Fractured Core (Untold Tales #6) by Laura Greenwood
She's determined to regain her throne, no matter what it takes.
Lucia wasn't raised to be a warrior, but it might be the only way to get her kingdom back from the sister-in-law who stole it. When a foreign prince turns up claiming he's going to marry her, and the assassination attempts from the queen increase in number, Lucia has to face that regaining her crown won't be as easy as she wanted it to be.
Fractured Core is part of the Untold Tales series of fantasy retold fairy tales and is based on Snow White.
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The walk between the range and the cabin is only short. Though I no longer used it to sleep in, we still put the building to good use as a command centre of sorts. Now, I camped with the rest of the resistance in the clearing nearby. I worried about what would happen if Katya discovered where we were camping. Would she send her guards in one evening to slaughter us all?
More importantly, would the guards go through with it? I wasn't so convinced.
I shook my head, ridding myself of those kinds of thoughts. It wouldn't do me any good to keep stressing about things that I couldn't control. We had scouts posted, they'd warn us if anyone was about to attack.
Smoke rose from the chimney of the cottage. I rubbed my hands together at the thought of the warmth I was going to find within. There were plenty of fires around the camp, but I never felt truly warm. Hopefully, things would be different when summer came.
I pushed open the door, anxious to get inside and find out who it was that wanted to see me. I didn't get many visitors specifically for me. Most just wanted to know what they were supposed to do to be a part of the resistance against Katya.
The warm air hit me the moment I stepped inside and I almost sagged with relief. Whoever this person was, they'd come at the right time. I needed the time away from everyone else.
"Hello?" I called out.
The man hunched over the table jumped, almost spilling his tea.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." I flashed him my best princess smile, one I'd perfected during my early court life.
"Do you know when the princess is arriving?" the man asked, nerves flitting through his eyes.
I could tell from the way he'd pronounced his words that he was of high birth, but that didn't reveal much. The numbers of nobles I'd had turning up here were minimal. They were more likely to send a case of coins with a servant when they wanted to support us.
"She's here," I said in a flat tone. Did I really look so bad that he didn't think I was the princess? Maybe I should start going around with a crown on my head.
"Will you send her in?"
"Are you in a rush?" I snapped.
The man chuckled. "No, but I don't want to sit around chatting with a maid."
I laughed loudly. "You'll find I'm not a maid. I'm Lucia."
His mouth fell open. I ignored him and dropped my sheath of arrows to the floor by the door. I went over to the kettle and poured myself a cup of tea before finally sitting down opposite him at the table.
"Who are you?" I looked straight into him, trying to get the measure of the man without completely revealing what I was doing. No doubt he got the message though. It wasn't a tricky one to master.
My eyebrows raised without me intending them to. The prince bit explained a lot, though not what he was doing here.
"We don't get many princes here," I observed. I took a sip of my tea, enjoying the warmth. "How did you find us?" That was somewhat concerning. I didn't want just anyone walking into our camp unannounced, it could end up with us in a sticky situation.
"I was given this." He laid a map down onto the table, apparently over his disbelief that I was the princess. Or he just accepted that I was his lot and he wasn't going to be able to talk to anyone else.
I unfolded the map but couldn't see any markings on it. "There's nothing there."
"There is. It's right here." He pointed to a clearing on the map.
I shook my head, but didn't say anything. He could see something, I couldn't. I had to assume that it was magic. Hopefully, whoever had cast this spell had made it so that only he could see the markings on it.
Just to be sure, I rose to my feet and grabbed the map, walking it a few swift paces over to the fire and dropping it in.
"What did you do that for?" Jonathan asked, horror clear in his voice.
"We can't keep something with our location on hanging around," I pointed out. "Who gave it to you?"
"A man at the palace. I think he was a huntsman..."
Gideon? That made no sense, he was Katya's friend, why would he help a prince make his way here?
"Are you sure?"
"That a huntsman helped me escape the palace? Yes. He switched clothes and horses with me and gave me the hawk that's outside."
Wait, did he say hawk? If Gideon had sent a prince to me, had he also sent my beloved Sapphire to me? That still didn't make much sense, but I wasn't one to not take a gift like this when it was offered.
"Are you seeking passage back to your kingdom?" I asked.
The prince shook his head. "I went to the palace to ask Princess Lucia, er, you, to marry me."
"And you thought I'd just say yes, just like that?" I put my hands on my hips. He wasn't doing a very good job of convincing me that I would want to be married to him.
"I...argh, I'm making a mess of this, aren't I?" he asked.
"Yes." I had no time to mollycoddle a prince who didn't understand that women didn't want to be told who they had to marry. "If you're not going to go back to your kingdom, you can see the steward and he'll give you instructions on where to pitch your tent and what your duties are."
I turned to leave, done with this meeting.
"Where are you going?" he asked, his chair scraping back loudly.
I winced. How could he be so uncouth? I thought he was a prince. Shouldn't he have better manners?
"I have things to do. So do you." With that, I closed the door behind me and let him stew in his annoyance.
He deserved it. I'd worked hard to become the person I was today instead of the princess I used to be, I wasn't going to let some prince ruin that for me.
Untold Tales (Fantasy Fairy Tale Retellings)
Laura is a USA Today Bestselling Author of paranormal, fantasy, and urban fantasy romance (though she can occasionally be found writing contemporary romance). When she's not writing, she drinks a lot of tea, tries to resist French macarons, and works towards a diploma in Egyptology. She lives in the UK, where most of her books are set.
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