I leaped up and embraced him as the lid banged down. He pressed his lips hotly to mine and in the dark room with the cheerful noise of the evening drinkers serenading us, we kissed until I thought I would dissolve into him.

Then I caught my breath and drew back, peering at him in the darkness, him and his annoyingly handsome face and the strange wisp-light in his beautiful eyes. My hands stroked the buttons and fine chains of embroidery woven down the front of the dash jacket he wore. My fingers itched to undress the man I loved. “Vai, how did you escape…?”

Fear squeezed my heart.

“Let me see your navel,” I said.

He laughed, but it was not Vai’s laugh. His smile cut like contempt, and although he looked exactly like Vai, his gaze was as hard as stone. “I have come to warn yee, maku. We don’ want yee here. Yee cut a path through what was closed. Elsewise that one shall not have taken blood from this country.”

“But aren’t you a spirit from the spirit world, too? Ruled by the courts?”

“Think yee so? The other land be plenty vast and ’tis not all the same. If yee reckon to force a path from this land back to them, then I promise yee, we shall eat yee before yee can get there. For yee have no right to trample here in places yee know nothing of and don’ own.”

He vanished in a hissing patter like the scatter of sand melded with the scent of overripe guavas. That, too, dissipated, leaving me with no light, trembling hands, and the burning memory of his mouth on mine. I sank onto the bed Vai had built for us and for the longest time I could not move, until the door opened and Rory squeezed in.

“Cat? What is it? I could smell your tears.”

He stretched out beside me, saying nothing more. Soothed by the comfort of his presence, I slept.

I woke at dawn, rumpled and mussed, because I had slept in my clothes. Rory was gone, nor had I any idea how long he had stayed with me. I straightened my pagne and blouse and hurried downstairs to do my business and tidy up. The little lads and lasses were lined up, ready to march off hand in hand to school. I gave them each a kiss and promised to buy them a sweet even though I had no money and no idea how to get hold of the money Vai had been given by the mansa.

The opia’s warning haunted me as I ate an orange and considered my options. Yet it was easier to move than to sit, so I went out to walk the old neighborhood. I returned from visiting my friends on Tailors’ Row to find Rory sitting on a bench with Luce giggling on his knee.

I marched over to them and dragged her off. “That is enough of that!”

She set fists on hips. “I’s sixteen this year. Old enough to know me own mind!”

“Rory, if you do anything with her I would not approve of, I shall castrate you.”

He drew himself up, affronted, but before he could speak, I pressed a hand to his chest. “How did you get Vai’s jacket?”

“The general gave it to me on Hallows’ Night. After we retreated back to the big house. It was generous of him to take me away from the ball court, considering some of those Taino soldiers were beginning to look at me like they thought they would have to try to kill me. My other clothes were all ripped and torn. Then after I had dressed, this woman came, quite shrieking, I must tell you, Cat, for it made my ears hurt. Afterward she had the nerve to put her hand on my-”

“I can guess.”

“After the way she complained, I can’t imagine why she would think I would want to be petted by her!”

“How did the bed and the chest get here?”

“I don’t know everything, Cat! I can’t imagine why you expect me to! Someone else came, and there was a great deal of argument but at that moment I was down in one of the guardrooms very involved with-”

“With something I obviously don’t need to know. Luce! Go help your grandmother!”

With a mulish grimace, she trudged off, casting glances back over her shoulder.

“I was sure you would not mind if I wore the jacket since I had otherwise nothing but a sack.”

“No, that’s fine. I suppose Sanogo must have sent the bed and chest over here.”

The sound of horse hooves and carriage wheels drawing up outside made me turn. There came a silence, then the bang of a door shut impatiently. A dark head looked in through the partly open gate.

“There you are, dearest! Is this truly where you stayed all that time? How very quaint.”

Bee wore the jacket embroidered with axes and a pagne so spotless a snowy white that I winced with each of her steps for fear some tiny smattering of dust would kick up to stain it.

“How very fortunate I was to land here,” I retorted, refraining from shrieking and throwing my arms around her. “How did you know I was here? Did Sanogo send word?”

“Really, Cat! Why must you ask questions to which the answer is self-evident? The general stole my sketchbook, but fortunately I dreamed about you last night. Where is Vai?” She looked about with curiosity and just a smidgen of irritating condescension, but she was my Bee, after all. I had to forgive her that.

I had to, because her expression altered as her eyes widened and her voice dropped to a whisper hoarse with genuine alarm. “What happened?” Reaching me, she grasped my hands tightly.

Behind, at the gate, a pair of Taino guards appeared to stand at attention. Rory put an arm around Luce, Uncle Joe set a machete on the counter for them to see he was armed, and Aunty Djeneba politely ventured forward to offer the soldiers juice from a cup, which they politely accepted as a sign of their peaceful intentions.

I met Bee’s gaze, as she met mine. “My sire is Master of the Wild Hunt. He killed the cacica for the sacrifice. And then he took Vai.”

Her grip crushed my fingers. “Did he kill him?”

“He carried him away alive. Now it is up to me to get him back.” I shook off her grip. “Bee, you really must allow me to introduce you to everyone. Do you have some exalted title now with which I must address you? Your Fragrant Pompousness, perhaps?”

“Nothing so splendid. Your Exalted Magnificence will do.”

“Noble Ba’al, Bee. Are you really a queen now, like the didos of old?”

“I am something better. I can walk the dreams of dragons, and because of the very clever thinking of my dearest cousin, I know where to hide on Hallows’ Night to escape the Wild Hunt. That means there are a great many things I’ve always wanted to do I’ll now have time for.”

“Like what?”

“Where do I start? Revolutions to plot. Enemies to crush. Handsome men to rescue.”

I actually laughed, because she heartened me so. “But what about you, Bee? What happened to you?”

“Blessed Tanit!” she said portentously. It seemed she had reassured herself that I was for the moment safe, for she turned to look around the courtyard and include every person there in the axe-blow of her smile. “I can scarcely wait to tell you the tale!”

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