Night's Templar Cover Image

Book XIII of the Vampire Queen Series

(Not a standalone - recommend first two books of series or one of the earlier standalones, like Beloved Vampire, to gain familiarity with the Vampire Queen world)

Released October 31, 2015

Lord Uthe, a member of the Vampire Council, was a Templar Knight centuries ago. Even up to the present day, he has attempted to honor the spirit of the Rule, despite the volatile and highly sexual nature of the vampire world. Yet now he’s caught the attention of the Fae Lord Keldwyn, liaison between the Council and Fae Court. Keldwyn challenges Uthe’s emotional isolation and dominant nature. When a quest from Uthe’s past requires Keldwyn’s help to protect both their worlds, Uthe will have to decide whether the Fae male is a gift from God to be cherished and trusted, or a curse that will make Uthe fail the Order he promised to serve all his life.


© Copyright 2015 - All Rights Reserved

"For a member of a species that considers itself superior to all others, you spend an inordinate amount of time on your knees."

“None are superior to God. And on one's knees is where salvation and answers are found," Uthe responded. 

His tormentor shifted in front of him. Though his head was bowed and eyes closed, Uthe felt the shadow of his presence. Either the Fae Lord was trying to be as disruptive as possible, or he was blocking the view of the horizon, where the sun was seconds from making an appearance. Uthe could feel it, like the fires of hell rising up to claim him. 

He preferred to think Keldwyn’s intent was to disturb his meditation, rather than shield him. The Fae being protective of him opened the door to thoughts Uthe didn’t wish to have. What was behind that door already strained its hinges.

Why now? Why all of this now?

He banished that thought in a blink. One didn’t question the Lord’s designs and plan. One obeyed and served His Will. 

“You are on your knees before me,” Keldwyn pointed out.

"I am on my knees to God. You inserted yourself into the conversation. If there is justice, a lightning strike will reduce you to a smoking pile of fancy clothes by the time I open my eyes."

"I'm not certain if a lightning strike would be fatal to me," Keldwyn mused.

"If it was the hand of God, I'm certain it would be."

Keldwyn leaned over him, because silken strands of his long, thick hair brushed Uthe’s bare neck. "I hate how you do this," the Fae said.

"No one asked you to watch." Uthe kept his own hair severely short, shearing it frequently. One of God’s sheep.

"You know, Uthe is not really a name. It’s a piece of a name, a connecting word, like ‘the’ or ‘and’.  Was it the noise your mother made when she pushed you out of the womb—oof— and the doctor misheard her?"

His mother. Uthe had never known her, though there was a time he’d wished he could lift the veils of his mind that hid the memory of being inside her. His father had never spoken of it, but Uthe was sure he’d killed his human mother moments after his birth. He’d given Uthe first blood from his own vein. 

He no longer wished for that memory. If a woman’s emotions laced the womb of her growing child like the grasses of a bird’s nest, his nest had been lined with terror, pain, despair. It had not been a place of safety or warmth, an echo of the Virgin Mary’s love that St. Bernard had suggested was the resting place above all resting places. 

There is no rest for the wicked.

He stiffened at that voice, smooth as a serpent’s tongue. Concentrating so that perspiration trickled along his temple, he shut out the voices of the past, the present, and his absurd future, to focus on the one thing that mattered. The sun crept out from the horizon, thinking itself a stealthy hunter. He was stealthier. The key was being alert to every passing second, every change in the air around him, in the feel of the earth below him.

But what if he wasn't? He usually used Keldwyn’s buzzing around him as a useful test of his discipline, but these unexpected thoughts of his past could throw him off. There were so many things the kiss of sunlight would end. His death would stop them before they could come to fruition, a deep relief. Yet his ease was not an option, since there was one vital thing his death would leave undone.

How much longer would it take?     

Keldwyn straightened. Uthe tried to ignore the featherlike retreat of his hair along his nape. It was only marginally less difficult to do that than to dispel the unsettling vision Keldwyn had planted in his head—Uthe kneeling before him. 

So many secrets were bound inside Uthe, layers upon layers like fossils. So it should hardly take any effort to conceal his reaction to being on his knees in front of the male who always smelled of autumn leaves and pale sunlight. Fall was a transition season, from the life and birth of spring to the death signified by winter, endings. How apt.

Now. The fingers of flame closed over his skin. As always, his heartbeat and adrenaline surged, trying to push him into headlong flight, a base survival instinct. He held fast, forcing himself to calm, even as his skin felt like it was about to erupt. Then he moved.

