“So that woman had a child then,” the Queen of Hearts asked calmly, not bothering to look at the boy crouched before her. She supposed he might not truly be a boy any longer, what with his being old enough to legally drink, but the Queen still saw him as the scrawny boy her husband had taken in. Besides, she could see him nob in her peripheral vision.
“I was ignorant of it until very recently, but yes. She is indeed the daughter of the last Tera.” Deuce’s voice was soft, pitched perfectly so that no one would be able to hear him from more than a few feet away. The Queen had trained him well.
She reached out a hand and rested it on his lowered head, as if he really were a dog. “Things have become very interesting of late. First a traitor appears, then that fool tries to corrupt my sons, and now this.” The Queen smiled. “Bring her to me, Deuce. I wish to speak to this child.”
“My Lady,” he replied, immediately backing away, still on his knees. He didn’t stand until he was a few feet away, far enough that she really could not take offense.
So, a daughter. How exactly Grace Cunning had managed to have a child in the first place, let alone raise it, keep it alive, was beyond the Queen. She just could not picture it. That woman had been insane, volatile and impetuous and dangerous. She herself had taken precautions to protect her own children, not the least of which had been taking in Deuce, Zes, and that other Burns girl. Pity, that. The Queen had even appreciated Zes’ older sister.
But sacrifice was always necessary. There was no other means of living, no other method with which to survive.
For an instant the Queen felt true fear then, as her mind turned faster than a top. The idea was sudden, instantaneous and terrifying. The child might by his. He had been besotted with Tera, had forsaken every vow and promise in order to feed his obsession. But it was impossible. It was absurd!
The Queen pushed such thoughts from her mind, painting a smile on her face as the door creaked open behind her. Deuce walked in, ushering a small girl behind him. She followed boldly, but her eyes were vacant, blankly focused on something no one else could see.
“Well, girl, come closer then. Let me see what exactly my impetuous son had deigned to force upon us.” Tera started, practically jumping out of her skin, but come closer she did. The Queen took stock of her facial structure, the narrowness of her face and large eyes that dominated it. And looking in those eyes, she knew. Because Grace Cunning had been beautiful in her own way, true. The woman had been built nicely, with curves to rival Vijf’s, but her flaw had been her forehead. Or, to be more precise, the way her forehead looked larger than it should be because her eyes were just a bit too small.
But he had big eyes.
The Queen knew then what she must do. “Thank you. I will summon you again, child. You may go.” And she left, looking confused and distracted and so very much like him.
“Deuce,” the Queen of Hearts said after the door had been closed behind Tera and only the two of them remained on the balcony, he properly kneeling at her feet. “Deuce, I believe we have some work to do.”
“Would you have me kill her?” he asked simply, as if he expected it.
“No.” She smiled. “I have a better idea.”