Slumber Page 19

The maids gasped at me, “No, my Lady, you must wear this, you look wonderful.”

I flinched at my reflection. I looked like someone else, and there were too many facets of my persona out there in the verse that already had nothing to do with me. I didn’t want to add another one to it. I slumped suddenly, exhausted. I just had to get through this evening and then I’d be done.

“Fine,” I practically growled at them and brushed past them without a by your leave.

As I descended the grand staircase in Grof Krill’s home, I watched on quietly as Wolfe entered the entrance hall. The Grof had obviously lent him evening wear as well, the crisp darkness of the tailored suit making his hair burn gold under the chandelier. I stopped to gaze on him as he stared up at a huge painting of the Silver Sea crashing against the cliffs, the palace up in the distance. His eyes washed over it intensely as I studied his handsome profile. What was he thinking? He looked so stark, so alone.

I suddenly felt as if I knew him.

A strange flutter in my lower belly made me stumble and as I righted myself I realised I’d drawn Wolfe’s attention. I warmed uncomfortably at his unwavering stare and met him in the middle of the hall. His jaw clenched tightly as his eyes took in my attire.

“What?” I snapped, already feeling stupid and in no mood for his quips.

Wolfe cleared his throat, “You look beautiful.”

I wanted to slap him. How dare he make fun of me when I felt so vulnerable?! “Can you just cease with the sarcasm for one night, Captain.”

His mouth fell open at my rebuke but his riposte was interrupted by Grof Krill.

“Rogan!” We turned abruptly as he greeted us. For a moment he looked astonished at my appearance and then he smiled - a real, genuine smile - as he took my hand and placed a gentlemanly kiss upon it. “Why, you look beautiful, Lady Rogan.”

I relaxed, for once believing he actually meant it. I gave him an almost grateful smile. “Thank you, my Lord.”

I heard a choked noise beside me but carefully ignored the good Captain as the Grof escorted me out.

***

The opera was wonderful. The singers were breath-taking, the sets incandescent. My senses were overwhelmed by the vibrancy and decadence of the opera hall, the wealthy audience and vivacious stars that took to the stage, the scent of jasmine in the air. I had been to the opera in Silvera with Haydyn but there was something different about being at the opera in the homeland of opera. Even the stares of the nobility who recognised me from society events back in Silvera did not sway me from the stage.

It would have been an unspoilt evening if Grof Krill hadn’t begun his insincere pursuit of me again. His hand kept finding times to brush my arms, my skirts, one time even my breast as he passed me. I threw a quick look at Wolfe but thankfully he hadn’t noticed that one.

At the moments when I was sinking into the oblivion of the effervescent opera crowd, Grof Krill would touch me and jar me back into the reality of his tense company, making me careful not to lean too close to him. By the end of the opera I was at once moved and exhausted.

Grof Krill took my hand, Wolfe at our back, as he led me out of his opera box and through the crowds outside it. He began descending the stairs before me, rather than taking me down side by side, and I knew his plot instantly as he ‘accidentally’ tripped on a stair, pulling me down so I was captured in his arms.

I grew flush with anger at his games and apologies as he kept a hold of me, pretending to balance my footing, even though I already had. I struggled a little in his arms, desperate not to cause a scene. I felt a hot grip on my arm and looked up at Wolfe who spoke daggers with his eyes as he glared at Grof Krill. I immediately let Wolfe pull me away, my arm looped through his as the three of us descended down the stairs, no one else having noticed our little tussle. My mind whirled with confusion. I knew now why Grof Krill didn’t flirt or seduce. He was awful at it! Which begged the question… why was he trying so hard to seduce me?

I was grateful as Wolfe helped me into the carriage and sat beside me before Grof Krill could.

And then I froze as I realised I’d been thankful to Wolfe.

Thankful for his presence.

Fear and shame shuddered through me and I sidled a little away from him as the carriage departed from the opera hall.

***

I practically ripped the dress off, having shooed away the maids who were waiting for me in the guest suite. I dug through my travelling bag in an unidentified rage and drew on my nightgown, almost tearing it. I was so angry. Angry and confused and I didn’t know why. I took a breath, pouring cold water from the ewer into the basin and splashing my face. I stumbled and flopped down onto the stool by the dressing table, studying my face intently. Gradually my eyes blurred and I grew numb as my face became more and more unfamiliar. Tears trembled on my eyelashes and I didn’t know why.

“You’re just tired, Rogan,” I whispered to myself.

Snick. Snuck.

I stilled at the sound of a key turning in the lock in my door, my heart pounding in my chest. I shot to my feet, eyes wide, my hands delving quickly through my travelling bag until I drew out the dagger Matai had given me before I left. Heart racing, sweat breaking out across my shivering skin, I tip toed barefoot across the room like a skittering rabbit and took up behind the door. Slowly, sinisterly, it opened inwards. A black booted foot appeared first and then a large elegant hand on the door shut it behind him. I stood behind the familiar figure. Disgruntled at my height, or more so his, I lunged up and looped an arm around his neck, drawing him down so I could press the dagger in my other hand to his throat. He let out a startled yelp and halted, immobilised at the feel of cold metal.

“Grof Krill,” I growled, shocked and terrified that he had come into my room. I couldn’t let him know I was scared, willing my body not to tremble.

“Now, Lady Rogan.” He held his hands up away from his body, the key to my room glittering in one of them. “I mean you no harm.”

I pressed the dagger closer so that it pinched, and he hissed in pain. “No harm, indeed. What do you want with me?”

“Your magic.”

I was so taken aback by his answer I inadvertently loosened my hold and he ducked out of it, spinning to face me. I thrust the dagger at him and he took a wary step back. “What do you mean?”

“I need your help,” he replied, his eyes sad, desperate, yet still wary on the dagger.

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