He sprang from the kneeling position and was running, his vampire speed making him all but invisible to the human eye. He pushed himself to the limits of his endurance and beyond, legs scissoring across the ground, arms pumping, every muscle rippling in smooth motion. Off of the grassy knoll, through the short stint of woods, then across the meadow. He thought he could detect Keldwyn’s scent around him, but it was autumn here as well, so he told himself that was what he smelled.

The thundering of his heart was like horses’ hooves. A Templar cavalry charge, plumes of gritty sand, bright sun blinding him, his hand light on the reins, sword tight in his hand. The fluttering snap of the black and white beauseant, the screams of the dying. The touch of a grateful pilgrim’s hand on his calf…

By the time he reached the manicured lawn, Uthe felt like he was inside a ball of fire. He accepted and endured, never losing sight of his goal, never losing control. Only a matter of seconds between life and death. All the will of God. 

It was funny what mattered most, after centuries of living.

He shot across the threshold of the side entrance to the Savannah estate. It was a stone structure appended to the main house, an enclosed rock patio that provided a pleasant place in summer for those who wanted to enjoy the view of the side lawn and the forest beyond it. It also had a trap door that led to the underground rooms housing guest vampires, like himself. As he fell back against the cool wall, which enclosed him in shadows, a shard of sunlight speared the ground at the archway like an enemy lance, falling just short of its mark. Uthe narrowed his eyes, watching the spread of the light. Vampires could see the individual motes, threads, bands and bars of sunlight in a way humans couldn’t. It was a language they couldn’t read for long, though, unless they wanted to burn out their retinas. He averted his eyes.

Keldwyn was leaning against the stone wall to his right as if he’d been there all along, waiting for him. "Would you like me to open the trap door?" he asked pleasantly, though there was a sharpness to his onyx eyes that reminded Uthe of the sun’s threat to wrap him up in flame.

"If you are planning to stay on this side of it after it closes."

It was always safest to keep Keldwyn in his peripheral vision, because gazing directly upon the Fae Lord could be hazardous. During Council meetings, he usually eschewed his assigned seat, wandering through the spacious chamber as the meeting was conducted. Despite his restless behavior, they’d learned they had his full attention, for Keldwyn wouldn’t hesitate to interject a pertinent comment when needed, whether it was while sitting on the edge of the koi pond with its quietly gurgling fountain or from a perch on one of the crisscrossed ceiling beams,

His preferred spot, however, was the stretch of wall behind Uthe’s chair. It was an unexpected choice. At social gatherings, a vampire’s servant would stand behind their Mistress or Master. Uthe’s third marked servant, Mariela, was a quiet presence behind him at such events. Even if he could not see her, he always had a connection to her mind. He had no such connection to Keldwyn, yet he was as aware of the Fae’s presence behind him during Council meetings as he was of his own servant’s breath and blood.

Yet Keldwyn was no servant. Not even in Uthe’s imaginings, though he’d tried once or twice to put him there, with some very disturbing results. 

He’d learned to treat his growing reaction to the Fae Lord as another challenge to his discipline and resolve. He compartmentalized his response, handling it the way he handled Council business. Steady, thoughtful, with an eye to short term and long term results. 

To test that discipline and resolve now—or so he told himself—Uthe looked directly toward his troublesome companion.

The male was a temptation to any species. Lord Keldwyn, liaison to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, first ever Fae liaison with the Vampire Council, was of high Fae birth. Years of exposure to perpetual vampire beauty should have made Uthe immune to a handsome face, but a high Fae eclipsed even a vampire’s appeal, because their beauty was mixed with an unearthly quality that was unsettling, dangerous, irresistible. Blatant evidence of every cautionary tale about crossing into the Fae world and never being heard from again. 

Keldwyn’s nose and cheekbones were like honed blades, his black hair thick as a curtain, falling to his waist, tangling over his arms yet never apparently getting in his way. The pointed tips of his ears parted the flowing strands right now, though sometimes they were concealed, like when he leaned over a table to study a document, his long-fingered hands braced on the wooden surface. Or if he tilted his head up to look through the domed ceiling of the Council chambers to study the moon and stars through the skylight, his arms crossed over his chest, which was broad and well-developed despite his lean form.

