That stung. “I very much doubt that. And I think that is the poorest excuse for a report that I’ve ever heard.”
She raised her brows at me. “All necessary information was conveyed.” She cocked her head at my old mentor and asserted, “If Lord Chade had needed more detail, he’d have asked me for it.” As she spoke, she rose and came around to my side of the table. I twisted my head to look up at her. She spoke to Chade in a very confident tone. “Tell him that he should let me touch him.”
Chade met my gaze then. “It’s safe. She’s one of ours.”
“In more ways than one, obviously,” I retorted. I heard a small exhalation of breath from her, but I couldn’t tell if I’d hit my target or she was amused by me. I sat still, but somewhere a wolf lifted his hackles and growled low.
I felt her light touch on the back of my collar, then the shoulder of my shirt. She leaned down to touch my hip, and then I felt her hand brush my ribs. As she drew her fingers away, my shirt followed them briefly. Then she set the pins out on the table. There were six of them, not four, each less than half a finger’s length. The heads were shaped like tiny green spiders.
“If I had nudged any one of them a bit harder, they would have pierced your skin.” She leaned closer, over my shoulder, and spoke by my ear. “Any of them could have been tipped with poison, or a sleeping dose. You’d have keeled over in front of the fire, just another drunk passing out, until no one could wake you again.”
“I’ve told you,” Chade said sternly. “Those spiders are a vanity that no assassin can afford. Never leave a mark that anyone might associate with you. I’m disappointed in you.”
Her voice tightened at his rebuke. “I merely used them in this instance to prove that I was the one who set them, not some other spy or assassin sent in before me. I would never use them on a task that was confidential or important. I only used them today to prove what I told you. He’s careless.” Her disdain burned me. She stood behind me, slightly to my left and added, “Sloppy. Anyone could kill him. Or his child.”
I hadn’t known I was going to do it. My chair overturned as I moved. I wasn’t as fast as I once was, but I was still faster than she was. She hit the floor on her back. My left hand gripped her right wrist with the small knife she’d pulled as she fell beneath me. My right thumb was in the hollow of her throat, pressing firm and deep, my fingers biting into the back of her neck. Her teeth were bared and her eyes bulging at me when I became aware of Chade on his feet over us.
“Stop it! Both of you! This is not why I brought you together. If I wanted either one of you dead, I could do it a lot more efficiently than setting you on each other.”
I lifted my thumb from her throat at the same time I throttled the knife from her hand. I came back to my feet with a backward leap that put me out of easy reach. Another step back and I had the wall behind me and both of them in full view. I hoped neither of them could see what it had cost me. I breathed slowly and steadily despite my hammering heart and desperate need for more air. I pointed a finger at the girl. “Never threaten my child.”
“I didn’t!” Her angry retort was strangled as she used a chair to come to her feet. I ignored her and focused my anger on my old mentor. “Why did you set your assassin on me?” I demanded of Chade.
“I didn’t set an assassin on you,” he objected with great disgust. He moved around the table to resume his chair.
“I wasn’t told to kill you, only probe your weakness. It was a small test,” the girl interjected. She wheezed in another breath and added vindictively, “One that you failed.” She levered herself to her feet and sat down.
Much as I wished to deny that, I couldn’t. I spoke only to Chade. “Like the one you sent before. When Bee was only days old.”
Chade didn’t flinch. “Somewhat. Except that he was just a boy. And, as I suspected, not suited to the training. It was one of the things we wished to discover about him. I moved him in a different direction, as you suggested. My own fault. He really wasn’t prepared for you.”
“But I was,” the girl said with quiet satisfaction.
“Stop gloating,” Chade told her. “Your tongue runs away with you. You’re taunting a man who could have quickly killed you a minute ago. To no purpose. You’re getting completely on his wrong side, and then you’ll never be able to work with him.”
I didn’t move from my position. “I don’t do that sort of ‘work’ anymore,” I told the old man coldly. “Nor do I currently need to live as if every stranger might be out to kill me. Unless you’ve done something to set those sorts of threats in motion again.”