My first book is available from the lovely people at Less Than Three Press! It starts with a familiar story: a kingdom on the edge of Faerie, a Prince Who Never Smiles, and a royal mandate—whomsoever can make Prince Aleksei smile will be awarded his hand in marriage. But life is never neat, and the one who succeeds not only does so by accident… he isn’t even human.
The Tsesarevich had indeed smiled—or, more accurately, smirked—at a man, and was now thoroughly regretting it. He had done this because he had seen the man skilfully lift the Tsar’s purse when the Tsar, having dismounted to inspect the new public fountain up close, had momentarily turned his back on the commonfolk. The sheer audacity of the thief had been, for a moment, a little too amusing, and then it had been too late.
It was now two hours since the morning’s disaster and the Tsesarevich was alone in the Winter Palace’s lavishly luxurious Iastrebov Apartments. The traditional rooms set aside for the Tsesarevich took up an entire wing of the Palace, and were curled around a garden, its pool of gold and silver fish long frozen glassy for winter, the lush grass of summer smothered thickly with powdered snow, the fruit trees stooped and bare. Over the archways that ringed the garden, golden hawks chased their stone prey in a circle of death. Against one such archway, the Tsesarevich sat down, dangling his long legs out over the snow, the black riding boots sinking and crunching down.
With obvious hesitation, and with a final bewildered glance behind him at the unobtrusive Imperial guard, the thief sat as well, though at arm’s length, clearly embarrassed. “Your ah, Imperial Highness—”
“Aleksei,” corrected the Tsesarevich testily. The thief had spoken in the barbarian tongue of the West, in a language with no music. Tsesarevich Aleksei had learned it because he had needed to, but that did not mean that he liked it, nor was he fluent in it. “If we are to be wed you are allowed to use my name.”
The thief winced. “Uh… look. Sir. I don’t. Hell, I don’t know what just happened, but I think there’s been some mistake. Don’t princes marry princesses?”
Aleksei sighed out aloud. So he had thought. “The Tsar has an interesting sense of humour.”