The wicked heroine, p.40
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.40

           Jasmine Giacomo


  Geret stalked through the circle of tents, passing Count Armala, who hushed a conversation with Salvor and nodded politely. The prince had been making sure Rhona did as she was bid, and now he approached her and asked her to enter his tent. Once they were both inside, he closed the flap and stood facing her, arms crossed. She turned and mimicked his pose.


  “You’re really very pretty, you know,” Geret said abruptly. Rhona blinked. “All that exotic clothing and jewelry doesn’t hurt your image either.”

  She offered him a tentative smile.

  “It’s really too bad your personality is such scat. You’re constantly rude to your cousin. I don’t know how he puts up with you. And as for me, and the rest of us poor dirtbound people, well, thank Wisdom we have you to put us back on the right path every five minutes. If it weren’t for your expertise on everything you open your mouth to talk about, we’d be lost and dead within the day, I’m sure of it.”

  Rhona’s jaw muscles bunched, as she refrained, with effort, from speaking. Her turquoise eyes sparked with anger in the dim light of the tent lamp.

  “Here’s what you’ll do to occupy yourself for the rest of the journey: you’ll ride scout with the water-seekers a few times. You do know what water looks like, I presume, so that’ll come in handy. You’ll also help the hostlers care for the beasts at the end of every day, since you owe your transport to a horse. That’s food, watering, and grooming. But not for too long, because I want you here after supper to do my laundry for me. I’ll get a couple of the women to show you how it works if you’re unfamiliar with the process. And piracy is frowned on here. You want it, you’ll have to trade for it.” He pointed at her jewelry. “Anytime you want something to eat or drink, or any action by anyone else for your benefit, you trade. You understand my rules?”

  Rhona stood in shock, betrayal and anger writ large on her features. Geret waited silently. Eventually she nodded.

  “Good. Now if you hurry, you can still help the hostlers with the horses this evening. Go on,” Geret nodded toward the tent flap.

  Rhona swallowed, sighed, and stepped slowly toward the flap. When she had nearly reached it, Geret called her name, and she turned toward him expectantly.

  “Just remember, I haven’t yet given you permission to talk. To anyone.” His imposing height made his stare all the more intimidating, and Rhona turned and hurried from the tent.

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