Chapter 10, Part 2-2

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His thoughts returned to the present. He was grateful to find Lilith engaged in small talk with Edmond. Indeed, she seemed to be ignoring everyone else, as waiters offered the diners roasted lamb in a red wine sauce, game hens with a pancetta, dried apricot, cashew and rosemary stuffing, and oven roasted potatoes and carrots with garlic and thyme.

Lilith laughed at Edmond's comments, touching him from time to time, first his arm, then his hand, then his knee. The two seemed quite comfortable with one another. Dixon was surprised that his friend tolerated the woman so easily, but then most men did fall under her spell.

"Is that true, Dixon?"

"Excuse me? I'm sorry, Lilith." He put his glass down. "Is what true?"

She turned to Edmond, pouting. "You see? It's like I said. Dixon ignores me."

"It's not possible to ignore you, Lilith," Edmond replied. His eyes were glued to her—or more accurately, to her cleavage.

Dixon glanced at Basha. He had to exercise great discipline to keep from rolling his eyes. With superb timing from his vantage, a waiter stepped between him and Lilith, offering a plate of steamed asparagus in a lemon butter sauce, lightly sprinkled with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Lilith allowed the waiter to place some on her plate, after which he moved on.

"I'm not ignoring you, Lilith. I just have other things on my mind and I was enjoying Basha's unexpected presence."

"What other things?" She glanced at Basha with a grimace she made no effort to conceal.

"When you're around, Lilith, there are no 'other things,'" Edmond said.

Dixon cleared his throat. Glancing over Lilith's shoulder, he saw his friend shrug at him, his brow raised. So, Edmond was just playing to her ego, keeping her engaged, satisfied. He should be grateful—at least it kept her attention away from him.

"It's like I said, Lilith, I have other things on my mind. I was thinking about how I want this band off so I can go home. There was no cause for this."

"No cause!"

"Yes," Basha interrupted. "Surely the band is unnecessary, Lilith."

Lilith sneered at her. "A lot you would know about an Oathtaker's duty," she spat. "No Select would be safe in your company."

Basha looked down.

Lilith glanced around the room. She tilted her head and smiled at her guests who'd stopped to watch the exchange as it had grown more heated.

When the diners turned back to their own meals and conversations, she turned back to Dixon. Her fingers touched her necklace, then slowly moved back and forth across her décolletage, as a hypnotist might do when trying to make his subject fall under his spell.

He did not succumb to her attempts at seduction. His eyes remained fixed on hers. "You're out of line, Lilith, and you know it. Basha deserves your undying respect and gratitude."

She glared. "Dixon. Be reasonable. Rowena is dead. Surely you can understand that it will be necessary for you to speak to the Council." She pursed her lips.

"Lilith. Be reasonable," he mimicked, his expression hard, resolute. "You know I always served Rowena faithfully. I'm not a miracle worker. I told you how she died. Of course I'll check in with the Council to inform them of the facts, but no reasonable person could find fault here."

"Oh, really? Well, I certainly have a lot of questions. Like . . . Where were you? And why were you there and not here at the palace where Rowena would have been safe? And . . . did you get assistance for her? And—well, many other things." Her jaw set.

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