Here are the first two chapters of Unexpected Entrapment, the second book in the Alissia Roswell Series. Hope you enjoy!
Alissia Roswell stood on the porch of the cabin and stared at the large group of men before her. She quickly estimated there to be about twenty of them sitting on horses in perfect form. Almost all of them were wearing maroon uniforms trimmed with gold, and they each wore a sword at their side. Some also carried bows and arrows. They were sitting straight in their saddles, at attention. Two men wearing black were at the back of the line, and she guessed them to be the two members of the league.
Her first instinct was to stand tall and stare back at them defiantly, but she immediately remembered what Luke had just told her. She was to act shy and timid, which was the complete opposite of how she felt now—cornered and forced to go somewhere against her will. If she could not fight her way out of the situation, she should at least be able to get some gratification by causing trouble.
She then noticed Grady and another man in uniform walking towards her, and she quickly looked down, cringing to herself. As her thoughts went to what had just happened in the cabin, blood rushed to her face. Not only had she betrayed Grady by giving in to Luke’s advances, but she had also told Luke she did not want him to leave her alone.
“Lady Alissia, this is Captain Bayard. He will be leading your escort today to the castle,” Grady said.
She looked up and politely nodded as the captain gave a short bow. “It is an honor to meet you, Lady Alissia. Are you ready to begin the short journey?”
“I am,” she answered softly, with a smile.
She followed the captain to a horse in the middle of the group, and then she smiled at the young, uniformed man holding his hands together for her to step onto. Once on the horse, she watched Luke and Grady follow the captain to the front of the procession.
She looked down and closed her eyes as she began to search for Fang with her mind, and she was surprised when she found him frantically pacing near the edge of the tree line. He was confused, panting wildly, and did not know what he should do to protect her. She felt his urge to bellow a long, deep howl, but she immediately began to soothe him.
As her horse began to move, she completely focused on soothing the agitated wolf with her mind, and it was not long before he stopped pacing. She continued to comfort him as he secretly began to follow the group of horses.
After a while, her mind drifted to what all she had learned from Grady and Luke that morning. Her fix-it personality continuously tried to think of a solution to their situation, but her frustration quickly grew strong as she realized there was nothing she could do. She would have to rely upon Grady and Luke, and Grady seemed powerless at this point. Luke would have to find a way for them to get out of the city, but how could he save them all?
She could not help but feel responsible for Grady, Anika, and Langley. If they had never met her and tried to help her, their lives would not be in danger. In a way, this was her fault. They were in Pallen because of her.
Guilt consumed her as she thought over what had happened back at the cabin. Although she had kissed men before, she had never gone further with them, except for the night she had been raped while on what seemed at first like a teenage date. This morning she had passionately kissed two men within the same hour. Although she had heard stories from her friends and had never judged them, her actions went beyond who she was.
She had never really believed in love or getting close to anyone, yet she had been drawn to both Grady and Luke back at the cabin. It frustrated her how she had completely lost herself in Luke’s kiss, as if he were an intoxicating drug she was addicted to.
Once she could see the massive gates to the city of Pallen, her focus went back to Fang. Although he was much calmer than before, his fur was still standing straight up on his massive, tense body. She hated what she was about to do. Wolves were pack animals, and he had left the safety of his pack to be with her.
She scanned the area with her mind to check for other wolves and was relieved at the lack of their presence. She had already learned what a pack of wolves would do to a lone wolf found in their territory, and the idea of Fang being killed because of her filled her with fear.
She looked down and closed her eyes again, in an attempt to hide her own emotions.
“Fang, my dear protector, you cannot follow me once I get to the city. I want you to follow the wall of the city, and it will lead you towards the mountains.” A sudden thought came to mind, and she added, hopefully, “I have friends in the mountains, similar to me. If you find them, they will give you rest and shelter until I can meet you there.”
