The Spinster & The Thief – Bonus Epilogue 2

Epilogue 2

This is the second (and last) epilogue to the story of Zovinar and Garreth. In case you didn’t read The Spinster & The Thief  yet, you can read it for free by signing up to my newsletter!

Garreth woke to soft kisses brushing over his forehead, a nearly inaudible giggle, a warm hand running along his naked torso. Then her voice, in a whisper. ‘Garreth?’

He blinked his eyes open. Zovinar was hanging over him, her hair tickling his chest, her pale blue eyes twinkling at him – a look she gave him every single morning, as if even after months she was still equally surprised and delighted to find him on the pillow beside her. Like every morning, it also took him a few heartbeats to convince himself he wasn’t still dreaming.

Lying in the silk sheets of a bed in Tanglewood Castle. Out of Copper Coast’s reach. The world’s most intriguing woman kissing him awake.

‘Morning,’ he groaned, and she laughed.

‘You look as if you didn’t sleep at all.’

He wrapped his arm around her slender waist, pulled her against him and pressed a kiss to her forehead. Her naked body felt breathtakingly soft against his skin, and dangerously inviting.

You should know exactly why I didn’t get the sleep I should have had.’

Zovinar giggled again. ‘If you have any complaints…’

‘Not urgently, no,’ he said dryly, nudging her legs apart with his knee. His morning erection easily found its way between her thighs and pressed against her warm flesh as if to remind her of its existence – not that she would need the reminder after last night.

‘Garreth!’ Her grin looked decidedly less shocked than her voice sounded. ‘Andro expects to see me in half an hour, I can’t…’

‘Seem to remember there’s quite a lot one can do in half an hour,’ he said, slowly rubbing his shaft between her legs while he still kept her pinned against his chest. She grew wet against his arousal as if she had been waiting for him to seduce her. ‘Unless you have any complaints, of course.’

‘Well, complaints…’

With a single movement he turned her around in the blankets so that she lay beneath him, her thighs spread to welcome him. Her breathless laugh was all he had wanted to hear. It didn’t matter how often he had made love to her since their flight from Ulrick’s court, how familiar she felt under his hands after the months they had spent exploring every inch of each other – that gorgeous dancer’s body kept him craving for more, stirring a hunger in him that could barely be satisfied even by the height of their climaxes.

‘Thought so,’ he muttered as he slowly sank into her, driving a moan from her lips. ‘What did you say about that appointment?’

She uttered a choked laugh as he pulled back out and lingered there, only the first inch of him still buried inside her. ‘What appointment?’

Garreth laughed and thrust into her, more ruthlessly now. Her exhilarated cries mingled with the rush of blood in his ears as the tension inside him built to a breaking point, shattered, and erupted into her once again.

They were only five minutes late, and despite the mischievous smiles she gave him over their hurried breakfast, Zovinar managed to look impressively duchess-like when she eventually sailed into the sunlit office in which she spent most of her working days. Andro, the tall, tanned representative from the nearest village, already sat waiting for them, browsing through the notes he had brought along.

‘Morning, my lady. Morning, Garreth.’

They greeted him, took their usual chairs, exchanged some remarks on the weather and the good wishes from Andro’s wife, and opened the cash books and the folders. It was not their first meeting by any means; Andro, as it turned out, had already spent a good year trying to figure out where Rusuvan’s raised taxes were going, and even with his assistance, untangling the web of dubious transactions in the cash books was a challenge that took up several full days of work.

‘So I’ve had a look at the tax payments the other villages reported,’ Zovinar said, running her blue eyes over the list of numbers, ‘and either I didn’t understand the calculations…’

Garreth threw her a look. She returned an apologetic grin.

‘Alright, alright, I think I did understand them. In that case Rusuvan just messed them up – and not by accident, presumably.’

‘Seems to be a pattern by now, yes,’ Andro said grimly. ‘I found three other documents in which he’s underestimating the amount he received by quite a margin. Wherever he hoarded the rest of the silver…’

‘Yes. He probably still has it somewhere. I’m thinking of writing the queen about the issue as soon as we have all the evidence properly organised – her people should have ways to find him.’ She looked up, a slight blush on her face. ‘That is to say, if the two of you think that would…’

‘I’d agree,’ Andro said, and her shoulders straightened a little.

‘Good. Let’s see what we can find today, then.’

He really wasn’t much of a thief himself, Garreth concluded for what had to be the twentieth time as they browsed through Rusuvan’s tangled administration, redid the calculations, compared the bills and invoices and found hundreds of silverlings disappearing into nothingness. He wasn’t this much of a thief, at least. Somewhere the man could still be leading a princely life, paid from the pockets of farmers who didn’t possess more than two goats and a single cow. Not for the first time he found himself wondering how long the bastard would have kept the game running if Zovinar hadn’t so suddenly returned from her marble prison in Copper Coast.

