A ballad in prose set in the mountains of North Carolina. Two people, destined to love each other, but forever doomed to be apart… Vancie Keller is trying to survive on her mother’s failing farm when her life is forever altered by the arrival of two men: Josiah Buckland and Jagger Hill. One, she will love, the other she will marry. She has a secret neither of them know. Orphaned as a teen, Josiah Buckland came down from the rugged mountains of North Carolina to try to find work and possibly a home. He didn’t expect to find the love of his life. Jagger Hill has secrets of his own. When he comes to town and starts to rebuild, nobody knows him for who he really is, but people will soon learn. Some secrets cannot be kept forever…
Ever since her family was kidnapped, Azara, a woman of fire mage stock, has survived with a warrior's will and the hope of one day finding them. Whispers of their fate have finally led her to the Empire, where her brother and sister are now prized possessions of His Celestial Majesty's court. Unable to immediately negotiate their freedom, Azara reluctantly agrees to the Emperor's suggestion: accompany his devoted magus Jin across their rival's border in search of other fire mages while her siblings remain in the Emperor's hands.
Posing as married tea merchants, Azara and Jin's masquerade begins. For a fierce young woman devoted to a heartening cause, and a man beholden to his duties, it's an uneasy alliance—but one that quickly turns passionate.
It's also a dangerous proposition, for although the attraction between Jin and Azara is real, both the Emperor and Azara have ulterior motives. It's only when Azara explores her unique powers and puts her faith in Jin that their fight for family—and for their very destiny—can succeed.