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Lover Avenged

By:J. R. Ward

ONE


The king must die.”

Four single-syllable words. One by one they were nothing special. Put together? They called up all kinds of bad shit: Murder. Betrayal. Treason.

Death.

In the thick moments after they were spoken to him, Rehvenge kept quiet, letting the quartet hang in the stuffy air of the study, four points of a dark, evil compass he was intimately familiar with.

“Have you any response?” Montrag, son of Rehm, said.

“Nope.”

Montrag blinked and fiddled with the silk cravat at his neck. Like most members of the glymera, he had both velvet slippers firmly planted in the dry, rarified sand of his class. Which meant he was just plain precious, all the way around. In his smoking jacket and his natty pin-striped slacks and…shit, were those actually spats?…he was right out of the pages of Vanity Fair. Like, a hundred years ago. And in his myriad condescensions and his bright frickin’ ideas, he was Kissinger without a president when it came to politics: all analysis, no authority.

Which explained this meeting, didn’t it.

“Don’t stop now,” Rehv said. “You’ve already jumped off the building. The landing isn’t getting any softer.”

Montrag frowned. “I fail to view this with your kind of levity.”

“Who’s laughing.”

A knock on the study’s door brought Montrag’s head to the side, and he had a profile like an Irish setter: all nose. “Come in.”

The doggen who followed the command struggled under the weight of the silver service she carried. With an ebony tray the size of a porch in her hands, she humped the load across the room.

Until her head came up and she saw Rehv.

She froze like a snapshot.

“We take our tea here.” Montrag pointed to the low-slung table between the two silk sofas they were sitting on. “Here.”

The doggen didn’t move, just stared at Rehv’s face.

“What is the matter?” Montrag demanded as the teacups began to tremble, a chiming noise rising up from the tray. “Place our tea here, now.”

The doggen bowed her head, mumbled something, and came forward slowly, putting one foot in front of the other like she was approaching a coiled snake. She stayed as far away from Rehv as she could, and after she put the service down, her shaking hands were barely able to get the cups into the saucers.

When she went for the pot of tea, it was clear she was going to spill the shit all over the place.

“Let me do it,” Rehv said, reaching out.

As the doggen jerked away from him, her grip slipped off the pot handle and the tea went into free fall.

Rehv caught the blistering-hot silver in his palms.

“What have you done!” Montrag said, leaping off of his sofa.

The doggen cringed away, her hands going to her face. “I am sorry, master. Verily, I am-”

“Oh, shut up, and get us some ice-”

“It’s not her fault.” Rehv calmly switched his hold to the handle and poured. “And I’m perfectly fine.”

They both stared at him like they were waiting for him to hop up and shake his bumper to the tune of ow-ow-ow.

He put the silver pot down and looked into Montrag’s pale eyes. “One lump. Or two?”

“May I…may I get you something for that burn?”

He smiled, flashing his fangs at his host. “I’m perfectly fine.”

Montrag seemed offended that he couldn’t do anything, and turned his dissatisfaction on his servant. “You are a total disgrace. Leave us.”

Rehv glanced at the doggen. To him, her emotions were a three-dimensional grid of fear and shame and panic, the interlocking weave filling out the space around her as surely as her bones and muscles and skin did.

Be of ease, he thought at her. And know I’ll make this right.

Surprise flared in her face, but the tension left her shoulders and she turned away, looking much calmer.

When she was gone, Montrag cleared his throat and sat back down. “I don’t think she’s going to work out. She’s utterly incompetent.”

“Why don’t we start with one lump.” Rehv dropped a sugar cube into the tea. “And see if you want another.”

He held the cup out, but not too far out, so that Montrag was forced to get up again from his sofa and bend across the table.

“Thank you.”

Rehv didn’t let go of the saucer as he pushed a change of thought into his host’s brain. “I make females nervous. It wasn’t her fault.”

He released his hold abruptly and Montrag scrambled to keep hold of the Royal Doulton.

“Oops. Don’t spill.” Rehv settled back onto his sofa. “Shame to get a stain on this fine rug of yours. Aubusson, is it?”

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