Elemental Trials Book 1
by Ronelle Antoinette
Genre: Fantasy Romance
They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but In Egalion’s Imperial court, you can't tell one from the other...especially when they change at the flip of a coin. Behind the luxury and splendor lies a realm of treachery where cloak-and-dagger political maneuvering threatens to destroy the peace of two thousand years.
Twenty-five-year-old Battlemage Jex Xander has a mouth that frequently gets him into trouble, while in contrast, Enari Namelum speaks not at all. When Jex becomes the target of a faceless curse-slinger, Enari, the girl he has protected since the day they met, must now protect him. A string of ritual human sacrifices coupled with Jex’s growing inability to keep his feelings (and hands) to himself only serve to complicate matters. Amidst the mounting chaos, passion and romance should be the last thing on their minds, but life and the Goddess seem to have other ideas.
In a world as enticing as it is perilous, love, danger, and magic will collide, leaving lives irrevocably changed. The events of a single summer stand to change the course of more than just the kingdom of Egalion and the ones dismissed as pawns may yet prove to b the most important players.
Errant Spark is the hush before the storm, the last deep breath before the plunge. The flint has been struck and it’s possible the whole world might go up in flames…because love in the Imperial court is as dangerous a thing as backroom politics and jealousy can be as much a driving force as silver and gold.
Fantasy? Action? Romance? Yes! This romantic fantasy novel by Ronelle Antoinette is a broad, epic, sweeping fantasy with more twists and turns and ups and downs than a wild roller-coaster! The first installment of the Elemental Trials series is one of those books that really is so much more than what the blurb can convey. Described as “surprisingly complex and visionary” by one reviewer, Errant Spark will leave you mesmerized from the first page to the last.
Hailed by Amazing Stories Magazine’s Ricky L Brown as “a simple story about interesting characters with just enough romance and magic to make it work.” Errant Spark is as complex as George RR Martin, with a world that is well-suited for conniving and cavorting. Rest assured, there is plenty of sex and violence, but not as raw and stabby as the aforementioned works. It’s more like a big kid’s version of a fairy tale.
•Mature teens and up
•Fans of epic fantasy and romance
•Those looking for characters they want to eat…or take home and enjoy
•Readers who can appreciate a gorgeous tapestry of magic, myth, and mayhem
•Connoisseurs of fine love stories that compliment the plot and that ‘slow burn’
•Lovers of surprises, twists-and-turns, and well-placed, necessary supernatural elements
•Anyone looking for sex, magic, love, fantasy, and a story that will sweep you away
•Those who don’t mind staying up all night so they can turn that final page
Update: As of 11/21/16, a series glossary has been included at the end of this novel (in ebook and print form only).
“May I join you?”
Without waiting for a response, Jex Xander settled gracefully to the ground beside her. He offered her a tin cup and she took it, warily examining the contents.
“You have the look of someone who could use that.” He jerked his chin at the cup before turning his attention to his own bowl of stew and chunk of bread.
Chamomile and meadowsweet wafted up on the steam and she inhaled appreciatively, but didn’t drink.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Fishing a flask out of his pocket, the mage unstoppered it and leaned over her, pouring a small amount of something brownish into the tea. “Not the best quality, I’m afraid, and I know it smells vile, but it’ll take the edge off your sore muscles, I promise.” He grinned at her startled expression before settling more comfortably and beginning to eat heartily.
Enari took a tentative sip and tried not to gag. It was horrid, but the warmth that spread in her belly was soothing, so she continued to drink. They sat in silence for several moments as stars twinkled to life overhead. A few even shot brightly across the sky and Enari watched them, still awed at the sheer immensity of the view above her. At the Temple, parts of the night sky had always been obscured by foliage, even when viewed from the high branches of the trees she climbed.
“Mmm, Plamen works his forge tonight,” Jex observed around a mouthful of bread, “Wonder what he’s making?”
Enari didn’t answer and after a moment, he tried again.
“Did the kvinna speak truth? Are you really still a novice?” He used the remaining crust to mop out his bowl before licking his fingers and wiping them in the grass beside him.
She nodded, still not looking at him.
“May I ask how old you are?”
It was a rude question to ask a woman, he knew, but he’d been watching her all afternoon and hadn’t been able to guess her age. ‘Young’ was all he’d determined for certain. Probably too young.
Using a stick, she drew a number in the dirt and his conscience eased. Eighteen. Not too young, then, or at least not so much that he felt guilty for looking. And he definitely had been looking. Couldn’t blame a man, really.
Well, the kvinna probably would. She seemed the excessively protective sort.
“I have a sister about your age, back in Rowan. Not as quiet as you, though,” he mused, hoping to at least get a smile out of the girl. She was exotically appealing and he could only imagine how much more radiant she would be if she smiled.
