Dark Lord of Kismera (cont’d)


He still held a lock of her hair. “My given name is Drace. At least when there is not a zillion people around, please call me by my first name.”

Ki tried to lean back and felt the tug of his hand in her hair. Reluctantly he released her. “If it pleases you, my Lord,” she said, strangely compliant at
his request.

“It would please me a great deal.” Then with a wry grin he added, “You know, you are a very lovely woman when you’re not trying to kill me.”

At that moment Estelle entered the room with towels and fresh clothes. Despite the urge to jump to her feet, Ki rose slowly. Drace thought she would have looked rather majestic if not for the furious blush staining her cheeks.

As she left his chamber, she paused in the doorway, “I shall see you at
dinner, Drace.” It was phrased both as a question and a command.

With a lazy smile, he answered, “Of course, my Lady.”

“Ki,” she corrected, then turned and left him, Drace catching the glimpse of a fleeting smile.

Estelle turned to look at Drace, puzzled as she heard him chuckle. So, the tough-as-nails Lady can be soft after all, he thought.

Ki stopped about halfway down to the next floor, before reaching Vashti and Ka’Ril’s door. She leaned against the wall, a hand to her chest, feeling her hearts’ still frantic pace. She closed her eyes for a moment to compose herself. By the gods, what is wrong with me? she thought. It was not like she had never seen a naked male.

Once she was again in control of her emotions, she continued downward, meeting Vashti and Ka’Ril just exiting their room.

“Are you alright, my Lady?” Vashti asked, stopping Ki with a hand on
her arm.

“Of course, why ask you this?” Ki answered, too quickly.

“Well, you are rather flushed,” Vashti answered, then raised her pale brows as Ki’s color turned a deeper crimson.

“Perhaps my bath was a bit too warm.” She sounded peevish, even to her own ears. “Come, let us go down now. I am famished.”

Vashti hid a smile behind her hand. “Yes, let us.”

Ki continued down, Vashti and Ka’Ril right behind her. Vashti gave her husband a knowing look. “What?” he asked, obliviously.

She beamed a brilliant smile at him, “Nothing, love, nothing.”

The tables in the main hall were mostly filled with the normal diners in attendance. Most of the higher-ranking men and Ki’s officers, many with a woman at their side, were already seated. The children were fed before the adults and already sent to their quarters. There were, however, several teenage boys who attended evening meals with the other adults. These boys were also in training, and seemed fascinated with the newcomer in their midst, looking often at the stairs for his arrival to dinner.

Drace joined them shortly, dressed in a royal blue tunic and black breeches. His dark hair, still damp, lay loose, just over his shoulders. He noted with some wonder that Vashti had changed her usual place and the seat next to Ki was open. Ki caught his gaze at the empty chair. She didn’t blush; instead her chin raised a notch.

Once he was seated, speaking in a quiet tone, she informed him, “We will school for a seven-day more; then we must ride to Ferndale. While we are that close we will visit Morenta, the home of Nimbus. We may go on to the Dwarfs’ mountain-hold, Fortune.”

In an off-hand manner, she added conversationally, “We trade with both the elves and dwarfs.” She glanced at him quickly then back at her platter as a servant placed a steaming bowl of soup on it.

Not only had Drace seen her as a desirable woman today, but her responsibility as leader and protector of her people had also occurred to him. Drace now saw her in a new light. What he thought would be his gelding day had turned out pretty well after all.

Read more from Tamara Hartl!


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