Heart Stone, Chapter Four

SafeTravelsClick on the fabulous cover Lou Harper created for me above or click here to jump to the Heart Stone hub page on my website to catch up on chapters 1-3!

Chapter Four

The room Becket entered was as barren and lifeless as Toreth’s room lower in the aerie, this space remarkable only for the entire opposite wall, which opened to a smaller version of the terraces Becket and Toreth had scaled to reach Theo. Standing columns dotted this far narrower lip of jutting rock, each pillar alive with sprouting herbs. A slight breeze brought the zesty fragrance of basil to Becket, a chill whisper that rustled the hair at his temples.

Becket furrowed his brow and narrowed his eyes. He squinted. No, not herbs. Not an assortment, as in a kitchen garden. Only two varieties, rosemary and basil, filled the scant space with green. A crop then and no one was in a better position than Becket to comprehend why certain herbs tended to be grown in such abundance. The hairs on Becket’s arms stood on end at the evidence of witchery—Theo’s stubborn magic. And beyond the columns, the sheer drop of the mountain’s face revived Becket’s earlier vertigo in the span of a heartbeat.

No power in heaven or on earth—or Ket—could compel him to go farther.

Disconcerted, he stepped to the side, shuffling to the right with his spine pressed to the rear wall. Brazen, Toreth stalked in and jerked short when his grip on Becket’s hand yanked him to a halt. He glanced over his shoulder and then rolled his eyes. “Is it cold? Like before?” Toreth asked as Master Seer Hannick followed them into Theo’s quarters.

“No,” Becket replied, puzzled because he’d been on terraces like this one only moments ago. The exertion of climbing the spiral staircases had warmed him, but even with the rising of the sun, the outside temperatures still should’ve been bone-chilling, not this cool draft. He studied the missing wall separating the interior space from the lush herb towers. “Not glass,” he decided.

“Ignorant of permeable barriers. That’s shocking, even for the lowlands.” Hannick smiled rapaciously as she perched on what looked like an extremely uncomfortable stone chair sculpted from the underlying rock floor.

Ignoring the seer, Toreth tugged Becket from the safety of the rear wall. “You know these plants, yes? They are powerful, but benign,” he said, voice cajoling. “These terraces are for the use of private casters and so are narrower than farming terraces below. That can be unsettling, but I’ve your hand. I promise not to release it. You won’t accidentally fall through.”

“I’m not scared,” Becket said, but he resisted Toreth’s pull.

“Of course, he won’t be allowed through. No one without the caster’s heart stone can breach that barrier,” Hannick said, tone waspish and then her breath caught. Her lavender eyes widened as she peered from Becket to another doorway leading deeper into Theo’s quarters. “That’s what I sensed, the warble from Douglas’ heart stone…and nothing else,” she said slowly. “Interesting.”

Toreth didn’t smother his wince fast enough to escape Becket’s notice. “It’s all right,” Toreth said to Becket, his assurance quavering only a little. “Come.”

Becket shivered, not from the cold this time, but from the predatory scrutiny of the seer. He stiffly allowed Toreth to guide him to a couch formed from the underlying rock several comforting yards from whatever separated the interior room from the outside cold and the herbs inexplicably thriving in it. Never relinquishing Becket’s hand, Toreth sat and Becket sank down beside him. Fat cushions and swaths of a thick, silky fabric draped the stone, relieving the ascetic severity of his seat.

“How old are you?” Hannick demanded, her intent regard fixed squarely on Becket.

“We await Caster Douglas.” Squeezing Becket’s hand, Toreth smiled at the seer. “As elder kinsman, formal introductions are his right.”

“Not if the boy is a bibelot past his majority, it isn’t.” Hannick leaned forward, strange eyes sparkling malicious delight.

“Becket?” a shocked gasp rang out.

