Slumber Page 9

“And Haydyn?” I murmured, my whole body vibrating with awareness of him.

Jarek laughed softly. “She has Lord Matai.” He drew back only a little, our noses almost touching. “You can have me.”

“Well isn’t this cosy.”

I closed my eyes at the voice of interruption. Arrggh, how I hated him! Jarek sighed and stood back from me and I turned to face Wolfe. He leaned against the stable wall glaring at us. “Apparently I’m escorting you to the marketplace. When was that message going to be delivered? A week, two…?”

I glared at him. “Clearly it already has been.”

Wolfe snapped up off the wall and strode towards me. Dear haven, he was tall. He towered over Jarek and I. “You,” he bit out at Jarek, “The horses. Now. Hers,” he flicked a distasteful look at me, “The Princezna’s, Lord Matai’s, my own, and three of my Guard.”

Jarek crossed his arms over his chest defiantly, not in the least intimidated. I smiled at him. “Which three?”

“Worth, Vincent, and Chaeron’s,” Wolfe replied through clenched teeth.

Jarek nodded tightly and then threw me a grin, his eyes devouring me purposefully. “I’ll speak with you later, Rogan.”

“Jarek.” I grinned back at him and watched him leave, biting my lip in thought as he swaggered out of the stable and into the next. Feeling Wolfe’s eyes on me I turned and met his sharp look with one of my own. “What?”

“What?” He guffawed, eyeing me incredulously. “The Princezna has been unwell and everyone is agreeing to her outing to market, and you’re in here flirting with the stable boy.”

“Stable Master!” I corrected, poking him in the chest with the word. “And don’t take that self-righteous tone with me as if I don’t care about Haydyn.”

Wolfe snorted. “Do you care? You were supposed to come and inform me so I can protect you at market, and you’re in here with your legs practically wrapped around Jarek.”

How dare he?! I sucked in a breath at the accusation. “You’re lucky I don’t slap you for that insinuation. Jarek is my friend. I was here asking him to prepare the horses and I was just about to come and find your sorry ass to let you know Haydyn required your company into market. Not that I should have to explain myself to you.”

“Sorry ass.” Wolfe threw me a disdainful look. “Really? That’s the language of the Handmaiden of Phaedra? Very refined.”

Refined?! I’d give him refined. I’d been around enough stable boys to know my share of curse words. “Screw you!” I spat and turned to march out of the stable.

***

The city of Silvera grew quiet and parted as we moved through the crowds on the cobbled streets, the noise level hushing and then rising as the people gathered back together behind our entourage, like a wave crashing to shore behind us.

I rode beside Haydyn on Midnight, she on Sundown. Matai rode on Haydyn’s other side and three of the Royal Guard rode at our backs. Wolfe rode in front of us, his eagle eyes watching the crowds as we made our way past taverns, apothecaries, inns, bakers and butchers and candlestick makers. The marketplace was in the massive Silvera Square, where people from the neighbouring provinces came to sell their wares. Haydyn always had a particular interest in the artists and craftsmen of Raphizya and the beautiful glass works of Vasterya.

“I’ve decided to hold a ball.” Haydyn smiled at me after waving once more to Silverians who bowed and curtsied as we trotted past.

I raised an eyebrow at the unexpected idea. “A ball?”

“Hmm.” Haydyn grinned excitedly, seeming all her young seventeen years. “A ball. I’ll invite all the Rada and all the noblemen and women of every province. A way of showing our solidarity in an unsettling time.”

“A ball?” I still wasn’t convinced.

“I think it’s a fine idea, Princezna.” Matai smiled at her.

I sighed. “No one asked you, Lord Matai.”

“Rogan, be nice,” Haydyn tutted. “Anyway, Lord Matai is correct. It is a fine idea.”

My heart jumped a little at the determination in her voice and I felt hope blooming in my chest. Perhaps Haydyn was finally taking charge. And I might not like fancy balls but… it was a good idea. If only because it was her idea.

Her face fell when I didn’t respond. “Don’t you think it’s a good idea, Rogan?” She looked so worried. I cursed inwardly. Why did everyone’s opinion matter so much to her? She was as smart and capable as any of us fools whose advice she solicited. I sighed inwardly, wishing she’d remember she was fair and just and royal - she should not concern herself with my opinion, or anyone else’s for that matter.

Instead I gave her a soft smile. “Lord Matai’s right. It’s a fine idea.”

Moment of anxiety over, Haydyn grinned cheerfully as we entered the marketplace. Again all went quiet at the sight of us, but gradually, as we trotted over to the stables, the noise level rose again.

“I want you to seek out the finest fabric for me, for my new ball gown, as well as the finest for yourself,” Haydyn commanded gently as Matai helped her dismount. I was so shocked by the request I dismounted without help, forgetting I wasn’t supposed to do that in public. But Haydyn very rarely used my magic and never for something as frivolous as fabric shopping.

Already my body was crackling inside, drawing me towards a fabric stall deep in the crowds of the square. “Fabric?” I queried softly.

“Hmm.” Haydyn nodded, smiling prettily at me. “We want to look our best for such an important event.”

“Not the key to world peace? Not the answer to shutting down a rookery or controlling rogue gypsies? Fabric?”

Haydyn sighed wearily. “Must I repeat it, Rogan, when we both know you’re being facetious?”

I shrugged. “Well, I just had no idea that the form of our fashion was so incredibly important to settling Phaedrian disputes.”

“More facetiousness. Lovely.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Away I go to seek and order the fabric.” I glanced between Matai and her. “What are you going to do?”

Haydyn gazed a little too adoringly at Matai. “Lord Matai’s going to escort me around the market while I choose some gifts to present to our guests at the ball.”

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