How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days

By: Kerrelyn Sparks

“Why?” Luciana winced at the sound of her sister’s snickering.

“My dear child.” He took her hands in his. “We did our best to conceal the time of your birth, but there was no way to hide the fact that there were two of you.”

“Twin girls are considered a blessing here on the island,” Mother Ginessa explained, “but I’m afraid it is quite different on the mainland.”

“Twins are considered an abomination, caused by the twin moons. Female twins are even worse, for they represent the goddesses themselves.” The duke squeezed Luciana’s hands. “The only way to keep you both alive was to separate you. We could never let anyone know that you’re twins.”

“So ye sent me self here to protect me?” Luciana sighed. “But why let me think ye were dead? Could ye not have come to visit?”

“Repeated visits here would have aroused the suspicions of the king’s spies. I couldn’t risk them finding out about you, not when it would mean your death.”

She winced. “Is it truly that dangerous?”

“I’m afraid so,” he replied. “In your studies, have you learned about the religion of the Eberoni?”

Luciana nodded. “They worship the sun god called the Light, so they are called the Enlightened. The head of the church is the Eberoni king.”

“Exactly. So anyone who refuses to follow the king’s religion is considered a blasphemer and put to death.”

Luciana sat back. “He would kill someone for worshipping the goddesses? Why? Luna and Lessa are helpful. They guide the men home from the sea.”

Mother Ginessa raised her hands to make the sign of the moons. “The Eberoni fail to understand the loving care the goddesses bestow upon us.”

The duke snorted. “It has nothing to do with love or understanding. It’s about power. As long as the king is the head of the church, he alone can decide who has offended his god and deserves death.”

Luciana regarded the duke curiously. “Then ye do not follow his religion?”

“I do, actually.” A corner of his mouth lifted with a wry look. “As does everyone in Eberon who values his head. You will have to, also, when you return with me.”

Luciana stiffened. “Ye expect me to change my beliefs?”

“I won’t tell you what to believe, but for your own safety you have to at least pretend to be Enlightened.”

“Nay.” She shook her head. “I cannot go. I would have to give up my beliefs, my home, and even my sisters.”

He tilted his head. “Sisters?”

“Aye. I have four sisters here.” Luciana’s eyes misted with tears. “I belong with them. We made a vow that we would remain together forever.”

The duke watched her sadly. “You … truly have no wish to come home with me?”

“My home is here. I cannot leave my faith. Or my sisters. I am the oldest. They need me self.”

He rubbed his brow, frowning. “And what if I need you?”

Tatiana snorted. “Why would Papa need you? You’re as coarse as a peasant, and your accent is simply horrid.”

Luciana sighed. “I don’t want ye to think I’m ungrateful for yer visit. I hope ye’ll come back often.”

He leaned toward her, watching her closely. “Have you been happy here? That is what I prayed for every day.”

She blinked back tears. “Aye. I’ve been very happy.”

Mother Ginessa rested a hand on Luciana’s shoulder. “Luciana and her sisters have been a delight to us who ne’er hoped to have children of our own.”

Luciana smiled up at the nun. “We’ve been blessed to have a loving home.”

The duke exhaled slowly as he leaned back in his chair. “All right, then. I will leave you here.”

Luciana grinned. “Thank you!”

Mother Ginessa stepped back, clearly stunned. “Bu—but, Yer Grace. Ye told me earlier that ye need her—”

“No. She’s happy here. And safe.” He rose to his feet. “I stand by my decision. When the ground dries, we’ll bury Tatiana, then I’ll be on my way.”

Luciana stood, growing increasingly concerned by the frantic look on Mother Ginessa’s face. “What is wrong?”

The duke took hold of her shoulders and gazed at her with tears in his eyes. “Luciana, live a long and happy life for me. That is all I can ask.”

“Ye’ll come see me self again, aye?” Her heart dropped when he lowered his hands and looked away. Was she going to be rejected once again?

Mother Ginessa paced across her office, then turned with a defiant look. “Nay. I will not have this. Ye will tell yer daughter—”

“She is my daughter,” he ground out. “That means the decision is mine.”

“Nay, the decision is hers!” Mother Ginessa pointed at Luciana. “This is not the mainland where the men order the women about. Yer daughter is well educated and perfectly capable of making a decision for herself.”

“I cannot ask her to do this for me!”

Mother Ginessa snorted. “Ye felt fine with it less than an hour ago.”