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Ah, such a lovely sibling relationship.
(I swear I do actually like my own siblings.)
Taryn’s eyes widened in disbelief, closely followed by anger. “You can’t!”
Her brother looked at her.
“I won’t have it. I don’t need a keeper.”
Lyrai’s mouth pinched with disapproval. “You do,” he stated flatly. “As your recent escapade surely showed, but this has nothing to do with you. I had no idea of your plans when I made mine.”
She scoffed. “A likely story. Ever since we moved to Silver Vale you’ve done nothing but interfere in my life, prodding and poking where you had no right, watching over my shoulder, waiting for me to make a mistake. I knew you would do this. That’s why I left. To get away from you!”
“Is that so?” Lyrai arched an eyebrow. “I thought you were throwing a tantrum because Lyrosa didn’t invite you to live with her and Hylena refused to sign over her inheritance so that you could do gods-know-what with it.”
“She doesn’t need it,” Talyn snapped, angry all over again at the selfishness of her sisters. “She’s perfectly happy at the Vale, raising miryhls and taking care of Mama. And Lyrosa had no right to go off and leave us.”
“She has every right,” Lyrai pointed out with infuriating calm. “She’s never liked a single one of us, and since father took to ignoring her, she’s been miserably unhappy. At least her prince brings a smile to her face, and with a baby on the way, the last thing she needs is a sisterly brat to look after.”
Maegla’s bolts, if there wasn’t a table between them, she’d slap his face for that insult. “She never liked you, you mean,” she sneered, feeling petty and mean and hurt, hating the way Lyrai always made her feel. She was a brat when he was around, but only because he made her feel so inferior. He always expected the worst of her, and by the gods, for some reason she always tried to prove him right.
Lyrai tilted his head in acknowledgement. “Lyrosa and I have always had our differences.”
As she also had with him. “If you don’t blame her for escaping, why must you blame me?”
“I don’t blame your motives,” Lyrai corrected, watching as she started pacing along the far side of the table. “I simply question your actions. Did you have a plan at all when you left, or were you too angry to bother with the details?”
She scowled at him.
“It was a good plan, in the broader sense,” he continued, not making anything better. “A life in the Riders is certainly nothing I’d ever argue against. It might be good for you.” Although the twist of his mouth suggested he doubted it. “And North Point would certainly have assured you anonymity.”
Curse Derrain. Those blasted Kilpapans could never keep secrets from each other, and Lyrai was far more one of them than he was part of her family.
“But did you have to leave without at least letting Hylena know you were safe? She worried desperately about you.”
The only one who likely did. Taryn turned her back on him, pacing away, not wanting him to see her guilt and hurt. She did regret not telling her sister what she was up to, but Hylena would have tried to stop her. Sweet, loving, misguided Hylena who saw the good in everyone and wanted them all to be happy. Of course she had worried about Taryn, but no one else would have. Her mother barely remembered that she had children, let alone who they were or where they were supposed to be. While Lyrai had Mhysra. He didn’t care about his little sister; he never had.
It didn’t matter. Taryn had no time for brothers either. She sniffed and tossed her head. “I was going to write.”
Lyrai said nothing. Taryn assured herself that she would have done. As soon as she reached North Point and settled in. She would have written to Hylena then. Probably. Maybe. She’d never been very good with her correspondence, but she would have written to her sister. Eventually.
“I knew Derrain would tell you where I was.” Which was far more likely than her writing an actual letter. Kilpapans never kept secrets from each other, no matter how much Taryn might have begged.
“It’s a good thing he did. Mhysra was preparing to launch a search party for you, writing to her mother to issue the alert to all the fleet. Fortunately Zephyr returned before things went too far.”
Taryn raised her eyebrow at her brother. “Mhysra?” she questioned. It wasn’t that she had anything against her sister-by-marriage, but they weren’t close. Taryn wasn’t close to anyone. “Why would she care?”
Lyrai sighed and raised his eyes to the ceiling. “You are my sister, Nataryn. Why wouldn’t she care?”
The words escaped before she could control them.
Lyrai stared at her again, sadness in his cool blue eyes. “I care as much as you will let me.”
She turned her back again. He hadn’t denied it, he’d just tried to blame her for it. It wasn’t true, she couldn’t control how much people cared for her, it was just a simple fact that few people ever did.
“I don’t want you at Aquila,” she said instead, choosing to ignore the emotional part of the conversation and focus on what was important. “I want to do this alone, without anyone knowing who I am. I don’t want you there.”
Her brother laughed softly. “It won’t work. Someone always knows or finds out. Trust me, I tried to do the same. I didn’t last a day.”
She faced him, meeting his eyes and raising her chin, determined to win this vital point. “Nevertheless, I do not want you there.”
His smile was wry. “I know, but I’m afraid you don’t have a say in the matter.”
Taryn wanted to stamp her foot, but his earlier accusation of her being a brat stifled the urge. “You’re not being fair.”
He tipped his head. “If this were about you, perhaps not,” he agreed. “But I am sorry to say your wants and desires were not considered when this decision was made. If you had chosen to come to Hylena’s important dinner instead of running away like a seven year old, you would have learnt this news along with everyone else. I’m not returning to Aquila for you. Mhysra and I have accepted teaching posts offered to us by the dean.”
Since those posts had been on offer for the last five years, Taryn was not appeased. “Why now? Why not before? I thought you were settling down to become miryhl breeders.” A deadly dull fate, in Taryn’s eyes.
“Once a Rider, always a Rider.”
She didn’t believe him. “Why now?” she repeated. “If you weren’t thinking of me when you made this decision, who were you thinking of?” Because he had to have been thinking of someone in order to leave Silver Vale. Regardless of her own feelings about the place, Lyrai had been happy there. He’d liked being close to their mother and having the ragged edges of his family about him. He’d seemed settled, despite everything he’d lost. Taryn had never expected him to willingly leave it.
“Mhysra,” he said, his answer both unexpected and not the least bit surprising. He always thought of Mhysra first. That was why he’d set up his miryhl breeding farm in the first place. “She needs healers and Aquila’s are the finest in the world.”
“Is she sick?” Taryn fumbled her way into a chair, facing her brother across the table and realising it wasn’t coldness that made his eyes so pale – it was worry, perhaps even fear. She hadn’t known she would care one way or the other if anything happened to her brother and his wife, but the prospect of Mhysra falling sick, of her suffering more than she already had, made Taryn realise that she cared very much. Mhysra had always been kind to her, or at least she’d tried. It wasn’t her fault Taryn had no interest in yet another sister.
Lyrai closed his eyes and shook his head. When he looked at Taryn he was smiling and obviously terrified. “She’s pregnant.”
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