She felt his emotions surge, and she immediately began to soothe him. As the trail left the thick forest, she warned Fang to stop at the tree line. She had to push aside her own feelings of loss, as she commanded with authority, “Stop, Fang! Follow the wall and go to the mountains.” In an attempt to soothe his pain, she added, “You are my protector, Fang. Be strong for me.”
The large wolf sat down at the edge of the forest and began to whimper. Once again, she reminded him to be strong, and he sat up tall and proud for her. Although she soon lost her mental connection with him, she knew the wolf’s eyes were staring directly at her, and they would continue to do so until she was no longer in sight.
Her group stopped at the gates to the city, and she watched as the captain handed something to one of the guards before they continued. As she passed through the gates, she noticed the same guard handling a bird and guessed he was sending a message to someone at the castle about her arrival. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself.
Her anxiety grew even more as everyone around them turned to stare at her, the lone woman surrounded by guards traveling through the city. She pulled the hood of her cape lower over her head and was thankful for her dark glasses.
After traveling through the city, they moved along a private path surrounded by bright and bushy evergreen trees. The procession stopped near the edge of the trees, and Alissia heard the captain give orders before the men in front of her moved aside and motioned her forward.
She gave a confused look to the captain, Luke, and Grady as they smiled back at her. She then nudged her horse to move on and soon caught her breath as the castle came into her line of vision.
“Lady Alissia, welcome to your new home,” Grady said as she stopped between him and the captain.
Alissia was speechless as she stared out in front of her. Her new home was a massive castle that circled endless gardens filled with gazebos, paths, statues, small ponds, and fountains. The garden alone was big enough that she could get lost in it for days, but the castle itself was something she could see herself never finding her way out of.
The castle was made of stone, and she guessed it to be bella flowers that covered most of the walls, even at the top. She immediately thought of how cold it had to be and wondered how hardy the bella flowers were to survive such frosty weather.
After a moment, Grady asked, “Is it as beautiful as I described?”
An ache caught in her throat as she realized he was putting on a show for the captain. “Yes, you were right. I will love it here,” she responded politely.
He grinned and replied, “Welcome to the Eldership, Lady Alissia. I’m sure you will love it here.”
So this is how it was to be? Yes, she had known how they would act towards each other while at the Eldership, but she had not anticipated the ache in her heart she would experience by acting so distant towards someone she loved.
As they began to move again, she looked down and thought about how hard this truly had to be for Grady. She knew he had been a wreck while she was missing; yet he had acted professional and personally uncommitted the entire time, even with his own life in danger. A new sense of respect filled her as she realized how strong Grady truly was.
The sound of horses’ hooves on stone made her look up, and once again, she found herself in awe of her surroundings. They were now traveling on a stone path surrounded by an arched-canopy, covered in white bella flowers.
She stared at the backs of the three men traveling in front of her. Both Luke and Grady sat straight in their saddles, so unlike the casual way she was used to seeing them.
When she glanced at the soldier riding on her right side, he acknowledged her with a smile, and she looked down at her saddle.
It was not long before the covered path ended, and they were in a clearing near one of the entrances of the castle. They rode around a large, three-tiered fountain before stopping, and the two soldiers that had been riding at each of her sides dismounted. One of the men took the reins from her, while the other lifted her from the horse and set her down.
She then followed Captain Bayard, Grady, and Luke to a group of older men standing on the stairs to the castle entrance. The moment she recognized Alrik Durst as one of the men in the group, she had to look down to gather her emotions. She was thankful for her dark glasses, because she knew her anger would easily show through her glaring eyes.
Grady introduced Alissia to the five assembly members, but she quickly lost track of their names. She did not pay much attention to their polite welcome speeches either. She did, however, study Alrik’s every word.
“My dear girl, we have been worried about you, and I am told we can thank Luke for your rescue and safety.”
His overly kind tone with the same accent as Luke made her cringe, but she forced a polite smile onto her face and answered, “Yes, I am most grateful to him for bringing me back to Pallen, and I’m sorry to have caused everyone so much worry.”
