The Elusive Sun (Etherya's Earth #2)
The Elusive Sun (Etherya's Earth #2)
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- Second Chance Romance
- Grumpy Hero
- Curvy Heroine
- Paranormal Romance
From USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Hefner
She was promised to his brother for a thousand years…now he fears he’ll never deserve her…
Lila, a high born aristocrat of the Vampyre kingdom, was betrothed to Sathan, King of the Vampyres, for a thousand years. Although she cared for Sathan and loved him as her king, secretly her heart yearned for his brother. When Sathan falls for another, Lila ends the betrothal, terrified at what her life will become now that she won't be queen.
Latimus has loved Lila since they played on the grassy riverbank as children. Knowing his brother was the better man, he never begrudged his betrothal to the woman he secretly loved. Now that Sathan has married another, Latimus becomes aware of Lila's feelings. Believing his war-ravaged soul will never deserve her, he vows to push her toward a worthier man.
As the war against the Deamons rages, Latimus fights the Dark Lord Crimeous. When Lila suffers a brutal attack, Latimus is shaken to his core. Resolved to avenge her, he acknowledges the emotion that has always burned for her in his blackened heart. But Lila has moved on, and as the war ensues, he worries it might be too late to claim her...
High-pitched squeals and laughter echoed off the moonlit trees as the children ran to the river. The first child came to a sudden stop on the grassy riverbank, her long blond curls bouncing with the abrupt movement. She looked down at the gurgling water, contemplating.
“Why did you stop?” the other child asked, coming to stand beside her and pierce her with his ice-blue gaze.
The girl wrinkled her nose. “I was getting tired.” Tiny gasps of breath exited her lips.
The boy rolled his eyes. “Girls,” he muttered, kicking the ground with his shoe. “So weak. I can’t wait until I’m the leader of the army. I’ll be the strongest Vampyre that ever lived.” He proudly puffed his chest and straightened his shoulders.
“Except for your brother,” she said softly.
Anger flashed across his pale face. “That’s not true. Everyone thinks that Sathan is better than me because he’s already king, even though he’s only eleven. But I’ll show them!” Tiny fists clenched at his sides. “A king is only powerful when he has a magnificent army. My brother will only be strong because of me.”
The girl studied him in silence with her deep lavender gaze. “I don’t think Sathan is better than you.”
“Even though you’re going to bond with him one day?”
She sighed and looked at the ground. “Yes,” she said, lowering to sit on the spongy grass. “I like Sathan well enough but I wish I was betrothed to…someone else,” she finished after a slight pause.
“Who?” he asked, sitting down beside her.
Small shoulders shrugged as her hands fidgeted together on her lap. “I don’t know. Someone who I have more in common with I guess.”
The boy tucked a strand of his shoulder-length, straight black hair behind his ear. “We have a lot in common. I think you’re my best friend.” He swallowed and looked away, embarrassed by his admission.
She reached over and grabbed his hand, her lavender irises filled with excitement. “You’re definitely my best friend. Maybe I can bond with you instead of Sathan!”
The boy looked at their joined hands and then lifted his gaze to hers. “It won’t ever happen.” He shook his head. “You are to be queen. It was mandated by Etherya herself. We can’t change it.”
She huffed and pulled her hand back, crossing her arms across her chest. “Then, we can just run away. How can they force me to bond with someone?”
“I’m sorry, Lila,” he said, touching her knee through her dress. “I would bond with you if I could.”
She lifted her tear-filled gaze to his. “Run away with me, Lattie. Surely, we can find a breach in the wall that surrounds the compound.”
Latimus’s stubby fingers squeezed her knee. “You know that Etherya erected the protective wall herself. I won’t know how to open it until I become commander of the army. It will be several years before I know the secret.”
“Will you remember? When you become leader of the army and learn how to escape the compound, will you remember to run away with me? I need to know that you won’t forget me. I love you.” Her chin quivered.
The boy nodded. “I’ll remember. I promise. In a few decades, if you still don’t want to bond with Sathan, I’ll help you escape.”
“Oh, thank you!” Lila threw her arms around him and clutched tight, rocking back and forth.
Pulling back, he smiled at her. Their gazes locked, eyes widening as they held each other. She bit her lip, studying him. Their faces were only inches apart.
“We should go back inside,” he whispered.
But neither moved; both held immobile by an unseen force. Slowly, she inched toward him, not stopping until she touched her tiny pink lips to his slightly larger red ones.
Their hearts beat furiously in their eight-chambered chests as they experienced the rush that can only come with a first-ever kiss.
“Lila!” a voice shrilled behind them. “How dare you!”
The children pulled away with a gasp, each standing up and brushing off their clothes, their eyes downcast.
“You are the betrothed of the Vampyre king, not his brother,” the woman spat, looking at Latimus. “He isn’t fit to tie your shoes, much less touch you!” She grabbed the girl’s arm, pulling her away from the riverbank.
“I’m sorry, Aunt,” Lila said breathlessly, unable to meet Latimus’s gaze. “We were just playing.”
“I’ve already forbidden you to play with him!” The woman turned to Latimus, shaking her finger at him. “If you ever approach my niece again, I will have you banished. You are not good enough to touch her! You will never be your brother! Do you understand me?”
“I’m sorry, Ananda,” the boy said, lifting his chin and facing her with strength. “I take full responsibility. I won’t seek her out again. I didn’t know you had forbidden her to see me.” His icy gaze flashed with an anger that seemed too intense for a nine-year-old.
The woman shook her head and roughly pulled her niece’s arm. “Come, Lila. You are late for your classes.”
The girl trailed behind her aunt, her blond curls bouncing furiously. She turned, gazing at the boy with watery eyes, and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
He stood firm, his arms crossed, watching her being dragged away. His heart was pounding in his chest, as if the organ knew that it would never be whole again. In that moment, Latimus decided that he would never give himself to another person freely. What was the point, when you were always second-class; second-best?
Kicking the ground with the toe of his shoe, he turned to stare at the river…and said a silent goodbye to his best friend Lila, the girl who was promised to his brother.