Page 86 of A King So Cold

I did nothing as my soldiers and his own tended to their wounded and began to disband.

“Majesty,” Azela said, startling me when she approached and touched my arm. “We’re leaving.”

Raiden and his people soon became blobs beneath the sinking sun, but he knew, he had to, that I was watching.

Turning Wen, we slowly joined the others. Zad was at the front, overseeing our route home, and he refused to look at me when I neared.

Exhausted and confused and a myriad of other things no one could aptly name, we rode through the night and set up camp the following afternoon in a small village a day’s ride from the city.

The weather was that of spring given our distance from the capitol, but campfires were still lit to boil water, clean wounds, and cook skinned animals that’d been killed on the way in.

After seeing Wen to the stables outside a tavern, I left him with the guards, instructing they feed him and wipe him down with a tone that had them snapping into action immediately.

I’d have done so myself, but the lord’s silence and inability to so much as look at me since we’d parted ways with the escaped king had irritated me to no end.

I found him inside, rummaging for liquor behind the wooden countertop with two of his Fae friends. When I should broach that I knew what they were, I wasn’t sure. It was up to me to decide their fate, and I wasn’t in the mood to bother with such matters right now.

I snatched a stool and tried to infuse some warmth into my voice. “My lord.”

He poured himself a whiskey, then capped the bottle and returned it to its home.

As if sensing the brewing tension, the few other soldiers in the room made their way outside. His friends, however, just wandered to the farthest corner to take up a game of darts.

“Zad,” I hissed, slapping a hand down beside his drink.

He picked it up, tipped the entire lot down his bobbing throat, and then shook his head. “What?”

I blinked, sitting back on the stool. “What do you mean, what? You’re ignoring me.”

“How lovely of you to notice.” He poured another, throwing it back immediately.

“I didn’t know he’d escape.”

“Well, he has.” He again placed the bottle of whiskey away, then finally, gave me his golden eyes. “And now we will all pay the price.”

His tone hinted at more than one price. “We might have been dead if he hadn’t shown up.”

A gruff laugh barked from him. “Now you have gratitude for the bastard?”

I swallowed, unsure what I was feeling.

He seemed to notice that and sighed. “You should sleep. We all need to sleep.”

Walking to a door at the end of the bar, he opened it and began marching up the stairs.

I followed, racing after him, and caught his hand before he could enter an empty room housing a single bed. “Stop it.”

“Stop what?” A tremor wracked his hand, and he pulled it away.

“I will fix it, but for now, we count ourselves lucky the bloodshed seems to be over.”

Staring down the slant of his nose, he licked his lips. “You’re no fool, Audra.”

My brows crinkled. “What do you mean by that?”

Stepping closer, he lowered his head, whispered words hitting my cheek as his eyes bored into mine. “It means you set this up. You have your husband back. And now”—he took a step back, his eyes never leaving mine—“we must all hold our breath while we await what comes next.”

“Nothing is going to happen.” Not at this point in time. “We might still be vowed, but I don’t know what to believe. I don’t trust him, but I do trust that if he wanted me dead, he had his chance and he didn’t take it.”

“You are still vowed,” he repeated, and the way in which he’d uttered it, with such low vehemence, stilled my breath.

We were still vowed. So where did that leave me and Zad?

“I must not rank very high on your list of priorities,” he said. “If this new problem has only just occurred to you.”

“Don’t,” I said when he turned his back to me, about to leave.

His hand wrapped around the brass handle, his shoulders shaking as he exhaled. “I cannot do this with you right now.”

Then he was gone, the door closing in my face.

For untold minutes, I stood there, staring at the dirtied door, wondering if I should use what little I had left to break it down and get to him.

I decided against it.

It had only just transpired. It wasn’t fair he already acted like some snarling beast over the outcome of a situation that had so recently tied a noose around our necks.

I found some unused laundry water readied in the small room next to mine, which housed cloths and aprons and other miscellaneous items, hanging from lines hooked into either side of the walls. It was freezing, but that didn’t matter. It was fresh, as though someone had prepared to wash the garments next to the three pails but was then told to leave.