Chapter One

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Prince Duncan Caldwell looked at the breathtaking view from his office window, getting lost in the magnificence of the high peaks surrounding Rockyhorn and Rhapsen Hall. Breathing deeply of the warm air, he hoped it was a sign of winter’s end, finally.

Spring should have already begun. Instead, none too promising white tops in the distance held it back. There seemed no end bad weather this year, not with rain, sleet, and cold winds sweeping mercilessly the helpless land still recovering from the disaster Virtus had unleashed. His world survived anyway, thanks to Arthur Fairchild’s careful planning, to the people’s endurance, and mostly to Oliver Sentry’s revolutionary farming techniques. However experimental, they tripled yields, and that was no small relief.

A knock made Duncan turn. “Come in.”

“Good morning, darling.” Lady Cecilia Hurst poked her head in. “Are you busy?”

“Not particularly.”

“Great, then I’ll take up a little of your time.” Closing the door behind her, she descended the two steps separating the threshold from the rest of the room. “Isn’t it a glorious day today?”

“Aye.” Nodding, Duncan resumed his original lookout. “Just perfect for the angel’s arrival.”

“Lord Templeton is on his way here?” Frowning, Cecilia reached him.

“More than that.” He could not help the slow grin of anticipation from curving his lips. “He’ll be here shortly.”

“Are you sure the roads are open again?” She gazed out the window. “I mean with the terrible weather and all…” Weeks after spring's official beginning had not deterred winter, making traveling next to impossible.

“I’m sure.”

“And you know that because…” She eyed him quizzically.

How can I explain it? “I just know.” Confronting her, the prince caught the glimpse of regret, however fast she lowered her gaze. Sorry, Ceci, you’ll never replace him! His heart had always belonged to one—and one alone. And even if things were changing, they had nothing to do with her. “Instinct I guess.” Or more appropriately, the wave his angel sent, the one his princess taught them to recognize. A particular vibration that set his spirit on fire, it alerted him whenever Chris was nearby, and it was the last thing he cared to discuss with Cecilia.

“So you haven’t started mind talking with him like you do with your lady friend?”

“No.” That some people had special Virts, or powers, he had discovered only recently, thanks to the passionate affair that went far beyond mere sex, allowing him to share thoughts and feelings with the daughter of Prince Charles’s mistress. “And her name’s Ylianor Caldwell, since my family adopted her after I read my father’s will.” However hard he tried, his annoyed tone became cold at Cecilia’s ulterior attempt to belittle the woman he found irresistible. But the longer she kept it up, the more it seemed like a jealous reaction, an odd and ironic one considering Lady Hurst created the famous Game. Masters and slaves thrown into a sexual vortex, Duncan had relished heightening it by using his special connection to tie Ylianor to him both in body and mind. “Which I suggest you learn, not only to honor her new rank…” And the gods only knew how much it cost him to uphold his father’s desire against his mother’s fierce objection, not to mention his own misgivings before the Festival. Only Chris brought him to his senses and to the awareness of how important she had come to be…and not for political reasons alone. “But mostly because she’s about to become one of your fellow council members, together with Chris.”

“So you’re going ahead with your plans—”

“I don’t see any reason to change them. Chris and Ylianor are the best-qualified replacements for the vacant council seats. They have the right connections, the Virt—”

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