Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton Read Free Book Online

Book: Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jo Walton
Tags: Fiction, General, Fantasy fiction, Fantasy, Brothers and sisters, Dragons
serve you?” Selendra asked. “Would you care to take breakfast with us?”
    “Thank you, Respected Agornin. I should be delighted.”
    Selendra turned and the two of them made their way up towards the heights of the establishment. When the corridor broadened so they could walk abreast, Frelt immediately took advantageof this to come up to her side. He smiled at Selendra again, hoping she noticed the strength and evenness of his teeth. She did not smile back, but regarded him gravely. “Is there anything wrong?” she asked. “We were not expecting to see you today.” The only thing she could imagine might have brought him was the irregularity over the funeral, which she knew her brothers would not want to discuss with any stranger, least of all Frelt.
    “Respected Agornin, nothing is wrong, nothing at all. I just came once again to pay my respects to your family and to see if I might serve you in your time of grief.” This speech was so bland it could have been made by any parson to any recently bereaved young maiden, but Frelt softened it with another smile, this one much less natural.
    Selendra took him literally, and was confused. “We welcome you, of course, but my brother Penn is still here if we needed a parson, and the funeral is over and I don’t see that there is anything you
    “I came to pay my respects to you, Selendra,” Frelt said, whirling his dark eyes at her a little in a way that was quite unmistakable. “As you are going away soon and there is little time, I did not want to wait.”
    For all that Frelt was a country parson, he had spent some little time in society in Irieth, and he usually considered himself a more sophisticated dragon than those around him. He knew this was not behavior that would be condoned by society, and this was not at all how he had behaved when he had made an offer for Berend. But time was not on his side, and he wanted to seize his opportunity. They would soon be returning to the drier and more inhabited portion of the establishment and he did not know when he might have time alone with Selendra again. Also, he had been thinking so much and with such concentration on his plan that hehad almost forgotten that Selendra had never thought of him in the light of a lover, indeed that she had seldom thought of him at all. He wanted to have matters arranged between them before he began to speak to her brothers.
    Selendra stopped dead, unable to misunderstand him, and most especially the use of her personal name, but so completely astonished at his declaration that she could no longer control her legs. Frelt, not anticipating this, took another step and almost tripped over her tail.
    “Do you think you might come to care for me?” Frelt asked, recovering himself, leaning close to her, looking into her eyes and putting his claw on her arm.
    For Selendra this was close to a nightmare. No male dragon but her father and brothers had ever been so close. The corridor was dark and confining, and more than slightly damp. She had never known Frelt well, but she had always disliked him, thinking him nothing like good enough for Berend. He leaned closer still, leaning on her, well aware that she was a maiden dragon and could be awakened to love by such closeness. He had intended to use argument, but now that he felt her close, he was almost overpowered himself by the scent of her.
    Selendra felt her wings rising, though there was no room for them. They brushed the cobwebs at the top of the passage. She clapped them back to her sides, and in so doing she regained the use of her senses and could back away from him a step or two.
    “I am sensible of the honor you do me, but my answer is no,” Selendra said, delivering the set speech all maiden dragons are taught to deliver, but in terrified tones. “Never speak to me of this again,” she said, as firmly as she dared, backing slowly away from him.
    “I have a fine parsonage in the mountains, and am parson ofsix demesnes,”

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