Becket sprang to his feet, pivoting to face the source of that voice, so dear to him. Uncle Theo gaped from the doorway leading deeper into his quarters. His hair, always shaggy, had grown in the past year, a wealth of skinny russet braids surrounding his unnaturally pale face and falling just past his shoulders. He’d lost weight, a lot of it, the sacrifice bringing forward sharply angled cheekbones and amplifying the jut of his dimpled chin, his pallor painting the freckles across his nose in stark relief. Becket had never believed he resembled his uncle, consoling himself instead by the thought of vaguely favoring his father, but with the extra padding gone, Becket couldn’t deny gazing at Theo was as good as looking in a mirror.

An opulent mirror.

While Becket’s clothing, stolen from Theo’s last consignment, boasted the embroidered flourishes Toreth’s plainer wardrobe lacked, Becket’s ill-fitting tunic and leggings were rags compared to Theo. Citrines glinted at the collar, cuffs and the waist of a supple yellow tunic cinched with a stamped leather belt. His leggings were a richer shade of gold studded with chips of blue agate along the outer leg seams. Intricate loops and curls in white and chocolate brown thread ornamented spacing between the gemstones of both garments. Beneath the tunic, Theo’s shirt—silk rather than linen—glared white as snow, sleeves billowing at his biceps and narrowing to a point where circlets of twined rosemary hugged his wrists.

Despite the strange dress and the worn lines etching his face, this was Theo, though.


As giddy relief consumed Becket, his uncle swayed slightly. A woman a full head shorter emerged behind Theo from the other room and grasped Theo’s elbow to support him.

“Uncle,” Becket said. Toreth, too, stood and angled his body, placing himself between Becket and Theo, to Becket’s exasperation. “Are you okay?” Becket asked around Toreth’s intruding bulk, though Becket could see Theo wasn’t okay at all. “Theo?” he asked when his uncle just gawped at him. Becket stepped forward to cross the room to him. Would have if Toreth hadn’t halted him with an iron hand at his bicep. “Damn it, let go,” he told Toreth.

“No, he’s right,” Theo’s companion said, looping an arm around Theo’s waist to guide him to a thick pile of pillows mounded on the stone floor next to the doorway. She lifted her mouth to whisper in Theo’s ear and round-eyed gaze never faltering from Becket, Theo nodded.

“I thought you were without kin or hold?” Hannick said suspiciously.

“A necessary subterfuge,” Theo said, words stilted as he allowed the dark-haired woman to seat him near the distant doorway. “Thank you, Analise,” he said to her and squaring his shoulders, faced the seer. “Life for my ward is dangerous and travel without an escort especially so,” he said to Hannick. His hard stare abruptly focused on Becket. “Fraught with hazards he is hardly capable of understanding.”

Becket’s spine stiffened. He refused to be cowed by Theo’s glower. “I—”

“—cautioned him to remain silent of our connection,” Theo said in a growled warning. “My journey to the aeries was necessary to make my fortune and thereby secure his future, but protected only by my heart stone, he didn’t dare reveal our kinship, nor could I. Until we reunited, Becket was safe only as long as he stayed unknown and hidden.” Theo laughed dispiritedly. He rubbed his eyes. Shot Becket a frustrated glance. “Didn’t I tell you not to follow me?”

“You vanished, Theo,” Becket said, his irritation seeping into his voice. Still, Theo was here, heart beating, blood still pumping. Annoying, pushy, arrogant. But alive. “I was coping with it,” he said, the aching loss of that yet sharp within him. “I would’ve coped,” he said, swallowing the lump forming in his throat, “if I hadn’t found the second set of stones. Once I realized…suspected you might not have been…You aren’t dead. As long as you aren’t dead, you don’t get to ask me to stay away.”

Theo snorted. “I didn’t ask.”

“How old is he?” Hannick demanded again.

Toreth’s grip on Becket tightened.

“Tell her,” Theo said, shoulders bunching.

Vague alarm coiled inside him, but Becket turned to the seer. “Twenty-three.”

“The season?”

Baffled, Becket glanced at Theo who gritted his teeth and said, “He was born in the spring.”

