Damn Ranon for stirring everything up so much that the other men were wary about getting to know her. But they would come around.
Sooner or later they would recognize the treasure that had come to Grayhaven.
She had to get out of here. Her hands shook, her stomach burned, and dinner was nothing but a foul smell in the toilet. She couldn’t do this again, couldn’t watch this happen again.
She couldn’t stand to hurt this much again.
Go. Run. Get away from this place.
Because this time she might lose someone who truly mattered, and it was ripping her heart out.
This time, betrayal might truly kill her.
Ranon stood outside Cassidy’s door, trying to leash his rage because hehad to. There was no one else. Theran’s verbal barbs had turned cruel enough to drive Cassidy out of the parlor in tears, so Talon had his hands full controlling Gray and making sure the two cousins didn’t set eyes on each other before tempers had settled. Powell had walked out of the parlor and locked himself in his office. No one was sure what the man was doing in there, but they were all hoping the worst he was doing was getting stinking drunk. And Theran . . .
Couldn’t the bastard see that Cassidy wasn’t comfortable around Kermilla? But he kept insisting that Cassidy “do her duty” as a Queen and not leave the other Queen without company—especially since Cassidy was the lower-ranking Queen.
Damn Grayhaven to the bowels of Hell for slipping the verbal knife in every chance he got. Kermilla was pretty; Cassidy was not. Kermilla was vivacious—the kind of Queen who would appeal to the Blood; Cassidy was there because they hadn’t been given a choice. Cassidy wore Rose; Kermilla wore Summer-sky, which made her dominant.
Dominant his ass. Sure it gave her a little more power since Summer-sky was one rank darker than Rose, but that wasall it gave her. The little bitch was just good at playing people and presenting herself to advantage. At least they had gotten a couple of answers from tonight’s little drama. The four men who had come with Kermilla had all served in Cassidy’s court—and had abandoned a real Queen in order to serve pretty gilt.
Jhorma had been Cassidy’s Consort. They all agreed they wouldn’t mentionthat bit of information to Gray. Hell’s fire! What had Cassidy been thinking? The woman couldn’t have beenthat desperate for a lover to have settled forhim.
You’re here to make sure she’s all right. You can’t do that from this side of the door.
He knocked. No answer. He knocked harder, certain she was in her suite. “Cassidy?” He turned the door handle. The door wasn’t locked, so he walked in—and caught her pulling back, as if she’d lunged for the door to lock it but didn’t react in time.
No color in her face except the freckles standing out on milky ice and the dark shadows under her eyes. She stood there, frozen, so he looked around—and saw the trunks. The lids were open, and the trunks were full of her clothes and possessions.
“What’s going on, Cassidy?” he asked, putting an Opal lock on the door as he closed it.
“I can’t stay here,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. I have to go.”
She stared at him and didn’t answer.
He thought about the past few days and what he had learned tonight. Her former First Circle had broken her court in order to serve another Queen. And now that same Queen had come to Dena Nehele and was making herself very comfortable in the Queen’s residence—and Cassidy was breaking down under the hammer of Theran’s words and his blatant preference for Kermilla.
Cassidy . . . running.
He grabbed her arms, and it was only the years of training that kept his savagery controlled.
“You’re leaving us? Why?”
“I can’t stay!” Cassidy wailed.
He shook her and roared,“Why?”
“Theran doesn’t want me to stay. He wants Kermilla to be the Queen.”
“Who gives a piss what Theran wants?” Ranon shouted. “Forget him! What about the rest of us, Cassie? What about the eleven other men who are loyal to you and want to serve? Are you going to walk away from us too? Are you going to walk away from Gray? Are you going to walk away from the people who are starting to hope again that a Queen will rule fairly?Are you walking away from all of us because one man wants to hump a little bitch? ”
She stared at him, shocked, and finally whispered, “You’re hurting me.”
He eased his hold on her, certain her arms would be bruised black by morning, but he didn’t let go.
Tears spilled down her pale, pale face. “Ranon, I can’t watch Kermilla take over another court. And it will kill me when Gray starts falling in love with her.”
Idiot woman. Couldn’t she see that Grayloathed Kermilla?
He looked at her, really looked, and realized she couldn’t see anything right now—not Gray’s love, not his own loyalty. Nothing.
He gentled his hands, and forced himself to gentle his voice. “Cassie, do you trust me? As a friend, do you trust me?”
She hesitated, then nodded.
“Then listen. Please listen. I’m begging you not to walk away from Dena Nehele.”
“I can’t stay.”
If she got to Dharo, they would never get her back. Hell’s fire, if she got to theKeep in her present state, Sadi and Yaslana would never let her come back even if she was willing.
Then he remembered the last thing Lucivar had said to the First Circle before heading back to Kaeleer: “The Queen comes before anyone else. You take care of her, the rest usually falls into place.”
Cassidy was focused on getting out, so he would take care of his Queen and get her out—and do his best to take care of Dena Nehele as well.
“All right,” he said. “I understand. You need to get away from those people. I do understand. But you don’t have to go too far away. I’ll take you back to Eyota, back to the boardinghouse. You didn’t mind staying there, did you? You’re already packed. I’ll take you tonight. Now. We’ll slip out. No one else needs to know until you’re ready for them to know.”
“You’re the Queen, Cassie.Our Queen, and the Queen’s residence is any place the Queen chooses to live. You don’t want to stay here, you don’t have to stay here.”
“Gray will worry if I leave without saying anything,” Cassidy said.
“I’ll tell Shira enough so that she can reassure him. And I’ll come back and talk to him as soon as you’re settled at the boardinghouse. I promise.”