Blood of the Wolf, Chapter 8

Nic tried to quiet her breathing while she and Falken hid in her arcanir-weave cloak, her back to his chest, his arms around her, her legs tucked between his thighs. Nice and cozy, one might say, except for the entire castle of guards out for their blood.

Many sets of steps stormed beyond the guest room’s closed door. Her cloak would shield them from earthsight, but if anyone opened the door, Shade would be their only hope. She kept two throwing knives ready, just in case.

Falken’s heart pounded against the back of her shoulder, the rise and fall of his breaths quick, but he was silent, nothing revealing his presence but for the faint scent of mint leaves and the puffs of warmth on the crown of her head. A shiver danced along her spine, even as she tried to suppress it.

Another puff of warmth on her head. This one deliberate, amused.

“Lieutenant!” a voice boomed, right outside the door.

Nic didn’t dare move, but she readied to throw her knives toward the doorway. She’d have to time them right—if both guards entered, they’d need to step inside, and she’d need two throat shots—

Behind her, Falken hardened, the bulk of him a solid wall to her back. If any more than those two guards entered, staying in stealth would be hopeless. They’d be heard, they’d be outnumbered, and—

“All clear, ma’am!” another voice responded beyond the door. Several sets of footsteps shuffled past.

Nox be praised, Nic stifled a sigh of relief as the noise in the hallway faded, the voices quieting farther and farther away. The Divine Guard had to be checking the floor with earthsight—smart, since they had geomancers, but not smart enough. Although fully armored paladins were unlikely to infiltrate and the likelihood of arcanir-weave clothes was low, the Divine Guard was still cutting corners by not confirming visually.

Even in the headquarters of the world’s largest order of mages, laziness was always a good bet.

All the better. Breathing deeply, Nic let her head fall back against Falken’s collarbone. The solid wall at her back relaxed, although he didn’t break his hold around her.

On that they were agreed. The Divine Guard was still conducting their search with earthsight, so she and Falken couldn’t risk removing the arcanir-weave cloak yet. Not only that, but the entire castle was on high alert—it would take hours for tensions to settle.

They’d have to wait until it was dark, until nearly all of the castle’s inhabitants would be asleep, and hope that the guards didn’t do a second round of searching—this time thoroughly. Or if they did, hopefully only one or two guards…

It would be hours of waiting. Together. In silence. They’d be nice and cozy buddies for a long time.

She turned her head, resting her cheek on his chest, brushing the top of her head against his chin. He lightly set his chin on her head and shifted his hold around her. A little higher, a little tighter, maybe, if she wasn’t imagining it.

Her skin tightened, pebbled with gooseflesh, and yet some part of her wanted to move closer, fit herself to him more tightly, inhale that scent of mint leaves deeply, and the earthy masculine note beneath it.

On a mission.

Nox help me. Now was not the time. There would be plenty of opportunity for that after the job. When her life wasn’t at risk. When the job wasn’t at stake. With someone who’d prefer humans over light-elf women.

Chagrined, she listened to the hallway’s silence for any sign of movement. Any.

Hours passed as they lay in wait, with Falken half-dozing at some times and she at others, entwined. It had been a long while since anyone had held her this way—a very long while—and it was strange, really, to surrender to a hold like this, much less with someone she barely knew.

Stranger still that although it electrified her skin, making all the tiny fine hairs on her body stand on end, his embrace was calming, as though his stillness flowed into her and settled her racing heart. An odd contradiction that nonetheless existed inside of her, right now.

Grow up, she wanted to tell herself. She was here to assassinate the Grand Divinus. And yet, after that was done, maybe she’d invite her partner in crime to her room later tonight to celebrate their success. Maybe.

All was dark and the quiet was deafening when she at last shifted, carefully and silently uncloaking them. As she stood, Falken blinked up at her in the dark, holding her gaze evenly with those starlight eyes, narrowing ever so slightly. Searching. Questioning.

There was no time for those questions, whatever they were. Not now. She held out her hand, and with a rise of his eyebrows, he clasped her wrist and she helped him up.

The night sky cast a silvery glow through the window, and Falken held her wrist a moment longer than expected, the look he gave her more intense—

Swallowing, she turned toward the door, but he tugged her back over to him.

A thousand doubts objected—wrong place, wrong time, wrong match, and so many wrongs she wanted to scream.

