Welcome to the euphorYA Scavenger Hunt! As well as authors sharing exclusive content from their books, you can win the GRAND PRIZE, including books, gift cards swag and more. Find out more at the Facebook and Goodreads event pages.
I’m sharing a sneak-peak of my new novel Blood Queen, book three of the Lharmell Trilogy, which is out later this year.
A small warning: there are *some* spoilers for earlier books in the series, but they only refer to events and don’t confirm or deny them. (So if you’ve read earlier books and wondering if *that thing* really happened, you ain’t gonna find out here. MUAHAHA.)
Rhiannon Hart is the author of the Lharmell trilogy, Blood Song, Blood Storm (out now, ebooks and paperbacks available), Blood Phantom, a prequel short story, and Blood Queen (out later this year). An Australian ex-pat in London, she works in the city and spends as much time as she can exploring the countryside, old things, and Europe.
As part of the euphoYA Scavenger hunt you can win an ecopy of Blood Song, book 1 in the series.
Extract from Blood Queen, Chapter 1
I slumped back against the smooth wooden bed head. A grimace, which might have been a smile in
another incarnation, slid across my face.
This part was almost better than the stupor itself. The minutes when
the laudanum was taking effect. My body loosening. The knowledge that, for the
next several hours at least, everything was going to be fine.
A key turned in the lock. Eugenia, mother’s maid, came to change the water in my ewer. Eugenia was the only one Renata trusted to enter now. The woman’s lips compressed into thin white lines in her wrinkled face when she saw me. My hand lifted in a fluttery wave, and I admired the ripples it left in its wake. How clever of it. How clever of me.
Eugenia’s hands shook as she emptied the basin I had not used and filled the ewer with water I did not want. Niceties for the locked-in princess.
I was sure I’d read this story somewhere.
“The handsome prince kills the wicked queen at the end of the tale,
you know,” I slurred, wagging my finger at her. “Probably her maid, too.”
“Your handsome prince,” she sneered. “If there’s murder to be done it’s not the queen he thinks of. He can’t take you away soon enough by my thinking.”
My head rocked forward. “What?” The word wheezed from my lips as if from blacksmith’s bellows.
“With any luck you’ll tear each other apart and your dear mother will be rid of both of you.” She paused and looked around, as if fearing she’d been overheard. But we were alone. She stepped towards me, placing the ewer on the night stand without looking. “He’s ugly, you know, since you spoiled his face. I’ve seen him.”
There was a crash, and the woman jumped, clutching at her apron. The ewer had toppled from the stand, shattering on the wooden floor.
I tutted. “Clumsy, clumsy.”
Eugenia went red, and fled the room. Her words rolled back and forth in my mind like a ship listing on the ocean. A prince. A prince had come to take me away. My stomach hovered high in my chest like a jellyfish beating near the surface of the ocean; a pleasant, ticklish feeling. The jellyfish swam downwards, bumping against my pelvis. Tentacles flowed down my arms, making them lift and bob in rhythmic motions. I might just swim out the window. I might just swim out the door.
The door. It was closed, but I had not heard the lock grating behind Eugenia. I stared at the door handle, wondering if I could be bothered making a swim for freedom. I waited, seeing what I would do.
I did nothing. What did I want out there when I had all I needed right here? I could do my jellyfish bob, and when Eugenia came back I could watch her grovel on the floor with a pan and broom. Nasty woman. When had she stopped liking me? I would ask her what prince she was speaking of, the one with the foul face who would murder me.
A-ha. Hmm. A tentacle reached up my neck and prodded at my brain. There was something in there. This was the problem with the stupor when it came on strong like it was doing now: things floated in the murk of my mind, just out of reach, and a jellyfish isn’t much good at pursuit.
I glimpsed a face with one steely eye and one dark, mangled socket. Yes, I knew him, but who he was eluded me. The prince, I thought, with thumping stupidity that was evident even to me. But which prince? His face swum closer and I saw dark hair and a fleshy mouth twisted into an unpleasant smile. Oh, yes, I did know him. His name was teetering on my tongue. Then it precipitated: Folsum.
I sat bolt upright in bed.
Actually, my eyelids flickered, but the sentiment was the same.
Prince Folsum was here, in Amentia? My hands reached for the edge of the mattress, out of anger or fear, I couldn’t tell. The laudanum didn’t let me feel much of anything. But for the first time in weeks I felt the need to get up for a reason other than acquiring little bottles of apathy. I lurched back and forth across the room, as if crossing the deck of a ship in rough seas. The castle was pitching badly. My bare feet found purchase on the wood floor and I dove for the door handle. The currents tried to pull me back but I had a firm grasp. I turned the handle, and it opened. I fell out of my bedroom, landing hard on my knees.
There was no sign of the old biddy returning. I sloped down the corridor, palms walking me upright across the stone and tapestries as I went. My head spun. I was wasting it, my precious apathy. But a bride should greet her husband. We could pick up where we left off our tender ministrations the last time: me with a tenderised back and him with a tenderised face. We could compare scars and go for round two.
Where would Renata have put him?
I know. I’ll go and ask her.
“Moth-er,” I called in a sing-song voice, wending my way towards her rooms.
Renata’s living room was empty at first glance. And at second and third, too. Just to make sure I did a lap of the little room: the sofas,
distinctly new and Pergamian looking (the fashion, oh, they are the fashion nowadays, Zeraphina); the marble mantle, a fire burning merrily within; the table. I did a double-take on the table. It was covered in large pieces of parchment. My eyes tried to focus on the scribble. They were unsuccessful.
Probably the sheets were gardening plans. Or designs for a moat or something equally stupid. But they didn’t look like either. Lists of names and numbers. Our coat of arms. Official looking things, the sort he might pore over in his–
–the sort of thing an organised, particular person might have, someone who was making plans.
Then again it could just be a shopping list. What did I know? Or care. I was looking for Renata. There was a cup of wine standing on the table
and I helped myself to it. Warmed and spiced. She couldn’t be far away. I started. Oh, there she was. At the door. Swaying–or was that me?–and her eyes gone round with surprise. Any second she’d get angry and they’d go flinty.
Yes, there it was. And now: Zeraphina!
“Zeraphina!” I echoed, flinging my arms up. Wine slopped out of the cup and splattered on the floor.
She struggled for composure, smoothing her red curls with a fluttering hand. “Come on. I don’t know how you got out and I don’t care right now, but you’re going back to bed.”
“What are these?” I pointed at the papers.
The fluttering hand was arrested on her breast. “They’re nothing, daughter.” She hurried forward and started tidying them away.
Her hands stilled. “He’s here. In the castle. He never left. Now, come on.” She reached for my elbow. “Where you’re getting this stuff is beyond me,” she hissed. “You’ve got to stop it,” she said, hustling me out. “Please. Don’t you think I wanted to do what you’re doing, when your father died? But it wouldn’t have solved anything. I know you loved him, but he’s gone, and he’s not coming back.” She stopped and spun me to face her, eyes searching. “He is dead, isn’t he, Zeraphina?”