But they would find him and send him to trial. And by the time they had managed to track him down – they might as well employ the same investigators to look for traces of Marick.

A wiry servant woman brought them a generous plate of bread and cheese as the sun outside reached its peak. ‘My lady, my lord, goodman Andro – your lunch.’

‘Thanks, Zira,’ Garreth said. ‘Still not a lord, though.’

‘Apologies, lord Garreth,’ she said with a curtsy, and left. At the other side of the desk, Andro sniggered.

‘Shouldn’t look that much like a lord then, son.’

Garreth grimaced. ‘I’m hardly doing it on purpose. Anyone a slice of bread?’

They had just finished their lunch when, with a hurried knock, the office door was opened again. This time it was Nino who stepped into the room, his ruddy face flustered, a folded piece of parchment clutched in his hands.

‘Lady Zovinar, Lord Garreth? There’s…’ The guard swallowed. ‘A letter from the queen.’

Garreth froze over his calculations. Next to him, Zovinar jolted up in her chair, her eyes widening.

‘From the queen?’

What in the world would Tamar write about all of a sudden, months after their appearance at Tanglewood Castle? But it was the royal seal indeed, pressed into the golden wax that kept the parchment shut. Five feet away, Andro raised an eyebrow and shut the folder he had been studying, with a quick nod at Zovinar.

‘I should give you some time to read that. Let me know if you want to continue the work when you’re done.’

‘Yes – yes, thanks.’ She sounded quite calm, but Garreth noticed her hands were trembling as she reached for the letter. Andro stood up and gestured Nino to follow him outside. The old guard bowed, muttered, ‘My lady, my lord,’ and hurried after the other man, shutting the door behind him with exaggerated care.

‘Still not a lord,’ Garreth yelled after him, and even through the closed door he heard Andro burst out laughing in the corridor.

‘Garreth…’ Zovinar was staring at the back of the letter, a confused frown on her face. ‘It’s addressed to both of us.’


She reached him the parchment. In a stern, remarkably readable writing, the address said Lady Zovinar of Tanglewood – Garreth, son of Clenneth.

Garreth blinked. She had even gone through the trouble of figuring out his father’s name?

‘Open it,’ he said. ‘You’re the duchess here.’

She gave him a thin smile, broke the golden wax seal and unfolded the letter. For a few heartbeats her eyes shot along the writing, widening with every next line; then, abruptly, she looked up and said, ‘Ulrick has written her about you?’

Garreth’s heart skipped a beat. ‘What?’

‘She welcomes me back to Redwood, asks me to let her know her how much of the rumours about Rusuvan are true, and then…’ She turned back to the letter. ‘Speaking of rumours – reports suggest you have returned to Tanglewood Castle in the company of a young man by the name of Garreth. These same reports also seem to have reached Copper Coast. Some days ago, I received a letter from King Ulrick, requesting me to firstly investigate whether there was any truth to these stories, and secondly, if I did indeed find the aforementioned young man at Tanglewood Castle, to…

She stopped reading. Garreth swallowed, the memory of Ulrick suddenly unpleasantly sharp on his mind’s eye – the broad, bearded man who had merrily introduced him as the two-and-a-halfth of his sons to foreign guests less than a decade ago. It had to be Roark, he knew, urging his stepfather to trace him even after he had left the kingdom. But even if the idea came from another mind, Ulrick had agreed.

‘To?’ he said, unsure if he wanted to hear the answer. What would the king expect his colleague to do? Deliver him to Copper Coast after all? Put him on trial for theft and treason? Hell be damned, he had thought he was safe here…

‘To stop us from marrying,’ Zovinar said.

He abruptly looked up. ‘What?’

‘… and secondly, if I did indeed find the aforementioned young man at Tanglewood Castle, to do all that lies in my might to make sure you do not marry him.’

‘Marry – you?’

She burst out in nervous giggling. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘Oh, good gods.’ Garreth fell back in his chair. He could see where the suggestion came from, he had to admit. They had stopped trying to hide his nights in her bed weeks ago. He could see why Roark wouldn’t want him in any position of power, too, with access to the Tanglewood funds, mere miles over the border of Copper Coast. But marrying –

She was still a duchess. He was still an exiled thief. The thought had simply not occurred to him. And if her queen now forbade her to do any such thing, he should stop entertaining this new idea very, very quickly, no matter how tempting it was…

‘Garreth?’ She had turned back to the letter. Somehow she didn’t sound disillusioned at all – only incredulous, if anything. ‘Garreth, I think you should read the rest too.’


She handed him the parchment. He hesitated for a heartbeat, then took it from her trembling fingers and sank back in his seat, running his gaze along the firm writing. Tamar’s own hand, he realised now.

… to do all that lies in my might to make sure you do not marry him. It really stood there, black on white. How much lay in a queen’s might?

‘Read on,’ Zovinar said.

