She was six years old when they’d performed the procedure that removed her ability to love. She’d forgotten most of the feelings she’d had for her father, they seemed inconsequential now.
Grace realized without remorse that she hadn’t looked in the casket before they laid him into the ground.
No matter. But now Jack was dying too, and before she’d been able to finalize a relationship with him. A paying relationship, which would have kept her and her mother out of poverty.
She stepped over Jack’s body and paced the chapel, trying to think. Now that her mother had explained that a “lover” wasn’t someone you had to love, she had her pick of the town. Who could she target with her newfound wiles?
The monk who’d probably just killed Jack had power, at least with whatever he had used to strike down an armed soldier in a single weak swipe. But power wouldn’t pay the flower folk for the remedy that kept her alive.
Grace hugged herself, and the soft velvet of her bodice gave her an idea. She’d borrowed the dress from her aunt, who was married to the Earl’s bastard. If the Earl had royal cast-offs of this value, perhaps he was someone Grace should meet.
Her cousin Randall entered the chapel.
“Grace, where’ve you been? They’ve put the coffin in the ground, you should—“
He stopped, spotting Jack on the ground at the altar.
“What happened to Jack?”
Grace glanced at the prone man. “Oh, him. The monk wore some kind of dragon poison around his neck. I think he’s dying.”
Randall rushed forward to see for himself. The man’s shallow breathing was visible beneath his leather armor. A bright red cut marked his cheek. Randall gently pushed open the man’s eyelid to reveal a glassy, unfocused eye.
“They’re coming back,” Grace said, “The monks, I mean. That Brother Ignatius didn’t think much of me. We should probably get out of here before he returns.”
“Grace, you can’t just leave him here.”
“Why not? He’s of no use to me now.”
“But he’s with the royal army. They will have questions. They’ll want to talk to you.”
“Exactly. We need to go now. Why don’t we go visit your grandfather. I’ll bet he can help us.”
Randall eyed his beautiful, strange cousin with suspicion.
“That’s a day’s ride, and I don’t have a horse.”
“Then we’d best be on our way sooner, rather than later.“
She made her way towards the exit of the chapel and Randall followed behind.
“Grace, your dress is undone in the back.”
“Tie it up, would you?”
“What exactly happened here?”
“Don’t be a prude, cousin. Just tie the dress.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? I mean, I know you’ve had your feelings amputated or whatever, but your father is dead. Can’t you even pretend to care, just for decency’s sake?”
Her voice and stare were icy.
“My feelings were not ‘amputated.’ They were drained out of me so the flower folk could save me.” She cut him another withering look and turned her back to him so he could fasten the ties.
“Don’t worry, cousin. I have enough of the right kind of feelings to make this work.”