The whole time I was writing Blood Traitors, I wanted to give Damorin and Cora a strongly romantic scene at the end of their storyline. However, when I got to the end of the book, it wasn’t quite the right thing, either for the book or for the way I handled their relationship. I decided to write the scene anyway for all my fellow crazy romantics–you can think of it either as an epilogue or simply as a piece of author fanfiction. Either way, I hope you enjoy!
Cora toyed with her dessert fork, chasing the last crumbs of cake around her plate. Yesterday’s events—the arena, the blood mages, the assassination—had taken on the unreality of a dream. She and Damorin had just finished a quiet dinner in their shared sitting room, and although conversation had been easy while they ate, silence had now fallen between them, as empty as the evening stretching before them. Empty, but full of possibility.
Pretending she wasn’t too-aware of the bedroom door behind her, Cora cleared her throat and was about to remark on the weather when her husband asked, “Cora, would you like to—”
Her heart pounded in her ears, and all her blood traveled to her head in one dizzying rush.
“—make magic? With me?”
Cora nearly stuttered in her confusion. “What?”
“Normal magic,” he clarified. “Nothing to do with n-space or blood or wind. Or sand,” he concluded, his tone sour. “We’ve never made anything together, did you realize that?”
It did seem surprising, as she regathered her composure and thought about it. Their brief marriage had been so extraordinary that there hadn’t been time for anything as mundane as thaumaturgical research.
“Do we have to go to the Justicum?” she asked cautiously. She’d had enough of the power and politics that oozed in every corner of the vast complex.
“I have a laboratory here. Smaller than our official workspace, but it can handle most things.”
He looked at her with barely suppressed eagerness, and she realized this was important to him. “All right,” she agreed. “Where is it?”
“The north wing,” he said, “but there’s a shortcut through the bedroom.”
He led her to the large wardrobe that stood flush against one wall of the room. Shoving aside the robes and coats hanging in the front, he pressed on a panel in the back that slid aside, revealing a glow of mage light.
“A secret door in the wardrobe?” Cora asked dryly as she followed him through, feeling the tingle of magic slide around her body.
“My grandfather designed it. Some kind of joke, I think. But it guarantees nobody ever wanders up here by accident.”
Together, they climbed the spiraling stone steps that filled the interior of a tower, until Cora was breathless and certain they must have mounted far above the rooves of the main house.
There was no second door at the top. The stairs simply deposited them in a round room the whole width of the tower. Cora looked around approvingly. “Very convenient.” Other than a desk by a window and a single bookcase, the walls were lined with curving work counters, all with storage cabinets below them. The center of the floor remained clear for building larger spell structures.
Damorin walked past her to the bookcase and began tapping a shelf. Spines flashed past his fingers, and she realized the shelf must be connected to his entire library. After a few seconds, he stopped the motion and pulled out a familiar binder. “I saw this spell lattice in your project description. I’m not sure if I understand how it works, so I was hoping we could make a model.”
Cora blinked. “You read my research?”
He looked suddenly guilty. “I hope you don’t mind. I saw the binders when I was packing up your old office, and it was so interesting I got absorbed.”
“You collected my things yourself?” she echoed, surprised. “I mean, when you said you’d take care of it, I thought you meant you’d found someone to do it.”
“I wanted to. I knew nothing about your work, and I thought I could get to know you a little bit.” He looked shy.
“That’s sweet,” Cora said softly, trying to force back her ridiculous happy tears. “I don’t mind.” She cleared her throat. “Which lattice? There are several, uh, dozen.”
Damorin flipped through the binder. Cora watched the top of his bent head. How had this happened? How had he gone from trying to freeze her in marital exile to reading the technical details of her work just so he could learn more about her? She discreetly checked her sand brand, wanting to reassure herself that she wasn’t trapped in another sand dream. The rough place on her skin remained cool and invisible.
“This one,” Damorin said, showing her a diagram.
“Ah.” Cora took the binder, her eyes running over the specifications for the spell structure. “I’ve never actually made this. It’s entirely theoretical.”
“All the more reason to try it now,” he said, and he had that smile again, the one she’d seen when he talked about his n-space discoveries. It gave away his secret—he’d trade all the diplomatic posts in the world for the chance to spend his life buried in the mysteries of the universe.
Cora caught the edge of his excitement—it was her project after all. “Let’s do it,” she said. “There’s plenty of floor space for a small version.”
“Excellent.” Damorin freed the relevant pages from the binder and then shrugged himself into a magi robe—one of several hanging on a rack by the stairs. “Do you want one? I can shrink the size,” he offered.
Cora shook her head. “They just get in the way.” Waving the first page of instructions at him, she said, “I think one of us should do the math, and the other should do the setup.”
“Which do you want?” he asked.
“The setup. It will let me get familiar with the lab.” A mischievous smile pulled up her mouth. “Unless, of course, you think the math would be too much for you.”
Damorin looked insulted. “I work in n-space. I don’t think a few weather equations are going to be a problem.”
“We’ll see,” Cora taunted, and went to hunt for chalk and thalium crystals.
By the time she had the initial circle laid out, Damorin had the first set of calculations ready, and she set to work measuring and drawing the complex diagram they would need to guide their building of the lattice. She almost lost her balance as she squatted in her high-heeled slippers, so she pulled them off and tossed them aside before she could topple over onto her carefully chalked lines.
