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CHAPTER 46

Lucian drew his fingers through his long red hair with the greatest care, ripping out the tangles, arranging it artfully on his shoulders. With a razor-sharp dagger, he skillfully shaved the stubbly growth of beard and mustache, never cutting himself once. Running his hands over his robes, he picked off a bit of lint here, smoothed a wrinkle there.

He crossed his arms and considered the jewelry laid out before him. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds: which would it be? All would compliment his coloring; each would sparkle in the torchlight. He chewed on a nail, realized he was doing so, dropped his hand in disgust. Chuckling, he scooped up one of each. The emerald ring. The diamond pendant. The ruby earring. No! Perhaps the diamond earring? No! With an exaggerated sigh, he rolled his eyes and dropped the diamond and ruby to the stone. He would wear emeralds, only emeralds, to match his eyes.

He picked up the looking glass, breathed on it, and polished it with his sleeve. Sighing deeply, he closed his eyes and composed his features, then held the mirror before his face and slowly opened his eyes.

The face that stared back at him was extraordinarily handsome, he thought. He could not help but smile. Running his fingers over his beardless cheeks, he smiled wider. He looked so young!

His smile animated his face, made it come alive. His emerald green eyes sparkled in admiration, and his long, thick lashes batted at his reflection. His high brows, flame-red like his hair, arched in delight. His slender nostrils flared. His blood-red lips, so stark against his pure white skin, drew back, exposing his straight, white teeth.

He was seized by a fit of giggling. My, he looked wonderful! To be sure, for a man over a thousand years old, he looked astonishingly well-preserved. His eyes crinkled with merriment and he thought he was, quite possibly, the most charming, attractive man he'd ever seen. "Of course, I must look my best," he said happily.

His eyes caught sight of something hovering in the background of his reflection. Immediately, his grin faded and his eyes grew hard and dark. He focused on the thing. It hung on the edge of the looking glass, barely there, yet it filled his eyes, blotted out everything else. Slowly, the hand holding the looking glass lowered, and he turned to face it.

It lay there on his tomb, so white, as white as its robes had once been. So still it was; it looked so hard, like it was carved from the purest marble. The open, staring eyes were like a fault in the perfection of the marble. And the red! So bright, so copious, staining the thing and the stone beneath it like a sacrifice on an altar.

His eyes narrowed. He really should clean it up; he would have to get rid of it. When he was through with the Defender, after he had let him see it, smell it, touch it, then he would. For now, though, he would leave it where it was.

He turned away from it, and once again held up the looking glass. He shook his hair out and fluffed it with his fingers. He cocked his head. Was that the tread of a booted foot? No, no, only the pounding of his heart. He smiled, licked his finger, and smoothed an unruly eyebrow.

Oh, yes, the emeralds were perfect. The one at his ear sparkled in the torchlight. But not, he thought as he stared intently at his reflection, as brilliantly as his eyes.