Slumber Page 45

“Come, sit down, you look exhausted.” Winter clasped my hand gently and led me to the armchair. I took a seat slowly, surprised by the genuine concern on her face as she eyed the bruise that was now fading on my cheek. “You’ve been through such an ordeal. The Vikomt Stovia told me all about your abduction by rookery gang members.” She shook her head in disgust. “I had heard of this so-called rookery in Vasteryan Borders but to actually face the reality of it. You’re very brave, Lady Rogan. You are to be commended for handling it so well.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “Thank you, your Grace.” Wolfe hadn’t told Winter about the gypsies. He’d only told her a half truth, a truth she was already aware of. Good. We were sticking to the plan. Not panicking anyone with the growing unrest in Phaedra.

“Tea?” Winter asked.

I nodded, feeling tongue-tied. I really didn’t know what to say to this vivacious creature. Haydyn was always so good at talking to the Rada. I winced. Then again, Haydyn was as beautiful as Winter; perhaps more so.

“Arabelle.” Winter waved a dainty hand to the maid in the corner and the girl came forward at a graceful float. She had her servants as well trained as debutantes.

Once tea was sorted, Arabelle was dismissed and Winter relaxed more into the settee. “I do hope you slept well last night, Lady Rogan; I gathered you might need the rest.”

“I did.” I actually smiled at the thought of the luxurious bed upstairs. “Thank you, your Grace, for your hospitality. It feels like sun after a very long bout of rain.”

Pleased with my poetic thanks, Winter hurried on to pepper me with more questions about my wellbeing until I began to feel guilty for judging her so harshly. She didn’t seem like a shallow socialite at all. In fact, if I remember correctly, Haydyn had told me she liked the Vojvodkyna. She said Winter was smart and opinionated and cared not who knew it; the kind of woman I might have called friend…

Just as we were discussing Haydyn’s plans to hold a ball next season in the hopes of addressing some Phaedrian issues, a knock sounded at the door and Wolfe came striding in. He looked like his old self again. At the sight of him my heart did a little thump thump I bitterly ignored.

“Vikomt!” Winter rose to her feet, her eyes alight with happiness at the sight of Wolfe. His returning smile was wide and brilliant and he bowed over her hand slowly, pressing an intimate kiss to the corner of her wrist. I felt a painful twist in my chest. Seeing them together, as they turned to me, I realised just how handsome they looked. How right. Winter was a little older than Wolfe, but with his maturity and sense of responsibility the age difference seemed inconsequential.

“My Lady.” Wolfe nodded at me, expression blank, eyes indifferent. I felt like scowling at him in outrage. Instead, I nodded back as if I were unaffected by the difference in temperature of his greetings to the Vojvodkyna and I.

“Oh, my Lord, it is lovely to have you to tea,” Winter said to him in that husky undertone, leading him to the settee to sit closely by her.

I did not think it was deliberate, but now Wolfe was in the room nothing else existed for Winter, and she huddled into him, availing him of her recent deal with a factory owner in Raphizya that she swore would bring more income and work for the people of Caera. Wolfe listened aptly, his eyes never leaving her, drinking in the vivid, intelligent woman’s proximity. I felt completely cut out, and the longer they sat talking, the more irrationally angry and hurt I grew. I felt as if a small creature was gnawing on my ribs. I was jealous. Hatefully, painfully jealous, and there was nothing I could do about it. If only there was some way I could not be attracted to him. I mulled over this for a moment. There was Haydyn. Once Raj administered the cure and she was well and back to full strength perhaps she could evoke feelings of disdain for me again. I chewed on the idea for a bit before dismissing it. No. Haydyn needed all her strength for the peace evocation. Well that was that then. I just had to avoid Wolfe at all costs.

“Well.” I stood slowly, smiling brightly, falsely down at them. “Thank you for tea, your Grace, but I promised Lieutenant Chaeron I would meet with him.”

“Oh, of course.” Winter smiled happily at me.

“Good day, your Grace. Captain.” I managed to meet his eyes before hurrying past them.

“Lady Rogan, wait,” Wolfe called out in clipped, demanding tones.

Not wanting to respond but knowing it would prove to him how annoyed I was by his attitude with me, I spun slowly and raised a condescending eyebrow at him like I used to. “Yes?”

“Where are you going?” He demanded.

“I just told you,” I snapped.

Winter raised an eyebrow at my apparent display of anger and Wolfe narrowed his eyes at me. And then as I looked at them pressed together on the settee I realised I was angry. Just two nights before, Wolfe had been kissing me. Me! Now he was romancing his old lover under my nose! Arrggh! I had been correct to walk away. Correct! I had been nothing but an amusement. And Wolfe had been nothing but another Jarek.

“I don’t remember any such plans,” Wolfe snapped back.

“I want Lieutenant Chaeron to train me. With a sword. Considering what happened. You yourself said it wasn’t a bad idea.”

He frowned. “It’s not. But I’ll train you.”

The thought of him putting his arms around me made me quail in fear. Not because I was frightened of him. But because I was frightened of myself.

“No, thank you.” Without another word I spun around and left them to stew in the wake of my rude departure.

Chapter Nineteen

Training with Chaeron the day before had really taken my mind off the Wolfe situation. I was still not amused that Chaeron hadn’t taken my word for it that Wolfe was allowing me to be trained to use a sword and had gone off to ask permission from the man himself. But when he returned a little sheepishly I decided that learning to fight back was more important than being peevish. Chaeron had proved to be a patient and adept trainer and I really felt as if I had learned something from him. I now knew how to hold the hilt of a sword properly, which apparently was more important than I gave credence to. He was teaching me how to use an opponent’s weight and height against them, considering most men were going to be taller and stronger than me. I was still being backed into a corner, but I was getting there.

“Lieutenant.” I waved to him as I crossed the courtyard. He and a few other soldiers were already busy at practice. “May I join you today?”

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