Drayden watched the raven-haired actor watching his coffee, then answered, “It was proven to me that you’re honest and, in spite of any past comments I may have made, nothing at all like the elevated citizens I am used to dealing with.”
Elarien’s brow furrowed to suggest confusion. He did not look up from his cup.
Drayden reached into his coat pocket and produced the crumpled draft. He slid it across the table, into Elarien’s line of sight. “I learned just how serious you were about all of this. And that’s why I can’t let you give up like you didn’t when your grandmother tried to stop you before.”
“It was different before. They were employees of my grandmother, who only sympathized with my dilemma. Perhaps they only humored me. At any rate, I did not expect much from them and, as uncharitable as this seems, I did not fear for their positions with my family nor for their reputations as researchers.”
“Perhaps you sensed their dishonesty,” Drayden suggested. “They did not even set foot in Raventide, according to Magistrate Derrisher, whom they would have been directed to had they gone to the town. They didn’t even try.”
“Delisandra didn’t give them the chance.”
“And she isn’t giving you a chance,” Drayden replied.
“To do what?”
Elarien looked up. His eyebrows twitched together, then slowly lifted as he seemed to read into Drayden’s gaze. Drayden wondered what he might have been trying to say with that gaze himself. Maybe he had finally tired of Elarien’s lack of hope, his lack of confidence in everything except his heritage and his art. Depressed elitist actors were depressing. Of course, Elarien didn’t really seem elitist, not with words or action, but he did carry an exalted air about him; an accident of birth that blossomed more than blemished where this particular noble was concerned. And Delisandra Fannael was crushing him. Damn the woman; she had already cut him from the vine and closed him in a book, there to be pressed and preserved. Beautifully dead. Why couldn’t Elarien see that? And what made Drayden so sure that he could? It occurred to him that he might have been wrong, that Elarien might genuinely have been dying of some uncertain disease. All the more reason that he should live now, while he could. He wasn’t an invalid. He was alive for the moment—the same as anyone else—and strong enough to do so much more than he and Delisandra would allow.
“The rain is letting up,” someone noticed.
Drayden and Elarien both looked outside. The clouds were giving way to a bruised blue sky. Sheets of sunlight poured through, glistening with prismatic hues. The Tresair Gardens were a majestic tapestry of refreshed color. The paths, almost black with wetness, were begging to be walked.
“I should be leaving,” Elarien informed in his typically quiet fashion.
Drayden glanced at Elarien and said, “So should I.”
Copyright © T.A. Miles
Available from Raventide Books