He picked up her hand and hooked it onto one of his arms as he began to lead her up the stairs. “You have nothing to apologize for,” he said, patting her hand. “We’re all glad you are safe, and everyone is excited to have you here as an ambassador for the Lamians. I do hope you can join my wife and me for dinner once you are settled in. I would love to hear more and want to help you in any way I can. Grady tells us you have suffered some memory loss.”
If she had actually had memory loss and did not know he had put a bounty on her, she would have thought he was the kindest man she had ever met. His smile, touch, and voice truly appeared genuine. However, Alissia knew the truth–that he had slithered into Pallen, wrapped his coils around the city, and was constricting it to do his bidding–and she saw him for the foul and evil snake that he was.
At that moment, she was grateful she had been instructed to act shy and timid. She kept her head down as she forced a smile onto her face and answered, “Yes, I have lost a lot of my memories. As for dinner, maybe later.” She looked up at him and added, “I am quite weary from all the traveling I’ve done. Although I am very grateful to Luke for his rescue, he was extremely determined to get me back to Pallen in a timely manner. He woke me before dawn each morning, and we traveled our entire days on horseback. I look forward to a comfortable bed, warmth on my skin, and some real food.”
She hoped her words would buy her a few days of solitude.
He stopped walking and took her hand from his arm as he turned to face her. “Of course, you need plenty of rest. I can only imagine how difficult things have been for you.” He squeezed her hand and added, “Say no more. I will let the assembly know you need rest. Do you require the service of one of our fine doctors?”
“No, thank you.”
“Then I will leave you now in the hands of Odell. She is to be your lady’s maid and will show you to your chambers. She will provide you with all your needs, and all you have to do is ask. Remember, this is your home now, and you are safe.” He motioned towards the two guards standing off to the side and added, “The assembly has appointed guards to stand watch at all times over you. They will be posted outside your door, and the Eldership guarantees your safety. We will try our best to provide you with anything you require, so please don’t be afraid to ask. We all want to help you.”
Alissia nodded as he let go of her hand, and then she turned to face the long, grey-haired woman. Odell bowed her head politely, and the sound of Alrik’s footsteps as he walked away helped to ease some of the tension Alissia had felt during his presence.
“Lady Alissia, it is an honor to meet you and be in your service. Shall I take you to your chambers now?”
Alissia followed the woman through the massive doors of the castle and stepped into a large foyer with a high, floral-painted ceiling. Bright sunlight came down from the large windows situated above the entrance doors. Thick, burgundy curtains hung down at each side of the windows, and a beautiful, enormous chandelier with polished glow stones hung in the center of the room. The floor was shiny and resembled white marble and had variously-colored glow stones assembled in place like tiles. The glow stones were arranged so that their natural light made an intricate floral pattern. Each of the walls held paintings and was decorated with detailed carvings. Large, handcrafted chairs, benches, and tables were positioned throughout the room with fresh flowers situated in various places.
Alissia did not realize she had stopped following Odell until the woman got her attention by saying, “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“Very,” Alissia answered, in awe.
“Although the castle was originally built well over a thousand years ago, it is always under reconstruction, but the Eldership tries to keep things as they were.”
Alissia nodded and started walking, but as soon as they went through another door, she became distracted again. Every room and hallway they entered while on the way to her chambers was filled with intricate designs and amazing art like nothing she had ever seen before.
Although she knew Pallen was a place known for its art and had seen a lot while walking through the city, nothing had compared to what she now saw in the castle. She imagined someone could spend years in the massive, city-like structure and still find new and amazing things to look at every day.
As they took an elegant elevator up to the third floor, she silently wondered what was the source of its power without electricity. In the end, she gave up on her curious thoughts and reminded herself she did not think like an engineer. She was sure she would still not understand, even if someone explained it to her, but this was a feeling she had grown quite accustomed to since being torn from her reality and dropped into this one.
“Oh, my goodness, Alissia! You’re here.”
