Excerpt from Dark Ember
Swift had no fond memories of ball gowns. She had always been too Fae for Elven custom and found fitted leather to be superior to flowing tulle and silk any day of the week.
Still, she had promised her little sister and showed up for her fittings every day. Swift might have griped and groaned, but she did it.
Rex waved to Rhama as they approached the little area cordoned off for her friends. He stood on a smaller pedestal, a winged Fae flitting around him with a chalk stick, marking lines on the fine black suit he would wear to the party.
Swift felt her belly squirm as they approached, the sidelong look from Rex telling her she hadn’t hid it well at all.
Rhama looked at them over his shoulder, his warm smile revealing his sharp tusks. His obsidian eyes flicked over her quickly. Swift wondered at the look, wondered if it meant that his belly squirmed when she approached. She had other things to worry about, but the way her heart skipped a beat whenever Rhama Blackbane looked at her was a nice, normal distraction.
He stood quite still as the Fae and Elves moved around him. The material of his suit was dark, finely woven, and fitted to his muscular frame well. He had not the bulk of a warrior, but still dwarfed any other male in the palace. Her friend had already the reputation of a gentle giant in her father’s household, often found with one of the many children climbing on his massive shoulders, a rumbling laugh on his lips.
Swift took a minute to appreciate the expert cut of his suit, the way his long, dark hair had been braided out of the way of the seamstresses. He turned without question, when asked, his eyes alighting on Swift’s as they faced one another.
“Did training go well?” He asked, his voice sending that pleasant shiver down her spine.
Rex nudged her in the shoulder so she would stop staring like an untried tween.
“Yes.” Swift swallowed, moving away from the comfort of Rex’s nudges toward the curtain waiting for her to change into the half-finished ballgown she hated.
Rex made a kissy face as her as he retreated behind his own curtain to change into the midnight suit being made for him. Swift stuck her tongue out at him before she hid behind the screen, shifting out of her comfortable clothing and into the diaphanous gathers of pink and cream silk that would adorn her for the party.
Swift pulled her hair up from her nape, wrapping it into a quick bun as she came out from behind the curtain. She tripped on the hem for the third time, sighing as she shuffled uncomfortably toward the pedestal.
The hunter glanced toward Rhama as she took her place, pleased when his dark eyes traveled the length of her before snapping back toward the wall.
Amusement was clear on Rex’s face. Swift ignored him.
Though she hated wearing a gown, Swift did appreciate that the seamstress had hemmed the bottom to above what was considered currently fashionable. Gold beading had been added to the light corset bodice, cinching her waist without injuring her rib cage. The gossamer skirt came in angled layers, shifting and whispering around her legs as she walked. She had insisted on capped sleeves in lieu of the large bell style that had, apparently, come back into style. Swift appreciated how it was made for her, but being weighed down by so much fabric without any hint of armor was…unsettling.
No matter how she ached to take the blasted thing off, Swift kept still as the seamstress approached. The amusement on that kindly face earned a small smile, but Swift turned her attention back to her friends.
Rhama’s pedestal had been turned toward Swift and Rex, the three of them making a small circle as their clothing was worked on. Swift’s boys, as they had been affectionately nicknamed, were both fighting grins as she stood uncomfortably in her gown.
“Where’s Jo?” Rex asked of their Orc friend.
“Running late, from the message he sent me a while ago. He and Drume Drusilla were working on something.”
“Of course, they were.” Rex chuckled. He lifted an arm, allowing the male Fae working on his suit to mark part of his underarm.
Rhama removed his jacket easily, the Fae now shifting her focus to his tight-fitting shirt beneath. Swift resolutely kept her eyes on Rex, where she found vast amusement.
“I can’t thank your stepmom enough, Swift.” Rex continued, good humor filtering into his tone. “Jonas is headfirst into magic.”
“He’s a natural.” Swift insisted, moving her arms as requested so her dress could be marked, material gathered, stitches stitched. “Drusilla does not take students as my father does. She senses something quite grand within Jonas, something held back too long.”
“I always knew he was special.” Rex admitted. “I’m glad someone else sees it.”
“Everyone should be fortunate enough to have a friend like you, Master Muñoz.”
Rex shot their friend a pained look. “Rhama. Dude. Call me Rex. I beg you.”
The Orc’s green-hued cheeks flushed. No matter how he considered Jonas and Swift his friends, he seemed to have a hard time shifting Rex into that box. Swift wondered if it had to do with Rhama’s DeRocian origins. They, more than the other realms, clung to the history of the drakes. Being face to face with one, having given up the life he had led to follow this human made it difficult for Rhama to see past what Rex carried within him.
“Apologies.” Rhama’s voice had taken a contrite cast, which only made Rex look more uncomfortable.
Lucky for the three of them, Simone entered the room a moment later.
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