Dark Dealings

Dark Dealings by Kim Knox Read Free Book Online

Book: Dark Dealings by Kim Knox Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kim Knox
power she could. He was an elemental. Having...respect for anyone wasn’t in his nature. She needed him, needed his fearsome power to get what she wanted. So she ignored his gibe. “Tomorrow at the same time?”
    “I’ll be waiting.”
    The low thrum to his voice promised darkness and pleasure. She swallowed nervously. She was playing with old magic. But then her abilities came from the same source. She had to take courage from that.
    Ava turned without a backward glance, though her body ached for one last look at him, and she disappeared through the door. A silent, unseen ghost.
    The path to her room was empty of people and for that she was grateful. Her thoughts were a mess and she wanted only to focus on the slip of her shadowy form down the stone corridors.
    She had begun something from which she couldn’t back out. She’d waited too long for Reist. Milestone birthdays had passed. Sixteen. Eighteen. Twenty-one. Twenty-five. Half her life was gone. She expected something, some acknowledgement that what she felt burned in him too. She would live on a half look, the brush of his hand over hers, the way he leaned in to her as they’d drape themselves on a balcony and watch a naked Heyerdar in the arena.
    Ava closed the door to her room and leaned back against the cold wood.
    In the still darkness the familiar scents of stone, wool, leather and lavender washed over her. Her haven. Her place of peace. Maybe it was the relief of being in her room that had the darkness falling away from her. All her senses grew quiet, and the strain of living too sharp in the world eased. Despite all the insanity of Heyerdar and what she’d just agreed to do, she felt lighter, calmer, saner than she had in months.
    Well, not exactly sane. She’d bargained an illegal gain and use of power with an elemental. No, not exactly sane at all.
    She wished she’d been able to keep a little of Heyerdar’s power as she made her way across the room. A wave of her fingers and she could ignite a spark in the cold hearth or the wick of a tallow candle. But her empty soul had taken it all. Mage-light in her room was impossible. It itched against her thoughts...a temptation she’d never known how to eat. A smile tugged at her mouth. Now she did.
    As it was, she had to pull out her tinderbox and drop a spark over a fat candle on the grate. Golden light pushed at the shadows. Ava lifted the candle holder and picked past the dark lumps of furniture to the screen behind which her narrow cot was set.
    Her little room had none of the grandeur of Heyerdar’s chambers. That she had a room in the Institute at all was down to Reist. He saw the benefit of having a thief. She frowned, remembering Heyerdar’s words. Was she their pet? Records said no thief had been welcomed into the Hall of Mages in living memory. And mages lived a long time.
    Thieves were the enemy, the soul-stealers who wanted to drain every mage to a husk. Assassins for whoever would pay them, thieves were the lowest of the low. Untouchable and hated. That made Reist’s push for her to remain, be trained and provided for even more strange.
    It was what gave her hope.
    Ava put the candle on the little table beside her bed and stripped off her clothes, laying everything over her cedar chest. Her arms ached and she turned them to see bruises forming. She blushed at the hard marks she found on her hips.
    For a moment she closed her eyes. Heyerdar had taken her first kiss, and the burn of it, the taste of him on her tongue and lips, licked unexpected heat under her skin. It twisted in her gut that it should’ve been Reist. She’d imagined it. Too often. Had seen it as his right. One he’d refused.
    She usually took her daily orders from him in the round stone chamber in the east tower after they’d had tea on the balcony. Her fantasy had him looking up from one of the myriad scrolls that piled across his desk. The shaft of morning sun gilded his smooth features, casting a halo around his dark

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