The Gargoyle Gets His Girl

Page 58

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Willa stared at her mother for a moment, then rolled her lips in to keep from laughing. Didn’t work, she laughed anyway. “Mother, I am not keeping Nick as a sex slave.”

Although if she was going to entertain such a thing, he’d be her first choice.

Melinna pointed toward the other room. “Then why is he wearing your bracelet? Why did he refuse to let your father take it off?”

Willa shook her head. She couldn’t wait to tell Nick about this one. “Because Zane put a bracelet on him so he and Kyanna could control him. I took it off and replaced it with one I made. It gives Nick free will to do what he wants to do. Him wearing it is just a ruse to give us an advantage.”

Her mother squinted. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.” Willa paused a beat. “He sleeps with me because he wants to. You can ask him.”

“Willa.” Her mother shook her head, a reluctant half-smile bending her mouth. “I don’t think that will be necessary. I’m glad you’re happy. You are happy, aren’t you?”

“Very.” The last of Willa’s ill will toward her mother disappeared. It was nice to know that despite their history, her mother still cared what happened to her and was a decent person, despite what Zane and Kyanna had turned into. “Can you tell me anything about the challenge tomorrow? Do you know what it will be?”

Her mother shrugged. “I wish I could. There hasn’t been a challenge in over a hundred years. A king without a child to succeed him is a rare thing, although it does happen. Obviously.”

“What happened to his children?”

“He had three. His last child, a boy, was stillborn. That birth cost the queen her life. Of the two remaining children, the youngest girl drowned when she was only a few years old and the oldest girl, Tyrra, came down with a fever a year ago that almost killed her. Her body survived it, her mind did not. She’s unfit to rule. I can’t say I’m unhappy about that.”

“That’s kind of cruel. Why do you feel that way?”

Her mother glanced down at her hands. “Tyrra and Kyanna were great friends. Perhaps more than that.”

Things started to click for Willa. “Is Tyrra the person of great power? Was she the one who influenced Kyanna?”

Melinna nodded. “Tyrra was as ambitious as she was beautiful. She wanted to change things. Go back to the old ways. She filled Kyanna and Zane’s heads with promises of power and wealth. Kyanna became consumed with the idea. Consumed with Tyrra and the royal lifestyle.”

“So really, this plan wasn’t Kyanna’s at all.”

“Not to begin with. When Tyrra ascended the throne, she would have returned Rhoswynn to the ways of our ancestors, with Kyanna and Zane’s help.”

“So why is Kyanna continuing with this when Tyrra has no chance of becoming queen? Kyanna could be queen without any of this nonsense.”

“I’m not sure if it’s out of loyalty to Tyrra and some belief that Tyrra will wake up from the fog she’s in or because Kyanna’s own ambition has taken over. Maybe a little of all three.”

“Could Tyrra wake up?”

“No.” Melinna smiled sadly. “She’s like a toddler now. She’ll never be herself again. Kyanna refuses to believe that, however.”

“And the king? Why doesn’t he challenge Kyanna?”

“For one, he’s old and unwell and I don’t think he has the fight left in him. For another, the few times he’s tried, Kyanna tells him it’s what Tyrra would want. That he’s destroying the rightful queen’s vision for Rhoswynn. His grief over his daughter is enough to shut down any argument from him.”

“I feel sorry for him.”

Melinna nodded. “He’s been a decent king. Taken good care of the kingdom and its people, but his life has not been easy.”

“But not so hard that it’s deterred Kyanna.”

“No. I believe Kyanna sees being queen as the ultimate prize. She doesn’t understand that it’s more than just power. She will have to lead the kingdom. Protect it. Plan for the future. Although I guess in a way, that’s what she thinks she’s doing by trying to return us to the past.” Melinna’s fingertip traced the whorl of the table’s wood grain. “And having Zane as her steward will only make things worse.”

“Agreed. What about the king’s steward, Gerard? Who does he side with, Tyrra or the king?”

“He’s the king’s man, through and through. If Kyanna wins tomorrow, he’ll be ousted immediately and he knows it.”

Willa took a breath. “I really need to make sure that doesn’t happen tomorrow.”

“Yes, you do.”

“I wish you had some idea what the challenge will be.”

“I can tell you it will be a test of your powers since you’re both lapidus. Beyond that, I can’t say.”

Willa sat quietly while her mind raced. She yawned, and it struck her how tired she was. “Can I rest before we eat?”

“Of course.” Her mother stood. “I’ll take you to one of the guest rooms.”

Willa got up and followed her. On the way to the stairs, they met her father and Nick coming from another room. The look on Nick’s face was a mixture of happiness, amusement and disbelief. She couldn’t wait to hear what that was about. “My mother is showing me to the guest room,” she told him. “I’m exhausted and want to lie down before we eat.”

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