Sneak Peak: The Line of Allora
The Kingdom of Pacchia Book 4 Coming Soon!
It’s almost here, I’m hard at work finishing up Book 4 in this series and to give you guys a little hint at whats to come, here is the first chapter! We rejoin our omega king, Aubrey Allora, on the even of his long awaited wedding to Lord Riven!
Chapter One, The State of Affairs
The ceremony was much what one would expect from just such an event—that is, the wedding of the newly crowned High King of Pacchia to the Lord Dierik Riven. It was arranged to cater to tradition, ostentatious enough to please the more traditionalist members of the court, but not so overwhelming that it ran entirely counter to the King’s taste, which was rather muted compared to that of many in the peerage.
Aubrey had struggled to walk the line between what was expected and what he desired. If it had been entirely up to him, he would have preferred a small, private ceremony the week after his proposal to Lord Riven, overseen by the Lord Chamberlain, and witnessed by their families and the most loyal of his lords. But he was cognizant that that sort of ceremony was not the kind a king could afford to indulge in.
Every member of Pacchia’s peerage had to be invited to the event, lest some minor lord be forgotten and slighted. A banquet of truly grand proportions had to be prepared to feed all of those nobles coming to the court—a feast even grander than that which they had used to mark his coronation. Entertainment had to be arranged, musicians, dancers, comedians, and the like. And arrangements had to be made to open the gates of the castle to the common folk so that they too could mark the joyous occasion of their king’s wedding.
And of course, all of this had to be arranged while Pacchia was covered in a thick blanket of snow, which did little but slow down lines of communication and impede the work.
Aubrey often found his attention torn in several directions that winter as he weighed in on the wedding preparations and indulged in Lord Riven’s courtship—all while grappling to keep a hold on the political situation brewing amongst those lords and ladies who had chosen to winter at the court. Recent political upheaval with his father’s assassination was inevitable, but he could have done without the betrayal from Lord Bourn and his supporters.
Aubrey found himself in the unenviable position that winter of being simultaneously overwhelmed by happiness and frustration at the same time.
He was only grateful that his boon companion, the Honorable Winston Dupuis, and Lord Riven’s sister, Sir Elsa, had been deemed good enough to act as his and Dierik’s chaperones, and were themselves far too distracted by their own budding infatuation with one another to interfere much with Aubrey and Dierik’s meetings.
They may have stretched the lengths of propriety with their frequent meetings in private, their attempts to meet daily for lunch, tea or dinner, and their habit of curling up in the royal family’s private library without anyone there to censure their behavior. But Aubrey figured there was only so much they could be condemned for considering their engagement had been consummated in the passion of his first heat. In effect, they had already blown the lid off of propriety with their actions. He didn’t see how their relationship could possibly be even more scandalous than it already was.
Despite that, Aubrey had acquiesced to a confinement the week leading up to the wedding ceremony. Tradition demanded that neither party could see or interact with one another for the seven days preceding the joining ceremony. He felt adrift, being thus separated from his heart, but he had plenty of bureaucratic work to bury himself under to keep his mind occupied on something other than wondering what Dierik was up to.
His confinement was made a little easier by Winston’s company.
“Have you spoken to Sir Elsa?” Aubrey asked on the last day.
“Spoken? Of course. We were both there to greet her arrival, if you would recall.”
“Well, yes, of course there was that. But I meant privately. Have you had the chance to discuss with her what we talked about?”
He referred to Winston’s feelings for Sir Riven. Strictly speaking, it was improper for a beta such as the Hon. Winston to engage in any sort of relationship with an alpha, but Aubrey did not believe in denying the happiness of a man whom he considered a brother, especially when separation from Sir Riven had done nothing but make Winston so damnably miserable.
While Dierik had spent the summer courting him, in the background Aubrey had watched his friend moon after Dierik’s younger alpha sister. Afraid of what popular opinion would be if their relationship got out, Sir Elsa had left the court to handle affairs at the Riven estate up north.
Distance had done little to dull Winston’s obvious feelings for her.
Aubrey sympathized with Lord and Sir Riven’s fears that their house carry on. The two siblings were the sole survivors of a terrible fire, which had killed the rest of their family many years ago. Overnight, an eighteen year old Dierik Riven had gained exclusive custody of the Riven estate and his little sister. Now that he was marrying the High King of Pacchia, he would be expected to renounce his control of the title Lord Riven and pass it on to Elsa, and with it, responsibility to carry on the Riven name.
