Redemption (Red Dragon Book 1)

BOOK: Redemption (Red Dragon Book 1)
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Redemption

 

Book One of the Red Dragon series

 

A Regna Imperial Novel.

By

H. J. Bradley

 

 

 

 

REDEMPTION

©
2015
H. J. BRADLEY

F
IRST
P
UBLISHED
2015
.
A
LL
R
IGHTS
R
ESERVED.

 

 

 

THIS ELECTRONIC BOOK IS PUBLISHED BY

NIGHTCHASER INK PUBLISHING

P. O. BOX 1145

SOUTH PERTH

WESTERN AUSTRALIA 6005

 

 

 

WITHOUT LIMITING THE RIGHTS UNDER COPYRIGHT RESERVED ABOVE, NO PART OF THIS PUBLICATION MAY BE REPRODUCED, STORED IN OR INTRODUCED INTO A DATABASE AND RETRIEVAL SYSTEM OR TRANSMITTED IN ANY FORM OR ANY MEANS (ELECTRONIC, MECHANICAL, PHOTOCOPYING, RECORDING OR OTHERWISE) WITHOUT THE PRIOR WRITTEN PERMISSION OF BOTH THE OWNER OF COPYRIGHT AND THE ABOVE PUBLISHERS.

 

THIS BOOK IS A WORK OF FICTION AND ANY RESEMBLANCE TO PERSONS, LIVING OR DEAD, OR PLACES, EVENTS OR LOCALES, IS PURELY COINCIDENTAL. THE CHARACTERS ARE PRODUCTIONS OF THE AUTHOR’S IMAGINATION AND USED FICTITIOUSLY.

 

COVER DESIGN BY GABRIELLE PRENDERGAST

http://coveryourdreams.net/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

To David who has stood by me always.

 

Chapter One

June 3
rd
2006

 

"So I hear young Caitlin is on the market for a husband." Those words made Valto's heart freeze in his chest, causing him to choke down a huge bite of his biscuit.

“What?" he said, looking up at his grandmother through watery eyes. "She's what?"

"Well
,
it was bound to happen." Shrugging her slender shoulders his grandmother took a calm sip of her tea. "From what I understand she has requested that Lowri simply find her a husband. That girl will be put on the throne in less than twelve months, no doubt she's getting pressure from all sides to be married before then. Probably with an heir already on the way if I know the Welsh."

The idea of Cat married and pregnant, to somebody that wasn't him, left a bitter taste in Valto’s mouth.

"So she's started courting?" Valto was surprised at how calm his voice sounded to his own ears.

His Grandmother, Kasen, placed her tea cup on the table in front of her, before leaning back in her chair. "Not courting no, she's always been no-nonsense. One of the things I like about her."

“Then what's she doing?” Valto's twin sister Kai slurped the last of her tea before placing her cup on the table. “Picking one out of a line up?”

Kasen nodded. “Lowri will be writing to all the eligible young men that she deems worthy of Cat's hand, if they wish to have a chance to court her they just have to reply to the letter. It's up to Cat then to decide which ones she is willing to give a chance.”

“It's like that TV show The Bachelor,” said Kai.

“Maybe, but this is how it always used to be.” Kasen poured herself another cup of tea. “Either we were arranged to be married or our spouses were chosen for us when we were of marrying age. The Welsh have always been sticklers for tradition, plus Cat knows she's not marrying for love. I suppose in her mind she doesn't need to have all that much input for a political marriage.”

“It's sad that she's not marrying for love,” he said, all too aware of Kai's gaze boring into the side of his head.

“Yes well.” Kasen took a sip of tea. “She gave her heart away once dear, I don't suppose she wants to go through that again.”

Valto let his eyes drop then, an overwhelming sensation of guilt and grief that immediately dropped into his gut. It had been him that had broken the heart of Crown Princess Caitlin of Wales; not only that but he had spent the next five years despising her. Until one fateful night, not three weeks ago, he had learnt that the reason he had used to leave his fiancé' had been nothing more than hurtful rumors. It still made him feel sick to think about it.

“Poor Valto,” said Kai. “He's been moping ever since Johann told him what really happened with Cat.”

He couldn't help the way his head snapped up then, as he turned to glare at his twin sister. Sometimes he hated how she not only knew how to read him like a book, but also how she often forgot to turn on her brain to mouth filter.

“Oh and why is that Valto?” Kasen looked at him, one eyebrow raised as she did so. “I would have thought Cat was the least of your concerns these days. After all you did dissolve your engagement half a decade ago, and as far as I'm aware you haven't seen each other since.”

Valto grimaced. That hadn't been easy to pull off; the Welsh and Finnish royal families were very close politically, and managing to miss the events that he had known Cat would be at had taken a lot of hard work. That was until she had all but hidden herself away from the world, treating back to her estate of Carreg Cannen and almost drinking herself into an early grave. It had always been something she had been afraid of, walking in her father's footsteps, and it seemed that those demons had become too difficult to fight off alone. Just one other way he had let her down. Now however, nearly six months after her intervention, and stint in rehab, she was back and, from all accounts, ready to rule. Oh how he wanted to just lay his eyes on her one more time, after she had lived only in his dreams for so long!

“I discovered that Heikki had been wrong, and that Johann never slept with Cat,” he said. “I behaved horrendously, I wish that I could get close enough to apologise.”

“Yes well, aren't you quite the idiot?” Kasen pulled up her handbag and rummaged around inside of it. “However you might just get your chance. When Lowri first sent this to me I thought the old bat had lost what was left of her mind, but maybe she actually knew something that I didn't.”

With that she handed an envelope over to him. “What is it?” He carefully broke the red wax seal of the Regent, before flicking open the envelope and pulling out the letter inside. He quickly scanned it, and then raised his eyes to his Grandmother in shock.

