I should know. I’d dodged his wrath for endless years, knowing that one day, if I wasn’t careful, he’d peg me for more than I was. For more than a lord looking to climb the ranks into his daughter’s bed.
Minutes crawled into hours, and still, she didn’t know. My queen had no idea of all the ways she’d been duped. It ran so much deeper than she or I could’ve ever foreseen.
I’d locked the door, but such things were no match for Kash, who only had to touch something for it to break, if he so chose it.
The sun had long since set, and I was halfway through the bottle of whiskey, cloves littering the desktop as he opened the door, looking far worse than I probably did. Which was alarming. Not much rattled the male these days. “I followed her.”
I straightened. My eyes narrowed, and my spine locked as I gritted, “Why?” I knew he wouldn’t hurt her. Not only because of what she meant to me, but because of what she meant to the female he loved and missed with every breath he drew.
That didn’t mean he would be a comforting presence to her. Far from it.
“If I could tell you, I would. It’s not as though I wanted to.”
I frowned. “Interesting.”
He kicked an ankle behind the other, leaning against the doorjamb. “No, what’s interesting is I saw her race up the far side of the city to the stables beyond the castle, then as I was riding back, I saw her again.” His brows rose. “Flying over top of me.”
I sat back, dread weighing every limb. “No.”
Kash nodded, his eyes hardening. “Headed south. One guess as to where.”
I was up and pacing the room in one fractured heartbeat, my hands scraping through my hair. A million reasons as to why she would do that filtered through my overwrought mind.
I tried and I tried, but I came up empty. Yes, she’d loved him, but that was before. “Was she with anyone?” Perhaps she’d been coerced. I wouldn’t put it past Raiden to trick her into playing his games.
“She flew alone on the back of her beast.”
With a growl, I stormed past Kash out into the hall, heading to the front of the house to pace some more. Think, think.
But I was stuck. I couldn’t chase her, especially not now. She’d gone there of her own accord, so demanding for her return… I paused outside the sitting room, hearing that bird-song laugh.
“She cannot help herself, can she?” Nova kicked her feet up onto the table. “From one male to the next.”
My eyes slammed closed, and my fists balled, ready to barrel through the walls.
It felt as if my chest was being set on fire. Over and over again.
I walked out, I had to, and headed straight for the trees. I didn’t stop until I’d breached them. Until I was surrounded by nothing but shadows and alone with this never-ending ache that only seemed to grow.
Until I could howl and roar at the fucking moon.
An island paradise surrounded by sand-veiled horrors.
As though he didn’t want to land, Van circled above the clouds, giving me just tiny glimpses of the kingdom below. I let him for a time. Stepping foot in the Sun Kingdom was the last thing I wanted to do.
I wanted to go home, inhale a bottle or two of wine, and sleep.
I sighed. “We must.”
Once on the ground, I feared he wouldn’t leave me, but he’d been trained, brutally, to follow every command no matter what. “Home,” I said, shielding my eyes as his wings continued to stir sand into the air. “Vanamar, go home.”
With a growl that shook the sand, he rose, flapping his ginormous wings high into the sky.
He was nothing but a speck in the clouds by the time the kings sentinels crossed the sand, bows drawn, arrows nocked, and threatening to soar.
“Shoot him, I dare you.”
One archer lowered his bow, his eyebrows furrowed.
My hand rose, a strong wind lifting the sand right over our heads, and the rest followed suit. Slack-jawed or scowling, they kept their weapons aimed at the ground until Van was out of sight. “Apparently, the king requests my company.”
Wordlessly, we crossed the sand, the sun a ball of bright torture, causing sweat to break out over every inch of my skin.
My escorts seemed unfazed, acclimatized to the brutality.
My boots were filled with sand, its rough grains wedging between my toes. I gritted my teeth against the urge to pluck them off, knowing beneath the sand lived things that would enjoy nothing more than a fleshy snack. Even if it were a sweaty foot.
Moving swiftly, I shielded my eyes, feeling the gazes of two soldiers at my back.
The female was in front, throwing glances at me over her shoulder every few minutes.