This is a scene with Kieran and Jessa, from the first chapter of Black Heart. The story takes place seven years after the end of Eldala.
Kieran nodded to the night guards who kept vigil outside the girls’ room and made his way down the spiral stairs to the bottom floor of the tower. The keep was older and draftier than the main castle. The new windows let in scant light, and the heavy tapestries did little to keep away the chill. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. Living here made it easier to feel like a normal family instead of the royal family.
Once inside his apartments, he closed the door and inhaled. The room smelled like Jessa, just a hint of cinnamon and cascabel, two of his favorite smells. The candles were all snuffed, but a fire crackled in the large fireplace. He rested one hand on the mantle and stared into the flames. They still fascinated him. He’d worked with fire most of his life, using it to shape lumps of metal into works of art. Life had been simpler when he was blacksmith. He’d learned over the last few years that forging iron was far easier than reforging a country.
He didn’t think about his old life very often, but suddenly, the urge to use the castle’s smithy was so overwhelming his hands shook and he had to grip the hearth to keep himself in the room. How long had it been since he’d used a hammer and anvil to bend a piece of iron to his will? How long since he’d inhaled the acrid tang of smoke, or felt the sparks singeing his skin, or made something beautiful with his own two hands?
Much too long.
Sighing, he sank into a chair near the fire and removed his boots. As much as he longed to exchange a crown for a hammer, the demanding needs of the kingdom were greater than his own.
“What did the farmers want?” Jessa’s voice made him look up.
His wife was already curled up on the bed. She gave him a lazy smile and he returned it. Once he’d dressed for bed, he joined her.
“Their crops are failing,” he said, “among other things.”
Though his mind and body cried out for sleep, he would never deny his wife his full attention. When she cuddled into his chest, he pulled her as close as he could and let her warmth and scent pour into him. Life was always better when his Eldala was near.
“How could that be?” she asked.
“I don’t know.”
He put his hand on her growing belly. The baby kicked and Jessa sucked in a breath. Each new life they brought into the world humbled him. One more person depending on him.
“I imagine they expect us to do something.” She sounded tired.
“Of course they do. We’ve always been able to take care of their problems.” He let out another long sigh. “If I can just figure out why there’s a drought.”
She stroked his face and gave him a lingering kiss. For a few moments, he let her sweet kisses and touches make him forget that they were king and queen.