Well, my plans to eat alone and dare anyone to smirk at me and my cheap cotton vestis and pardus and serviceable cotton hasha in Woald yellow were completely derailed.
The instant I entered through the exclusive dining room doors, a lone diner stood. He was darkly clad and looking so dangerous I almost did a double-take. He would most certainly be a dark and mysterious hero in an Alaun Woald novel.
He just gave me the shivers when I looked at him.
Ryrk came right to me. He held out his hand to me. As if I was the female he had been waiting for all the while. I have to say, he is an extremely attractive male. I felt my cheeks flame when I realized all eyes in the restaurant were on us.
I couldn’t help but wonder if all Lupoiux looked like male perfection?
Maybe the reason I have no Rajni is that I am fated to be a Lupoiux mate? That…may not be so bad.
If the wolf was just like Ryrk.
Even though I sensed he was very, very dangerous—I also sensed a similar kindness in him that I did in Tol—it was just buried in hurt in this male. That had me wondering about him, and about his story. And had me letting him lead me to his table. “Kitten, I am very pleased to see you this evening. I trust you fared well after the altercation?”
“The demons didn’t hurt me,” I said. “Not really.”
“I’m speaking of the healing chamber. And those…fools…who seem to think they have control over your life.”
“Well, they don’t. I am…demons are after me, and there is a bounty on my head.” I blurted it out, even though I had been cautioned to keep that secret to myself. “I am staying here where they can keep me safe.”
“They are failing at it, then.”
“I-I’ve rather noticed that for myself.” Somehow, I let him lead me to his table.
The waitress hurried to take my drink order. Ryrk nodded at me, expectantly. I didn’t know what to say! I have never been in such a fancy place in my entire life.
Maybe it had been foolish of me to consider coming here alone.
“I hear the blood-red wine on the menu is supposed to be an…excellent vintage. You blood drinkers seem to prefer it. And from the price…”
“I should probably not eat here, then,” I said. “I just…wanted to celebrate the fact that I am still breathing. Coming here was an impulse.”
“My stay has been comped, kitten. By none other than the dhar of this place itself. Dinner…is on me.”
“Oh, but I…”
“Oh, but you will. As thanks for my saving your life. You will keep me from eating alone. None in this place dare to venture near the Lupoiux in their midst. They are frightened little rabbits, your people. Especially the females.” He smirked, but I saw it. There was a deep hurt and dissatisfaction in him. But no…malice.
At least not toward me.
Now the Jareth guard that was now sitting at a table fifteen feet away from us—well, I sensed Ryrk wasn’t too keen on his presence.
Well, neither was I.
“It is that the Lupoiux have been attacking our people for decades. When I was young, a pack came to our farm and tried to drag me and four of my sisters off. Fear is a powerful motivator. And now there are Lupoiux in our hotel, just weeks after Cormac Jareth—the male in green today—after his mate was viciously attacked by Redd Gothan Lupoiux in the public gardens. We’re a little on edge now.” And Ryrk was terrifying. Different from a Dardaptoan. He seemed far more dangerous, for one thing.
And very, very mysterious.
“Wars will not be resolved in just days. It will take far longer than that for our people to not wish to kill each other. But not all of us Lupoiux are dangerous monsters. Dangerous beasts, perhaps. But not monsters. Tell me, kitten: What is it that demons want from you?”
Well, that was the question of the night, wasn’t it?