"I don't want to go to the Council Chambers," I was wiping tears away one-handed as Teeg pulled me after him.
"You see those journalists and cameras, Reah?" Teeg muttered, dragging me toward the huge hall where the Vampire Council met, "We have to present as good an image to them as we can. They won't be inside the chamber itself, so hold your head up and let's get there with as much dignity as we can."
I wanted to argue with him, but I didn't. Perhaps I should have-mentally, of course. Wouldn't do to let the news-vids have a field day with Teeg and me, speculating whether we were on the outs or not, when it was Tory and me, and Wylend and me, who would have made the juicy news.
Teeg kept me against the back wall, shielding me from the cameras pointed at this guest or that as attendees filed into the chamber. When the door was shut, Teeg breathed a sigh of relief but still kept his hands on me so I couldn't get away.
I saw Tory in the distance, talking easily with this guest or that, his arm draped comfortably around the black-haired woman's waist. I said nothing, letting my gaze drop to my shoes. I'd worn a black dress with a matching beaded jacket and low-heeled black shoes. Tiny jet earrings were in my ears-I didn't want to stand out or draw attention. Not so with Tory's companion-she'd gone for both. A strapless gown with a wrap in such a deep red as to be nearly black, and heels that would have caused me to teeter precariously. She was used to wearing them that high, I could tell.
"Well, Reah, I guess I'm not too immature after all," Tory drawled, forcing me to jerk my head up. How had he come to be in front of us so quickly? And what was he saying? I blinked stupidly at him and the woman standing beside him. "Oh, this is Darletta, my wife," Tory introduced the brunette. We'd never married, Tory and I. He'd never asked-he'd just stuck his teeth in my neck while in his smaller Thifilathi.
"Tory," Teeg was growling and his eyes were going red. I looked from one brother to the other.
"Torevik Rath, you idiot!" Lissa was there and hissing in a heartbeat. "We didn't tell you, because Lendill said you were on a sensitive mission. Reah is pregnant with your twins, and this is how you choose to come home?"
Another tear slipped out and Teeg couldn't hold me this time; I skipped away.
Gavin placed compulsion on Darletta, who was now humming distractedly in a corner. Erland had come to attempt to explain Wylend's part in this, but it wasn't coming out very well.
"You mean to tell me you married her without a prenuptial? That you were getting back at Reah because she said you were too young the first time?" Lissa's hair was a mess. This was the last thing she'd expected at her half-brother's funeral.
"Mom, Wylend sent me mindspeech."
"And it didn't bother you that Wylend was listening to private thoughts and conversations? That he didn't give you the full conversation I was having with Reah?" Gavril's fangs still threatened. His eyes were red and had been from the beginning.
"Young one, I am very close to removing your claiming marks from Reah's neck," Kifirin appeared, smoke billowing from his nostrils. Tory's eyes widened. And then he turned, going immediately to his smaller Thifilathi, who cringed and fell to his knees before the Lord of the Dark Realm. The howl that came from his throat was mournful and nearly earsplitting. Darletta looked up briefly, before turning away again. She would remember none of what she was seeing-Gavin had made sure of that. Gardevik, coming from a meeting in Jaydevik's court, glared at his son, who knelt before Kifirin.
"You have shamed the High Demon race; The Wise Ones say that Reah's twins will be daughters. Where will their father be, Torevik Rath? You married that creature," Garde jerked his head toward Darletta. "Now, you are stuck with her. Only one kind of woman will marry someone after a first meeting. She knows who you are, and more importantly, who your mother is. You are bound to this marriage, child, and all because of an angry fit."
"Turn back," Kifirin commanded. "Leave my sight, or I will find another High Demon for Reah. And take your wife with you."
"I don't want to bring this to him right now." Erland spoke softly to Corolan and Garek. "Things are bad enough as it is."
"It would have been better if he hadn't done this. What possessed him?"
"He felt slighted. You know how he gets at times when he's in a female cycle."
"He has snits in male cycles, too," Garek pointed out.
"Yes, there is that," Erland admitted. "He and Griffin are in there together, getting blindingly drunk. At least Dragon and Crane volunteered to stay with them." The four men were inside Wylend's private study.
"Why would Wyatt admit to Reah that he didn't want to be King, and never say it to anyone else?" Garek shook his head.
"Come on, we all knew it," Corolan said. "The minute he could get away from Wylend's chores, he was off helping his mother. We all knew; we just knew not to say anything to Wylend. Until he tapped into Reah's conversations. He'll never get her back. Not now." Corolan mourned that fact-he loved her-more than he could ever admit to the King of Karathia.
