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Burden of Blood

Burden of Blood

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The curse of blood is one only some must bear, and no one knows how it comes to be.

Kaylee is a Blue Blood. Cursed with two lives and special powers the king would pay handsomely to own. Disguised as a monk, she manages to escape notice and keep the magic latent until an accident reveals she bleeds blue. Fearing for their safety, the monks banish her and as she’s fleeing to find some safe harbor, she’s captured by a bounty hunter.

Asher is one of the king’s best bounty hunters, and his magic amulet lets him know when a Blue Blood is close. He rescues Kaylee from a handful of pesky miscreants and promises to escort her to the king where she’ll be honored and revered as she serves him with her powers.

When Kaylee is stolen from Asher on their way to the king and delivered to a former Blue Blood with a vendetta against the tyrant king, Kaylee and Asher must decide whether to join forces with her, or risk being executed by the king. Learning that the king is drinking the blood of his Blue Blood slaves and slowly going mad is enough to make Kaylee agree to help this uprising queen. But when she learns she is somehow infecting others with this magical curse, she fears she’ll never have the strength to accept the burden that comes with her magic. Can she cast aside her beliefs and save the people in the kingdom she’s always feared?
If you like high fantasy with a slow burn romance and surprise twists, pick up this book right away!

Intro into Chapter One

Kaylee climbed higher into the tree to avoid the rocks flying at her. Her borrowed dress caught on a limb. She slipped a couple of inches before gripping tightly with her bandaged hand. A squeak of pain escaped her lips when a rock found its mark. The boys beneath her laughed.
“Nice shot!” one shouted.
“If another rock leaves your hands, you will find an arrow in your back.” A man on horseback trotted into the orchard. He jumped off his majestic black horse easily as he neared the mob of boys. They dropped the rocks and scattered, but not before the man snatched one boy by the scruff of his neck and held tight.
“What is the meaning of this?” He glanced up at Kaylee and then stared the boy down. His cultured speech proved he came from a much higher class than anyone she had encountered before. His dark shirt with an embroidered collar, so unlike what most people she’d ever known wore, also spoke of riches.
The boy sputtered and squirmed. “We was just havin’ fun.”
“What if you killed her?”
“We wasn’t trying to hurt her. We wanted to see what would happen when she snapped.”
The man raised an eyebrow and looked up at Kaylee with more interest. When his eyes met hers, he took a deep breath as if smelling the air. Shivers ran down her spine. A smile spread across his face under a dark, close-cut beard. He looked back down at the boy in his grip. “She hasn’t manifested any powers yet?”
The boy shook his head.
The man looked at Kaylee again. “Foolish way to go about bringing the change. What if she started shooting fire at you?”
Kaylee stared at the man. How many like me has he met? And what will he do with me?
“They can do that?” the boy asked.
“Some can.”
The boy gasped. His wide eyes stared up at Kaylee until he made eye contact. He whipped his head to the side, avoiding her gaze. “Lemme go,” he shouted to the man still holding him. The second the man released him, he bolted to where the other boys had gone.
“Why don’t you come down now?” the man said.
Kaylee stared at him. He was tall and muscular. A sword hung from his right side. His black hair stuck up in places, as if he’d run the horse hard at some point.
He was too much man for her to deal with after having lived the last three years in hiding. She didn’t dare come down to him, but neither did she dare stay in the tree.
“Who are you?” Kaylee asked, peeking through the leaves. A branch brushed against her cheek, so she shifted to avoid getting scratched. He somehow knew her secret already, but hiding her curse was so ingrained in her. She knew she couldn’t let him see her blood.
“What do you want?”
“Name’s Asher.” He pulled off his riding gloves and looked up into her eyes. Kaylee’s heart clenched in fear again. His eyes flicked briefly to her bald head. He raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything about it.
“No need to postpone the inevitable,” Asher called up. He bent down and picked up a rock, bouncing it a couple times in his hand.
Kaylee closed her eyes and braced herself. She didn’t want to see when the rock hit. He’d have more power behind it and―more than likely―a better aim than any of those boys. When nothing happened, she peeked down to see him watching her with a smile.
“Come down now and I’ll personally escort you to the king.”
“The king?” Kaylee squeaked, her voice so tight she was surprised it came out. Her father would roll over in his grave. The monastery had been the perfect place to hide, but they had kicked her out as soon as they discovered she was female. If she hadn’t accidentally cut herself, she’d still be living there.
“Hurry it up.”
