Home > The Shadows Between Us(9)

The Shadows Between Us(9)
Author: Tricia Levenseller

However, I’m beyond flattered that she would confide in me about her desire for passion without marriage. She’s trusting me with this information. It prompts me to answer her honestly.

“I’ve already had my love match.”

She quirks a brow. “But you are unwed. How did it end?”

“He decided he didn’t want me anymore. Passion leads to fierce heartbreak, Rhoda. You might think twice about how badly you wish for it.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” She looks off into the distance at nothing, lost in thought for a moment. “Either way, I’m getting ahead of myself. I still have four months of mourning left.”

“Mourning,” I repeat.

“Yes, I’m not wearing black because I wish to. A wife is required to be in mourning for a year after her husband’s death. I’m to only wear black, and if I attend social functions, I’m not allowed to fully participate; I must watch from the sidelines.”

My mouth drops open. “You can’t be serious!”

“Very serious, I’m afraid.”

“No, no, no. This won’t do at all, Rhoda! I take back what I said. You do need a passionate tryst. There’s no sense in mourning after a man you never loved. We must find you someone immediately. Is there anyone at court who brings out a passion in you?”

It turns out there are several men Rhoda is interested in. I promptly forget all the names she tells me, but she titters on about their looks and titles.

At first, I’d chosen my two new friends as a way to appease the council, but I’m realizing now just how useful the two will prove to be. Rhoda is knowledgeable about all the men at court. She’s been observing them carefully (from afar, of course) since her husband died. She might be my opportunity to better fit in with those at court. And Hestia is almost obsessed with how I dress. I suspect she’ll be the primary source on all gossip about me, since she’s making such an effort to be like me. Knowing how those at court view me at all times is invaluable. It was only luck that the council revealed what little they knew of me already. I need to be on top of how I’m perceived constantly if I’m to know what the king and his court think of me.

At a break in Rhoda’s discourse, I ask her, “Is this why you came to court? For the men?”

“Oh, no. I came to court because the king requested it.”

“He requested it?”

“Yes, many of us were invited to stay. Well, to be honest, it’s almost a bit of a command. I don’t think I could leave if I wanted to, but I’m having such a fun time sizing up all the men at court, I don’t mind one bit.”

A command.

A thought strikes me. “Rhoda, were you in the palace on the night the king’s parents were murdered?”

Sadness shadows her features. “Yes, oh, it was a horrible night.”

“And Hestia was here, too? And Leandros?”

She thinks. “I believe so.”

“And he’s commanded you all to stay at court? He’s commanded everyone here to stay at court?”

She looks up at me suddenly. “Oh, you think—”

“Yes.”

The Shadow King is trying to root out his parents’ murderer. He’s invited everyone who was there the night they died to stay at the palace. He’s ordered their indefinite stay so he can keep an eye on them and find the culprit.

But that can’t be why I’m here. I wasn’t here when his parents died. And according to Leandros, the king doesn’t let anyone get close to him. All his social interactions are elusive at best.

So why has he invited me to stay at the palace? Can it truly be simply because my plan is working?

I ponder this as I finish the hem on the skirt I’m working on. I’m fashioning something new, a skirt that hangs down to the floor in the back but rises to above midthigh in the front. I will, of course, be wearing tight pants underneath the outfit. I don’t think even the king could avoid kicking me out of court if I showed off my legs outright.

The finished product is even better than I imagined, but I need to fashion a top to match, and I haven’t thought of the design for that yet. I’d hoped the skirt would inspire me. I hang the garment in my wardrobe for now.

The note arrives just as my stomach grumbles for supper.

My dear Lady Stathos,

I’d be honored to have you join me for dinner tonight.

—KM

 

 

* * *

 

ANOTHER SERVANT LEADS ME through the palace. I take careful note of all the turns and staircases, trying to acquire a mental map of the place in which I’m now living. Eventually I’m taken through a doorway and led into a large room. I was expecting a parlor, but this is a library. Books span shelves that reach clear up to the twenty-foot ceiling. As far as I can tell, not a speck of dust coats a single tome, despite how old some of them look.

A fire has already been built into the hearth on one wall, and two rather large armchairs stretch out before it, one on either side of a short table. Tea has already been laid out.

The servant holds out one of the chairs for me, and I sit.

“His Majesty will be just a moment.” And with a bow, he leaves me alone in the room.

At a hint of movement on the floor, I snap my neck in that direction. What I’d written off as a fur rug placed between the table and the fireplace, I now realize is Demodocus.

“Hello again,” I say.

Demodocus cracks open one eye for a brief second before resuming his nap in front of the fire.

“Had a busy day, did you? All that fetching got the better of you, I suppose.”

Demodocus rolls over, putting his back to me.

“Message received. I’ll let you get back to it. But where is your master?”

I glance around the room, taking in the colors on the spines, when the king arrives.

Only he doesn’t use the door.

He walks right through a wall of books.

My back snaps straight in my chair as I watch the Shadow King take shape through the books, the shadows around him growing lighter when he’s all the way through the wall.

He’s already watching me when his eyes take shape beyond the tomes, and I wonder if he was observing me, waiting for my eyes to land on that exact spot on the wall before stepping through solid shelves.

My eyes harden of their own accord. “Is that supposed to impress me?” Belatedly, I tack on, “Your Majesty.”

His knee-high boots tread softly on the carpet as he crosses the room. “I have already guessed it takes quite a lot to impress you.” He pulls the opposite chair out for himself and sits.

We watch each other for a moment in silence, but finally, curiosity gets the best of me. “How long have you been able to do that?”

“Walk through walls? The ability runs in the royal family, though it doesn’t develop until a child starts to grow into adulthood.”

“A side effect of the shadows, no doubt.”

The Shadow King grins as he brings his teacup to his lips. “No doubt,” he says after a swallow.

I can tell he’s greatly amused by my questions, and that realization has me shutting up. I put my full focus on my teacup instead, drinking while looking around at the great expanse of a room. I can neither give him exactly what he wants nor be too predictable. I have to walk a very fine line. It is the same with every man.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Sweet Temptation
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)
» Den of Vipers
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Serpent & Dove(Serpent & Dove #1)
» ENEMIES
» Archangel's War
» Credence