Page 38

“On the contrary. I know very well that you will be the end of me. I will go to my death without a murmur.” He rested his forehead against the bars. “But no one will ever love you more than I do.”

“We’re finished.” Jayr spun on her heel to make for the stairs.

“My master intends to take the Realm by force,” Leeds called out, halting her. “When he comes, and it will be soon, he will slaughter every Kyn here.”

She glanced back at him. “Who is this master of yours? Another turncoat, like you? He will be hacked to pieces the moment he sets foot on my land. He and the other traitors like you.”

“You cannot put it a stop to it now,” he said. “Byrne, your men, they are only hours from dying. But I will not let them have you. Come away with me, tonight, and you will live.”

He sounded so desperate, so convincing, that Jayr almost believed him. “You would say anything to be free.”

“No.” He made a bitter sound. “But I would do anything to save you.”

“Make your peace with God, Devan. Jamys and Korvel will soon arrive, and once they have seen what you have done to their ladies, I am sending them to deal with you.” She went to the guards. “Go and fetch my seneschal, and have him meet me in the garrison.” As one trotted off, she turned to the second guard. “No one else is to see the prisoner, or speak with him.”

The guard nodded. “Aye, my lady.”

Leeds heard the door to the upper level of the castle slam, and retreated to the shadows. As he’d guessed, Jayr’s rejection of him had been quick, unwavering, and absolute. Less certain was her resolve to have him executed before dawn; she would have to set aside the guilt he had instilled in her as well as her own feminine instincts.

Women, even those who were immortal, were nurturers, not killers.

He closed his eyes, tired of the game he’d played too long. Duty had brought him here, but it would be love that destroyed him.

The guard shuffled to the door of his cell and inserted the key in the lock.

Leeds rose to his feet, tensing as he saw the warrior’s slack expression, and the glow of gold in his eyes. “So you’ve come for me.”

Did you doubt it, mortal? a voice inside his head asked.

The guard dragged his feet across the cell, and began releasing his manacles.

“I’ve done my part,” Leeds said, rubbing his hands together to restore the circulation. “Where are the jewels?”

Go to the spring. There you will find all that you desire.

Leeds didn’t trust the immortal, not since the first time he had spoken to him. “If you’re wrong about her, everything will be lost.”

She is the last. She is the one. She will not fail me.

To the guard, Leeds said, “I need your clothes.”

“This traitor confessed to stabbing Farlae,” Harlech told Beau as they walked along the outer ward. “He refuses to say what he used to poison the visiting ladies, but that was his doing as well. As soon as the ladies’ lords arrive, the suzeraina will put the traitor in their hands. I expect they will convince him to admit the rest.” He made an ugly sound. “I still cannot believe how he deceived us all.”

“He has done a terrible thing.” Beau felt a hollowness in his chest, and thought of Alys. He wanted to keep her here at the Realm, but he could not stomach the idea of continuing his own deception. “Harlech, there is something I must tell you.”

“You do not really mean to take that mortal as your kyara, do you?” the captain asked. “She is lovely, and I am certain of her affections for you, but you know how it will go. You cannot give her children. She will age while you do not, and someday leave you to go on living without her.”

“What I must say does concern my love for Alys, but not in the manner you think. It is about me, who I am.” Beau removed his sword, setting it aside to stand unarmed before his foster brother. “When the Templars brought me to your family, they told you that I was an orphan, the son of an English Crusader and his Italian wife. They gave you my name as Beaumaris of York.”

Harlech frowned. “Who told you this?”

“I have always known,” Beau admitted. “When I came to your household, I did not say a word for all those months because I could not. Nor could I understand the priests who brought me to you. I did not speak English.”

“Of course, you spoke your mother’s tongue—”

Beau shook his head. “My mother was not Italian. She was Saracen.”

Harlech fell silent.

“By the time I had learned enough English to tell you, I had also been thoroughly schooled on how dearly Saracens were despised. I cannot say why the priests lied to you, but I thought if I spoke the truth—if I told you that I was the bastard son of a Saracen harlot—that you would kill me.”

The captain gave him a narrow look. “So you concealed it out of shame.”

“You misunderstand me. I loved my mother. I cannot regret being born the son of two enemies. It is not as if I had some choice in the matter.” Beau looked into Harlech’s eyes. “My shame is that I never confided in you. You have been my brother, and my best friend. That is why you had to be the first I told…after Alys.”

