For those of you familiar with my little House of Veadra series, this is a side-story that fits in between Juliana's story and Astra's. There are a few spoilers, but nothing that you shouldn't have seen coming.
For those of you not familiar, this is just a little fantasy/royalty series that helps take my mind off the Ashwood-induced mental blocks. You can read the side-stories as stand-alones or, if requested, I can put up links to the main stories.
Don't worry... there's more of Duke and Viola coming very soon!
(Post-The Fall of the House of Veadra and mid-Triumph of the House of Veadra)
Astra loved her garden. It wasn’t a very large plot of land, just a few square feet tucked away from palace tourists and visiting nobility. She’d argued for hours with Pierre, the head gardener, until Zed had reminded her that it was her property. Pierre had finally stopped complaining about the loss of land, but he drew the line at lending her any tools or seeds. The wild flowers and herbs she grew couldn’t match the splendor or fragrance of Pierre’s carefully tended gardens, but it was a place she could relax and… ground herself… so to speak. She needed an outlet for the influx of magic that followed Lissy’s death and to work out the frustrations that came with being queen.
She was understandably annoyed when a pair of polished black boots trod carelessly over her blooming tiger pansies one sunny summer afternoon. She balled her fists, prepared to give the intruder a very large, very angry piece of her mind until she heard a heart-stoppingly familiar click. Her blood froze.
Hands clasped to hide their trembling, she sat back on her heels and straightened her shoulders. “How did you get past the guards?”
“I slit their throats.”
She blinked, swallowed back a wave of grief. There would be time later to mourn their passing. “If they don’t report in every fifteen minutes an alarm is sounded.”
“I won’t need that long, Majesty.” The would-be assassin’s voice dripped with disdain. Flat black eyes studied the slender young woman at his mercy. It was a pity he didn’t have time to fully enjoy their time together. His lips curved upwards in a sinister sneer. Finally, the House of Veadra would fall for good.
Before his finger could squeeze the trigger, she wrapped her hand around the trowel and drove the pointed tip into the side of his knee. While he grabbed his injured knee, she wrestled the gun from his grip. With in a matter of seconds, their positions had been reversed. She kept the gun trained on a spot between his eyes; her hand didn’t shake.
“You should probably have remembered just which daughter of Veadra I am,” she observed dryly. “Being a princess wasn’t all etiquette lessons and fancy balls.”
Guards poured out of the palace and into her garden. She winced as they trampled her precious plants. So much for a fresh bouquet of wild flowers on the table for her dinner with the Grand Duke of Olysia. Norris, her head bodyguard, slipped the gun from her fingers.
“We’ll take him from here, Your Majesty.”
“Lewis and Morris, they were on duty at the door, he said he killed them.”
“Yes ma’am. Their bodies are being taken to the morgue. As soon as we’ve moved this scum to the dungeon, I will inform their families.”
Astra shook her head. “I’ll do it.”
“Az!” Zed, panting and red-faced, pushed past the throng of guards and wrapped his tree-trunk arms around her waist. Sharp eyes quickly scanned her for injuries. “What happened?”
“Security breach. Attempted assassination.” Astra shrugged a shoulder. “Total decimation of my pansies.”
“Oh, Az,” he breathed. He’d never met anyone, royalty or not, who had so little disregard for their own safety. He loved her desperately, but he was glad she was Norris’ headache most of the day. He much preferred heading the Avedran Royal Army. At least he could count on soldiers to follow orders. Despite her time in the military, it had never been Astra’s strong point.
“I’m going to visit the bodies of Lewis and Morris in the morgue, and then I am going to call on their families. They died in my service; they deserve nothing less than the utmost respect.” She glared at both men fiercely, daring them to argue. They wisely kept quiet.
“Would you like me to go with you, sweetheart?” He was loathe to let her out of his sight, but Zed knew that Astra preferred to grieve in solitude.
“No. I’ve got this.” She glanced over at the assassin and the wooden handle sticking out of his leg. She winced. Pierre had grudgingly given her the tool, and there was no way she was going to use it again. “I am going to need a new trowel, though. Do you think you could ask Pierre for one? Pretty please?”