Chapter Fifteen

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He dreamed of her again.

As always, she didn't speak. She didn't even look up at him.

Cloak hanging on her bones, hood shadowing her face, her long-fingered, wizened hands gripped the edge of a vast cauldron. Whatever liquid the cauldron contained was still, though a fire blazed beneath its belly.

As though compelled by an unseen force, he stepped forward and looked down into the mirror-like surface.

Staring back was the old crone's reflection, unlined with age and bright with youth again. She smiled at him.

He resisted moving his eyes to see his own reflection, but his dream self wouldn't let him look aside.

He stared into the face that haunted him. Only when Grimm's image had shifted, risen out of the water and yanked him under was he able to wake.

Sykes jerked upwards, the remnants of the dream clawing at him. Sweeping a hand over his face, he inhaled deeply to prove to his sluggish mind he could.

"Not again," came a soft voice to his right.

Tallera always woke when he had the dream. Somehow, she sensed when they began.

Sykes glanced sideways at her. "Aye."

"The same?"

He grunted. Tallera hummed in a disapproving way. It was a very wifely sound she'd managed to perfect after only a few months of marriage. It was a sound forever seared into Sykes's ears.

Rising from the bed, he muttered an apology for waking her, to which she responded with another married woman noise of dismissal.

The fire had cooled to embers, so he stoked it, crouching in the feeble light. His mind rolled the new details of this latest dream around. He pretended he hadn't noticed the slight change in Grimm's features, swimming in the contents of the cauldron.

Increasingly, the face he saw resembled the Grimm he remembered less and less and yet became more familiar.

A spear of light struck him; Tallera had drawn aside the curtain.

"It's almost dawn." She sighed. "I don't think we'll get much more rest tonight."

Sykes straightened and rubbed a palm over his beard. "I suppose I should make myself presentable."

Tallera, standing by the window, her bare form painted with warm light, smiled back. "You look presentable enough for me."

Walking to her, he dropped a kiss on her shoulder. "The governor has a somewhat stricter dress code."

She shrugged. "His loss."

With a chuckle, Sykes moved to the wash basin, cupping his hands to wet his face. As he raised the blade to his cheek, he kept his eyes on his work, and away from the penetrating stare of his reflection.

A few hours later, he waited in Governor Saldeza's house. It had been a few years, but Sykes thought the décor had become even more ostentatious if that were possible. The man had more wealth than his descendants would ever spend in their lifetimes.

He eyed the attendants, flanking each doorway leading further into the house. Even their clothes were finely tailored, crisp and clean. Only the best.

Sykes shifted, feeling almost naked without his weapons strapped to his belt. He felt a bit stuffy in a gentleman's clothes.

There as a small flurry of activity at the top of the stairs, and then a young woman in a beautiful blue dress descended.

She was very young, still more a girl than a woman. As she went by her head was held high, but her eyes glanced at Sykes, clashing between curiosity and apprehension. He nodded politely as she was escorted outside, her servants hovering around her.

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