Excerpt from THE PRINCE’S MAN – prologue
Risada tiptoed across the darkened bedchamber and felt behind the tapestry for the hidden niche. Her tiny fingers located it and she grinned as the lock tripped with a faint click.
She heard voices in the outer chamber and light flickered around the doorframe. Heart thudding against her ribs, she dropped to her knees and scuttled forward through the swinging panel into the secret room. This was such fun!
Careful to close the panel behind her—Daddy said you must always lock doors when you were going to have your back to them—Risada wasted no time clambering onto the chair she had positioned beneath the spy hole. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of dust. It seemed like ages since Daddy had shown her how to work the hidden catch. Certainly it had been before that woman had arrived.
At thought of Mistress Chalice, Risada scrunched her face up into a ferocious scowl. How she hated her dancing tutor. Oh, the woman was very polite, and she was very beautiful—all the servants said so—but Mummy didn’t like her so Risada didn’t either. And the maids were saying such wicked things about Mistress Chalice and Daddy. Well, tonight Risada was going to see for herself.
Jaw jutting with determination, Risada stretched up to put her eye to the spy hole. Darkness loomed on both sides of the hole, but she knew precisely where everything was: first rule of the game—always know your surroundings intimachlee.
Some word like that, anyway.
Mummy didn’t like Daddy teaching her about the game, but he said it was never too early to start, so now she knew all the hiding holes in the house and the one in the stables too. She knew which guards she could talk to and which she mustn’t. Daddy had even given her a little dagger of her own, a pretty silver one with tiny green jewels in the hilt, which she kept hidden in the sash of her dress. Mummy wasn’t supposed to know about it and Risada liked keeping secrets.
The bedchamber door swung open. It was to one side of the spy hole and Risada couldn’t quite see who was there. Someone walked across in front of her and she caught the glimmer of candlelight on silvered hair. That was Daddy. He stopped beside the dresser, unbuckled his belt and laid his sword down.
But there was someone else as well. Risada leaned across as far as she could without losing her balance and grinned in triumph. It was Mummy. It must be because Mistress Chalice had red hair and Risada could see a head of pale blonde, almost white hair done up in braids like Risada’s own.
So much for those prattling maids.
* * *
Think: James Bond meets Lord of the Rings