The command had baffled her, but it was his home, his business. As she hurried along the domestic corridor to the kitchen, she dismissed all thought of the locks, her focus now centered on a long, hot bath to ease the deep ache in her muscles. Those aches, and the shivers of pain that occasionally came with them, worried her sometimes, but she hadn't said anything to Jaenelle whenever the Lady asked how she was feeling. Luthvian had warned her that removing her wings was the only way her back would completely heal. But she didn't want to lose her wings, didn't want to lose the hope that, someday, she might fly again…even though she was too afraid of crippling herself to even try.
She pushed those thoughts away by focusing on the pleasure of soaking in a hot bath, eating a big piece of casserole for dinner, reading her book, and turning in early so she could get back to her garden at first light tomorrow.
As she stepped through the kitchen archway, she was concentrating so hard on not thinking about her wings that she let out a breathless shriek when the front door suddenly rattled.
With a hand pressed against her chest, Marian stared at the door. There were two solid bolts that provided physical locks for the door as well as the Ebon-gray lock, so even if a "visitor" managed to destroy the front door, he or she still wouldn't be able to get into the eyrie.
The rattling stopped. The pounding of fist on wood started.
*Tassle?* Marian called on a Purple Dusk psychic thread.
*There's someone at the front door.They sound quite… insistent.*
*I should call Prothvar?*
Marian hesitated before saying, *Not yet.*
*I am coming back to our den.*
That was good. She'd feel easier if Tassle was within shouting distance.
Yaslana had told her his cousin Prothvar, whom she hadn't met yet, was staying at the Keep while he was gone and would respond if she needed help for any reason. Knowing one cry for help would bring a Warlord wolf and an Eyrien warrior to her defense gave her the courage to go to the front door and draw back the bolts. Besides, it was possible that itwasYaslana's cousin, just stopping by to check on her. It would be rude not to open the door.
The woman on the other side of the door wasnot Yaslana's cousin. She was young, a Rihlander, a stranger, and was dressed…
Marian couldn't think of a polite way to describe how she was dressed.
"Who are you?" the woman demanded.
"I'm Prince Yaslana's housekeeper," Marian replied courteously.
The woman looked at her sweaty, dirt-smeared tunic and trousers, and said,"Oh" in a way that clearly indicated that Marian had been dismissed as unimportant. "I'm here to see Lucivar. He's expecting me."
Not likely,Marian thought, shifting slightly to block the doorway. "Prince Yaslana is not at home."
"Then I'll wait for him."
The woman took a step forward. Marian didn't step back.
"That won't be possible," Marian said, working to remain polite. "He may not be back until quite late."
"He won't mind if I make myself comfortable," the woman insisted.
Where?There were only three rooms in the eyrie that were furnished, and Marian didn't think this woman intended to sit in the kitchen.
It probably would be easier to say she wasn't permitted to let anyone enter the eyrie. After all, a servant had to obey her employer. But it wasn't Yaslana's order that kept her blocking the door; it was her own dislike of the woman that kept her from stepping back. There was something calculating about this stranger, and there was meanness lurking in the backs of her eyes.
"If you would like to leave a message," Marian said, "I'll give it to Prince Yaslana as soon as he returns."
The meanness filled the woman's face for a moment before she shifted her hips, pushed out her chest, and smiled in a way Marian supposed was meant to be sultry.
"The message I have for Lucivar isn't something I'd leave withyou." "In that case, good evening, Lady," Marian said. As she closed the
door, the woman shouted,"I won't forget this!"
Neither will I,Marian thought as she slid the bolts back into place.
She'd bet a month's wages that she'd just met the reason Yaslana had
Ebon-gray locks on his doors.
Lucivar strode over the rock-cleared ground, working up from annoyance to being thoroughly pissed off as he watched Marian set herself to try to lift a rock that weighed more than she did. One slashing look at Tassle was enough to prevent the young wolf from announcing his presence. The fact that his little hearth witch was so focused…or so exhausted…she wasn't even aware of him coming up behind her just made his temper more volatile and his control more slippery.
But he would stay calm.
She groaned a little as she tried to get a better grip on the rock.
He would be reasonable.
She braced herself to try again.
He was on her in a heartbeat, his arms going around her, his hands clamping down on her wrists to keep her from jerking upward. Not that she could move much, with his arms locking her wings against her body, his chest pressed against her back, and his legs bracing hers.
Even though he'd expected her to react to being restrained by a male, her instant panic still screamed at his instincts to defend and protect. He fought a quick, nasty battle with himself to keep from rising to the killing edge since that was the last thing that would ease her fear.
So he would stay calm.
"Marian," he said quietly.
She panted, trembled. But after a few painfully long seconds, she said, "Prince Yaslana?"
"Yes, it's Lucivar. Let go of the rock now."
He waited while she fought her own internal battle. On one level, she knew holding the rock wasn't a defense against an attack, but it still took a while before she managed to convince her body. When her hands finally relaxed, he drew them away from the rock. Sliding his hands up to her shoulders, he straightened up, bringing her with him.
Being attracted to her made him aware of her body in ways he'd had to pretend he didn't notice, but he wasn't going to ignore this. No, he was not.
But he would stay calm.
He led her over to the stone that had weathered into a natural seat. As he helped her ease down to sit on the stone, he noticed the Rose Jewel she wore. Her Birthright Jewel. He could think of one reason why she was wearing the Rose instead of her Purple Dusk, and he didn't like it.
But he would be reasonable.
"What in the name of Hell are you doing?"he roared. She shrank away from him as he towered over her, but seeing her so tired made him too angry to care that he was scaring her. "I…I…" Marian stammered.