Wolfe's P.O.V. from 'the market' scene in Slumber

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The seller blanched at the title I’d given her, turning to peruse Rogan more closely. “Oh my lady, I meant no disrespect.”

As if that would suffice for almost bruising her with his greedy eagerness to entice more money out of her? “Lady or servant, I see you trying to forcefully coerce a woman again and you and I will have words.”

His pallor grew chalky. Good. “Apologies, my Lord. I was over excited. It won’t happen again. Apologies, my lady.”

“I’m not a lady,” Rogan suddenly snapped and I glanced down at her to find her glaring at me. Although I’d give anything for a soft, come-hither smile from that lush mouth of hers, I was so used to her glare I was almost inured to it.

Almost.

Sometimes I provoked her —alright, more than sometimes—just to rattle her cage a little the way she rattled mine, but today I’d actually been acting the gentleman. I had no idea what I’d done to deserve her attitude now.

Oh yes. Right. I was a Stovia.

I hope you’re burning in some fiery pit somewhere, father, I really bloody do.

“You, sir, are a bully.”

I was a bully? I was? Dear God, the girl needed a mental examination. This man had been accosting her, but I was the bully. I glowered back at her, antagonized and in the mood to bedevil her. She hated to be called ‘The Handmaiden’— I knew it as surely as I knew the rhythm of my own heartbeat. I also knew she feared forgetting her roots. I could coddle those feelings or I could irritate her.

I irritated her. I called her the Handmaiden every chance I got. And I reminded her of her new station in life. Not just to annoy her though. To re-emphasize a point that needed re-emphasizing:

Rogan was a lady. She belonged in my world now.

Frowning, I replied with enough hauteur and condescension to vex her, “And you, girl, are the Handmaiden of Phaedra and as such a lady. You are not to allow strange men to touch you.”

You are not to allow any man to touch you.

I shook out the troubling thought of this morning and her preening to that oaf of a stable boy, Jarek.

Disdain was clear in the curl of her lip as she tilted her head back to look at me. “I’ll allow a mountain man of Alvernia to touch me before I take advice from you, Stovia.”

The emphasis on my name caused a cold wash of fury to pour through my veins. I clenched my jaw and turned away as she ordered fabric from the seller. Taking a few deep breaths, I tried to recover an ounce of professionalism.

It would be so much easier to hate her as she hated me.

Instead I’d been captivated by her as a boy. I’d loved the way she moved with such abandon compared to the faux air of ‘gliding’ that all the well-polished young girls of the court had adopted. I loved her huge dark eyes that hid nothing of what she was feeling. I’d felt lost for her when she arrived at the palace with such grief in them, and I’d grown easier as months passed and I’d gotten to see her smile.

I’d thought it mere enchantment, a sort of distant affection for her. But as the years passed, as I watched her closely, as I grew to know through her actions towards others how strong and fierce and loyal and kind she was, I began to realize there was no one else like her in this world.

I’d been standing in the main courtyard of the palace when I was seventeen, talking to a friend and fellow soldier while we took a break from training, when a commotion drew our gazes. One of the young lords, Niall Tromskin had just pushed Valena, the young healer my father had abducted years before, over in the courtyard for some reason. Some boys were laughing, others admonishing him, and I’d just been about to stride across there and teach the little shit a lesson when Rogan had appeared out of nowhere. My breath had caught at the sight of her. At fourteen she was already developing the figure of a woman, her tall strides causing gently curved hips to sway under the light fabric of her dress. Her eyes blazed with retribution, her long dark hair billowing behind her like a banner in battle. With not one word, without any hesitation, she reached Niall, drew back her fist and slammed it into his face. The bully had howled in pain, falling to his knees in utter agony. Amazed, I’d watched as Rogan calmly knelt down to Valena and picked the little girl up, her arms curling around her in maternal protection. She’d shot the remaining boys a look that warned of dire consequences if any of them tried to hurt Valena again, and led the girl away, smiling brightly down at her, trying to replace the tears with laughter.

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