The Shadow Queen
She shifted away from him. I was up in the attic.
What for? And why didnt you tell someone? We were ready to tear apart the town looking for you. Not to mention having to go to Sadi and tell him they had lost the Queen.
Vae joined them, so filthy he imagined the housekeeper was having a fit about the dog tramping through the house, and since he knew who would end up washing the little bitch, he wasnt quite as relieved to see her.
Especially when she growled at him.
And you, he snapped, pointing at Vae. You couldnt have told us where Cassidy had gone? Youre always yapping about everything else.
*I do not yap.*
Prince . . . , Cassidy began.
He didnt need to watch Gray running for the house. He watched Cassidy . . . and the way her eyes lit up when she saw Gray.
At least that answered one question.
Cassie! Gray stopped at the edge of the terrace. Theres . . . theres something I want to show you.
She smiled. I have some things to show you too.
Mine first, Gray said.
Her smile widened. All right. Then she looked at Theran and held out a rectangular wooden box, its top decorated with the Grayhaven seal. This is for you.
As he took the box, his eyes asked the question.
I found the treasure, Cassidy said, her face glowing with excitement under the grime. Its up there, Theran, along with so much of your heritage. She took a step toward Gray, then turned back. You look like him, you know. Jared. You look like him.
Stunned, he watched as Gray clasped her hand and tugged her to the surprise in the garden. Talon had told him that a few times, but how would Cassidy know?
Gray, wait, Cassidy said. Too many emotions pouring off him.
She couldnt tell if he was happy or upset, angry or excited.
Maybe all of them. Which meant her court would be equally upset by her unexpected absence.
Assuming any of them noticed or gave a damn.
Youre tired, so youre bitchy, she scolded herself. Gray, wait.
He stopped, but he looked like he was about to receive a crippling blow.
Im parched. Can I have some water before I see the surprise?
How did you know it was a surprise?
Hells fire. She wasnt supposed to know that. Since I dont know what you want to show me, it must be a surprise.
As he rubbed a thumb over her cheek, he made one of those lightning shifts from boy to man.
Youre not hurt? he asked.
No, Gray, Im not hurt. I was up in the attic and lost track of time. I didnt mean to worry you.
Scared me, Cassie. Thats a lot more than worry.
Yes, it is, and Im sorry.
He shook his head. There were too many years when someone going missing meant they werent coming back. Captured or killed. Sometimes Talon found what was left of them. Most times not.
He shook his head again. Dena Nehele isnt a safe place yet. It will be, someday, but for now its still not safe to go off on your own and not leave a direction for someone to follow.
Ill remember that. Ill miss you, Gray.
Lets get you some water.
She drank her fill. Then Gray worked the pump for her so she could wash some of the grime off her face and hands.
He called in a small towel and handed it to her, and there was a question in his eyes that she couldnt figure out.
Close your eyes, he said.
When she obeyed, he put an arm around her shoulders and guided her around the garden.
Open your eyes now.
She looked at the flower bed and thought, Home. Then she looked more closely.
Common ground, Gray said quietly. Not quite the same, but similar. Not quite home, but it could be homeif you wanted to put down roots. And if you dont, if you cant, maybe I could put down roots in Dharo.
It was her mothers garden, and yet it wasnt.
Then what he said sank in all the way.
Dharo? she asked, finally looking away from the flowers. You want to live in Dharo?
I want to be with you. He drew her into his arms.
Theran needs you, Cassidy said.
And I need you. I know its not easy for you because your ways are so different from what weve known here, but maybe we can find some common ground there too. Cant we try, Cassie? Cant we at least try?
He kissed her slowly, deeply, as if she truly mattered.
As if she were the only thing that mattered.
She looked into his eyes. Not quite a man, but no longer a
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