The Past. Life just isn’t fair! She was supposed to be the next Queen of the Britons when she retrieved Excalibur from the stone. But Merlin knows the world isn’t ready for a Queen, so to complete her destiny Brieana is placed under a sleep-spell. Only a noble knight, one equal to her in strength and courage, can awaken her.
The Present. Chasing dracks is hard work. But nothing prepared Kerian, ruler of Mirage, for the greatest surprise of all — a sleeping, naked woman falling at his feet during a hunt. He soon learns that she is from another time; the world that she knew is gone, and the world where she now lives is fraught with hidden dangers and perils.
The Future. Brieana discovers that in order to fulfill her destiny, she must do more than fall in love with the most perfect man she has ever seen. She must go on a quest to reclaim Excalibur, and with Kerian’s help, end the menace of evil that threatens their happiness — and their world.
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Copyright ©2022 Stephanie Burke
“Run Arthur, run!” Brieana screamed as they raced through the crowded encampment that had sprung up around the famous sword.
“If you hadn’t called Lord DeLacy an ass-eared lout,” the voice behind her whined, “we would not be running!”
“Arthur! If you had stood up for me,” she panted between words as she ducked behind another fall of rocks, “I never would have had to defend myself!”
“We need to hide!” the pale young man gasped. “I wish I had never thought to take you for a walk in the moonlight.”
“You are right about hiding,” she groused as they ran past still another stone formation, ignoring his less than complimentary comment. “Behind there!” she cried as she grabbed his hand and darted behind a particularly large boulder. “We need a weapon.”
“Well, we would not need one if you had not kicked him in the privates!” he whined again.
Absently spying the hilt of an abandoned sword embedded in the rocks of a rise, Brieana ran to it and with deft fingers, began to probe the sword base.
“I would not have kicked him if he had not grabbed my person.”
Golden-haired Arthur scurried up the hill behind her. “Whatever you are doing, do it faster!” he urged. “I can hear them coming. He must have the whole garrison with him.”
Giving him one last disgusted look, Brieana gave one mighty yank and the abandoned sword pulled abruptly from its rocky sheath.
“And what do you think to do with that?” Arthur sneered at her while pushing an unruly lock of hair behind his ear and looking down his nose at her.
“Well, you are supposed to be the mighty warrior,” she growled losing patience with him at last. “You use it!”
With that, she shoved the sword into his hands and began to count the seconds before he would turn to her for help.
Not everyone knew it, but Arthur was the weakest swordsman in the area. And for the hundredth time, Brieana wondered why she dressed in the armor of the Black Knight to save his sorry hide in battle.
Then she took another good look at him as the moonlight illuminated his near perfect features, and she remembered. She was a fool for good looks and a great body. Certainly, she did not risk her very life time and time again for his mental acuity.
Even as he began to turn to thrust the sword into her smaller, albeit more capable hand, DeLacy and his men appeared at the base of the hill and froze in their places.
“Excalibur!” he shouted in shock, and soon the murmurs and cries of him and his men drew the rest of the encamped warriors to view the new King of the Britons. “Arthur has drawn Excalibur from the sacred stone! All hail Arthur, King of the Britons!”
As one, the assembled warriors dropped to their knees to pay homage to the one who would be king. Arthur looked puzzled for only a moment. He was a little dense, but not stupid. He thrust the sword high into the night sky.
“Excalibur!” he roared as he shoved Brieana behind him, nearly knocking her down in his eagerness.
“But I –” As Brieana began to protest, strong hands grasped her shoulders and spun her around.
“My Lord Merlin!” she gasped as she viewed the powerful mage. “I was just going to –”
“All hail Arthur!” he boomed in a loud, authoritative voice.
Brieana had always respected the older man as her friend and Arthur’s mentor. She had often thought him quite handsome and charming, with a deep sense of justice. He would help her.
“My Lord,” she said louder as he drew her away from the prostrating men. “I drew Excalibur from the stone.” As she thought about that fact, she came to a startling but wonderful realization. “I am King, uh, Queen of the Britons! I am the true ruler!” Then turning excitedly to Arthur, she cried, “I am Queen! Tell them, Arthur!”
Arthur was faced with a difficult decision. A decision many great men have been forced to make. He looked at Brieana’s luscious lips and then to the men kneeling before him. Love or power? He stared at her long, curling hair, as dark as raven’s wings, and her almond-shaped, green cat’s eyes, then to the teeming mass of masculinity that knelt at his feet ready to do any and all of his bidding. He looked back and saw love and a little fear reflected in her beautiful eyes, eyes that begged him to do the right thing. Love, or power? He knew what he had to do.
Facing the crowd, he declared in a ringing voice, “By right of strength and virtue, I, Arthur, have drawn Excalibur from the stone. I am king!”
The fierce roar of approval emanating from the new king’s army drowned out Brieana’s scream of denial.
“My Lord Merlin!” she cried desperately as she ran to the sage, tripping over gravel and kicking up dust, and pulled on the sleeve of his long tunic. “You know the truth! I do not lie! Please tell them!” she begged as she looked into his bottomless black eyes.
Slowly, he turned away from her.
“Let us leave our ‘new king’ for now. We have much to discuss.” Then to the crowd, “Leave us!”
Shocked, she stared at the back of the man, her closest friend, her confidant, in horror. Betrayed! Those she had held closest to her, those she had trusted, had betrayed her.
Angry? She was pissed! How dare they keep her rightful kingdom from her? Manipulated! It all now made perfect sense. She had been manipulated by the master.
“You knew, My Lord Merlin.” Wide eyed, Brieana faced a most painful truth. “That is why you planted the idea of a moonlight walk in Arthur’s head with your talk of how beautifully the moon shines down upon the mountains. You planned this!”
ABOUT STEPHANIE BURKE
Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.
From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.
Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.
Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.