“Leave,” he said at last to Eline.
She did not.
His eyes lifted to her, a fury I’d not yet seen saturating them. “Eline.”
After a moment of tense staring between the two, her footsteps soon faded out in the hall.
“I do hope you’re not too fond of her.”
“And why is that?”
“Because,” I said. “When she tries to kill me in my sleep, it’s highly likely I’ll end her.” I waggled my fork. “Self-defense.”
His laughter bounced off the walls and caused the food in my stomach to vibrate.
How different he seemed, I mused, gazing at him. How unfiltered he was in his own home.
I couldn’t say I liked it, but old feelings do die hard.
“She knows to stay away.”
Tutting, I said, “She’s too far gone to care about what she knows.” I drained my wine. “And you…” I set the goblet down. “Lying to me about who she is to you is honestly not only a waste of time, but it does nothing for me.”
His eyes drifted down my chest, staying planted on my half exposed breasts as he said, “She is no longer that same person to me.”
“She doesn’t seem to agree.”
He rubbed his chin, then sighed, his hands joining over his stomach. “We were to rule together.”
I raised my brows, surprised he so freely gave that truth up. “Go on.”
“Before I’d met you, the plan was to kill you and your father, so one day we’d rule Rosinthe.”
He nodded. “Together.”
“You and your lover.”
He huffed, smiling. “Correct.”
“Sorry to have botched your plans.” I forced a smile, flashing all my teeth. “No, wait. I’m not.” I pushed my plate forward to lean my arms on the table, and sneered, “You’re still a traitor. End this marriage. Rule the Sun Kingdom with your little lion. You can keep your stupid waste of life, just give me my witch.”
His expression slackened into nothing. “You truly want to end it?”
He’d asked as if he were surprised. “You know I do.”
His chair legs screeched over the rough floor. He stood, pacing the length of the long table. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “You steal me away from my betrothed in The Edges, lock me in your dungeon, then retell our most intimate encounters in hopes I’d remember.” He dragged a finger across his brow, then pointed it at me. “You succeeded…” He stopped, tilting his head. “Now, you’ve gotten what you want, and you no longer want it?”
It was hanging there, dangling like tempting, poisonous fruit before me, to tell him who exactly it was he’d been about to marry in The Edges. Instead, I said, “I never wanted you back.”
“Liar,” he said, in front of me now.
I refused to crane my neck back to look at him.
His fingers reached under my chin, and my teeth snapped together as he lifted it. “A female such as yourself does not go to such extremes for someone she cares nothing for.”
“I did care.” I wrapped my hand around his wrist, removing it from my chin, and knocked it away. “Things change.”
“I don’t believe you.”
I pushed my chair back. “I don’t care about what you believe.” Rising, I said, “Now, where is my friend?”
“In my dungeon.” My eyes widened, and he chuckled. “A little tit for tat never hurt anyone.”
“Let her out, immediately.”
He hummed, pursing his lips. “We both know that’s not how a good bargain works, silk.”
The nickname caressed and suffocated. “Raiden,” I said, my voice gentle, earnest. “Please.”
He shifted to face me. “Oh, how I love it when you change color for me.” He retook his seat, lifting his leg to lay it over the other. “But until I get what I want, the answer will forever be no.”
Cold heat burned through every vein as I realized what he was referring to. “I will not fuck you in exchange for my friend.”
He laughed but sobered quickly. “I do not take. You will ride my cock of your own volition.” He plucked a grape from the table, popping it into his mouth. “It’s now my turn to make you remember.”
I’d slept for all of an hour before I was woken by the unfamiliarity of my surroundings and then the sound of screaming.
A harsh crack echoed through the air, followed by another scream.
I sat up, wondering what in the darkness was going on, when a garbled moan sounded.
With a horror I hadn’t realized I was still capable of feeling, I discovered the noise was coming from the room below mine.
From below Raiden’s.
Eline’s screams and cries of pleasure drifted through the windows to sail through the ones surrounding me. His name a hoarse plea driving another stake into my chest.
The fabric curtaining the windows swayed violently, the room seeming both too large and too small as I dropped back down to the bed.
With dry eyes and a pounding heart, I stared up at the ceiling until the noise abated shortly before the sun rose, wishing it were a different one.