The response amazed her. Emboldened, she asked, “Were you trying to frighten me?”
There was a long pause before a low voice that came from the wind answered, “Yes.”
Elated that they were communicating, she asked, “Who are you?”
After another hesitation, it answered, “I do not know.”
“What are you?”
Again the hesitation. Again a mournful reply, “I wish I knew.”
The words and the defeated tone of the disembodied voice made Sabina’s stomach clench. “Do you know how long you’ve been here?” she asked.
“No.” The voice was deep and masculine.
“Mayhap we can figure it out together.”
“Why would you do that?” he challenged.
She thought about her own situation — and his. “Because I can tell you are suffering.”
When he spoke again, she caught a mixture of roiling emotions — anger, surprise, hope. “Nobody else who came here ever wanted to help me.”
“Mayhap because of the way you introduced yourself.”
When the observation was met by silence, she asked, “What can you tell me about yourself?”
This time the response was angry. “Nothing. My memory is wiped clean, like ripples from a still pond. Everything before I… found myself here is a black void.” He made a frustrated sound. “I do not even know where here is.”
“This is a room in an old fortress, or maybe a small castle.”
“What country is this?” he asked suddenly.
“I do not know it.”
“I think we are in the eastern part of the country. I’ve never been to this place before, either. Armed men brought me here after a long ride through the countryside. They did not wear the gold and black livery of my father’s guards. They were dressed like ruffians, but that could be a disguise.”
“My father is the king of Longmead. I ran away from his castle. I’m sure he has sent men to search for me, but he might not want it widely known that I have absconded.”
“So the wrong people will not know I am missing. My father wants to cement an alliance with a neighboring country by marrying me to the prince there.” It was her turn to feel frustrated. “But these men may be acting on their own, thinking to exchange me for a fortune in gold.” She sighed. “It could be that my father does not know my whereabouts.”
“That sounds… messy.”
“Yes.” She swallowed hard. “And I guess you don’t know why you are here.”
The answer came in a burst of the ghost’s familiar anger. “I told you, I know nothing. I can explain nothing.”
She struggled to remain calm as rage and frustration flowed around her in the tower room. “Then tell me what I can do to help you?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling Author Rebecca York began her career as a journalist writing articles for newspapers and magazines, but after several years decided to try writing fiction. She’s a highly successful author of over 50 romantic suspense and paranormal novels and is the head of the Columbia Writers Workshop. Her many awards include two Rita finalist books. She has two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times: for Series Romantic Suspense and for Series Romantic Mystery. Her Peregrine Connection series won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense Series. She collects rocks, and enjoys cooking, walking, reading, gardening, travel, and Mozart operas.