It might be useful to find out why the Queens here felt that way.

Then they were at the meeting place. Brok and Garth clambered into the seats behind the driver, all smiles and young-man juice.

“We’re having a special dinner at the house tomorrow, so Correne and I need to do some shopping.”

“Invite us to this dinner,” Brok said. “We’ll show you how to make it special.”

It was tempting to have someone besides Correne to talk to, but Theran had emphasized several times that these Warlord Princes were coming to meether, talk toher, so she couldn’t have her own little party at one end of the table.

“Can’t.” Kermilla gave them a pretty pout. “But we’ll do something fun together soon. Driver, take us to the marketplace in the landen part of town.”

“No!” Garth sounded alarmed.

“Whyever not?” Kermilla asked. “Driver, move on.”

“Wecan’t, ” Brok said, his voice full of bitter hatred. “Queen’s orders. If we cross intotheir part of town, we’ll be exiled from Dena Nehele.”

Kermilla stared at them, too shocked to speak. “Why would Cassidy do that?”

“No reason,” Garth muttered. “We were just having a little fun, and then she and that damn dog started raving.”

“Dog?” Kermilla frowned. “Oh, the kindred Sceltie.”

“Why don’t you have one of those smart dogs?” Correne asked. “When I set up my court, I’m going to insist on having one of them. I think it would be quite amusing.”

“They’re more trouble than they’re worth,” Kermilla muttered. But therewas a kind of status in having one of the kindred as a companion. Just not a bitch like that Vae. “Anyway, gentlemen, you needn’t be concerned with any orders given by Lady Freckledy.” She waited until Garth and Brok stopped guffawing, then tapped her Summer-sky ring. “I outrank her, which means I can countermand any order she gives. So I am formally requesting your presence while Correne and I do some shopping in the landen marketplace.” Since her escorts were behind her and couldn’t see her face, she gave her boys a significant smile. “Maybe you could even point out a likely place for us to pick up a gift or two.”

Brok smiled back. “Yes, Lady, we could.”

“Poppi!” Ignoring the other two men who were standing with Gray and Ranon, Cassidy threw herself into her father’s arms.

“There’s my Kitten.” Burle hugged her breathless, then took a step back to study her face. His eyes got misty. He sniffed and nodded sharply before turning to the men. “Prince Gray. Prince Ranon.”

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, sir,” Gray said.

Burle frowned. “Sir? Huh.”

Cassidy linked arms with her father. “Come inside and tell me all the gossip.”

“Men do not gossip,” Burle said. “We share news.”

“Uh-huh. Well, come in and—”

“Time for that later. There’s work to be done.”

“You’ve got time for a little visit before you start,” Cassidy protested. She wanted to have him to herself for a little while before he got involved in the whirlwind of work Prince Sadi’s loan was about to create.

“I’ll be here a whole month,” Burle said.

She recognized the gleam in her father’s eyes. She didn’t know what kind of arrangement Daemon Sadi had made with Burle—and she was certain neither man would tell her the exact terms of that arrangement—but Burle was excited by the possibilities.

“It’s your decision, of course, Lord Burle,” Rainier said with a smile, “but I’ve heard the High Lord say more than once that a daughter takes priority over any other kind of work.”

“Over any other kind ofwork , huh?” Burle laughed.

Rainier indicated the man standing on his left. “Lady Cassidy, may I introduce Lord Marcus, Prince Sadi’s man of business?”

“It’s a pleasure to have you with us,” Cassidy said.

“I suggest that Gray and Ranon show Marcus and me the buildings for the shops,” Rainier said. “You can spend some time with your father, and then Lord Burle can look at what needs to be done in the Queen’s Residence and the Healer’s House. Prince Sadi did emphasize that those two places were to be done first.”

“In that case, Cassie and I will have a little visit before we get down to work,” Burle said.

She waited until the men climbed into the open carriage with Ranon in the driver’s seat. Then she turned to her father. “I’m so glad you could come to help us.”

“You’re my girl. Of course I would help. Besides, training a few youngsters to have a trade, that’s important too, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

“Is Mother going to come for a visit?”

“She is. She had some things she wanted to look into first. Then she’ll be along. And your brother’s planning to come and help out for a few days too.” Burle turned, looked at the Residence, and said wistfully, “Hate to waste good daylight.”

Since she felt the same way about gardening as he did about building, she smiled. “In that case, let’s get you settled into one of the guest rooms. We’ll get a quick bite to eat so that we don’t have to fib when we’re asked if we took time for it, and then we can visit while I help you take measurements at the Healer’s House.”

“That’s a deal, Kitten. That is a deal.”

“Lady, I think it would be wiser to do your shopping in another part of the town.”

“Oh,la, Kenjim,” Kermilla said. “There’s no need to be fussing about this.” Besides, until Theran paid the bills at the few aristo shops she had found in this dung-heap town, the merchants weren’t going to extend any more credit.

“Your companions have a questionable kind of honor,” Kenjim said.

“How can you say that?” Kenjim served her, but Garth and Brok werehers. “Howdare you say that?”

“I dare because I’m First Circle. Lady, we’re not in Dharo. We aren’t even in our own Realm. This isn’t a friendly place, and those young studs could pull you into the kind of trouble that ends in bloodshed.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“Is it?”

Lower lip trembling, she walked away from him. The fact that he stayed at the carriage instead of accompanying her to the tables of goods told her plainly enough that he wouldn’t serve her one minute past his contract. And that made her angry as well as sad. Kenjim used to think she was a “delight to the senses.” Now all he did was criticize.

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