Drace had met the brothers. Ja Din was a blacksmith and Oran was a warrior who did a lot of scouting work. Both men were fairly tall and were muscular, although not as heavily so as the members of the Lion-kin clan. They both had jet-black hair and the greenest eyes Drace had ever seen on a person.
Something occurred to Drace, “You have referred to me several times as human. Not particularly in a flattering tone either, I might add. I can’t be the only one here.”
Ki smiled at him in that arrogant way in which he was very familiar. “You are a human from outside these lands. That makes you very different.” In a more pleasant tone she continued, “There are humans here as well, such as
Estelle. She had two children with her mate, Jem. They are both men, grown now. One can change at will to a lion. The other has only a sharp sense of hearing and smell, which he has always. A Panther-kin may mate with a Lion-kin but the children will have only one parent’s abilities, if any, and it does not happen very often. You understand this so far, my lord Drace?”
He took a swallow of red wine then nodded.
“You are taking this information rather calmly,” she stated with raised brows. “Earlier this afternoon you showed fear.”
He set his cup down harder than he had intended and wine sloshed onto the table. “You seem annoyed, my Lord,” Ki remarked.
Drace absently mopped the wine with his napkin. “Well I am annoyed, although it’s mostly at myself. I was scared, to be honest, which pisses me off.”
“What is ‘pissed off’? You do not mean you passed water with fear, do you?” Ki leaned back in surprise.
Drace furthered her surprise by laughing. He pushed his hair back and explained, “No, no, although I can’t say that I wasn’t close to it. No, ‘pissed off’ means angry. I am angry at myself that I was afraid.”
Ki drank deeply from her own cup. She touched the tip of her tongue to her top lip to catch a stray drop and as Drace watched he felt a jolt low in his belly at the innocent action. He subtly shifted his weight in his chair.
“I have seen inexperienced warriors piss themselves in the face of an angry dogue, or in battle. Fear is nothing to be ashamed of, and at times it makes you more cautious. You do not strike me as the ‘pissing’ kind,” she commented, matter-of-factly.
“Thanks, I think,” he said, and made that small shift in weight again.
She eyed him curiously for a moment. He returned her gaze for a brief time then turned to stare at his plate. Color stained his high cheekbones.
He stabbed at his chicken and stuffed a bite into his mouth. Ki reached for the small bowl of loose salt close to his plate and her arm brushed his, Drace abruptly rose from his chair. “Excuse me,” he muttered, left the table and exited the main hall.
Drace’s hasty exit had caught Cearan’s attention and Ki glanced at her brother. “Whatever is the matter with him?” she questioned, confused by Drace’s actions.
A look of concentration crossed Cearan’s face as he took a deep breath. He then looked at Ki with amusement on his features. Being a man who loved the company of women, he recognized the scent Drace had left behind in his hasty escape. His sensitive sense of smell had detected the scent of an aroused man. He laughed out loud, making Ki raise an eyebrow in question.
Ki then gave him an angry glance. “What is wrong with Drace,” she
Cearan did not miss her familiar use of Drace’s name. “It is not a topic one discusses with a lady, or their sister.” He gave her a knowing look, which at first angered her further, her brows drawn together in her pique. Sudden understanding came to her. “Oh.” Ki said in a quiet voice and her cheeks bloomed with color. She stood, causing the remaining men to stand politely. She excused herself as well.
As she moved away from the table, Cearan was certain she was going to find Drace. “Ki, wait. Perhaps you should leave him to himself for awhile.”
His words fell on deaf ears as Ki was heading out the door.