“I can smell your bleeding heart from down the hall.”
Vardan looked up at the sound of the other man’s voice, unsurprised at the half smile on Donnemey’s face. His eyebrows were bent together, examining Vardan as he approached in the stone hall. It was such a familiar expression, this false confusion poorly painted over his amusement, that Vardan hardly registered it anymore. There was so much more to dislike about the man than the vaguely insulting lines of his face.
He met Donnemey’s eye dully. “What does it smell like?”
There was nothing in the dark. Kadelyn laid in bed and curled into a little ball, and tried to believe that. Eviene had said it was so, and Haldard had said it was so. Mother had said it was so, and even Father had that one time he’d found her still awake. But Father had come in the middle of the night to check on her, looking a little scared of the dark as well.
Kadelyn wanted to believe them, because they knew so very many things, but she heard things in the middle of the night.
Lord Brance slipped into the room quietly. Nodding to the servant waiting at the wall, he let the door settle shut behind him, and took a few steady steps across the flagstones. On a good day, he would have entered at a stride that would make a lion jealous, the door swinging on its hinges, and moved immediately to the center of the room. So, Winton concluded, today was not a good day.
Glancing over his shoulder, Winton began slowly closing his ledgers, some of the day’s reports still between the pages.
“Can I help you, my lord?” he asked calmly.
Brance continued his measured pacing around the other side of the pillars that ran down the long line of the room. “The rumor is that you needed my help,” he said pleasantly.
Winton finished closing the last book, stood, and turned to face him. Leaning back against the desk, he crossed his arms. Then he uncrossed them, set his hands beside him on the edge of the desk.