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Hope you enjoy!
(Chapter Two Cont’d)
“For what it’s worth,” Morgan added, “I had no choice—I acted on Isabeau’s command, and I deeply regret what happened. I’ll do what I can to help if you’ll allow me.”
“Do you expect that an apology can wipe out hundreds of years of armed conflict, or bring back the dead you killed?” Nikolas bit out. “Do you think I’m sorry helps their families cope with their losses?”
“No, of course not,” Morgan said quietly.
“We’ll never let you step foot on our land, much less risk you getting close to the king again. How do we know there really was a geas on you—or that it is truly broken? There’s no trust for you anywhere in Lyonesse, and no safety either.”
“Then I will have to do what I can to make amends from here.” Morgan turned to face Annwyn and Kathryn. “If you will let me.”
Kathryn held up her hands. “Hold on a minute. This conversation is moving much too fast for me.” She looked at Annwyn. “When you asked me to consult on Oberon’s condition, I told you no and the reasons for that haven’t changed. The time slippage between Earth and Lyonesse is so extreme, if I spent a few weeks in Lyonesse it would mean taking months away from my practice, and my duties here in the Wyr demesne—plus those few weeks would be no guarantee of anything. It would take that long just to get the opportunity to assess his condition for myself. Healing him could take much longer. In the end, I might not be able to do anything for him anyway.”
Annwyn’s lean jaw tightened as she listened. When she spoke, it was with a measured discipline piloted by an iron will. “That is why I wanted to talk with you in person. We understand what a substantial commitment this would take on your part, and we’re willing to discuss any terms of compensation that would help alleviate the challenges associated with this assignment.”
“Any terms of compensation,” Dragos murmured. His eyelids dropped, hiding the expression in that calculating gold gaze, while he rubbed his jaw with the back of one thumb.
Kathryn glared at him. She said telepathically, I blame you for this mess.
Sure, go ahead.
His tone was so clearly indifferent her exasperation deepened. Dragos, I can’t go. You have me on retainer. I have my rotation at the hospital. I can’t just drop those things because someone is stubborn enough to ask twice. Unfortunately, there are people all over the world who need healing, and I can’t help everybody. No doctor can.
Still rubbing his jaw, he raised sleek, black eyebrows and tilted his head first one way, then the other. Maybe it was in acknowledgment to what she said. Maybe he was weighing some internal issue in his head. She had no clue, and no time to query it, because Annwyn was speaking to her again, her tone quiet and urgent.
“Dr. Shaw, I understand you have your life here, and it is busy, complicated, and important.” Sharp green eyes speared her. “But this is a matter of truly immense meaning for an entire people. It’s not just about my cousin’s life, although that’s important too—and it isn’t just about Lyonesse. Our home is in danger. You’re talking about an entire community that may be displaced and become refugees if we don’t fix this. This is threatening to become an international crisis.”
Kathryn made the mistake of staring into Annwyn’s fierce gaze, and she found herself trapped. How could one man’s magical Power endanger an entire land and people? Thoughtfully, she glanced at Dragos, then at Morgan. Those two males—they held enough Power. They could cause that kind of damage.
Annwyn paused, giving her time to think, then murmured, “We have researched doctors. You are the best at what you do.”
Kathryn’s lips tightened. Every surgeon had her fair share of ego, but that was laying it on a bit too thick. “I am one of the best. Just one. There are others you could ask.”
“No one with your unique combination of sensitivities and skills,” the other woman insisted.
What did Annwyn mean by that? Frowning, Kathryn opened her mouth to ask, but Dragos spoke first. “How goes the war against Isabeau?”
Kathryn pursed her lips. Why had the dragon chosen to ask that now, of all times? Where had his calculating, wily mind gone in his deliberations?
Morgan rubbed his face and looked disgusted. Clearly he would rather be anywhere else than in the middle of a discussion about Isabeau. Annwyn’s attention shifted, and she watched the sorcerer closely.
Nikolas was the one who chose to answer. “Isabeau has had major setbacks. From all reports, Morgan wounded her severely when he broke free of her control. He also sent a large portion of the Light Court society into disarray when he attacked and killed Modred and destroyed her summer palace. She’s disappeared, and we haven’t yet been able to locate her, but we feel it is only a matter of time, especially if we can rouse Oberon from his comatose state.”
“I see,” Dragos replied. Everyone in the hall paused, waiting for him to make a point, or say something further, but he remained silent.
He was maddening. Truly, he was.
For a moment Kathryn fantastized about putting her hands around his neck and squeezing. She knew she couldn’t really hurt him, nor did she want to. But she did oh so mightily want to elicit a look of consternation from him in retaliation for all the times he had disconcerted her.
Then, as Annwyn swung around to face Kathryn again, Dragos said, “Isabeau is reputed to have quite a library of magic books, or so I’ve heard.” He looked at Morgan. “Did you ever see it?”
“No,” Morgan said drily. “She does have an extensive library, but she would never trust me enough to let me near it.”
“Give me a moment to consult with my physician, and kindly don’t kill each other while we’re at it.” Striding over to Kathryn, Dragos held out a hand, silently urging her to walk with him.
She obliged and followed him to the other side of the hall. During the course of the small journey, realization dawned. She said telepathically, You want Isabeau’s library, don’t you?
The sidelong look he gave her gleamed. Of course I do. If and when the Dark Court does defeat Isabeau, we can’t have her library out there waiting to fall into the wrong hands, can we? It needs to fall into my hands.
She bit back a smile. Naturally.
He cocked an eyebrow. Naturally. So, I have just one question to ask you—are you interested in doing this? Because if you are, I will back that decision, continue to pay you your retainer while you are gone, and negotiate with the Dark Court for the right to send a team after the library once they have finished dealing with Isabeau. If your answer is still no, there’s no need to discuss this any further.
She paused, narrowing her eyes at him. That’s a fair question, she said slowly. Before, I didn’t allow myself to consider it very seriously.
Dragos snapped his fingers. What’s the name of that young doctor on your surgical team?
Do you mean Angus?
Yes, that’s him. Angus could take over your rotation at the hospital and fill in with your other duties while you’re gone. He could be on call for the sentinels, if need be. He’s qualified enough—he fills in for you already, when you go on vacations. This would just be an extension of that.
She retorted, Are you saying I’m not as indispensible as I’d like to think?
Dragos said, I’m saying I want to know what you want to do, and I’ll support you either way—and I’ve got a way this can work for me if you do want to go. On a side note, there are things going on here in the New York demesne that you don’t yet know, mainly stemming from personal decisions that Pia and I have recently made. You’ll find out about that later, but my point is, here in the city things are going to be in flux anyway for the next year. If you want to make this trip, it can just be part of that flux.
She hesitated, then smiled as she admitted, Okay, to be honest, I think it sounds fascinating. It’s a medical puzzle and an adventure all at once. I’m curious about the spell Morgan concocted that would put Oberon in a vegetative state, and I’m interested to know if I can reverse his condition. And I’ve been meaning to travel back to England to visit Sophie and the property she inherited when she met the terms of my father’s will. So—yes, I would like to go.
Good enough. Dragos put a hand at her back. Now, let’s go make them pay for the privilege of your time and effort.
Suddenly amused, she murmured, They’re in genuine distress. Try not to gouge them too much, will you?
The corners of his mouth indented in a subtle smile. Well, they did offer.
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