A reaction to physical features was mere lust, easily dismissed. It was the deeper qualities that he sensed to Keldwyn, elements which eluded definition in his soul, which tangled up Uthe’s mind. The only thing that should be indefinable—that was indefinable, he corrected himself—was God. Curiosity was not a sin, but when his interest in those qualities heightened his awareness of Keldwyn’s physical features, then there was a problem. 

They were coming up on a year since Lyssa had introduced Keldwyn as liaison to the Vampire Council, a historic moment between two species that had been sworn enemies for centuries. As Lyssa's right hand on the Council, Uthe knew it was expected that he would have the most interaction with the male, beyond the Fae Lord’s relationship with Lyssa herself, but Keldwyn had taken a disconcertingly keen interest in Uthe from the beginning. At first, Uthe had been amused. Then he’d had to treat it as a test of his formidable will and shields, his inscrutability and patience, his enforced lack of desires. Of late, it had become a challenge to the core of who he was. He wasn't entirely sure of Keldwyn’s intent at all. But then, that was the nature of the Fae. Elusive, hard to pin down. 

Which gave him an intriguing vision of pinning Keldwyn to a board like a butterfly by his stunning golden, red and yellow wings, which he mainly brought out for formal occasions, having the ability to summon or cloak them at will. Uthe thought of him like the surface of a lake, hinting at an array of concealed exotic wonders. All he had to do was step into the waters, let the cool currents take him forward, under…

“I should like to see your wings.” He’d never seen them when they were alone, like this.

His own words startled him like the touch of electricity, for he’d had no intention of speaking them aloud. Where potential incineration by the sun couldn’t rattle him, such a transgression sent his heartrate into a panicked sprint. While he focused on slowing it, Keldwyn’s eyes narrowed on him. The irises were the color of onyx, but the sclera were vivid as the light of the moon, a glittering contrast. According to Lyssa, each Fae fell into the realm of an element and often a season. Keldwyn was most certainly of earth and autumn, his skin a golden reflection of fall’s melted afternoon sunlight.

“You have never asked anything of me, vampire. Except to go away.”

“Perhaps I’ve decided a different tactic is necessary to accomplish that goal. I shall be just as annoying to you as you are to me.”

A vampire's reflexes were keen, such that the slightest movement, even a breath, could draw his attention. So Uthe could have easily anticipated and drawn out of range when Keldwyn reached out. But he calculated a lack of reaction was safer, no matter what odd things it did to him inside as Keldwyn stroked long fingers along Uthe's short cap of dark hair. Once, a long time ago, it had been long, the dark brown reflecting sunlight in bronze strands.

“You have always worn it thus."

"A Templar does not adorn himself in tresses, or clothes of silk or velvet," Uthe said, deliberately sweeping his gaze over Keldwyn’s appearance.

In contrast to Uthe’s monochrome dark trousers and white tailored shirt, the cream-colored gossamer shirt the Fae wore had layers of ruffles down the front and billowing sleeves with draped cuffs. Lacings showed glimpses of his bare skin beneath the ruffles. The shirt was open at the throat. Keldwyn’s lower body was clad in tight brown leggings that showed the muscles of haunch and leg, at least until the snug hold of supple thigh-high boots took over, laced up the back and adorned with faint swirling prints of leaves. The style framed his groin conspicuously, for Fae males apparently had little modesty about such things. It was clear he had a substantial enough cock, even at rest, to please a lover. 

Kel made a noncommittal noise at Uthe’s implied deprecation. He was using only his fingertips, yet Uthe’s hair was so short that every stroke sent a ripple of reaction along his scalp and down his spine, making his buttocks tighten and his stomach coil. He hadn't reacted to touch, not without calculation, in a very long time. Yet since Keldwyn was demanding nothing of him, all it left him was the openness of feeling.

Keldwyn leaned closer, shifting along the wall. He appeared slim, but it was the svelteness of a cheetah. Power emanated from him, and it wasn’t all from magic. When Kel wore a sleeveless fitted jerkin as he sometimes did on Savannah’s hotter days, Uthe had been impressed by the carved musculature of his arms. Muscle mass didn’t define the strength of a Fae, however, no more than it did a vampire. Regardless, it was generally known high Fae were more powerful than vampires, and that was even before their magical abilities were called into play. Uthe had no doubt Keldwyn could pin him to the wall and hold him, though he was equally sure he could make it a difficult and interesting fight.

The startling lick of bloodlust that came from the thought warned him that he’d made the wrong move. Studied disinterest was the key to defeating Keldwyn’s effect on him, and voicing a desire to see his wings was certainly contrary to that. But what was done was done.