But that boyish smile curled the corners of his mouth, reaching his half-moon eyes. Starlight shone on his pale hair, secured tightly tonight. He brushed long, elegant fingers down from her temple, over her cheek, and along her jaw, finally resting a thumb on the dimple of her chin.

Maybe everything was wrong. Except for the way he looked at her.

He tilted his head, raised his eyebrows inquisitively, thumbed her lower lip. With a pleasant shiver, she took a step closer, and he leaned in, replacing his thumb on her lips with his own.

The electricity that had charged her body now burst, rippling from her mouth on hers, his hand cupping her face, his body against hers. Her steady hands now trembled, her sure-footed legs buckling, and every muscle that she had controlled so completely now went slack without the faintest sign of her will.

Her arms closed around her, as they had just done for hours to stay hidden, but now she wanted something very different of them.

She broke away with a light kiss, then cleared her throat softly. “Del’s,” she whispered. “In Courdeval. In case we get separated.”

Hooded eyes blinked away their intensity, their heaviness, to lucidity. Almost. He gave the slightest of nods and loosened his hold. “I do,” he said, barely audible.

Every muscle in her body went rigid as she inhaled sharply. “Y-you do…?”

“Have a fondness for human things,” he added quietly, his eyes gleaming as her hair slipped through his fingers. “At least one.”

The man was toying with her? She was of half a mind to tease him, except that they were in Divinity Castle… preparing to steal a vial of blood, unleash Immortal beasts from the dungeon, and kill the Grand Divinus… while the guards searched the halls. Not the best of times.

With a roll of her eyes and a smirk, she slipped from his hold and padded to the door. If the Contarini maps were right, she and Falken only had to make it down the hall and around a corner to an entry panel in the wall, which would lead them to hidden passages granting access to nearly everywhere in the castle. Including the chambers of the Grand Divinus.

Once the assassination was complete, she could help Falken unleash the Immortal beasts and then save his people—either before the rest of the castle was aware, or during the ensuing panic. And all of it before dawn.

Through her earthsight eyepatch, the nearby halls were clear of everything but common vermin. It was time.

They were about to kill the head of the world’s largest order of mages. She tipped her head toward the door, and Falken followed.

Nic tried to quiet her breathing while she and Falken hid in her arcanir-weave cloak, her back to his chest, his arms around her, her legs tucked between his thighs. Nice and cozy, one might say, except for the entire castle of guards out for their blood.

Many sets of steps stormed beyond the guest room’s closed door. Her cloak would shield them from earthsight, but if anyone opened the door, Shade would be their only hope. She kept two throwing knives ready, just in case.

Falken’s heart pounded against the back of her shoulder, the rise and fall of his breaths quick, but he was silent, nothing revealing his presence but for the faint scent of mint leaves and the puffs of warmth on the crown of her head. A shiver danced along her spine, even as she tried to suppress it.

Another puff of warmth on her head. This one deliberate, amused.

“Lieutenant!” a voice boomed, right outside the door.

Nic didn’t dare move, but she readied to throw her knives toward the doorway. She’d have to time them right—if both guards entered, they’d need to step inside, and she’d need two throat shots—

Behind her, Falken hardened, the bulk of him a solid wall to her back. If any more than those two guards entered, staying in stealth would be hopeless. They’d be heard, they’d be outnumbered, and—

“All clear, ma’am!” another voice responded beyond the door. Several sets of footsteps shuffled past.

Nox be praised, Nic stifled a sigh of relief as the noise in the hallway faded, the voices quieting farther and farther away. The Divine Guard had to be checking the floor with earthsight—smart, since they had geomancers, but not smart enough. Although fully armored paladins were unlikely to infiltrate and the likelihood of arcanir-weave clothes was low, the Divine Guard was still cutting corners by not confirming visually.

Even in the headquarters of the world’s largest order of mages, laziness was always a good bet.

All the better. Breathing deeply, Nic let her head fall back against Falken’s collarbone. The solid wall at her back relaxed, although he didn’t break his hold around her.

On that they were agreed. The Divine Guard was still conducting their search with earthsight, so she and Falken couldn’t risk removing the arcanir-weave cloak yet. Not only that, but the entire castle was on high alert—it would take hours for tensions to settle.

They’d have to wait until it was dark, until nearly all of the castle’s inhabitants would be asleep, and hope that the guards didn’t do a second round of searching—this time thoroughly. Or if they did, hopefully only one or two guards…

It would be hours of waiting. Together. In silence. They’d be nice and cozy buddies for a long time.

