Here you'll find the first chapter of one of my releases.
As I’m celebrating the release of the entire Royals of Svardia trilogy, there is no better place to start than with the first chapter of the first book, Snowbound with his Forbidden Princess. I absolutely loved writing Kjell and Freya's royal romance; emotional, sensual and trope-tastic, in a snowbound, isolated cabin with only one bed, there is no where to hide from the sensual tension that burns hot enough to melt the ice!
Snowbound with his Forbidden Princess
A winter storm… and a white-hot reunion!
Princess Freya is dreading the dutiful task that will mean facing Kjell Bergqvist again. The hardened soldier he’s become is nothing like the man who broke her heart eight years ago. But memories of what they once shared enflame new desires when a snowstorm leaves them stranded!
Kjell can’t forgive Freya for exiling him from his country—until they discover the truth of what really tore them apart. Without a royal title, he cannot offer Freya the future she deserves, but they have each other as long as the storm rages…
‘Your Highness? His Majesty will be with you in a few minutes.’
Princess Freya of Svardia nodded, resisting the urge to press her palm against the erratic pulse of her heart. She reminded herself that it was her brother who would take this meeting, not her father, who had—as Svardian tradition held—stepped down from the throne at the age of sixty-five, as his father had done and his father before him. The tradition ensured that whoever graced the throne was mentally and physically strong, whilst also reflective of the broadest generations of Svardia’s subjects.
The reigning King—her brother Alexander—would mark his first year while their father and mother left on a twelve-month sabbatical, away from the country and out of contact to ensure no risk of interference or influence while both the new King and the Svardian people got used to each other.
Three months ago, Alexander had ascended the throne. And now, hands clasped firmly behind her back, she stood outside his office and prepared to do battle with her King.
A bird soared past the window, catching Freya’s eye and taking it over the spring green garden that extended all the way to the walls separating the palace from Svardia’s capital city of Torfarn. It was a view she’d seen a million times but never given real thought to. Now, though, it had become uniquely precious to her.
The simple beauty of the ancient trees, the subtle delicacy of the hornbeam hedges used in the sixteenth-century maze, the neatly manicured lawns and the sprawling natural park just beyond, each was a piece of evidence left by the successive generations of one of the world’s oldest royal families. Her heart pounded with a dull thud as she wondered what Alexander, her brother, would leave behind for his future generations.
Perhaps after she stepped down from her royal title, she could get a job showing tourists around the palace. The laugh that should have followed the ironic thought got caught in her chest and she closed her eyes.
She loved doing what she did. Being who she was. The sense of history, the grandeur, the respect for tradition and the symbolism of it all. And most of all she loved having the ability to use her position and title to support the causes and people that needed it, ones that sometimes the people of Svardia and their politicians forgot. But she also knew that the responsibility of being royal was a duty that few could understand. And even now she felt the sharp sting of cruel irony—she could only do her duty by not doing her duty.
The door behind her opened and two of the palace staff passed into the corridor, their conversation quietening and their heads bowing as they saw her. She waited, facing the door, able to see glimpses of the room her brother had taken as his office. It didn’t matter how much modern technology Alexander filled it with, his office—just like every other room in the palace—was inescapably grand. The preservation of the baroque style that filled the Rilderdal Palace had been a matter of pride for her father and a source of embarrassment for her brother.
‘Freya? Get in here, I don’t have much time.’
‘You know,’ she said, stepping into the room and closing the door behind her, ‘you really should get a secretary. You can’t just go about shouting at people from your office.’
‘Didn’t you hear? I’m King. I can do what I like.’ Freya honestly couldn’t divine whether the statement was pure arrogance or a dark sense of humour at his new role, now that their parents were on their sabbatical. Not that it mattered. His statement hadn’t required an answer.
Once, it might have been different. When they had been younger, he’d been different. But around his seventeenth birthday Alexander had changed. The softness, warmth that she’d shared with him gone in the blink of an eye with no explanation whatsoever. And in its place? A controlled and forbidding man who was closed even to her. Now she could rarely tell what he was thinking, let alone planning. In that moment, Freya wondered at the price they had both paid for the throne.
‘Are you sure that this is what you want?’ he asked as his gaze assessed her face for a reaction. She stared blankly into irises that were so dark they were almost black. Hers were the opposite—the palest amber—and their younger sister Marit’s a perfect meld of the two, a startling hazel.