Keldwyn’s wings unfurled above his shoulders. At first, they looked like brown leaves that drifted to the ground in fall, edges curled, but as they spread out, they had the gossamer look of butterfly wings. The delicate inner web of veins was gold thread against smooth russet silk. Touches of red and yellow glittered among the gold, a melding of hues.

The gossamer shirt wasn’t disrupted by the transformation. Managing the emergence of wings without disrupting one’s wardrobe was a paltry magic to a Fae of Keldwyn’s stature, barely an afterthought. Yet Uthe wondered at the texture of the wings. If he loosened the lacings, drew the shirt over his head, would the wings fold and twist like thick ribbons, like Keldwyn’s hair, as the garment was pulled free of his body?

Uthe’s gaze slid up to Keldwyn’s. Keldwyn’s breath was caressing his own parched mouth. 

“You asked something of me, vampire. Now you give something to me in return.”

The Fae had very specific protocols on such things, not unlike vampires. Uthe would honor that protocol, prove he could do so with fixed control. Yet as Keldwyn drew ever closer, Uthe took in a breath a vampire didn’t need. When Keldwyn’s lips touched Uthe’s, he stood firm. Though water surged up against a dam of feeling, he made the wall stand. He kept his eyes open, staring into Keldwyn’s. As the tip of Keldwyn’s tongue slid along a fang and the Fae male’s hand curved behind his nape to hold him fast, he quivered, a heated breath escaping into Keldwyn’s mouth.

“Kiss me back, or your selfishness will offend me.”

Carefully measured offense wasn’t a bad strategy. It might dissuade Keldwyn from this inexplicable obsession he had with Uthe outside of Council chambers. Yet Uthe couldn’t bring himself to deny the Fae, and he knew it wasn’t entirely because of the critical need to maintain good relations with the Fae world. 

He didn’t move his mouth, too much risk there, but he slid a hand over Keldwyn’s upper arm, the taut biceps beneath silken fabric. He tunneled his fingers under the waterfall of shining black hair covering it. Softer than an animal’s pelt, even thicker than Mariela’s blonde hair. A vampire’s beauty wasn’t random; it was a predator’s tool. Yet while Fae didn’t need to attract prey with their beauty, Uthe had no illusions that Keldwyn’s allure held even more risks than that of his own kind. A human might walk away from a vampire’s touch, disoriented and weak from blood loss, but his soul would be intact. With Keldwyn, he wasn’t so sure his own was as safe.

He became even more aware of the blood rushing through Keldwyn’s body, the pumping artery at his throat. A species’ power and resistance, their magical abilities, might differ, but some anatomy remained intriguingly the same. He had no idea what pure Fae blood might taste like, if vampires could even ingest it without peril. 

If he was having such thoughts, he was hungry. His fingers were tangling in Keldwyn’s hair, grip tightening on his arm, and his fangs were starting to grow. He needed to get to his chambers, summon Mariela to him to break his usual three-day fast between feedings. 

Keldwyn drew back, hand moving to Uthe’s shoulder. He had a silver and gold ring on his forefinger. The oblong amber stone in the setting had a curled rose petal captured in its depths. The petal was a dark blood red. Would his blood be the same color?

“You are intelligent and insightful,” Keldwyn said. “An intriguing, stimulating companion who keeps all those around you at arm’s length. Yet you are ever generous with your knowledge and advice, valued immensely by your queen and the rest of the Council. Today you have left a door unlocked you always guard so zealously. What has changed?”

Uthe jerked back. Keldwyn’s expression flickered at the abrupt motion, but Uthe stepped away from him, moving to the trap door, lifting it on smooth hinges. This time when he met the Fae’s gaze, his own was courteous and remote. “You are the liaison between our two species, Lord Keldwyn. Despite your own considerable ability to mask your intentions, I know that relationship matters to you. The Fae pastime of uncovering and twisting vulnerabilities for idle amusement should be subordinate to that charge. If your current intentions lie beyond our chess games and friendly debates, I would ask you to leave me in peace when Council business does not require contact between us.”

It was a gracious nod to his own blame for the current situation. He’d fallen into the habit of enjoying the Fae’s company for meals, for debates of theology and philosophy, the sharing of all kinds of books. It was a challenge not to reveal too much of himself during those discussions, but at least in that, Uthe was well-practiced. Even if the Fae was far more clever than most he usually had to fend off in that regard.

