Hearts in Exile by Mysti Parker
In Tallenmere, fate has a way of catching up with you… Somewhere, hidden in the waters of the Southern Sea, lies an island unlike any other. Within the amber glow of its pyrogem-laden cliffs, legend says the very heart of the dragon god Drae keeps the island, and its occupants, alive. Loralee Munroviel, daughter of Leogard’s High Priestess Arianne, had no idea what she would face when she arrived by boat ten years ago and was left alone in exile. All she knew about Draekoria’s inhabitants was written in one tattered notebook. Now, her life revolves around keeping Drae’s descendants happy. Never in her life did she imagine being a Dragon Keeper. Captain Igrorio Everlyn, known as Sir Robert to his unit of Holy Paladins, has faced his share of hell, battling the evils of Emperor Sarvonn’s tyranny and the dark god Tyr’s abominations. But none of that compares to the ten years of hell he’s been without Loralee, presumed dead. One freak storm changes everything. Now the two of them must fight to reestablish the delicate balance of the island before the dragons take things into their own hands. Through it all, they discover the secrets that kept them, and their hearts, exiled for a decade.
Excerpt from Chapter Thirty:
Loralee gathers the courage to take a huge risk and follow her heart:
Taking several deep breaths, I went to his room and rapped lightly on the door.
No one answered.
I turned the knob. The door clicked softly open.
Letting out my breath in a quiet whoosh, I stepped inside and shut the door behind me. I stood with my back against the cool, varnished oak until my eyes adjusted to the dark. A thin sliver of moonlight cut through the partition in the drapes over the headboard of a large bed. Under its silver shine, a mound lay under the covers. Rhythmic, deep breaths came from it.
Carefully, I locked the door and eased toward him. I crept closer and bent to get a better look. He was lying on his back, with one arm flung over his eyes. His mouth hung open slightly.
That muscular shoulder, arm, and chest beckoned me to touch, but a sudden nervousness made me tremble. The purity symbol buzzed gently on my forehead, reminding me how much of a coward I really was.
So, I stood there, chewing on my fingernail, and wished for a dose of courage. Igrorio stirred. His arm fell away from his face and dangled off the bed. Finger still in my mouth, I froze.
Eyes fluttering open, Igrorio’s groggy voice washed away some of my fears. “Loralee? Is that you?”
I nodded, but realized he couldn’t see me.
“Yes,” I whispered.
“What are you—”
Before my nervous jitters rooted me to the floor, I rushed to his side, leaned in, and kissed him. Muffled words of surprise tickled my lips. He raised himself on his elbows and sighed deeply as he brought his arms around me.
I pulled back long enough to say, “I love you. Marry me.”
He froze. “But—”
“No buts. I’ve made my move. It’s your turn now.”
“Your symbols, though—that middle one is aglow already.” He smiled apologetically. “If I don’t marry you properly, then how could you stand the discomfort?”
“Someone very wise told me to follow my heart. My heart says that as long as we have a ceremony before the goddess herself, then we are married in Her sight.”
Truth be known, I had no idea if it would work. I doubted it, considering who I was and who he was. But, I prayed with all my heart that Innessa would understand and give us Her blessing anyway.
He pulled me close and smiled against my cheek. “It’s not exactly the ceremony you deserve, but we can adopt the Hezrali people’s simple wedding tradition. The setting consists of nothing more than a moonlit night.”
He leaned back, reached above his head, and yanked one curtain panel to the side, then the other. Bright moonlight illuminated the excitement on his face. “They take each other’s hands.”
I grabbed both of his in mine, kissing his rugged knuckles. He smiled even brighter than our nocturnal wedding light. “Then, they say, ‘By the light of the moon, and a cool kiss of dew, I take you as mine, to start life anew.’”
Goddess, please let it work. I love him so much.
Staring into his eyes, I repeated the words, and he did too, his deep voice mingling with mine.
Eyes sparkling, he stroked my cheek, and then gently touched my forehead. He smiled the warmest, most loving smile I’d ever seen. “Would you look at that? It’s dimming.”
I reached up to touch my purity symbol as well. The sting lessened with every passing second. Happy tears rolled down my cheeks.
“We’re married,” he whispered, kissing the tears from my face. “At least in Innessa’s sight.” He chuckled. “Maybe Omri helped a little too.”
I laughed, and it felt like the weight of the world slipped away into oblivion.
He sighed. “I do wish I could take you on a proper honeymoon.”
“You will. But first …” I slid off the bed and dropped my cloak.
He rolled onto his side, propping himself up on one arm.
I lifted my robe over my head. The room’s chilly air kissed my bare skin, along with a blast of self-consciousness. I shivered and stared at the floor, draping my arms across my breasts and hips. What if he didn’t like what he saw? I’d never thought of myself as pretty. I was neither muscular nor plump, and certainly not as well-gifted in assets as the Angels of Mercy.
“Loralee,” he whispered, “look at me.”
Reluctantly, I lifted my gaze to his.
“Can’t you see how beautiful you are?”
His voice held all the warmth of a blazing hearth. And there it was, shining in his eyes—the beauty of his love for me. So much more than lust. It ran soul-deep. The kind of unconditional love I’d always dreamed of, but never thought I’d have.
Mysti Parker (pseudonym) is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and the second in the fantasy romance series, Serenya’s Song, was published in April 2012. The highly anticipated third book, Hearts in Exile, came out in June 2013. The Tallenmere series has been likened to Terry Goodkind’s ‘Sword of Truth’ series, but is probably closer to a spicy cross between Tolkien and Mercedes Lackey. Mysti’s other writings have appeared in the anthologies Hearts of Tomorrow, Christmas Lites, and Christmas Lites II. Her flash fiction has appeared on the online magazine EveryDayFiction. She serves as a class mentor in Writers Village University’s seven week online course, F2K. Currently, she’s working on her first historical romance and has two children’s books in the the hands of a hard-working agent. When she’s not writing, Mysti reviews books for SQ Magazine, an online specfic publication, and is the proud owner of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award. She resides in Buckner, KY with her husband and three children.