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Fate Not Chosen - Book#1 Paperback

Fate Not Chosen - Book#1 Paperback

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Read the Synopsis

🌟 “The Fate Series: A Spellbinding Journey of Magic, Intrigue, and Destiny” 🌟

In the enchanting world crafted by Tara Lytle, magic weaves its threads through every corner. Readers have raved about this captivating universe:

“I loved this book! Tara does an incredible job creating this magical universe that gets your mind racing like Harry Potter.” — Jeff Van, Amazon (🌟 5-star review)

“I was pleasantly surprised at the way magic was woven in and out, with just the right amount of attention drawn to it.” — Conrad, Amazon (🌟 5-star review)

Step into the desperate battle for survival, where a tapestry of divine design unfolds. Woven by the hands of the gods themselves, it bestows upon a young girl the coveted title of ‘the most powerful mage alive.’

🔮 Seventeen-year-old Isabelle Mirran had never planned to leave her family’s farm in the quaint town of Saren. Here, farmers know that magic is a treacherous force, best left untouched. For them, the sword and plow are the true tools of survival. But the gods have other plans. With the Mark of the Gods branded into her right hand, Isabelle becomes a target for an elusive mastermind.

🏰 After a failed kidnapping attempt, she finds herself enrolled in a noble school. There, she discovers she is no ordinary farmer’s daughter. Instead, she wields all four colors of magic, making her the most powerful mage alive.

🌟 Yet danger lurks within the hallowed halls. Jealous classmates and hidden connections threaten her life once more. As magic chains wrap around her wrists and her powers drain away, flames of agony rise.

🌌 She’ll need every grain of magic to survive the mastermind’s grip. For once the gods have chosen you, there are only two paths: fight or die.

📚 The Fate Series is best enjoyed reading in order:

Fate Not Chosen

Fate Challenged

Fate Conquered

Embark on this thrilling journey where destiny hangs in the balance, and magic ignites the soul. Buy Now! 🌠✨

Read Chapter One

"You’re not blocking fast enough!” Nathan paced, his boots crushing the dry grass. He pointed his sword at my chest. “If this were a real fight, you’d be dead quicker than a jackrabbit can jump for cover. Come on, Isabelle! Put those skinny arms to good use, and block!” He swung the blade toward me, his muscles bulging through the thin cotton shirt.

“Give me a break,” I said as I fended off his attack. “We put the final touches on my sword yesterday. I’m not used to it yet.” I stepped backward, light on my feet, and rubbed my forehead. The morning had just begun, and I could already tell that today was going to be a scorcher.

“Oh, poor Isabelle …” Nathan mocked, putting a hand over his heart. “Does the delicate little thing want me to go easier?” He spoke as if I were a baby, not seventeen years old.

Grinning through his red beard, he pushed a few strands of hair away from his blue eyes. Sweat dripped off his brow, sliding down his round face and falling into his beard, but it didn’t deter him. Nothing ever did. Nathan was as hard as granite, and I envied his ability to stay strong through all kinds of circumstances.

I laughed, wrapping my fingers tighter against the leather handle. “Go easier? Never.” Squinting my eyes against the sun, I shifted and danced on the balls of my feet.

“That’s my girl!” Nathan’s blue eyes lit up as he surged forward, his blade coming down on me.

This time, I felt ready and blocked with fierce determination.

“That’s better.” He nodded approvingly, stepping back.

“Hey, Iz!”

I turned around and grinned. “Stefan!” I sheathed my weapon and ran through the garden, carefully navigating through the row of carrots to the dirt road. Stefan opened his arms wide, enveloping me in a warm hug as I reached him. We broke apart and held each other at arm’s length, wearing matching sloppy grins.

“Fencing on Gods Day? You never cease to surprise me,” Stefan said.

“You always work on Gods Day; what’s the difference?” I asked.

“Mail waits for no one.” He shrugged nonchalantly.

We measured our days in increments of seven. On First Day through Fifth Day, we worked, followed by Kings Day and Gods Day. On Kings Day people petitioned their leaders about problems they faced. On Gods Day, everyone visited family, feasted, or prayed to the Gods in the temples. Many considered Gods Day a day of rest and relaxation.

“What are you doing here?” I asked. “Why aren’t you at work with Mr. Travers?”

Stefan pushed his dirty blonde hair back from his pale blue eyes and grinned. “Mr. Travers sent me on a special assignment. I’ve got a delivery just for you.”

