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       Slumber, p.15

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 
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  “Only if you’re up to teling it.”

  So I told him. About a perfect summer’s day ending in tears and bloodshed and a never ending impotent agony. His golden skin grew paler and paler as the story went on. I even told him about Valena. When I grew quiet I hadn’t even realised I’d been crying until Wolfe, eyes bright with sorrow, handed me a handkerchief. I wiped at my tears as another smog-filed silence descended over us.

  For a while al I could hear was our soft breathing and blood rushing in my ears.

  “No wonder you hate me,” Wolfe choked, his shoulders slumping over. For the first time in a long time he looked like a little boy again and I didn’t want to be the one that had done that to him. Especialy since I was coming to realise… I didn’t hate Wolfe at al.

  “I don’t hate you,” I replied softly, sure my heart was going to burst it was racing so fast. It only got worse as our eyes colided, his seeming to search mine in desperation. The colour returned to his cheeks and he licked his lips nervously.

  “You don’t?”

  I shivered at the hoarseness in his voice and shook my head, my cheeks burning. “No. I realise now that this person you’ve been, Captain of the Guard, that’s realy who you are. I’m sorry I didn’t treat you the way you deserved.”

  He smirked. “I wasn’t exactly charming to you either.”

  I laughed softly. “You were just reacting in kind.”

  He snorted. “Yes, I suppose I was. It was galing you know. You’re so sweet to everyone else.” I wrinkled my nose. “Sweet, I’m not sweet.”

  “You can be.”

  My cheeks burned hotter. I shook him off, embarrassed. Heaving a sigh I pushed him teasingly. “You’re a good man, Wolfe,” I admitted.

  Those gorgeous aquamarine eyes of his widened at the praise and he smiled slowly, such a naturaly wicked smile it flipped my stomach over again. “Realy?” I nodded.

  But then abruptly, his smile dropped, his eyes dimming with sadness.

  “What?”

  Wolfe shook his head. “I’m stil the man whose father kiled yours.”

  Not for the first time, I didn’t know how to respond. My soul was a mess inside, completely confused and bewitched. Because now I knew that this sick guilty feeling inside was my growing feelings for Wolfe, and the subsequent shame I felt for betraying my family. Caring for the son of the man who kiled them… how was that not a betrayal of their memory?

  Turning his body in towards me, Wolfe shifted a little closer and I trembled at the look in his eye. Unconsciously, despite what I had only been minutes ago screaming at myself, I tilted a little closer to him too, drawn to his heat like an addict to opium.

  He cleared his throat. “I wanted to kil him, you know.”

  I frowned. “Who?”

  “Kir.” Wolfe snorted, shaking his head ruefuly. “I wanted to kil him... and al he did was kiss you.” My breath caught as our eyes locked. Suddenly I knew what that indecipherable look was he sometimes gave me. Wolfe… wanted me? Wolfe? Wolfe who gave every woman at the palace a fit of the vapours when he spoke to them? Wolfe who had a reputation for being incredibly discriminating with women? For goodness sake, according to palace gossip, he had had a love affair with Vojvodkyna Winter Rada, the woman whose court we were heading to; an incredibly beautiful, sophisticated, young widow. And he wanted me? Me?

  “I-”

  Whatever banal thing I would have said was cut off as Wolfe reached a hand out to slide behind my neck. I gulped, feeling so hot I thought I was going to combust.

  The way he looked at me… I shivered… no one had ever looked at me like that before. Like I was the most-

  “You’re so beautiful,” Wolfe told me hoarsely, and maybe I was naive, but as he looked at me I believed he realy thought so.

  And then I wasn’t realy thinking much because his mouth was on mine. He brushed his lips across mine in soft feathery butterfly kisses, beautiful and frustrating al at the same time.

  “Wolfe,” I muttered in complaint and his lips smiled against mine. “Cruel,” I whispered.

  He took it as a chalenge. I was gripped closer, his arms wrapped around me, binding me to him so I was flush against him, my arms trapped. And his mouth…

  His kiss was hard and persistent now and I pushed into it, intoxicated by the feel and scent of him al around me. A little strangled sound erupted from the back of my throat at the feel of his tongue against my lips and he took the opportunity to sweep into my mouth, drugging me with the unfamiliar dark pul of the kind of kiss Haydyn had told me about but I’d never experienced. I must have stiled, unsure of what to do, letting him kiss me and enjoying it, but afraid to participate in case I did it wrong.

