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       Slumber, p.13

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 
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  Kir turned to Wolfe and they shared a long look. “I can’t believe it’s you. How are you?” I was surprised by how congenial the two were, considering Wolfe’s father was Syracen and the fact that Kir had had to live with the bastard for a year. There seemed to be so much more in Kir’s question than I understood.

  Wolfe nodded slowly. “I’m alright, Kir. Except for being kidnapped that is.”

  Seeming to shake himself, Kir nodded, a flush of embarrassment cresting his cheeks. He gestured at me. “Turn, Rogan. Let me get those off of you.” I shimmied out from Wolfe’s embrace and managed to twist, holding my hands out behind me.

  “I’m going to use a blade, so keep stil.”

  As soon as I was loose, Kir moved around me and freed Wolfe. He eyed the top of Wolfe’s head and frowned. “I told them not to do any damage. Mind you,” his gaze flickered over Wolfe as he slapped him on the back, “Considering how big you’ve gotten, they probably had no choice.” Wolfe grunted and stumbled to his feet, rubbing his wrists. “Not that it isn’t good to see you, Kir… why the hel did you have us kidnapped?” Feeling lost in this reunion, I too slowly rose to my feet, watching the two men as they faced off with another. There was no tension or animosity between them. In fact they both appeared happy to see each other in one piece. I was growing steadily more confused every second.

  Kir shrugged, looking between us both. “I didn’t know it was you. I got word that a fancy gent and lady were here and I knew the Markiz would be interested.” I gaped, feeling disorientated and lost. “The Markiz?”

  Kir nodded grimly. “Things have been changing in Vasterya for a while now, Rogan.”

  Wolfe growled, “Changing how?”

  Gesturing to the bed, Kir slumped down into the armchair. As I took a seat beside Wolfe on the bed I realised how much older Kir looked than Wolfe, despite them being of the same age. It was almost as if Kir had seen too much; whatever he had gone through had made a physical impression on him.

  “Who do you think set the rookery up, Wolfe?” Kir exhaled slowly, seeming pained to be having to explain this.

  I was stil completely lost but Wolfe drew in a breath, “Markiz Solom.”

  “What?!” I squeaked, any colour in my cheeks surely having completely leached out now. What on haven were they talking about? Why would the Markiz create the rookery?

  “The Markiz cottoned on to the fact that the Princezna’s powers were beginning to weaken in Vasterya. Suddenly al these plans and feelings he had buried inside himself were bursting forth, being alowed free reign. With no word from Silvera that there was anything wrong with the Princezna, tipping him off that there was some kind of cover up going on, the Markiz began making plans.”

  “What kind of plans?” Wolfe asked softly, and I knew that menacing quiet did not bode wel.

  Kir shrugged again. “I was working for him, he found a Glava useful and he paid me wel. When things began to change he put his plan to take the sovereignty over into action.”

  My stomach plummeted and I felt like I had been kicked in the ribs. “Take the sovereignty over?! Is he insane?!”

  “Yes.” Kir nodded. “Quite possibly. He’s started training an army. He paid me to start the rookery up, hoping that a gangland at the border would put off visitors who may take tales back to Silvera. So far it’s worked.”

  Wolfe was frowning. “I sent men in only a few weeks ago. There was no mention of an army.”

  “No there wouldn’t have been. The army is trained out in the west near the sand dunes. And the people of Pharya are almost religious in their belief in the Markiz and would never betray him. Without the Dyzvati power these people are easily brainwashed, especialy with food and money.” He snorted and gestured around him.

  “Even I’ve been brought low by it.”

  I narrowed my eyes on him, suddenly understanding his role in this. “You would have let him do this? Bring an army into Silvera? Betray Haydyn?” My old friend remained expressionless as he replied in a flat voice, “I suspected Haydyn was unwel and that it was being dealt with. I expected this madness to be over soon and for me to return to working for the Markiz who would remain a Markiz, not a Kral.” Remembering the boy who had fought so savagely against Syracen when he hurt me, who had taken a lashing unlike anything I had ever seen, I wanted to believe him, but there was a holow darkness in Kir’s eyes that hadn’t been there those many years ago.

