Caidy drew back the music room’s curtains for the tenth time that night. She was making her father nervous, but he knew to trust her bad feelings. They were usually right.
Sarlik’s fingers stilled on the piano’s keys in the middle of the aria his daughter had been singing. He watched her frown and le the curtains fall from her fingers. Slowly, she turned from the curtain and stared at the piano with worried eyes.
“Caidy,” Sarlik said, “if something’s going to happen, we’ll be home for it. Don’t worry so much.”
“Papa, I have a really bad feeling.”
He held out a hand to her and she obediently went to him. She slid onto the piano bench beside him and rested her head on his shoulder. He placed his hands back on the piano keys and began to pick out a lullaby her mother used to sing. Caidy hummed along for a few bars and then stopped.
“Are you sure we’ll be okay?” she asked quietly.
“We’re never really safe,” he said. “You know that.”
“Yes, Papa, but it still worries me. Winter is over and the Almis could be up to anything. Papa, why can’t we just end this feud? I don’t like it. We’re the only ones left in this family because of it.”
He lifted his left hand from the piano, but his right hand kept playing out the melody. He gently stroked her hair with his free hand. “This feud is all that we’ve ever really known. It’s too late to back out and there’s no end in sight. Besides, feuds are the life blood of Needle City.”
Caidy frowned and shook her head, but didn’t say anything. She had that worried look on her face, the one that told him she didn’t really believe what he was saying. She wasn’t happy with what was going on, but there was really only so much he could do about it. He had already reignited the feud by hiring Raven. Now all they could do was wait for the retaliation. That was probably the bad feeling Caidy had.
“It’s late, my dear,” he said softly as the clock chimed the one o’clock hour. “We should go up to bed”
“I’m not sleepy,” she said, the worry still lacing her voice.
“Well, your Papa is sleepy.”
With that, he ended the melody and closed the piano, pulling the cover down to protect the keys and keep them dust free. Caidy lifted her head from his shoulder and he rose, leaving her to stare at the piano cover.
“Come, Caidy,” he gently demanded. “It’s time for bed.”
She still had that troubled look on her face as she rose and walked towards him. “Papa, I don’t want either of us to be alone tonight. Will you stay in my chambers for the night?”
He frowned at her, wondering why she had suddenly changed back into being a child. “No, Caidy. You are sixteen years old. It’s time for you to do things on your own. I can’t keep coddling you. Once I’m gone, you will inherit this feud. You will have to start dealing with it sooner or later. And the sooner the better. I’m not getting any younger.”
She frowned up at him, effectively pairing it with a glare in her eyes. Her father had never denied her anything before. Now he was just starting to sound mean.
“Caidy,” he said, more gently. “It’s late. Everything will be fine. You’ve had bad feelings before and things have turned out okay.”
Doubt flared in her eyes. “Can I at least stay in your bedchambers? To protect you and make sure you’re okay?”
He lifted an eyebrow.
“You did say you’re getting old,” she pointed out. “I want to be there just in case something bad happens to you in your sleep.”
He scratched his chin, deep in thought. “Huh. I guess I can’t really argue with your logic.”
“No, Papa,” she said, trying to hide a grin. She knew as well as he did that she had him there.
“All right, then, child. You can sleep on the sofa. Satisfied?”
She grinned now, her whole face lighting up. She felt as though she had won. “Yes, Papa. That’s much better.”
Shaking his head, he followed his daughter out of the music room, snuffing out the lights that lit up the room as he went. An hour later, they were both fast asleep and never even heard the cat burglars that had snuck into their manor.