Slumber Page 44

As soon as we were inside the city walls, I felt Wolfe’s urgency to get to the Guard as much as my own. We hurried through the thronging masses as they hurried to and fro. The marketplace in Daeronia would be busy; they didn’t have anything to export except beer and coal, so much of the business was in import. I had to admit as I followed Wolfe out of the main streets to quieter cobbled ones, I was impressed by the Vojvodkyna’s white stone city. It really was spectacularly beautiful. Much like her Grace. I winced, suddenly remembering we were heading to the home of Wolfe’s ex-lover. I gulped.

That wouldn’t be awkward at all.

Unlike the other wealthy districts of Phaedra, the Radiant District was a walled district with a gatekeeper. When Wolfe explained who we were, one of the soldiers disappeared behind the carved wooden doors keeping us out. Wolfe glared his disapproval at the three other guards who tried desperately not to shift their feet uncomfortably. I almost sympathised with them. I knew how stinging that glare could be.

“Captain!”

We both turned at the sound of Lieutenant Chaeron’s voice as he came through the gates, directing the guard to open them so we could trot through.

“It’s good to see you, Lieutenant.” Wolfe nodded down at him. Chaeron nodded back. Men were such funny things.

I smiled brightly at Chaeron. “Lieutenant. So good to see you.”

“You too, Miss Rogan.” He looked up at me with concern as he walked by my horse. “I do hope you are well, Miss Rogan.”

Realising he was genuinely distressed that I had been taken whilst under his protection, I sought to reassure him, “Of course, Lieutenant. Captain Wolfe and I looked out for one another.”

We both ignored the grunt from the said Captain’s direction.

“The Vojvodkyna has a suite waiting for you. She realises how exhausted you must be and has given you leave to retreat to your room.”

Given me leave? I wanted to snort at that. I was going to my bloody room, leave or not. I didn’t say that though. That would make me sound jealous. And I wasn’t. Not a bit. “How kind of her.”

Some of the guard were waiting outside of Vojvodkyna Winter’s spectacular stone white mansion that was a surprisingly small replica of the Silverian Palace. Hmm. I raised an eyebrow but kept quiet. I wouldn’t have been able to comment, even if I had wanted to. The soldiers circled me and Wolfe, peppering us with questions, anxiety, remorse, until Wolfe actually took pity on me and ordered his men aside so I could go inside.

“Lady Rogan,” Wolfe called to me as I walked away. I stiffened at hearing him so formal but I told myself it was only because we were among the men again. I turned slightly, face expressionless.

“Yes, Captain?”

“I would prefer if we stayed here for a few days instead of one. To regain our strength.”

I returned his nod with a brittle one of my own. I could understand the wisdom in the suggestion, despite my desperate need to get to Alvernia… except I wondered if it was just wisdom on Wolfe’s part or if he wanted some extra time with the beautiful Vojvodkyna. Shaking off the strange pang of pain I felt, I followed Lieutenant Chaeron who introduced me to the butler, a beautiful older woman; her auburn hair was tied back in a fierce knot, streaks of silver darting through it in the sides. I was surprised that Winter had such an attractive butler, thinking perhaps her vain enough to want to be the prettiest woman in her home. But when the butler called for two maid servants to help me to my room, I came to a better understanding. The two maids were stunning young creatures, their auburn hair and wide blue eyes a striking counterpart to their dark work clothes. Then again, even their work clothes were the finest I had seen. It was then I realised something obvious: Vojvodkyna Winter Rada was obsessed with beauty. And so far the servants resembled her in colouring. It was a strange to say the least, and I wasn’t just being snotty because of her history with Wolfe; I found it a little narcissistic. Not a little. A lot. As I followed the stunning little creatures to a lovely bedroom suite where a bath already awaited me as well as tray of food, I snorted at the maids’ beauty. The Royal Guard must be in haven here.

***

It was a wonderful sleep. Comfortable. Warm. Luxurious even. I did dream of Haydyn again, but I had given in to the idea that until I saved her, she was going to be a regular visitor in my subconscious. The next morning I awoke to a maid setting a tray over my lap. She informed me I had missed breakfast, but that once I was refreshed I was invited to join the Vojvodkyna in her parlour for tea. Not particularly looking forward to that I made an agreeable noise from the back of my throat before tearing into my toast in frustration. The maid stared at me a little wide-eyed, probably unaccustomed to a lady taking her anger out on harmless toasted bread, before giving me a tremulous smile. She bustled around the room, laying out a dress for me from the luggage the Royal Guard had kept safe. I nearly sighed happily. It would be nice to wear clean clothes.

***

I followed another pretty maid to a room with white double doors edged in gold. A handsome footman with burnished brown hair and pale blue eyes pulled the door open for me and I swept inside, my gaze going back to the footman who was strangely familiar.

“I see Arnaud has captured your attention,” a husky voice curled around me, drawing my gaze in its direction.

Immediately my spirits depressed. I forgot the impact of Winter’s beauty. Contrary to her name, Winter was more autumn in colouring. Striking auburn hair, wide cobalt eyes and fine features. Her pale skin was the only thing about her that could be considered winterish. No wonder Wolfe had wanted this woman. Which really made me wonder what an earth he found appealing in me. She was all sunny autumn morning and I was all… thunderclouds and rain with my black hair and dark eyes. Wolfe-

Wolfe! I turned around again to stare at the footman but he was gone, the door closed behind him. The footman had Wolfe’s colouring! My gut twisted and my jaw clenched.

“He’s rather delicious isn’t he?” Winter laughed, a throaty laugh meant for seducing boys and men.

I frowned at her, my thoughts taken over by Wolfe. Then I realised she meant Arnaud and I replied with a half-smile, “Very.”

Winter drew to her feet quickly, her white dress as stunning as a ball gown, the neckline cut low, the waist cinched so everyone could see how tiny it was. I smoothed the plain gown I wore, wondering why on earth I was letting the obvious differences between us bother me. I had never cared before.

Prev Next