“I can’t help, but wonder why you’ve been wanting to see me, your Highness,” I said tentatively. I had a vague idea and the way she looked at me only affirmed it, but that still didn’t explain why she’d called upon me of all people. Sure, I’d done everything to gain her attention and the daughter heir of Helos was known to pick her favorites among the Watch, but that wasn’t all of it. Her words all but encouraged me to speak openly and who was I to deny her?
For a moment, she was silent, studying my face intently.
“I think both of us know very well why you’re here,” she finally said and I knew we were done with the niceties, done pretending. Her voice was firm and serious, lacking anything that had let her appear girlish before. It seemed to fall off her like a mask when she reached out for me, carefully running her fingers over the bruise along my jaw line. Whatever Damian had put on it, had reduced the swelling, but it still stood out clearly against my fair skin, as the rain had washed off his efforts to conceal it.
“Take off your shirt,” she said curtly.
“What? Why?” This time I didn’t need to fake surprise. This was definitely going a tad fast for my taste.
“Just do it,” she commanded, making it clear that she wouldn’t be disobeyed.
I opened my mouth to say something, but then remembered where I was, alone with the heiress of the godsdamn Empire and Naerya was nowhere in sight. Even if she was, what would she have said?
Letting out a breath, I started to unbutton my shirt. Shrugging out of it still hurt and I knew better than to bend down and pick it up from where it had fallen to the ground.
It took me a lot not to back away as Dawnelle ran her delicate hands over my torso, examining the miasma of bruises that riddled my chest. She made a disapproving sound and my breath hissed sharply through my teeth when she exerted pressure on my ribcage.
“What’s he making you tell everybody? Training accident?” she asked abruptly, looking at me with eyes that suddenly sparkled with anger, before she sighed and her hazel eyes suddenly filled with something close to compassion.
“I’m sorry I drew attention on you and your friend this morning, but you seemed to have it coming with Valyr from the beginning. He hates you very much, doesn’t he?”
I merely looked at her, not comprehending.
“Dahlia tells me what he does and before you ask, yes I know that she works for him, but she’s loyal to me. Nothing about this night will leave either of our lips.”
“Uh…I’m sorry…your Highness?”
What I really wanted to say was: What the fuck is going on here, but given my position I decided to mind my manners, waiting for something to actually make sense to me tonight.
“Who are you trying to kid here, Raphael?” she said, rather exasperated. “Okay, let’s talk freely here. You look like a smart guy, so I’ll make this easy for you. Let’s just say we both have a common enemy and I want your help in acquiring some…information.”