"I shouldn't have left," Andoc said, as I let myself lean on him. "I'm sorry. I should never have left you alone."
At first, I thought he was trembling, but after a moment I realized that it was me. "You couldn't have known," I said into the skin at the juncture of his neck and shoulder, the wolf's fur tickling my left cheek. "It's all right, though. We're all right."
"Thanks to you," Andoc said, kissing first the top of my head, then the top of the wolf's. "Gods. They could have killed him."
I shuddered again, and allowed Andoc to help me to my feet. Holding me tight against his left side, with the wolf pressed close against his leg on the right side, he led us into the temple and down the hallway to the room Jyrrel had described. The door had been left invitingly open for us. Inside, there was a low bed with a rough, woven blanket, a table with a couple of candles burning on it, and a chair. There was only a single small window set high in the wall, and once Andoc had closed the door behind us, I finally felt myself start to relax.
The wolf remained glued to Andoc's side as I peeled away and sank into the chair, exhausted beyond measure. Man and beast crossed to the bed together, and I watched as Andoc lifted one edge of the blanket, patting the straw mattress beneath. The wolf jumped up and nosed his way under the rough cloth, circling a couple of times before curling into a miserable ball, completely hidden by the blanket. Andoc sighed and flopped down next to the large lump, which immediately shuffled over a bit to press against his thigh.
Andoc looked up and saw me watching. He shrugged. "It seems to help him," he said. "I think maybe it feels like a den or something. What happened out there?"
I scrubbed a hand over my face, trying to clear the cobwebs. "There were two goblets. Jyrrel and Senovo both drank from them. Jyrrel said the drink was an elixir from the gods. It was supposed to bring truth and... what was it? Clarity, I think. Truth and clarity. A few seconds after he drank it, Senovo started to panic. Scrambled to his feet, dropped the goblet, and then he just... changed."
"Truth and clarity? Fuck. I guess it worked," Andoc said, his face grim. "I imagine Jyrrel is running to report to Magoldis even as we speak. There will be no hiding this—not now. He'll have to deal with it whether he wants to or not."
"At least nobody was injured," I said. "Will this hurt the negotiations, do you think?"
Andoc shook his head, smoothing a hand over the tense curve of the wolf's spine through the blanket. "It'll probably help them, ironically enough. Not only did Volya send the likely replacement for the injured High Priest, but oh, by the way, he's a shifter. Even if he never wanted to be one."
"It must be incredibly rare," I said. "It was pretty obvious that no one at the ceremony had ever seen one, and I know I certainly never have."
"It's rare enough," Andoc confirmed, still stroking the tightly curled body beside him. "The High Priest in Draebard before Rhystel was a shifter—he could turn into a ram. And I heard that there was one down south who took the form of a fox. Those are the only two I know of, though."
He looked at the form on the bed, and then to the door.
"You need to get back to the meeting hall, don't you," I said. "Explain about Senovo, and continue with the talks."
"I should, but..." Andoc looked at the wolf again.
"I'll stay with him," I said. "I'm sure he'd rather have you, but we'll be all right. This is too important to risk everything now."
Reluctantly, he nodded and got to his feet. I rose as well. Andoc crossed the small room and pulled me into an embrace. With no defenses left after the day's events, I leaned against his strength and let my own arms close around him in return. I could feel his words rumble through his chest as he spoke.
YOU ARE READING
The Horse Mistress: Book 1Romance
Carivel was born female, but she has been secretly living as a boy for years in her adoptive village of Draebard. The last thing she needs is to fall for not one, but two unattainable men-a dominating warrior and a reluctant wolf-shifter with a horr...