  Wolfe suddenly stopped, breaking the kiss. He puled back to frown at me.

  I blushed, feeling like an idiot. Wolfe was used to experienced women, not nineteen year old girls who were as sensual as the straw we sat on.

  “You’ve never been kissed properly before?” He asked softly, stroking my flushed cheek. I was stil wrapped tightly against him and despite my embarrassment I didn’t want to pul away from him. I was addicted. Wonderful.

  “No.” I shook my head, feeling like a schoolgirl.

  “But I thought you and Jarek-”

  “Me and Jarek, what?!” I snapped back, my eyes flashing angrily. What in haven was he insinuating exactly? Or had Jarek said something? Had Jarek spread lies about me? No, he wouldn’t… would he?

  Wolfe arched his eyebrow arrogantly. “What was I supposed to think? You’re always flirting with him.” Arrgh! I hit my hands against his chest trying to pul away from him but he only held me tighter, grinning now, which made me madder. “You are the most-”

  “I’m glad I was wrong.” He cut me off, his eyes narrowing with lustful intent. “Now kiss me back.” I shuddered, my earlier annoyance disappearing in a puff of smoke. With my usual aversion to being vulnerable I jutted my chin out defiantly. “I don’t know how, so maybe we should stop.”

  Wolfe smirked. “Not a chance. Just folow my lead, mimic what I do.” His breathing grew laboured as he leaned in towards me. I trembled terribly as his lips reached for mine again and I felt his arms flex around me. This time his kiss began a little gentler as I opened my mouth tentatively. When his tongue touched mine I folowed it with my own. Wolfe groaned against me and I felt it reverberate through me in delicious waves. I gasped at the feeling taking over me. This must be what Haydyn was always talking about. The kiss grew more frantic and I freed my arms so I could wrap them around him, my breasts flat to his chest, every inch of my body as close as I could get to the heat of his. We colapsed back against the blankets, Wolfe’s body covering mine, his thigh pushing my legs apart. I shuddered at the feel of him against me, my brain no longer able to work against the sparks and explosions that were shooting off around my body as his drugging kisses went on and on, his strong hands sliding up and down my waist seeming desperate to touch me but afraid to move higher or lower. When I arched into him Wolfe shook against me. I felt him reluctantly pul away, both of us gasping for air as he roled off of me. I didn’t know what to do with my body - my nerves were twanging, my hands shaking. I noticed Wolfe’s were too as he exhaled heavily, running a hand through his hair I had mussed up.

  “We have to stop. You drive me crazy, Rogan,” he whispered gruffly. “You always have.” My heart was struggling to calm down and I laughed at the strange, wonderful but awful turn of events. “Wel, you took the perfect revenge.” He turned his head to look at me and he grinned smugly, taking in my flushed face.

  I swatted at him. “Very nice.”

  “What?” he laughed, roling up onto his elbow and reaching out to brush my hair off my face. “After spending the last few years panting after you it’s nice to know you want me back.”

  My eyebrows rose in surprise. “The last few years?”

  Laughing softly, Wolfe reached for me, puling me into his embrace, tucking my head under his chin. I automaticaly snuggled against
his heat. “Let’s stop with the questions for now, Rogan. We need to sleep.”

  I was sceptical that after our kissing session I would be able to fal asleep. But surprisingly, with Wolfe keeping me safe, I drifted off quickly into a dreamless slumber.

  Chapter Eighteen

  I couldn’t see her in the crowds. Where was she? This was her night. Smiling benignly at a Raphizyan Baron and his insipidly vapid wife, I made my way out of the noisy ballroom and into the foyer. I had already asked Vikomt Matai, her newest bodyguard, if he had seen her. He had turned his back for one minute and she was gone. I knew the man felt terrible, losing the Princezna in a crowded ballroom two weeks into his new post. I tried to reassure him. Haydyn could be a minx and he’d have to get to know her better to understand her better. Once he had, looking after her wouldn’t be a problem. Two footmen stood guard at the entrance.

  “Have you seen the Princezna?” I asked anxiously, before reminding myself to stop twisting my hands together nervously in case they thought something was amiss.