Freya could have laughed at his attempt to catch her out, so she might reveal that it was the last thing she wanted on this earth. But she’d been trained well—such a perfect princess that even in this she was the better diplomat than he.
‘Yes. My mind is made up.’
Alexander grunted an unintelligible reply and turned to look out of the window, framed by the much-detested pink curtain. ‘What do you think Father would say?’ he asked, his tone surprisingly solicitous.
Her stomach turned. She knew what their father would say. That she was doing the right thing—the only thing that could be done. But saying that would make her brother more likely to dig his heels in, so instead she stalled. ‘We won’t know for another eight months until their return.’
‘You could contact them. If you wish?’
Freya wondered why he believed that would make any difference at all. Their parents wouldn’t thank her, instead seeing it as a concern only for the King of Svardia to handle. And if she expected emotional support, well…Freya, Alexander and Marit each knew better than that.
‘I don’t think that he’d appreciate the break with protocol.’
‘Even for this?’ he pressed.
‘This is my problem. I’ve always known how important the line of succession is.’
‘If you give me time—’
‘Alexander,’ she interrupted. ‘If anything were to happen to you before you have children, or to your family in the future, the line of succession falls to me and…’ She clenched her jaw, still struggling to vocalise it.
‘Ifs,’ Sander replied.
‘Ifs that happened to our father!’ Freya frantically tried to rein in the emotion in her voice. Having had to take the throne after the shocking loss of his older brother, her father had always made sure she knew how important she was as the second child. And she had borne the weight and responsibility of that duty, and would have continued to do so until her dying breath. Even after discovering that she could not fulfil the full extent of that duty.
‘Marit is going to struggle.’
‘Yes,’ Freya agreed. ‘But I will help her in any way I can.’
Her brother snorted out a frustrated breath. ‘Of course you would help your replacement, no matter how much it costs you.’
‘It is my duty. And she’s our sister,’ she replied simply.
‘She’s going to have to marry. And soon. And Freya—the same rules will now apply to her. She will have to marry a noble, just as you would have had to.’
Freya could only nod. She hated that Marit had been dragged into this. Hated not only the archaic legislation that determined the man she would marry, but also hated just how much her younger sister would struggle with the constraints of her new duties. Freya had been born knowing her duty, knowing the restrictions it placed on her life. But Marit had always been the wild one, and she and Alexander had indulged her, enjoying her freedom even if they couldn’t have it for themselves.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, the words thick and heavy on her tongue.
‘It’s not your fault. And I’m still not convinced it’s necessary.’
‘Really? It’s three months since your coronation. If the press find out about me when you are still unmarried and without—’ Both her heart and mind stumbled over the word.
It whispered and screamed in the silence between her and Alexander. Behind her back, she clenched her fists, warding off the visceral ache that swirled in spaces that would never be filled.
She put up a hand to stop him. ‘If the press find out, Alexander, it would be carnage.’ She could see it so clearly. The press would rip apart any dignity or privacy that she had. Across the globe, doctors, celebrities and everyday Svardians would be asked for their opinions on the failure of her body. ‘But I wouldn’t be the only one facing the backlash, Alexander. They would dig into your life, Marit’s… And you are already under such incredible scrutiny–’
‘Freya…’ he warned.
‘Alexander, I believe in you. I believe in what you are trying to achieve for Svardia. But there are already whispers that you are too progressive, and too fast with your changes.’
‘And that is my duty to bear, not yours.’
‘And mine is to make sure that nothing disrupts what you are hoping to accomplish.’
‘They will tear you apart, Freya.’
‘Yes, they will,’ she replied, not naïve about the backlash that would ensue. ‘But not because of my failure as a woman. We will tell them that I have chosen to step down in order to spend more time by myself. We all know how much the press love to hate a self-involved royal. It should keep them busy for quite some time.’
And, that way, it would at least appear as if it were her choice. That way, she might be able to fool herself that she had managed to preserve her agency by controlling the narrative. That way, she might protect her dignity. Her identity.
Because to have her femininity questioned, her womanhood… Her heart was pounding as she cowered from the threat of such a blow. She would lose herself. So, no. She couldn’t face that. Better to let them think her selfish and uncaring of the institution into which she had been born and loved with her every breath.
