“Why would dogs want painted nails?” Archerr asked.
“They don’t,” Gray replied. “But apparently Scelties who live with young girls end up with painted nails, and this is the only nail paint that should be used.”
Shira muffled a snort and said on a distaff thread, *I guess that means Wynne and Keely will have pretty toenails.*
Cassidy pressed her lips together and didn’t answer.
“These braided ropes are good for playing tug or toss or chase—with or without humans,” Gray continued. “And these rawhide strips are for chewing. We’ll be able to figure out how to make these here, but for now I bought plenty for everyone.”
Archerr tapped one of the bright-colored balls on the table. “These things are as big as the dogs.”
“But lightweight,” Gray said. “These are the kinds of toys folks in Scelt buy for the Scelties.”
“And this?” Shaddo picked up a stuffed baby bunny.
“I thought you might like to give that to Darcy for Winsol,” Gray said. “That way he’ll have a pet Soli will let him keep.”
Shaddo laughed. “Yeah, they had this ‘discussion’ two or three times a week over the summer. He’d bring home a bunny or some other small thing, wanting to keep it as a cuddly, and she couldn’t find a way to explain that the bunny he wanted to keep as a pet would grow up into the rabbit he’d catch for dinner. This just might satisfy both of them. Thanks, Gray.”
“That’s why I bought a variety of things,” Gray said. “Everyone living with a Sceltie will have a gift that’s appropriate so they won’t feel left out of the celebrations. We choose what we want, and the rest goes to Merchants as stock for future gifts or treats.”
“Well done, Gray,” Powell said, looking bemused.
Gray called in a stuffed toy and held it out to Ranon. “I thought Khollie would like this.”
A lamb about half the size of the Sceltie. Big enough to cuddle with but small enough that Khollie could carry it around with him.
Khollie, who was still afraid to be alone. Who had been so terrified to go outside one day that he ended up peeing on the floor and then hid in a corner and whined all day until Ranon came home.
Gray shifted, still holding the toy that Ranon hadn’t taken. “Lambie is stuffed with rags, so he can have a bath whenever he needs one. Might need some Craft to help the insides dry, but . . .”
Cassidy saw Ranon’s throat work, saw his dark eyes fill with tears. A moment later, he was holding on to Gray, his eyes squeezed tight.
She glanced at Shira. A mistake. They both looked away, trying not to blubber. Didn’t help to see Powell knuckling away a tear.
“Thank you,” Ranon said hoarsely, finally stepping back. Gently holding the toy, he turned and offered it to Shira, who took it and vanished it.
“Why don’t you vanish those toys and things, Gray,” Talon said. “You and Shaddo should talk to the other folks so they can pick out what they’d like.”
“All right.” Gray vanished the Sceltie gifts, then rubbed his hands. “That was my shopping. I do have some crates to deliver to Merchants. But these are to be opened by Cassie, and she is to do with the contents as she pleases.”
He called in several crates and set them near the wall. He pointed to the crate on the right. “That one first.”
“Let me give you a hand with that, Cassie,” Archerr said. He opened the crate and set the lid aside.
Cassidy lifted the first item. They were individually wrapped in heavy brown paper but not sealed. She set it on the table and opened the brown paper.
A book with a fine leather cover. The kind of expensive book that was meant for a family library. The kind that was meant to be handled and read by generations.
She opened it to the title page and gasped. “It’s Jared’s account of the journey he made with Lia. I asked Prince Sadi to have a couple of copies made so the story could be shared without risking the original. I never expected him to dothis. ”
“It’s beautifully made,” Powell said.
Gray poked around in the crate. “Cassie, there must be a dozen of these leather-bound volumes in here. Maybe more.”
Enough for the Grayhaven family and her First Circle. And one for her. She was certain of it.
Ignoring their stunned protests, which lasted only until each man held a book, she passed out the leather-bound volumes. She put two in front of Talon. *Would you see that one of these is delivered to Prince Grayhaven?*
Talon studied her for a moment. *I will.*
After giving Ranon his copy, there were two left—one for her and one for Gray.
Wondering if there were more surprises, she watched Gray and Archerr open the next crate.
More copies of Jared’s account, but these had an ordinary binding.
Gray opened the wax-sealed note resting on the books in the last crate. “Daemon says these books are a gift to be distributed to whomever Cassie wishes or to be used in the loaning libraries. More copies of Jared’s account were printed, but those will be sold through Merchants, along with other copies of these books.” He frowned as he vanished the note and picked up two of the books. “He didn’t mention any of this.”
“What are those?” Cassidy asked, peering over Gray’s shoulder.
“More books, but . . .”
Powell yelped and grabbed a book. Then grabbed another. “How did he find these?”
“What?” several men asked.
“I’ve heard of these authors, but their work was destroyed when the tainted Queens first took control of Dena Nehele,” Powell said. “There might be a few copies of their books hidden in family libraries, but no one has read their stories in a couple of centuries at least.”
“Maybe someone sent copies of those books to the Keep so they wouldn’t be completely destroyed or forgotten,” Cassidy said.
A dozen copies of a dozen books—including two novels by Shalador authors Ranon had never heard of. Gray insisted that she have a full set of the books for the Residence’s library and that the loaning library in Eyota be given a full set. Everyone agreed that Gray and Powell could decide what to do with the rest of the copies later.
*Cassidy?* Reyhana’s call was followed by tapping on the door a moment later. *Maydra says dinner is almost ready, and Dryden said to remind you that we have drumming tonight.*
*We’ll be out in a few minutes,* Cassidy replied. She wanted a few minutes alone to regain her balance. Her parents and brother were joining her for Winsol here in Eyota. She still had some shopping to do, as well as some social events to attend as the Queen before she could be a daughter for a few days.