Here’s a sneak peak of Traitor’s Masque, book one of The Andari Chronicles:
No expense was spared, at least not where anyone could see. Black velvet shrouded the gold-inlaid casket, cloaked the silent forms of the pallbearers, and muffled the hooves of the matched sable cobs that drew the funeral caisson. Despite the cold of winter, crimson roses fell in a blanket over the coffin’s lid, strewed the cobblestones with their petals, and nestled fashionably in the arms of the grieving family.
The wake had been lavish and well attended, more out of curiosity and avarice than fond memory. Lord Percival Colbourne had begun with money and ended with more, well on the way to realizing his dream of building a merchant empire. Though his fortunes had suffered of late from the political climate, he had remained both a prominent figure in commerce and a notably doting father until the last moments of his regrettably shortened life. But when the usually hale Lord Percival succumbed suddenly to ague, he left behind far more of interest to the world than he took from it. Four unprotected women were his legacy, women now in mourning, but all with a potential share in the wealth and prospects of a rich and influential man.
Lady Malisse Colbourne was his widow, a petite blonde beauty nearer thirty than forty. She seemed far too young, too delicate, and too innocent to have not one but two daughters approaching marriageable age. Anya and Darya, fourteen and thirteen, as blonde and blue-eyed as their mother, were considered heirs to both her impeccable form and her exquisite sense of style. On this tragic occasion, the two youngest members of the Colbourne family paced demurely behind the coffin, porcelain complexions unmarred despite their polite tears. Lord Percival had not perhaps been their father by birth, but they understood the demands of dowry. The man who had secured you an agreeable future with a sizeable marriage portion deserved gratitude, if not quite devotion.
The tableau might have been perfect had there not been another mourner, one who had not stopped to contemplate the lovely contrast of her unbound hair against her black satin gown. She had not noticed the roses, except where the thorns pricked her skin, and cared nothing for the solemn dignity of the procession. Trystan Embrie Colbourne had thrown herself onto the caisson with the casket and refused to be moved. Her chestnut curls were snarled and her face was a wreck of redness and tears, but she pressed it to the cold black lid with a scandalous ferocity of grief. Her father, friend, and only family was dead, and the world was without light or color.
The response to this display was, not surprisingly, varied. Society matrons shook their heads and pronounced her spoiled. Gentlemen feigned shock that ladies should possess such powerful emotions. Miss Colbourne’s stepmother and stepsisters seemed determined to pretend that their fourth did not exist. Perhaps the only persons with warmer emotions towards the sufferer were those far to the rear of the funeral train. These were, primarily, servants, who had known the fiery child for all her fifteen years, and may not have expected much restraint from one loved and indulged since her earliest moments.
Though a funeral might seem like the end of a story, it is also the beginning of another. Trystan’s story began at the darkest moment of her life, when hope was dead and everything good seemed burnt to ashes. But buried deep within those ashes were the embers of something quite unexpected, of a day when Trystan Embrie Colbourne would set out to get what she wanted, and find what she needed instead.