This week’s work-in-progress piece comes from Pathway of the Moon. In this section, Leo is scheming with Deira on how to get rid of the man Kiarhsu sent with them on their mission, and things don’t go quite as planned.

~~~

LEO eyed the man Kiarhsu had sent with them. Clearly, Kiarhsu hadn’t been taking any chances with this. Short of knocking the man out and portaling him to some place very far away, Leo had tried everything to lose the man. But Foren was smart and determined in addition to being massive. If they were going to get rid of him, then extreme measures would have to be taken.

Which was why he was now sitting across from the man, staring over a roaring fire and figuring out what to do. He couldn’t take the man by surprise here. Foren wasn’t dumb enough to let Leo get the upper hand here, where he was expecting it. He sighed. At least the man wasn’t paying close attention to the conversations he had with Deira. Which meant she could help him out.

He leaned over and tugged her into his lap, keeping his eye on Foren. The man rolled his eyes but didn’t stop them. Amadeira squirmed in his lap, and he caught the irritation in her brief glance. Well, she’d get over it when he told her what he had in mind. Leaning in, he made a show of flicking the tip of his tongue over the shell of her ear, gaining a furious hiss from Amadeira and a flat look from Foren. He tightened his grip on Amadeira and dropped a kiss to her neck before moving back up to place an open-mouthed kiss right beneath her earlobe. She couldn’t get much stiffer, and he fought down the apology. Finally, Foren looked away and grumbled something about not making a man look at what he couldn’t have. As soon as Foren had looked away, he eased up on the public display of affection and whispered in Amadeira’s ear. “We have to get rid of him. I need you to make an excuse to go into the woods a little ways. Then make some sort of noise that he can’t miss. I’ll take it from there.”

She bit her lip and wiggled in his grip. “L-leo, I need to relieve myself. P-please, may I?”

If he hadn’t seen the briefest flicker of a smile, he would’ve assumed she was terrified to ask. Foren’s sharp gaze settled on them again. Leo shrugged and let her go, forcing a grimace onto his lips. “Hurry up. And don’t think this gets you a pass on tonight.”

Foren grunted but didn’t try to stop Amadeira when she rose and hurried toward the bushes surrounding the clearing where they’d camped. He watched her go in silence before returning his attention to Leo. “You can drop the act. I know you’re soft with her.”

Leo raised a brow.

“Good thing she’s naturally submissive.” Foren folded his arms.

“There’s more than one way to train a dog.” He bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from taking back the words. He needed to sound callous, like one of the other Ishtralian men. Not like himself. Not like someone who cared.

“You think I’m stupid, Ryalin?”

“Not particularly, no.”

“Then don’t disrespect me by treating me like it. We’ve all seen the way you look at her. Like she’s your whole Rith-cursed world. Don’t know how she managed to gain such a high position, but I’ve almost never seen a man among us look at his woman that way.”

“So? Is there a problem with it? I find that humanizing her makes her feel cherished. Then she wants to obey, and it makes my life easier.” If only this man knew that his woman had followed him two days’ ride against his express orders just so she could be here now.

“I don’t have an issue with it.” Foren rested his hands on his knees. “I’m rather fond of the approach myself. I handle my own wife that way. But I don’t look at her like a love-lorn puppy.”

“I don’t look at my wife that way.”

“So first you thought I was stupid, and now you think I’m blind?” Foren scowled at him. “Your affection for her is going to get you hurt.”

“Really? And how will that happen, precisely?”

“You really don’t know what you’re up against.” Foren laughed. “Friendly piece of advice. Kiarhsu will use whatever leverage he can on you when he’s ready to make a move. And you’re going to cave like Ashkarith.”

Leo folded his arms. “I’m prepared.”

“So was the city. The defenders there still lost.” Foren picked up a stick and poked at the fire. “She’s your weakness. And you shouted it to the world from the day you arrived. I admit, I don’t blame you for claiming her publicly. Pretty girl like that? Any one of us would kill to get his hands on her. But broadcasting it? That was just plain stupid.”

~~~

That’s it for today! I hope you all enjoyed it. Have something you’re working on? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Feel free to share.

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