He considered the Fae more of a risk in silence. Keldwyn had asked Uthe about Templar practices he still observed when circumstances permitted. When there was no business to be conducted, Uthe embraced the habitual silence from evening compline to early morning matins and sometimes beyond, all the way to his dawn rest. One far too memorable night, Keldwyn had observed the practice with him. He’d stayed with Uthe through his meditation and prayer, had walked the forest with him, all in silence.

The Fae explored many things about the vampire world to increase his understanding of it. Through their discussions Uthe knew Keldwyn had done similar things to understand other species he’d encountered through the years. He might have observed the evening silence with Uthe to get a better grasp of the Templar history and culture, because the Fae had that kind of keen, inquisitive mind, an interesting mix of scholar, tactician and warrior, but when Uthe made the mistake of asking Keldwyn if that was his intent, Keldwyn merely said, “It teaches me more about you, my lord.”

They also played chess and a variety of strategy games, Uthe teaching Keldwyn those he’d learned over the years, Keldwyn offering up some of those that were played in the Fae world. They’d found some were comparable. For instance, merels, one of the few games the Templars had been permitted to play, didn’t differ much from what Kel called shigreni. They both preferred chess, a game the Rule had forbidden, but chess between him and Keldwyn was far less likely to involve wagering or result in a fist fight.

Keldwyn had just pointed out why it was important to bring those seemingly innocuous pastimes to an end, however. They’d increased Uthe’s pleasure in his proximity. Now, thanks to the past few minutes, instead of merely imagining it, Uthe could recall the actual memory of the male’s lips on his, the tease of his tongue. The unwelcome tightness to his loins was something he’d need Mariela to assuage with her lovely mouth so he did not make an even greater transgression on his oath than her ministrations would be.   

To you alone, O Lord, go the glory. Including the glory of maintaining a sacrosanct oath. Once he lived long enough, or faced the right circumstances, a man realized that his determination to honor an oath could turn into the sin of pride, especially if the oath became more important than the ultimate good. Uthe knew the difference between dispensations on the chastity oath to maintain his commitment to his primary charge, and rationalizations to allow him to indulge in forbidden pleasure. Keldwyn was definitely a forbidden pleasure.

Uthe descended the first curve of the stone stairwell, the door closing on silent hinges above him. He ducked and spun, bringing up his fist as a shadow swooped upon him, but it captured the fist, twisted it and shoved him against the wall. The stone scraped his cheek, taking skin so he left a smear of blood there. Uthe forced himself backwards in the narrow corridor, slamming Keldwyn against the wall behind him. They tumbled down the remaining stairs. He was back on his feet in an instant, but by the time he pivoted Keldwyn had him again. He still had his wings out, which was a mistake. Uthe caught the edge of one, intending to tear it off if necessary. 

He had time to register it was far more substantial than he’d expected, thick and resilient as a leather cloak, before a current rocketed through him. It illuminated the stairwell, making Keldwyn’s dark eyes flash. The jolt yanked every nerve ending so hard he thought they’d pierced his skin, and tightened muscles into rigorous knots of painful reaction. When it passed, Uthe was lying on the steps, the stone edges pressing into his shoulder blades and buttocks. His fist gripped the front of Keldwyn’s shirt, his other wrist pinned to the stairs as Keldwyn leaned over him, body pressed to Uthe’s chest, to his hip.

Uthe bit back a groan as Keldwyn completed the motion so he lay completely on him, groin to groin, Keldwyn’s knees pressed into the step below Uthe’s hips, the Fae’s body inserted between his legs. Keldwyn’s noticeable assets had grown in size, his erection now insinuated against Uthe’s cock, which refused his discipline to remain flaccid. It was hard and twitching to an even fuller size against Keldwyn’s friction. 

“You frustrate me,” Keldwyn said pleasantly.

Uthe took that for the dangerous threat it was. But it didn’t stop him from curling a lip back from a fang.

“Is this about a sexual conquest, my lord? Will fucking a Council member satisfy your need to feel superior to all of us?”

Keldwyn’s eyes glowed in the dark. “I seek a true kiss from your mouth, Lord Uthe. The kiss you actually wanted to give me, not the one you permitted yourself to offer. I want inside that open door.”

“You have no right to that.” 

“If you use that cold, courteous tone on me once more, you will offend me beyond where your God can help you.” Power rippled through the Fae’s body, pressed so intimately against Uthe’s. 