‘If I had children—’
‘But you don’t,’ she said simply.
‘But I will,’ he bit out through clenched teeth, as if it were something that would cost him greatly. But her curiosity about it wasn’t enough to distract her from the argument they’d been having for the last month.
‘Yes, but in how long? Two or three years’ time? No palace can keep a secret for that long. The news of my infertility will get out in the next three months, maybe? Six if we’re lucky. If I step down, my fertility won’t even be of consequence and we have a much greater chance of keeping it quiet for the length of time you need.’ The possibility that the media would never discover her infertility was only a distant hope for Freya.
‘You have an answer for everything.’
‘Because I have thought about it every which way.’ And Freya had. Her heart ached unbearably. She would never have willingly stepped away from her family, from her role. But if it meant securing the stability and future of her family and country, then her decision was simple.
‘Well, then I have one last duty for you to perform, Your Highness,’ he said, going to stand behind his desk, no longer her brother but her King. ‘I have a Medal of Valour that needs to be delivered to its recipient.’
Freya frowned. ‘I don’t understand. Medals are received at the investitures.’
‘The recipient refuses to attend the Investiture.’
The Medal of Valour was offered to military personnel who had demonstrated exceptional courage in the face of extreme danger. But to refuse it from your King—the Commander in Chief—was not only unheard of but would reflect badly on Alexander, especially at his first Investiture. It would be seen as a vote of no confidence, no matter what reasons were behind the refusal, and that could be a devastating blow to Alexander’s rule.
‘Why would they not want the medal?’
‘That is for you to find out when you take it to him.’
Him. Her brother wasn’t usually so coy with his words. She stared at him, just as able to play the royal waiting game as he.
Alexander sighed. ‘Kjell Bergqvist.’
Fire and ice swept in waves across her skin and her heart stuttered, forcing Freya to stifle the gasp of breath her lungs cried out for.
‘No.’ The word shot from her lips unbidden.
‘This is not up for debate.’ His voice was quiet but his eyes sparked gold and his tone was implacable. ‘If you want to step down from your duties, your title and your family, then by God don’t expect me to make it easy for you.’
‘The helicopter will be here in an hour. Be on it, or not.’
Her brother was no longer looking at her, peering down at a piece of paper in the same manner their father always had when he couldn’t be bothered to utter a dismissal.
No choice. No choice. No choice.
‘An hour?’ she asked, hating the weakness in her voice.
‘I believe there are weather constraints,’ he replied, still not looking up.
Freya shot a glance to the window, frowning at clear blue skies.
The helicopter jerked suddenly and Freya’s stomach lifted into her throat as she battled a swift wave of nausea, but no one in the small cabin would have known it. She had spent years perfecting serenity in the mirror and she wore it like a crown. The pilot righted the helicopter, apologising into the earpiece of her headphones, and she sent him a smile of reassurance.
Usually, she loved watching the ground roll out beneath her as the helicopter sped through the air, but all she could see was shifting shades of white as they crossed from Svardian airspace into Swedish.
‘Who is this guy anyway?’ she heard a young guardsman whisper to Gunnar, the head of her royal protection detail. Freya couldn’t help it, she turned to find Gunnar’s eyes locked onto her and she felt the burn of a blush rise to her cheeks. She turned back to the window and forced her gaze back to the shifting white shapes beyond.
‘Lieutenant Colonel Bergqvist is a highly respected and valued member of the Svardia Armén,’ Freya heard Gunnar explain behind her.
She tensed to prevent her body from betraying her reaction, trying to figure out how the tall, lean student she’d once known could have become such a powerful soldier. But then, she thought, turning back to the white haze outside the small window, she hadn’t actually known anything about him at all.
She gave into the memory she hadn’t revisited for eight years…
She’d been in a helicopter just like this one, shaking not from turbulence but from shock. What made it so awful was that it wasn’t just a reaction to the terrifying news that her sister had been in an accident and was being treated urgently by Svardia’s best doctors. No. It was the horror that had come from realising that her boyfriend, the person who had made her laugh, made her feel safe, wanted and desired, the man she had given her kisses to, herself to, had been an undercover bodyguard, hired by her father.
