The Shadow Queen
understood what men like Ranon and Talon saw when they looked at her.
Yes, he said, smiling. They came. He held out his right hand, palm down.
She placed her left hand over his, an automatic response. Then she stopped, said, Oh, and looked at Gray.
And Theran saw Gray take another step toward becoming the man he should have been.
Go on, Gray said. Right now, Dena Nehele needs the Queen. The garden and I will be here when youre done with the days business.
They hadnt gone more than a couple of steps when Gray said, Cassie? You might want to show them this flower bed. Some of the plants came from the reserves.
She flashed a smile at Gray over her shoulder, then lengthened her stride until she and Theran were almost running to the house. They bounded up the terrace steps.
Mother Night! Cassidy skidded to a stop, looked down at herself, and gave him, Talon, and Ranon a look of undiluted female panic. I cant meet the Shalador Queens looking like this.
A week ago he would have thought her taking so long to remember her appearance was a sign that she didnt care how the people saw her. Now he understood it was a sign of how much the people mattered to her.
Ranon and I can entertain the Ladies for a while and give you a chance to wash up, Theran said.
She flashed him a smile almost as brilliant as the one shed given Gray, then dashed into the house.
Well, Theran said, we shouldnt keep the Ladies waiting.
But Ranon stepped outside, his expression a little dazed as he stared at the pots lining the terrace. Look.
Theran looked. Then he smiled.
The honey pears were starting to grow.
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First Printing, March 2009
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