“Special assignment?” I raised my eyebrows. “More like you begged.”

He laughed and kicked at the tall grass growing on the edge of the dirt road. “All right, you caught me.”

“I’m glad you did. It’s so nice to see you,” I answered delightedly, letting my hands fall down to my sides. “I didn’t think I’d get to see you until Mava’s celebration tonight.” Stefan was like a ray of sunshine, and I couldn’t help but feel happy around him.

He grinned and opened the flap of his leather bag, pulling out a medium-size parcel wrapped with twine and stamped with a red seal. He handed it to me.

“What is it?” I tilted my head with confusion as I accepted the package.

Stefan shrugged. “I don’t know. Mr. Travers said a new post rider came thundering in this morning making all kinds of racket down Shop Street. He threw the letters and your package at him before taking off again faster than a fox after a chicken.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes. “You should have seen Mr. Travers when I came in this morning.

“In a foul mood, muttering curses and banging everything with his cane, going on and on about the new rider who woke him up at the crack of dawn. I think he was happy to send me off and get the parcel out of the post room. He kept staring at it like it was going to open up on its own and eat him.” He stuck his thumbs in his front pockets, shifting his feet side to side.

“Oh Travers, what does he know?” I rolled my eyes and put a hand on my hip. “Hardly anybody sends anything magical through the post and especially not to Saren. He should know farmers and magic don’t mix.”

“Yeah, well, he still can’t seem to forget that time Benner ordered that ‘Grow plants in a day’ potion or whatnot and it spilled onto Silla’s seed packets. In a matter of minutes, the whole post room erupted in plants. It took us weeks to clear out the mess.” Stefan shuddered.

“Yes, but that was a year and a half ago, and I’m pretty sure Benner learned his lesson,” I said.

“Oh yeah, he won’t be doing that again.” He nodded.

“I bet it’s that pocket-size book I ordered for Nathan. His birthday is coming up soon,” I whispered, holding the package to my side. “At any rate, I don’t think Travers should be too worried—”

“Hey! I thought we were supposed to be fencing,” Nathan interrupted, calling from the dry patch of grass we called the practice area behind the garden. “Stefan can chase after you at the celebration tonight.”

I glanced at my adoptive father over my shoulder; he had both hands on his hips, and his foot tapped in the grass. Little puffs of dirt rose from the ground around his leather boots. Those that did not know him would have found him intimidating, with his stern glare and large, muscular form. But I knew better. Underneath that hard exterior was a man as soft as butter.

“All right, I’m coming!” I faced Stefan.

“You and that sword,” he laughed. “You’re the only girl in Saren brave enough to pick one up.”

“If the men in Aberron stopped acting like it’s a crime, then I’m sure we’d see more women with swords tied to their belts. We have just as much a right to defend ourselves as men do,” I said indignantly.

“And you’re going to be the one to change that?” Stefan smirked.

I nodded. “That’s right, I am.”

“You know what?” he said suddenly. “I believe you will.”

I grinned. “Thanks for delivering the package to me. See you at the party tonight.”

Stefan leaned in and kissed me on the cheek. “See you.”

I blushed, stumbling backward as I waved farewell.

“Hey, none of that!” Nathan protested. “You’re too young to be thinking romance.”

I walked to Nathan until I stood an arm’s length away, package in hand. “And yet we are going to Mava’s wedding celebration tonight. You know she’s only a few months older than I am.”

“Yeah, well … I don’t have a say in Mava’s life like I do yours.” Nathan glanced at the parcel. “So, what’s in the box?”

“Oh, nothing important.” I shrugged. “I’m pretty sure it’s something I ordered from Carasmille.”

He snorted. “Don’t tell me it’s another book. We can barely hold the ones we have. The study is crammed full.”

I leaned forward and lightly slapped his arm. “You’re the one who encouraged me to read in the first place, and it’s not my fault we live in the smallest farming community in Aberron. The only information we ever get in Saren is through books.”

“All right, you win that battle,” he conceded, folding his arms.

I grinned. “Thought so.” I trotted back to the garden, setting the package down at the base of the apple tree.

I faced Nathan again and unsheathed my blade. “You ready to practice?”

He drew his sword and smiled so wide it reached his eyes. “I’m always ready. Let’s do this.”

“Isabelle, Nathan.” Adel called to us from the back door.

“Oh, what now?” Nathan groaned, his shoulders slumping.

