Mundie Moms

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

ROYAL DECOY by Heather Frost | Blog Tour: Chapter Reveal #RoyalDecoy

Welcome to today's ROYAL DECOY blog tour stop! Today we're thrilled to give you an exclusive first look at Chapter 1 in Heather's newest book. First, here's a little bit about the book:

A SERVANT blackmailed into becoming a princess’s decoy.
A BODYGUARD determined to keep her alive.

A PRINCE forced to execute his father’s brutal laws.
A PRISONER used to keep him compliant.

A WORLD on the brink of war.

In one horrible night, Clare goes from kitchen maid to royal decoy. She has three months to become the princess's perfect double so she can ensure her betrothal to an enemy prince. Desperate to survive, Clare throws herself into self-defense training, taught by her distractingly attractive bodyguard. The danger increases when a ruthless assassin begins stalking her, intent on ending the tenuous peace.

Across the northern mountains, Prince Grayson is his father’s ultimate weapon. He carries out the king’s harsh orders because the one person he cares about is his father’s prisoner. Grayson's silent obedience is tested when his father plans to exploit the marriage alliance between two of their greatest enemies. If Grayson submits, the blood of thousands will spill. If he resists, the girl who means everything to him will die.

The fate of Eyrinthia hangs in the balance. Some want peace. Some want war. All will be thrown into chaos.

Exclusive: Chapter 1 of Royal Decoy

Clare called a farewell as she left the castle kitchen, a fire still dying within the scorched hearth. Cook Towdy gave his usual grunt, hunched over the thick wooden counter, his apron dusted with flour. He didn’t look up from tomorrow’s menu as he made final adjustments. Clare was the last maid to leave; even after working under Towdy for ten years, she still felt like that eight-year-old girl with too much to prove. 
The heat of the castle ovens clung to Clare’s skin as she entered the deserted corridor and stretched her tired arms. Errant strands of brown hair brushed her cheeks, her long braid swinging against her back. Her aching feet didn’t relish the long walk to Lower Iden, but she was anxious to see her brothers.
Silence reigned in the servant’s passage this time of night, the quiet scuff of her worn boots the only sound aside from the guttering torches. Flames leapt in the evenly spaced iron sconces, forcing the shadows to dance back, forever a servant to the light.
Clare knew how the shadows felt.
Somewhere down the hall a door slammed open, wood thudding against stone. Clare’s head jerked up, though she couldn’t see anything around the hallway’s bend. Rapid footsteps clipped against the floor and a male voice drifted around the corner, his tone wry. “Perhaps you want to slow down.”
“No.” The woman’s deep voice was sharp with annoyance. “If you’ll recall, I wanted a private walk in the gardens. That means without you, Bennick.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t accommodate, Princess.”
Clare froze, stomach dropping. Princess? Fates, kitchen maids weren’t supposed to be seen—especially not by the royal family. She fell back a step, eyes darting to the nearest door. She grasped the cold handle, but it caught.
Clare pressed her back against the closed portal, cheeks burning as she ducked her head. Her palms skated over her stained apron and she hooked loose curls behind her ears before her hands fell, fingers twitching at her sides.
When the princess and her three bodyguards stepped into view, the princess’s cutting gaze caught Clare in an instant. 
Even with a scowl, Princess Serene was beautiful. Sheathed in a dark purple gown that brushed the floor, she walked with regal grace, her chin lifted. Her dark brown hair was twisted into a braided bun at the back of her head with loose curls styled artfully around her face. The nineteen-year-old princess was half-Zennorian, her skin a rich and beautiful brown. It was a shade darker than Clare’s, but their deep blue Devendran eyes were nearly an exact match.
The princess was well-loved in Devendra for her charitable work, but everyone in the castle knew of her legendary arguments with her father. Even tonight the kitchen had buzzed with talk from the servers who claimed Serene had stormed out of dinner while the king yelled after her. Gossip had been so consumed with the dramatic scene that no one had even mentioned the Mortisian emissaries who had been the focus of rumor since they’d arrived at the castle a month ago. They’d been sent by Serjah Desfan Cassian, who currently served as regent since his father, the serjan, was reportedly ill. A chill raced over Clare’s arms whenever she thought about the Mortisians living in the castle, and she knew she wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with their presence. Rumor had it Serene herself was quite upset about it. 
Seeing the princess for the first time, Clare could easily imagine her being upset with all four kingdoms of Eyrinthia. Her frown was severe, her eyes hooded, and her steps deliberate as she stalked forward. Her bodyguards only added to the intensity of the moment. Two walked in front of the princess and a third was behind her. 
The bodyguard in the lead noticed Clare first, his long strides continuing easily even as his sharp gaze assessed her. His spine was stiff, his brown hair brushing the collar of his dark blue uniform. He looked to be about thirty and had a thin scar slicing over his right cheek.
The bodyguard behind him was easily twice as wide as anyone Clare had ever seen, and he stood head and shoulders above the two other guards. As if the man’s hulking stature wasn’t distinctive enough, a dozen or more pox scars dug across his rugged face. He was probably in his late forties and everything about him was hard, from the stern cut of his mouth to the steel-gray hairs at his temples.
The third and youngest guard strode behind the princess. He was probably about the same age as the princess he guarded, which meant he must be highly skilled. Broad shoulders strained against his fitted uniform while his hands hung relaxed near the hilts of his sheathed weapons. There was controlled power in his gait, a surety and confidence in each step. Torchlight flickered on his golden skin and caught the sand-colored hair curling over his brow. Stubble lined his angular jaw and his strong nose was slightly bent, as if it had been broken once. When his crystal-blue eyes found Clare, she was surprised to see warmth there. The corner of his mouth lifted, curving his lips into a half-smile.
She was staring.