She smiled gloating satisfaction. “Perfect.”

Something forbidding and feral glinted in his uncle’s eyes, a flash Becket had never seen before. “He isn’t ready,” Theo said. “He’s going home.”

“The first bibelot Nitcha aerie has produced in nine seasons squandered on the lowlands?” Hannick laughed. “Hardly.”

Theo pushed to his feet, his body vibrating with anger.

Toreth shoved Becket behind him and carefully back-stepped, herding Becket from the brewing confrontation that had balled Becket’s gut. “If I tell you to drop, don’t question it,” Toreth hissed to Becket. “Hit the floor.”

“I said he’s going home,” Theo said, fists at his sides.

The air seemed to have been sucked from the room, replaced by an electric zing of menace, but the seer calmly stood. “Master your magic, Caster Douglas.”

“Yes, do sit down, Theodore. You’ve destroyed this room twice already and I tire of clearing it,” Analise said, returning with a tray bearing four squat cups smelling strongly of pine and honey. ”Also, I suspect you desire to keep the boy intact and losing control of your power would needlessly risk him. Fyrre?” she asked sweetly, presenting her tray to the seer.

Theo grimaced.

Hannick, however, preened and accepted one of the cups. “Your minder is a treasure,” she said, admiration lacing her voice. She sipped the drink and hummed in gratification. “Truly a credit to her craft.”

“Minding a caster so powerful is my honor and pleasure,” Analise said, black braids colored with crimson streaks briefly veiling her serene features when she dipped her head in recognition of the compliment. “The aftereffects of his brush with wild magic, while troubling, are temporary—and fading if Caster Douglas is not vexed apurpose.” Her smile charmed the sting from the subtle rebuke. With both parties thus chastised, she crossed the room to offer the tray to Toreth. “Set yourself to minding the boy, have you?”

Chuckling, Toreth selected a cup from the tray and deftly passed it to Becket behind his back. “When his time comes, the caster—and bibelot—chooses his minder. It doesn’t work the other way around,” Toreth said, taking his own cup. “Everyone knows that.”

“And he’s chosen you,” she said. Heat leached from the contents, warming the thick stone cup in Becket’s hand while Analise nodded to Theo, seething on the other side of the room. “He’ll appreciate the significance once he’s calmed.” She ducked around Toreth to smile at Becket. “Drink up, sweetling, and don’t let your kinsman’s bad temper taint your reunion. Theodore worried for you and missed you terribly.”

“But what—?” Becket started to ask, but was silenced by another tightening of Toreth’s hand over his.

“Hush,” Toreth murmured.

“Fuck you,” Becket said. “I want answers.”

Toreth glowered, his grasp on Becket’s wrist like steel manacles. “Then, listen. Pay attention.”

Snickering, Analise rushed to serve Theo.

“You are too much under the sway of wild magic to be properly matched. Of that, we are of one accord,” Hannick said, her spine rigid but her tone measurably more conciliatory. “But the boy is ripe, his majority perilously close. Obviously, he’s chosen his minder—Don’t begrudge me my desire to scry his sentinel; I didn’t write the covenants.”

“No, you merely take advantage of them,” Theo said, drinking from his steaming cup.

“Let’s not waste time on lies. You represent the elders.”

Hannick arched an eyebrow. “By the horn, you are blunt,” she said. “But I’ve been told that of you. Very well.” She lifted her cup to her lips and sipped. “You know I cannot leave your quarters without winning your guarantee…” She smiled waspishly. “…to Nitcha, of course.”

Theo grudgingly saluted her with his cup. “To Nitcha.”

“Which the elders serve,” Hannick averred. “As do we all.”

Foreboding shivered down Becket’s spine.

“Drink,” Toreth urged him. “Fyrre will warm and steady you.”

“I don’t want it,” Becket objected.

Toreth scowled at him, as though the implied importance of Becket’s wishes confounded him.

