Weaving Words - Kim Knox
(c) 2008 Kim Knox
Cover art by Anne Cain
Easy part of his day? Resurrecting the dead. Hard part? Keeping them alive.
Kaede is a witch whose family has been bound to a powerful House for over a thousand years. And he hates it. Despite the fact that his lord, Tarou, murdered his mother, Kaede is sworn never to harm the man who could kill him with just seven words. Now he’s been commanded to use his unique powers to resurrect Tarou’s wife from the dead, and he has no choice but to comply. Things go horribly wrong when he accidentally pulls the wrong soul back. Now it’s not just his own life he must try to save.
Vara’s day couldn’t get much more bizarre. One moment she’s a captain in the Temple Guard. The next, she finds herself transported into a world of magic and witches—and stuffed into the body of a lord’s wife. Unwillingly plunged into middle of a deadly power struggle, the only one Vara can turn to is Kaede, the witch responsible for dragging her into this alien world. A witch she finds far too attractive…
Warning: This book contains the following; magic, witches and more body-swapping than is safely sane.
“Lady?” He turned without thought…and stared. Stupid courtesy. He couldn’t utter another word. Annaliese stood before him completely naked, candlelight glowing in flickering gold over her pale curves. Her dark hair curled in tantalising twists over her breasts. Heat surged through his body and straight for his penis.
Panic hit him and his gaze leapt up to her face, his heart pounding. What was he doing? Tarou would carve holes in him for seeing his wife naked. He caught the slight curl of a smile on her painted mouth and her blue eyes sparked bright.
Kaede swallowed, his throat tight, and willed down his unexpected reaction. It didn’t happen to a witch. Not like this. That was the real reason his lord trusted him with his wife. A witch reacted to only one woman, the woman destined to be his mate, and the Lady Annaliese Gaute wasn’t her. Couldn’t be. “How…how can I help you, lady?” He cursed the stumbled words.
“Don’t you like what you see?” Her words were no more than a soft whisper. Annaliese stared down at her body as the maid knelt beside her. Annaliese lifted her leg, her thigh straight, and pointed her toes. The young girl pushed on the white silk sock. The lady’s balance was perfect. “So smooth,” she ran a hand over her waist, her hip, “so soft. Yet with a truly surprising strength, don’t you think?”
“Was that your question, lady?” His voice was still no more than a croak. The white silk rolled over the curve of her calf… With a kick to his chest, he realised what else he was looking at. Heat scorched his face and he stumbled back, but he couldn’t turn away, not now. Shit. Stupid, stupid courtesy. “Yes, I believe you are all of those things.”
He started to turn away as the maid tied the ribbons mid-thigh. Annaliese changed legs.
“I should add supple, too.”
Kaede silently cursed her. She was doing it deliberately. “Yes.” He grated out the word in an urgent whisper.
“All in all, a very interesting new body.”
Kaede stared at her and closed the distance between them. The scent of her perfumed skin hit him and he held down a groan. Had he brought back a mad woman? He willed himself to look back at Tarou and found him poking a hard finger into the chest of his cowering aide. His panic dulled, until he remembered the hovering servant girl. “Lady…” His gaze shot to the young maid unfolding undergarments from a leather box, her back to them both. “I don’t think—”
“We’re safe with her.” Annaliese had followed his gaze. “The poor girl can neither speak nor hear.” Her mouth twisted and a hardness settled in her gaze. “The perfect servant.”
“How could you know that? You’re not…” He waved his hand at her, still unable to admit the dangerous truth. He stepped back and schooled his expression as the maid returned. With a small smile, she held up a thin white tunic. Annaliese put out her arms and slid it over her head. The maid fastened the tunic ribbons under her breasts and returned to the box for more clothes.
“She watches my mouth. So…” She smoothed the rumpled silk of the tunic, pushing it down so that it safely fell beyond the top of her thigh. Kaede found himself able to breathe again. “What did you do to me, witch?”
“You…the Lady Annaliese…was dead. I resurrected her.” He winced. “You.”
“Resurrected.” She stepped into the offered loose trews. The maid took the wide cord and cinched it around her waist. Annaliese hissed. “Interesting.” She watched the maid return to the leather clothes box as she smoothed down the tunic again. “The last thing I remember is running up stone stairs.” Her gaze turned inwards and Kaede wished he could see into her thoughts. “A temple tower. And it was cold, icy cold. Snow gusted in through the windows.”
“Snow?” The word was strangled. He flicked a glance back to his lord. Tarou towered over the small, cowering man. Kaede wanted to feel pity, but at that moment, he could only be glad it wasn’t him. “You’re from the far north?”
But she couldn’t answer. Her maid had turned back to them, holding up a gold-embroidered scarlet robe. Obediently, Annaliese slipped her arms in and watched the young girl settle the fabric with skill over her shoulders. She wrapped the robe around Annaliese’s body and held it in place. Pulling a thin belt from over her shoulder, she secured the robe.
Kaede held back his impatience. They must appear normal in front of the entire household. With the final wide, blood-red belt tied around her waist, Annaliese stepped into her delicate black slippers.
The woman before him was the one Kaede had seen gliding around the third ring of the palace. Beautiful, stately with the sparkle of gold dust on her cheeks. However, there was another look in her eyes, a sharp intelligence that had never sat there before.
The maid packed up her bag and looked to her mistress for orders.
Annaliese waved her hand towards the cavern’s entrance. “Go to my rooms, please.”
The young girl glanced at Kaede, fear and confusion in her dark eyes, before she bowed and scurried away through the open iron door leading up to the Lodge House. He watched her leave, waiting before he turned back to Annaliese.
Kaede moved close again. They only had a short time now before Tarou would want to return to the lodge. “What is your real name?”
Annaliese dug her hand into her side, twisting against the tight pull of the final belt. “How did she wear this bloody thing?”
Kaede pinched at the bridge of his nose. Hard. “Damn it, lady, if this mistake is found out, both of us are dead.”
“Yes, I thought that was probable.” She straightened and pushed her hair from her eyes, grimacing as the ornate curls of thin gold caught on her fingers. “I only know that my name is Vara. Nothing else.” She gave him a short smile. “I remember a tower, snow,” she stared down at her shimmering robe, “and a leather cuirass.” Vara turned over her hand, stretching her palm. Her brow furrowed. “I should have sword calluses.”
“You’re a soldier.” He waved at her, at her clothes, her hair. “Are you…erm…female?”
Vara gave a soft laugh. “Are you worried, witch Kaede?” Her gaze slid down to his breeches and he stopped his hands moving to cover himself. The soft scent of her chamomile perfume wrapped around him. His penis twitched and he held down a curse. “I can’t pretend that I didn’t notice your reaction to this body. Were you and she…?”
Kaede shook his head and tried not to notice the glitter of gold edging her cheek, the way it sparkled in her wicked eyes. “No.” He straightened. His lack of control made no sense. Annaliese Gaute had married his lord five years before and she had never once affected him. “And this is inappropriate.”
“Really?” Her warm breath brushed his neck, her tongue-tip tracing along the underside of his jaw. He hissed and stumbled back from her. She grinned. “I’d call that inappropriate.”