  One of the footmen stepped forward a little. “Her majesty left the ballroom a few minutes ago, my Lady. She was headed in the direction of the orangery.”

  I nodded my thanks and lifted my gown, my steps picking up pace as I followed the luxuriously gilded hallways of the palace to the large orangery in the east wing with views of the Silver Sea in the distance. Not that you could really see the views past the exotic plants and citruses Stena, the gardener, had populated the glasshouse with. Briefly, I closed my eyes, wondering what an earth I’d find when I got to the orangery. This was supposed to be Haydyn’s proper debut as Princezna of Phaedra; she was sixteen now, no longer a child. But something had been plaguing her all day.

  I stepped inside the humid air of the orangery, the scents somewhat overwhelming. But Haydyn liked it here. She said it made her feel like she was somewhere else. I relaxed a little at finding her sitting on a bench at the back of the orangery. She glanced up, unsurprised to see me there.

  “Haydyn,” I whispered, moving towards her, the rustling of my skirts sounding overly loud in the quiet of the glass room. With a deep exhalation I sat beside her, our elbows bumping. “Why aren’t you at the ball, enjoying your debut?” She huffed, “It’s not as if they haven’t seen me at a ball before.”

  I stopped myself from snorting out loud. “True,” I muttered, desperately trying to keep the laughter out of my voice. Sometimes it was so hard to teach her to be responsible when I agreed with her summations. “But this is a special evening and you really should return to your guests.” Haydyn shrugged.

  I frowned. “I know you aren’t blind to the superficiality of some of your court but you’ve never treated them with disdain. You’ve always been so friendly and polite to everyone. Tonight, I’d be surprised if you had stretched your lips once into a smile. I even thought I misheard you telling Lady Viskt that if the people of Alvernia were half as well-fed as her cat, Phaedra would have no tribulations. Now I think I didn’t mishear it at all.” She laughed lightly. “No, you didn’t. But, Rogan, she’s awful. All she talks about is that bloody cat of hers. As if the Princezna wants to discuss an overfed spoiled brat of a cat that scratched me last time she brought it to court, over her donating money to the charity I wanted to start for the mountain people of Alvernia.”

  A wave of fondness made me smile softly at her. “Dear, not everyone is as open-minded about the Alvernian mountain people as you.” She snorted. “Including you.”

  I shrugged, unabashed. “They’re under the same evocation as the rest of us. If they wanted to be civilised they could be.”

  “But-”

  “You know I’d be more positively inclined towards this rapidly failing philanthropic idea of yours if I thought for one second it had been your idea.” Blushing, Haydyn shrugged. “Darren is very passionate about these issues.”

  Now I did snort. “Darren is an arrogant troubadour with an overinflated sense of importance. He’s never even been to Alvernia! The furthest he’s been is Ryl. Not exactly the best troubadour if you ask me… travelling minstrel my left butt cheek!” Haydyn burst into raucous laughter, shaking her head. Once she’d controlled her giggles, she stared up me with love shining bright in her eyes. “Perhaps you’re right. He did write me the most awful poetry the other morning. Something about hair the colour of the moon and a sweet lady granting him a boon. I think he may have been trying to get me to kiss him.”

  I narrowed my eyes. “You didn’t, did you?”

  Pinching her lips together she gave a sharp jerk of her head. “No. I did think about it but he’s not really what I expected. None of this is.” She swept the room with a dainty hand.

  “What do you mean?”

  “I don’t think I can do this,” she confessed hollowly. “Decisions and choices, and pandering to the court. It’s all so much responsibility. The coronation ceremony is only two years away, and then I’ll be crowned Queen. Somehow that makes it sound all that much more frightening.”

  “Why don’t we go away?” She clutched my arm frantically, her emerald eyes pleading with me. “We’ll jump on a boat and sail the coast to Alvernia. See for ourselves what the people are really like.”

  “Hay-”

  “Or we could take off on Midnight and Sundown, head for your old family home in Vasterya. We could run through the fields and play by that stream you always talk about. It sounds like paradise.”

  I smiled sadly at her and drew her into a hug. “Haydyn, you know we can’t.”

  “Why not? You’re the only one I care about and the only one who cares about me. We’ll have a grand adventure.”

