When Iltani returns home after four years away training to become Ishtar’s Blade, she finds the Gryphon Court much changed. Ditanu, her childhood friend, is now a stoic king surrounded by governors who plot treason and noblewomen who seek to beguile him. But the greatest threat is Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, who desires to make Ditanu her consort and seize his kingdom for her own.
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“The surrogate mother to my cubs does not sleep on floors!”
Iltani jerked awake and found herself almost slamming foreheads with Ditanu. The king was crouched down, leaning over her.
“You’re in my suites. I’m Ditanu here. Remember? And stop trying to change the subject.”
“I wasn’t. I’m not,” she stammered as she tossed back the coverlet and rolled to her side. Ditanu held out his hand to help her up. She took it and he lifted her easily.
“The surrogate mother of my cubs does not sleep on floors. Repeat it after me.”
“Ishtar’s Blade shouldn’t be found on the floor either. One doesn’t just carelessly toss aside one’s favorite weapon.” Humor was slowly working its way into his voice, and she could see he was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
Flustered, Iltani grabbed up her bag to give her hands something to do, but she fumbled it. A bundle of letters fell out at her feet. Her breath caught in surprise. They were the years-worth of unread letters from Ditanu her mentor had only given her the morning of her return. In all that had happened since she’d completely forgotten about them.
Before she could shove them back in her bag, Ditanu’s sharp-eyed gaze narrowed upon them. His earlier humor vanished and suddenly his king’s mask was back in place—though she’d thought she’d seen a flash of pain.
“You did not read my letters?” he asked in a voice devoid of emotion.
Iltani swiftly pulled out another pack of tattered, well-read letters from her bag.
“More times than I can count,” she admitted with a blush. “These other ones are new to me.”
“New?” That one word was asked by Ditanu the King, definitely not Ditanu the man.