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How to Duet (The Summoner Chronicles, Book 2)

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Netty Harper fled Solcress in hopes of healing the trauma she'd acquired during the Alugahl raid. Since she'd left the castle without a word, a worried Curan Seacoal follows her and ends up playing escort until she reaches her family home. Together, they learn that her new, nightmarish family obligation is only the start of their battles. A growing cult and an outbreak of kidnappings suggest that something much more violent is on the horizon, and Netty doesn't have as much time to heal as she thought. ***Reader discretion is advised. This novel contains scenes describing sex and violence. 18+ only for adult content.

Romance / Fantasy
Asha Nyr
5.0 6 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1


I sighed miserably. I’d had enough of staring at the ceiling of my room in the castle. Rest would not find me nor could I find it. I rose before the morning light, giving up entirely on the prospect of sleep. It had been a complete nightmare trying to obtain any sort of slumber since the raid on the Alugahl research fort. Not only had it been traumatizing to discover what Tamara had been forced to go through under the hands of the now-dead Ambassador Nim—may his corpse rot and be torn apart by carrions!—but I had seen my friends get hurt and witnessed my first deaths. Two of them had been at my very hands—well, more like vocal chords. I couldn’t say that it hadn’t changed me. Deep inside, I had a gaping, bleeding wound in my heart from those deaths that no one could see.

I was a murderer. I didn’t have a title like Cosum to justify it. I wasn’t a soldier, I was a civilian. I was just a Bard drifting through life on a river not of my choosing. I could have called it self-defense, but the more I tried to justify it to myself, the more confused I became. What am I even trying to convince myself about and why? All I knew was that it ate at me, and it made me sick. Those people probably had families, well... maybe, I don’t know. They were just following orders... even if those orders were to kill us. Obviously those orders were unacceptable. I didn’t know how I could have moved on if I had seen any of my friends die that day.

It was just that once they’d shot Curan, I went a little crazy. Maybe that’s what was bothering me the most? It bothered me because I lost control? Was that called bloodlust?

Oh, now I’m just getting all mixed up in my own head!

I sorely wished that Tamara was here. I’d been sheltered for far too long, and now that I had some heavy burdens, I had no idea how to carry them. No one else would understand. Tamara was just so... effective with handling her trauma. She’d mentioned having years of therapy to thank for it, and I felt like that’s what I needed too.

I splashed some water on my face and stared at myself in the mirror. I squinted and noticed that my brown roots were starting to show. I pouted at the inconvenience; I’d have to dye my hair again before going home. Mother would not like it. Brown hair was for peasants, she’d say. I hated bleach. It smelled positively abysmal, and I had to inhale the nasty stuff for as long as it took me to lighten my hair. I was worried that it’d disintegrate all my nose hairs one day.

I changed into a clean, loose, conservative dress and headed down to the dining area. My nose found delight in the scent of freshly baked pastries, and my mouth nearly dribbled with saliva. A couple men from a table full of soldiers playfully called after me, and I did my best to ignore them. My face, however, had a harder time with the attention. Why can’t I just turn off my blush? All it did was let them know they’re affecting me. Traitorous body. Though… as much as their calls embarrassed me, it did make me feel good for some reason. Before getting to know Tamara, I didn’t like being noticed, but now it was… almost kind of fun.

I was grabbing a plate when a voice approached me from my left, “Don’t worry, my lady, I shall protect you from those ruffians.” I let out an embarrassing squeak and jumped in surprise. Drat! It was too easy to startle me. I was always too distracted by my thoughts. I turned and looked up to see Curan’s glowing smile.

Oh no, it’s Curan again.

“Ah… that’s er… very kind,” I managed to say under the looming threat of my own shyness. My courage had been slowly waning once Tamara left for her honeymoon. I frowned, realizing how much I had relied on her to feel brave and beautiful. Why couldn’t I function on my own two feet? It was quite frustrating. I was doing so well before when she was here. I’d even let Curan hug me a couple times... Now I squirmed madly just thinking about it.

I grabbed some pastries, fruit and a cup of tea and walked over to my favorite spot in the dining area. It was a small table by the window overlooking the training fields. It was really the only view, but it was nice to look outside while eating. Secretly though, I was there for the thrill I got watching men train from a safe distance. There was something about them rolling around in the mud or waving their long swords about that made me feel fluttery. There was no harm in looking, was there?

I blanched when Curan joined me at my table and began digging into his own breakfast. His plate was overflowing with eggs, ham, vegetables and fruit. I supposed soldiers needed to eat a lot. I looked out the window to see a couple men doing some warm ups. I felt like I’d need ten meals a day to keep up with their training regimen.

“You’re up very early today, Netty,” Curan said after swallowing a particularly large mouthful of food. “I actually don’t think I’ve seen you around during my breakfast hour.”

“Ah,” I cleared my throat and sipped some tea. “Yes, I woke early and decided to just come down and eat a little.”

“Everything alright?” he asked, a worried frown scrunching his brows. Mother would tell him not to frown, that it’d give him wrinkles. On the other hand, she would love his hair. She’d say his silky ginger-blond hair was like fine rose gold and his pale eyes like blue diamonds. She’d admire his chiseled jaw, chin and cheekbones. A true nobleman, she’d say.

