A sickening feeling flooded my stomach, but I remained quiet, as patient as I could bear, while I waited for him to speak.
Though when he did, it was with words I’d rather not have heard him say. “You’ll be escorted home at first light.”
He was up and climbing down through the ceiling before I could even think to protest.
Rage, hotter than I’d felt since I’d discovered Raiden’s transgressions, threatened to incinerate me. The tips of my fingers tingled. I clenched my hands in my lap, and the swaying plants in the numerous gardens around me slowly stilled.
I waited until it grew completely silent inside, assuming everyone was asleep, and then I scaled the vines over the side of the house, jumping to the grass below with a thud. My teeth clacked as a sharp pang shot up my legs. Shaking it off, I glanced around at the moon-glazed landscape, then continued. Horses huffed and whinnied as I entered the stables.
“Hey,” a lone guard said, but I locked his next breath in his throat until I had my horse, suffocating him just enough to knock him out.
I did the same at the gates when two sentries appeared, but I should’ve known as I raced uphill and reached the trees that someone would find me.
Spurring Wen into a gallop, we jumped fallen logs and weaved between tree trunks as thick as castle turrets. Hours passed, and still, the Fae male followed, never reaching me, but rather, keeping a short distance behind.
I knew better than to think he was worried for my well-being. No, he was stalking me for his own personal needs, whatever those would be. Revenge, perhaps. Though if he wanted me dead, he’d have surely attempted so by now.
The sun was crawling into the sky when I finally slowed at the lake skirting the exit of the woods. There would be little water until we neared the villages outside the city, and the last thing I felt was afraid.
Even though I should have been.
After hours of silence, he finally spoke. “You know what we are, yet you haven’t done anything.”
I hadn’t heard him climb off his horse or even approach, but I stopped myself from letting any surprise show.
Taking my time to answer, I wrung out the hem of my skirts, which had fallen into the water when I’d led Wen to it. “Do you want me to?” I pressed, my emotions brimming just high enough to make me lose all sense of caution. “Do you want me to give you more of a reason to seek that bittersweet retribution?” Letting my dress fall back around my ankles, I pushed the hair that’d escaped my braid away from my face.
With a jaw harder than steel, he glanced away. “There is much you do not know, winter queen.”
Kash’s comment festered for stretched minutes, and when I snuck glances at him, his smirk told me he knew it. Seating himself upon a large, smooth rock, he plucked at some reeds.
I watched, mouth hanging open, as the looped stems shimmered, then grew wings and took flight.
His stare was goading, but as he watched the flying insect disappear, it turned contemplative.
I’d heard the magic of the Fae was like nothing we’d encountered before, but seeing it, even in such a seemingly small demonstration, raised the hair on my arms.
I lowered to the grass, staring at the gurgling stream of water. “My mother is gone, yet you remain here,” I stated the obvious.
“We cannot go back, even if we wanted to.” I flung my eyes his way and found him staring at his long fingers clasped between bent knees. “Beldine is an impenetrable, forbidden land.”
“What?” I asked. “Why?”
A dry bark of laughter exited his flat lips, all the while his expression turned to stone. “Oh, how little you know, indeed.”
I was beginning to tire of his presence, of this journey, and every damn thing.
I moved to get up, but Kash said, “You’re a race of half Fae who’ve been led to believe they’re descendants of two goddesses. Goddesses who never even existed.”
My brows jumped, and I would’ve laughed if not for the serious edge to his tone and those hard dark eyes. “Excuse me?”
“I think you heard me just fine, half breed.”
“I am no half breed, asshole.” Getting to my feet, I stomped to Wen and hauled myself up into the saddle. I’d heard enough nonsense for a lifetime, and I hadn’t the desire to hear anymore.
“You are.” His tone might have been light—conversational, even—but the words were sharp. “You and all of your precious royals are half Fae who consider yourselves holier than thou. You’re not of pure blood, else your ears would be more pointed for a start. You’re a half breed. Half mortal, half Fae.”
With only slight points, his own ears were just like any other royal.