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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

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Allyson’s betrothed froze on the threshold, his face a mask of shock. She really couldn’t blame him. After all, it wasn’t everyday a man discovered his fiancée and his mistress together in the same room.

“Do come in, Roland.” Allyson gestured ironically at the velvet couch his long-time love, Marissa, occupied. “You’re just in time for tea.”

Marissa smiled anxiously at him, and like a man in a trance, he complied.

Now that all the players of this little drama had assembled, Allyson poured the tea, careful to conceal the nervous trembling of her fingers as she poured his. Black, just the way he liked it.

Wary as a cornered tomcat, Roland’s tense gray gaze moved between the two women. “What’s going on?”

With an impatient sigh, Allyson gestured with her cup, careful not to spill. This would be one of the most difficult things she’d done in all her sixteen years, but it was the only solution she could think of that all parties might live with. “Our parents are forcing us to wed, Roland. I can sympathize with your situation, your family badly needs their king’s approval, and in any case we can’t commit treason.

“No matter what we feel, our monarchs are determined this foolish deal will help reinforce the peace between our people. I know you don’t go willingly into this, especially since I’m being forced. Mistress or not, I still find you a better choice than losing my head.”

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