“I won’t go to the king,” Kaylee whispered, choked with fear. She’d never had to refuse an order from the monks, but nothing could make her agree to go to the king. Her father had forbidden it.
“It’s the law, girl. You don’t have any choice in the matter.” He crossed his arms over his broad chest and looked around the orchard. “Besides, the king takes care of his Blue Bloods. You’ll have more riches than you can imagine.”
Kaylee looked at her bandaged hand again. The blood had begun to seep through the cloth tied around it, soaked through with a blue as deep as the flowers in the field outside the orchard fence.
She’d grown careless and cut herself on the wagon wheel she’d been helping Brother Osmon with. When he saw the blood pooling in her hand, he’d nearly fainted before he ran to tell the others about her. They’d not spoken to her again. Instead, they bundled up all her belongings, made her change out of the monk’s robe she’d become accustomed to, and kicked her out.
Kaylee knew she couldn’t stay in the tree forever. Now that the boys harassing her were gone, she could climb down. If only Asher weren’t there. Her hand still stung where she’d cut it. She moved carefully, then jumped easily from the lowest branch and stumbled because the dress didn’t give her the free range of motion she was used to with the robe. The man took her by the arm and led her to his horse.
“When did you first bleed blue?” Asher asked.
“At fifteen.”
“How old are you now?”
Asher stopped and looked her over. “Don’t look nineteen.” He stared at her bald head again and narrowed his eyes as if trying to imagine her with hair. “You’ve been hiding your gift four years? And you haven’t snapped?”
Kaylee shook her head. “Please don’t take me to the king.”
“Why not?”
Kaylee shook her head. “I don’t want to be his slave.”
“Slave? Who told you that?” Asher looked at her.
“My father.”
“Then he was a fool. The king treats his Blue Bloods very well.”
Kaylee stared at him in confusion. No one had ever spoken well of the king in this area. And her father was no fool.
“He will give you more than you could ever imagine.” Asher looked her over. “You wouldn’t have to hide. You could have your own clothes, maids, carriages, and horses.” Asher looked back up at the tree. “You will learn ways to defend yourself from scruffy dogs like those.” He pointed in the direction the boys had run.
“How do you know this?” Kaylee asked.
“I find Blue Bloods like you and escort them to the king.”
“You’re a bounty hunter?”
“Do you get paid for delivering Blue Bloods to the king?” Kaylee asked.
Asher shifted the rock from one hand to another. “Yes.”
Kaylee raised an eyebrow.
“I merely do a service for those who need help getting to the king.”
“I’m not coming with you.”
“You are. It’s the law. Anyone who knows what you are will take you for the reward. The king punishes those who hide one like you.” Asher looked up the hill at the monastery sitting peacefully overlooking the green valley. “If you want to make the people who helped you suffer because of your stubbornness, then go ahead. If not, you’d best come with me.”
Kaylee looked to the monastery, her home for so long. No wonder they had rushed to get her out of there. She couldn’t risk letting the monks be punished if anyone knew she’d hidden there for years. She reached up and touched her bald head. People would know she’d been with the monks if she stayed close.
Kaylee turned to Asher and lifted her bandaged hand. “How did you know what I was? How did you find me?”
“Let’s just say I have a sense about these things.”
Kaylee adjusted her pack to hold it in front of her. For a moment, she considered running, but she knew it would be foolish. Better to go with him now and find a place to sneak away when she was further from the monastery. She had to protect them, but she would not let him deliver her to the king.
Asher helped her on his horse, her legs straddling its broad back. Her skirt slid up to her knees. Asher stared at her leg a moment. When she leaned down to see what kept his attention, he shook his head quickly.
Kaylee looked harder at her leg. Besides the fine blonde hairs and a few scrapes from her time in the tree, she couldn’t see anything interesting about it.
Asher mounted the horse behind her and gathered the reins. Kaylee hadn’t ridden a horse since she arrived at the monastery with her father. This magnificent beast was smooth and easy and dangerous. The man behind her had complete control of the animal. She felt the difference in the motion of his legs behind her own as he guided the horse. It had been a long time since she’d thought of a man as anything but a monk. Strange sensations bubbled up deep within her belly.
They rode in silence for miles. She took in everything about Asher, from his movements and breathing to his musky scent. He was in much better physical condition than anyone she’d ever met. The monks were scholars with little need to do much physical labor. The garden and a few farm animals they kept for their food didn’t take much more strength than what Kaylee had. It wasn’t easy work, but she knew it would never produce Asher-size arms.
“How did you manage it?” he asked after they’d traveled for a while.
Kaylee turned her head just a fraction. The stubble from his jaw brushed her bald scalp. She quickly turned forward and kept her mouth shut.
