“The bedroom is through here.” Casteel stepped through a rounded archway to the right.
I almost tripped as I walked into the room.
“That’s the largest bed ever.” I stared at the four-poster bed and its gauzy white curtains.
“Is it?” he asked, tugging the curtains back on one side and securing them to the posts. “The bed in my residence in Evaemon is bigger.”
“Well…” I cleared my throat. “Congratulations on that.”
He tossed me a grin over his shoulder as he unsheathed my dagger, placing it on the nightstand and then removed his swords. By a large wardrobe, I recognized saddlebags—the ones from when we’d first entered Atlantia. How long had they sat here, waiting for us? I turned slightly. Several chairs were situated across from the bed. Another set of lattice doors led to what appeared to be a veranda, and there was an even larger ceiling fan, one with leaf-shaped blades that spun, moving the air about. “Wait.” My gaze shot back to him. “You have your own residence?”
“I do.” Having finished with the curtains on the bed, he straightened. “I have quarters at my family’s home—the palace—but I also have a small townhome.”
I was sure that I knew Casteel better than most, but there was still so much I had to learn about him. Things that weren’t all that important, and the things that made him who he was today. We just hadn’t had the time to truly discover each other’s secrets yet, and I wanted that time as painfully as I wanted to hold my brother, see Tawny again, and learn that she hadn’t Ascended like the Duchess had claimed. I wanted that as badly as I wanted to see Casteel reunite with his brother and for Malik to be healthy and whole.
And we’d almost lost the chance for more time.
Casteel stepped to the side, turning to me. I saw the open door behind him. Faint sunlight drenched ivory-tiled walls and glimmered off a large, porcelain soaking tub. Drawn forward, I might’ve stopped breathing as I realized how big the tub was and that all the bottles on the shelves were full of colored salts, creams, and lotions. What sat in the corner of the bathing chamber was what I couldn’t look away from, though. Several pipes descended from the ceiling, each one with an oval-shaped head on it, and all full of tiny holes. The floor under them was sunken, and a large…drain was in the center. One side, under the window, held a tiled bench built into the wall.
“That’s the shower,” Casteel said from behind me. “Once turned on, the water comes from overhead.”
All I could do was stare.
“The faucets at the sink are like the ones in the shower and tub. The handle painted red is hot, and the blue one is for cold water. You just turn it— Poppy?” There was a smile in his voice. “Look.”
Blinking, I pulled my gaze from the shower to watch him turn the red handle. Water poured into the basin.
“Come.” Casteel motioned me forward. “Feel the water. It’ll be cold for a few seconds.”
I went to his side, slipping my hand into the stream of water. It was cold and then cool before turning to lukewarm and then hot. Gasping, I jerked my hand back as my eyes flew to his.
The dimple in his right cheek deepened. “Welcome to the land of hot water at your fingertips.”
Awe filled me. Tawny would love this chamber. She probably would never leave it, demanding her suppers be served here. Sadness threatened to creep in and crowd out the joy, and it was hard to set it aside and allow myself to enjoy this moment. I started to dip my hand into the water again, but Casteel turned it off. “Hey—”
He took my hand. “You can play with the faucets and water all day, but let me take care of you first.”
Looking up, I started to tell him there was no need, but I saw my reflection and stopped moving, stopped thinking.
It was the first time I’d seen myself since I’d awakened in the cabin. I couldn’t stop staring, and it wasn’t the absolute mess that was my hair. Lowering my hands to the rim of the sink, I stared at my reflection.
“What are you doing?” Casteel asked.
“I…I look the same,” I said, noting the strong brow, the line of my nose, and the width of my mouth. “But I don’t.” I lifted a hand, touching the scar on my left cheek. His gaze followed mine to the mirror. “Do the scars look…less to you?” I asked because they did to me. They were still clearly noticeable, the one at my hairline that cut through my brow, and the other that sliced across my temple, reminding me of how close I’d come to losing an eye. The scars didn’t appear to be a shade paler than my skin like before. They were the same tone of pink as the rest of my face, and the flesh didn’t feel as rough, nor did it look as jagged.
“I hadn’t noticed,” Casteel said, and my gaze shot to his in the reflection. I…I sensed surprise from him. He spoke the truth. He truly hadn’t noticed the difference because he never really noticed the scars in the first place. They had never been a thing to him.
I might’ve fallen even more in love with him right then if that were possible.
“They are a little fainter,” he continued, his head cocked. “It must’ve been my blood—how much of it. It could’ve repaired some of the old wounds.”
I glanced down at my arm then and looked—really looked. The skin was less shiny and patchy there.
“It amazes me,” he commented. “That the scars are what you notice first.”
“Because the scars are what everyone seems to see first when they look upon me,” I stated.
“I don’t think that’s the first thing, Poppy. Not before,” he said, brushing a clump of my hair over my shoulder. “And definitely not now.”
Definitely not now.
I lifted my gaze once more and looked beyond the scars and the smattering of freckles across my nose to my eyes. They were green, just like I remembered my father’s being, but they were also different. It wasn’t exactly noticeable upon first glance, but I saw it now.
The silvery sheen behind my pupils.
“They’ve been like that since the Temple of Saion,” he said.
I blinked once and then twice. They remained the same upon reopening. “This isn’t what they look like when they glow, right?”
He shook his head. “That light behind your pupils seeps out into the green. It’s far more intense.”
“Oh,” I whispered.
“I think it’s the eather in you,” he told me, angling his body toward mine.
“Oh,” I repeated, thinking that it must be the same thing that made Casteel and the other Atlantians’ eyes become luminous and churning.
He arched a brow. “That’s all you have to say to seeing your eyes? Oh?”
“My eyes…they feel the same,” I offered up, truly having no idea what to say.
One side of his lips quirked. “And they’re still the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.”
I turned to him, looking up. “None of this bothers you? My heritage? Whatever it is that I am?”
His half-grin faded. “We had this conversation when we talked about Malec.”
“Yes, we did, but…but when you met me, I was the Maiden. You thought I was mortal, and then you learned I was half-Atlantian. But now you know I’m descended from a god, and you don’t even really know what I am,” I pointed out. “My gifts aren’t even the same. I’m changing.”