“Your magic is too erratic to be joined to an appropriate helpmeet so we must have the boy. The covenants require him to be handfasted by spring, anyway. In making his announcement now, you will declare Nitcha as your adopted home and the elders will be content,” the woman said, intractable. “We are not, however, without sympathy for your plight. Or lacking in generosity.” She drained her cup. She settled it at her feet and the smile she offered Theo didn’t reach her eyes. “In exchange, the elders will grant your petition to mount another expedition. But your hearth must be declared with Nitcha first.”

Theo jerked to attention. “A second expedition? You’ll support it?”

Shoulders squared, spine ramrod stiff, Hannick nodded. “With no less than four support casters under your supervision and a company of heroes, each fully blooded.”

“What?” Becket demanded at Toreth’s swiftly indrawn breath.

“Drink your fyrre,” the man irritably said. “It grows tepid.”

“I want to know what’s going on. I’m not a child.”

“Then stop acting like one. Drink.”

He pushed the cup into the small of Toreth’s back. “You drink it.”

“For God’s sake, Becket, it’s just pine tea and an excellent source of Vitamin C, which—if you’ve been here long—your body sorely needs. Unless you’d like to add a case of scurvy to the complications heaped on my plate,” Theo said and then returned his wary gaze to the seer. “What’s the catch?”

“Aside of handfasting your ward to his sentinel?” the seer primly asked.

Theo waved a delusory hand. “Yes, besides that.”

Handfasting? Sentinel? Becket hurriedly gulped his tea, elbowing Toreth. “What’s a sentinel?” he whispered.

Toreth’s glance at Hannick was glacial with contempt. But also leery. “Later.”

Unaware—or uncaring—of Becket’s quiet exchange with Toreth, the seer leaned back in the chair, fingers steepling at her waist. “A trio of scouts to forage and gather seedlings will accompany you, headed by Caster Farendel.” She licked her lips. “She was quite perturbed she didn’t number among your last exploration party.”

Theo laughed. “She should be glad of that, considering how the expedition ended.” He curved the corner of his mouth to flash a wry grin, his first genuine display of emotion to the seer thus far. “Farendel’s no fool. If she’s determined to bear the risks and is willing to leave mineral discoveries to me, all right. Done.”

Only the jolt of Hannick’s hands in her lap betrayed her surprise. “Truly?”

“I have conditions as well.”

Hannick twisted her mouth to a polite smile. “Go on.”

“I lead the team.”


“Including the heroes,” Theo added, his gaze guarded but resolved. “They follow my command and no other.”

The seer inhaled a deep breath, released it. “That can be arranged.”

“Caster Douglas,” Toreth said. Just that. Only that. His call was even, his voice modulated and smooth. His grip on Becket even loosened.

Theo nodded, as if he’d anticipated Toreth’s interference. “I know,” he said to Toreth, giving Becket scant attention before refocusing on Hannick. “I have conditions for scrying Becket’s sentinel as well.”

Her mouth pursed. “Elder kinsman traditionally do,” she said, though the tightening of her jaw proved her far less eager to barter matters pertaining to Becket than those involving whatever adventure his uncle had set his heart on.

Smile cagy, Theo leaned back and regarded the seer over his cup with frank calculation. “I swore promises to his sire before he and the boy’s mother crossed over, when Becket was just a child. Blood oaths.”

Challenge lit Hannick’s lavender gaze. “No seer would risk the ill luck of defying such a vow.”

Theo grinned his triumph. “As Becket chose his minder, he must also select his sentinel.”
Her lips pressed into a thin, disapproving line. “Of course, he’ll choose of his own volition. We aren’t lowland outlaws or Rithuan savages,” she said, voice tight. “No bibelot—or any citizen of Nitcha—opposing his or her handfasting has ever been forced.” She shuddered, but Becket interpreted it as a signal of her outrage at her questioned professional integrity rather than abhorrence of what she protested. “Scrying for the strongest possibilities of a successful match is a very specialized skill, an art…” She squawked, hands rising in ire.

