“Do I?” he said, drawing closer, so close, I stepped back into the wall, its dusty tapestry trapped behind me. “You lay with him, you allow him free rein of your home, and for him, you ignore what it is you truly want.”
“It is not for him, and it is only for the time being. I promise.”
His brows lowered, his jostled mask shifting over his marble encased cheeks. “You promise?”
I nodded. I would make it work. I had to, for my own survival as well as his.
His hands trembled as he cupped my jaw, and I felt my eyes flutter closed at the touch. A caress and a burn, his smooth mouth whispered over mine. “You accept me only to turn me away. You care for me only to do so when you see fit. And you wound me at every turn.”
My own hands reached up, gripping his. I opened my eyes, a plea within them. “You cannot think I meant for all this to happen. You know it’s not what I want.”
“You do nothing to stop it. To make it right. You’re not even trying. You are not Audra; you are a puppet of your own making.”
“I am no one’s puppet,” I seethed. “I am yours. My heart is yours. My soul is yours.”
“My queen.” His breath coasted over my lips, searing. “Your heart is about as good as the existence of your soul—a rotten fucking lie.” He released me, his long strides carrying him down the hall and out of sight as I struggled to breathe.
The anger and hostility behind his lethal, silken words echoed throughout my spinning mind, clanging against my skull.
I swallowed repeatedly and blinked the wetness from my eyes, making sure they were dry. Then I reaffixed my crown and forced my feet into action.
Heading back into the ballroom, I snatched a glass of champagne and drained half of it in one swallow. I looked everywhere while trying to appear as if I were merely taking in the festivities, but I couldn’t see him.
“You have not trialed me.”
I stilled, glancing to my left.
Nova’s smile was brief, her posture riddled with arrogance.
“I do not care to be in your presence long enough to bother.”
She snorted. “Some queen you are.”
“Some wife you are.”
Her eyes widened, a shocked laugh erupting. “Touché.”
Over the lip of my glass, I watched her curtsy and disappear into the thick crowd.
I needn’t have worried over the possibility of Zad welcoming her back into his bed. I knew him, and I knew he was not the type to go marching around one’s castle in a jealous rage if that were the case.
The lord was many things, but a hypocrite was not one of them.
Raiden was by the dais, in conversation with my cousin. Curling my shoulders back, I walked over, interrupting their chatter.
“Cousin,” Adran drawled. “Please do throw more lavish events such as these.” He swallowed his champagne, then gestured to the brunette beside him. “You do remember Amelda, yes?”
I gave her my attention for all of a beat, nodding as she dipped low, her gold dress far too bright. “Majesty.”
“Engaged, right?” I remembered, sipping more wine.
Amelda glanced at the ground, and my cousin loosened the collar of his dark silver dress shirt. “Well, not exactly.”
“He stepped out on me with a village child minder.” My cousin coughed, tossing a quizzical glare her way. “What?” she said, looking away. “It’s true.”
I cared not if it were true and looked at Raiden, who was studying the pair with keen eyes.
“Needless to say,” Adran continued. “We’ve put the nuptials on pause for now.”
“Or indefinitely,” Amelda murmured. “Time will tell.”
“Not always,” Raiden said, throwing his ale down his throat with a harsh shake of his head. Heavy, narrowed greens fell upon me, but I maintained eye contact.
If he was waiting for an apology or some type of groveling, he’d be waiting for all eternity.
I felt eyes upon my back, and I didn’t need to turn around to know who they belonged to.
Zad stopped by our small circle, leaning in to say, none too quietly, “Be sure to touch her asshole when you’re inside her cunt.” He clapped Raiden’s shoulder. Hard. “Maybe then she’ll let you finish the job.”
My glass fell from my hand, shattering over the mosaic tile.
My cousin’s barely there brows shot up. “Juicy.” His eyes danced as he watched Zad prowl to the eastern doors. “Nothing like a scorned lover,” he sang, studying me over the lip of his goblet.
A large male wearing a furbane mask stood by one of the exits. Kash.
While a server fussed below me on the floor with the broken glass, I watched Zad reach him, and the both of them walk out into the courtyard.
He was leaving. I’d known he wouldn’t linger long. Not after what he’d said.
Not after what I’d done.