The Shadow Queen
Kermilla wore Summer-sky, which wasnt a dark enough Jewel to be a big lure, but she had some social connections, could dazzle stronger males without offending . . . and was twenty-one years old.
There now, Kitten, Burle said as he patted her back. Dont take on so. Its no shame on you that you ended up with a First Circle who has to drop their pants in order to use their brains.
The image that popped into Cassidys head stopped the flow of tears. Made her hiccup. Ended with a watery giggle.
Thats better. Burle called in a neatly folded handkerchief. Mop up or youll end up on the sofa with bags of salad over your eyes.
Its a slice of cucumber, Poppi. You put a slice of cucumber over your eyes. Cassidy mopped her face and blew her nose. Mother swears by that remedy.
Huh, Burle said. Nothing wrong with the way your mother looks. First thing in the morning, last thing at night, and every hour in between, she looks just fine.
He meant it. And because he meant it, and because shed inherited the red hair and freckles from Devra, shed thought the man who had been her Consort had also meant it when he said he thought she was lovely.
When hed left, the bastard had told her what he really thought.
Well, Cassidy said, vanishing the handkerchief, wed best get to the table before Mother comes out here, dont you think?
That we should. Slinging an arm around her shoulders, Burle aimed them for the house. Ill say one more thing. I remember meeting Lady Kermilla when she was serving her apprenticeship in your court, and Ill tell you this, Kitten. If those fools chose her over you, then they deserve what theyre going to get.
Maybe. Probably. When shed sent Kermillas evaluation to the Province Queen, shed tried to be kind, but there had been no denying that shed had concerns about Kermillas attitude toward anyone who wasnt strong enough to fight back.
Their loss, my gain, Burle said. Ive got the two finest women in the whole Territory living in my house.
For a little while, Cassidy said.
Whats that mean?
Im just visiting, Poppi. Next week, Ill start looking for a place of my own. A very simple place, since there hadnt been much left of the tithes she received from Bhak and Woolskin, not after paying the court expenses and sending the Province Queen her share. That had been her income while she ruled, and the fact that there was any left was due to her careful upbringing and her mothers firm belief that a good life didnt have to be an expensive life.
And since it was her income and what shed saved from the tithes was all she had, she would continue to tear up Kermillas letters, which all asked the same thing: how much was the former Queen of Bhak going to gift the new Queen?
What do you mean, youre getting your own place? Burle said. What for?
Im thirty-one years old, Poppi. A grown woman doesnt live with her parents.
He stopped so fast he pulled her off-balance. Why not? What can you do in your own place that you cant do? His face flushed as he came to an obviousand incorrectconclusion about what a woman wouldnt want to do in her parents house.
Well now, he muttered, lengthening his stride and pulling her with him. Well just see what your mother has to say about that. Well just see.
She already knew what Devra would say, but this wasnt the time to tell her father he was outnumbered.
Yes, Poppi, she said fondly. Well just see.
W hy am I doing this?
Saetan Daemon SaDiablo, the former Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, glanced at Daemon Sadi, the current Warlord Prince of Dhemlan, and swallowed the urge to laugh. That tone of voice was more suited to a surly adolescent than a strong adult male in his prime, and being Hayllian, one of the long-lived races, Daemon had left adolescence behind several centuries ago.
But hed noticed that there were times when Daemon and his brother, Lucivar Yaslana, set adulthoodand a good portion of their brainsaside and were just . . . boys . They seemed to test the emotional waters of adolescence when they were alone with him. Maybe it was because hed been denied the privilege of raising them and the three of them hadnt gone through the pissing contests they would have all endured if theyd lived with him. Maybe it was because theyd had to grow up too hard
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