I laughed. “Might as well give up. We can practice again tomorrow.”

“Fine, but no interruptions, not even if the King himself shows up.” He pointed his saber at my chest.

“Agreed.”

We sheathed our swords and trudged through the garden to the house. Nathan pulled on the door handle and gestured for me to go first. I smiled and thanked him as I walked into the kitchen, Nathan following right behind. Unbuckling our weapons from our belts, we hung them on the hooks adjacent to the door.

“Oh, my package!” I wrenched open the back door and ran through the garden to the apple tree, picking it up.

“Isabelle, your breakfast is getting cold!” Adel shouted from the open door, aiming a wooden spoon at me.

“I’m coming,” I said, turning away from the tree, package in hand.

A heavy aroma of eggs and bacon filled the kitchen. I set the package on the kitchen table and sat by Nathan, pulling a heaping plate to me. Adel sat across from us.

“What’s this?” Adel asked, picking up the parcel with her thin fingers, her brown eyes probing.

“Oh, it’s nothing important. Just a book I ordered.” I shrugged.

“Good luck finding a spot to put it.” Adel laughed, setting the package on the table with a light thump.

“You too?” I pursed my lips. “Honestly, I expected you both to be better. Don’t encourage someone to read if you don’t want to have a house littered with books.”

Adel lifted her hands up in mock surrender.

I changed the subject. “Do you have Mava’s dress ready?”

She nodded. “Yes, and I’m going to need your help with the last fitting and getting her ready. I can’t believe that girl is getting married already. I remember holding her as a newborn.”

“She’s going to be so happy with Carl.” I imagined the two of them together. Mava, with amber eyes that danced, an infectious smile, and an overall warm manner. Carl, with his dark brown hair, smooth and friendly face, tall frame, broad shoulders, and toned muscles. He was as handsome as they came in Saren. Mava and Carl were perfect for each other.

“Oh, Gods forbid. Look at the time.” Adel glanced anxiously at the clock. “We’ve got to get ready.” She stood, smoothing out the lines of her brown dress. She grabbed some dishes and took them to the washing basin.

I shoveled in a few bites of breakfast, hardly tasting it, and gulped down some milk. I stood, grabbing my plate, and setting it with the rest of the dirty dishes Adel piled up.

Within the hour we loaded everything into the cart.

“I set a dress on your bed, and I want you to wear it. It will bring out the green in your eyes,” Adel said. “Hurry up and change and meet me downstairs.”

I took my package with me as I headed upstairs to change. I set it on my bed. I’d open it when I had time.

Nathan flicked the reins as I climbed into the cart. Amber trotted at a leisurely pace up the dusty dirt packed road. A warm breeze tickled my face. I breathed in the scent of freshly cut hay from the nearby fields.

Shop street came into view, housing the main row of businesses. On Gods Day, the stores closed midday so proprietors could spend time with their families. Nathan carefully navigated our cart past Mr. Vander while nodding a greeting. I let my eyes trail by Mr. Traver’s post, Jensten’s butcher shop, and Agatha’s bakery. Few people were out trailing the boardwalk, mostly women with baskets in hand and children in tow. Their husbands no doubt toiled in the heat gathering their harvest. It had been a good year for farming.

I reached over and put my hand on Nathan’s arm. “Will you let me off at the market? I promised Mava I’d bring her a bag of peppermint sticks. It’ll just take a moment.”

“We’ll wait.” He pulled up short in front of the store. I hopped down and hurried inside, taking care to avoid Mrs. Coltrane and her three little ones as I passed.

Mr. Bryder looked up from the inventory book and smiled at me. “Hello Isabelle, what can I do for you today?” His dark brown eyes twinkled underneath a set of black bushy eyebrows.

“Hello Mr. Bryder.” I returned the smile as I walked up to the counter. “I’d like a bag of peppermint sticks please.”

“Coming right up.” He reached for a paper sack and took the lid off a glass jar filled with peppermint.

The door jingled, signaling another customer. Distaste bloomed as I turned my head to see who had come in. Josiah and Ned, my two biggest tormenters. Their eyes scanned the shop before lighting upon me.

Josiah strolled forward, his blue eyes perusing me. Ned followed silently.

Josiah whistled. “You’re a vision today Isabelle.”

I fought against an eyeroll as I waited for the ensuing barb.

Ned nudged Josiah’s arm. “She’s missing something.” To me he said, “You don’t have your gut sticker.”