"I'm not kidding, Lendill." I paced in front of him. "I want to separate myself from Torevik Rath. I don't want him to have any parental rights to these children." He'd taken a small bit of information, blown it out of proportion and gotten married to have his revenge. I didn't want my children exposed to that. And I was rethinking my willingness to heal Karathia's core. Wylend was at the bottom of all of this.
"Reah, Alliance law won't let you do that," Lendill pointed out patiently. "Even though you were never married to him."
"Yeah, how about that?" I felt nauseous and hugged myself, trying to calm my stomach. "He never asked me. Yet he picks up the first woman he can find who is tall, beautiful and willing. Well, I won't be willing. Never again. He and Wylend are gone. Period."
"Reah, I know this isn't a good time," Rylend appeared from nowhere. "But Em-pah Griffin and Great-em-pah Wylend are pretty much drunk right now. If you heal the core while they're plastered, then we won't have to make excuses or explanations later."
"Are you sure that warlock fucker Zellar is far away? I don't want to lose twins this time," I snapped at him.
"I will come-they will not get past me or my Protectors," Nefrigar appeared. Two other Larentii were with him.
"You promise?" I looked up at Nefrigar.
"I can promise this to my love-Larentii are allowed to protect their mates."
"Then let's go." I didn't feel good, but then I probably wouldn't ever feel good about this. Lendill called Lok in somehow, so I ended up going to Karathia with Lendill, Lok, Rylend Morphis and three Larentii.
"Boss, Reah's healing the core on Karathia-I got mindspeech from Ry," Astralan whispered to Gavril.
"Then let's go," Gavril gave Tory one last glare before allowing Astralan to fold him to Karathia.
Gavril stared at the three Larentii who had come. Nefrigar he recognized, but not the other two. "Two of my Protectors, who also happen to be my two oldest sons," Nefrigar explained, as Reah seated her full Thifilatha onto the ground where Zellar had tapped Karathia's core.
"You have more than two sons?" Gavril's voice held awe. He'd only heard of Larentii having one, perhaps two children, and two was extremely rare.
"All born before Ferrigar's decree," Nefrigar smiled. "Four of them. All four work with me now, plus two others-sons of my eldest friend who separated his particles long ago."
"Working in the Archives keeps us young," one of Nefrigar's sons offered. "I am Serrigar, and this is my next eldest brother, Valegar."
"Very pleased to meet you," Gavril nodded respectfully.
"We have all the information on the Campiaan Alliance, from the beginning," Valegar grinned. "We and father found it fascinating. That is how he learned of his mate, you know. Serrigar gathered information and brought it to Father, not long ago. The moment he absorbed her image, he was lost."
"And after all this time, too," Nefrigar agreed. "Let us watch her now-this is more than fascinating."
"I have the shields set, Father," Serrigar announced. "Everything is clear and none shall break through."
"Good. Thank you, child."
I settled myself as comfortably as I could, and focused on Karathia's daystar. Karathia had barely been tapped-as if the tapping had been interrupted. What did that mean? I pulled energy from the star and went to work.
Zellar glared at the Ra'Ak when he thought the creature wasn't looking. This one only spoke using mindspeech now, and seldom communicated with Zellar. Zellar was frightened-this one had pulled him away from Karathia before he could gather enough energy to effectively escape those he now saw as his captors.
He'd thought them allies at first, when he'd offered his services to Hendars Klar. He was no longer under any illusions regarding who was captor and captive. Zellar wondered if he shouldn't start soul-shifting with adults. His current body was fourteen turns in age and would feed the Ra'Ak soon-it was time for another shift.
Zellar was worried, too, that the four remaining Ra'Ak were planning something. He wouldn't be included in those plans, that was a given. Zellar walked toward the cages that held six teens, the oldest of which was seventeen. That would be his next body. Zellar pulled the chalk from a pocket and knelt to begin drawing runes.
The moment I'd stood after healing the core, the dry heaves began. Nefrigar placed one hand on my forehead and the other on my belly. I felt blessed relief quickly. Someone lifted me, I can't say whom, and transported me to Tulgalan. Radolf was there, waiting with food.
"Here, now, you've had a long day, we'll do a light soup first," Radolf slid a bowl in front of me while Teeg propped me up. Nefrigar and the two he'd brought with him made themselves smaller so they could sit at the island with me.