“So you’ve confided this to her.”

Beau nodded. “I have been afraid of the truth all of my life, and I never meant to tell her, or anyone. I cannot say why I would face it now, except that she makes me want to be a better man.” He ducked his head. “I will accept whatever punishment you or Lady Jayr decide I deserve for deceiving you.”

“What you deserve is the truth.” Harlech lifted his fist, opening it to grip Beau’s shoulder. “There is more you do not know, lad. The priests who brought you to my family told us the truth of who you were. They did not name you, or invent an Italian mother to explain away your dark hide. My father and I did. I’ve always known about your mother.”

Beau stared at him. “But…all these years, and you said nothing?”

“You were barely out of swaddling when they brought you to us,” Harlech reminded him. “You never spoke of it, and in time I told myself that you had forgotten your cradle tongue and your origins. No, truth be told, I had hoped you would never remember. No child should be taken from his mother as you were.”

“All my struggles to keep my secret, that was never a secret.” Beau sighed and glanced at the garrison’s quarters. “Will our comrades be as understanding as you, I wonder?”

“They know you to be a formidable warrior, the best blade in the Realm, and a loyal friend, which is all that matters,” the captain said. “I expect your lady Alys feels the same. Unless you now fancy yourself to be Saracen, and intend to go about dressing in robes and speaking your heathen tongue. That may prove somewhat contentious.”

“That is not my aim.” Beau picked up his sword. “There is another matter I must tell you.”

Harlech arched his brows. “Your mother was Saracen, and your lady is a Scot. Never tell me that your grandparents were Huns.”

“I cannot say who my grandparents were, but I have kept another thing from you,” Beau said, determined to be rid of the last of his secrets. “I have not been going into the city merely to hunt. I have also been taking instruction on how to read, and to write.”

“You have been going to school? With mortals?” Harlech chuckled. “Beaumaris the Scholar. Now, that will greatly entertain the lads.”

Alys didn’t want to tell Beau she’d been caught talking to Jayr’s prisoner, and she’d felt light-headed ever since leaving the dungeons. She wandered through the keep, stepping out of sight whenever she saw one of the Kyn, and ended up standing outside the infirmary, unable to decide whether she should go in. It wasn’t as if she were really ill; she was probably more upset than anything.

Alexandra Keller opened the door and peered out at her. “Your smell is distracting me, Indiana, so make up your mind.” She moved her hand back and forth. “Coming in, or going back to your cute guy?”

Alys still hesitated. “I don’t want to bother you, Dr. Keller. I’m okay.”

“It’s Alex, and you don’t look so okay.” She took her arm and guided her inside, leading her to an empty cot. “Sit.” She pressed two fingers to Alys’s wristbone. “Your heart is doing a river dance. Did Cute Guy nibble on you more than once in the last forty-eight?”

“No, he’s only, ah, done that once, and not for very long.” She glanced at the other three patients, all of whom appeared to be unconscious. “Are they very sick?”

“Spy Guy there has a nasty stab wound, but he’s on the mend. Our ladies are in the Kyn version of a coma. Look up; keep your eyes open, please.” After she checked Alys’s pupils with a penlight, she clicked it off. “Good news. You’re not bespelled.”

“Beau says I’m immune to that.” She kept looking at the two female patients. Tall blonde, petite brunette. “Who are those women?”

“Friends in trouble.” Alex stepped back. “Your vitals are on the high side, but nothing too alarming. The dark circles under those gorgeous eyes are turning into luggage, and your scent tells me you’re about to drop. Cute Guy needs to give you a couple nights off to sleep.” She followed the direction of Alys’s gaze. “Something you want to tell me?”

“The blond woman—she’s French, isn’t she? And the brunette is American.”

“Yeah, they are.” Alex shifted to block her view. “Would you mind sharing how you knew that?”

“I dreamed of them. They weren’t like this—I mean, they were little girls—but I’m sure it was them.” Alys knew how ridiculous she sounded, but the doctor wasn’t laughing. If anything, she was riveted. “Does it mean something to you?”

“No, but my magic trick is reconstructive surgery, not neurology or psychiatry.” Alex slung her stethoscope around her neck. “You, on the other hand, probably know a lot about minerals, am I right?”

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