We followed him into the throne room, where he took his seat upon the thorn-crusted gold dais that overlooked the crowds.
Bodies rocked by us—singing and dancing and lots of skin. The orchestra sat tucked in a far crevice of the room, their instruments gleaming under the firelight, and their music eddying through the walls to entertain partygoers in every space.
Raiden took my hand in his, and I laughed as he spun me around and then swung me into his chest. My hands slapped against it, and flushed, I absorbed the heat and the smooth texture of his skin into mine as I gazed up at him beneath my lashes.
“Your touch burns,” he said, so low as if he hadn’t meant to say it at all.
“And yours thaws,” I said, uncaring if anyone in the room heard me.
He tucked me close and hummed the haunting melody into my hair. Slowly, I pressed my cheek into his chest and hugged his lower back.
I’d never known what it was to be held before that. Never knew what it was to have someone hold you so tenderly that you feared you might just collapse into fragments of who you once were without their touch.
I looked up as the song changed, startled and confused, and let my eyes drift over the many faces in the room. “I need a drink.”
“I’ll get you one,” Raiden said. “Wait here.”
I backed up to the closest wall, staring at my father, who was rubbing his face in a female’s chest. Her husband stood beside her, unable to mask his displeasure.
I tore my gaze away and tried to search for Raiden. He was over by the outside doors, taking drinks from a server. A scream had his eyes flaring and moving to where I stood.
I closed mine, drew in a long inhale, and slowly reopened them in my father’s direction.
He’d bent the female over his throne, and his hand was between her legs. “If you’re going to scowl, Marteen, I’ll give you something worth scowling over.”
Untucking himself from his pants, he then forced himself inside Marteen’s wife.
No one could stop him. No one would dare. They all knew the cost would be imminent death. Or far worse.
My spine felt as though it’d crack, and I looked away as Lady Quillion’s shrieks turned to moans of pleasure. Raiden’s gaze found mine, but I couldn’t read his. His shoulders were set, his hands whitening from his tight grip around the two goblets.
Bodies moved about, blocking my line of sight, excitement and disgust heavy in the air.
Wanting away from the static that was filling my head, I moved toward the doors that would lead to my bed chambers while searching for Raiden.
He was nowhere to be found.
“Where is Casilla?”
I didn’t dare open my eyes. Too shocked, too thrown, too sickened to my very soul.
The audacity to ask about her when I’d just spilled my innards before him… I had no words.
I almost didn’t answer him.
“You were not listening.”
The bars of his cage clanged as he rattled them, his voice loud enough to send the guards rushing in. “If you’ve hurt her. If you’ve so much as—”
I sat up, and his words ceased with a wave of my hand. “I tire of you. So much so”—I swept a bored glance over his frame—“I wonder what I ever saw in you in the first place.”
I motioned for the guards to leave as I rolled from the table, my bones feeling brittle from days of riding and magic use. My feet slapped against the ground, my nightgown flowing around and down to meet my ankles.
“If I’m here on account of your father being dead, then I wish I were the one who killed him.”
I stopped, laughter bubbling deep inside before I let it roll through my body and exit my mouth. “Sleep well, Prince.”
“Wait,” he called, rattling his cage once more. “Damn it, wait!”
I stopped out of his line of sight. “Why should I?”
“When will it happen?”
I watched a rat scuttle across the floor. “I presume you mean your death?” It paused and peered back at me with tiny glowing eyes, then raced for a hole in the wall of a cell closest to the gates.
“You already know the answer to that.” I left him and nodded at Azela. “Have someone find me should he have any more hallucinations.” After what’d happened to Berron, I’d forgotten to broach the subject with Truin and made a mental note to do so next time I saw her.
As I reached the corridor to my rooms, I trailed my fingers over the row of stained glass windows, feeling the cold bite into my skin. I welcomed it, letting it seep into my pores and rejuvenate that which was weary and defeated.
The doors opened with a thought, and I entered, making them close quietly when I saw the lord of the east sprawled over the sheets on his stomach.