Enari stood quickly. She didn’t know how to fend off interested men and retreating to bed seemed like the easiest way out of this awkward situation.
“Novice!” one of the guardsmen called out. To Jex, he sounded more than a little drunk. “If you be done with that pretty boy, come and spend time with a real man. The night promises to be chill, but I’ll warm you well if he won’t!”
Jex rose to his feet upon seeing her uncertainty and embarrassment.
“You!” he called back, “Didn’t your mother teach you how to address a lady?”
“Mind your own business, mage,” the man retorted. He got up unsteadily and swaggered towards Enari. She hurriedly backed away, eyes darting left and right as she sought an avenue of escape.
Before the man could reach her, Jex stepped up and put his palm in the center of the other’s chest. He gave him a stiff shove, eyes dark with menace.
“Don’t be a fool. I wasn’t sent to protect these women from their own escorts but I will. I suggest you find your bedroll, friend,” he said dangerously, “Sleep it off, or you’ll be no good to anyone on the morrow.”
Enari stared at the pair with round eyes. The mage didn’t even know her, yet here he was, protecting her honor like she was some grand lady.
After a moment of glaring at each other, the guardsmen broke eye contact first. Muttering sullenly under his breath, he retreated and Jex released a sigh. He really hadn’t wanted to fight the drunken lout, even though he was confident he’d have won.
“Silent little thing, aren’t you?” Returning his attention to Enari, he reached out and touched her cheek gently. Weariness in blurry waves of gray, spikes of hard red adrenaline and anger, fading sparks of vibrant blue lust... Goddess, she’d be so pretty if she smiled. Too pretty to stay much longer in a group of men with no one but her Sura to look after her. Stupid, stupid to send such a small party across so much open land. Quiet thunder of a rapidly pounding heart, the sharp tang of fear-sweat, nervous little brown mouse… That man almost…he could have…and the mage. I don’t even know him, he doesn’t know me, but he stopped the other one. His hand is on my skin and…
Starting in alarm, Enari recoiled and the string of awareness that was and wasn’t hers snapped like gossamer thread. She took a quick step back and the sudden movement unbalanced her. Her sore leg muscles were unable to compensate and with a surprised gasp, she fell onto her bottom in the dirt. Jex looked down at her, clearly as startled as she.
A heavy hand grabbed the back of his tunic and the grizzled old guard captain shook him roughly. His voice was deep and his accent was rough. “She dun’a like to be touched, mageling. Keep your mitts to yourself!”
“I-I’m sorry. I didn’t know, I,” Jex stuttered and cleared his throat. “Sorry,” he finished lamely, looking back and forth between Enari and the captain, as if unsure who he was actually apologizing to. He offered her a hand up, took a look at the captain’s face, and put both of them in his pockets.
“You alright, little mistress?” the captain asked Enari.
She nodded and climbed stiffly to her feet, brushing dirt from her trousers.
“I’m sorry for startling you, Nani,” Jex apologized again. Enari smiled and waved it away. He frowned at the captain and opened his mouth.
As if guessing the younger man’s thoughts, the captain shook his head. “She dun’a speak, either.” He narrowed his eyes threateningly at Jex, thick brows beetling down even further. “But dun’a you be going and thinking she be stupid for it, mage. She ain’t.”
Jex held up his hands in placation and took a step away. “I would never!”
“See that you dun’a.” With that, the captain strode away into the darkness. Jex made a face and gestured rudely at his retreating back. Enari covered a smile.
Turning back to her, he raised a speculative eyebrow and put his hands on his hips. “He wasn’t having me on, was he?”
Enari’s expression turned distant.
“Alright, alright. Keep your secrets.” His eyes darted to the bowl of stew she’d somehow managed not to drop or spill all over herself. “Are you going to eat that?”
Elemental Trials Book 2
Scandal will shake foundations.
A night of careless passion leaves Battlemage Jex Xander and Adept Enari Alycon in a precarious position. Long-time lovers they might be, but the Imperial ambassador and the daughter of Egalion’s High Mage have rather public roles in the court—whether they wish it or not—and scandal couldn’t come at a worse time.
Treachery will tip balances.
When a hostile kingdom reluctantly agrees to parley, the fate of two-thousand years of peace is on the line. In the midst of negotiations, Enari becomes the target of one of the Greater Maelstrom. She and Jex must race against time to save her life and that of her unborn child. What happens when an earth-shattering secret, a demon bent on destruction, and a kingdom teetering on the brink of war collide is anyone’s guess.
Choices will have consequences.
The decisions of a few will determine the fate of many, and who or what will remain standing in the end is still uncertain. Hearts and lives are on the cusp of irrevocable change…and not necessarily for the better.
