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Every time they barely evaded detection—
Every time Gild pulled her into an alcove and their pursuers unwittingly sped past—
Every time they simultaneously dove beneath a desk or behind a curtain, their bodies pressed as tightly together as they could, as they struggled to contain their panting breaths and the giggles that threatened to overtake them—
Serilda wished that she might never be found.
“I think we lost them,” she said some twenty minutes later, as she and Gild pressed against the back wall of a tall cabinet filled with fur cloaks and moths. “For now.”
Gild gave her hand a squeeze, a reminder that he had not let go. Not even when she tripped and had been sure the game was up. He’d just laughed49and urged her on, overturning a couple of tables to slow their pursuers as they made their escape.
“We shouldn’t have done this,” said Serilda, catching her breath. “He will be angry. It was too big a risk.”
“It will be fine. He can’t exactly blame you for your own kidnapping, can he? Besides, he expected me to try something. It would have been more notable—and suspicious—if I’d behaved myself.”
Serilda laughed. She could not see Gild in the darkness, but she could exactly picture his expression. Proud to the point of cockiness. She could practicallyfeelhim winking at her.
She wanted to argue, except he had a point. The kinghadexpected him to try something.
“Consider this my wedding gift to you,” he went on. “You can’t tell me you’d rather be stuck in a stuffy old party with your dearly beloved and his sycophants.”
Serilda slumped against the back of the cabinet, even though some paneling dug painfully into her shoulder blade. “You’re right. I much prefer this company.”
“And if he didn’t want me to kidnap you, then he should have invited me to the feast. It was the least he could do.”
“Gild, are you doing this because you felt left out?”
“Wouldn’t you? I’ve been spying on the cooks for days. This feast is going to be incredible. How would you feel if you were the only one in the castle who didn’t get to enjoy it?”
“They do like their grand celebrations, don’t they?”
“And they’ve got surprisingly good taste. The best of everything. Straight down to the serving dishes. Stoneware from Ottelien. Blown glass from Verene. Even the soup ladles are fancy, with these intricate little carvings.”
“They were probably hand-carved by Hulda,” said Serilda. “I bet they’ve got magic properties, those soup ladles.”
“Wouldn’t doubt it. The cutlery was probably forged by Tyrr. The bread baskets woven by … Freydon?”50
“Hmm, probably Hulda again.”
“Being the god of labor sounds like a lot of work.”
“To be fair, I suspect most everything in this castle probably belonged to your family once.”
Gild hesitated. “Hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. I must come from such tasteful folk.”
They were met with a short silence, and Serilda wondered if he was still thinking about the feast, or the family he couldn’t remember.
“I can’t help but worry,” she said, “about what he might do once he finds us.”
“No need to worry, Your Luminance. I have everything under control.”
Serilda frowned, doubtful.
“Don’t give me that look,” he said, and she laughed again. It was far too dark for him to see her. “Everythingisunder control.”
Serilda scooted closer so that their shoulders were touching. “They are hunters, Gild. And we are trapped inside a castle on an island that we cannot escape. He will find us.”
“The point isn’t to evade him forever,” said Gild, tilting his head to press his brow against hers. “Only until sundown.”