| Find Chapter 1 here
Chapter 2 is here
Chapter 3 is here
Chapter 4 is here
Chapter 5 is here
Chapter 6 is here
Chapter 7 is here.
Chapter 8: here
Chapter 9: here
Chapter 10: here
Chapter 11 (R-Rated) here
Chapter 12: here
Chapter 13: here
Chapter 14: here
Chapter 15: here
Chapter 16: here
Chapter 17: here
Chapter 18: here
You can skip Chapter 11 without losing the plot.
They got through several hands of Efferghine, making up new rules as they went, before Calum and Onter came back. “Everything’s all set now. The locksmith will come in the morning, and we’re going to install a few new safety measures. The captives are all locked up safely for the night. Good job, you two.” He patted Sefton’s back and nodded at Jaco. “You kept them all out of the nursery.”
“That’s our job.” Jaco looked a little uncomfortable. “You set to watch or you need some back-up?”
“I’m good for a couple hours, then Onter will wake up and come spell me. You get some sleep. And you, Feltian, back to our Lady’s rooms with you. She asked for you specifically.”
Sefton ducked his head. “Thanks. I’ll head back there now, then?”
“Yeah, don’t dawdle. She’s tired, too, and she’s going to want to get some sleep before tomorrow.”
Well, that didn’t do anything at all for his nerves. Sefton bowed, just out of reflex, and headed through the halls of husbands’ territory towards his lady’s room.
The halls were a mess. There were scorch marks on the walls and a few places where a bladed weapon had clearly landed in the framework — in one place, it had taken a long splash of blood with it.
Sefton swallowed. He knew this happened, and yet it was one thing to know it and another to be the husband, the one whose responsibility it was to stop those attacks.
Well, they’d done it, hadn’t they? He and Jaco had, and Callum and Onter and his lady…
His lady. He hurried up his pace. That blood wasn’t hers, was it? Was it Onter’s? Oh, please let it all be the bandits’.
He knocked rapidly on the door, not nearly the sedate, polite request for attention that a proper husband was supposed to do. Still, the door opened, to reveal a Taisiya in a robe, a blood splatter still across her face.
“Feltian, good. You’re all right?”
“Yes, my lady, yes, but you?” He reached out for her cheek, but let his hand drop halfway. “That is, you’re still in good health?”
“It’s all right to show concern, Feltian.” She touched his cheek gently. “Come on, let’s wash up, and then we can get to bed. It’s been a long day for all of us.”
He wanted to protest that he wasn’t tired, but when he opened his mouth, a yawn escaped. Mortified, he covered his mouth with his hand.
Taisiya chuckled. “Come on, let’s stay awake long enough to clean up at least. I hear you did very well today.”
“They got through the nursery door.” He was still indignant about that. “They walked right through.”
“I know. And that’s horrifying. I’m very grateful to Jaco and you for defending the egglings so well.”
They’re my children, too. He ducked his head and said nothing, because he didn’t know what he could say.
“Come on.” She steered him into the bathroom. “How are you doing, do you think? With the egglings, with the other husbands?”
“Jaco and I are getting along pretty well,” he admitted. He wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or not, considering Jaco’s self-chosen role as the Bad Husband. “And I don’t think Calum or Onter have problems with me. I think Hothyan has decided that I’m not the enemy, and I’ve been getting along well with Pherisshe.”
“Good, very good. I’m pleased you’re working to fit in. And if you can get along with Hothyan, maybe he can see that being married is not the end of the world.”
Sefton cleared his throat. “I think he misses his brother, that’s all.”
“I’m sure he does. It’s not easy, for those left in the house. I remember what it felt like.” She patted his head. “I was a child once too, Feltia. I do remember what it’s like, being lost, being worried, the first time being married.”
But you’re in charge. He didn’t say it. No matter how tired he was, he knew it would be unwise. “Yes, Lady Taisiya.”
She sat down on the edge of the tub and pushed the pump a few times, wetting a cloth. “I’m a person, my dear. I may be your wife, but I’m no less a person.” She sighed and looked away from him. “That door. If anything had happened to you or Jaco or the children…”
Sefton’s pride was stung. “I wasn’t going to let anything happen to the egglings,” he complained. “And it’s my job to not let anything happen to them. That’s what I trained for.”
She caught his chin in her hand, moving so fast he didn’t have a chance to react or even to decide if he should react. “It is my job to keep all of my husbands and all of my children safe. That is why you have chains. So that you are not running off to battle like some wild man from the colonial days.”
Sefton flushed and averted his eyes. “I know this, my lady.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. She was still holding his chin, which meant he ought to be looking at her. “I don’t want to, to run off to battle.” He would’ve been good in the army, but that hadn’t been a choice for him, any more than the Academy had. “It’s just that husbands, we’re supposed to protect the egglings. And I take that very seriously.”
“Look at me, Feltian.”
He really had no choice at that point. He didn’t want to end his first day married being punished. Sefton turned his gaze back to Taisiya, to find her looking straight in his eyes.
“I am very pleased that you feel this way about the egglings. Most men, they need to have their own children in the nest before they feel that way. So I am glad that you already feel that responsibility. But is is still my job to make sure that you are all both safe and tame.”
Tame was one of Sefton’s least favorite words, but he had plenty of practice keeping that off of his face. He couldn’t nod, so he said, quietly — she was so close! — “Yes, Lady Taisiya.”
“It’s all right.” Her voice softened. “It’s not meant to be likable, sadly, but it’s meant to be tolerable.” Her free hand brushed across the shackle on his left wrist. “Like this. It’s a symbol. It’s hard to bear at first, but you’ll get used to it.”
Sefton sighed. “I can tolerate it, Lady Taisiya. I can do that for you.”
She smiled, but the expression looked more sad and tired than pleased with him. “I know, my darling Feltian. I already know that about you. But some day… Some day I hope you’ll understand that you’re tolerating it for yourself, as well.”
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