Her shoulders sank as she eyed me. “I don’t mean to upset you, but he did want you dead.”
My teeth gritted, the scarf coiling too tight around my fingers.
Truin continued, voice gentler. “Is it possible he remembers, at least enough, and that it doesn’t make one bit of difference?”
“To him,” I finished for her, rubbing my face, the silk soft over my heated skin. “Because he detested me that much?”
Truin shifted. “I don’t know. I’d like to believe, as I’m sure you want to, that he never truly hated you.” She paused. “Audra, what is it you hope to glean from this situation before it’s over?”
The truth. Or a truth spun well enough that it would counteract the damage wrought to my heart from his actions.
I was in search of well-spun, undetectable lies.
I said none of those things as my hands slid from my face. “I want him to look at me and see what he’s done. To feel it all and suffer beneath the weight of his betrayal.”
“Maybe that was your plan, but really, you want him to tell you it was all a lie. A catastrophic misunderstanding.”
I groaned. “Stop being so perceptive, you fucking witch.”
Truin smiled, soft and knowing, when I looked at her. “It’s okay, you know.” She nodded. “To still love someone who destroyed you. Your father was despicable. He killed your mother, he took everything that held meaning from you if you weren’t careful, and let’s not even begin with the horrors he wrought, of which he made you bear witness to many of, yet deep down, you still loved him.”
She was right.
He was my greatest shame and greatest foe all in one.
Truin made tea, and we sipped it while watching the fire die before she fed it a couple more logs.
“Should I even bother trying anymore?” I was beginning to worry I was becoming transparent. “I don’t want to seem like some desperate imbecile.”
She grasped my hand within hers, and I stared down at her small fingers, watching the way they struggled to curl around my longer ones. “You look like a queen who has been gravely wronged, so you’re taking your own form of justice.” I lifted my eyes to her fierce gaze. “As all true queens must do.”
I could only hope that’s how I would see it when it was all over.
An hour later, my boots hit the damp cobblestone, and I rewrapped my scarf around my neck. I’d never needed protection from the cold, but I did need to look fabulous. My own rules, and I adored abiding by them.
The sun was dimmed by a group of passing clouds, and I wished for more snow, not liking the way the damp wanted to claw inside my bones and reduce me to a pile of defeated mush. We were a kingdom stuck in perpetual winter, but the temperature only got so low before it rose again, making it easier for trade to take place and ships to glide into our shores.
No one really knew why, though if you asked the many who worshipped the goddesses, they’d bore you to tears with tales of the two sisters’ personalities—light and dark, fire and ice—and how their love for one another, no matter their differing opinions and traits, was so strong it forged a world for their offspring to rule over.
Though it was true the powers of the royals were born from our lands, I had a lot of doubt about the rest of that nonsense. I didn’t quite know what I believed. Perhaps one day, I’d care enough to find out more about this mystical continent of mine.
Should people ever decide to quit pissing me off, of course.
“What does he have?” I asked Azela.
“Sweetcakes.” She smirked at Ainx, who’d just stepped out of the bakery. “He adores them.”
I let him eat two before I snatched the box and tossed them into a thawing pile of snow.
I watched him sleep, listening to the incessant drip coming from stalactites tucked within the deepest cells.
He’d always slept so easily. I’d found it odd in the days after his betrayal, as I’d recounted all the times he’d been inside me, and how easily our lovemaking had serenaded him into a peaceful slumber. Odd because he wanted my kingdom—me—squashed.
How could you love someone so convincingly, so painstakingly earnest in every transaction, all the while knowing you would be their demise in every crushing way?
He slept now as he had then, as though not even a rat scuttling over his hunched form could disturb him.
I contemplated waking him by removing the bars from the stone and sending the gated door down upon him.
But I chose to start talking instead. They say the comatose can hear you wherever they’re lurking within their minds. Perhaps it was the same for sleeping assholes.
Either way, I didn’t particularly care.