“You've been given the opportunity to court Cat again,” said Kasen, folding her arms across her chest. “That girl made you happy, don't fuck it up.”

“What?” Kai reached over and snatched the letter out of his hand. “Don't tell me you're going to accept?”

He turned the envelope over in his hand again, sliding the pads of his fingers along the expensive cream stationary.

“I don't know,” he said. “Anyway it's not like Cat would accept me anyway.”

“She's not an idiot, Valto. Despite your history together you would be a good match, politically and diplomatically. Better than most of those that will respond. I think you have a good chance,” said Kasen.

He shook his head. Marrying Cat also came with one other enormous responsibility. Wales. Whoever took her hand also became Prince Consort. Valto wasn't entirely sure whether or not he was willing to give up his entire life in that way.

“Valto?” He turned to Kai as she called his name. “What are you going to do?”

He reached over to remove the letter from her hand. “Nothing. I'm not going to do anything.”

“Are you telling me that you're not going to try and win her over?” Kasen sounded confused. “She was the love of your life.”

“I've come a long way since then,” he said. “I have a career, friends, a life that doesn't revolve around Cat any more.”

Kai was nodding as she reached over to snatch one of the biscuits off of his plate. “Makes sense I suppose. Anyway it's been years, plus she's sleeping with Hans.”

The paper crinkled beneath his hand as he curled it into a fist. Finding out about Cat and the Crown Prince of Germany had caused him to wreck his apartment, and then sit in the bathtub with tears running down his face for an hour. Not exactly his most dignified moment that was for sure.

“Yes because that's a rational reaction,” said Kasen. “Don't crush the letter dear, you might need it.”

“He said he wasn't interested.” Kai shrugged her shoulders. “Plenty of guys will be making a play for Cat. She's rich, powerful, and gorgeous.”

“What?” He let go of the letter, so as to glare at his sister. “You think she's gorgeous?”

A look of confusion came across her face, and he watched as she and his Grandmother shared a look. “I sometimes forget that you haven't seen her for five years,” said Kasen.

“She's hot.” Kai's voice broke through the fog that had descended on his mind. “Like smoking hot, if I hadn't fallen for Steph I would make a play for her.”

Kasen shot her Granddaughter a sharp look. “Don't antagonize him.”

“Well it's the truth.” Kai sat back in her seat, folding her arms across her chest as she did so. “Just you wait til you see her.”

***

Running his finger along the well-worn leather spines of the books on the bookshelf, Valto let the dusty smell of the library take over his senses. He had always loved the central library in Suomelinna; it had been where he had gone to hide as a child. Nobody had ever really tried to befriend Kai's quiet, chubby twin, and he had often found himself alone.

“What are you thinking about?”

Valto couldn't help his groan at the sound of his soon to be sister-in-law's voice. Steph was one of his favourite people in the world, but she was also one of the most annoying. If she got her teeth into some gossip, there was no way she was letting go until she had got all the details.

“Nothing you need to know about,” he said.

She was incredibly attractive, and he often wondered how someone like Kai had been able to charm someone like Steph. While she was average height, and had a slim figure, it was the openness of her face and the sparkle in her eyes that attracted people like a moth to the flame. Valto adored her, though he had never even contemplated her on a romantic level. No, by the time he was ready for such things he had already been half in love with Cat.

“Is it about Cat?” She perched herself on the edge of the enormous oak table which took up nearly the entire centre of the library, one ankle crossed over the other. “I heard she's put a call out for a husband.”

Valto rolled his eyes, and then dug into his jacket pocket. Pulling out the crumpled envelope, he strode across the room.

“What's this?” She raised one eyebrow at him, before flipping the envelope over and shaking out the letter. For several long moments there was silence as she quickly skimmed over the contents. “Well what are you waiting for?”

That hadn't exactly been the reaction he had expected. “What do you mean?”

She gave a snort of laughter, handing the letter back to him with a flourish. “I would have expected you to be on the next plane to Wales. Valto you're getting a second chance.”

“No,” he said. “Don't get me wrong, there is nothing I want more than to get to see Cat again, but I certainly won't be marrying her.”

Steph's face fell at that. “Oh, I thought you were still in love with her.”

“She was my first love.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Of course I love her.”

“So go and court her.”

“It's not that easy,” he said. “She's going to be Queen. Plus she's sleeping with Hans.”

“Oh, please.” Steph rolled her eyes. “You can't think that's anything serious.

“What if she loves him?”

Steph let out a long suffering sigh. “Then she wouldn't be looking for a husband, and she certainly wouldn't be coronated next September.”

There was truth behind her words. If Cat and Hans were truly in love and wanting to get married she would be expected to give up her place in the line of succession, which meant that her sister Myfanwy would take the throne. Which seemed highly unlikely given the future plans already set in motion for her. Or their cousin Duchess Aeron Rees, who would absolutely hate having the throne pushed onto her.

“Yes,” he said. “I suppose you're right.”

“But I understand if you don't feel the same anymore.” She shrugged her shoulders. “And Lowri probably doesn't expect an answer.”

“Yeah, probably.”

She slid off of the table and walked over to him, standing on her tip-toes to kiss him lightly on the cheek. “Whichever way you chose to go here Valto, know that we'll stand by you.”

“Kai doesn't seem all that keen on the idea of me going after Cat again,” he said.

“She doesn't want to see you get hurt. That's all.”             

He gently removed the envelope from her hand and pushed it back into his pocket. “I know.”

“OK Valto.” She kissed him on the cheek again. “But in my opinion she's well worth it.”

BOOK: Redemption (Red Dragon Book 1)
11.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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