He sat opposite her in the helicopter that was returning them from Switzerland to Svardia, staring at her as if she were an unexploded bomb. She clenched her jaw as her heart twisted, and turned away to look out of the window so that the three Close Protection Officers couldn’t see the tear that had rolled down her face.
Four. There were four CPOs with her in the helicopter.
Less than forty minutes earlier she and Kjell had been in her dorm room, laughing. Freya couldn’t remember what about now. It had taken her months to make him smile, and the first time he’d laughed she’d felt it deep in her heart. They’d been laughing, but it had petered out to a moment when happiness had settled and desire had stirred and he’d been about to kiss her…just like he had done a hundred or so times in the last few months.
She craved his kisses with a ferocity that overwhelmed her.
His phone had rung and something had passed across his eyes at the strange ringtone she’d not heard before. Three seconds later her phone had rung too. It had been her brother, telling her that Marit had been in an accident and they needed her to come home immediately. Fear had slashed through her. Her heartbeat had raced and concern had become a powerful white noise that blocked out everything but the ringing in her ears.
Kjell had looked up and seen the horror on her face, placed a hand on her arm to anchor her. And it had worked. He’d calmed the storm and soothed her pulse enough to hear what Sander had said next.
‘Marit’s going to be okay, Freya. She is. But we need you here. We have a Close Protection Officer nearby who’s going to come to you. We can argue about it later, but now he’s going to bring you home. His name is Bergqvist. Kjell Bergqvist.’
Her stomach had roiled, filling her with nausea and horror.
She’d begged her father not to give her a protection detail. She’d wanted so much to prove to him that she could be trusted. That she would be a perfect dutiful princess during her time at the Swiss university. She’d meant every word of it.
Until she’d met Kjell.
Humiliation scoured her stomach. Not only had she proved herself to be anything but the perfect princess—she’d done it with the very man who had been sent to spy on her.
The man now sitting opposite her in the helicopter.
A tear rolled down her cheek. For the months of their secret relationship she’d fought it—the knowledge that it could never be. That neither her father nor the legislation that bound the royal family would allow her to marry a commoner. But in spite of that she’d wanted him. She’d taken a risk for him. She’d fallen for him because he’d made her feel loved for who she was, not what.
Freya battled the sob rising in her chest because the one thing that had become more precious to her than any other was based on a lie. And how could you love a lie?
She tensed her body to keep it from betraying the shivers that racked her heart. The betrayal she felt was like a bell being struck over and over again in the deepest part of her heart, vibrating outwards and causing her whole body to tremble.
His voice made her clamp her eyes shut tighter.
‘Bergqvist,’ came the warning response from the senior CPO.
It was clear that while none of them knew anything specific, her reaction to the revelation of his identity had been extreme.
Humiliation painted her cheeks bright red. If they didn’t know, they must suspect that something had happened between them.
‘Freya,’ he tried again.
When she ignored him, he ripped off the headset and released the belt holding him in place. He reached across the distance between them and took her face in his hands.
‘We need to talk about this.’
‘There’s nothing to talk about,’ she whispered harshly, trying to wrench herself from his hold.
Oh, God. It hurt so much.
‘I wanted to tell you so many times.’
‘Back in your seat, Bergqvist—that’s an order!’
He stared at her, his eyes full of need and yearning, and all she saw was betrayal.
‘It was real for me,’ he said.
She tried to shake her head, but his warm hands held her firm.
‘It was real for me,’ he insisted.
She stared him deep in the eyes, the pain in her heart like nothing she’d ever felt before. She thought she heard it break.
‘I never want to see you again.’
In shock, he released her, and she turned to look out of the window.
For the entire flight back to Svardia she didn’t once take her gaze from the small plastic circle.
She waited for all the men to file out of the cabin before she moved, and when she did she kept her gaze on the floor until she could look ahead without even catching so much as a glimpse of him.
She cut him out of her life and her heart that day, swearing never to think of him again.
‘Your Highness? We’re coming in to land,’ she was warned through the earpiece in the headphones, jolting her back from a memory that left a fresh bruise on her heart.
The pilot brought them down much closer to the edge of the forest than Freya had thought possible. Yet it was still a good distance from the two dwellings she could barely make out, buried beneath what looked, worryingly, like several feet of snow.