“It’s called a sword,” I said shortly, unable to help myself.

Mr. Bryder deftly inserted himself. “That’ll be three Starlets Isabelle.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small purse. I fished around it for the right coins. Aberron had a simple currency system with only three coins to deal with: gold, silver, and copper. All our gold coins were stamped with a picture of a sun. We called them Sundals. Silver coins had the moon stamped on them, called Moonels. Copper coins had a star, called Starlets.

I handed over the Starlets as Josiah spoke. “Of course she don’t have her gut sticker, can’t you see she’s trying to be real lady today? She’s got a dress on and everything.” His tone said I was anything but.

“Boys,” Mr. Bryder spoke sternly. “Unless you have some shopping to do, I suggest you get out.” He handed me the bag.

“Thank you Mr. Bryder.” I smiled warmly at him.

“Oh, we’ve come here for business,” Ned assured while I skirted around him and Josiah.

Josiah winked. “See you Isabelle.”

I shook my head at him, as I exited and climbed back into my seat in the cart. Nathan finished the short drive to Mava’s, where we spent the rest of the morning and afternoon getting everything ready. She was beautiful in a white dress and her dark brown hair braided with white daisies.

“You look stunning.” I grinned. “Carl’s going to be speechless.”

“Oh, you really think so?” Mava put her hands on her stomach. “Gods forbid, I’m so nervous, I feel like my heart’s going to burst.”

I put a hand on her shoulder, standing behind her as she sat in front of the mirror. “You’ll be fine. You love Carl, don’t you?”

“Oh, more than anything else,” Mava gushed. She stood and faced me, a sly grin on her face. “But I’m not the only one who might be in love. I’ve seen the way you act around Stefan.”

I blushed, wringing my hands together, and mumbled, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She pointed a finger at me. “Ha! I knew it. Do you love him?”

“Love?” I gulped and thought for a minute. Did I love Stefan? Sure, I liked him. I liked the way he made me feel, and I really enjoyed his kisses under the maple tree by the creek. But love? I shook my head. “I like Stefan a whole lot, but I don’t love him with the kind of romantic thoughts you’re thinking of. Not yet.”

“Hmm … maybe tonight you might change your mind. Especially after a little dancing.” Mava laughed lightly, a mischievous look in her eyes.

The ceremony was held outside in Mava’s backyard. Log benches took up a good portion of the lawn, situated around loaded fruit trees. An aisle littered with white daisies led to a flowery archway where they were to be married. A soft breeze gave some respite from the searing sun and carried the sweet aroma of peaches and apples. Mava couldn’t have picked a better day for her wedding.

Nathan, Adel, and I sat near the front, waiting for the ceremony to begin. I kept glancing behind me, searching for Stefan. I hoped he’d see me and sit next to us. I felt a pang of disappointment every time I watched a group show up and didn’t see him among them.

“Who are you looking for?” Adel nudged me, leaning around Nathan.

“Stefan,” I whispered. “We were supposed to meet here.”

“Oh, he’ll be here.” She pointed to a small crowd walking to the benches. “See, there’s Mr. Travers. Stefan should be coming along any minute now.”

Right on cue, Stefan showed up. Plopping down, he gave my shoulders a squeeze. By then, Carl and Mava stood at the archway, hand in hand and waiting for the last stragglers to find seats.

“There you are. The ceremony is about to begin.” I leaned into his hug.

“Sorry,” he whispered. “A small caravan rode into town and needed directions to—”

The temple priest stood, and all conversation hushed. “People of Saren, we welcome you on this joyous occasion where these two in love will be united as one.” He spoke with a gentle smile, gesturing to Carl and Mava.

The priest conducted a beautiful ceremony. Carl appeared to be in a daze of bliss as he beheld Mava. Their genuine grins of love and affection were heartwarming as they listened to the priest recite the wedding prayer.

Stefan caught my eye and grinned, then grabbed my hand and interlaced it with his.

Nathan leaned over and whispered in my ear, his beard tickling. “Don’t get any funny ideas, like you’re gonna be the next one up there.” He glanced at the couple repeating the prayer.

“Don’t worry, I’m not,” I answered. “You still have time.”

“I better,” Nathan responded gruffly. Leaning away, he wrapped his muscular arm around Adel, pulling her close to his side.

I glanced at them and smiled. As far as adoptive parents could go, they were the best. They treated me as if I were their real flesh and blood, and it made me exceptionally grateful that I had them in my life. Though, I think they needed me as much as I needed them, since they were thus far unable to have children of their own.

