She watched the pebble flow true and thunk hard against a forehead before she had time to process who was standing there. No weapons out, no Imperial insignia, not someone she knew — they looked startled and took three steps back.
She dropped her slingshot in a pouch and grabbed her longknife. “Hello.” If they had darts, they’d be going for a pouch; a wrist-dagger, they’d be shifting their wrist, a sword or blade, reaching for their back or thigh. Sher shifted her weight to her back leg and got ready to block with a wrist or an elbow if she had to.
The woman had her hand halfway to her neck when the “Hello” seemed to make her pause. With her hand still hanging in the air over her shoulder, she cleared her throat. “Hello.”
“Are you here to kill me?” The woman had the same blonde Bear-family hair as Deline, the same blue eyes and broad shoulders. Probably not a Deklegion bounty hunter, but it didn’t do to take stupid risks.
“Depends.” The woman rubbed her forehead where the rock had hit her. “Who are you?”Continue reading →
“Are you sure you know how to hunt things that aren’t people?”
Deline was teasing Carrone – mostly. They had been living in the cabin for four days, and she was beginning to get more on edge than she wanted to admit.
It was easy enough to settle in to a routine – gather and hunt in the morning, cook a big meal in the afternoon and settle in to bed in the evening. It was easy enough to pretend that they were just having a little rest stop along the way, getting to know each other. But Deline knew that they were hiding, and she knew that she had to get back to the capital, and she knew that with every day she didn’t – with every day she didn’t make it back, there was a chance that they wouldn’t make it back, and if they didn’t, her information died with her. And that wasn’t acceptable.
The thing about an Imperial Bed was, even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable in an emotional sense, it was always perfectly comfortable in a physical sense. The spells that Deline used to keep her lodgings tolerable were the basis of the magic on the Imperial bed, but then there were layers and layers of other work there. One could lay here forever and not get the slightest bit uncomfortable – or at least for decades, until the spells wore off.
Author’s Note: This chapter is as the title says, literally. That is, they have sex. There is no conversation and no plot in this chapter, so if you’re not interested in the sex, you can safely skip this week. 🐻
For a moment, Deline thought that Carrone was simply stuck on a never ending circle. Then she realized that he was smiling.
She smiled back at him. “Well.” She raised her eyebrows. “I’d say ‘wouldn’t you like to know,” but I think we already established that you have an interest and an opportunity. But if we’re talking about the furniture… you could go upstairs and take a look yourself. It’s not quite as modern as the one back in the Capitol, but it’s an Imperial Bed.”
Deline found that she was staring at Carrone; rather, she realized that she was staring at him when he shifted uncomfortably.
“So,” she spoke carefully. “You want a life, a life that isn’t being a bounty hunter any more. You want someone to go home to at night, or someones, a marriage or a joining. You want people you can look at as partners, as equals; you don’t mind being the junior in a marriage, though, as long as you have a place. But you were planning on settling down and then you went after the wrong rabbit. Am I close?”
“That’s – that’s it, yeah.” He huffed and lay down on the floor, staring through the glass at the fire. “That’s it. So you see why you – you being the wife of the Emperor, that means that you’re in line for the throne when he dies, doesn’t it?”
“Don’t – you probably shouldn’t make it sound like it’s an imminent thing,” she protested. Continue reading →
By the time they reached the cabin, Deline was thinking that maybe she should have let Carrone carry her after all – except he was not in any better shape than she was.
She stopped him when they could see the stone roof of the building and walked widdershins twice around the place until she could find the wards and their key, and then used her personal token as Claw to unlock those wards – in this case by taking her necklace and, with a quiet incantation in a language that had been, if her sources were correct, already old when the bear made this land, sticking the necklace into the hollow of an ancient tree.
“Now we can go in.” She gestured him forward.
“What would have happened if you hadn’t done that little dance?”
“The house might have eaten us in our sleep – or possibly, nothing at all might have happened. This way, it will keep other people a decent distance away.”
“Your magery is a strange, strange thing.” He shuddered. “I don’t know how it isn’t sorcery.”Continue reading →