Slumber Page 28

“So what do we do?” I murmured, wearily wondering when this truce between us was going to end and Wolfe was going to take his vengeance.

“The only thing we can. I heard the other two guards talking about the festivities this evening. Apparently, you and I are attending. When we’re there I’ll create a distraction. You have to keep your wits about you, Lady Rogan. Watch me all the time. When I make my move, you make it with me and we run.”

I blinked owlishly, hoping I’d heard wrong. “That’s your big plan? A distraction?”

He smiled cheekily at me. “Yes. It’s good, right?”

“You’re going to get us killed.”

“Well, since you got us kidnapped in the first place, I think it’s only fair.”

Chapter Thirteen

I kept my expression blank as I was looked over by this man, this older version of Vrik, who stood by the campfire, shadows and light flickering across his dark skin, pin pricks of light reflecting in the blackness of his gaze. I tried not to shiver.

Around us the hubbub of noise was now a hushed tide, rising and falling with little bursts of laughter and conversation, as the gypsies enjoyed ale and food around the fire. Wolfe stood beside me in the darkness. We were guarded by Vrik and three other men, but not tied up, not held tight. It was as if for now they wanted us to feel less like prisoners and more like guests. At the sound of a whimper, my eyes flickered over to a girl sitting on a log, squashed in the middle of two rough looking women. Her head was held back by her thick locks, tears streaming down her face as one of the woman held the dagger she’d been using to cut her apple up to the girls eyes. My face tightened in anger at their bullying and the man before me frowned, turning around to follow my gaze. He seemed amused by my reaction and turned back with a lazy shrug. “She’s one of the Caels. Her brother was particularly annoying in handing over some land, so we took her as punishment.”

My blood ran cold, crystallizing to ice until I felt frozen solid in my anger. “And what of her brother, her family?” I asked through clenched teeth.

He shrugged again. “Dead.”

Waves of nausea crashed over me. The man seemed to flicker before me, his features merging with the man who had destroyed my life. They even had those same black eyes. “You son-of-a-bitch,” I spat and was immediately wrenched back into Vrik’s tight hold. I felt Wolfe stiffen beside me but I couldn’t look at him. Not with the memories. Not now.

Not caring if my outburst would provoke a lash of anger, I waited sullenly for a reaction. To my surprise the man burst into laughter, his eyes flickering past me to his son. “Ye were right, Vrik. She’s feisty. She’ll do well here.”

Determined not to show fear, I lowered my eyes to regain composure, and then lifted them when I was able to project boredom. “What do you mean?”

The man waved the question away as if batting away an annoying pest. “First, introductions. My name is Tiger. I am leader of the Iavii.”

“What do you want from us?” Wolfe growled impatiently.

Tiger seared him with a look and then smirked at him. “I only want ransom from ye. Ye,” he shook his head chuckling humourlessly, “The famed Captain of the Royal Guard. I was expecting… more.”

“Really?” Wolfe shrugged. “Funny, you’re just what I expected. You’re just a f**king leech, sucking land that’s not yours and growing fat on it. Like a bully,” he nodded at the girl who was being tormented, his eyes blazing in indignation, “In the schoolyard, taking what doesn’t belong to him and having the audacity to call himself Kral.”

My heart thudded at Wolfe’s impassioned speech, my eyes savouring this image of him. An unexpected feeling of warmth for him seized me by surprise. He looked at me when he was finished and I dropped my gaze, glad for the shadows of the night that would hide my blushing cheeks. I frowned, confused.

“Yes,” Tiger growled. “That’s what a pampered prince who’s lived in luxury and peace his entire life would think. We’ve travelled for too long in Alvernia, across Daeronia. We like Javinia, it’s warm. It’s home. Gypsies no more, we want land. But ye wouldn’t understand that. Ye haven’t had to suffer the harsh lands of the mountains and deal with uncivilised folks like us. Uncivilised breeds uncivilised.”

“No.” Wolfe shook his head. “You chose to act this way, be this way. Dyzvati magic stifles emotions and actions that can lead to unrest and chaos. Not having that magic doesn’t turn people into automatic animals. It just makes sure those that would act that way can’t. Don’t blame this on magic or lack thereof.”

“Shut him up,” Tiger spat at the man beside Wolfe, but I lunged between them before he could hit him.

“No!” I cried, putting my hands up to stop the blow. The man looked to Tiger who frowned but shook his head. The gypsy lowered his hand and I turned to find Wolfe glaring at me. Ignoring him I addressed Tiger, “What do you want?”

Tiger sighed. “Tomorrow morning I send a message to Novia for Markiza Raven. In it, she will be told I hold ye both ransom, yer lives for land. Then we’ll have to wait whilst she informs the Rada and the Princezna. When we get the land we’ll keep our promise not to kill ye. He,” he stabbed a finger at Wolfe, “Will be kept a prisoner until such time as I see fit to release him.”

“And Lady Rogan?” Wolfe growled.

Tiger smiled, his eyes running the length of me in a way that caused my stomach to flip. I almost gripped Wolfe’s arm I was so discomfited by that look. “Lady Rogan is something ye’re not, Captain.” He strode towards me, his eyes seeming mesmerised. I flinched as he reached up and gripped my chin lightly. “She is one of the Azyl… and I find that I am in need of an Azyl.”

“You’re a collector.” I glowered at him disdainfully.

He didn’t seem to care. “Yes. But ye’re different. I’ve heard good things about ye. When Selena is impressed, I’m impressed.” Abruptly he let me go and turned to gesture behind him. “Bird!” he called. Almost instantly the tall, skinny boy who had served us our food earlier, the one who had stared at me so detachedly, appeared before us. Tiger put his arm around the boy affectionately and grinned at me. “This is my adopted son, Bird. Say hello, son.”

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