It took both Jack and Charles to restrain Cathy when she jumped out of her seat and began storming to the door while spouting vulgarities and brandishing a knife that neither of the men were sure how she kept it in her cleavage like that.
“I’m going to kill her,” Cathy was muttering.
“No you’re not, Cathy,” Charles told her. “At most you’re going to make a lot of threats and no act on any of them.”
Cathy turned on her brother. “You think my threats are empty? Do you want to test that?”
Charles was leading Cathy back to the arm chair. “It’s going to be fine, Cathy. Jack knows how to handle himself.”
“Have you looked at him?” She exclaimed while gesticulating at their host. “She almost slit his throat! The woman is clearly insane.”
“Clearly,” Charles said soothingly. “Now, why don’t you have a seat so that we can discuss the bigger picture like adults?”
Cathy gave her brother a final searing look before unceremoniously dropping into the chair.
“Now,” Charles said exhaustedly, turning to Jack, “what was that part about a rebellion? I think that’s about where we left off.”
“That’s about the general gist of it,” Jack replied. “The draconians in the city want to revolt against the Nagas, and they want help.”
“No offense, Jack, but how do they expect you to help them?” Charles asked.
Jack picked up his necklace and handed it to Charles. “They want more gems like these.”
Charles gave his friend a puzzled look, then looked closely at the stone. “I haven’t even thought about this gem in years. How did they find out about it?”
“Well,” Jack shrugged, “It ended up at the palace and one of the servants pocketed it.”
Charles gave a very long sigh. “I trust you guys with valuable technology, and you lose it. Such a waste.”
“Yes, I know. Such a terrible waste. So, can you make any more?”
Charles looked at Jack over his spectacles. “I’ll have to see if I still have my notes. What do I get out of this?”
“Money,” Jack replied. “Sell these stones along-side the others that you’re making. I’ll work them into jewelry pieces and we’ll both turn a profit from the whole thing.”
Charles’ lips turned up in a smirk. “Now you’re using your head.” He put the necklace in his pocket. “You can tell your new friend that we should have something in about two weeks.”
“That should work. Not that she has much choice in that matter.” Jack sat down onto his bed heavily. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, it has been a very eventful day, and I am very tired.”
“Of course,” Charles said with a nod, and gestured to his sister. “Come on, Cathy. Let the man sleep.”
Cathy rose from the chair, gave her brother an icy glare, and walked straight across the room to Jack. She examined the still-fresh scar on his neck. “You be careful, Jack. I don’t like how these girls are treating you recently.”
Jack gave a bemused smirk. “Well, you know me, Cathy. I can’t resist a nice bout of hysteria.”
Cathy hugged her friend tightly. “Yeah, I know,” she said. Then she and Charles let themselves out the back door.
Jack listened until the sound of hoofbeats faded into the quiet night, then changed into his sleeping clothes, turned out the lamps, and crawled into bed. He lied there, staring up at the ceiling, with his mind processing the events of the evening. The reality of what he had been dragged into, what he had agreed to, and the implications of it all, weighed heavily on him. He wasn’t sure if he could live with himself if Nadine was hurt. What would happen to the baby? His baby. Regardless of anything else, that was his child in that castle, and that child would be subject to the same fate as his royal family.
Jack felt a single, hot tear slide down from the corner of his eye, threatening more to follow.