“How long were you there? How did you keep your secret?”
Kaylee shrugged and remained quiet.
“How did you get in?”
Kaylee didn’t respond.
“None of them had any inkling you were a woman?”
He leaned back. Kaylee turned her head just enough to see he was trying to size her up.
“You don’t have an overly feminine form, but it is obvious you are female.”
Kaylee didn’t respond. She turned away to look straight and watched the road before her.
“Baldness doesn’t flatter you, but your cheek bones are fine. You have very delicate features. Once I get you
cleaned up and dressed properly, you’ll be much easier to look at.”
Kaylee tried not to be offended. She sensed he wanted to egg her on. Silence was her best defense. He chuckled. “Guess the monks there are blind.” He leaned to the side and reached around to take her chin firmly in his hand. It didn’t hurt until she tried to shake him off.
He kept hold until she relaxed. He turned her face to get a better look at it.
“You have a girl’s face no matter your lack of hair. Maybe we’ll have to send the king’s men to question the monks. Find out who knew you were there and helped you hide.”
“No one knew,” Kaylee said quickly turning her head to make him release her face. She had to protect them.
“So how did you do it?”
“I don’t know. I just wanted a place to live.”
“So you picked a monastery? And pretended to be a man? Why?”
Kaylee shook her head.
“You could’ve gone to the castle,” Asher said. “Even if you hadn’t been a Blue Blood, the king always has room for another servant girl. Whether in his direct employ or as a simple wash woman, you’d have been taken care of better than any other place.”
Kaylee clenched her jaw. Would he ever shut up so they could make the journey in peace? Once they made camp, she would escape.
“Why didn’t you go to the castle at Inshansi?” Asher pressed.
Kaylee shook her head. When her father found out she had blue blood, he took her as far from the castle as he could. They were simple farmers but learned together how to survive. Her father’s words echoed in her head. “We have to keep moving, Kaylee. The king will use your power for his own ends. We can’t let him find you.”
“Doesn’t matter now,” Asher said, pulling her from her thoughts. “You will be there in a few days and your training can begin.”
“Training?” Kaylee whipped her head around and knocked into Asher’s firm jaw. He grunted in annoyance as he rubbed his chin. Kaylee cringed. She never meant to talk with him.
“What do you think they do?”
Kaylee turned forward again.
“Has no one ever told you what a Blue Blood is?”
Kaylee looked down at her bandaged hand. The bleeding had mostly stopped. The blood on the cloth had dried and turned a strange purplish hue.
“You’ve seriously never heard of your heritage?”
Kaylee sighed. “Father only said it was rare and I should stay hidden.”
“It is rare. But it’s a gift. You are blessed with two lives. One as a Blue Blood.”
“Two lives?”
“You really don’t know?” Asher asked. He shook his head and pulled his horse’s reins to slow down. “You can die, same as anyone else. But until you do, you have a gift that is very valuable to the king. Your abilities are beyond what a normal person has. He pays handsomely for me to bring girls like you in.”
“Only females can become Blue Bloods.”
So that was how the monks knew. “What kind of gift?” Kaylee grew more confused.
“Each girl I bring to the king has been different. Mostly the gifts deal with the elements. Earth, fire, water, air. A few are more valuable because of their rarity.”
“And I will have this gift until I die?”
“Yes. Then you will live again as a normal being.”
“A second life?” Kaylee whispered. “How did this happen?”
“I don’t know how it starts. You just are.”
“Why do you find people like me?”
“To serve the king.”
Kaylee gripped the saddle’s front, gritting her teeth against speaking badly about this king Asher seemed to revere. Asher shifted behind her and took the reins in one hand. His movements sent more shivers down her spine.
“Why wouldn’t you want to go to the king? You’ll be cared for. Protected. You’ll be so valuable to him, he’ll assign guards to watch you constantly. You would always be safe.”
“That is no life.”
Asher snorted. “And hiding as a boy in a monastery is?”
Kaylee shook her head and vowed to keep her mouth shut. No one before had gotten under her skin the way this man did. Maybe it was because no one had treated her like a female in such a long time. She’d only been a woman again for less than two days, and she didn’t like it.

The curse of blood is one only some must bear, and no one knows how it comes to be.

Kaylee is a Blue Blood, cursed with two lives and special powers the king would pay handsomely to own. Asher is one of the king’s best bounty hunters, and his magic amulet lets him know when a Blue Blood is close. He rescues Kaylee from a handful of pesky miscreants and promises to escort her to the king where she’ll be honored and revered as she serves him with her powers, but she's stolen from him by rival bounty hunters who plan to take her a former Blue Blood with a vendetta against the king.

Main Tropes

  • High Fantasy and Magic
  • Slow Burn Romance
  • Strong Female Lead
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