Rebellion brews inside Milenda’s heart as the date for the Trials approach. As the
heiress to the throne of Natale, she is forced to choose a consort from the survivors of the
grueling quest across the desert.
Milenda’s heart belongs to Jaali and wants no part in the ancient and cruel ritual, but the
Elders—the true rulers of Natale—will not back down.
Jaali was brought from the far North as a child slave. His only chance to be with the woman
he loves is to volunteer for the Trials, no matter how dangerous or how much Milenda
Together they begin their journey of discovery and rebellion against the Elders. But will their
love be enough or will they lose everything they've fought for?
Milenda felt guilt nibbling at her toes. As the heiress to the crown, the Jewel, as she was often called, she was kept away from politics. Her royal father and the body of Elders wove a protective shield around her, keeping all the uncomfortable realities at bay. When Milenda had insisted on taking classes at the centuries-old university campus, she had almost caused a national crisis amongst the governing bodies. She would be exposed to facts and rumors they’d rather have hidden from her. She had been relentless in her desire, and at last they had given in.
All along, they’d had her followed. It was hard to ignore a giant hulk of a man, wearing the flamboyant uniform of the Protectors, always a few steps behind her. It was not hard to dissuade them from keeping a close guard on her; a few not-so-veiled threats of improper conduct and she soon lost her bodyguard. Everyone knew who she was and for the most part, much to her dismay, they kept their distance, too scared of committing some faux pas and of the government’s retaliation. Even the professors were guarded around her.
So, it was refreshing to really talk to someone who did not recognize her at all. To be treated like an ordinary young woman, even for just a few moments, was exciting and new.
“What do you study?” Jaali asked her, his pale blue eyes trained on her face. She felt a rush of heat crawling up her neck. The unusual young man tilted his head as if fascinated by what he was seeing. “Is it normal for your spots to shine?” he asked.
Damn it! My traitorous spots.
Her people’s typical skin spots were known to glow and shimmer when they got excited, embarrassed, or happy. Spots were distinct. Not one person from Nyota stock had the same pattern of matangazos. The location of the markings also changed from one person to another, but they were all in at least partially visible places of the body. Hers began on her right cheek by her ear and spilled in a flowing pattern like a cornucopia down her neck into her shoulder, dissolving at her shoulder blade. Her matangazos resembled the spots of a leopard, but on others, they were shaped like round dots or elongated ovals or even hearts. She remembered trying to hide her markings, which were naturally a slightly deeper color of amber, with makeup as a young teenager, trying to look more like the Wazi, whose skins were unmarked and smooth like sanded ebony. Her markings didn’t bother her anymore, though. She had grown to love and accept them as a part of what made her an individual, and nothing made her prouder than being regarded as her own person.
Natalina wrote her first romance in collaboration with her best friend at the age of 13. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes. Her novel, We Will Always Have the Closet, is her first published romance.
After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she has taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.
Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.