“Would you share my room with me?” Jex asked as they walked. “You don’t have to, of course. As part of the Imperial family, you can have your own if you like or—well, they’re the same as when you were here last, if that makes any difference in your decision.”
She laced her fingers through his and swung their clasped hands between them. “I’d be happy to. It might be nice not to sneak around like naughty children all the time.”
“You don’t think Vasi will have me killed, do you? This is the place to find a contract hitter if you’re looking.”
Instead of laughing as expected, Enari stopped mid-step and pulled him to a halt with the tether of their clasped hands.
“I’m not her apprentice anymore, Jex,” she said. “Consent is mine and mine alone to give. Stop worrying about Vasi.”
They studied one another for a long moment before his face broke into a broad grin.
“As it please you, my lady.” He sketched her a courtly little bow.
“Besides,” Enari added with a quirk of her eyebrow, “she’s a master apothecary. If she wanted you dead, she wouldn’t need to hire anyone.”
He blinked at her, mouth open. She sounded more sure of that than he was comfortable with.
She did laugh then, and darted up the stairs ahead of him. He was quick to give chase.
They reached his room on the fourth floor and Enari was watching him over her shoulder as she reached for the knob. His expression changed to one of dismay and he started to call a warning, but it was too late.
Her fingers closed around what should have been cold metal and blistering pain lanced up her arm. An ominous crackling filled the air and the door emitted an angry orange glow. She tried to pull away but found herself rendered immobile by the hostile magic.
Jex was at her side in an instant, muttering a few words under his breath and slashing a hand through the air. The noise, light, and heat vanished and Enari jerked back, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.
“Diu, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot!” He took her hand and examined the reddening skin. “I’ve had to ward the door to keep unwanted ‘servants’ from going through my things.”
He raised her palm to his mouth and blew on it before planting the most delicate of kisses against the inside of her wrist. Then, without releasing her, he took the key from his pocket.
Once the door shut behind them, he dropped their packs to the floor and started rummaging in a side table. He finally turned up a small jar and a roll of bandages and came back to her.
“This should help ease the sting,” he said, spreading a thick cream over her palm and rubbing it in with his thumbs.
“I take it I’m not the first to have a run-in with your little booby trap?” she quipped.
“Eh, no. I’ve burnt myself twice,” he admitted with a sheepish smile. He raised his left hand and showed her the scar.
Securing the bandage around her hand, he examined his work before raising his eyes to hers. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Enari shook her head, biting her lip to keep from smiling. “I think I’m fine, but thank you for asking, sir.”
“Are you sure? We’ve been riding an awfully long time and Astraeus was a little overenthusiastic. Maybe I ought to check the rest of you.” His hands dropped to her hips, then slid around to cup her bottom.
Her giggle became a moan as his mouth descended on hers.
“Jex…” she protested between kisses. “They’re expecting us for dinner and there’s something I need—”
“Shh,” he murmured, working at the clasps of her tunic, “I know what you need, and don’t worry about dinner. No one will mind if we’re fashionably late.”
A stray, lust-driven thought that was not her own flitted into her mind’s eye as his mental barriers relaxed for just an instant. She saw her own body arching to meet his and heard tiny moans as he thrust into her again and again. The image was gone almost as quickly as it had come, but the intensity of it left her heart pounding and her breath ragged. Psychomancy could be distracting if they weren’t careful, as strong emotions made it difficult to maintain the protective barrier around one’s thoughts. With Jex, it was also intimate on a level most never experienced. It enhanced their pleasure, looping back on itself and feeding the arousal of one to the other.
Her hands went to his belt and began pulling at it. He was right; dinner could wait. They couldn’t.
Just as his hand slipped into her tunic and cupped around her breast, the door behind them began to open.
“Jex, some important messages came while you were gone and Mama said—oh.”
A pained look crossed his face. Eyes closed and teeth clenched, he counted under his breath before turning to face the intruder.
“Torina. I know you’ve been taught to knock.”
Kylan’s wide and startled eyes darted from his aggrieved expression to Enari, who was fumbling to secure the front of her tunic.
“Oh. Ohhh. Um, sorry! I’ll just…I should go.” She started backing out of the room but stopped when Jex shook his head.
“You’re already here.” He held out a hand. “Let’s have them.”
Ronelle Antoinette lives in western Colorado with her husband, two cats, and one dog-who-believes-he's-a-person. While she is a mother of none, she’s an auntie to what should qualify as a small army. She is an admitted caffeine addict, chocoholic, and hopeless romantic who has carried on a passionate affair with the genre of fantasy since she was old enough to read 'chapter books'.
Ronelle dabbled in creative writing for many years before making it a career. (She even considered it as a major in college, though she ended up getting a Bachelor's degree in Counseling Psychology.) She published her first novel, Errant Spark, in July of 2016.