Scent of Magic Page 87

I scrambled to my feet and blocked her. “Don’t touch him.”

Tohon grinned with pure delight. “Now, that’s what I’d hoped to see. My dear, why didn’t you tell me you had a younger sister?”

He was quite aware that his question destroyed any hope that I might make trouble for Tohon. “The topic never came up,” I said. “Besides, her loyalty is with Jael.”

“I see.” He focused on Noelle. “And now Jael has flown the coop, leaving you behind. Where do your loyalties lie?”

She hesitated. I felt a bit of comfort from that. And as much as I would have loved for her to throw her lot in with me, I knew that’d be the worst thing she could do right now.

“With you,” Noelle said to him.

Tohon laughed. “I like this girl. I’m going to keep you close. You can be the first to swear allegiance to me.”

After Noelle took the oath, Tohon presided over Estrid, her staff and the high-ranking officers’ vows.

When everyone but me had sworn their loyalty, Tohon asked Noelle if there was a ballroom in the house. “We need to celebrate this momentous occasion.”

“There’s one on the second floor,” she said.

“Good. Please escort everyone there, and then bring the rest of the dinner guests to me. Once they take the oath, they can join in the dancing. Cellina, will you talk to the string quartet about relocating from the dining room?”

They all hurried to obey. Before Sepp left the room, Tohon caught his attention by tapping his fingers against his thumb. Sepp nodded. The death magician had a smug gleam in his eyes. The smugness wasn’t unusual, but the gleam...

When they were gone, I rounded on Tohon. “They’re not going to dance. Sepp’s going to encase them all in a magical stasis, isn’t he?”

“Would you rather I kill them?”

“Of course not, but—”

“I’m far too smart to trust their pledges. However, Estrid and her staff might prove useful in the future, so I’ll keep them alive. For now.”

“Including Noelle?”

“Don’t worry about her, my dear. She won’t be harmed.”

“As long as I cooperate, right?” I verbalized the unspoken threat.

“No. She’s interesting. Out of all the people here, her emotions are the most complex. A puzzle to figure out.”

I didn’t like the sound of that. “Won’t you be too busy ruling your new kingdom?”

“There’s always time for a few side projects, including your little miracle, my dear. I’m sure there’s more to it than Kerrick sharing his energy with you. But that’s a discussion for later.” He stroked my arm.

A shudder ripped through me.

Noelle arrived with the remaining dinner guests. Tohon enjoyed watching them kneel in front of him and swearing their allegiance. Once everyone had had a turn, he sent them to the ballroom with most of his bodyguards.

“You will attend me like you had Jael. Understand?” Tohon asked Noelle.

“Yes, sire.”

“I will be in Estrid’s suite. I expect you there at dawn.”

“Yes, sire.” Noelle bowed and made a quick exit without glancing at me.

Tohon stood and made a show of stretching. He gestured to me. “Shall we retire for the evening, my dear?”

For a moment I froze in pure terror. Then I said, “I need to check on my patients.”

“All right. Lead the way.”

Oh, no. I avoided Tohon’s outstretched hand, breezing past him as I headed toward the door. Trailing four bodyguards, Tohon followed me to the infirmary and waited while I made my rounds. A few patients teased me about my gown. Others asked about my companions. Not many of Estrid’s soldiers had actually met Tohon before. Fear swirled in their gazes when I told them. No help for it, they would have to swear allegiance to him eventually. I wondered when Tohon would force me to take the pledge. All he’d have to do was threaten Noelle, and I would do it.

I prolonged my interactions with my patients. However, Tohon caught on and ordered me to finish. I was amazed that he was being rather...well, pleasant for him. Considering all that I’d done to ruin his plans—killed his Death Lily garden, stolen Danny and Zila and rescued Ryne—I’d expected him to punish me as soon as we were alone.

Unfortunately, the night was still young. I didn’t spend as much time with my last couple of patients. And before he could say anything, I said good-night, shot out of the infirmary and strode to my room.

“Not so fast,” he said, catching up to me at the door. “You’re staying with me tonight. I want to hear about your adventures.”

Numb with horror, all I could say was, “I need to change.”

“No need. That dress suits you far better than your usual clothes.” He scanned my body as if appraising a gemstone. “However, if you want to collect your things, I will allow it.”

I entered my room. Tohon leaned against the door, letting in the lantern light from the hallway. Pausing near my bed, I gathered my courage. I’d expected this, and even had my pack ready to go. Yet now that my fears had turned real, I balked.

“Avry.” His tone warned.

I pulled my pack from underneath the bed. Clutching it to my chest, I followed Tohon. He chatted about...I’d no idea. All my energy was focused on moving my feet forward despite the panic building inside me.

Estrid’s expansive rooms had been decorated in the same elaborate and ornate style as the rest of the manor house. Oversized furniture filled the space, and rich drapery covered the windows.

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