  Wolfe cleared his throat, breaking the strained look Kir and I shared. “So what were you planning on doing with us?”

  “Making sure you weren’t spies. I thought the Markiz would pay good money for you. And he certainly would pay good money to get his hands on the Captain of the Royal Guard and the Handmaiden of Phaedra.” Kir shook his head, grinning wryly, not seeming to believe we were here. “But he won’t find out about you. I would never let any harm come to either of you.”

  I exhaled sharply, my relief palpable. “Thank you, Kir.”

  He threw me a boyish smile, one so genuine we could have been children again, planning new ways to harass Syracen, consequences be damned. He looked me over and I felt his gaze sharpen. “I knew you were pretty, Rogan, sweetheart, but I had no idea you’d turn out so wel.” I felt Wolfe stiffen beside me at the compliment and tried not to blush at Kir’s roguishness. He had been like that as a young teenager as wel. In fact he’d once kissed me on the cheek when Syracen was visiting at the palace. Kir had gotten away from him and come to find me. I think I’d been hiding out in the gardens, terrified to be in the same building as Stovia. Sensing my unease, Kir had teased me into playing a game of tag with him. A few games in and we heard Syracen belowing for Kir from the bottom of the gardens. Kir’s eyes had hardened but when he saw me watching he’d turned his bright smile on me and swooped down, planting a kiss on my rosy cheek, teling me he’d be back for me.

  “You’re just the same,” I laughed, shaking my head at him.

  His eyes told me he disagreed before he turned to Wolfe. “What about you, Wolfe? How is life treating you these days? Got a wife yet?” Wolfe grunted.

  Kir didn’t seem to be bothered by Wolfe’s monosylabic response and instead stood to his feet. “You look like you both could do with a bath and some food.” Immediately panic set in, Haydyn’s face swimming before me. “Actualy, Kir, we realy need to be going.”

  “Where are you heading?”

  For some reason I wasn’t sure we should share that information with Kir and wasn’t surprised when Wolfe grunted, “Ryl.” We weren’t going to Ryl. We were going to Caera, but if anyone had intercepted the messenger then he would verify that we had wanted him to contact people in Ryl. Plus, the Guard were in Ryl. No rookery gang could outfight the Guard.

  So, Wolfe didn’t quite trust Kir either. I felt a pang of guilt that I shoved away forcefuly. Nothing could get in the way of saving Haydyn. Not even an old friend.

  Kir nodded. “Wel you’l need horses. I can get you horses. But I have a lot of explaining to do to the gang and wel… you both look like you could do with some freshening up and some rest. Let me have the bath filed, and Wolfe you need to take care of that wound.” We didn’t argue with Kir. Mostly because I think we were desperate for a bath. It was the spoiled upbringing in us both. Kir had a couple of the men fil the bathtub with hot water and I left the room with Kir, while Wolfe bathed. He took me to another room down the halway, away from the gang members. It too was kept quite clean, a couple of armchairs here and there, painted theatre posters covering the chipped wals. I sat down, confused by the strange mix of alien and familiarity in being with Kir. I smiled in thanks as he handed me a glass of water and sipped greedily, not realising how thirsty I was. My eyes widened at the touch of Kir’s fingers on my face, but he was just tipping my cheek to the side for a better look. His green gaze darkened to the colour of the forest at night.

  “Who did that?” He bit out.

  Not realy caring if I got Jesper in trouble, I told him. Kir cursed profusely before softening
his expression as he took in my fright. His fingers were gentle on my skin as he stroked my cheek.

  “I’l kil him for that.”

  I shivered, puling away when his gaze dipped to my mouth. “Please don’t.”

  He quirked an eyebrow, drawing back. “You don’t want me to punish him for beating you?” I smirked. “I think I punished him enough.”

  Kir laughed. “I forgot how bloodthirsty you can be. What did you do to him?”

  I told him and Kir laughed harder until I joined in.

  Wiping tears from his eyes, he sighed, appearing relaxed for the first time. “Oh I have missed you, little Rogan.” Smiling sadly, I shrugged. “It’s been a long time, Kir.”

