A shy girl must become a true heroine to save her city and win the heart of her Divine Guardsman.
Nothing in Tia's quiet, humble life has prepared her for the day a member of the Divine Guard of Poseidon appears at her door and throws down a challenge: will she compete for the honor of becoming a Dreamer in the great Temple of Poseidon? She agrees, little suspecting that an even greater challenge lies ahead, one that will test her to her limits and beyond.
Tia stood transfixed under his scrutiny. Those eyes. They were of a deep, almost luminous green that made her feel as if she were gazing into the depths of the Aegean. Tia finally tore her eyes away and cast her gaze down. Nothing in her life as the daughter of a weaver prepared her for an encounter such as this, yet somehow she must manage. An unfamiliar emotion filled her mind: pride. She knew that she would rather die than disgrace herself before this stranger.
Already I am no longer just a commoner, she thought in wonderment, as she lifted her eyes once more and looked steadily at the guardsman. She took in the rest of him. His shoulder-length blond hair framed a broad, tanned face with well-defined cheekbones, a long aquiline nose, and a full mouth set in a strong jaw. His simple green tunic was cinched at the waist and did little to conceal his impressive frame. He was perfectly proportioned, from his broad shoulders and muscular arms down to the well-defined calves wrapped in the leather straps of his sandals. I must be delirious. No real man can be so perfect.
"Tia," the man said, his voice finally breaking the silence. It was rich and melodious, with a hint of amusement behind it. "Your father has told you why I have come?"
"Yes, sir," she replied, forcing her voice to sound calm. "It is an honor to be offered the Choice, an honor surely too great for someone of my lowly station."
The man seemed almost shocked by her words. There seemed to be both anger and urgency in his response, although he was clearly making an effort to conceal both as he said evenly, "I would not have been sent here if you were not a suitable candidate. Who are you to question the judgment of our Lord?"
Tia was taken aback by his words. She had no way of knowing that a woman raised in a noble house would ever dare to turn down the Choice. Nor had it occurred to her that the great Poseidon Helikonios even knew of her existence, let alone that He might have been involved in deciding to send this guardsman to her. "I beg your forgiveness, sir," she said with quiet humility. "I am but an ignorant girl and do not know how to respond."
Her answer seemed to please him and the amusement was back in his voice as he said, "Why, you must accept. It is as simple as that."
"Then I accept," she replied, with a quiver in her voice. "Though I hardly know what it means."
"All you need to know is that you must report to the eastern gate of the temple at dawn tomorrow. Bring nothing with you."
She nodded silently, numbed by the enormity of what she had just done. Suddenly, the guardsman strode over to her and grasped her by both arms, his strong hands effortlessly rendering her motionless. "There is one thing I need to know however," he said as his gaze captured hers. "Are you still a maiden?"
Tia felt utterly exposed and vulnerable beneath his compelling gaze. His powerful grip on her arm was almost painful and her breath caught in her throat as she stammered her reply. "No man has ever touched me as intimately as you are doing now." He held her for a long moment more, eyes still locked on hers as he weighed the truth of her words. Finally he released her and stepped back, the fierceness gone from his demeanor.
"I had to ask for your own safety," he said kindly. "There are certain—ordeals ahead of you which would destroy any unvirtuous woman."