A lavish party followed the ceremony. The sun drooped low in the sky. Lanterns hung from the branches of trees and poles stuck in the ground. All the able men got together and moved the benches to the sides, creating a space for dancing and conversation.

The summer air felt warm, breezy, and perfect. Little children ran underneath the feet of adults, fireflies in their closed palms. Tables buckled down with food and drink while musicians played string instruments. The whole town showed up. I lost count how many times I said hello as I navigated through Mava’s crowded backyard.

Millie approached and put a wizened hand on my arm. “Sewing circle is at my house this week. I’m taking over for Mrs. Jensten.” Her brown eyes crinkled. “Can’t rightly host with her hands out of commission.”

I nodded. “Indeed.” My eyes darted through a break in the crowd to see Mrs. Jensten sitting on a bench chatting with Agatha and Mrs. Brunes. Thickly wrapped linen covered Mrs. Jensten’s hands. Adel told me she tripped over one of her children’s toys near the hearth and her hands had fallen into the fire.

“How is the treatment going?” I asked Millie. She tended to most of the sick in Saren, using her vast knowledge of medicinal herbs. Occasionally a traveling Healer came through, but he never received much business. Not many, including myself, were willing to trust a mage. The instant healing he purported seemed too good to be true. Who knew what sort of effect magic could have on a person later on? I shivered inwardly.

“Good. With my regimen she should regain full use of her hands,” Millie said proudly. She patted my arm. “I best be off, do remember to tell Adel about the change for the sewing circle if I don’t see her.”

“I will.” I smiled after her as she trotted off. For a woman well into her old age, Millie surprised with her strength and energy.

A crowd of well-wishers surrounded Mava and Carl. “Congratulations!” I leaned in and hugged Mava when I got the opportunity.

“Oh, Isabelle, I can’t thank you enough for all of your help today.” Mava beamed, gripping onto Carl’s hand. Carl glanced down and grinned before addressing another guest.

“You’re welcome.” I smiled.

“Dance with me!” Stefan grabbed my hand, interrupting our conversation.

Mava gave me a knowing look, raising her eyebrows slightly. She shooed me away. “Dance!”

I let Stefan pull me through the throngs and into the swarm of dancing couples and small children bouncing to the lively tune.

We danced through several songs before I said I needed to catch my breath. “I’ll get a drink.” I let go of his hand and traversed over to the table filled with pitchers, greeting friends along the way.

I poured a cup of cider and leaned against the table, watching Stefan get ambushed by his little twin sisters begging for a dance. He latched onto their hands, and they danced around in a circle. I laughed at the silliness, the joy on the twins’ faces infectious.

A man came up beside me and nodded his head in greeting. He had a prominent mustache and dark brown hair that fell slightly over his ears. His clothes seemed scuffed with dirt, but it wasn’t a farmer’s style of clothing. I guessed he’d been traveling. I didn’t recognize him. Maybe he was a guest of Carl or Mava?

“Nice party, isn’t it?” he spoke, a smile falling off his lips.

“Yes, it is,” I said.

I couldn’t explain it, but the man sent a shiver down my spine. I took a deep breath, trying to quell the feeling.

“I wondered if you might help me? This is my first night in town, and I was supposed to meet with the innkeeper about a room, but I’m afraid I don’t know who he is. Could you point him out to me?” He stuck his hands in his pockets and glanced around, looking unsure.

“Oh, you came with the caravan?” I asked.

He nodded.

I smiled. “I’d be glad to help. Follow me and we can search together.”

He smiled widely. “Thank you.”

I tried not to shudder. Get a grip on yourself, Isabelle, I thought, blinking slowly. He hasn’t done anything to warrant concern.

“All the shops close early on Gods Day. We like to spend time with friends and family,” I said conversationally.

“Naturally,” he agreed.

I peered through the crowd trying to find the innkeeper. The mustached man followed close behind as I walked through the dance floor.

“There.” I pointed with my left hand, as I carried the cup in my right. “That’s the innkeeper, sitting on that bench under the peach tree. He’s the one draining his cup.”

“Thank you, miss.” The man smiled and stuck out his left hand.

I shook it. As I moved to let go, he gripped harder, staring at the back of my hand. “You wear the Mark of the Gods.”





I wrenched my hand free. My juice splashed onto the ground. I cleared my throat and responded stiffly. “Yes, I was born with it.”

