Dance of the Gods Page 74

She smiled when she said it, so Blair ordered herself to relax. “They’re coming along.”

“My son speaks well of you.”

“Oh.” Blair looked back at Deirdre, cleared her throat. Relax, hell. “That’s good to know. Thank you. I was just looking for him. We need to do a little scouting.”

“He’s in the stables.” Deirdre gave Blair a long, quiet look. “Do you think I don’t know he shares your bed?” Before Blair could speak, could think to speak, Sinann made a sound that might have been muffled laughter.

“I’m his mother, after all,” Deirdre continued in that same mild tone. “I’m aware he’s shared beds of other women before you. But he’s never spoken to me of them, as he speaks of you. So that changes the matter. I’ll beg your pardon. From what he’s said, I believed you’d prefer plain speaking.”

“I do. I would. Oh boy, I’m sorry. I’ve just never had a conversation like this, and not with someone like you.”

“A mother?”

“For starts. I don’t want you to think I just share my bed with anyone who’s…” Could this be more embarrassing? Blair wondered as Deirdre simply continued to study her with what looked like amused interest. “He’s a good man. He’s, well, he’s an amazing man. You’ve done your job very well.”

“No compliment is dearer to a mother’s heart, and I certainly agree with you.” The amusement faded now. “This war comes to us, and he’ll do battle. I’ve never faced such a thing, so I have to believe, deep in my heart, that he does what he must, and will live.”

“I believe it, if that helps.”

“It does. I have other children.” Deirdre touched a hand to her daughter’s arm. “Another son, the husband of my daughter who is a son to me. I’ll have the same faith in them. But my daughter can’t fight like the women you teach.”

“The child is to be born before the yule,” Sinann told Blair. “My third. My children are too young to fight, and this one not yet born. How do I protect them?”

Blair thought of the crosses Hoyt and Glenna had made. She believed the others would agree Larkin’s pregnant sister should have one. “There’s a lot you can do,” Blair assured her. “I’ll help you.”

Now she turned to Deirdre. “But you shouldn’t worry about your daughter, your grandchildren. Your sons, your husband, my friends and I will never let what’s coming here get this far.”

“You give me peace of mind, and I’m grateful. We may not be able to fight, but we won’t be idle. There are many things women who are no longer young, and women who carry life, can do. We’ll do them. Now, you have work so we won’t keep you longer. Good day to you, and gods protect.”

“Thank you.”

Blair stood a moment, watching them walk away. Women with spine, she thought. Lilith was going to be so out of her league.

Satisfied, she hunted Larkin down in the stables where he was stripped down to the waist, slicked with sweat, and helping forge weapons.

Her mood only improved. What could be better than watching a half-naked, great-looking guy beat hot steel into a sword?

She could see they’d made a good start from the number of weapons set aside to cure. The anvil rang with hammer strokes, and smoke billowed as a red-hot blade was plunged into a vat of water.

Was it a wonder, she asked herself, that her mind clicked over to sex?

“Can I get one of those engraved?” she called out. “Something like: ‘To the woman who pierced my heart.’ Corny, yet amusing.”

He looked up, grinned. “You look like you’ve been rolling in the mud.”

“Have been. I was about to go clean up.”

He handed his hammer off to one of the other men, then picked up a cloth to scrub the sweat from his face as he walked to her. “We’ll have every man and woman in Geall armed by Samhain. Cian’s remark some time ago about beating the plowshares into swords isn’t that far off. Word’s gone out.”

“Good. It needs to. Can you break away from here?”

He used his finger to rub some of the mud from her cheek. “What did you have in mind?”

“A couple of flybys. Weather’s crappy, I know, but we can’t wait for sunshine and rainbows. I need to see the battlefield, Larkin. I need a firsthand look.”

“All right then.” He grabbed the tunic he’d discarded earlier and called out a quick stream of Gaelic to the men working behind them.

“They’ll push on well enough without me.”

“Have you seen Moira this morning?”

“Aye. We had a discussion, with considerable heat. Then cooled off and made up. She’s gone into the village to speak to people, the merchants. To bargain for more horses, wagons, supplies, whatever it is she’s scribbled down on her list of things we’ll need in the coming weeks.”

“It’s good thinking. And smart to make sure she’s seen after last night. Anyone who wasn’t there would have heard by now. The more visible she is, the better.”

In the coming weeks, Blair thought as she went inside to clean up, the shopping, list-making, supply-gathering were all something women like Deirdre and Sinann could deal with. Keep them busy, she mused. And keep the royal family visible.

She scraped off the mud, changed into a reasonably fresh shirt, then strapped on her standard weapons.

When she met Larkin in the courtyard, she took the sheaths for his sword, his stakes. “Got something for you.” She picked up the harness she’d set on the ground, slid the sheaths into the loops. “Put this together for you so you can carry your weapons when you’re zipping around up there.”

“Well, isn’t this fine!” He grinned like a kid presented with a shiny new red wagon. “This was thoughtful of you, Blair.” He leaned over to give her a kiss.

“Do your thing, and we’ll try it out.”

“I owe you a gift.” He kissed her again.

When he’d become the dragon, Blair looped the harness over his body, gave it a quick cinch. “Not bad, if I do say so myself.” She vaulted onto him. “Let’s fly, cowboy.”

She’d never get used to it. Even in the rain it was a thrill to feel the wonder of what was beneath her, and rise up and up. Into mists now, drenched with wet, that curtained the land below. It was like flying inside a cloud, she thought, where the sound was muffled and there was nothing but the flight.

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