Alissia had barely stepped out of the elevator before she found herself in a tight embrace with her arms stuck by her sides. She heard Anika’s sob before she felt the tears hit the side of her face, and she closed her eyes and smiled.
“Anika, I think you’re smothering me. I can’t breathe,” she said teasingly.
Anika released her and began to wipe the tears from her eyes while gathering herself. She grinned and said, “We didn’t know if you were dead or alive. I thought I’d never see you again, and now you’re here.” Her voice cracked as she added, “Oh, Alissia, I’ve missed you!”
Anika took her by the hand and tugged for her to follow. “Let’s go to your rooms, and we can spend the rest of the day together. You’re going to love your rooms. I helped prepare them for you, and you’re going to be very surprised.”
Alissia could not help but smile at Anika’s temporary excitement. Even as she reminded herself of how bad the situation truly was, she told herself she would not think about it today. Instead, she would make her friend happy. Grady had said Anika had been miserable, and Alissia had the power to bring a smile to her face. Today, that was what was important.
The two women and guards followed Odell along various hallways lit by sculptured sconces that held removable glow stones. Just as Alissia began to think she would never be able to find her way back to the elevator, they arrived at a set of thick, wooden doors covered in detailed carvings. The trim that surrounded the doors held even more detail, and two guards stood at the side of each door.
Once they saw Alissia, the guards opened the doors and silently watched as she and Anika followed Odell through the doors.
Alissia did not notice the doors close behind her. She was too busy staring in amazement at her surroundings. Surely, this was not to be considered her rooms.
Anika laughed and began to give Alissia a detailed tour of her new living quarters. Her suite consisted of a large, main room with a crème-colored sofa and two chairs off to the right of the room. They were placed in front of a stone fireplace set into the wall. A large, marble table with claw feet was situated in the center of the room, holding a fresh-floral arrangement.
A small bathroom with only a toilet and sink was in the left corner of the room, with a beautiful, elegant mirror on the wall. Matching glow-stone sconces gave out enough light for the small bathroom.
In the back, left corner of the main room was a round dining table with four chairs, made of heavy, dark wood and trimmed in detailed, floral carvings. A door on the right wall of the room led into the bedroom, and Alissia stood in wonder at the massive canopy bed with pink bella flowers wrapped around the large, four-poster beams. A pink curtain made of a thin, shimmery material surrounded each side of the bed and covered the top. Pink bella flowers were arranged on top of the bed, and they sparkled through the sheer material.
Alissia touched the thick, pink bedding and could not help but smile at the thought of sleeping in such a soft bed that night. Anika delighted in the look on Alissia’s face and grabbed her by the hand to continue the tour.
The fireplace in the main room was double sided and added warmth to the bedroom. A large bookcase covered a portion of the wall, and it was filled with books that looked enticing to Alissia.
A matching pink curtain made of a thick, velvety material separated the sleeping area from the bathroom, and Alissia gasped when Odell pulled back the curtain to reveal the bathing pool surrounded by stones and more pink bella flowers.
A door in the sleeping area led into a walk-in closet with more drawers and compartments than Alissia thought a person could ever use for clothing and jewelry. A large crème-colored ottoman was placed in front of a hand-carved, standing mirror, and although Anika had brought Alissia’s clothes from the townhouse, the closet still looked bare.
The entire suite was filled with fresh flowers and scented candles, which added a pleasant fragrance to the old castle chambers.
“What do you think?” asked Anika, excitedly.
Anika laughed and gave Alissia another hug before saying, “Oh, I’ve missed you so much. I knew you’d love this, but I’ve saved the best for last.” She gave a mysterious smile before adding, “I’ll show you after everyone leaves, and we’re alone.”
Alissia followed Anika’s gaze and realized Odell and three other women were watching her. The older woman stepped forward and said, “My Lady, I should introduce you to your chambermaids and handmaid.”
Although Alissia wondered why she needed so many maids, she smiled and nodded politely before Odell motioned towards two women and said, “This is Belinda and Ima, your two chambermaids. They will be responsible for all the housekeeping in your rooms, so please don’t be alarmed by their occasional presence.”
