Crystal sat on the edge of her large bathtub, legs dangling in the steaming water. Her feet tingled from the warmth as her energy slowly returned. It had been a long day. She’d survived the efforts to build her body up; she chuckled drily thinking of all the exercises over the past several weeks. Matt had built her a special workout room to use after she’d returned to the estate, and she’d been throwing her body at it every day in the name of gaining just a little more strength, just a little more balance, and just a little more quickness before her final battle. It was as exhausting as it was exhilarating, but it was also working.
She jumped slightly as hands folded over her shoulders and began caressing the knots from the muscles. Crystal thought of spinning around to confront her attacker, but she was too relaxed already. What attacker started the assault by massaging knots out of shoulder muscles, anyway? Besides, she was in the heart of her husband’s estate; an attacker would spring a hundred wards before he could get to her in her own bath.
Speaking of her husband—they weren’t Matt’s hands; she would have known his touch in an instant. A little cold, the hands were, which meant they were likely attached to the arms of a member of the cold-blooded race of thrakkoni.
She relaxed into the massage as palms pressed her shoulder blades around and thumbs attacked the knots underneath.
“Thank you, Sorscha,” Crystal breathed.
A gentle huff, the thrakkoni version of a chuckle, sounded from behind. No, not Sorscha’s huff, she realized, but a voice followed the chuckle before Crystal had time to ask.
“Not Sorscha, ma’am. I am Breenda.”
Crystal craned her head as far around as it would go, and the thrakkon responded by leaning around to meet Crystal’s gaze with a smile. She was pretty, and she seemed—young. Crystal couldn’t figure out what it was about the thrakkon that made her think of youth, since all members of that race bore a timeless porcelain-esque visage. Breenda’s vibrant metallic red hair made Crystal think of some of the rock bands she had followed in her youth.
Breenda went back to the massage efforts and said, “Is my massage pleasing to you, ma’am?”
“Sure, but where’s Sorscha? And why do you keep calling me ma’am?”
“Well—but—you’re the lady of the estate. I was taught that it is important to be polite and proper with you.”
Crystal sighed as much as she could without moving her shoulders out of the massage. “Sorscha and I have already been through the ‘ma’am’ stuff.”
“Yes, but Sorscha is the master’s servant.”
Oh. “So this massage, then, is an audition?”
“Well, I did want to get to know you, and vice-versa, ma… Crystal. Sorscha speaks very highly of you, and once you become a goddess, you know that you’ll want someone of your own to look after you.”
A thrakkon of her own—it sounded nice, Crystal thought. She’d never really considered that far into the future, though. Odds were stacked heavily against her in the upcoming trials, whatever they might be.
Still, the massage was awfully good, and the more Crystal thought about it, the better the idea of having a servant of her own sounded.
“Well,” Crystal said, relaxing once again, “keep this up, Breenda, and I’ll put in a good word for you with the goddess if she happens to appear.”