Her Dark Reflection
‘After today, you’ll be living in the palace,’ he said, eating up that sensible distance I had just erected with a few steps. ‘Are you ready?’
I turned to him, looking up at him from under my lashes. By the time he had knocked on my door an hour earlier, his arms full of boxes of clothes, I had long since made up my mind to seduce him. I had flushed as I’d pulled on the clocked stockings and white chemise that I sported beneath the gown I now wore, wondering if he’d imagined what I would look like in them.
I traded in desire, but usually not my own. I had felt it before, of course, but this was disconcertingly intense. I felt like there was too much blood in my body, keeping my skin perpetually flushed and sensitive. It was inconvenient, especially since everything about him suggested that I needed to be on my guard. Fortunately, the solution to lust was usually a tumble between the sheets, and once my curiosity was sated, the desire went with it. I would have him, and then my head would clear.
He held my gaze and leaned forwards a little. I tilted my head, my breath coming faster. The smell of him was heady, rattling my senses like a stiff drink.
Then, he smirked. ‘Get your head on straight. Enchantment or no, you’re about to enter a den of vipers. Your wits need to be sharp.’
I let out my breath in a huff, flushing scarlet as I stormed away from him, heading straight for the door, mentally chastising myself as I did. Stupid little idiot. I wasn’t some maiden, to be played by a cunning knave.
‘Rhiandra,’ he called as I placed my hand on the doorknob, and I looked back at him, schooling my expression into one of blasé detachment.
‘Have you forgotten something?’ He gestured at the mirror over the fireplace and I scowled at it for a few moments, hating it, before slowly walking over to it. I gritted my teeth and braced myself as I stepped before the glass.
The beautiful girl in the small mirror on the dressing table was not the one that greeted me now. Staring back at me was my ruined face, the one that haunted my nightmares. All I wanted to do was get away from the sight, to run from this heinous reminder of what had happened to me, but I stood waiting. The feeling of phantom fingers brushed over me, over my scars, and my skin went strangely numb, then flushed ice cold. As soon as the sensation of cold had faded, I backed away from the fireplace, glancing at the regular mirror on the dressing table to make sure I was still whole and gleaming there. It seemed a particular kind of cruelty that the enchantment now woven into my mother’s mirror revealed my true face even as it hid it. I would be forced to look on my scars whenever I refreshed the glamour, and I wondered whether it was an intentional cruelty.
‘You can’t forget while you’re in the palace.’ Draven was still, his gaze sharp as he watched me. ‘Don’t wait until your time is almost up before you refresh the glamour.’
‘My, how lucky I am to have your sage wisdom supplementing my poor feminine brain,’ I snapped, my lip curled with sarcasm, begging for a rise, but he remained as impassive as a stone wall. ‘What happens if I meet a druthi? Won’t they see the glamour?’
‘You’ve nothing to fear from druthi. You could crack one over the head with your mirror and he wouldn’t understand what it is. A bunch of incompetent parasites.’ There was something in the way he said this, a simmering anger that drew my attention.
‘How can you be sure?’ I said. ‘They burn people every month for unsanctioned magic use. If they catch me—’
‘They won’t.’ He sounded irritated now. ‘Trust me, Rhiandra.’
‘I don’t trust you.’
He tilted his head and offered a vicious smile. ‘And yet, here you are.’
I sighed with frustration and turned for the door again. He was taking up too much space in this too-small room and I was ready to be out of it.