Feel the Burn Page 42

“King Gaius,” Branwen went on with a large smile. “It’s good to see you, as always.”

“You, too, dear Branwen.”

“Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to beat my brother to death.”

Kachka watched Branwen walk out and head toward the stairs.

“She will not really beat him to death,” Kachka felt the need to explain.

“You sound disappointed.”

Kachka shrugged. “I do not know if disappointed is right word, but it is close. . . .” She stared at him. “Did I give you enough entertainment before you go to bed?”

“Yes. You did. And it was amazing.”

“Now sleep. No one will bother you in this room. The sheep never come to this room.”

“Sheep? You call the servants sheep?”

“What would you have me call them?”

“People?”

Kachka waved that suggestion away and walked to the door. “Sleep well, royal.”

“No kiss good-night?”

She walked into the hallway, shaking her head. “Males. All of you are pathetic.”

“But you can’t blame us for trying.”

She smirked. “I blame males for all things. You deserve no less. Now sleep, dragon. And try not to burn house down with flame-y snores.”

Kachka closed the door, and Gaius stretched back out on the bed, arms above his head.

He was just starting to drift off when he realized something—Kachka Shestakova was really adorable when she was torturing others.

Zoya Kolesova finished writing her note on the parchment. Once done, she opened the top of her leather travel bag and smiled down at the white crow staring up at her.

“Hello, my lovely,” she cooed to the bird. She reached in and carefully removed it. While she held it in one hand, she used her other hand to wrap the note around its leg and secured it.

She then kissed the bird on its head for luck and set it free. It headed north and Zoya watched it until it disappeared.

Pleased, she set off back to that giant house that the royals lived in. Such fanciness the Southlanders needed to survive.

Zoya made it past the trees and that’s when she saw Kachka and Elina Shestakova. It seemed life in the Southlands had been good for poor little Elina. A solid hunter, that one, but worthless in battle.

“Ho, comrades!” Zoya called out, waving when they slowly turned to face her. “Off to the pub?”

When Kachka didn’t reply, Elina bumped her with her shoulder. “Yes. We are going to pub to meet with others.”

“Good! I will join you! I could use drink!”

Kachka made a strange noise, but she was always making strange noises. Zoya ignored it. It was probably a defect of some kind, but no reason her mother should have gotten rid of her at birth or anything.

Zoya stepped between the sisters and threw her arms around their shoulders.

“The witches here are great. I feel better already from the skills of that white-haired one.”

“Really?” Kachka Shestakova sighed out. “That is so wonderful.”

“Is it not?” Zoya asked, hugging the women tighter. Nothing meant more to Zoya than the bond of her tribeswomen. Why, though, Kachka had brought along that useless boy and the evil witch, she didn’t know. But she wouldn’t argue with her. Not when drinking was about to begin!

Chapter Twelve

They found the others in a pub not far from the main house. Kachka wanted to ease in and sit down at the table with the others without being noticed, but that was impossible with Zoya by their side. Not simply because of her size, which was daunting enough, but because as soon as she walked in, she announced, “Hello to the sheep of the Southlands! Zoya is here!”

Kachka was just spinning around, about to tell the big oaf to shut her mouth and go the hells back to the Outerplains, when Elina caught her shoulder and shoved her toward the table.

With a sigh, Kachka sat down and, in their native tongue, said, “As you can see, Zoya feels better.”

“Yay,” they all weakly said, though Ivan didn’t even bother.

“I know you are all glad to see me! And I am glad to see all of you, my comrades!”

Zoya dropped into a chair, the wood creaking.

Once they were settled, Ivan Khoruzhaya leaned in and asked, “Why are we here, Kachka Shestakova?”

Zoya slammed her fist on the table, startling everyone in the room but the Riders. “Do not question her, useless boy!”

Ivan began to say something, but Kachka cut him off. “Wait.” She couldn’t afford to lose Ivan, and Zoya would twist him until he was nothing but flesh and shattered bones.

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