We climbed the road, me and the enormous lion. It was decided that fur was preferable to no clothes, and although Astamur had offered some, they wouldn't fit Curran and we both had a feeling the shepherd didn't have that many clothes anyway. The castle loomed before us.

I sighed.

"I know," Curran said, human words emerging perfectly from the leonine mouth. "We're almost done."

"I'll remind you of that the next time you see Hugh."

A low growl reverberated in Curran's throat.

"Temper, Your Majesty."

We both knew that picking a fight with Hugh was still out of the question. I still had no idea what his plan was. He'd gotten me into this castle. He wasn't trying to actively murder me. He flattered me and called me special. If things kept going this way . . . I shuddered.

Curran looked at me.

"Just pondering what Hugh's version of flowers and candy will look like."

"Like bloody mush," Curran said. "Because I will crush his head and his brain will ooze out of his ears."

I just wanted to know what the final plan was.

We walked through the gates. The cage had been moved from the inner courtyard. It now hung from a beam affixed to a guard tower, front and center in the courtyard. Hibla sat in it. I stopped. She stared at me with haunted feverish eyes, her desperation so obvious, I had to stop myself from walking over there and pulling her out.

"There you are," Hugh strode out of the opened doors of the main keep. "Safe and sound."

"Why is she in a cage?"

"Cages need occupants. This one was empty and she seemed like the best candidate."

Hibla had failed one too many times. She'd let me out of the castle and lost me, and now he'd stuck her into the cage for everyone to see. "Please let her out."

Hugh sighed. "What is it about the cage? Is there anyone I could put in there you wouldn't want to get out?"


He shrugged his massive shoulder. "It wouldn't hold me."

"Talk is cheap. Try it on, d'Ambray," Curran said.

"I'd love to, but as I've said, it's occupied." Hugh turned to me. "So where did you go?"

I looked at the cage.

Hugh shrugged. "Oh, fine. Someone get Hibla out!"

A djigit left his post by the gate and ran down to the cage.

"I went to some caves, fell in, swam around, and was rescued by an atsany and a local shepherd."

"Sounds eventful."

"I'm tired and hungry," I said.

Hugh smiled. "I'll see you later, then."

And why did that sound ominous?

Curran moved between him and me and we went into the castle.

Ten minutes later, I was sitting on our bed eating food George brought for me from the kitchen. Curran changed shape and put on clothes.

Mahon appeared at the doorway. "I'm glad you're okay," he told me.

A moment later Barabas walked through the door. A man followed him into the room. A cloud of silky hair, completely white, framed his narrow face. His skin must've been naturally olive, but now it had a slightly ashen tint. He looked to be in his midthirties, not just lean, but so slight that clothes hung on him the way they would on a coatrack. The man saw me and smiled. His entire face lit up, suddenly young and blissful, his blue eyes luminescent, at once beautiful and impossibly distant.

"Mistress," he said.

Whoa. "Hi, Christopher."

He came over and sat on the floor by my feet and sighed happily. "Beautiful mistress."

"How are you, Christopher?"

He looked at me with a blank smile and stared at my shoes.

"How is he?" I asked Barabas.

"What you see is what you get. He's here one minute, and then he isn't. I think we finally settled on the fact that he isn't dead. He insists that he used to know how to fly, but he forgot. He occasionally tries, so I have to watch him closely in high places."

Oh boy. "Christopher?"

He looked up at me.

"You're free."

"I am." He nodded. "I'll serve you forever. To the end of time."

"No, you're free. You don't have to serve me. You're welcome to stay, but you can go if you want."

He leaned over and touched my hand with long fingers. "Nobody is free in this world. Neither princes, nor wizards, nor beggars. I will serve you forever, my mistress."

Aha. "Let's come back to that later, when you feel more like yourself."

"Great," Curran said. "Another fine addition to your collection of uncanny misfits."

"I take offense to that," Barabas said.

"Don't worry, I count myself in, too," Curran told him.

"What did you do for Hugh?" I asked.

"I took care of his books." Christopher's fingers twitched as if stroking invisible pages. "He has the most interesting books. Do you have books, lady?"

Great. I rescued Hugh's librarian. "Some. Probably not as nice as Hugh's."

"That's alright." Christopher offered me a smile. "I will help you get more and then I will take care of them for you."

"Christopher, about the orange beast," I said. "The one who killed a guard, you remember?"

"The lamassu," Christopher said helpfully.

"You know what they are?"

"Yes." He nodded with that same faraway smile.

"Why didn't you tell me when I talked to you?"

"You didn't ask."

I turned and bumped my forehead against the wooden post of the bed.

"Okay, mistress needs a moment," Barabas said. "Come on."

"Does that help?" Christopher asked with interest.

Barabas took him by the arm and gently lifted him to his feet. "We should go eat."

"Real food?"

"Real food. Come with me."

They left the room.

"You know he's crazy, right?" Curran asked.

"Yep. He won't survive on his own."

"As you wish," Curran said.

* * *

I spent the day in bed, sleeping, eating, and then sleeping again. Curran stood guard over me, and any suggestion that I should go and guard Desandra was met with a stone Beast Lord face. He had a point. I was tired and my whole body hurt, as if I'd been through a meat grinder.

Ten minutes before six I woke up because someone knocked on our door. Curran blocked it. Beast Lord in hover mode.

". . . information," Hibla said.

I rolled out of bed.

Curran stepped aside. She walked into the room, holding herself very straight, her chin raised, her spine rigid. She couldn't have looked more fragile if she were on the verge of crying. I'd warned her. Be careful who you serve.

Tags: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Vampires
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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