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Kissed by Songs of Lilies by E.V. Everest.png

Kissed by Songs of Lilies

A Frog Prince Retelling

By E.V. Everest

Never bargain with a frog.

There was a chill in the salt air the morning my sister was taken. All they left was a single golden shell in her bed. The fae had claimed another bride.

Now, careless on champagne, I've met one myself. By night, an intoxicating gentleman with piercing green eyes. By day, a slimy, conniving frog.

When I drop my precious golden shell, the one that contains the faraway echo of my sister's voice, he offers to retrieve it...for a price.

By his law, we are betrothed. To break a bargain is to die, so I will cross the cursed waters with him and go to their hidden isle. But this won't be a one-way trip. It won't be so easy to claim the heart of this princess.

Kissed by Songs of Lilies is one of ten books in the Enemies Ever After series, a collection of standalone short novels featuring enemies-to-lovers fairy tale retellings with a touch of steam.

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NOVA

Steel sliding free of a scabbard rings out in the night and Van's hand snags the back of my jacket, pulling me closer to him. A figure materializes out of the darkness, as if slipping out of shadow. Laying in wait, ready to ambush us as we strolled along. Using the darker spots as camouflage. 

"Stay close," whispers Van. 

I give him a simple nod. I'll do the best I can, but I'm not afraid to fight. Gran taught me all she could growing up, with muttered predictions that someday I'd thank her for the preparation. Some days I'd find her, brows drawn close, a scowl on her face as she watched something I couldn't see out the front window of our home. It'd be a while before she would shake free from the gloom, but it always led to her teaching me some new way to avoid being at another's mercy. 

"Fast is best," she'd say, directing my steps in the dirt as if it was a complicated dance. "If you aren't staying in one place, it's harder for them to snare ya."

So while I let Van lead, I was gliding from one side to the next as he moved. I kept my eyes open for any darker pieces of the night that seemed to not belong, and my vigilance paid off when one shifted, trying to block my way. I side-stepped easily, the blade of the dagger in my hand catching the moonlight as I struck out. The sound of pain was my reward. 

Energy filled me in a rush and I caught the look of surprise on Van's face as he watched me over his shoulder. I expected to see it turn into disgust, but instead, it shifted into something akin to acceptance, and then we were running together, more partners now than before. We didn't speak or even glance at each other. We just moved as if the dance Gran had taught me was known to both of us and we kept the attackers from gaining any headway. I truly believed they wouldn't be able to breach our defenses. The only troubling thing was, I couldn't see how many there were. And I had no idea where we were running to. 

"Trust." The whispered word in my mind was definitely Gran's voice. "Trust is rare, but more valuable than anything else we can give someone. Part with it sparingly."

As we moved in tandem, cutting through gaps in trees, using the cover of scrub to give us an edge or a moment to catch our breath, I realized that along the way, I'd begun to trust Van. And right now, he trusted me. 

We made it to a clearing, but Van skidded to a stop. His arm wrapped around my middle as my momentum almost carried me past him, pulling me in close to his chest. 

"Back-to-back," he whispered, and as he did, I registered the number of dark shapes surrounding us. 

I did as he asked without complaint or query. Dragging in slow, deep breaths, I willed my heart to slow its galloping pace. Whatever was coming, I needed to be ready. My fingers flexed and I wiped my hand down the side of my right thigh. Blood was making the knife handle slippery and I didn't want to lose my grip when the real attack came. We'd been herded to this point. That much was clear as I took stock of things. Someone had planned this well. Which also meant someone knew we'd be coming and what route we'd likely take. 

Calming myself, I pushed away the fears threatening to voice themselves in my mind, instead focusing on the minute details around me. The way Van's muscles bunched against mine as he waited, the way he favored his left side more than he had before. The way some of those hemming us in moved lightly, their steps barely disturbing the night. And the way some of our enemies were heavier, less agile, their every movement telegraphed by a metallic sound. 

One of the group stepped closer, the moonlight from above glinting on armor. A cragged, bearded face appeared, marked by a scar that ran from the corner of his lip up the left side of his face. It pulled tight when he opened his mouth to speak, and I had to wonder if it pained him with every word. 

"The fight is done, Prince. Give her to us and you'll be free to go. You wouldn’t want the lady to hear your screams as we cut you down, would you?"

Worry tightened its grip around my stomach. I may be traveling with Van because of the debt I owed, but that didn't mean I wanted to give myself into the hands of this new man. In fact, I was sure if I did, something very bad would likely happen to me. At least Van had promised not to harm me. I suspected I wouldn't get that same offer from the soldier. 

I stiffened, my mouth gone suddenly dry and a nervous tremor starting in my muscles as I prepared to fight my way free. Alone. Van's voice stopped me. 

"And leave a woman alone with you and your crew? Not even the most craven of bastards would do that to a poor girl. Haven't you heard, I'm the most charming prince of them all. I'd hate to lose the right to that title over a simple skirmish I know I can win." He laughed, but it wasn't the laugh I'd enjoyed over the campfire the last few nights. This was rougher, meaner. More a warning. I waited, coiled and ready to spring as certainty settled over me. Van wasn't going to abandon me. “I’ve been called many names before, but dishonorable isn’t one of them. If you’re afraid to fight me, you should just admit it and walk away. I won’t think any less of you if you do.”

The big man shrugged. "Suit yourself." Then he lunged. 

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