The Stoneheart Bride – The Dead Lands Read Online Kati Wilde

Categories Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi, Novella, Paranormal Tags Authors:
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Total pages in book: 13
Estimated words: 11696 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 58(@200wpm)___ 47(@250wpm)___ 39(@300wpm)
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Flora doesn’t know which is worse: being abducted by ogres who intend to eat her, or being saved by the barbarian warrior who’d coldly rejected her hand in marriage. Brom the Stonehearted had crushed Flora’s every hope of a future where she was valued for herself, and dreams of a life where she was more than her uncle’s political pawn.

But as they ride toward home, Flora discovers that a warrior raised in the barren wilds of the Dead Lands recognizes value far beyond power and gold—and that his particular kind of courtship could never be cold…

This short fantasy romance is part of the Dead Lands series but completely stands alone. The audiobook will soon be available on the Read Me Romance podcast.

*************FULL BOOK START HERE*************

1

Five days ago, when Brom the Stonehearted had rejected Flora’s hand in marriage, the agony that had ripped through her chest made her wonder if a broken heart was truly shredded from within. But five days ago, Flora hadn’t guessed that she would soon know the answer.

Well, she wouldn’t know it, because she would be dead. But the two ogres who’d abducted Flora would see whether her heart was literally a broken mess when they tore her body apart and devoured her flesh.

Which would likely happen as soon as they finished arguing over who got the juiciest bits.

“I claim her plump haunch,” one of the hideous giants declared, while smacking his slimy lips and tossing an armload of fallen boughs onto their fire.

The other scoffed as he used his monstrous stone axe to hack at the tree limb that would become Flora’s roasting spit. “What of it? She has two haunches. I’ll take the second.”

“Have you forgotten our purpose, fool?” the first ogre spat through jagged teeth. “Upon the left haunch is the birthmark that will prove who she was to those who find the remains.”

“Then leave her head and the ring with the royal crest. They will know the jewel and her face.”

“Our orders are to also leave the marked haunch.”

“We might say that we did leave it, but that an animal of the forest must have carried it off,” said the second ogre with a sly, wet grin.

Lying on her side at the edge of the small clearing, Flora tried not to listen. Truly she did. She was already terrified, and further panic wouldn’t help her escape during the short time that the ogres were preoccupied with building the fire. The horror of the day had already taken its toll—first when the guards in her hunting party had been slaughtered, then when she’d been bound, gagged, and tossed over the back of her horse, followed by endless hours of travel to the border of her uncle’s kingdom. If she gave into fear now, she’d never free herself from the ropes binding her hands and feet.

Yet until Flora heard the ogres speaking, she’d thought they’d only taken her along as a snack. She hadn’t realized they had a more heinous purpose.

They meant to start a war. And their actions today would start it. When Flora’s uncle discovered her remains, and with the full support of the kingdom, he’d march his army into the mountainous territory held by the ogre overlord…where her uncle might eventually be victorious, but not before thousands of his soldiers were killed in those battles.

Flora could not let her life be the cause of so much death.

Steely resolve steadied her trembling fingers, and Flora blindly searched the ground behind her bound hands for a sharp stone or a pointed stick—anything that she might use to free herself.

Nothing but dirt and leaves.

Panic began to take hold again when the ogres finished their preparations at the roasting fire. Flora’s heart stuttered as they turned in her direction. Their greedy eyes roamed hungrily over her nude form, and terror wormed through her muscles like a parasite, leeching her strength—but not her resolve. Frantically she squirmed backward through the dirt, not giving up even as the brutes laughed at her futile attempts to get away.

“Even if your feet were free, human, you could never outrun us.” The first ogre started toward her, unsheathing the blade that, earlier in the day, had butchered Flora’s guards. “But fear will season your meat, so a chase would make our feast all the more deli—”

Abruptly he stopped—mid-word, mid-step, mid-thunk—though Flora in her desperation to escape hardly knew whence that heavy, fleshy thunk had come.

That is, until the ogre collapsed onto the ground with an axe protruding from the back of his skull.

Shock held her immobile for the briefest moment. Had the second ogre betrayed the first, so that he could gorge on her meat without sharing even a haunch? But when her eyes darted to him, the ogre still standing did not look to Flora at all. Instead he held his giant axe at ready as his foul gaze searched the utter dark of the nighttime forest.


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