The Pale Waters begins the four-volume epic journey of Rahda and Roland in a heart-pounding blend of romance, fantasy, science fiction, and adventure, perfect for fans of Kushiel's Dart, Cruel Beauty, Graceling, Sea of Shadows, and Beauty and the Beast retellings.
Summoned by Izkirka's mysterious ruler, class-zero citizen Rahda clashes with Prince Roland Rexus in a battle of lies, secrets, and seduction. She's been sent to kill him, he knows it, and, strangely enough, he does nothing to actively stop her.
But once she's in the presence of the man who everyone calls a dark prince, everything begins to unravel. The disfigured prince has his own reasons for summoning the woman meant to kill him; reasons that will alter Rahda's perception of the world around her.
Within a matter of days, she's thrust into an unfamiliar society with an untrustworthy prince, and becomes involved in a war she never knew existed.
Rahda's no longer sure where she fits in when she uncovers the truth about Roland, and about herself.
The Pale Waters, the first novella in the Reclaimed Souls Series, will have readers asking themselves, "Who Owns Your Soul?"
Kelly Washington has appeared in two volumes of Fiction River and one volume of Fiction River Presents. In addition to her story in Recycled Pulp, which brings me to tears every time I read it, I asked her to include The Pale Waters, the first novella in a four-part series. It's an epic journey and the perfect way to escape into another realm for a while. – Allyson Longueira
"This is a briskly paced story with an intriguing protagonist who is on a dangerous mission, set in the city of Izkirka—a mysterious world whose politics appear to be tenuous. Rahda spends this volume discovering some truths about the disfigured prince… and about herself… Definitely sets the table for the next story!"– Ron Collins, Amazon Bestselling Author
The room smells seductively warm and spicy, a combination of the heady, wood-burning fireplace, as well as a faint scent of cinnamon. Beneath my feet is a hardwood floor, that, with each step, the planks creak. There's no sneaking up on anyone in this room.
Soft, operatic music plays from somewhere to my right.
The walls are heavily curtained with brown drapes and, on the non-window walls, covered with framed portraits that depict multiple hunting scenes. A mahogany desk is in the farthest, back corner, and behind it is a massive bookshelf full of its namesake, the leathered spines facing out.
Not just a regular library: a masculine library.
This is the prince's domain.
The closer I get to the chairs in front of the hearth, the darker the room becomes, even with the fire. I'm not sure if it's a trick of the eye or if it's a personal perception of foreboding, like I'm walking into a trap.
Ahead of me something moves and I realize the right chair is occupied.
I stop walking. My chest constricts and my breathing becomes incredibly shallow.
"Hello Rahda," a baritone voice says. Long fingers play on a delicate armrest, perhaps keeping melody with the music. "Thank you for coming this evening. I know it is late and that all of this must seem strange to you, but," he adds, pausing as his hand gestures to the empty chair. "I hope you will sit with me for a while."
His words, combined with the fireplace, my erratic heartbeat, and a lack of oxygen, consumes me. Instantly, the room feels too warm, and the scent of cinnamon too strong.
Yes, I think. This does seem strange. Strangely wonderful.
The previous missions Avos sent me on have never had this particular affect on me.
Just this one.
Because it is Roland Rexus. However difficult it will be, this doesn't mean I won't do what Avos sent me to do.
I take the seat across from him, but even from this vantage point, he is swathed in shadows. Why does he hide? It has been many years since I've seen him, but I clearly remember him, his youthful, handsome face, those piercing green eyes, his beautiful, engaging smile.
Only now he is twelve years older.
Coming here tonight, I knew I would recognize him, but that doesn't mean he will remember me. I was but thirteen at the time and no doubt looked different from what I do now.
"Prince Rexus, I came as soon as I could," I say. "The storm delayed me."
Dear Goddess, I'm sitting near Roland Rexus and all I can say is, "The storm delayed me"?
A small laugh comes from his dark corner. He crosses his legs. His trousers and boots are dark brown, and while I can't tell what color his shirt is due to the shadows, I can tell its dark. Black or brown. He seems to prefer dark clothing.
"It took some doing considering the summons went out a year ago."
My mind races. A year? No, that's not possible.
"Prince Rexus, I received your note only a few days ago. There must be some mistake."
"A mistake? Yes, but I wonder whose mistake it could be, Rahda."
He speaks as if he knows who made the mistake but he wants me to figure it out. My ears perk up. Instantly, I want to challenge him.
He leans forward and hands me a wine glass half filled with dark, red liquid.
I glimpse the edge of his jaw; the firelight bounces off him for the briefest second.
I expect smooth skin, a handsome chin, a full mouth. Like how I remembered it from my youth, when I first fell in love with him.
Instead, his square, masculine jaw is puckered, pink, and scarred.
He moves back into the shadows before I can discover more.
Suddenly, a lot of things make sense.
I'm here because of those scars.