“Becket chose his minder outside his home and hearth in the lowlands, independent of his kinhold,” Theo said. “He must be permitted to choose his sentinel free of such obligations as well.”

Hannick chopped a hand through the air. “I’ll open the candidate pool to one or more of our allies, but only if a suitable mate isn’t found for him at Nitcha first.”

Becket’s eyebrows winged up, shock exploding inside him.


“I disagree.” Theo lazily tipped his head. “A sentinel from Melaeum, for example, would be most fortuitous.”

“M-mate?” Becket mumbled faintly, pulse buzzing in his ears.

“Shh,” Toreth said.

The seer angled her head, regarding Theo with new appreciation. Her blonde hair and purple wrapped braids caught the first beams of the fully risen sun through the non-window wall. “Yes,” she said on a long drawl. “They are rather put out about your trade in herbs, aren’t they?”

Theo spread his hands. “Confirming the Melaeum alliance with a handfasting of my kin to those whose business I may have damaged could soothe those ruffled feathers.”

“The elders will be pleased with your cooperation and forethought in this matter.” Hannick shot to her feet, her excitement demonstrated by her sly wink at Theo. “I must at least try to match him at Nitcha. The elders would expect that, but I’m sure I’ll find more fertile ground for him elsewhere.” She marched to Toreth and held out her hand, palm up. “His heart stone.”

Toreth pivoted to Becket.

“Oh hell no,” Becket said, hands raising to press the rose master stone into his sternum under both shirt and tunic.

“Take it. Quickly,” his uncle said. He nodded at the windowless wall to the terrace. “We’re losing the light.”

* * *

Becket was young, but he was healthy. Fit. And taller than every person in the room. So it took all four of them to wrestle the milky rose master stone from him. Panting, glaring at Theo for his betrayal, Becket brushed himself off as he pushed up from the floor while Hannick dropped the heart stone into the sunken pool of water. “Get away from me,” Becket said, slapping away the supporting hand Toreth offered him. He glowered at Toreth when the man had the audacity to look hurt by his rejection.

“Shut it, kiddo,” Theo said and then peered down and into the water with the seer.


“Also camphor and catnip,” she responded, drawing out a small leather pouch tied to the belt cinching her tunic. “I’ve already mixed the herbs.”

“Fresh is better,” his uncle said. “Analise?”

Theo’s companion returned from the next room with a bowl filled with sprigs thick with green leaves. She passed the herbs to Hannick who quickly assessed each, rejecting some and crumpling others in her fist before casting them into the water with Becket’s stone. “Releases the plant’s essence,” Analise said in an undertone to Toreth who, abandoning Becket, had approached the others kneeling at the pool.

The seer, Toreth, Analise, and Theo leaned over the water expectantly.

More woo woo. Fantastic. Becket pressed his lips firmly together and examined the tear in his leggings, originally rented as he’d scaled the terraces to the top hold, now ripped wider after the scuffle over the stupid stone. The scrapes on his palms hurt too.

“The outcomes aren’t as clear as I’d like for him in Nitcha in any case,” Hannick said. “No need for subterfuge about widening the search, after all.”

“Melaeum?” Theo prompted.

“Melaeum,” she answered and reached for more herbs.

“This is bullshit,” Becket said, raising his hand to hook a finger into the fairy stone Toreth had tied to his throat.

“Don’t,” the man shouted and jerked upright, as though he felt the danger of the second stone’s removal like the throb of a phantom limb.

“Why the hell not?” Becket snarled, fed up with all of it. With Theo and rock climbing. Uncomfortable clothes and foods he only partially recognized. But especially with infernal God damn magic. He anchored his finger in the cord fastening the fairy stone to him and tugged the cord taut in threat. “This isn’t for good luck, is it?”

“No, it isn’t.” Color draining from his face, Toreth shook his head. “At least, not entirely.”

“Why?” Becket persisted, ignoring Theo and the seer at the pool. “Why bother with a lie to convince me to wear it in the first place?”

