There were no guards on Lysander’s tent, but Samir peeked in to double check that Lysander was, in fact, away. It was true. The only person inside was Raj, leaned back in a chair with his feet propped up on a stool. His sword was in his lap, and a couple knives lay on the table next to him along with with several cloths and oil. “Looking for the prince?” he asked.

The question wasn’t an invitation exactly, but Samir still stepped inside, closing the flap behind him. The sight of Raj, after what had passed between them today, it made Samir…

He wasn’t even sure. He felt a little fluttery, a little unsure. He wanted something, but he couldn’t figure out what. “I wanted to talk to him about the magic we found.”

This was its own test, to see if Raj even remembered. In theory, Samir’s own spell should work on Raj the same as it did on him, but Raj wasn’t a wizard, and magic was a tricky thing.

Raj’s answer, though, erased all doubt. “I told him about the castle. And he told me to fix it.”

Samir must have made some sort of face at that, because Raj gave a soft laugh. “Well that’s hardly a vote of confidence.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just…this is magic. What exactly are you going to do?”

“Fuck if I know,” Raj answered, with a flat smile. “But…it’s not quite as ridiculous as you think.” He set his sword down, folded his arms. “Samir, I should tell you—I’m not…” He paused, took a deep breath. This was obviously hard for him. “I’m not just a guard.”

“And I’m not just an idiot.” A sudden tension inside him made Samir’s words sharp. “It’s been pretty clear you’re—” he waved his hand to indicate all the people outside, “you’ve got some special privileges.”

“Well, yes. As it happens. What matters here, though, is that I used to belong to the Brotherhood. I was a priest. When it comes to dealing with magic, I’m not entirely helpless.”

A surprising relief washed through Samir. Strange that the knowledge Raj used to be a wizard hunter would be good news, but if Samir were being honest, he was truly grateful for any help he could get. Besides that…

If he was being honest, there had been something else he’d been expecting to hear after “I’m not just a guard.” The first thought that had gone through Samir’s head, that Raj was about to confess to being Lysander’s lover. And that, Samir hadn’t wanted to hear.

Nothing like a flash of unexpected and irrational jealousy to clarify one’s thinking.

If Raj could be a little honest, Samir could too. A little. “I’m glad I don’t have to do this alone.” It was frustrating how hard those words were to say, how that confession that wasn’t even really a confession twisted his stomach and made his chest tight with alarm. But even that small vulnerability was terrifying. That small amount of trust was a leap into the abyss.

Raj’s soft gaze was there to catch him. “I understand. No one should have to be alone.”

A note from Barbara J Webb

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About the author

Barbara J Webb


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