"Your clothes are there," she said, motioning to a wall closet. Her color was high and her chin had gone up a notch, as if she were aware of his thoughts and disagreed with his assessment. "Ring when you are ready. Someone will come to guide you."
"I hardly think I'll need a guide in my own suite," he said. Annoyance that she considered him an invalid colored his words.
A smile curved her lips and the hazel eyes took on a pronounced twinkle. "But you are not in your suite," she said. "You are in my House."
Years of living with royals had taught Ran to catch the inflection of someone using a common noun as a proper one and J'hiya had definitely used ‘House' in the royal sense. Even as his eyes quickly scanned the room, taking in the finely crafted, though not gaudy furnishings, he said, "De'enth?"
She blinked. He was sure he could read admiration in her eyes. Then her smile went slightly crooked. "Not quite," she said. "The shower is through there," she said, nodding toward the other side of the room. "If you wish to clear your head before coming down."
"Does it work?" he asked. He had the feeling he would be becoming a permanent resident before the day was over.
Her response was dry. "Not nearly as well as it should," she said, closing the door behind her.
Ran found J'hiya was right on that count as he stood beneath the near scalding spray that he favored. Rather than clearing his head, the shower seemed instead to encourage unanswerable questions to torment him.
How had he gotten here? Why was he here? Where was here? Most importantly, why didn't he remember?
He knew he should be angry, outraged, that he'd been brought here without his consent. It was kidnapping at the very least.
He shook his head. No, that wasn't right. Whatever had happened, this wasn't some criminal act. J'hiya wouldn't allow that. It went against everything she was; but how he knew that he couldn't explain.
J'hiya. His pilot. He'd known she was beautiful, but seeing her standing there in that short robe, the crooked smile on her lips, she'd been breathtaking.
Ran cursed and switched the water's temperature, gasping as the icy water hit him. He'd thought he'd reacted strongly before, but now that he'd felt her hands on him, inhaled her unique fragrance. He dialed the temperature down another notch.
Feeling somewhat armored in his own clothes, Ran quitted his room. He hadn't considered ringing for a guide. He preferred to find his own way. He'd found you learned so much more that way.
Down was easy to find. The open grand staircase was a dead giveaway. From the proportions and accouterments of the hall, the House was doing well for itself on Kanderese Station. Some of the paintings were as fine as anything he had seen in the Emperor's palace. But it was the sight of the mosaiced crest set within the entryway floor that caused him to pause at the curve of the stair and grip the marbled banister.