  “It has,” he agreed. “But we went through a lifetime together in only a year.”

  As we both remembered, a chily silence fel over the room. I flinched, stil hearing his screams as the Captain of Guard lashed him over and over again with the horsewhip.

  “Do you dream about it?” he asked me so quietly I almost didn’t hear him.

  I looked away, my teeth clenched tightly together. I gave him an imperceptible nod.

  His rough hand clasped mine and I turned slowly to look at him. “No one understands, Rogan. How could they? No one understands but you.” I nodded, feeling as if the last eight years were melting away and I was huddled in Kir’s arms as we cried together by a campfire, the Guard ignoring us as we sobbed in a grief only we could understand. In Silvera we saw one another once or twice a month but I remembered how empty I felt when I heard he had run away, like some of kind of bond had been snapped. “You left me,” I whispered.

  His features hardened as if he was in pain and he grasped my hand tighter. “I had to get away, Rogan, please understand.”

  “I do,” I replied softly. “I do.”

  “You could stay. Here. With me.”

  Shock froze me and I stared back at him wide-eyed.

  His mouth quirked up at the corner. “It’s not such a strange request, Rogan. We were close once. We loved one another as children.” I felt pin pricks of tears at those words because they were true. We had clung to one another with a fierceness born of our grief and protected one another whenever we could. “I can’t stay, Kir. Haydyn needs my help. I can’t stay.”

  “She is il then?”

  Biting my lip, I gripped his hand tighter, pleading with my eyes. “Please don’t tel anyone.” His eyes widened and he cupped my cheek. “I would never do anything to hurt you.”

  I believed him.

  But…

  “What about Wolfe?” I drew back a little, feeling as if I were drowning in a riptide of memories and sorrow… and affection.

  Kir frowned. “What about Wolfe?”

  “You seem surprisingly friendly with him considering you had to live with his family for a year.” I watched him closely as his eyes narrowed, his mouth thinning. “I have no problem with Wolfe. He was a good lad when we were young. As much a victim as we were.”

  W-w-what? I struggled to breathe evenly.

  My heart began thudding in my chest. How could Kir… what did Kir know that I didn’t? How could Kir forgive when I couldn’t? “What do you mean?” I was desperate to know, I needed to know.

  He leaned in close to me, his expression quizzical. “Why do you care?”

  “I-I… I…” I had no answer for him. And even if I did I would have been distracted by the heat that sparked to life in his eyes, his mouth descending towards mine.

  Kir was going to kiss me! My heart flailed as if it were being strangled. Was I going to let him?

  “Boss.”

  Kir puled back, his eyes closed tightly, muttering curses under his breath. He whipped around and I folowed his gaze to the door, completely shaken by what I’d nearly let happen.

  Jesper was grinning at us knowingly. “The Hawks want to talk to you, Boss.”

  “The Hawks?” I queried, confusion wrinkling my brow.

  Kir smiled and puled me to my feet. “My gang are caled the Hawks.”

  I threw him a sardonic look. “Why? Because you always catch your prey?”

  He grinned wickedly. “Always, beautiful Rogan. Always.”

  I roled my eyes at him and he laughed, and by the way Jesper’s mouth fel open in surprise I was guessing it was something Kir didn’t do often.

  “I’m sure Wolfe wil be finished with the tub. Why don’t you go along and check and I’l be back soon with some food.” I nodded and we headed down the halway together. When he and Jesper disappeared around a doorway, I was so in a stew about what had almost happened I forgot to knock, and just barged into the room.

  “Oh,” I gasped as Wolfe stood before me shirtless, droplets of bath water faling from the strands of hair at the nape of his neck to his shoulders, running in tantalising rivulets across his muscled abdomen. He was beautiful. My gaze folowed the trickle like a magpie with a diamond… and then I gasped again at the raised scar on his lower stomach. “Oh m-” I cut off at his growl as he wrenched a shirt on over his head, covering what I had just seen.

  Wolfe had been branded.

  A dark horseshoe burn scar branded his lower stomach. Who would do such a thing?

  “Wolfe-”

  The door burst open slamming into my back and I stumbled forward.

