Rising Heat Excerpt

Kadar’s voice pierced through Sadie’s concentration. “You need to leave this room.” She looked up, frowning at the interruption.

She sat cross-legged at her low dining table. She’d moved it under one of the latticed windows, where it currently masqueraded as a work desk. The better lighting allowed her to work longer hours as she wrote down everything she remembered about curses and their cures. Unfortunately, the depressingly thin pile of parchments stacked in front of her were a testament of how little she truly knew. It simply wasn’t enough.

“I’m not done yet,” she replied, going back to her notes, brooding about their content.

She had to find some way to lift the curse plaguing the prince of Zammar. But without her mother’s notes… She feared her abilities would not be enough. What if the cure drained her magical resources and endangered them both?

She made a face. Fretting about a possible failure would get her nowhere; she needed to concentrate on helping instead. Sadie once again ran through what she knew.

Jalen’s affliction—the Shifting Sands Curse—was slowly eating away at his mind, until only madness remained. Left behind, his body would waste away, unable to provide for even its basic needs. Ultimately, if nothing was done, he would die a violent, raving lunatic.

He had until now managed to hold on to his sanity, but it couldn’t last forever. She’d seen it before, the darkness swirling under his skin, swallowing the white of his eyes until only soulless black remained.

Sadie shuddered. She had to do something before it was too late.

“He worries about you,” Kadar continued, his expression unreadable.

“If so, he has a poor way of showing it,” Sadie snapped, unable to contain her exasperation any longer.

Almost two weeks. That’s how long it had been since the last time she had seen him. Since the night he had punished her for taking off his mask. Afterward, he had cast her aside. The word amongst his personal guards was that he had taken another into his bed.

She didn’t want it to, but knowing he’d replaced her stung.

Kadar’s pale eyes revealed nothing as he looked at her. Sadie thought he wouldn’t say any more, and so he surprised her when he spoke again. “A stroll in the garden would show him you are well.”

Sadie shook her head. She didn’t want to leave her notes. The answer was there. She just had to find it. “There are easier ways to determine whether I am fine or not. He could—perhaps—come here and ask me himself.”

Her sarcasm certainly wasn’t lost on the captain of Jalen’s guard, and he nodded his head slightly. “He won’t.”

“Why?”

It wasn’t the first time they discussed this topic, and as always, Kadar wouldn’t respond to her question. “That is not for me to say.”

Still, she heard disapproval in his voice. Kadar might not be saying so, but he didn’t approve of his prince’s actions. For all the good that did her.

“Did you tell him that I’m fine?” she said flippantly. “That he didn’t break me? My bruises faded days ago.” Some of the deeper scratch marks and cuts were still visible, but they no longer stung.

“Yes.”

Nonetheless, she admitted to some fear when he’d brought out the dagger, late in the night. She still sported a few shallow cuts from that particular hour of play. But in spite of it, she wasn’t afraid of him or disgusted by him.

She shivered and licked her lips as she remembered how mind-blowing the sex had been, but Kadar seemed to misunderstand her reaction.

“Are you afraid of him now?” he asked.

“No,” she answered at once.

“Yet you have been hiding in your room for the last week and a half.”

Sadie frowned. “I’m not hiding. I needed time—to think.”

Had she been hiding? She had to admit that, at first, she hadn’t wanted to show her bruises to the rest of the palace. She didn’t want to give the guards or the servants a reason to spread gossip about her and Jalen. But she hadn’t been hiding. Not really.

“Then, please. A stroll in the garden will do you good and will do much to put his highness’s mind at ease.”

She sighed, put down her quill, and stretched. A break would be nice, but she wanted to read her notes one more time. She was missing something! She just knew it. She shooed Kadar away. “Later. Give me a little more time”

“Very well,” he responded, his tone resigned. “When you are ready—today, Sadie—Taj or Na’im will lead you outside.”

He closed the door behind him as he left the room.