Spy Glass Page 2

Kade had invited me along, except I hated the cold and would rather not be anywhere near the ice sheet. Plus what would I do there? I would have no job other than keeping Kade’s bed warm. Well… That wouldn’t be a chore at all. I smiled, but sobered. Despite my mother’s intentions, my one reason for being home wasn’t to help with Mara and Leif’s wedding. I needed to make a decision.

Unease twisted. My bad decisions outweighed my good ones by two to one. I had a thirty-three percent chance of getting it right. Dismissing those useless thoughts, I stepped into the plains to search for Quartz.

After I traveled a hundred feet, magic pressed on my skin as if I pushed against a giant sponge. I waited for the pressure to dissipate as the protection determined I wasn’t a threat. It was usually suicidal to walk into the plains without permission from the Sandseed Clan. Their defensive magic would confuse me, sending me into a panic, convinced I was lost. This time, my new immunity blocked the Sandseed’s magic. I could sense it, but it registered my presence as a magical void. Nice perks, yet…

Without my glass magic, I felt as if a chunk of my soul had been sliced off. I had no regrets over my actions, sacrificing my powers had been the right choice. So if I wasn’t moping, then why the ache? Why did I feel trapped in the shadow world?

All maudlin thoughts vanished when Quartz trotted into view. Considered a painted mare, her coat was a patchwork of white and auburn colors. The darker color covered her face, except for a white star between her soft brown eyes. Forgoing a saddle and bridle, I hopped onto her back and left my worries and Mother’s wedding plans far behind.

Sitting in the living area later that evening, I addressed envelopes. My mother had appealed to my ego by complimenting my handwriting and had bribed my stomach by baking my favorite pie—black raspberry.

Warmth and light pulsed from the fireplace. I felt better after my ride with Quartz. Mother sat in her favorite chair, sewing Mara’s veil. Ahir sprawled on the floor, snoring, and Father worked on bills. A true moment of family peace. And like all such moments, it was too good to stay true for long.

A knock on our door broke the silence. Mother glanced at me in confusion, then brightened. “It’s the printer! He said he might be done with the invitations tonight, and I told him to bring them over right away.”

Silk and lace filled her lap. Before she could untangle herself, I offered to answer the door. I suppressed a sigh. If the invitations were indeed here, I would have to stuff them into the envelopes, sealing them with wax. A tiresome chore.

I glanced through the peephole. Shadows covered the face of a man holding a bottle. Not the printer. He must be the local winemaker Mother commissioned to distill the special wed ding wine. She spared no expense, and, for that, I was glad.

When I had sacrificed my magic, the power had transformed into diamonds. The Sitian Council had returned them all to me, and I had plenty of money to pay for all the wedding expenses—my gift to Mara and Leif.

I opened the door and froze in terror.

Valek, the Commander of Ixia’s personal assassin, waited outside. Only one reason for Valek to be here.

“Hello, Opal. Sorry for the surprise visit. Is this a bad time?” he asked with a pleasant tone and quizzical smile.

It was always a bad time to die.

2

I GAPED AT VALEK. HE STOOD ON OUR FRONT STEP within killing distance.

“Opal.” My mother’s voice cut through my panic. “Don’t stand there like a simpleton. Invite your guest in.”

I stuttered a few words and backed up with numb legs. His smile widened as my mother approached. The need to warn her lodged under my ribs. My body’s functions had disconnected, scattering my thoughts.

“You must be Opal’s mother,” Valek said. He shook her hand. “Your cooking skills are legendary, Mrs. Cowan. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Commander invites you to cook for him in Ixia.”

The wrinkles on her face disappeared as she blushed, erasing years of worry and stress. “Please, call me Vyncenza, Mr…?”

“Valek.” His name erupted from my mouth. “What are you doing here?”

“Opal, don’t be rude.”

“Mother, this is Valek.” I gestured. “The Commander’s—”

“Security Chief,” he said. “And this is one of our finest vintages of Ixian Ice Wine.” He presented the bottle to my mother.

“Thank you. This is my husband, Jaymes.”

My father shook his hand. Ahir woke and jumped to his feet. He grinned at Valek in awe as he pumped his arm. The whole surreal scene swirled in front of my eyes like snowflakes.

“But, Mother. Valek is—”

“Practically family. Come in. Come in. You must be hungry. Jaymes, open that cognac your brother sent us. Ahir, fetch our good glasses.” She escorted Valek to the couch and hustled off to the kitchen as Ahir and my father hurried to complete their tasks.

Valek caught me staring. He smiled. “Relax, Opal. I’m not here on official duty.”

My heart resumed beating. “Then why are you here?”

“Since I’m practically family, I thought I should meet your parents.”

A stretch of truth only my mother could believe. Valek was Yelena’s heart mate, and Yelena was Leif’s sister; ergo, once Leif married Mara, Leif’s family, including Valek, would be part of ours. “What’s the real reason?” I asked.

“Later,” he said as my mother burst into the room carrying a tray loaded with food.

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