I could see it, sure, but I think I saw it through a different filter. His hair was always neatly combed, but I felt like I could play with it, mess it up, and he wouldn’t mind at all. He’d probably love the attention. Under his dark red lashes, his blue eyes were sweet, warm and completely capable of turning into gleaming mischief in half the beat of a heart. His cheekbones formed smiles easily, and his jaw was usually open to deliver some kind of jest or compliment. His mouth was often wide in a smile and curled up at the ends like a cat. His lips looked soft and sometimes I wondered how they’d fe-

“Netty?” Curan asked. I was startled out of my daydream and mentally slapped myself. Ah Netty, you did it again! “Are you not sleeping well? You seem a little out of it.”

“Hmm,” I floundered while my knee started wiggling under the table from nervous energy. “I’m fine! I have to go, bye!” I felt my face sabotage me and grow hot. I downed my tea, grabbed my pastry and speed walked from the room. I was so embarrassed. How long had I been staring at him? Had I been staring at his lips? Why couldn’t I just talk to people? A tear ran down my cheek, and I brushed it away angrily. I didn’t have the heart to look behind me at Curan’s bewildered face.

I flew to my daily sanctuary, the royal library. I tried to distract myself by sorting through the returned books. The sun was beginning to trickle in through the windows and last night finally felt like it was in the past. I sighed in relief and climbed the ladders up to the third level to put several books back home. I worked my way down in my usual fashion until I returned to the ground level. I made my rounds of tidying up the shelves and rearranging books that had been put back out of order.

I hummed to myself for a while, dusting here and there until I heard voices enter the library. I tensed and stood still until I realized it was Erudoven and Anteno. Anteno had decided to stay and visit with us a little longer before returning back to the university. It’d been a while since he last visited, according to Erudoven, and I admit I was grateful for the extra harmless company. Talking to Anteno was easy and comfortable. I busied myself with preparing them tea from the little kitchenette we had in Erudoven’s study. I pulled out a platter of chocolate chip scones from the pantry, and laid it all out for them to enjoy.

“Good morning, Netty!” Anteno said jovially and took his seat at the table in the study. “Hello,” Erudoven greeted me, then stopped. They leaned forward and touched my cheek. “Netty, you are looking unwell. You have dark spots under your eyes. You should return back to your room,” they ordered. I shook my head, feeling my curls bounce around my face as if they too were protesting.

“I won’t be able to rest, Dove,” I bit my lip, able to at least be honest with my mentor. “I can’t stop seeing them die over and over again.” Tears began to form in my eyes, and I cursed myself. I didn’t want to take my honesty this far. Stop crying, Netty!

“Come join us, Netty,” Anteno said, waving to a chair next to him. I didn’t want to join them. I just wanted to hide in the bowels of the library, but I did as he said. I flopped a little melodramatically into a chair next to Erudoven, and Anteno stared at my folded hands in my lap.

“Netty, tell us the facts of those deaths,” Anteno asked, stirring milk into his tea.

Facts? I pressed my lips together, trying to organize my thoughts. Why was he making me relive this? “T-They were Alugahl soldiers. They were archers. One of them shot Curan, and I made him dizzy so he’d fall off the wall. He screamed and died. H-He probably had a family or-”

“Just the facts, Netty. You don’t know that he had family,” Erudoven reminded me.

I sniffed and wiped a tear away. “I suppose that’s all, then. I just did the same thing with the other archer. Sent him right off the wall. I could have made them both fall asleep, but I didn’t. I... I...” The truth came to me hard and fast. I didn’t know if I could bring myself to say it. Anteno grabbed my left hand with his old knobby one and rubbed it gently with his thumb, trying to comfort me. Erudoven patted my other hand.

“Netty, you don’t have to say it now. You just have to be kind to yourself. You were thrown into a battle to save your friend. Despite being thrown into a terrible situation, you had a lot of victories that night. You saved way more lives than you took. Think of all those slaves who got to walk free because you kept Giles and Curan safe. Every life you saved was a victory,” Erudoven spoke gently, but earnestly.

I nodded with my eyes shut tight, just trying to let the tears run out on their own. I hiccuped and dabbed at my face with a napkin.

“Anteno,” Erudoven said, “Don’t you think Curan would be a good person for her to talk to? A soldier always remembers their first kill. He may be able to help h-”

“No!” I protested a little too loudly, making Anteno jump. “No,” I said more softly. “I... don’t think a soldier would understand. Plus, I’m a woman...” I trailed off, not sure where I was going with that one. Those excuses were pathetic.

“Curan likes you, Netty. I’m sure he’d be happy to help you,” Anteno said, leaning forward to try to get me to look at him. He patted my hand, trying to get my attention.

“Curan likes a lot of women,” I retorted without thinking and cringed. Oh souls, that was unkind! Why did I say that?

“Netty, you know that’s not what he meant,” Erudoven scolded. I placed my hands over my face. I just humiliated myself for the second time today, and it wasn’t even lunchtime.

“Curan is a great man, Netty. He doesn’t deserve your scorn,” Anteno muttered. I heard him take a swig of tea and pick up a scone. He flicked off a tiny burnt crumb.

“Maybe you should consider getting a change of scenery, my dear,” Erudoven said, and I could tell they were trying to calm down. “I know you’ve been getting letters to go visit your family. Maybe now would be a good time for that? See family and try to heal a little?”

I nodded and stood up. “I will do that. I-I-I’m sorry for what I said,” I choked out and ran out of the library. Once again, I couldn’t bear to look back at the ones I'd disappointed.

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