“I’ve got one more annual to plant. Then I’ll get cleaned up and meet with the Steward for Queen’s work,” Cassidy said. Which meant she would be sitting quietly for the next several hours, an activity that didn’t make Warlord Princes as temperamental as physical activity did.
“All right,” Gray replied.
Satisfied with each other’s answers, they went back to their respective work.
Cassidy took her time planting the last annual just to stay outside a little while longer and take in how much had been done over the past three days.
Lucivar had been a lesson in how one man could shake up a court. By the time she and Shira had joined the men, Lucivar had set down rules and boundaries that everyone had agreed to. All right, to be accurate, no one had dared to argue. Even Gray, who was clearly trying to deal with a side of his nature he’d never dealt with before.
But Lucivar had done more than set boundaries. He’d knocked down boundaries the other men hadn’t been aware of building.
“You have a problem with sweating?” Lucivar asked Ranon.
“No,” Ranon replied.
“Then get your ass out in the garden and help Gray. There’s no danger of frost anymore, plants need to be planted, and nothing will happen until that ground is cleared. Besides, the Healer probably would like to have a little garden of her own to grow at least some of the herbs she uses for her healing brews. And since she’s also a Black Widow, she’d appreciate some ground to grow the plants the Hourglass finds useful. If you’re going to warm the woman’s bed, it’s time to give her use of more than your cock.”
Ranon might have been resentful about having any man say that to him if Lucivar hadn’t turned around and done a lot of the work himself, using a combination of muscle and Craft to clear out the old flower beds with ruthless efficiency. He’d shown the others that a Warlord Prince wasn’t just a warrior—and that serving meant taking care of small things that mattered and not just the big things other people thought were important.
More than that, Lucivar had been both teacher and leash for Gray, calmly meeting Gray’s flashes of temper while demanding that Gray remain within the boundaries of Protocol when dealing with her or with her court. Three days with Lucivar had taught Gray a lot.
Maybe more than she would have wanted him to learn.
Cassidy patted the soil around the last little plant, put her tools in the basket Gray had bought for her when he and Lucivar had gone to town, then frowned as she picked up the watering can.
Easy enough to walk over to the pump and fill the can.
She glanced over her shoulder at Gray.
Better to ask for help.
“Gray? I need to get back to the house now. Could you fill the watering can and water this last plant for me?”
“Sure, Cassie,” he replied, almost glowing with happy enthusiasm.
Was that happy, boyish enthusiasm at the core of Jared Blaed Grayhaven, or would it be lost during this maturing process of becoming the Warlord Prince he should have been?
She put her basket of tools away in the shed. When she turned around, Gray was blocking the doorway, and there was nothing boyish about the look in his eyes.
She walked up to him, not sure of his intentions, but certain he wouldn’t hurt her.
“You kissed me,” Gray said. “The day I brought you the blue river plants. Today it’s my turn.”
A light kiss on the lips, soft and lingering. The lightest touch of his fingers on her hair.
Delicious flutters in her belly.
He stepped back and smiled. “Lucivar said since we’re courting, I’m allowed to kiss you. But only above the shoulders. For now.”
There was a different kind of flutter in her belly. “Did he give you a timetable for when you can do things without him coming down on you like an avalanche?”
“Cassie? If you don’t want me to kiss you, I’ll understand.”
He was younger than she, and his mind was still healing. Those were two reasons to tell him not to kiss her.
But her Consort had never given her that delicious flutter in the belly. So she gave Gray a light kiss in reply and walked out of the shed, wondering if she was asking to have her heart broken when he started seeing her the way other men did.
She stopped walking when she reached the dead honey pear tree. More than a symbol of the Grayhaven line, it had been a symbol of love.
Wondering if she would ever experience that kind of love, and remembering how Gray’s kiss made her feel, she pressed her palm against the tree.
A violent snapping beneath her feet. Sharp cracks of something breaking.
She grabbed the tree for support.
“Be careful!” Cassie said as Gray ran up to her. “Look!” Putting both hands on the trunk, she pushed a little, and they both watched the tree wobble.
“The roots must have cracked,” Gray said, going to the opposite side of the tree and placing his hands on it.
More snaps and cracks on his side of the tree.
“It’s going to fall,” Gray said. “After all this time, it’s going to fall.”
“Gray,” Cassidy breathed, hardly daring to believe what was rising up from the ground around them and through the dead wood. A message that had been masked all these years. “Gray, there’s something under the tree.”
He stared at her, his eyes filling with excitement. “Do you think it’s the treasure?”
“There’s supposed to be a treasure buried somewhere at Grayhaven. Lia buried it, and even Jared didn’t know where, but he told his grandsons that there was a treasure that would help restore Dena Nehele when it was found. People have been searching ever since, but no one has found it.”
“You said they couldn’t cut down what was left of the tree,” Cassidy said.
“And the ground was too hard to dig it up.”
Treasure? Why would she feel it?
She eyed Gray and decided he’d get too upset if she didn’t tell him first. Releasing the tree, she said, “I’m going to do something you won’t like, but it’s necessary.”
Now he eyed her.
She kept her nails short, since it was more practical for gardening, so she called in a pocketknife, opened the blade, and sliced the tip of her little finger deep enough to have blood welling before Gray could snarl an objection.
She closed the knife and vanished it. As she pressed her hand against the tree, she said, “And the Blood shall sing to the Blood.”