“Hey, Iz, come dance!” Stefan called to me.

“If you’ll excuse me.” I turned around and made a beeline for Stefan, happy for any excuse to be rid of the mustached man.

“What’s the matter?” Stefan asked, grabbing the cup from my hand. “You look troubled. Was it that man? Did he say something to you?”

“It’s nothing.” I tried to shrug it off. “He just noticed my birthmark, that’s all.”

Stefan grabbed my left hand and kissed the back of it, right over the birthmark shaped like the Mark of the Gods. It resembled a sun—fiery red, bright, and burning. The middle coiled in a circle with four large triangle points surrounding and four smaller ones in between them. It looked more like a brand than a birthmark, but I always liked to call it a birthmark since it literally appeared at birth. The same sign represented the Gods of Aberron, and I had spent my entire life trying to forget it even existed.

“Don’t be so self-conscious about it. It’s not like you put it there on purpose. It’s been there since birth,” he said, letting go.

I nodded, taking a deep breath, I bounced on the balls of my feet to fight off the shudders. “You’re right. It’s just I hate the way people react to it like I have some crazy magical power or something. Which we all know I don’t.”

No one had ever given me a straight answer when I questioned it. I had spent hours of my life staring at the birthmark, wondering why it was there, burned into my skin like a brand. The Mark of the Gods wasn’t exactly well received by others. I gazed at the back of my hand, lamenting the difficulty of hiding the birthmark.

Normally, the temple priests and priestesses wore the mark. Tattooed with black paint, they placed it on their upper arms, near their shoulders. The red mark on the back of my left hand reminded me of a beacon. It shone bright and open for everyone to see. I hated it.

Though it never did anything remotely out of the ordinary. It never glowed or tickled or burned. I didn’t think I had an ounce of magic in me. I figured something should have happened by now if I possessed any ability. Seventeen made me a young lady. I doubted I’d grow any more than my current height and had finally accepted that I was doomed to be short for eternity.

“Don’t worry about it, Iz,” Stefan said. “I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm. Everyone reacts that way when they first meet you.”

“Well, next time I’m going to wear gloves,” I said.

Stefan laughed. “And deny me the pleasure of holding your hand?”

I bit my lip and conceded. “Maybe.”

I spent the rest of the party trying to forget the man I helped, but every time I turned around, there he stood, staring at me like I was his idea of dinner plans. I didn’t have a clue of what to do about it until Stefan started to notice it as well.

“Come on; I’ll take you home,” he said.

I nodded in relief. “That sounds good. Let me just tell Adel.”

I found Adel chatting with a few ladies from town. Stefan and I said our goodbyes.

“I’ll be home soon, dear,” Adel said. “That is if I can find Nathan.” She peered through the crowd, pursing her lips.

“Good luck.” I laughed.

I glanced behind me and noticed the unsettling man again, watching my interactions with Adel. His eyes seemed to follow us wherever we went. I casually put my hand on Stefan’s shoulder and whispered a plan. We enlisted the help of several unruly boys and Stefan’s twin sisters. One of the boys pulled a toad out of his pocket, and they proceeded to chase the twins around the backyard, purposely knocking over the mustached man. Stefan and I quickly ran out of sight.

We strolled hand in hand toward home, chuckling over the spectacular display we had organized. The moon filled up the path with natural light. Stars twinkled like gems in the sky.

“Do you feel better now?” Stefan asked, pulling me closer.

“Much.” I squeezed his hand. “Thank you.”

“I hope that guy leaves tomorrow. I didn’t like the way he stared at you. It wasn’t natural,” Stefan said.

“Agreed.” I nodded vigorously.

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Do you ever wish your life were different? That you had never come here?” His tone sounded serious.

I responded with what I suspected he actually wanted to know, cutting straight to the heart of the issue. “Do I wish I had never watched my parents’ murders and that I lived with them in Korrun? All the time. But it doesn’t change the fact that it did happen, and my life changed irrevocably. I am grateful for Nathan and Adel taking me in and raising me as their own.”

“I see.” Stefan sounded slightly glum.

I leaned into his shoulder. “Don’t worry. I like it here. I don’t have plans to leave.” I grinned but doubted he could see it clearly in the moonlight. “I mean where else can I get a cute post boy to deliver packages to me and walk me home?”

Stefan chuckled. “True.” There was a little more bounce in his step after that.

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