  “Oh, Rogan, I’m sorry.” Kir righted me as he came in, patting my shoulder in apology. “It’s just we have a problem.” He slammed the door shut.

  “What kind of problem?” Wolfe refused to look at me.

  “I’m about to have a bloody mutiny on my hands if I don’t hand you over to Solom.”

  I paled, instinctively wanting to edge closer to Wolfe. Reminding myself I was an independent woman, I stiffened my spine. “So what do we do?” Kir’s gaze pinned Wolfe to the wal. “I’m sorry, brother, but I had to.”

  Panic made my heart gain tempo. “Had to what? What’s going on?”

  “Does she know? About your…?”

  Wolfe nodded stiffly.

  Kir relaxed then. “I know you tried to keep it hidden, but it was the only thing I could barter with.”

  “I understand.”

  Understand what? My head swiveled back and forth between them so much I was sure it was about to spin off. “Understand what?” I snapped in burning frustration.

  Finaly, Kir turned to me. “I told them about Wolfe being a mage.”

  I gasped, “You knew?” Suddenly I felt hopelessly betrayed. What was it that these two men shared? Why was Kir so amiable to Wolfe? Why couldn’t he have told me he and Wolfe were friendly with one another? Why was I the only one that didn’t realy know Wolfe?!

  Kir nodded. “Yeah, I know. I managed to convince the Hawk’s that we could sel Wolfe to Solom.”

  “No!” I yeled, outraged at the idea. “Over my dead body! No!”

  The two of them raised their eyebrows at me and then grinned.

  What on haven were they grinning about?

  I growled in frustration as the truth dawned on me; for a moment I had forgotten my decision to trust Kir, but I wasn’t amused at him taking an opportunity to get rise out of me. “You’re not realy going to sel him, are you?”

  Kir huffed in indignation. “Of course not. I’m going to let them think I am. They’re sending a messenger to Pharya to have someone come and colect Wolfe. That someone should be here in a few days. For now I want you to rest up for the night, have some food. And then tomorrow when I come to get you, we’re going to pretend Wolfe blasted me with his powers and you escaped, when realy I’l be letting you out the back door.”

  “There’s a back door?”

  He grinned. “Of course. I’l have a couple of horses waiting.”

  Relief washed over me and I impulsively threw my arms around him, drawing him in for a hug. Kir laughed softly and tugged me tight against him. “Thank you,” I whispered.

  “Worth it just for the hug.”

  Later, after I too had had a chance to bathe and both Wolfe and I were
fed, Kir apologised before leaving and locking us in the bedroom. Wolfe had claimed the armchair so I lay down on the bed, thinking about Kir, about Wolfe, about the horseshoe brand marring Wolfe’s body.

  “I was surprised at your vehement refusal to let Kir sel me to the Markiz,” Wolfe suddenly said. “I thought you wanted me dead.”

  “I thought you wanted me dead,” I replied honestly, turning to look at him. His handsome face was a mask of complete shock that soon melted into anger.

  “What do you mean you thought I wanted you dead?” He snapped.

  I was so tired. So sick and tired of my world turning upside down on me again and again. I wanted wildflowers and summers by the stream. I wanted tobacco in the air and lemonade on the tongue. Fighting tears, I turned my back to him, curling up to sleep.

  Why would Kir protect Wolfe? Why was there friendship and trust between them?

  Why did Wolfe protect me and look out for me?

  “Never mind,” I finaly answered. “I’m just starting to realise I don’t know you at al.”

  “Yes you do,” came his hoarse response. “You just hate that I’m not what you need me to be.” Trying desperately to ignore that enigmatic comment, I slammed my eyes shut… and dreamed of my little brother’s laughter.

  Chapter Sixteen

  Kir’s old bed was not comfortable. But I think my not sleeping had more to do with my awareness of Wolfe. I kept seeing that brand on his stomach, the pain in his eyes when he caught me looking at it, the soul deep look he and Kir shared as Kir asked him if he was alright. There was something I was missing. How could a man so committed to the protection of the crown and the principles of honour and loyalty be a charlatan underneath, waiting for his moment to exact revenge?

  Oh right. Because his father had been one.

 
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