The Scholar’s Heart
by Antonia Aquilante
M/M Fantasy Romance
Series: Chronicles of Tournai
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Release Date: May 30, 2016
Length: Novel (294 pages)
Youngest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart who juggles his work for the prince with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, something of particular interest to him because he shares the magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries a woman. Though Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, he is a dutiful son, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family.
A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together, and even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside again. When Tristan’s daughter is kidnapped, Etan and Tristan must come together to find her, find the person responsible, and support each other through the ordeal… and maybe beyond.
He thought he imagined the voice at first, but the tone was sharp and the voice all too familiar. Looking up from his book, he found he was no longer alone. Tristan stood in the doorway to his little room watching him, and for an instant, Etan felt as if time fell away, bringing him back to before. Then the present snapped into place again. “Tristan.”
“Didn’t you hear me? I was calling your name.”
Tristan’s impatience surprised Etan; he didn’t remember Tristan being so sharp at something so minor. But for quite a while now, he’d been questioning much of what he thought he knew about Tristan. “I apologize. I didn’t. I was reading.”
His overly polite tone, the one he used to keep his irritation in check, only seemed to annoy Tristan further. “You can’t hear when you’re reading?”
Why should he explain the way he focused while he read? The way he got lost in the words, in the history, in the story, and didn’t notice anything around him, anything outside the book. No, Tristan’s inexplicable irritation with him only brought his own frustration crashing back despite the calm that had descended while he read. He carefully closed the book, set it on the table, and rose. “What are you doing here?”
Tristan stared at him a moment, his fists clenching. “Why were you looking at me like that last night?”
“You’re going to pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about? Really?”
Yes, yes he was. Because he was not going to have this conversation with Tristan, especially when he didn’t have a good explanation for his behavior—no explanation at all except the truth, and the truth was not something he could tell Tristan. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Tristan huffed. “Last night, at the Hidden Cat, you looked at me and you were so angry.”
“I’m not mistaken. I saw how you looked at me.” Tristan stalked up to him. “And I want to know why.”
“Not everything is about you.”
“You were sitting at a table surrounded by laughing people, and you looked at me with fury in your eyes. Why?”
“Leave it, Tristan.”
He forced down his irritation when he saw Tristan’s fists were still clenched. “Why are you angry with me?”
“Because of the way you looked at me. I don’t understand it. I don’t know what I did.”
“Just leave it, Tristan. It doesn’t matter. It had nothing to do with you.”
“But you were looking at me.”
Was it just because Etan was irritated that the whole argument seemed ridiculous and childish? “I cannot possibly be the only person who’s ever looked at you.”
Tristan’s face contorted with anger. “Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t try to be funny. I want answers, Etan, and I came here to get them. Now tell me—”
“Who was he?” Etan kicked himself for asking the instant the words were out of his mouth. He wished he could take them back.
Tristan floundered for a moment. “Who was who?”
“No, don’t stop now. Who?”
Etan swallowed back a sigh, but Tristan’s belligerent tone goaded him. And, though it made him crazy, he had to know. “The man you were with last night. The one you left with.”
Tristan rocked back and shook his head, as confusion and surprise mingled in his eyes. “No one, a friend from university.”
“A friend?” He knew his words dripped skepticism, but he almost didn’t care.
“Yes, a friend,” Tristan said. His voice was firm, but something skittish, something less certain, had his gaze darting away from Etan. Etan wasn’t sure what it meant, but it fed his annoyance, made him push.
“Looked like more than just a friend. What with the way he was hanging off of you, and the hurry he seemed to be in to get you out of there.”
Tristan face went red. Embarrassment or anger or both, Etan didn’t know. He didn’t know if he cared at this point either. “I can’t see what concern it is of yours what Leo is to me. I don’t know why you’re even asking me.”
Etan felt something snap inside himself at Tristan’s rising voice. “I shouldn’t be asking, you’re right. But you want to know why I’m asking you? This is why.”
Against all of his better judgment, which was screaming at him unheeded from some small part of his mind, he grabbed Tristan, pulled him close, and kissed him.
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent – they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats which she shares with friends and family, and of course reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to ebooks, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, she is living there again after years in Washington, DC, and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Rainbow Romance Writers.
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