Uthe wasn’t the strongest vampire on the Council, but he knew he was the top five of his species. As such, power games didn’t come into play for him the way they once had. It had been a very, very long time since he’d received such a challenge for dominance from another. And while that kind of challenge from another vampire always had a sexual component, dominance meant a great many other things in the vampire world. To Keldwyn, too, he expected, based on what he’d sensed about Keldwyn’s sexual orientation for some time. Which was why Uthe had initially thought he’d have no trouble resisting him.

He had no room for any of this, particularly in his current circumstances. Yet an alarming part of him didn’t care. It needed to give, to break loose. God help him. No, he was being weak. This wasn’t something God should have to help him with. Never before, not until recently. He’d always been able to manage it. But…

With a snarl that echoed through the stone stairwell in hollow mockery, Uthe broke open a valve in the dam. The rush was sweet, icy cold, bringing pain and the desire for more. He thrust both hands into Keldwyn’s hair, lifted up off the stone and crushed his mouth on Keldwyn’s, tasting the heat of his lips, the moist slickness of his tongue, inhaling the autumn scent of him, and something indescribable, something not of Uthe’s own world, yet still vaguely familiar. Dangerously familiar.

Since when it came to sex, a vampire’s nature was unquestionably all about dominance, he obeyed the charge now, rolling them so he was on top. Keldwyn allowed it, though Uthe knew the Fae’s strength likely could have denied him. The male’s hands left a trail of heat over his shoulders, his back, over his hips, long fingers tightening on Uthe’s buttocks, a sensation that brought a rush of indescribable pleasure. When Uthe thrust his cock more firmly against Keldwyn’s, the shudder of desire through Keldwyn’s lean, beautiful body was a promise of a garden of temptations. 

A garden he could not visit. Riding desperation, Uthe took control in a very uncontrolled way. He let his fangs lengthen and slashed Keldwyn’s tongue, his succulent bottom lip.

Keldwyn’s reaction was violent enough to lift Uthe off him and send him into flight. It was brought to a short, brutal end by the wall. Uthe had a vague thought that it was a good thing the surface was stone; else he’d be explaining the need for repairs to Lady Lyssa. Then the jarring impact to his bones and the fight to retain consciousness took the upper hand. He’d managed to land on his feet after that toss, but it took a moment to acknowledge his feet were braced, one on a higher step, another on the lower, his hand tented against the rock to give him a necessary third balancing point. 

Fortunately, as he’d intended, there was no more need for physical combat. Keldwyn’s wings had disappeared and he was standing several steps above Uthe, staring down at him with angry dark eyes. 

Fae considered themselves vastly superior to vampires. While they obviously weren’t averse to fucking one, Uthe knew there was a hard and fast line on the feeding issue. Being a vampire’s food was a reprehensible degradation to them.

“If you can’t handle the consequences of a vampire’s kiss, then I expect you should stick with your kind, Lord Keldwyn,” Uthe said, wiping the smear of blood off his mouth with the back of his hand, resisting the desire to lick it off instead. Even though Keldwyn was hard to predict on his most congenial days, Uthe suspected he’d consider this incident a personal affront, not a diplomatic catastrophe. But he wouldn’t push it or add to the insult by tasting his blood in front of him.

Regret speared him at having to take such an extreme tactic to dissuade Keldwyn. While he didn’t trust the Fae, he respected him, and yes, even had an affection for him he couldn’t deny. Keldwyn might be frustrated by Uthe’s control, his courteous tone, but Uthe wondered how he’d react if he knew how Uthe himself felt stifled by it these days, in ways that disturbed him down to his soul. If only Keldwyn would back the hell off. He needed to quit trying to corner Uthe with emotions Uthe couldn’t afford, now more than ever.

Ultimately, that was more important than the relationship between Fae and Council, though Uthe might be the only one in the world who knew it. Maybe Uthe should have licked the blood off his hand. The brief taste he’d had was an intriguing mix, like lightning and sweet honey, tinged with chocolate. It had been an echo of what he’d felt when he’d done the live wire grab of Keldwyn’s wing.

“I will see you at the Council meeting at nightfall,” Keldwyn said. In a blink, his expression had returned to dispassionate indifference. He was like a statue whose perfection could compel every eye in the room, but who gave nothing back to honor that regard, because a statue was too remote to respond to the desires of others.

Though Uthe knew himself to be far from such perfection, he understood that feeling. He gave Keldwyn a nod, a courteous bow, his own mask back in place.

“So be it, my lord.”

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