Having passed on that message – which I am sure will not surprise you much – I would like to add my own request to that of my Copper Coast colleague. Considering what has transpired at Ulrick’s court over the past years, and considering in particular the doubts I have about the guilt of the exiled princes, I strongly discourage you from paying any attention to His Majesty’s demands. In fact, I will be quite pleased if you decide to marry the boy.

It suddenly began to dawn on Garreth why she had written this letter herself, rather than dictating it to any of her scribes.

Of course, Tamar continued, for the sake of diplomacy, I will have to write you some displeased letters, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to visit Tanglewood for at least some years. Be assured, however, that neither you nor the duchy will suffer in any meaningful way from whatever decision you make on this point.

Please inform me immediately if Ulrick ever contacts you directly, and as requested above, write me as soon as possible about Rusuvan’s management of Tanglewood Castle. I will be awaiting your reply.


Zovinar was staring at him when he lowered the letter, with wide, incredulous eyes and a tension around her lips as if she could burst out laughing any moment. He met her gaze, and blinked. He looked back at the letter. He looked back at her, and found the corners of her lips perking up despite her best attempts to keep them down.

Slowly a grin grew on his face, coming from somewhere incomprehensibly deep inside him – a place that knew no name except the fizzy warmth bubbling up in him. Marry her. Marry her. Why in the world had it taken him Roark’s mingling and Tamar’s brilliant indifference to even consider the idea?

‘Well,’ he said, and he heard the laugh even in his own voice. ‘Looks like Roark is really quite determined to stop us from marrying.’

‘It really seems that way, doesn’t it?’

‘And your own queen is practically commanding us to do it anyway.’

‘Yes,’ Zovinar said, her smile breaking through in all its dazzling brightness, ‘she does quite give that impression.’

‘Both of which…’ He hesitated. ‘Both of which are excellent reasons to get married, if you ask me.’

‘Oh, I was hoping you’d say that.’

Garreth jumped up. With one step he had his arms around her; he lifted her from her chair with a single turn and swirled her around the office with enough vigour to knock over a pile of books on the floor. Zovinar laughed out loud – ‘Garreth!’

‘Good gods – do you want to marry me?’

‘Of course I want to marry you! I’d very much want to marry you even if it wasn’t to annoy Roark!’

He burst out laughing. ‘Please don’t think Roark is the only reason I…’

‘Oh, no,’ she interrupted him with twinkling eyes, ‘there’s Tamar too, isn’t it?’

‘Tamar can go to hell with her wishes. All I need to know is that you’re making me happier than I’ve ever been in my life and I would be very damn honoured to marry a woman this clever and brave and beautiful – hell’s sake, it really should have taken me Roark to realise how much I want to keep you by my side for the rest of my days.’

‘Garreth…’ Tears were gleaming in her eyes, but she was smiling so broadly that the sunlight seemed shadowy around her. ‘Did I ever tell you how grateful I am that I followed you outside that night?’

Outside. He glanced over his shoulder, at the brilliant world behind the windows – the vibrant green of the Tanglewood gardens and the darker wilderness beyond.

‘Let’s go out.’

‘It’s a working day!’

‘Damn the work – I’m giving you the day off.’ He swayed her away from the desk, somehow managed to take his hands off her and opened the door before she could object. ‘Nino? Could you let Andro know we’ll need the afternoon to discuss the consequences of the queen’s letter? We’ll see him next week, usual time is fine.’

‘Yes, my lord.’

‘Still not…’

He fell silent. Nino stared at him, in polite anticipation, his hands respectfully clenched behind his back. In the office, Zovinar giggled.

‘Never mind,’ Garreth said, a little dazed. ‘Just pass on the message, will you?’

‘Yes, my lord.’

Zovinar was still laughing when he turned back to her – quietly, but with shaking shoulders. He closed the office door behind him, blinked two more times, and then a third time. His thoughts didn’t start making much more sense.

‘Good gods,’ he said.

She threw her arms around him again and kissed him on his cheek. ‘I’m sure you’ll get used to it sooner or later, Lord Thief.’

‘If you keep kissing me like that, probably sooner.’

‘In that case…’ Her lips trailed along his jaw, his chin, the hollow of his neck. ‘Does it sound better already? Lord Garreth of Tanglewood?’

He closed his eyes, unable to suppress his grin even through the tangle of new thoughts, new dreams, new expectations. ‘I think you’ll need to continue for a few more minutes to get the message through entirely.’

‘Just a few more minutes?’

‘A few more days, perhaps – or a few more years, just to be sure?’

‘A few more years,’ she muttered, ‘that sounds about right…’

And her lips found his, a kiss that took all bewilderment off his mind at once and left him certain of only the truth – the indisputable, incomprehensible truth – that she loved him, that he loved her –

That he would never, never be betrayed again.


The End 


Looking for more steamy fantasy romance? We see Rusuvan and Zovinar again in my trilogy The Queen & The Assassin, which tells the story of Queen Tamar of Redwood. Find the first book HERE.

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