  “You know you care about the people here, Haydyn. You’re just overwhelmed, and that is to be expected.” I turned so I was facing her, my eyes serious, older than my years. “Phaedra needs your magic, Haydyn. And it needs your goodness. I know it’s a lot to ask of a young woman, but we’ve all had to sacrifice something for our land.”

  Immediately her eyes welled up with tears. “Oh, Rogan, you must think me terribly selfish and childish.”

  “No. I think you’re young. I think you’re scared. But I know how smart and kind and good you are. And like you said, you have me. I’ll help you through.

  I’ll always be there for you. You’re all that matters, and nothing will get in the way of that. Nothing…”

  …a stripe of heat across my face tingled, slowly bringing me out of sleep. I peeled my eyes open, blinking against the stream of sunlight coming in from a crack in the rafters.

  Where was I?

  It took me a minute but then it al came flooding back and I stiffened; my head whipping to my side. The place where Wolfe had slept was empty. He was gone. My heart raced. No, he was probably just in the house, I reassured myself. I groaned and sat up. Despite feeling less exhausted, I stil ached al over. All over. Why, oh why had I kissed Wolfe last night? I groaned, burying my face in my hands. It was such a sily, stupid thing to do!

  You were exhausted.

  Yes. I was exhausted. I wasn’t thinking clearly... clearly.

  I was in the middle of rescuing my best friend, my sister; the one person in the entire land of Phaedra who meant anything to me. I couldn’t be distracted by kisses from the most inappropriate man imaginable. His father kiled my family! He was a Vikomt and I was a farm girl! He would marry and I… definitely would not!

  But what to do now? When I went into the house, how should I act? My stomach churned. I dreaded an actual conversation with him about it. Oh surely Wolfe would know it was a mistake. A bleary-eyed, adrenaline-rushed error in judgement. I should just act like nothing happened. I bet that was exactly what he would want.

  Nodding, happy with the decision, I scrambled down out of the hayloft, nearly faling on my bottom - I trembled with nerves so badly. The sun was bright and hot outside the hayloft and I winced at the thought of riding to Caera in this heat. Heaving a huge sigh, I braced my shoulders as if readying for battle, and headed into the
widow’s house. Wolfe was nowhere to be seen; the widow bustling around the kitchen, the smel of breakfast heady and thick in the air. My stomach grumbled a plea.

  “There you are.” The old widow smiled at me. “I hope you slept wel.”

  I nodded, confused. Where was Wolfe?

  “Your man is out back getting washed up at the trough.”

  I glowered. “He’s not my man. He’s my…” I realised I didn’t know how to finish that sentence.

  Chuckling softly, the widow lay out the breakfast for us. “I’m just going out to feed my pig. Be back in a minute.”

  “Thank you.” I gestured to the food gratefuly and sat down, answering her cheery smile with a half-hearted one of my own. I never knew confusion could be so physicaly disorientating. Shrugging it off, I began to dig into the delicious food, salivating as it melted on my tongue. Perhaps we should take the old widow back with us, employ her in the palace kitchens. My lips twitched at the thought. Cook wouldn’t be amused by that turn of events. Ah Cook. I missed her. And Valena. And Haydyn… but that went without saying.

  At the sound of a creak behind me, my ears perked up, and then his familiar scent hit me. I felt Wolfe behind me. The press of his lips against my neck startled me and I flinched back from him, staring at him incredulously. Immediately, Wolfe took a step back, a wary aspect flickering across his gaze. Whatever he saw in my expression made him snort in disgust and he took the seat beside me to tuck into the breakfast.

  “Last night was a dream then?” he asked with a definite edge to his voice.

  I took a moment, shaking off the delicious tingling sensation on my neck where he had kissed me, desperately trying to ignore the way my stomach flipped at the sight of his aquamarine eyes and wicked mouth. Finaly, when I thought my voice wouldn’t come out al breathy and give me away, I replied, “Not a dream. Just a mistake.” Somehow Wolfe managed to glare at me out of the corner of his eye, and it wasn’t hard to fal back into the way of things, bristling at the condescending look he slid on and off his face as easy as a mask. “A mistake?” he seethed, shaking his head. “I should have known you’d wake up as skittish as mouse. I shouldn’t have left.”

 
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