The Alder Tales #2
Based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Raene and the Three Bears
A golden-haired beauty with a tiger totem, Raene Randal is powerless to stop the dissolution of her life. Her uncle and best friend, Kaide, is sending her away for good. While Raene knows his actions are fueled by the sudden and unexplained loss of his bride, Blossom, that doesn’t change the fact that her future is certain. As the niece of a Pyro politician, it’s Raene’s duty to cross the realm and fulfill her marriage arrangements with an Alderwood Bear Clan.
The rest of her life is mapped out, but Raene has one choice left: to choose a husband from the sons of the Bear Clan’s leader—too bad she’s not interested in any of them. She knows her duty, but so far from her home and everyone she knows, Raene finds keeping her promises harder than she ever thought.
On the far side of the realm, Blossom knows nothing of Kaide’s implosion or Raene’s departure. She’s trapped in the Aero city at the whim of Syndicate Mercer. As much as she tries to adapt to her aerial totem and her new role within the Aero branch, Blossom knows it’s only a matter of time before she sees Kaide again, but this time, she’ll be his enemy.
Other Books in This Series
"This book was INTENSE. It was unexpectedly difficult to put down. I gave up sleep and food for this book." ~Alicia's Awesome Book Assessment
"One of my favorite things about this author is that she is the MASTER (or mistress, whatever you please) of cliffhangers. I thought that my heart was wrenched out in suspense at the end of Blossom and the Beast, now I’m in agonizing suspense! What is going to happen!? What is going on?! My heart! The feels!" ~The Littlest Book Elf
"This book will make you start picking your favorites and get you annoyed. You will be asked to choose. You will be asked to take a side. It will ask you as to who are you rooting for? You will start to question if it was ever fair. And be careful, because you might get your heart broken." ~IAmNotABookworm
"This book was everything I have come to expect from books by R.S. McCoy. It isn't all butterflies and happiness, but there's some of that. There's strife, danger, love, attraction, and loss. Not everything goes to plan, but I still get that warm and fuzzy feeling I demand from a romance. Raene is beautiful and strong and vicious (from her tiger totem), and watching her come to terms with both sides of herself was a delight." ~I Read Too Much
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Parson raised the axe high over his head and brought it down with all his might. The blade hit the wood with a thud and cleaved off the slender branch in a single motion.
Again, he lifted the axe and sent it sailing into the next limb. One by one, he worked his way down the length of the branch, removing the pieces too small to be useful. Heat coursed through his muscles, and his lungs worked to get enough air, but Parson wouldn’t stop.
It felt too good to hit something, even if it was just this dead tree.
Sunlight streamed through the new hole in the canopy and baked him in spring heat. Sweat slicked his fingers until his two-dozen rings slid with every swing. His moss-green tunic clung to his sweat-coated skin, suffocating him.
Parson stopped swinging his axe long enough to peel off his tunic and toss it on a nearby limb. Then, he collected his tool and resumed, relishing the cooling breeze across his torso.
He’d only cut three more branches when he heard Da’s whistle, the usual call.
Da wasn’t a large man, and his totem was even smaller—a red fox—but somehow, within the confines of the Alderwood, he could whistle louder than anyone.
Parson groaned and fought to get his shirt back over his sticky shoulders. Of course Da had seen him take off his tunic. Forbidden, he knew. Sacrilegious to the Alder Mother and all that.
But it was hot, and Parson was beyond caring.
He’d been that way for a while now.
It took him ten minutes to get himself covered and to find Da on the far side of the cut. Prepared for a lecture, Parson was more than a little surprised to find Hale there as well. The youngest Frane son stood stoic as he waited, cool and collected compared to Parson’s agitation.
“Where’s Lathan?” Da asked as his eyes scanned the cut. A dozen men from the clan all worked to process their most recent claim, a ninety-eight year old alder tree—the perfect age to be felled and cleaned for distribution. Completely illegal to harvest, of course, but that’s what made them so valuable.
“What’s going on?” Parson asked his father, but no answer came. He only continued to whistle for Lathan across the cut.
It was Hale who stepped beside Parson and said, “Something he wants to show us. Won’t say a word about it until we’re all here.”
“Da, get on with it. I’ve got work to do,” Parson said, interrupting his father’s whistles. Technically, stripping such useless limbs was the work of one of the younger men in the clan working their way through the process of felling an alder tree, but Parson couldn’t sit still. So while some of the others rested, Parson had taken it upon himself to start stripping the branches. No one would miss him if he didn’t return to finish the branch, but nevertheless, he didn’t want to stand around all afternoon.
“Just hold tight.” Da turned to face them, his eyes gleaming with mischief. He was up to something, but Parson was in no mood to play along.
He clenched his fists and groaned out his impatience.
“It must be important,” Hale continued. “He hasn’t asked for all of us since—”
Since he sold their little sister to a monster. No, not sold. Gave her away. Surely Da thought he was making a fair trade—not even Parson could deny him that—but whatever it was that had been decided between Da and the Vice Syndicate, Da had been cheated. No horses nor grain nor barrels of wine had arrived in exchange for her. Blossom was simply gone, and there was nothing Parson could do about it.
As if shaken by an earthquake, a chasm had split across his chest as he watched his little sister walk away with a stranger that day, never to return. And no matter what he did in the days since, he couldn’t feel any better about it. There was only pain and anger and the gaping hole in her place.
Just as he turned to head back to his work, Lathan arrived. “Can it wait?” he asked. Parson knew his oldest brother harbored the same anger over Blossom’s departure, but Lathan would never say it. He was too quiet, too private in his emotions.
And then there was Hale, who acted like he didn’t even care—like he didn’t even notice she was gone. There was no little sister for Hale to chase, but even so, Parson expected more from him.
“I have a surprise for you three. Come on.” Da put a hand on Lathan’s shoulder and beamed with whatever it was he had in store for them.