For Shauna Summers, with heartfelt gratitude for her grace and guidance.

A zillion thanks as well to Annelise Robey and Andrea Cirillo, who always believed, and to Nita Taublib, who pushed me so wisely.

And to the family: I love you.

January 12, 1774


Mother, Father,

I pen this missive knowing it will arrive a most unpleasant surprise to you. No doubt you thought me still at the Wallence School for Young Ladies in Edinburgh. It is just past Christmas, though, so perhaps you've realized by now that I'm not where I promised I would be. My heart breaks to think of the worry I might have caused you. I apologize. Never would I have done this thing had the circumstances not been so very dire. The stone you sought has been made safe.

I understand what I've done. I've broken tribal laws to a degree I've never even heard before whispered. Please know I did not do any of this lightly. I am no longer a child but a woman full grown, and one of our kind in every way. Allow me to repeat: In every way. When I return to Darkfrith, I shall accept my punishment. I bow to your will and that of the council.

I have been staying in a castle in the Carpathian Alps as a guest of a most unusual princess, who has kindly agreed to forward this letter to you. She, too, is fully one of our kind. Certainly you will be as shocked by this news as I was. There are more of us, quite a few more, than we ever imagined. They live like gypsies here, entrenched beneath the stars, in secluded villages or in this fortress. The nights descend so bright and hushed you can hear every diamond, every pebble and trickle of gold in the streams. You can fly into forever.

I am wed now. My husband is Zane. I'm sorry.

All my love,

Lia


PROLOGUE



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