She waited while men in green jumpsuits flipped buttons and muttered into their headsets, controlling her breathing by timing her pulse to the slowing blades above her.
‘Okay, Your Highness. We’re ready.’
She nodded to Gunnar and reached up to the handle just above the open door. The young member of the royal guard, eyes bright and cheeks flushed with excitement, held his hand out to her from the ground. This was probably his first assignment. Had she been Kjell’s first assignment too?
She turned back to look at Gunnar.
‘We don’t have much time. Conditions have worsened unexpectedly. There’s a storm coming in from the East and it’s set to be a bad one.’
Freya didn’t waste any more time. There was absolutely no way that she would risk getting stuck out here. None. She had one goal. Get in, have Kjell accept the medal and leave. He owed her that much at least.
She landed a little ungracefully, despite the support from the guard, the blanket of snow about three inches deeper than she had imagined. The action jarred, sending a hard jolt up through her body. She shook her head a little, righting herself and her sense of self at the same time.
This was what she wanted, she told herself firmly. This was what was needed.
Freya looked up at the large cabin closest to them, the red painted wooden boards barely visible through flakes of snow that were now falling thick and fast. But something drew her gaze to the cabin set further back, nearer the woods, and a sense of déjà vu struck her, even though she’d never set foot in this part of southern Sweden before.
She shivered as a snowflake slid past the upturned collar of her coat and trailed down her spine. The icy tendril clashed with the fast burn of ire, flaring to life at the mere thought of what could have been and what would never be, the past with Kjell and the future with children she’d never have all swirling out of her reach and making her heart ache.
Her head snapped up as she felt his eyes on her, burning her skin. She searched back and forth across the front of the properties and only on her second pass did she see him leaning lazily against the corner of the furthest building, watching them approach as if he had all the time in the world.
Pinpricks broke out across the back of her neck and a shocking longing hit her hard and fast. It stuck in her throat and filled her lungs. Until the memory of his betrayal cut through the haze of need like a shard of ice.
Clearing her mind, Freya knew without a doubt that the only reason she had spotted him was because he’d allowed it. And now that she had seen him she refused to look away, half afraid that if she blinked he would disappear and all of this would have been for nothing. Her only chance at freedom gone, just like that.
The snow made it much harder to close the distance and consequently gave her more time to take him in. How was he standing there in the middle of a blizzard with a wind chill factor of minus degrees in nothing but a dark long-sleeved top that clung to his torso like a second skin? The matching trousers looked military grade and even had she not overheard his army rank she still would have thought dangerous. He was twisting something in gloveless hands—a rag or piece of cloth? Her fingers stung at just the thought of how cold his hands must be.
Finer details began to emerge as she drew closer. His hair, still the colour of spun gold, had grown a little long at the top, was swept back by the wind but the close crop at the sides highlighted the fierce slash of his cheekbones. The dark material of his T-shirt pulled tightly over a chest that was bigger and broader and so much more defined than she remembered it made her palms itch. The narrow circumference of his hips was marked by a thick black canvas belt that looked utilitarian rather than affectation. And his height… She could have hurt herself looking up at the forbidding expression on his features.
Maybe it was the snow, maybe it was the isolated cabins, but she’d expected a beard. Full, thick, something a Norse god could be proud of. But his jaw was clean-shaven, all hard angles and smooth skin, and still she wanted to—
Freya jerked her eyes up to his and bit her lip. The storm in his gaze was far worse than anything the elements could throw at her. He narrowed his eyes as if sensing her wayward thoughts, before he refocused on something behind her.
‘Take her home, Gunnar,’ he growled, his voice somehow carrying through the raging snowstorm, and without even a second glance at her he disappeared through the door with a slam that dislodged a substantial amount of snow from the sloped roof.
Panic shot through her. It had taken two months for Sander to even consider agreeing to her request to step down from her royal position. If Kjell didn’t accept the medal, would her brother force her to endure the world’s press poring over her failure as a royal? As a woman?
The thought of it gave her the fuel she needed. She clenched her jaw, turning back to the head of her security, holding her arm out to stop him. ‘Don’t even think about it,’ she warned, barely seeing him raise his hands in surrender before she marched towards the cabin and the closed door.
‘Fifteen minutes, Your Highness. Twenty at most,’ she heard Gunnar call to her as she reached the cabin.