Home > Valley of Silence (Circle Trilogy #3)(16)

Valley of Silence (Circle Trilogy #3)(16)
Author: Nora Roberts

“Yeah, that works. Whatever, tonight’s feasting is a short and colorful respite. We managed to do some scouting today, Hoyt and I magically, Larkin and Blair with the fly-over. We’ll fill you in when—”

She broke off at the sound of trumpets.

Moira made her entrance, the train of her gown flowing behind her, her crown flaming in the light of a hundred candles.

She glowed, as queens should, as women could.

As his unbeating heart tightened in his chest, Cian thought: Bloody, buggering hell.

He had no choice but to join the others at the high table for the feast. Leaving beforehand would have been an overt insult—not that he minded that overmuch—but it would have drawn attention. So he was stuck again.

Moira sat at the center of the table, flanked by Larkin and her uncle. Cian, at least, had Blair beside him, who was both an informative and entertaining companion.

“Lilith hasn’t burned anything yet, which was a surprise,” she began. “Probably too busy nursing Fifi. Oh, question. The French bitch has been around about four hundred years, right? And you more than double that. How come both of you still have accents?”

“And why is it Americans believe everyone should speak as they do?”

“Good point. Is this venison? I think it’s venison.” She took a bite. “It’s not too bad.”

She wore siren red, which left a portion of her strong shoulders bared. Her short cap of hair was unadorned, but there were ornate gold medallions, nearly big as a baby’s fist, dangling from her ears.

“How do you hold your head up with those earrings?”

“Suffering for fashion,” she said easily. “So they’ve got horses,” she continued. “A couple of dozen in various paddocks. Might be more stabled. I figure why not have Larkin put down, and we could run the horses off. Just make a nuisance of ourselves. Maybe—if I can talk him into it—light a few fires. Vamps stay inside, they burn. Come out, they burn.”

“Good thinking. Unless, of course, she had guards posted inside, with bows.”

“Well, yeah, like I didn’t think of that. I figure I’ll wing a few flaming arrows down, get their attention. I pick my target—cottage nearest the biggest paddock. Gotta be some troops in there, stands to reason. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when the arrows bump off the air, like it was a wall.”

His eyes narrowed as he shifted to face her. “Are you talking force field? What is this, bloody Star Trek?”

“That’s what I said.” In tune with him, Blair punched his shoulder. “She’s got that wizard of hers, that Midir, working overtime by my guess. And their base camp’s in a protective bubble. Larkin flew down, to get a closer look, and we both got a jolt. Like an electric shock. Pisser.”

“Yes, it would be.”

“Then the man himself comes out—from the big house, the manor house? Creepy-looking guy, let me say. Flying black robes, lots of silver hair. He just stands there, so we’re looking down at him, he’s looking up at us. Finally, I get it. Mexican standoff. We can’t get anything through, but neither can they. When the shield’s up, they’re locked down, we’re locked out. Good as a freaking fortress. Better.”

“She knows how to make the best use of the people she brings in,” Cian mused.

“Looks that way. So I was lowered to making rude gestures, just so it wasn’t a waste of time. She’d lower the shield at night, wouldn’t she?”

“Possibly. Even if they brought enough food with them, the nature of the beast is to hunt. She wouldn’t want her troops to get stale, or too edgy.”

“So, maybe we can make a night run at it. I don’t know. Something to think about. That’s haggis, isn’t it?” She wrinkled her nose. “I’m skipping that.” She leaned a little closer to him, lowered her voice. “Larkin says the word’s gone out on how you dealt with the guy who tried to kill Moira. You’ve got the castle guards and the knights behind you on that one.”

“It hardly matters.”

“You know better than that. You get what’s essentially going to be this army’s first line not just accepting you, but respecting you, it matters. Sir Cian.”

He winced, visibly. “Just don’t.”

“Kind of rings for me. This Jell-O sort of thing is a little gritty. Do you know what it is?”

Cian waited, deliberately, until she’d taken a second bite. “Jellied internal organs—likely pig.”

When she choked, the laugh just rolled out of him.

It was such a strange sound, Moira thought. To hear him laugh. Strange, a little wicked, and very appealing. She’d made a misstep with the clothes she’d sent for him. He was too much a creature of his own time—or what had come to be his own time—to put on garb from hers.

But he’d come, and she hadn’t been sure he would. Not that he’d spoken a word to her. Not a single word.

He’d killed for her, she thought, but didn’t speak to her.

So she would put him out of her mind, as he’d so obviously put her out of his.

She only wished the evening would end. She wanted her bed, she wanted sleep. She wanted to peel off the heavy velvet and slide blissfully—for one night—into the dark.

But she had to make a show of eating, despite her lack of appetite. She had to make a pretense, at least, of paying attention to conversations even though her eyes wanted to close.

She’d had too much wine, felt too warm. And there were hours yet before she could lay down her head.

Of course, she had to stop, to smile, and to drink every time one of the knights was moved to toast her. At the rate they were moving, her head would likely spin right off the pillow.

It was with huge relief that she was finally able to announce the dancing could begin.

She had to stand for the first set, as it was expected of her. And found she felt better for moving, for the music.

He didn’t dance, of course, but only sat. Like a dyspeptic king, she thought, foolishly irritated because she’d wanted to dance with him. His hands on her hands, his eyes on her eyes.

But there he sat, gazing down on the masses and sipping his wine. She spun with Larkin, bowed to her uncle, clasped hands with Hoyt.

And when she looked back again, Cian was gone.

H e wanted air, and more, he wanted the night. The night was still his time. What lived inside the mask of a man would always crave it, and always seek it.

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