Night Study (Soulfinders #2) - Maria V. Snyder Page 0,1

way.” Valek let go of my hands.

“Uh-huh. Mighty nice of you.”

“I aim to please.” He leered, but it soon turned into a more contemplative expression.

As I gathered my clean clothes and soap, Valek picked up the vial of moon potion.

“What about this?” he asked.

“If stress has delayed me, then I should drink it afterward like Healer Hayes instructed.”

His brow puckered. “How long does it last?”

“A year, but I usually take it about a month before the year is up just to be safe.”

“Is it a hundred percent effective?”

Odd questions, but I humored him. “No. For some, it doesn’t work, but I’ve been taking it for eight years now without a problem.” Until now.

“Oh.” He set it on the top of the dresser. “What if you wish to have a child sooner?”

“Don’t you know all this?”

“No. We use different substances in Ixia.”

“In that case, there is another potion called starlight that reverses the effects of the moon potion.”

Valek stilled. “How fast?”

“I think it’s within hours. I’m not sure. Why all this interest?”

“Just curious.”

There was something in the taut line of his body that caused me to suspect there was more to it than mere curiosity. But I decided to let it go. Besides, after lying in bed recovering for the past four days, I really needed that bath. And a change of scenery. The bedroom I’d been occupying had bland yellow walls, a single bed, night table, dresser and no decorations.

Valek escorted me down to the ground floor. The farmhouse had plenty of rooms, which was probably why Owen had bought it for his base of operations. The complex of stables, barns and other structures hid his movements from public view while the large chain-link fence kept curious neighbors from stopping by for a visit. Not that there were many people around. The farm was in a remote area in the northern part of the Moon Clan’s lands, near the border with Ixia.

“What’s the closest town?” I asked Valek. I’d been tied down under a tarp while being transported here, so I’d counted towns by the vibrations from the wagon wheels trundling over the cobblestones, guessing we were three towns east of Lapeer.

“Broken Bridge is just west of here.”

I glanced at him. “Interesting name.”

“An accurate name. There was a bridge spanning the Sunworth River at that location, but a flood cracked it in half a long time ago. One half floated down the river, but the other remains on the far bank. No one remembers the real name of the town.”

“How do you know all this?”

He grinned. “I’ve been talking to the locals. Mostly to discover how long Owen’s been here, if they’d seen any other strangers around town and if they know about other places he might own. Town gossip can be very informative.”

When we reached the washroom, I sighed in contentment when I spotted the glowing coals under a large metal tank. Hot water was just an open valve away. An oval tub sat in the middle of the stone washroom. A row of hooks lined the wall above a bench. Towels had been stacked in a cabinet next to it.

Valek filled the tub while I peeled off my sweat-stiffened tunic. The crisp air caused goose bumps to coat my skin. It was just two weeks into the warming season, and while each day would be a bit warmer than the last, it would be another month before I wouldn’t need a cloak during the day. Nights would remain cool well into the warm season.

The rest of my clothing soon joined my tunic on the floor. Before I could even shiver, Valek wrapped me in an embrace. Warmth enveloped me and I gazed up into his eyes. He swooped in for a kiss. I hooked my arms around his neck and laced my fingers in his shoulder-length black hair, deepening the kiss. My worries melted as heat spread throughout my body.

Too soon, he pulled back. “Your water’s getting cold.”

“I’m not the one still wearing clothes.”

Regret flashed across his face. “I’ve a few things to take care of before we leave tomorrow.”


He silenced my protest with another kiss. “Tonight. I promise.”

After he left, the cold rushed in with a vengeance. I grabbed a towel and my supplies and hurried to the tub, setting the items on a nearby table. Steam curled from the water and I stepped into bliss, sighing as I submerged up to my neck. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the soak until my worries once again