The two women stepped forward and bowed politely before stepping back into their original positions. Odell then motioned towards a younger woman, looking to be in her twenties. She wore her dark-brown hair in a simple braid down her back and had a pleasant smile on her face.
“And this is Nadia. She is to be your handmaiden and will assist you with everything you need. If you want or need anything at all, be sure to let her know, and she will take care of it. In fact, she will be delivering your meal shortly.” Odell turned to Anika and asked, “Miss Anika, will you be joining Lady Alissia for lunch?”
Alissia could not help but wonder why she was a lady and Anika was a miss, and she made a mental note to add it to the list of things to ask Anika once they were alone.
“Yes, I will be joining Lady Alissia for most of the day.”
“Very well. Would you prefer the same meal that has been prepared for Lady Alissia, or would you prefer something with meat?”
“I have already made arrangements with Nadia. Thank you.”
The older woman turned her attention back to Alissia and said, “Do you have any questions for me?”
Alissia shook her head, and Odell said, “Then I shall leave you to get some rest. If you should find any of your arrangements unsatisfactory, please ask for me, and I will see to it that all is resolved.”
The four women walked out of the bedroom, and as soon as Alissia heard the door to the main entrance close, Anika ran to the bedroom door and looked out.
“We’re finally alone! I’ve got so much to tell you, and I want to hear everything.” She grinned slyly and added, “But first, I have a surprise I know you’ll love.”
Alissia followed Anika out of the bedroom to a set of French doors at the back of the main room. As Anika put her hands on the handles of both doors, she turned back around and asked, “Ready?”
Alissia laughed at Anika’s excitement, and she nodded.
Once the doors opened, Alissia stared out in front of her in disbelief. Anika waited patiently for a moment before walking through the doors and flopping down onto a chaise covered in pillows and a blanket.
“Well, what do you think?”
The large veranda they stood on held a crème-colored chaise and sofa, both of which were covered in pink, floral pillows. A stone table was centered in front of them with a large, glowing heat stone on top of it. Light-blue bella flowers covered the ceiling, walls, and iron railing that surrounded the outside edge of the partially enclosed veranda.
Alissia walked to the railing and looked over the edge before backing away in surprise at how high she was from the ground. She sat down on the sofa and looked at Anika.
“Is this what your rooms look like?”
Anika frowned playfully and answered, “No, we don’t get the special treatment. You’re Lady Alissia, remember?”
“Yeah, and why am I a lady but you’re a miss? What’s the difference?”
“Only the elders and assembly members are called lords, and their wives are called ladies. You’re considered an ambassador of the Lamians, and it’s the Eldership’s way of saying you hold power, even though you’re not an elder.”
“Yeah, if I’m so powerful, how come I’m forced to be here?” Then a thought came to mind, and Alissia asked, cautiously, “Can anyone hear us or be recording us?”
“No, we’re safe.”
“Are you sure?”
“Alissia, we don’t have anything like that in our reality.”
“Then how come Watchers were able to record me from my reality?”
“That’s completely different and consumes a lot of power from a jade. We’re safe. I promise. So tell me what happened to you. You do realize you didn’t even say goodbye.”
The playful jab felt like a knockout punch, and Alissia paused before responding, “I’m sorry.” The words sounded unemotional, even to her, and she silently chided herself for not knowing how to be softer. She stammered as she tried again with more meaning, “Anika, I’m really sorry. I had no idea Grady had been set up. They made it look like he was using me. When I walked in and saw him with that woman, I freaked out and ran. I hate myself for it, and I was wrong.”
She wished she could show more emotion. Anika deserved it, but she did not know how. Gentleness and true emotions were not something she knew how to give, even if she wanted to. She had killed that part of herself years ago as a child, and it was too foreign to her. She hoped Anika could see through her emotionless tone and realize she meant every word she said.
Her friend said, “I want to hear everything that happened and don’t leave anything out.”
