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The dog came out now and pushed a cold, damp nose into Tabica's hand. She closed her eyes and scratched behind the dog's soft ears.
Behind her, covers rustled as Gilrohan sat up. "Holy spirits," he whispered.
"What's the matter?" she asked, although she wasn't sure she wanted to know.
The dog by the bed had been the color of dirt. Now she was white with a few dark spots. Ratter gave a hearty shake, unperturbed. But then she, or rather he, suddenly sat down and sniffed his crotch, and gave his new balls a tentative lick.
"Good thing that Ratter's a name for a male or female," she said, hysterical laughter gathering in her throat. "Oh and look, you're Gilrohan. Again."
He quickly lifted the sheet and looked down his naked body. "I am," he said and let out a sigh of relief.
She moved toward him.
"No. Don't come too near."
"Oh." She sat back on her heels. "You're afraid of me."
Terrified, he thought, but the misery in her voice made him shake his head. "I simply prefer to remain a male. And I need to understand what the demons you are."
"You said it. Ereshgekil."
"Ereshkigal. But that's impossible. I said that, too." He grabbed one of the large ugly cushions and shoved against the pillar at the corner of the bed and made himself comfortable-and far away from that pale alluring figure. He interlaced his fingers and pushed his hands behind his head to keep himself from reaching for her to comfort her and, of course, to stroke those wonderful curves. Watching her proved too much, so he closed his eyes. "Tell me about your mother. I know it is difficult to speak of this-" her gasp was indignant but he plowed on, "-but I need to know who she was. And did you know the identity of your father?"
"This is for the second item on your list of demands."
"Telling me about ... about magic?"
"Yes, education in the Arts. Magic is generally a childish term."
A laugh echoing down the hall outside the bedchamber brought him back. He did not have time for this sort of lecture. They'd have to make plans to escape. He no longer much cared about the baron and his half-witted plans. He had to get this woman, whatever she was, to some experts. Quickly.
He spoke quickly. "Here are the barest bones of an explanation. The best practitioners only come from a few families simply because the strongest skills are inherited. I think you must be from one of these elite families. That is why I asked you about your parents. Understand? I am not being frivolous, for once in my life."
"Are you frivolous?"
"Frequently. Not now." He forced himself to look at her again. He might be able to discern if she tried to lie to him. "Who was your mother?"
She brushed back her tangled hair. Sallos, what an erotic motion. "Her name was Breena but that wasn't her given name. My father had her change it. Yes, I know about my father. His name was Daern. He was not a slave and he might even have risen to become one of the late lord's advisors if he had been more of a schemer. Or at least, that is what my mother told me. She always loved him. I never knew him."
"What was your mother's given name?"
She frowned in concentration. He resisted the urge to smooth the skin of her brow with his finger or his mouth.
"Sam. Something like that."
He grew dizzy and cursed under his breath. "No. No. Please, not ... Samanth?"
Excerpted from Revealing Skills by Summer Devon Copyright © 2006 by Summer Devon. Excerpted by permission.
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