“It won’t hurt me.”
“I just like to touch them,” I admitted without much thought at all. “To touch you.” My cheeks filled with heat, and I turned my eyes to the water-streaked floor, marred with splotches of mud from our boots.
With a gentleness that threatened to bring water to my eyes, his fingers snuck beneath my chin, tilting it as he pressed close. His bright eyes locked with mine, messages I couldn’t read trapped inside. “It’s not like you to blush.” I scowled, and he smirked, his free hand lifting for his fingers to smooth over my brow. “I should like to see it again.”
I felt my expression blank as my limbs loosened. “A queen does not blush,” I whispered.
“Mine does,” he said, lowering his head. My eyes closed as I waited for his lips, but they skimmed my nose instead, the action emptying my lungs alongside his soft words. “And I fucking love it.”
A throat cleared, and I pulled my head free of his grip, turning to the door where Landen stood. “Majesty.” He gave an overly dramatic bow, then looked at Zad, trying and failing to conceal a smirk. “My lord. Welcome home.”
Thunder cracked outside, lighting the doorway behind him enough for me to see he wasn’t alone.
Zad cursed, so violently that even I startled, especially when he stumbled back over my feet, his face paling.
“Oh, yeah,” Landen said, moving to the side. “You have another guest.”
Casilla, clothed in a clean dress, stepped forward, and I watched in horror as her red hair changed to honey blond, and her nose and lips widened the tiniest amount.
No longer did she look like some peasant woman from The Edges. Her chin, narrowing to a slight point, tipped up, her eyes, now a vivid hazel, aglow.
She was a lord’s wife.
Nova stepped forward, smiling tightly. “I do hope I’m not interrupting.”
Shouting and yelling and crashing ensued from the study as Landen and I sat in the kitchen.
Me, with my heart in my throat, speechless, and he, with that maddening crooked smirk.
“How long,” I finally said, finding my voice. It was rough, but it was steady enough. “How long have you known?”
Landen leaned over the counter to snatch an apple. He inspected it, then brushed it on his cream loosely buttoned cotton shirt and took a bite, chewing loud. “Two days.”
Out of all the fables and horror stories our continent had been brought up on containing faeries, one thing was true. They couldn’t lie.
“She was dead.”
He gave me a look that suggested I was daft.
I bristled, and he smirked again. I was tempted to shove that apple down his annoying throat and leave it lodged there. “A few pieces of clothing hanging strategically from branches upon a cliff does not make a dead lord’s wife.”
To that, I stood. “So you knew she was alive?”
Zad’s other friend, Dace, entered then, his white hair standing in eye-drawing directions, and bowed. “Queen.”
“You knew too?”
He looked at his brother, who shrugged, then back at me. “Two days ago.”
I rolled my eyes, slumping back onto the stool.
Dace chuckled, snatching an egg from a bowl and cracking it open on the sink. I cringed as he held it above his head and let the raw yolk fall into his mouth.
Smacking his lips together, he tossed the shell into a small yellow pail on the countertop. “Oh, right.” Swiping a hand over the back of his mouth, he grinned, his canines longer than mine but only slightly. “This would be rather inconvenient for you.”
Landen scoffed, retying his long hair. “Being that you’ve finally decided to give our lord the time of day.”
My teeth gritted. “Do not fuck with me. I’ll forever not be in the mood.”
Then my mouth fell open at the sound of Zad yelling, “You wanted out? Fine, but you should have just fucking said so.”
Dace pursed his full lips, tapping long fingers upon the counter across from me.
“You wouldn’t have let me.”
“What?” Zad laughed the word, without humor.
Both males looked at me, lips pinched and brows high.
I sneered at them, and they laughed. Dace stabbed a finger at me. “You’re funny.”
I blinked, my tone dry. “So happy to be of service.”
Nova’s and Zad’s voices lowered, and I gave up trying to eavesdrop
“Where’s the other one?” I asked.
“Kash?” Dace asked.
“The other one,” Landen repeated with a chuckle.
“The one who detests me then.” I rolled my neck, unable to rid the prickling tension tightening every muscle. “Yes, Kash.”
“Not sure,” Landen mused. “You don’t think we detest you?”
“How interesting,” Dace murmured, his eyes gleaming with his smile, crawling all over my face.
I forced myself to remain still and sighed. “I don’t particularly care.”
Landen hummed, and I looked at him. “You don’t remember?” I lifted a brow, and he went on, “The night of the burning apple.”
“The night of the what?” I asked, growing more exasperated by the minute.