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“She is very attractive, isn’t she?”

Torisen had summoned Brier to his study, but now he stood facing the window, as if he couldn’t stand the sight of her. And how was she supposed to answer his question?

Should she offer apologies? Assure him that she still served the Knorth, still served him, even if it was through his sister? It had never been Brier’s way to make such feeble excuses.

Or was she supposed to describe the deadly grace of Jame’s movements, the way it made Brier’s mouth go dry, only partly in terror, to see Jame’s eyes snap suddenly from gray to silver? The dark, heavy length of her unbound hair, seldom glimpsed, and more astonishing for that? The ruthless grip with which Jame held Brier’s life, and the knowledge that not even death would ever slacken it?

“Highlord,” said Brier.

He turned and sat at his desk, no longer refusing to look at Brier, though he wouldn’t meet her eye for long. When he did, there was a rage there that would have staggered her if she had still been bound to him; even now, she could feel the barely-contained power of it, like a tremor in the earth. That was what Kendar of other houses didn’t realize about the Highlord, what Brier found so hard to understand, even after serving the Knorth for years. Lord Caineron would never have made any attempt to hold such a rage in check. What was the point of refusing a weapon?

“I’m sorry,” said Torisen. “My issue is with my sister, not with you. I’ll deal with her soon, but I wanted to make sure you knew--I owe you a place in my House. Whichever place you choose. That hasn’t changed.”

“Thank you, my--Highlord,” said Brier, discomfited both by his generosity and her sudden insight: it wasn’t only rage he was holding in check, but pain. She had hurt him. An absurd thought, from Kendar to Highborn. She should have felt contempt for such weakness, or fear of his retaliation, but she didn’t. “It was only--I needed her, and she was there.”

He gave a wry, bitter laugh. “Yes. I have had much the same experience. If she mistreats you--” Torisen broke off with a shrug. “Well, you’re hardly going to come crying to me about it, are you? Good luck, ran. And please tell my sister that I want to speak with her.”