A female alpha couldn’t do that, however, if she mated a male beta. If Winston had been a female beta or an omega, no one would have even blinked an eye at their relationship. But an alpha and a male beta, a non-breeding pair, was considered unnatural by many. Something that may be indulged in a passionate youth, but not carried with them into adulthood.
It had been Aubrey’s idea to carry a second child himself with the express purpose of naming said child Sir Elsa’s heir. The whole idea wasn’t unheard of, there were examples of Lords naming their nieces or nephews their heirs, but it had never been done by the High King, whose heirs were expensive commodities.
Thus far, Aubrey had only discussed the proposal with Dierik and Winston. If he had his way, the court would never learn of the details. For now it was still only an idea. A promise made by him to Winston. But it all depended on Sir Elsa reciprocating the depth of Winston’s feelings. And Aubrey carrying his own heir to term first.
His own heir, he thought, a child who did not even exist yet and he already had such elaborate plans for the second one. He felt a little mercenary planning his life like this, but he supposed it was only practical. And a king had to be practical with so many lives resting on his shoulders.
The Honorable Winston Dupuis snorted and shook his head at Aubrey’s question. He wouldn’t quite meet his eyes, either because he was ashamed of his own cowardice or afraid of Aubrey’s censure, Aubrey couldn’t be sure, but in either case, he wished Winston wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about the subject.
Aubrey had made his offer to provide his friend with a biologically Riven heir in earnest. He had meant every word when he called Winston his brother—as though he had been birthed by Aubrey’s own bearer.
“Dierik assured me that he would bring the matter up to Sir Elsa at the soonest appropriate moment. They’ve had well over a week now, I’m sure he’s mentioned it to her. All that remains is for you to—”
Winston gave him a droll look from where he was sprawled next to the fire. “Do you not have enough to worry about without meddling in my private affairs?”
“Ungrateful wretch,” Aubrey teased, wrinkling his nose.
“Hardly,” Winston argued, sitting up and gesturing to the chair across from his. “You’re wearing a hole in the floor with all your pacing. Sit. I know this must be torture for you, but the wait is almost over.”
“Yes,” Aubrey agreed and made himself sit.
“I’m sorry if you feel that I’m being difficult about everything,” Winston said after a long moment. “I don’t want you to believe that I am ungrateful. Far from it. But things are not as simple between myself and Sir Riven as they are between yourself and the Lord Riven.”
Aubrey made a small, disbelieving noise in the back of his throat. “I’m not sure I would describe things as simple. It hasn’t exactly been easy for Dierik and I, you know.”
“Perhaps not, but at least you can be assured of his feelings for you.”
“Do you doubt Sir Elsa that much?” he asked, glancing at his friend in disbelief.
Winston sighed. “Forgive me, my lord, but you were not privy to our last parting. It was less than pleasant. Nor reassuring. If fear for the state of my heart and Sir Riven’s reciprocation makes me a coward in your eyes, then I will have to accept that in this I am a coward and beg your forgiveness.”
“You are right,” Aubrey said, leaning forward to grasp his friend’s hand between his own and give it a gentle squeeze. “I only have an outsider’s perspective on the matter. And my own observations of Sir Elsa’s behavior towards your person are all I can use to draw my conclusions. But I would hope that my certainty about this matter might give your courage, even if you are a coward. And don’t think that I sit here in judgement of you. I was not always certain of Dierik’s regard for me. I hoped for it. I wanted to believe, but there was a time when my entire world felt uncertain. So I do understand.”
The Hon. Winston gave him a small, lopsided smile.
“If I seem pushy,” Aubrey continued, “it’s only because I want you to be as happy and settled as I. And because I’m more than a little nervous, to be honest.”
“That some terrible calamity will befall us before we are wed. My father’s death hangs over everything like a specter. It’s easier to make plans for your happiness than wait with tenterhooks to fulfill my own. I’m being ridiculous, aren’t I?”
Winston shrugged. “Perhaps. I wouldn’t let it trouble you. Even if calamity were to befall the ceremony, I would be sorely sorry for calamity. It would have to face the wrath of your intended. He’s rather the imposing figure.”
Aubrey laughed at the light tone in his friend’s voice, but he could not help going to bed early that night with knots in his stomach. The morning could not come soon enough.