From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin comes the second book in the Aunare Chronicles.
Broken, beaten-down, and plagued by nightmares, Amihanna di Aetes is surrounded by the Aunare race that makes up the other half of her heritage, but she feels alien amongst them. She’s not sure which is worse: SpaceTech’s overt hatred of Aunare or the Aunare’s covert hatred of halfers. She hears their whispers whenever she enters a room and sees her death reflected in their eyes. Amihanna doesn’t know who to trust anymore, but she hasn’t survived this long by ignoring the warning signs all around her, especially when her instincts are screaming that a familiar choice is coming: flee or fight.
Her parents assure her everything is okay—that there won’t be any reason for her to fight, let alone flee—but with Amihanna’s sudden return, questions arise among the Aunare: who should be blamed for the start of a full-scale war with SpaceTech, how much danger will the war bring, and is Amihanna truly fit to be the next high queen?
Honestly, Amihanna wants to forget all the politics, her betrothal to Lorne, and the possibility of being queen. Her needs are much more basic. All she wants is a solid night’s sleep where she doesn’t wake up screaming with the phantom pain of her skin burning. All she needs is to live without fear of a mob tearing her away from her family. All she hopes for is a chance to dream of a future instead of constantly fighting for her right to live.
And yet, somehow, everything she does leads her back to Lorne. He always seems to know when she’s about to break under the pressures of her new life. His quiet patience is wearing Amihanna’s protective walls down, and she’s terrified of what will happen if they fall.
“Let’s get this one thing straight—I’m not breaking our betrothal contract.” He stalked back to me. “Not now. Not ever. If you want to break it, then we’ll discuss it. They’ve talked a lot about our contract on the news, so I’m sure you have it in your head that I’m planning on breaking it. But I’m not. I haven’t brought it up because you’ve been dealing with enough. I was giving you time, but I’d marry you tomorrow if I thought you’d agree.”
Tomorrow? I had zero clue before this moment that he was completely insane. He couldn’t marry me, especially not tomorrow. I couldn’t be queen.
“What if I want to break our betrothal?” I wasn’t sure I did, but I wasn’t sure I didn’t either.
He strode quickly to me, knelt in front of my chair. I hugged my legs tighter to my chest, but he grabbed my ankles. “Look at me.”
I looked everywhere but him.
“Look at me, please.” He squeezed my ankles and let go. “Please.”
I blew out a breath and rested my chin on my knees so that I could meet his gaze. It was hard to really look at him. Every time I did, I wanted him more and more, and I wasn’t sure how much more I could want him without becoming completely addicted. It took everything in me not to wrap my arms around his neck and pull him to me.
He let go of one ankle and cupped my cheek. “Do you want to marry me?” He was using his low voice, the one that set my skin on fire.
My skin was so bright and my stomach fluttered and flipped and I forced myself to choke down my first immediate response. The dumb one that wanted to slide past my lips effortlessly. I couldn’t answer his question because I didn’t trust myself to give him the right answer. The one that made sense.
All signs of anger melted away from him. His back straightened, he held his head high, his fao’ana stopped flashing, and his skin dimmed a little.
But it was his smile that told me he knew exactly what I’d been thinking.
“This is where being your shalshasa comes into play. I’m as sensitive to frequencies as you are, but even more attuned to yours. I can feel your frequencies as your moods shift. Your immediate answer was going to be yes before you got scared.” He rose just a little, cupping my face with both his hands, and all I could see were his aquamarine eyes.
The color I associated with calm and safety. The color I’d painted the walls in my room on Earth so that I could feel more at home. The color I wanted to get lost in forever.
He brushed a soft kiss on my lips. It was quick, too quick, and it left me wanting more.
“Until you can say no—honestly and without stress—I’m going to assume your answer is yes, and that you just need more time. I don’t want fear to be a part of your decision. Okay?”
He leaned in for another kiss, and I wanted. I wanted it more than anything. But I made myself lean back in the chair, pulling my face from his hands.
“I can’t do this.” The words were shaky, but I’d said them. I had to stop it before this went too far.
“Because…” There were too many reasons.
Because he needed a queen.
Because I didn’t want that much responsibility.
“Because you deserve someone not broken.” That wasn’t the one I meant to go with, but words slipping out of me seemed to be the theme for our little chat.
“You’re not broken. If anything, you’re confused. Which is totally understandable. You’ve been through a very rough thirteen years, and memories that would help you readjust to being home aren’t there. So, you need some time to heal. Which is what I’ve been giving you. I think you’d feel less fragile if you got a decent night’s sleep. If you ate more. If you took a moment to take care of yourself instead of spending twenty hours a day in the gym. Declan and his mission are going to kill you.”
3 signed copies of Off Balance, gift card, and more!
About the Author
Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural.
Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.
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