Crowned & Claimed Collection - Betty Shreffler



Around me, the aroma of wildflowers fills my nose as the warm sun bathes my skin. Yellow petals slip through my fingers as I pass by, touching the silky flowers. No one knows I’m here except one person, my bodyguard, Matheas. Having returned from his trip to Trinick City, it’s only a matter of time before he finds me. Raised alongside me since we were children and duty-bound to protect me, he knows where I am at all times. On my wrist, the familiar vibration of my soul band alerts me to his call.

“I’m headed your way. Wait for me at Willow Winds.”

“What makes you think I’m at Willow Winds?”

“Where else would you go to avoid your obligations?”

Smile forming, a flutter of joy tickles my belly. He knows me so well.

“See you soon.”

Lowering to my knee, I take in the fragrance of a purple heliotrope. Carelessly falling backward, I lay amongst the rainbow of colors surrounding me. Here I’m free, relaxed and able to forget my obligations awaiting me at the palace.

Some yards away, I hear the rover craft hum through the sky. It lands, and I remain where I’m hidden in the wildflowers. Moments later, I hear the footfall of heavy boots. The sun is blocked from my view by the handsome frame of Matheas. Over six feet in height and broad-shouldered, he’s the perfect Anaukin soldier. Trained since childhood, it’s ingrained in him to remain physically strong, and with that regimen, he’s muscled from head to toe. Lowering to a knee, he holds out a gift for me. Staring up at his face, I admire his dark blond hair and the new short haircut he’s received. Blinking with a smile, cerulean blue eyes stare back at me—a feature every Anaukin has. No matter our hair color, we’re all born with cerulean blue eyes.

“It’s from Trinick City.”

Placing a silver charm and chain in my hand, I turn the silver metal over to view it. At the center of the man-made oval charm is a blue diamond. It’s a stunning piece of jewelry and likely cost him a large sum of monetary value. As the years have passed, he’s made it a habit of bringing me something back from every one of his trips. These last few years, his gifts have become more expensive and valuable.

“Do you like it?”

Brows pinched inward, he studies my face, hope filling his eyes.

“It’s gorgeous. Will you put it on me?”

“Of course.”

Taking it from my hand, he unfastens the clasp, and I turn so he can easily place it around my neck. Pulling my hair from within the necklace, he drops my long brunette braid against my back, slowly letting it fall from his hand. Rotating toward him, he looks me over, his expression warm and affectionate.

“You look beautiful.”

My stomach flutters at the way he admires me. Nervously, I roll the charm between my index finger and thumb.

“You flatter me.”

Rising to his feet, he outstretches his hand for me to take.

“I need to get you back.”

“I need to hear about your trip.”

Hand in his, he pulls me to my feet. With swift movement, he hugs me tight against his body, capturing me in his arms. Instantly, my body goes into fight mode. With a kick to his leg, an elbow to his face, another elbow to his side, his hold releases, and I grip his hand, then shoulder, hoisting myself over his shoulder, bringing us both to the ground. I roll away and stand quickly, ready to defend myself.

Without a sign of exertion, a proud smile stretches his lips.

“Good, Fi. You responded perfectly.”

My arms lower to my sides, and I relax.

“You really like to surprise me, don’t you?”

“The most critical threats are often when you least expect them.”

“You’ll have me well prepared then.”

Together, we walk side by side to his rover craft. The silver metal gleams in the sun, and I raise my hand above my eyes to deflect the rays from blinding me.

“You were gone longer than normal this time.”

As we approach, the automated motion sensor engages, raising the door for us to climb in. Taking the passenger seat next to him, I watch the wildflowers become smaller in the distance as the rover craft rises in the sky.

“Your father’s business took longer than expected.”

Frowning, I fidget in my seat.

“Anything to do with my coronation?”

Looking at me with empathy, his eyes soften.

“Yes. He’s confirming alliances, ensuring the safety of Anauka for when you become the new monarch.”

“It’s come too soon, Matheas. I’m not sure