“Sleep well?” Raiden asked, taking a seat at the other end of the table. He was at least wearing a shirt today, loose and gold with red thread.
My hands clenched my mug of tea. I said through a practiced smile, “Like a babe.”
After draping a napkin over his pants, he glanced at me, reaching for some toast. “You look as though you didn’t.”
“You’re too kind,” I drawled.
He chuckled. “You’re well aware of your beauty, tired or no.”
“Whips?” I couldn’t help but finally blurt. “How… brutish of you.”
Aloof, he bit into his toast, watching me as he chewed. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of allowing my feelings, whatever they might be, to grace my face.
Finally, he spoke. “You both needed punishing.”
“It needs no explaining, really,” he said. “Why I had to punish you. But Eline disobeyed me. She wasn’t supposed to enter my rooms. She’s not allowed in there unless invited, especially while you’re visiting.”
“And when I return home?”
His teeth gnashed into a serpentine smile. “If you return home, then I suppose what happens then is up to you.”
“I will not remain here.”
He leaned forward to pour coffee from the carafe. “You might find you like it here, after some time.”
“If last night was anything to go by, then I can assure you, I will never acclimate.”
Stirring a sugar cube into his cup, he yawned. “You’re jealous.” He dropped the spoon with a clatter to the saucer, sitting back. His eyes swirled. “You needn’t worry. I did not fuck her.”
An incredulous laugh burst free. “Do you take me for a fool?”
“That is the last thing I’d ever take you for.” He smirked. “All I did was make her come, over and over again.” His shoulder tilted. “She likes pain.”
Unbelievable. “And that’s better than fucking her, how?”
“My cock never entered her body.” He lifted his coffee to his curled lips. “It stayed in my hand.”
My stomach dipped and churned at the same time, as images of him holding it, and images I’d rather never imagine, infiltrated. “For a male with the sun running through his very veins, you truly are a cold-blooded creature.”
“Says the cruelest queen this land has ever seen.”
“Quit with the flattery already, you might just make me blush.”
He barked out a loud laugh. “I’d pay good coin to see that.”
A queen does not blush.
Mine does, and I fucking love it.
A tightening sensation wracked my chest and closed my throat. I cleared it.
“Save your coin.” I peered around the drab dining room. “This place needs it.”
Again with a smug smile I wanted to cut from his face. “You can redecorate however you’d like.”
“This will go nowhere,” I said, frustrated. “I want this marriage ended. Until you admit that you want the same, we’re stuck.”
Placing his cup down, he shook his head, his thick brows lowering. “I am still in love with you, and I fail to see a future where that will change.”
My heart liquefied. “I cannot say the same.” But my voice was meek. It was true; I wasn’t sure what I felt for the sly king seated across from me, but I knew it was no longer what it once was.
“The lord.” Two biting words.
I hid what they did to me, stomped on any thoughts of the yellow-eyed devil who’d kicked me out of his home like a stolen toy he could no longer keep.
Humming, I murmured nonchalantly, “He’s at his estate.”
“Oh, I’ve heard.” Raiden twisted his lips. “With his long-thought-dead wife.”
The way he’d said it… nausea attacked. “Casilla is Nova.”
“I know.” Pulling his shoulders back, he prepared a steaming bowl of oats, sprinkling raspberries and raisins over top. “There is much you don’t know, which is another reason you’re here. I thought it best you find out from me this time.”
“This time,” I said with a huff, and then it crystalized. “Wait.” Back straightening, I looked at the few guards in the room, then at Raiden. “You knew, all along, that she was Zadicus’s wife?”
“Not at first.” He spooned some oats into his mouth and kept me waiting while he swallowed. “I thought her just another woman trying to weasel her way out of The Edges.”
Air moved swiftly out of my lungs, causing my head to spin. “What?” I backtracked. “So you…”
His eyes said it all, and I stood so fast, my chair fell behind me, clattering to the floor.
He caught me in the hall, an arm around my waist. “Do not run from me. Not after all I’ve done to return to you.”
I pushed at his chest, but then I stopped.
I feared I was going to faint. The lack of sleep, the lack of honesty, all the lies undoing themselves in too quick a succession to keep up. “You remembered,” I said, breathless with disbelief. “All that time I was telling you stupid stories, and you had already remembered.”