Page 144 of A King So Cold

Seeming unaffected by my tone, he stated blandly, “No.”

“Then what?” I snapped, tired of his carefully said truths. “How?”

“We knew she was up to something, but we lost her that evening. Landen discovered her whereabouts the following morning.” Sighing, he straightened in the chair, leaning forward to clasp his hands between his knees as he looked at me. “Kash and I followed you when you left the Rosaleen, but we lost you when you headed back to the castle with Truin. By the time we found the alleyway you’d been taken from, you were gone. They were quick, too quick.”

“She’s a vanisher,” I supplied.

His brows lifted, and he continued. “And so it took far longer than I’d have liked to find you.” A hand dragged down his face as he said those last words, as though he were reliving the moments all over again.

“How did you figure it out?”

He smiled down at his hands. “Fae senses are rather… extraordinary. We assumed it would need to be in proximity to Beldine, and once we’d hit the water, I could feel you.”

I stared at him as he crossed to the bed and fed me water, and I stared some more as he smoothed the hair back from my forehead. “Sleep.”

“We need to—”

“Sleep, Audra. There will be time for that later.”

“Promise?” I asked, my eyelids closing when his fingers swept down my cheek.

He did not answer me.

The following morning, Truin and Azela were trying to force food into me, and I knew without asking that he was gone.

A month crawled by, and I slowly regained my strength, but the lord of the east did not return.

After a week, I wrote him and received no response.

I wrote him one more time before I made myself stop, fearing the messengers might sneak a look at what I’d written—even though I’d been careful to word it plainly—and have themselves a good laugh at my expense.

I would have rode there myself, but I was quick to tire while my body tried to regenerate all that it’d lost to the Whispering Sea, and the land it had helped uncover. And the thought of going all that way only to have him reject me yet again… I preferred to tend to the battered remains of my heart in private, and such a thing would not happen with my guard accompanying me.

I was alive, a miracle I often caught myself marveling over. I was alive and angry and at a loss for what it was the stubborn lord wanted from me.

As it turned out, my cousin was aware that Amelda had less than desirable plans for me, but he had thought she was all talk, and he enjoyed her in his bed too much to come to me. With an honesty I respected, he’d stated simply that he and his mother had never much cared for me. That did not mean he wished me dead, he’d said. It meant he did not care to stop it.

As punishment, I’d sent him over to Beldine with a boatload of goods as a token of apology, and then I’d made sure the ship left without him.

He could stay, or he could swim. I didn’t much care, just as he hadn’t when he’d decided to sleep with someone who needed me dead.

Whether the token had been received well, or received at all, I wasn’t sure. The captain of the ship had returned and informed us it was done, the packages and my cousin left upon their shores.

As for Amelda… I’d given her to Raiden, being that she was supposed to be working for him, and not for her own nefarious cause. It wasn’t long before he gave me the gift of her hand, stating the rest of her had been incinerated.

I leaned back against my throne, yawning as Mintale delivered the past month’s mail.

Raiden had said he’d sort through it with me to help get the tedious task out of the way as fast as possible.

After the lord had left my bed chamber, the king had taken his place. He’d been silent, a guard I wasn’t sure whether I could trust, seated in the shadows beside my bed.

As the days passed, I’d decided he probably could be trusted, even after all he’d done. For if he wanted me dead, he had many hours in which he could’ve carried out the task with little to no fight from me.

He returned to the Sun Kingdom the following week and arrived here again just yesterday.

“An issue with an irrigation system,” Raiden said, his nose crinkling as he no doubt struggled to understand the contents of the letter.

“Riveting,” I muttered, sorting the read from the unread.

“What in the darkness do they think we can do about such matters? I’ve no idea what he’s even blathering on about.”

“Pass it on to Mintale.” That was what I did with most of them anyway.