Dark Lord of Kismera (cont’d)


Drace stood outside Pride’s stall. The stallion had come to the stall door when Drace first entered the stable. After Drace gave him a good scratching, Pride moved back to his hayrack and stood contentedly munching, eyes half closed. The horse’s ears flickered briefly at a soft noise behind his master.

Drace caught the faint aroma of citrus before he heard the rustle of skirts. He did not turn around. He leaned on the stall door, arms crossed. “Yes, my Lady?”

“How did you know it was me?” Ki whispered as she moved to stand be-
side him.

“I smelled your fragrance. I got a good sample of it earlier.”

“Oh, I see.” Ki tugged at her skirt then smoothed it. She then brushed at her hair.

“You’re fidgeting,” Drace remarked, finally looking at her.

“I do not fidget!” Ki flared. She cleared her throat and spoke quietly, “It is my duty as head of the household to make sure that you have everything you might need. It has been brought to my attention that perhaps…,” she brushed at her skirt again, “You may have a need that…um…has not been met.” She felt her face flame and was glad that it was dark in the stable. “From the conversations of the kitchen maids…,”

Drace stared at her in disbelief, straightened from his relaxed stance and said, “Excuse me, but I seem to have misunderstood what you just said.” He rubbed a finger down the side of his nose.

“But I thought…,” she started, but he cut her off.

“Thought what? That I needed to get laid?” he exclaimed hotly.

“I do not know what ‘laid’ is, but if you need it, I am sure one of them can get it for you,” Ki said.

“You’re trying my patience, Lady. ‘Laid’ is sex. You do know what sex is, don’t you?” Drace asked, exasperation clear in his tone.

Ki seemed flustered. “Well, yes… I think. Sex is mating.”

“I do not need your help finding a bed partner,” he growled through clenched teeth. “Or to mate with, or to do whatever you want to call it.”

“I apologize, my Lord. I meant no offense. I was… out of line,” Ki said, so quietly Drace almost didn’t hear it.

Drace turned to her. The stable was dimly lit, moonlight filtering through the open window, but he couldn’t see her face clearly. “That must have been difficult. You have a bit of pride.”

“Yes, I know,” she admitted, which surprised him considerably. “My father used to tell me that all the time. I hear it still even though he has been gone six winters.”

Drace was silent for a moment, surprised that Ki would share that personal of information with him. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

She was back to twisting her skirt, her voice low and reminiscent, “My father, myself, and one of my father’s best warriors were riding a patrol. It had started to snow and a pair of dogues surprised us. My father did not even get his sword drawn, it happened so fast. I was wounded on my thigh. The other man was Jem, Estelle’s mate. He was wounded also, but we were still able to kill the dogues. He and I managed to get my father on a horse and ride for home. We had to tie him onto it. I knew he was dead, but I had some hope that maybe Nimbus could help with some sort of magic. I was wrong. It was too late. Jem had lost so much blood by the time we came through the gate; he passed within an hour as well. These things happen, but that was a day I had no pride.”

Read more from Tamara Hartl!


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