Dance of Thieves (Dance of Thieves 1) - Page 42

“What about her?”

The very Rahtan who took me down, walking the streets of Hell’s Mouth with me? It could blow up in my face, but it could also reinforce my claim that it was a mere misunderstanding. And if any leagues were skulking, it would be a clear message that a great power was not moving in on us, but instead, recognizing our authority. Given a few weeks, doubts and fears would be calmed and everyone would forget about the queen coming.

“She’ll walk too. With me.”

My m

other told me not to cry. She told me not to forget kindness.

She told me to be strong. She told me to believe in tomorrow.

Every day I try to remember what else she told me.

Something about shoes; something about birthdays and baths; something about whistling and roses. I cannot remember what she said.

I was only eight when she died. I hope the things I’ve forgotten don’t matter.

—Miandre, 13



I soaked in a tub of luxurious hot water. The bath chamber was excessively large, as was the tub. Sweet lavender oils swirled on top in a shimmering bubbled tapestry. My toes wiggled beneath the surface, reveling in the decadent silky oils slipping between them. Oleez had lit a candle in the corner and left me a plate of cheese, flatbread, and berries to nibble on while she scouted out some other clothes for me to wear. If this was being in custody, I was all for it.

There was no reason I couldn’t soak up the Ballenger hospitality while I went about my work. Jase asked Oleez to escort me here while he went directly to a meeting with his family. I was sure after his absence they had a lot to catch up on—including me. His family had walked behind us on our return to Tor’s Watch, and I felt their eyes on my back with every step. They were as protective of him as he was of them. Jase was quiet the whole way, but his hand rested on the small of my back because no doubt Paxton and others watched as we departed. As soon as we were through the gates of Tor’s Watch, his hand fell and he gave orders for me to be escorted elsewhere. He didn’t say good-bye, and I had to silently applaud him on how well he massaged appearances. But it wasn’t appearances when he embraced Lydia and Nash. Something about that moment circled back through my head again and again. The tenderness. That was real. Some parts of Jase were—

I slipped beneath the water, scrubbing my scalp, wishing hot water could wash away not just dirt, but these past days too. When the viewing was over and the tomb door was finally pushed shut, the family remained stoic, but their eyes glistened and his mother’s eyes puddled with tears, her stony façade cracking at last. I found myself envying the finality of a door shutting, a certainty that I would never get.

I broke the surface and gasped for a breath. Warm candlelight danced on the wall, and the only sound was the gentle sloshing of the water. I lifted my foot, listening to the drips cascading down, and surveyed my clean pickled toes and the scabs that still circled my ankle like a thorny wreath. A matching wreath circled Jase’s ankle. The chain was gone now, but the connection still jingled through corners of my mind. I stood and rinsed with the pitcher of fresh hot water Oleez had left on the table for me. The thick white robe that was laid out was luxurious too, and I brushed it to my cheek before shrugging it on. Wren loved soft things. She would relish this as much as me, if she and Synové were here. Were they? Or were they in hiding, waiting for me to show up? That was the first thing I’d have to find out.

When I left the bath chamber, it felt strange not to have Jase within a few feet of me, strange not to hear his footsteps, his voice, and I found myself glancing to the side out of habit, expecting him to be there. It was surprising how quickly habits could form, and I wondered how long it would take for them to disappear. Then a faint voice inside me whispered, Is he a habit you really want to disappear?

“Yes,” I whispered back. Yes was the only answer I could afford.

His bed had heavy, dark curtains that could be drawn—like a tent, only better—a perfect enclosed cave for sleeping. I think I loved it more than the tub. Heavy drapes covered the windows, and the walls were covered with polished wood panels on three sides. Another wall was full of books. Everything about it was dark and luscious.

Oleez returned with borrowed clothing that she thought would be closer to my size than Jalaine’s dress and told me my other quarters were ready.

“Thank you, but I’ll be staying here. This chamber suits me.”

She paused, quirking her head, as though I hadn’t quite understood her. “But this is the Patrei’s room.”

“I’m aware of that. I’m sure he’ll be as comfortable in the guest quarters as I would be.”

She frowned, giving me a chance to change my mind. I remained firm.

“I’ll let him know,” she said and left. She was passing this battle on to Jase.

The guards he had posted at the end of the hall were an amusing touch, but I wasn’t going to be put away in a room that would certainly be more restrictive than this one. This room had four windows, not to mention that Jase had all kinds of items to pilfer. I had already found a forgotten grooming kit in the bottom of his wardrobe with a long, thin tool that could be useful for many things besides grooming. A small black satin bag that had probably once contained an expensive gift became a sleek, discreet pocket tied beneath my clothes. I was sure the nooks and corners had more to offer, but mostly I simply liked his dark cavelike bed. I wanted to crawl into it now and draw the curtains tight.

I went to the bookshelf and pulled a thick volume out. It was carefully handwritten, the penmanship itself mesmerizing, gracefully riding across the page in bold strokes like horses with wings. I replaced the book and my hand skimmed along the spines of the others as I thought about the stories Jase had told me—Breda’s Tears, Hetisha’s Lost Horses, Miandre and the first Ballengers, and I wondered if he had read them here.

A knock startled me from my thoughts.


“It’s Jase.”

Tags: Mary E. Pearson Dance of Thieves Fantasy
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