Ever My Merlin - By Priya Ardis

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

It’s the last book in the series, so there are a lot of people to thank. First, I’m thrilled to have been supported by my wonderful readers, bloggers, friends, and family! Those of you who have contacted me through the various social sites, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been picked up by your enthusiastic words and quick note! Those of you who’ve spread the word about the series via your websites, reviews, and by simply telling friends—I’m floored and very grateful!

A big thank you to my family for putting up with my schedule when I should have been watching movies/at the beach/generally not in front of a computer (I blame the muse!).

A huge thank you to CM at Phatpuppy for her wonderful art and for going out of her way to ensure I was happy with everything—I am! KB, who’s been so wonderfully supportive, for her awesome, awesome, layout design—thank you!

A shout out to my wonderful editors – Teri “the Editing Fairy” G. and Cassie MC—without whom this manuscript would be a mess. Thank you for working your schedules around mine! WM, thanks for pitching in, though you didn’t have a choice. Another big shout out to MM, the lone voice of reason, couldn’t do this without you!

PROLOGUE

PROLOGUE

I helped my brother up the stairs of our small cottage. We were playing in the woods. He followed me everywhere, but I didn’t mind. He had small hands; mine were big. I was the big brother. I would always take care of him.

I turned the handle that latched the back door. Behind me, my brother stumbled on the stairs. I turned back around and caught him before he could fall. The door opened a crack. I helped my brother up the stairs leading into a small storeroom. Across the dirt-floored room, another three steps led up to the cottage.

The Lady sat at a round table and chopped, chopping a potato. I don’t know how she managed to hold on to the precious bit of food. Crops liked to grow for her. I’d overheard more than one desperate villager whisper about our bounty, yet no one ever tried to steal or wrest it from us.

Maybe I did know why. One time I took a few leftover bits of food and tried to trade it for a sword. I never saw her so angry. Her glowing green eyes took the breath from my body. It wasn’t until I saw dark spots in my vision that her eyes snapped back to normal and my breath swooped back into my lungs. I knew I almost met my death that day, but in the end, I was simply admonished for possibly exposing us to outsiders.

I was about to fling the back door open when the voice of a man stopped me. We never had a man in our cottage before. We never had any visitors in our cottage before. The Lady was our guardian—I didn’t dare call her mother—for as long as I could remember. I had little recollection of anyone before her. Only the three of us—the Lady, my little brother, and me.

“Are they here?” the man asked.

“No, son. They’re out in the woods.” The Lady cut another slice of the potato.

I took a few steps into the cool darkness of the storeroom. I could see her above me. My brother started to make a gurgling sound. I put a finger to my lips to tell him to shush. He nodded and repeated the gesture, delighting at the game.

“The elder takes care of his brother well,” she said.

The giant of a man sat down in a chair across the table from her. He wore the uniform of a Roman soldier—a breastplate of unusually shiny metal, a leather skirt, and leg armor. His cloak was an imperial purple. On a bare-muscled arm he wore a gold armband in the shape of a fish. Sandals covered his feet. A gold crown sat atop dark-blond hair with a winking green gemstone. “Do I hear censure in your tone, Mother?”

“An observation, Poseidon,” she said.

“No one calls me by that name anymore, Mother.” The man paused. “Our time is near. You cannot delay much more. We have already lingered too long. Our father has demanded our departure and he is right. We have other places to be.”

The Lady continued to cut the potato placidly. “Yet, I am not done. The boys need me.”

“Father is not happy with you. What you’ve done—”

“I’ve saved this world.”

“At what cost? You’ve brought a

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