About the Book
Author: Colleen Helme
Genre: Romance Fantasy
As the ambassador from Braemar, Bran is sent on a diplomatic mission to the Old Country to establish trade relations. But the real reason for his mission is to uncover the secrets of a potent elixir that can give magic to anyone who drinks it.
While there he encounters the Songbird, a beautiful, exotic woman, and the king’s most prized possession. Her song is full of magic, and he determines that her people must be connected to the deadly elixir. In exchange for her help, he is willing to risk his life to set her free. What he doesn’t expect, is to fall under her spell…
As the author of the Shelby Nichols Adventure Series, Colleen is often asked if Shelby Nichols is her alter-ego. “Definitely,” she says. “Shelby is the epitome of everything I wish I dared to be.” Known for her laugh since she was a kid, Colleen has always tried to find the humor in every situation and continues to enjoy writing about Shelby’s adventures. “I love getting Shelby into trouble… I just don’t always know how to get her out of it!” Colleen lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family. Besides writing, she loves a good book, biking, hiking, and playing board and card games with family and friends. She loves to connect with readers and admits that fans of the series keep her writing.
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The crowd parted unexpectedly and the ambassador froze at the vision of beauty standing only ten feet away. Raven-black hair flowed around her slender shoulders, falling in feathered waves and creating a sharp contrast to her porcelain skin. She caught his gaze with startling sapphire blue eyes, and his mind went blank.
After a short silence, the king’s top advisor cleared his throat, and Bran came back to his senses. An embarrassing rush of color stained his dark complexion, and Bran cursed the fates that the king’s advisor had witnessed his reaction.
“Don’t worry,” Chancellor Turner said, noticing his discomfort. “The Songbird affects everyone that way the first time they see her. Beauty like that commands attention, and no one is immune to her exotic looks. But don’t be deceived. She is not to be trusted or taken lightly. None of the Kalorians are. Their race has a penchant to hurt and manipulate others, and must be controlled. That is why we enslave them. But don’t worry.” He smiled at Bran. “You see the collar around her neck? It’s called a kundar, and keeps them under control. Without it, we would be nothing but dirt under their feet. She could devour both your mind and your soul with one look into those fathomless eyes.”
Bran was familiar with the kundar, although he didn’t agree with the reason for its use. It was said that the Kalorians were evil because of their magic, but he wasn’t sure he believed it. If the Kalorians really did have magic, it didn’t make them bad, and tales told by power-hungry men weren’t always true. It sickened him that the king would force the suppression and slavery of another race.
The Songbird was a symbol of that enslavement. Although they softened the truth and made it sound like the taming of a wild bird, it was nothing short of bondage. She had no choices, no freedom, nothing. It was wrong, and it grated on him.
Couldn’t something positive come from a reciprocal relationship with people like her? People who had magic at their command? He drew his brows together in confusion, pretending he hadn’t been studying their culture for the last several months. “Is that it? The golden circlet around her neck?”
The chancellor turned his full attention on Bran. “The kundar is much more than a simple necklace. It causes excruciating pain if the Songbird uses too much magic. It is like the safety-catch on your weapon and, fortunately for us, she can’t remove it.” His eyes narrowed. “Neither can anyone else.” His pointed look left no question of his warning.
Bran allowed a smile. “I was merely curious. My sole purpose here is to form a liaison between our countries that I hope will be mutually beneficial.” The Chancellor nodded absently, returning his attention to the Songbird.
An expectant hush filled the hall. For the first time, Bran detected a flicker of emotion behind her cool exterior. Was it anger or defiance? As quick as it came, it was gone, and her face returned to the schooled blankness that made her seem remote and cold. The silence lengthened uncomfortably before she tilted her chin at a determined slant. As she took a deep breath, Bran caught the gleam of wildness in her eyes, and his stomach clenched with sudden apprehension.
The first few notes took him by surprise. They were light and clear, shinning like sparkling water under the sun, and carrying an underlying tone of reverence. The tones conjured golden images of light, and bound to the intensity of her voice, created a feeling of wonder and awe. As the beautiful tones rose in volume, the air became drenched with glittering light. Swirling around her, the light shifted in color and size, growing and changing with the music.
He could only describe this display as fireworks bursting with color and then trailing away into sparkling diamonds of light. The beauty took his breath away, and it seemed as if the entire hall was enclosed with torrents of golden light.
The steady light grew, and he watched with amazement as it fell down from above and encircled his body, even becoming the air he breathed. Incredibly, his skin and clothes took on a golden hue. As he tried to understand what was happening, the tones grew in intensity and lifted his soul to another sphere beyond his wildest imaginings.
Time slowed, and almost stopped. Then the moment passed and he could breathe again. His senses reeled like he had just been taken for a wild ride. As he gathered his wits, a low echo filled the hall, soothing his nerves. The melody and harmonies changed, whispering of tranquility and peace.
Within this blanket of warmth, his defenses fell away, one by one. An air of complacency relaxed his breathing and peace surrounded him. He vaguely sensed his vulnerability, but couldn’t do anything about it, nor did he want to. Even the air he breathed seemed laden with calming hues of green and blue.
All at once, the tones changed into a twisting dissonance, sending his blood racing with distress. Bran instinctively covered his ears along with everyone else in the room. Startled cries of pain from the crowd joined the dissonance, cutting into him like nails.
The Songbird’s beautiful face twisted with her own pain as she forced out the notes and struggled to stand upright. Fighting obvious agony, she continued to sing, and the notes rose in a crescendo that swirled in the air around the king. Bands of dark light descended over him and tightened in a vise.