The Blood Spell (Ravenspire, #4)(10)

She rolled her eyes. “I’ve known you backward and forward since we were kids. The only thing that still surprises me about you is how often others seem charmed by the things that come out of your mouth.”

He took a step closer to her, and she fisted her hands on her waist and tilted her head back to meet his gaze.

“Maybe people find me charming because I am charming.”

“Or maybe they act that way because you’re the prince, and they don’t want the consequences of getting on your bad side.”

He barked a laugh. “What consequences, Blue? If there were any, you’d have been locked in the castle dungeons years ago.”

“Hard to lock someone up for being right.”

“In your case, I would find it remarkably easy.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You know, you were named for Kellan the Great, the heroic warrior from the sea who arrived to rescue Balavata during desperate times centuries ago. Maybe that means nothing to you, but it means a lot to your people. Not the ones whose tables you sit at for tea or whose pretty little hands you hold while you dance at balls, but the ones who struggle each day just to find enough food to eat. They need a hero. Someone to rescue them. If you weren’t so busy trying to get yourself killed with your pranks and your dares, maybe you’d see that.”

The words he’d marshaled in his head to throw in her face dissolved, and he took a small step back from her as Gen came out of the mansion, her wide smile lighting up her face.

Maybe Blue was right. Maybe the ordinary citizens of Balavata needed a hero. But Kellan wasn’t a hero, and he knew it. He was a pawn in a political game that was centuries older than he was. He was a piece of meat to be fought over by the head families who hungered for the power of the throne.

He was all that stood between his family and the wolves snapping at their door, and he couldn’t lose focus on that for an instant. Not even to prove Blue wrong about the man she thought he’d become.


BLUE WAS EXHAUSTED by the time she returned to the farmhouse she shared with Papa. The deliveries had taken her the rest of the afternoon. She was annoyed that one of those deliveries had included a conversation with Kellan. He was still insufferable. Probably still planning some sort of stupid, risky adventure for the fun of it, regardless of the consequences.

And definitely none of her business. Not anymore. She washed her hands of him, his charming smile, and his reckless nonsense.

A shiver went up Blue’s spine as far to the west of the city, the iron bells closest to the blood wraith’s fae prison rang, a faint discordant melody that traveled through the perfect funnel created by the road that cut through the hills.

Sometimes she went months without hearing the bells. Sometimes they rang every day. The sound didn’t carry throughout the entire city, but those who lived on the western fringes, like Blue, heard it often enough. It was a stark reminder that even though the wraith Marielle was locked away, no one had figured out how to kill her, and so no one felt truly safe.

And it was a stark reminder of the woman on the market stage and what was at stake for Blue if she wasn’t more careful.

Lanterns cast a welcoming glow in the front windows as Blue turned up the little lane that led to the farmhouse.

The farmhouse was painted a warm yellow with white trim. Flower boxes filled with cat’s paws, pansies, dalliosas, and a sprinkling of wildflowers hung beneath the downstairs windows, and two large pots with herb gardens growing in them graced the wide front porch. Ivy climbed up one of the porch pillars and covered half of the veranda, and a wildly overgrown garden hugged the sides of the house. Blue had always thought it looked like the house had sprung out of the ground from a seed, just like the garden that surrounded it.

A dark streak launched itself off the porch and raced toward her. She laughed as her cat twined himself around her legs, managing to look furious with her for leaving him behind for the day even as he purred his joy at her return.

“Good evening, Pepperell, my handsome boy. Did you get into plenty of trouble today while I was gone?” Blue crouched to run her hand over Pepperell’s fur.

His body bore the testament to his younger days as a street brawler before Blue had found him injured in the alley behind their shop and nursed him back to health. His gray fur always looked slightly unkempt, with a longer strip of brilliant white tracing the scar that started at his mouth, moved over his cheek, and ended where his left eye should’ve been. The tip of his right ear was missing, and one of his front teeth refused to stay hidden when he closed his mouth, but Blue thought he was beautiful, and Pepperell knew it.

Pepperell meowed as if to affirm that he had indeed been in plenty of trouble while his mistress was away, and then together they entered the farmhouse.

The inside of the house was neat and comfortable. Rich chocolate-brown floors scarred from years of use met walls painted a cheerful sage green, and darker green curtains hung on either side of the windows. The small entrance area met a hallway that bisected the downstairs and led to the kitchen, the office, the privy, and the sitting room. A set of simple stairs off to the right led to the second story, where the three bedrooms were located and then on to the small garret in the attic.

Blue sat on a bench in the entrance and switched her walking boots for her gardening boots, careful not to let the mud that had dried on them the night before get on Papa’s clean floors. The smell of roasted fike and parslied turnips filled the air, and Papa poked his head out of the kitchen down the hall as Blue picked up her gathering basket.

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