The echo of the rain filled the stone stairwell as he descended. It was just after three in the morning, so unless there was some kind of emergency, everyone should be asleep.
He weaved around the obstacles in the courtyard—stacks of storage boxes, a wagon, and the water tower. Rain continually blurred his vision. He wiped his hand across his face as he tried to focus. There was little light, the moon hidden by heavy cloud cover.
“It’s a little late to be up, no?”
The dark figure whirled around, rain dripping from her hair.
She froze, and he half expected her to try to bolt. Instead, she crossed her arms over her chest and stood her ground.
“What are your plans for us?” she asked.
He shrugged, narrowing his eyes. “Why are you up this late?”
“Something’s not right.”
Draven was cautious of his surroundings every second, always aware and ready for trouble. He’d become increasingly paranoid lately. “You shouldn’t be out here at this hour. If you can’t follow the rules, maybe this isn’t the place for you.”
“But you’re okay keeping Ashley because she’s a fertile. That’s not why I brought her here.”
“Then why did you bring her here?”
Luanna paced, the rain making it difficult to hear her. “I don’t know. Maybe so she didn’t end up like me. I thought this place was a paradise. I tried to find it for the longest time.”
“And now you’re here. Lurking around in the middle of the night at exactly the same time traitors are stealing my weapons and planning to overthrow my reign. You know anything about that … Luanna?”
“What are you talking about?”
Draven didn’t answer. He just stared her down, trying to unravel her secrets. Could she be one of the conspirators? Things had only started going to shit after they arrived.
“Look, I don’t know anything about weapons or overthrowing anything. I was just looking out for my friend. My only friend.”
He took a breath. “She’s asleep in my bed. Of her own accord. You brought her here to be safe, and I can guarantee it.”
“When can I see her?”
There was no reason to humor this woman. He had what he wanted already. But Draven wasn’t a monster. “After breakfast, I’ll let you have a brief visit with her,” he said. “In my room. I’m not risking her safety until I can ensure there’s no threat.”
“Fine. That’s fair enough.”
“Good, now how about you get some sleep.”
She slipped away into the darkness, and he stayed rooted in place.
He looked around at the high walls, the heavy rain creating a mist that rose up from the courtyard. The damp coldness seeped into his bones, but he needed more answers. He pulled his handgun from the back of his pants and proceeded to the first weapons locker. As soon as he swung open the whiny iron door, deafening silence greeted him. He pulled on the light in the center of the room, the lone bulb swinging back and forth, creating a mix of shadows along the walls.
He strolled along in front of the rows of guns on the rack, doing a rough count.
Draven looked up, but didn’t raise his weapon. “What are you doing here, Luke? It’s late to be up.”
“My night on patrol,” he said.
He hadn’t even checked to see who was on watch. As much as he’d been focused on his own internal security issues, he had to remember the biggest threat was on the outside of the walls. They always had to be on guard.
But did he trust Luke? He’d been with him since the early days, but the other man also had nothing to lose. With his wife and child already dead, maybe he was involved with the plan against him. Maybe he was jealous of Draven’s newfound happiness.
Or Draven was being overly suspicious of everyone.
“Anything interesting tonight?”
“That new girl was snooping around, but she does most nights. Have you decided if they’ll be staying on with us permanently?”
Draven mulled the words in his head. His protective instincts briefly flared. “Ashley isn’t going anywhere. Luanna’s fate is left to be seen.” He continued to walk along the wall of weapons. “Tell me, Luke, have you seen any unusual activity around the castle recently? Anything out of the ordinary?”
“No, nothing. Is there something going on I should know about?”
Draven chose his next words carefully because as much as he hoped Luke wasn’t involved, he could be. He didn’t want to raise any red flags. “Just a question.” Draven winked.
“Well, so far no major damage from the storm,” said Luke.
He nodded thoughtfully, then pulled the string on the lightbulb overhead, blanketing them in darkness. If Luke wanted to take him out, this would be the perfect chance for him to make a move. Draven was ready for anything. Craved it.
“You mentioned wanting to cultivate the east fields. It would be a good time with the ground so soft,” said Luke. “I can get a group together in the morning.”