Alissia found relief in the change of subject and began to relax in her seat. She pulled off her headscarf and tossed it to the other side of the sofa. As she was taking off her boots, Anika asked curiously, “Did the Eldership buy you new clothes already?”
Alissia cringed as she turned the mouth of her boots towards the sofa and covered them with the edge of a blanket, concealing the knives Luke had given her. As she pulled the blanket over her body, she told herself she would have to find a suitable hiding place for them.
Once settled, she grinned at Anika and tried to change the subject so she would not have to talk about Luke buying her new clothing. “I don’t think I ever want to ride a horse again. I am so tired of traveling.”
Anika did not seem to notice the unanswered question and said, “Well, you look great. I see nothing else . . . has . . . uh . . . changed.”
“Thank heavens for that!” Alissia replied. “Although I guess having your hair, eyes, and nails turn purple is not something to be thankful for.”
“Alissia, after being sucked into another reality, spat out half-dead, and revived by an apparently ancient race–who were thought to be pure mythology until now, I might add–it seems you have much to be thankful for.”
Alissia spent the next few hours telling Anika most of what had happened on her journey. They were served lunch on the veranda, and Alissia greatly enjoyed a large, hot meal. She indulged in a warm dessert and told her handmaid she never wanted to see cheese, nuts, dried fruit, murdock root, or any other traveling food again.
Anika and Alissia both laughed hard when Alissia described the night she had distracted Luke by screaming over a small animal. However, Anika spent most of the afternoon with a look of disbelief on her face as Alissia recounted what all had happened.
When Alissia told about the death of her two attackers, she remained unemotional, and she shrugged off her friend’s attempt at comforting her.
She did not mention having nightmares since the two men’s death, and when she got to the last part of the journey where she found herself in the cabin with Luke, she stopped. Although she did not want to go into much detail about what all had happened between them, she thought it would be wrong to hide the truth from Anika.
Somewhat hesitantly, she finished with, “Luke and I kissed a few times when we got back to the cabin.”
Anika shook her head in disbelief.
“No. No. No. Alissia, you can’t do that to Grady.”
Alissia responded by biting on her lower lip.
Anika continued with, “He loves you. I’ve never seen him like this with anyone, and he’ll do anything for you. You know that, right?”
Alissia’s chest tightened, and she felt herself swallow.
“I know, and I told him what happened, too. I didn’t lie, and I won’t lie to him, Anika.”
“Do you love him?”
Alissia wanted to run from the question.
“You mean Grady?”
“Yes, Alissia. Do you love him?”
“I’ve never told him I loved him.”
“So you don’t?” Anika asked, somewhat accusingly.
“I didn’t say that. Anika, I’ve never said those words to anyone before.” She thought for a moment before adding, “Yes, I love him, but right now we can’t focus on any of that. We have to find a way out of here, and from what I’ve been told, I have to stay away from him for his own safety. It’s too complicated right now.”
“Alissia, when you disappeared, it devastated my cousin. He didn’t know if you were dead or alive, and . . .” Anika let out a shaky breath. Her voice was thick with emotion when she continued. “He had to act brave and go to the Eldership in Pallen. Then he realized the Eldership here is corrupt, and all our lives are in danger. He’s doing everything he can to save us, yet he’s never been this powerless.” A tear rolled down her cheek as she added, “He needs you, Alissia, not physically, but he needs to know you’re there for him emotionally. That’s what’s keeping him together. He’s holding onto you.”
Alissia felt the heat rise within her body as she struggled to appear calm in front of Anika. She had already known all that her friend was telling her, and she had already been full of guilt for all the pain she had caused Grady. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt him, Anika, or Langley even more.
At that moment, Nadia opened the doors and walked onto the veranda, giving Alissia an escape from the conversation.
“Excuse me, Lady Alissia, but I thought I should let you know you have received some gifts and should probably expect more.”
Alissia looked at Anika questioningly, and they both got to their feet. She made sure her boots were still covered before following the two women into the main room.