Slumber Page 8

“Lord Matai, Rogan, please leave Valena and I alone with the Princezna.”

I objected immediately, “No. I’m staying right here.”

“Rogan.” Matai grabbed my arm. “For once do as you’re told.” I wasn’t even given a chance to struggle. Not that I could. Matai was as big as Wolfe. He thrust me outside the suite and shut the door behind us, his large body blocking my way in.

“I need to be in there with her.” I stamped my foot like a petulant child.

“No. You want to be, there’s a difference.”

“Matai.”

“Stop it, Rogan,” he hissed, a flash of sharpness in his eyes revealing his concern. “For once… just stop it.”

I slumped at his tone, my heart pounding so hard I felt sick with it. “What’s wrong with her, Matai? She won’t tell me.”

“I know.” He grimaced, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the door. “She’s been over tired lately. I’ve tried to talk to her about it but…”

“She keeps saying nothing is the matter,” I finished.

“Yes.”

Our gazes met and stuck. We both knew something was definitely the matter.

It seemed forever before Raj beckoned us back into the suite. It had probably only been fifteen minutes. Matai struggled to keep me back at a distance to give Haydyn room. Determined to be at her bed side, and smaller and spryer than he, I ducked under his arm and raced to her.

“What’s the matter?” I grasped Haydyn’s hand. She was sitting up in bed now, colour back in her cheeks. She smiled so brightly I was taken aback.

Matai stood hovering at the end of the bed. He threw Raj a belligerent look. “Well, man, what the hell is going on?”

I rolled my eyes. Matai really needed to do a better job at hiding his feelings for Haydyn.

Raj smiled indulgently, glancing from Haydyn to Valena. “Both Valena and I have checked the Princezna over. We could only feel the darkness of exhaustion. We took it away. As you can see, the Princezna is feeling much better.” He strode towards her now. “As for this not sleeping, I’m going to get one of the servants to bring one of my tonics up from my stores. It should help greatly, Princezna.”

“Thank you, Raj.” Haydyn nodded, her eyes twinkling gratefully. She never treated anyone in the Palace indifferently or as if they should be grateful to be in her presence like some of the nobility half her rank did. It was no wonder we all loved her. “I appreciate your help.”

I pulled away from her now, angry at the fright she had given me. “Next time maybe you’ll do as I ask and see Raj before you collapse on the floor,” I snapped.

The others looked a little shocked at my attitude. Not Haydyn. She looked remorseful. I hated that she knew me so well. “I’m sorry, Rogan. I promise not to frighten you again.”

“Pfft.” I turned from her.

“Rogan?”

“If you’re all better, I have things to do.”

I felt Matai and the healers glare at me but I shrugged it off.

Haydyn narrowed her eyes on me. “Yes, you do have things to do.” She threw back the covers and got out of the bed with a surprising breeze of energy. “Tell Jarek to ready my horse and yours. We’re going to the marketplace.”

I clenched my jaw and nodded tightly before striding across the room to the door. The marketplace! She knew I hated the marketplace. She was getting me back for my inability to admit I was frightened.

“Oh, and Rogan.”

I stiffened, not liking that sing-song tone of hers. It meant she was up to something. I turned slowly. “Yes, your Highness.”

Haydyn smirked at me. “After you speak with Jarek, please find Captain Stovia. We’ll need an escort.”

I made a face at her and left, her sweet laughter trickling behind me. Despite the distasteful thought of being in Wolfe’s presence, I smiled softly at the sound of her laughter and shook my head at her mischief.

***

“There you are,” I called softly as I came upon Jarek in the Silver Stable. We had stables almost as large as the palace because half of the Royal Guard was cavalry. There were a number of stable boys, and Jarek, a lad my age with a quick wit and warm smile, had been a stable boy up until recently. The old Stable Master had passed away suddenly and I had suggested Jarek for the job. Yes, he was young, but we had been friends ever since my arrival at the palace and I had never met anyone with such an affinity for horses. There had been some upset at first when Haydyn made him Stable Master, people assuming he was too young, not responsible enough. But he had the stables in tip top shape in no time at all and now everyone could plainly see he was the best man for the job.

Jarek looked up from checking a chestnut bay’s hooves. He grinned at me and stood up. “Where else would I be?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged playfully, sauntering leisurely toward him. “The Jewel Stable. The White Stable. Or the kitchen. Cook made cakes today.”

He sucked in a breath, his eyes wide with teasing upset. “And I missed them?”

I snorted. “Jarek, you would have missed them even if you’d been there. Valena and I had devastated the plate within five seconds.”

“Valena,” he clucked, “She’s getting to be too much like you.”

“Everyone keeps saying that.” I frowned. “And what’s wrong with being like me?”

Jarek stilled and cocked his head, his eyes bright as they washed over my face. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Despite myself, I warmed at Jarek’s attention. We had been friends for a long time but more and more lately our conversations had been taking a decidedly flirtatious turn. And he was extremely good-looking. That was the problem, however. I knew too many maids, and even a few noblewomen, who had shared Jarek’s bed. Despite that reckless little voice inside that was eager to uncover the mysteries of bedroom intimacy, I didn’t want to be just another girl he’d tumbled.

I cleared my throat, “Haydyn wishes to go to the marketplace right away. Could you ready Midnight and Sundown?” Those were our horses.

Jarek threw me a look for dismissing his flirting, but nodded. “Is the Guard going with you?”

I grimaced. “Yes.”

He laughed. “You don’t sound too excited about it. Here’s a thought.” He stepped close to me, so close I had to crane my neck to look up at him. My heart thudded in my chest. “Why don’t I be your guard for the day?” He bent down, his hot breath blowing across my ear as he whispered. I shivered. “I’d take good care of you.”

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