“Ready?” she asked, as she unfastened the long earrings that kept batting her cheeks. She tossed them after the shoes and stood carefully in the very center of her diagram.
“Almost.” Damorin had been perched on a stool at the work counter, scribbling rapidly over several sheets of paper. He filled in a final set of numbers and stood, then reached across the floor diagram to hand the pages to her. “Do you want to check my work?”
Cora scanned the pages of precisely written numbers—a marked contrast to the scrawl that was his usual handwriting. I do love a man who can write a beautiful equation, she thought. Smirking, she said, “I suppose this will do.”
Huffing, he snatched his work back. “Since you’re so skeptical, I’ll craft the illusion.”
Cora bit her lip. He was surprisingly easy to tease.
Damorin consulted the diagram and his sheet of calculations, then began to sketch shining lines in the air—placeholders for where the real spell lines would go. Cora watched him work, not speaking. He moved with an economy of motion unusual in a thaumaturge—most of them tended to add showy flourishes to their gestures. Damorin barely twitched, and light came pouring out of his fingers to weave a scaffolded bubble around Cora. It reminded her of something, and after a moment she placed it. This is how Gehvren works magic. She’d seen him in the arena. She wondered if Damorin knew how similar his style was to his father’s, then decided to keep the observation to herself. Even if healing had begun between the two of them, she didn’t want to push too hard.
“Ready,” Damorin said at last, when Cora was completely surrounded by interwoven lines of light. The real lattice would be much denser, and it required two mages to build because of the tricky intersections of the spell lines, which needed to be simultaneously pulled taut and spun.
Cora knelt, positioning herself over one of the chalk borders. Muttering under her breath, she twitched her skirts aside so they wouldn’t smudge the shape. “Ready when you are.”
Damorin knelt across from her, his expression intent. She felt the brief tingle of magic before he pulled the spell line out of the air. Cora caught it and held it in place while he spun the next and the next.
After the first couple of tries, she found that she could tell exactly when he would release the magic, enabling her to catch the spell line at the precise moment it sprang from his fingers. In fact, the more she concentrated, the more she felt as though she were spinning the spell lines herself, rather than only catching and binding them. Their rhythms became as smooth as glass, with no ripple to distinguish between where his magic ended and hers began.
Then it began to get more powerful. Cora hissed as a red-hot spell line singed the tips of her fingers.
“Sorry,” Damorin murmured, and she felt the power adjustment he made on the next one, using less of his essence to command magions out of the air.
It’s the bond, she thought. This is what it’s really supposed to do. Not let us see each other’s dreams, but share each other’s magic. We’re better together—one essence with two minds.
It was utterly intoxicating. The lattice bloomed around them, hundreds of spell lines falling into place faster than should have been possible. Cora moved slowly around the circle, feeling the pull of her bond as it seemed to become thicker, stronger, hotter. The air between herself and Damorin was a crackling maelstrom of energy, and she never wanted to leave it. She had never felt so powerful, so full of life. So absolutely and utterly wonderful.
“Done,” Damorin said softly,
Cora bound the last spell line in place and almost reluctantly looked around at the glowing network of magic that surrounded her. Pearlescent mist was already forming in the surrounding air. “That was incredible.”
She met Damorin’s eyes and saw the mirror of her own excitement. His pupils had grown so large they almost swallowed the gray of his irises.
“That went a lot faster than I expected,” Cora said breathlessly. “What are we going to do with the rest of the evening?”
In a single sweeping movement, Damorin cleared a hole in the side of the lattice and stepped through. Cora had time for one breath before he caught her close and kissed her, with a hunger that told her of his yearning for the intimacy they had just shared, of a burning desire for the last barriers to drop away.
“I don’t think it’s fair of the council to require bonding,” she murmured, as his lips trailed away from her mouth to explore the soft skin under her ear. “Who could resist this? It’s like heir insurance.”
She felt his smile curve against her cheek, before he trailed kisses down her cheek and then over her bare shoulder.
Cora straightened, startled. “Wait a minute.” She pulled back a fraction to look down at herself. She wore her underwear and the silk slip she’d put on under her dinner gown, and nothing else. “What happened to my dress?” she demanded.
“You took it off,” Damorin said. “About halfway through. The skirt was smudging the chalk lines, and you shoved it at me and said, I quote, ‘Take this dratted thing and burn it.’”
“Oh.” Cora frowned. “You didn’t really burn it did you? I’m still short on clothes.”
“It’s safe,” he assured her. “I assumed you were exaggerating. Justian did warn me you took your clothes off when you were working.”
“What?” she shrieked, “That rat! I never … he always stopped me before I got to this point,” she admitted, her momentary ire giving way to laughter. “It’s now your job as my lab partner.”
Damorin pulled her close again. “I’m not Justian,” he whispered.
Cora looked up at him and felt the pulse and ebb of their shared life swirling around and in her. “Thank Jalwa,” she said, then buried her face in his chest and groaned.
“What?” he asked, sounding alarmed.
Her voice muffled, she said, “I was thinking about all the stairs between us and the bedroom.”
“Is that all?” He relaxed, and she felt the world begin to dissolve around them.
“Stop!” she exclaimed. “You can’t use that spell here, you’ll destroy the lattice.”
“We’ll build another,” he said, and transported.