Publisher’s Official Excerpt:
Elton Fletcher urged his horse through the wind and sleet toward the enormous shadow rising from the moors against the darkness. Sagewick Castle. Home. Faster and faster he rode, speeding past the hedges and trees hiding the royal palace of Trumwald, his cloak snapping behind him. The horse galloped through the archway of the gatehouse, its nostrils flaring, hooves clopping against cobblestones.
A stout man rushed from the stable house, wool cloak over his head, oil lantern in hand.
“Welcome home, Master Fletcher.”
“Thank you.” Elton dismounted and handed over his horse to the welcoming marshal. “It’s good to be back. Tell me, has Master Cayden retired for the evening?”
“He has not, Lord Elton,” replied a familiar voice, “but might I suggest you tidy up a bit before socializing.”
“Ah, Ferris!” Elton grinned at the man on the steps. “What a pleasant sight! I assume my room has been prepared.”
“Of course, my lord. We’ve been expecting you.”
“Splendid. I’m cold as a corpse. Perhaps you’d like to join me for some apricot brandy and something to eat? I’m famished.” Elton embraced Ferris.
“The brandy is already in your room. I’ll have the servants fetch whatever you wish once you are settled.”
Inside, a slew of servants, waiting by the doorway, greeted Elton with exuberant smiles on their faces.
“Welcome back, Master Elton.”
“It is good to see you again, my lord.”
“May I take your coat, Sir?”
A young boy of no more than ten years stood before Elton, his arms outstretched. Elton smiled and draped his sodden, fur-lined coat and leather gloves across them. Reaching inside his coin pouch, Elton withdrew a gold therap and tucked it in the boy’s trouser pocket. “For your troubles,” he said, tousling the boy’s hair.
The young face beamed with delight as he ran down a marble corridor shouting for his mother, the coat dragging the ground behind him.
“You’d best be careful of your treatment of the hired help, Sir,” said Ferris. “Your brother would not approve.”
“Why?” Elton walked with Ferris down the entrance hall, flanked by roaring fireplaces set between massive columns. His boots echoed with each click upon the black marble floor.
“Things are not as they were when you left two years ago.” They climbed the wide, stone stairway and followed a maze of corridors. Vibrant, handmade tapestries popped against the limestone walls while slender red carpets lay underfoot. Oil lamps flickered against the stone.
It seemed all had remained as Elton recalled.
“Lord Cayden has … changed,” Ferris continued, his face drawn. “He is not what you remember. Watch your step and your generosity.”