“This is why I think she’s more than a betrayer.” Bast pointed to Elsabet across the Ballroom.
Her hood was pulled up high and she was darting nervous glances around and shuffling about in her oversized brown hood.
“She reminds me of someone I know.” Savage remarked.
Bast gave him a thoughtful glance. “I’d dearly like to meet her.”
“Perhaps you will.”
Closest to assent I’ll get.
“She fights to look fierce. But do you see it?” Bast asked.
“Of everyone. Even though she knows them. She’s scared anyone will turn on her at any moment.”
“Mmm.” Savage Jack made a skeptical sound. “I think she knows she has you by the ballocks.”
“Good wording.” Bast agreed. Slapping him on the back with a grin. “But there’s more to her then you may think.”
“Perhaps there’s more to her than you think.” Savage Jack said it so tonelessly Bast couldn’t garner the meaning behind his words.
That she’s capable of turning on me, maybe?
Bast walked to her and took her hand. Tenderly kissing the back. “I’m back. I apologize.”
“You went to get him?” She nodded to Savage Jack.
“Hello, Savage Jack.” She gave him a long look. “I’m…I-”
“I know.” He cut her off. Tossing his hand dismissively. “No need. I know what day that was.”
She gave him a hard look and nodded.
What are they talking about?
No one seemed inclined to tell him, so he let it go.
“Dance with me?” He asked. Still holding Elsabet’s small hand.
She chewed her cheeks. Breathing heavily as she decided. Finally relenting with a single nod.
All I need.
“Do you intend to dance?” He looked at Savage Jack.
“Only if the opportunity to gut myself with my own blade does not arise first.”
“Good.” He faced Elsabet. Reaching for her cloak. “May I?”
She looked at him and hesitantly swept her arms out the front, so he could untie it and pull it from her back. Folding it over his arm before handing it to Savage Jack.
He took it without objection.
“A dress?” Bast offered.
She chewed her bottom lip before giving a hesitant nod.
When Elsabet stepped into the candlelight, a gold dress rolled from her neck down over her curves. Replacing the tunic and breeches as it billowed to the floor. The skirt bouncing over a ring beneath as it landed.
She paused and glanced down. Her tousled silver hair falling loose from the bun, now unwound and let it fall down her back. A few strands quickly twisting at her crown and winding back to interlock at the back of her head. Pinning her hair down with the efficiency of a circlet.
Bast twirled her and she moved perfectly in tune with his movements.
Nearly toe to toe, they stepped as one.
Bast felt the moment her energy connected with his and he heard her heartbeat match his beat.
She smiled adoringly up at him and he twirled her again.
He tossed back his head and laughed exaltedly as she caught her skirt in her free hand and gave him a head lowered, seductive glance.
She grinned back. Her whole face brightening.
“Quite the pair, aren’t they?” Rhyers asked Savage Jack.
“They’re stunning together.”
“Think it’s too late to save her?”
“I don’t know.” Savage Jack said sincerely. Watching them intently. “I’ve not yet decided.”
“Do you intend to kill her if you decide she can’t be?”
“That’s not my place.” Savage Jack turned piercing blue eyes on Rhyers. “But I will if she tries to harm anyone here.”
“Might have a hard time.”
“Well,” Rhyers sighed. “You’re accounting for him.” He pointed to Bast. “But what you’re not accounting for is them.” He pointed out every man standing a head or more taller than the crowd.
They were all watching her with fond smiles.
“You’d be amazed what they’d sacrifice for her. They care for her. Every one of them.”
“Enough to let her kill someone else.”
“Not sure. But certainly, enough to stop you from killing her.”
“I’m mighty hard to stop.” Savage Jack warned.
“Oh, of that I’m aware.”
“Savage Jack doesn’t trust you.” Bast murmured as they danced.
“He’s wise not to.” She said cryptically.
“Do you trust me?”
He nodded. “With everything in me.”
She blinked up at him. Beautiful face unreadable.
“Don’t let my faith in you bring us all down. If you decide to turn your rage on us. Expend it on me. They don’t deserve it.” He gestured behind him.
“Doesn’t sound like a man that believes in me with everything in him.”
“It is. But it’s also the words of a man that knows your heart is broken. And I’m responsible for it.” His voice cracked. And his composure faltered. The depth of pain peering out.
I know what I did to us by holding you prisoner.
“Take me to Rhyers. I wish to meet this woman who appears to be begging him for a dance.”
“Oh, he’ll be delighted to introduce you.” Bast chuckled. Eyes crinkling in his mirth. His characteristic humor returning.
They walked toward where chairs were lined against one wall. Between two pillars.
“Elsabet!” Rhyers leapt to his feet. Glad to have a reprieve from Ebony’s withering glower.
“Hello, Rhyers.” She leaned on her toes to give him a hug.
Making Ebony rise.
She and Elsabet eyed each other. At the same level.
Rhyers elbowed Bast. “It’s like watching two angry children threatening to face off.”
Elsabet turned and blinked slowly at him.
Rhyers cleared his throat behind a fist to hide his smile.
“I merely meant in height.” He rocked back and forth on his heels. Linking his hands behind his back.