Ádan escorted Korin to a long, narrow room that held a half dozen two-tiered bunk beds. “No one will bother you in here. If you get hungry or anything, there’s food in the pantry. Make yourself at home.” His tone was light, like Korin was a guest who’d just dropped in for an overnight. Korin found himself wondering how good an actor Ádan might be.

He’d fooled Korin. Misled him. Distracted him. Korin could look back now at Ádan’s interest in the blight, at both his and Nikki’s presence around the Academy, as obvious clues of their real identity. But Korin had let himself be taken in by Ádan’s charm and flattery, had never asked the questions he should have.

Ádan withdrew, leaving Korin alone. He sat down on one of the beds, but there was no way he was going to sleep any time soon.

Alone in the quiet, Korin couldn’t stop himself from endlessly rehashing the last couple days. His night with Ádan. That disastrous talk. Those monsters in the street.

Ádan was a knight. Ádan was a knight.

Ádan was a knight.

Korin stood back up. He needed to move, and this narrow, cramped room was too small. Ádan had told Korin to make himself at home, so he couldn’t object to Korin wandering.

The underground safehouse had obviously been designed to support a large number of knights. There were three kitchens—the one Korin had been in, another like it on the opposite end of the hall, and a much larger space that could probably provide food for hundreds. Alongside the sitting area Korin had come through on his way in, the front halls connected to a gymnasium, another room with mats on the floor and weapons on the wall, and a magical workroom with circles inscribed on the floor and symbols painted on the walls.

More bunk rooms like Korin’s. Enough beds to sleep a hundred and fifty people. A few smaller, nicer bedrooms that had obviously been meant for officers or nobles. Three of these, the doors were closed. Korin assumed those rooms belonged to Nikhil, Varajas, and Ádan.

Further on, a stone staircase led down. Curious, Korin followed it. The cool, dry underground air changed as he descended, becoming warmer and wetter, with just a hint of sulfur. Korin recognized that smell, and knew what it meant. Somewhere close the knights had an underground hot spring.

The hot pools had been one of the best parts of the school of the Crystal—natural springs expanded with magic and engineering into one of the central gathering spots for everyone who lived there. It had been Korin’s favorite place to escape the cold, and while he’d left the cold far behind, the pure, sensual joy of soaking in the hot water was every bit as tantalizing.

The door to the pools was half-open. Korin looked in on a cavern that seemed almost as large as the entirety of the space above. Water bubbled and steamed in a large central pool and was diverted off to smaller basins with benches carved into their stone walls, then continued on to the small stream through which it drained out under the far wall. The air was thick and steamy and seemed to soak into Korin’s skin.

Awed by the room, it wasn’t till Korin took a second look that he realized he wasn’t alone.

Ádan lay in one of the smaller pools. He half-floated, with his head tilted back against the edge and his eyes closed. He hadn’t noticed Korin. Korin could back away quietly and Ádan would never know he’d been here.

Korin didn’t move. He couldn’t look away. Ádan relaxed was Ádan at his most handsome. The tense, anxious thoughts that had been whirling through Korin’s head broke apart. In their place, just as unbidden, memories of Ádan’s touch. Ádan’s smile. The brush of Ádan’s fingers against Korin’s cheek. Ádan’s laugh.

In the morning, Korin would leave and never look back. He wanted nothing to do with the knights. After everything they’d done, all the people they’d killed, all the horrors they’d visited upon the world, the best think Korin could do was to walk away.

But that was tomorrow. Tonight…

Was it so wrong to want one more night?

Assuming Ádan wanted that too. What did Korin know about what Ádan wanted? Ádan had said his time with Korin was a mistake, but what did he really mean by that.

Korin wanted to know. Korin needed to know. Even if, after tonight, he never saw Ádan again.


Ádan’s eyes fluttered open and he lifted his head. “Korin?” The uncertainty in his tone—it was the first time Korin had heard Ádan sound anything but sure of himself. It decided Korin.

“Do you mind if I join you?”

The slow smile that spread across Ádan’s face was all the answer Korin needed.


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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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