“I know.” I shooed the handler who approached and opened his stall door. “I never bloody learn.”
Van huffed in response.
“Enough of that now. I’ve a mission for you.”
His tail wagged, and I felt the sad, dark corners of my heart pinch when his eyes shut at the touch of my hand upon his cheek.
Entering the drawing room where my useless friends were sipping tea while listening to Nova regale them with tales from her time in The Edges, I snarled, “Where is she?”
I’d looked everywhere, had combed every corner of the estate and edge of the forest beyond.
She had to have left, but on her own? She wasn’t that stupid.
But remembering the blank look upon her beautiful face the night before, I sighed.
Not stupid. Upset.
There was a time I’d thought myself incapable of ever meaning anything to her, let alone meaning enough for her to break down a door and all but throw an innocent woman out of my room.
For years, I’d been there. I’d watched, and I’d waited because darkness, she was young.
She was so incredibly young, and I struggled with that. Not with guilt since our kind did not harbor any such notions toward sex. If they’d bled and matured, and it was consensual, we did it, and we did it without a second’s thought.
It wasn’t that, but rather all she’d endured—all she’d been confined to and forced into being.
She needed room to breathe, to learn, and time to flourish into who she really was before she could look at me the way I’d looked at her. Before she was shackled to another commitment she might not want or be ready for.
But things had changed. Not only did she look at me, she wanted me, and such was my addiction to her, that full-bodied pull whenever she was near, that I’d hardly even hesitated. I’d selfishly thought that perhaps she could still grow, evolve, live, and I would help her.
I’d finally gotten all that my heart desired, but I couldn’t figure out a way to keep it.
“Who cares?” Nova said.
None of the males in the room laughed. A wise move.
Nova stood, traipsing across the room to me. “She’s a queen, Zad, and a mean one at that.” Circling me, she said more delicately, “Let her return home to her dark castle. It’s where she belongs.” Her laughter, laughter that once lit up every face in this room, especially mine, grated. “A queen doesn’t gallivant about the continent like some infatuated puppy.” Her arm grasped mine as she stopped, her skirts swishing around her ankles. “You are mine, and she is Raiden’s.”
The mere idea of her and Raiden iced all the blood inside me.
Withholding a barrage of disgusting words, I shrugged her off. She gasped, and I left the room. I felt wretched, knowing how hard Nova had worked and all she’d been through to return home.
To return to me.
But I couldn’t control how I felt to save my own life. I needed to hit something, drink something, or smoke something.
I cursed, backtracking to my study to light the pipe I kept in there, and closed the door.
Laughter broke outside the room, Nova no doubt telling another story from a time when she’d chosen to leave me.
I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know what to believe.
All I knew was what I wanted, but what I wanted was gone.
She didn’t know; the queen wasn’t even aware just how much she’d been played.
I had to tell her… but my wife.
She was back. I’d thought her dead for years. I’d known her since she was only seventeen summers old, and we’d vowed five years later. She was back, and I had no idea what to do with that. With her. With any of it.
Of course, I was overjoyed, riddled with relief that she was here. Alive.
But I was also sick with guilt over the fact that some large part of me, the one who’d been locked away, waiting for someone I couldn’t have, hated that she was here.
Rubbing my eyes, I cursed, yanking the bottle of whiskey from the drawer and unscrewing the lid. I coughed, cursing again as I swallowed.
Inhaling deep from the pipe, I sat back in the chair, trying to relax as the scent of cloves filled the room. I needed to ease the tension long enough to fucking think.
Sleep had been a ghost until the early hours of the morning. Nova had knocked on the door of my rooms ceaselessly until I’d finally snapped at her to go away.
She wanted me to forgive her. To simply accept her return for what it was—a miracle—and be happy. She’d said she regretted her decision to leave from the moment she stepped foot in The Edges, but she couldn’t find a way back.
It had been too dangerous, especially under Tyrelle’s rule, and to mess around with the law during his reign was like dangling a sweet before a child.