Chapter 17

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A Morri man was waiting at the entrance when Tau escorted me back to the paestra. Spotting the man, Tau's lips curved into a predatory smile as he greeted the other man.

"I heard you'd taken on a human whore, Tauzil," the man spoke in his own language, "but I had to see it with my eyes."

His words didn't effect me, I'd grown used to the looks and whispers and remarks from Morri and from other humans. It took effort the first few times to refrain from speaking out against what these beings thought of me, but now it was expected.

"Have you had one, Cael?" Tau asked and leaned closer to the other man and continued in a faux whisper. "Because they will do things our women refuse." He paused then and glanced at me and then gestured to Cael with a tilt of his head. "This one is talented... and flexible."

Before I realized what he'd intended, Tau's large hand smacked against my butt with enough force to tip me off balance for a second. Yelping in surprise, I stepped forward to regain my balance while both men laughed.

Tau's ability to slip in and out of this character effortlessly left me feeling the uneasy way it always had. Despite what he'd done for me, the things he'd shared and what he was currently teaching me, I didn't completely trust Tau. Not when he shrugged on that persona with such ease. I could never quite tell which Tau was real.

"What would your sister think?"

Tau laughed again. "My sister has her toys, Cael," he said in a way that made me believe Cael had been one of those toys. "I have mine."

Cael wasn't as large as Tau, but he was broader, bigger. Where Tauzil was lean and athletic, Cael was bulky and carried extra weight. It suited his position as a guard at the paestra, and though I'd seen him, I'd never had to interact with him before. His brief conversation with Tau had me grateful that I'd avoided the run-in.

"May I go in, Laere Tauzil?" I asked, every bit the submissive human girl I was supposed to be. My voice quivered the slightest bit in real fear that I would be left alone with Cael. The question pulled Cael and Tau out of their battle of sizes and drew their attention to me.

Tauzil started to speak, to dismiss me, but Cael spoke over him. "Your Zashar requests your presence, little one."

My eyes widened. He hadn't ever sent a guard like this, someone waiting to escort me to his chambers. In the past, I'd been ordered by our veetrala to meet with him prior to my duties, which more and more often included cleaning the prisons. Suppressing my surprise, I nodded and waited for Cael to lead the way. Without another word to Tau or a glance back to ensure I was following, Cael walked away.

My eyes met Tau's for a brief moment and I thought I saw concern in them. Tau and Ro knew my schedule, they were aware of when I typically was called upon by Juleen and he knew this was abnormal. Was the concern for me and my well-being or was he only concerned over the reason behind Juleen's unexpected calling?

Cael didn't deign to speak to me as walked through the paestra. While I hadn't particularly wanted to make small talk, or any kind of talk, with the man, a part of me wished he would have forced it if only to distract me from concerns over what awaited me in Juleen's chambers.

When we reached Juleen's chambers, Cael turned to face me and allowed his eyes to rove over my body in curiosity.

"Whore to a leare and the zashar, human," he said in a low voice. "You must be some kind of striyga."

"I am human," I reminded him. "I have no gifts to spell your men." I cleared my throat then and gestured to the door. "I'm sure the zashar would be glad to hear how you've delayed our meeting with your silly accusations."

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