Lux made a disgusted sound as his boot sank ankle deep in Bayou mud. “We should have stayed in the northlands.”
“And let the Empress track us through the snow? I don’t think so.” Autumn picked her way around the small bog he was still wading through.
Lux’s mutters turned to a prolonged grumble, one Autumn had learned to ignore. “We’ll be out of the Bayou tomorrow, at the latest.”
He eyed her. Mud smeared his chiseled jaw, and he appeared to have a muddy leaf dried onto his forehead. “And you promise the rest of your homeland isn’t like this?” He swept a narrowed gaze over her face and throat. “Does your skin repel mud or something?”
“It’s just mud, Lux.” Mud that smelled like green life and heady flowers and…a crisp wind?
Autumn froze and Lux’s knee hit her midstride. She would have fallen in a muddy tangle if he hadn’t grabbed her waist. “Give me your knife,” she whispered.
“The orange one you’ve mocked since we met?” His words were careless murmurs, but she felt his muscles tighten as he scanned the low hanging branches around them.
“Do you have another?”
He handed it to her slowly. “Is it a snake? Are you going to stab it with six inch blade?”
She sighed and edged away from him. “You’re going to wish it was.”
His frown loosened the leaf and it fluttered away. “What are you doing?”
She raised her voice. “You can come out, North. He’s unarmed.”
A lithe, dark skinned man flowed from behind a tree, bringing a chill with him. His curls hung impeccably against his shoulders. Six silver knives hung from a belt that hugged narrow hips. His black tilted eyes scraped over Lux.
Lux’s confusion vanished and he slid into his usual languid stance. “I’m beginning to understand why you didn’t want to marry me, Autumn.”
She glared at him while he studied North’s sculpted arms. “I thought we were never speaking of that again.”
He flicked mud from his fingers. “This negates any agreement. You know how I feel about people who are prettier than me.” He frowned.
North cocked a brow at her.
She flushed, fighting a wave of defensiveness. Yes, Lux’s vanity was the size of the sky, but she’d gotten used to it. It was part of him. She cleared her throat. “This is my brother North, Lux. He’s here to escort us to my Grandmere.”
Lux’s frown turned sulk. “You’re bad enough, but two of you at once?”
“Are you admitting I’m prettier than you?” She couldn’t help a grin, though North was icier by the second.
“I’ll take my knife back now.”
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