Plush rugs covered the center of the wide palace hallway, muting the sounds of her steps. Portraits of former leaders of the Select hung on the walls. She stopped at the painting of her mother. She'd have to get someone to remove it. The constant reminder of the woman's betrayal in having given birth to Rowena was something Lilith could live without—and the sooner, the better.
Rounding a corner in her haste, she nearly knocked a potted plant from a pedestal. She looked up. In the room at her side, Adele swept the floor. "Adele!" she called.
The young woman visibly cringed as she turned.
"This needs cleaning up," Lilith said. She pushed the pedestal. The pot teetered for a moment, then fell, shattering on impact. As it rolled, soil covered the freshly swept floor.
Adele's mouth flew open.
Lilith flashed her humorless smile, the one derived from Daeva himself. "Right away."
"Yes, ma'am." Conditioned to the woman's rages, the maid immediately started in to her task. "Thank you, ma'am, for pointing that out to me."
Lilith stopped in her tracks and turned back. She grabbed Adele by the forearm and pulled her forward. "Are you mocking me?"
Lilith pushed her. "See that you don't."
"Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am."
When Lilith arrived to the servants' wing, she nodded at the man watching Dixon's room. She'd hoped that placing Dixon under house arrest would make him more amenable to assisting her. Now she had to break down his guard.
She considered whether she should try kindness first, or whether she should go straight to the torture. Along with the constant burning Daeva left within her, vibrations of his power ran down her spine, but she was leery about using that power, as Dixon would wonder at its source.
The guard opened the door. She stepped inside.
Dixon sat at a table, a book open before him, his lamp burning. He glanced her way, then turned back to his reading.
Was he dismissing her? The audacity! Even so, she'd first try a peaceful approach. She would try to enchant him. He was a man, after all. She would turn his head, his mind.
"Dixon," she said, sweetness dripping like tree sap, "how are they treating you?"
He turned to her and stared, one brow raised. His mouth dropped open. "How are they treating me? Hah! You can't be serious. Why the charade?"
"Oh, Dixon, you always were prone to the dramatic. May I?" she asked as she pulled out a chair.
She sat, then leaned forward, causing the front of her crimson silk dress to drape open, revealing her cleavage. It was as though she'd practiced this very move in front of a mirror.
He averted his eyes.
She put her hand on his arm.
He drew away. "What do you want?"
"Can't I just want to see you?" she whined. "You were away for so long and . . . Well, Dixon," she said, now putting her hand on his knee, "I missed you."
"Don't be ridiculous." He removed her hand and placed it firmly on the table. He stood, his arms folded. "When are you going to unband me, Lilith? And when are you going to let me out of here?"
"Then I've nothing to say to you."
She willed herself to stay calm. "Well, Dixon, I think you do have something to say. You see, I've received some rather dist—ahhh . . . interesting news."
"Oh? What's that?" His eyes narrowed.
"You said Rowena died in childbirth."
"So when were you going to tell me that the child lives?"
He blinked hard. "Wh—what are you talking about?"
"Oh, really, Dixon. I'm not stupid," she pouted. "All right, I was a bit slow—I admit it. I should have caught on right away. But now that I know—"
"Caught on?" He sat.
"Well of course—caught on. Rowena swore she wouldn't release her power until after her seventh was born. Had she not done so, her powers would have reverted to me." She crossed her legs. "But you see, they have not." She glared in open hostility.
"Are you sure?"
"Most certainly. So you see, that can only mean that she released her power—that she bore her child."
"Are you sure?"
"Completely. And that's why I need you to tell me about her. So, where is she, Dixon?"
"I don't know."
"So you admit it. The child lives."
He hesitated. "Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you're right. Why would you want the child anyway? You hate children." He got back to his feet and paced.
"I don't hate children."
"Sure you do."
"Oh, and that's why you were so good with your own that Rowena had to take him from you?"
"Stop trying to change the subject." Glowering at him, she exhaled slowly. "In any case, it's irrelevant."
"What I mean is that it's important we raise the child here. Rowena's sisters and I will see to her proper upbringing. How else will she learn of her role?"
"Well of course, 'she.' Rowena used every trick there was to be certain she had only girls. So tell me, where is she? She needs to be here where we can instruct her, where we can help her to acquire the tools necessary to lead."
"Yes, of course."
"What kind of tools?"
"Oh, never mind, Dixon, just tell me where the child is!"
"I don't know."
"Of course you do."
"I do not. And if I did, I wouldn't tell you." He crossed his arms.
"So you're saying the child does live, but you don't know where she is or who is to raise her."
He shrugged. "If you say so."
She came within inches of him. "There are ways to make you talk."
"Go ahead, Lilith, do your worst."
She raised her brow. "Oh, Dixon, you are going to be very, very sorry you said that."
***Thank you for taking time with Oathtaker. I sincerely appreciate your votes and welcome your comments.***
Oathtaker is an award-winner in the 2014 Readers' Favorite International Book Award contest. A completed work, it is currently available in print form at CreateSpace at createspace.com/4767727, in print and for your Kindle on Amazon (see the link) and from Barnes and Noble for your Nook.
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An Oath Sworn. A Struggle Engaged. A Sacrifice Required. When Mara, a trained Oathtaker, is drawn by the scent of the Select to battle underworld beasts summoned by powers of evil to destroy the guardians of life, she swears a life oath for the prot...