Autumn's Bane - Yasmine Galenorn Page 0,1

needed after we were all gone. It also prevented him and Angel from getting tired of working together, although it did cut down on how many dates they went on. But Angel said it had been good for their relationship, and they both seemed happy. Rafé working evenings served another purpose. He was able to work with Charlie Darren, our resident vampire, on the evenings Charlie came in, and they got more done together than apart.

“Oh. All right.” Viktor sounded a little dejected.

I took one look at him and realized he was disappointed. He was bursting to tell his good news, and I could tell that he wanted everybody in the office to know. I settled back in my chair, fork and TV dinner in hand.

“So tell me, was she surprised?” I had planned on eating at my desk, but Viktor needed to celebrate and I was determined to make him smile.

He thrust his hands in the pockets of his jacket, sitting down beside me.

“Yes and no, actually. Sheila told me that she thought I might be about to propose, but she hadn’t wanted to get her hopes up, just in case she was wrong. However, she didn’t expect a diamond. My mother gave me my grandma’s ring to give to her,” he added, suddenly somber and staring at the ground.

“Oh, that sounds lovely. Your grandmother, is she still alive?”

“No, I’m talking about my mother’s mother, who was human. My maternal grandmother. Besides my mother, Nanna was the only one who fully accepted me for who I was. I still remember her telling me, ‘I love you because of who you are, and everything you are goes into making up your nature, Viktor. Both your human side and your ogre blood.’ Nanna never once tried to deny my ogre heritage, nor did she praise my human side more.”

Viktor had told us many times that he was estranged from his father and his father’s people, but I hadn’t realized that his mother’s side hadn’t accepted him either.

“I’m sure she’s watching over you,” I said. “When did she die?”

Viktor shrugged. “Long ago. My father had traveled to Russia and that’s where he met my mother, back in 1767. He married her and brought her home on a sailing ship, back in 1768. Her parents and her two little sisters came along with her. They settled up on Mount Rainier in the ogre compound. The ogres accepted Tatiana—my mother. She and her family were among the first settlers in this territory, but they lived in the village Keyren, the ogres’ village. It was hidden deep in the mountain, though now it’s moved to the area surrounding the national park.”

“I knew your father’s people had first lived up there, but once Mount Rainier was turned into a national park, I wasn’t sure what had happened.”

“After my parents split, we moved down into what’s now the Puyallup area. My grandpa Viktor was strong and with me to help him, we made our homestead thrive. I’m named after him. He wasn’t all that fond of me, but he didn’t mistreat me.”

“I wondered about your name.”

“Right. At first my name was Yalt. In Ogrísh—the language of the ogres—it means Blessed Between Worlds. My father named me. But when the clan leader instructed him to disown me, my father formally reclaimed my name and gave me to my mother. Among my father’s people, if you’re turned out from the community, they steal your name and you’re no longer allowed to use it, under pain of death. So Mother renamed me after my grandpa.”

That seemed harsh, but then, ogres weren’t a gentle people. They could be brutish and crude, although you’d never know it by how Viktor acted. “How did the local natives feel about you and your family?”

“They were friendly enough. They didn’t care for the ogres, which was understandable given my father’s people are given to thievery and loutish ways, but they didn’t hold my blood against me. We farmed and my mother kept the cows and chickens. We traded with the local tribes for what we needed. I think my grandparents longed for their days in Russia, but they never blamed my mother or me.”

“They never went back, then?”

He shook his head. “How could they? If they took me along with them, there would be so many questions and no one would accept me back home. If they left me and my mother, we would have died in the wilderness. No, my grandmother swore up and