“You’re a bibelot,” Toreth said, pushing to his feet. “Bibelots don’t understand magic.”

Becket gritted his teeth. “Try me.”

“All right.” Toreth blew out a stuttered breath. “Without my sigil, you would’ve never been able to pass through the wards my kin cast around the farm terraces below to keep out intruders,” Toreth said, palms raised as he inched toward Becket. “I share their blood so the wards accept me, but not you. With that stone, my kinhold’s magic accepted you as an extension of me and let you pass.”

“Bibelots must not be as stupid as you believe because I comprehended that.”

“You are very strange. Even for a bibelot.”

“Remember that.”

“Release my sigil and I swear I will.”

“But I’m not on the lower terraces anymore.” Becket tightened the pressure, the cord biting into the meat of his finger. “I shouldn’t need your fairy stone and your borrowed magic now.” Satisfaction bloomed when Toreth halted, strain stiffening his body. “You still aren’t telling me the truth.”

“You have more than enough power, as is.” Toreth glared. “And you are shockingly perceptive for a bibelot.”

Yeah, he was so powerful, he hadn’t even managed to hang onto his other stone. “I want answers.”

“Carrying a trace of his magic—accepting his gift—shows you’ve chosen him as your minder,” Analise answered, shifting to stand by Toreth. “He wouldn’t have been able to enter these quarters without it.”

Replaying the win/win deal he’d struck with Toreth in his mind, Becket appraised Analise. “If I remove it, you’ll kick him out.”

“Caster Douglas will.” At Becket’s incredulous stare, Analise shrugged. “Theodore has been ill, but he’s not without his resources. If you wish your minder gone, take off his sigil and he will be no bother to you anymore.”

Still exerting pressure on the cord holding the fairy stone to his throat, Becket transferred his attention to Toreth whose returning stare and the proud set of his shoulders reflected only steady resolve. Wasn’t the man still a little concerned that Becket might renege on his end of their bargain now that Becket knew? “You lied to me.”

“Only by omission,” Toreth said. “I fulfilled our agreement by delivering you to your kinsman. As I said I would.”

“You were guaranteed a position in the top hold as soon as you put the rock around my neck. Why did you let me believe I had any sway over that? Or anything to barter with you for bringing me to Theo that was of real value?”

“You have sway. You can remove my sigil whenever you please,” Toreth said, “and trust me, its presence around your neck is very valuable to me.”

Behind him, Theo and Hannick talked in quiet voices, their business with the water apparently finished. Becket’s rosy stone lay in a puddle on the edge of the small pool. “I’ll fly to Melaeum and if Caster Fik is agreeable, return with him as quickly as possible,” the seer said.

Theo squared his shoulders. “I’ll need time to procure him a proper wardrobe—”

“You have until tomorrow,” Hannick said, rising from her knees. “If Caster Fik a disagreeable or doesn’t appeal to the boy, I’ll widen my cast to other potential sentinel matches, but the elders will accept no further delays. No need to rush the handfasting—a troth announcing the joining of your ward with Fik will suffice.”

“I won’t force a decision he’ll have a lifetime to regret,” Theo said.

“Troths have been severed before.” The seer fluttered indifferent fingers. “As long as the pledge declares your hearth with Nitcha, preparations for your expedition can begin immediately thereafter.”

Becket reappraised Toreth, who at least wasn’t setting him up with a mate. Becket lowered his hand from the fairy stone, disgruntled when Toreth appeared not surprised in the least by this move. The man had gotten Beck to Theo. “A deal’s a deal,” Becket said.

Master Seer Hannick beamed at Becket. “Exactly.”

Theo glared at the seer and Toreth both. “A deal is a deal only when the terms continue to benefit all parties.”

