Fisting my skirts, I hurried down the hall. “I’ll be back later.”
“Wait,” Mintale rushed after me. “Your guard.”
I ignored him. The city was the safest it’d been since well before my father’s death.
Even so, Garris snapped into action when he saw me heading for the exit, keeping hot on my heels. I lost him within the crowd of an auction being held near market square.
The Rosaleen was a high-class bed and breakfast that most royals preferred during their stay or after a night of too much debauchery. Some for more sinister and secretive things.
The narrow pale blue three-story structure was wedged between a bar and a café along the harbor, providing a view of the glistening water and mountains beyond.
Inside, a bell tinkled, the concierge glancing up from the book he’d been reading with a start. “M-majesty.” He cussed when he bowed and bumped his elbow on his ruby red desk.
Glancing around the red and pink trussed-up establishment, I searched for the stairs.
I found them behind the desk to the left, white and twirling through the ceiling.
Mirrors of every size and frame bedecked the pale pink walls. The concierge sang after me while I scaled the squeaking metal stairs.
He gave up after a moment, his high-pitched voice fading beneath the loud thump of my heart and boots over the plush gray carpets lining the halls.
He was on the third floor, I realized, climbing the stairs again and catching a whiff of that blood-bubbling scent of his.
I knocked and waited. Then I knocked again before deciding I was through with waiting. “Open the door or I’ll force it open.”
Kash walked out of the neighboring room, and with a lingering look my way, he took the stairs down.
The hinges squeaked as Zad, clad in an undershirt and loose pants, his hair falling out of its tie to shield half his agitated face, finally opened the door.
“Are you ready to apologize and plead forgiveness?” That was apparently the wrong thing to say as he made to close the door, annoyance rolling off him like a thunderstorm. “Wait.”
“Audra, I’ve no desire to do this right now, and surely, you’ve better things to do.”
“Excuse me?” I blinked.
He rubbed his forehead, sighing. “You don’t seem to understand.”
“Understand what?” I checked the room behind him, making sure there were no females in there. There was only a lavishly dressed large bed, an armoire, a kitchen nook, and a desk with inkpots and quills.
“Satisfied?” he said, brows high.
I lifted my chin. “What do you mean?”
With a half roll of his eyes, he stepped back. “This.” Waving a hand, he said, “Exactly this. You chase me, but it’s futile because you’re not willing to actually do anything.”
“And what would you have me do? Have you stay with me, make a life with me anyway?” I shook my head, laughing at how ridiculous it sounded. “What life would you have? How would you fare with the constant reminder that he is my husband, and therefore you will always remain my lover?”
His brows and tone knitted with impatience. “That is a question you should’ve asked weeks ago.”
I almost growled, my temper burning. “What difference does it make?”
“Because weeks ago, I’d have told you I’d be happy to sleep on the floor of your rooms. I need no title. I already have one I don’t particularly want. I only wanted you.”
My roiling anger fled in the face of fear. Still, I was no coward. Even when confronted with questions I had a feeling I might not like the answer to. “And now?”
His cold eyes traveled my body, his top lip lifting. “Now, I’d be happy to never see you again.”
I pushed the door open before he could close it in my face. “You terminated your marriage.”
“You assume that is all your doing?” His eyes twinkled with incredulity. “I’m not sorry to inform you that not everything revolves around you.” When I gaped at him, he reached for a strand of my hair, looping it around his finger, his thumb stroking. “She did not wish to remain married to a male who’d linked with someone else, and I do not blame her.”
Balance was hard to maintain as I tried to absorb what he wasn’t saying, not that I had room to argue. I couldn’t help myself. “But you would’ve remained married.”
He released my hair, his eyes roaming mine in that way they did when he was waiting for me to figure something out. Turning away from me, he walked to the window that overlooked the harbor. “You can leave now.”
I wanted to stomp my foot, then march over and demand he look at me. “I don’t want to.”
Slipping his hands inside his pockets, he said in a tone that reeked of indifference, “It was not a request.”
“But I am your queen.”
“No.” He threw a wolfish smile at me over his shoulder. “You may be a queen, but you are not mine.”