I had no choice other than to believe him, my heart beating in my throat as he picked her up.
Like a tree folding in the wind, Truin flopped within his arms. He shifted her, moving inside the rapidly emptying room to lay her on the same chaise we’d sat upon hours earlier.
Her eyes fluttered, and two spellcasters entered the room, their faces grim as they studied her.
With a gasp, Truin tried to sit up, and the healer removed her hands from her thighs, waiting for her to gather her bearings.
“It’s okay,” I told her. It wasn’t. I highly doubted much would be okay for her from this nightmare night forward. My hands gripped her shoulders, gently easing her back, her head falling to my lap. “They’re trying to help.”
One eye blinked up at me, and a bomb of every fury imaginable detonated when a lone tear slid down her cheek into her vivid curls. “Audra.” My name was a rasp, choked, barely a breath.
I smoothed her hair from her face, nodding at the healer who was waiting between Truin’s legs. Truin screamed, but I refused to let her head move. “Do you remember when I was twelve, and you found me out in the gardens, trying to capture bees?”
Truin’s eye was overflowing with pain and horror, her lips muttering fast, “Stop, please, stop.”
My tone firmed. “Do you remember?”
She gulped, a quaked exhale fleeing her cracked lips, and nodded.
“You asked why I was trying to capture them.” I waited, and her legs shifted, wanting to close. “Why, Truin?”
“You,” she croaked, coughing. “You said you wanted to bake them into a cake.”
I nodded. “And to give it to Regineld.” Regineld had been my father’s favored guard, his right hand in many disgusting ways.
He was a brute, an asshole, and evil right down to his very core.
“It took you a minute,” I said with a wet laugh. “You watched me throw walls of air throughout the garden, the stunned bees falling.” The memory of the thawing rose petals, the scent of jasmine and new grass, carried us both to a different time, a better place. “Then I picked them up, one by one with my gloved hands, and dropped them into a box.”
The murmurs from the healers weren’t quiet enough for my liking, but I refused to take my eyes or my attention from Truin. “I was c-confused.”
Blinking fast, I could barely hear myself talk, the roaring inside my ears growing too loud. “You were, and it amused me.”
“You wanted him to eat it,” she said after a moment of staring at me, at nothing. “The cake.”
“I wanted him to taste what it was like to feel your body die a thousand deaths on the inside while still remaining perfectly fine on the outside.” I licked my drying lips. “And you said…”
“Vengeance will cost you your soul.”
I nodded again. “And I said—”
“That you cared not, for your soul was already black.”
“Yes,” I whispered, and her hand, bloodied and trembling, rose to mine on her cheek. Her fingers wrapped around my own, her grip almost painful as her lips wobbled.
Leaning down, I allowed my whispered words and lips to caress her forehead. “I will destroy them with my bare fucking hands, this I swear.”
It was not like Truin to encourage me, but lying below me, broken and terrified, she just nodded, and closed her eye.
The witches stayed with Truin, muttering incantations I didn’t understand, and lulled her into a deep sleep.
When I was certain she wouldn’t stir, I gently laid her head on the chaise and crossed the empty room to Raiden.
He’d been leaning by the far wall, his expression void. “Unless you want a war, I’d have transport provided. Your most trusted driver. Only one. Now.”
“Audra, you have to know I never—”
“I gave my word she wouldn’t be harmed, and I meant it. I left her under supervision of my best guards. She was not treated as a prisoner.”
“She was kept in your dungeon, was she not?”
His teeth clamped together, and he sighed at the ground. “Yes.”
“Then how were you to know what was happening to her, or that she wasn’t treated as a prisoner? You were too busy worrying about your ego and cock to do as I requested countless times and take me to her.”
When his head rose, I almost flinched at what I saw in his eyes. “I failed you. I have failed you more than I can bear, and I am sorry.”
Unsure what to say, only certain that I wanted to remove Truin from the place that’d surely marked her pure soul, I looked back over at her sleeping, bruised form. “I wish to leave. I must leave. Do not make this any worse than it already is.”
His fingers skimmed my hand, and I did flinch then, watching as he left the ballroom.