She pulled her thumb away from the offending spindle and, without thinking, sucked on the wound.
“Tsk! Tsk!” said a voice that came from somewhere near her knee. “Haven’t you outgrown that habit yet? It looked cute when you were a toddler, but it looks pathetic now that you’re an eighteen-year-old Princess.”
She looked down, surprised that someone was speaking to her. She had made sure that she had stolen away to her secret hideout unnoticed. It had become necessary to be wary since her father had gotten it into his head to ban throughout the kingdom ownership of all spinning wheels, under pain of death. That had happened a long time ago, when she was only a year old. Since then, the kingdom had needed to buy its cloth from other kingdoms, depleting the royal treasury significantly. Yet, after she had acquired a spinning wheel and learned its secrets—thanks to a kindly old woman whom she had met by chance—she realized that the kingdom could save a fortune in gold by spinning its own thread and weaving its own cloth. So, breaking her father’s ridiculous law, she had hidden the spinning wheel in her secret hiding place and had made sure that no one was with her whenever she practiced her weaving. Well, she always made sure to bring her cat, Tybalt, for company but…
There was no one else with her except the cat, which meant…
“Yes, yes! The cat can talk!” The voice at her knee piped up again, carrying with it an odd mix of impatience and smugness.
She leaned over and took a long, deliberate look.
The baroness and her daughter, though, would not give up so easily. Especially not now that they knew the king was on their side. They frequented the palace, and because of that, the prince avoided the place. Since Leila was unkind to our mute mermaid, the prince often took her sailing with him. Again, another opportunity she didn’t take advantage of. When the prince tried conversing with her, she just nodded and smiled, and that was the end of it.
One day, though, the baroness arrived bringing along with her one of the nephews who were dependent on her for their allowance.
“My nephew, Pig, your highness,” the baroness told the prince.
“P-pig?” The prince asked.
“Yes. We call him that because he eats like one. For a living, he uh… plays with rocks.”
“I am a sculptor, Aunt,” Pig corrected the baroness. “I do not play with rocks, I make art.”
A blue diamond as big as a man’s fist rolled onto the square wooden table.
“Hope Diamond, they call it,” its owner, a huge dark-skinned man, explained as he clasped his sausage-like hands about his round belly. “Got a kingdom in exchange for getting it off their hands. Cursed, you know.”
“A kingdom?” The young woman on his right laughed. “Jabiri, I can sell your diamond for two!”
“Well, it’s yours if you win, girl.”
Twirling the edges if her long black curls, the woman raised a brow at Jabiri. “Given my age, I’m hardly what you’d call a ‘girl.’”
“You should take it az a compliment, Brey,” the small man across Jabiri said with a smile. “You don’t look your four hundred sirty yearz.”
“Thank you, Viggo, for announcing my age for all the universes to hear.” She crossed her legs, her thigh-high leather boots squeaking her displeasure.
Viggo inclined his head in a gracious gesture. “You are velcome.”
Siren traces the marks on Inyanna’s body. There are concave hollows in Inyanna’s arms, and there are connectors along her ribs that allow her to jack into her windbeast when she is in flight. Under Siren’s fingers, the patterns on Inyanna’s shoulders register as bumps—like tiny hills grouped together in circles that wind in and around each other.
“That tickles,” Inyanna says.
Her voice sends shivers along Siren’s spine and her fingers clutch and caress Inyanna’s skin.
“There is no one more beautiful than you,” Siren says.
They’re very easy, white men. They come to this part of the world in their suits and ties and expensive shoes, rushing through airports and hotel lobbies with their briefcases and laptops, swollen with a sense of their own importance. But really, they’re like children, ruled by their wants, enslaved by their appetites. They do not see how easy they are to read.