While Analise and Theo escorted the woman to the door, Toreth joined Becket by the rock couch. He frowned at Becket’s injured hands. Stripping off the fingerless gloves, Toreth guided him to the pool of water to rinse the shallow scrapes. He dropped the string weighted by Theo’s stone over Becket’s head and tucked the still-damp rock under his clothes to return it to the naked skin above Becket’s heart while his uncle made his polite farewells to the master seer. “What is a minder?” Becket finally asked.

Toreth glanced under his lashes at the exiting seer before returning to his task of setting Becket to rights, now rolling Becket’s gloves back down his hands and forearms. “A partner, of sorts. Minders care for and support casters in all things. Bibelots too.” His lips curved to a small grin. “As your minder, my duty is to you and to you alone. I ensure your well-being and the most advantageous circumstances for us both.”

“And a sentinel?”

Bemused, Toreth shook his head. “The same.”

“Liar,” Becket said. “You’re laughing at me.”

“Yes, I’m sorry.” Supporting Becket’s injured hands, Toreth rose and helped Becket to his feet as well. “Amusement is a much more comfortable response than fear.”

Becket blinked at him, consternation replacing his irritation. “Fear?”

“You terrify him,” Analise said, rejoining them.

Toreth squeezed both of Becket’s wrists, a self-castigating smile gracing his lips. “Utterly.”

“Good.” Theo said, stalking to them, the frailty he’d shown the seer replaced by rigid ill temper now that she’d gone. He glared at Toreth. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t throw you over the edge,” he demanded, a tip of his chin indicating the narrow terrace planted with basil and rosemary.

“He chose me?” Toreth said, his own sneer returning. “Or does a bibelot’s free will count for nothing?”

“Lay off, Theo. He knows,” Becket interrupted, glancing pointedly at Toreth. “About me. He knows.”

“Suspects,” Toreth corrected.

“All the greater motive to toss him down the mountain,” Theo replied, startling when Analise intertwined her fingers with his. “What?”

“Your magic,” she said with a tight smile. “Your control is slipping.”

Toreth had already guided Becket several steps in retreat.

Theo watched Toreth again angle his body between Becket and Theo. “Oh,” he said, his brow furrowing as he considered Toreth again, his green eyes glittering with curiosity instead of hostility. “Well. Hm.”

Becket shoved Toreth aside, though he only managed to dislodge Toreth’s surprisingly steady bulk a little. Enough to spy his uncle staring at Toreth, at least. “He brought me to you. I owe him,” Becket said, ignoring the nervous jangle in his stomach when Toreth clasped Becket’s hand. “We do.”

“The bibelot chooses his minder,” Analise said.

“Or hers,” Theo grumbled.

Analise calmly nodded. “Or hers.” She winked at Toreth. “He is your Becket’s choice.”

Theo grunted. “He can fetch the kiddo decent clothes to wear to meet his sentinel then.”

“And my trunk,” Becket said. “I brought things from home.”

“Gods help us,” Theo said and arched an eyebrow at Toreth. “I suppose, if I have to put up with you, I should know your name.”

Hand clasped with Becket, Toreth bent formally at the waist. “Toreth.”

“Your kinhold?”

“None that claim me.”

“Of course not.” With his free hand, Theo rubbed his temple and winced. He glared at Becket rather than Toreth, though, which was somewhat of an improvement. “Be glad I like you. Very glad.”

“Or you’ll taunt me into joining your woo woo,” Becket said, his stunned disbelief at where the past days had taken him overriding everything else, “where you’ll mate me to some stranger I’ve never laid eyes on so you can go look for more fucking rocks?”

“Oh, I do like him.” Analise laughed, her unencumbered arm holding her stomach as she guffawed. “He’s not as stupid as he looks.”

“Thanks,” Becket said in wry acknowledgment. “I think.”

* ~ * ~ *

A little early, but didn’t think anyone would mind. 😉

Hope you’re getting on your Irish (or by all means, borrow some of my Irish) and enjoyed Becket’s adventure and discoveries on Ket! Chapter Five will come at Easter — or if I get busy during that holiday too, Easter-ish, LOL.



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