She turned her head, resting her cheek on his chest, brushing the top of her hair against his chin. He lightly set his chin on her head and shifted his hold around her. A little higher, a little tighter, maybe, if she wasn’t imagining it.

Her skin tightened, pebbled with gooseflesh, and yet some part of her wanted to move closer, fit herself to him more tightly, inhale that scent of mint leaves deeply, and the earthy masculine note beneath it.

On a mission.

Nox help me. Now was not the time. There would be plenty of opportunity for that after the job. When her life wasn’t at risk. When the job wasn’t at stake. With someone who’d prefer humans over light-elf women.

Chagrined, she listened to the hallway’s silence for any sign of movement. Any.

Hours passed as they lay in wait, with Falken half-dozing at some times and she at others, entwined. It had been a long while since anyone had held her this way—a very long while—and it was strange, really, to surrender to a hold like this, much less with someone she barely knew.

Stranger still that although it electrified her skin, making all the tiny fine hairs on her body stand on end, his embrace was calming, as though his stillness flowed into her and settled her racing heart. An odd contradiction that nonetheless existed inside of her, right now.

Grow up, she wanted to tell herself. She was here to assassinate the Grand Divinus. And yet, after that was done, maybe she’d invite her partner in crime to her room later tonight to celebrate their success. Maybe.

All was dark and the quiet was deafening when she at last shifted, carefully and silently uncloaking them. As she stood, Falken blinked up at her in the dark, holding her gaze evenly with those starlight eyes, narrowing ever so slightly. Searching. Questioning.

There was no time for those questions, whatever they were. Not now. She held out her hand, and with a rise of his eyebrows, he clasped her wrist and she helped him up.

The night sky cast a silvery glow through the window, and Falken held her wrist a moment longer than expected, the look he gave her more intense—

Swallowing, she turned toward the door, but he tugged her back over to him.

A thousand doubts objected—wrong place, wrong time, wrong match, and so many wrongs she wanted to scream.

But that boyish smile curled the corners of his mouth, reaching his half-moon eyes. The ambient night glow from the window shone on his pale hair, secured tightly tonight. He brushed long, elegant fingers down from her temple, over her cheek, and along her jaw, finally resting a thumb on the dimple of her chin.

Maybe everything was wrong. Except for the way he looked at her.

He tilted his head, raised his eyebrows inquisitively, thumbed her lower lip. With a pleasant shiver, she took a step closer, and he leaned in, replacing his thumb on her lips with his own.

The electricity that had charged her body now burst, rippling from his mouth on hers, his hand cupping her face, his body against hers. Her steady hands now trembled, her sure-footed legs buckling, and every muscle that she had controlled so completely now went slack without the faintest sign of her will.

His arms closed around her, as they had just done for hours to stay hidden, but now she wanted something very different of them.

She broke away with a light kiss, then cleared her throat softly. “Del’s,” she whispered. “In Courdeval. In case we get separated.”

Hooded eyes blinked away their intensity, their heaviness, to lucidity. Almost. He gave the slightest of nods and loosened his hold. “I do,” he said, barely audible.

Every muscle in her body went rigid as she inhaled sharply. “Y-you do…?”

“Have a fondness for human things,” he added quietly, his eyes gleaming as her hair slipped through his fingers. “At least one.”

The man was toying with her? She was of half a mind to tease him, except that they were in Divinity Castle… preparing to steal a vial of blood, unleash Immortal beasts from the dungeon, and kill the Grand Divinus… while the guards searched the halls. Not the best of times.

With a roll of her eyes and a smirk, she slipped from his hold and padded to the door. If the Contarini maps were right, she and Falken only had to make it down the hall and around a corner to an entry panel in the wall, which would lead them to hidden passages granting access to nearly everywhere in the castle. Including the chambers of the Grand Divinus.

Once the assassination was complete, she could help Falken unleash the Immortal beasts and then save his people—either before the rest of the castle was aware, or during the ensuing panic. And all of it before dawn.

Through her earthsight eyepatch, the nearby halls were clear of everything but common vermin. It was time.

They were about to kill the head of the world’s largest order of mages. She tipped her head toward the door, and Falken followed.

<<<Blood of the Wolf, Chapter 7

Blood of the Wolf, Chapter 9>>>

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