The Flames That Bind Us

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31. Unravel

The gremlins must have been having the time of their lives right now.

The garden looked almost unrecognizable with the thick snow falling over it like a blanket of white. There was no sign of anything remotaly green, only some of the crops and plants that died out the minute the snow hit. But with the fresh pack of ice, accompanied with the freezing wind, it was a lot harder to catch gremlins now.

“This is utterly misrable,” princess Lis remarked from beside me, her eyes trained to the white-caped window. She was barely visiable thanks to the heavy beige fur coat she hid under.

“I`m sorry you had to stop for today,” I told her.

She tried to fix as much of whatever was ruined in the garden, with Ayana and Redmond trailing behind her. But the blizzard outside was too fierce that the three of them got knocked back whenever they tried to move a step, so they had given up and went back inside.

For me, it was easier to surround myself with a thin wall of fire that helped melt the snow underneath my feet. And the cold was never a problem. But it was the gremlins who almost made me pull my own hair out.

They had taken advantage of the thinckness of the snow to sneak through and hide better. Not even my flames were enough to drag them out because the little bastards knew where to avoid it. So by midday, I had called it off and deicded to wait a few days until the snow thinned or stopped completley.

I just hope the garden would be alright by then.

“I hate to think you had something to do with this horrible weather, Calix,” king Gabriel almost grit out from where he was sitting nearest to the fireplace, a warm cup of tea in his hand and looking similar to his sister`s attire, only with a black coat.

It seems like the Imarnian people really hated the cold. Or perhaps it`s just their royality.

Even in a fairly warm room, the king and his sister seemed a breath away from freezing, despite the heavy clothes they both warpped themselves with.

King Calix looked to be the merriest of us all.

Nonetheless, he looked offended at King Gabriel`s accusation as he set his own tea down. “Don`t be ridiculous, Gabe. Just because I have the magic of ice doesn`t mean I caused this. We`re almost at the end of the year, so it`s only natural that you experience this weather.”

He finished with a roll of his eyes, but King Morrison snorted at him.

As for him, he appeared to be taking it the worst, his gold fur cloak enveloped him like a second skin. Ayana was occasionaly shivering beside him.

“Pretty convienent, considering you`re the only one here who doesn`t get affected,” he said.

“Oh stop complaining,” queen Adria scolded the two, “it`s only a little cold.”

She looked pretty comfortable and warm snuggled next to her wife on the large red couch, truly unbothered by the weather. Well, that makes sense considering Vallas is the second coldest kingdom after Trinivan, with it being nestled in the northen vallys.

To my surprise, king Morrison stuck his tongue at her, and she replied the gesture.

I hid my smile with a butter biscut I was munching on. It`s odd to see two of the most powerul wizards in Ignolia behaving like children, while the other two bickered like grumpy old men.

Lis noticed my reaction, leaned towards me, and whispered, “They`re all a bunch of babies if you ask me.”

That managed to make me chuckle. She leaned back, but furrowed her eyebrows in concern. “Aren`t you cold with only that?” she pointed at my thin dark blue sweater.

“Oh, not really. I don`t feel cold.”

She looked genuinely confused. “Ever?”

“Ever.”

At that, she scooched closer to me, linking her arm in mine and pressing her side to my body. I was a bit startled to say the least, but she looked like she was testing something out.

After a few seconds, she pulled back to blink at me in surprise. “You`re really warm,” she stated. “Your skin, I mean. It`s very warm, like a furnance.”

“Uh...thanks?”

She grinned, and with a little squeal that I did not expect, she threw her weight at me and clung to my side. “That`s so lovely. It`s like having your own personal heater.”

I laughed, and did not mind her seeking my warmth. “Glad you like it.”

“What on earth are you hugging Lydia for?” her fiance, who was quietly enjoying a book next to her, said as he gave us a rasied eyebrow.

“She`s very warm,” she infomed him, her head resting on my shoulder.

“I`m warm too.”

King Gabriel coughed a little too loudly at that.

Lis rolled her eyes at her fiance, pouting her lips. “You`re not a Fire Slifer.”

Before he could say anything else, Ayana slowly, and a little reluctantly, came and sat on the empty spot beside me. Without a word, the poor thing hugged my other side and sighed blissfully.

“Mind if I join as well?” King Morrison asked, somehow his eyes sparkling in want.

I blushed a little, though I didn`t need to say anything for king Gabriel spoke first, “Give the girl some room to breathe.”

King Morrison turned to him with a shrug and a lopisided grin, in which the other king only narrowed his eyes at him.

***

The day was still young, and I had nothing to do. Well, beside buy a gift for the princess`s birthday.

Since it`s been about two month since I started working, I had taken advantage of my pay and bought whatever I needed. But I still had no idea what to buy for Lis. What do you give to the Princess of Imarnia? Obviously, it needed to be something expensive, or at least worthy of a royal. So I had saved some of my wage money for this occasion.

Luxus was nowhere to be seen, perhaps lying nearbuy a fireplace somewhere –most likely the kitchen. I took a quick bath, and dressed in something new I had bought; a high wasited black skirt that reached my knees, with a dark red long-sleeved sweater that showed the skin of my shoulders.

Not something to wear on a snowy day, but I wasn`t affected by the cold so it wouldn`t bother me.

I also wore short-heeled black boots with tights underneath, and threw on a simple black jacket. Grabbing my bag, I checked my appearence one last time in the mirror before leaving.

***

Imarnia`s market was a very huge place.

Even without any fairs, there was still lots of shops and stalls for all kind of things. When I went shopping for my self, I knew exactly what to buy and where to go. But shopping for the princess...that was something else entirely. I didn`t have much time, her birthday was in less than a month. And I had no idea where to begin.

I entered a bookstore I had bought a few books earlier the previous week, looking for something to help me. The store was giagntic, made of fine wood that smelled plesantly with thousands of pixies flying about and helping customers, their multi-colored lights illuminating the place.

I knew what types of books I liked; fantasy with a touch of romance, preferably mortal-made because I like to see what they continue to think of magic and the impossible things that make our world.

But what type of books does the princess prefer?

There was a book that looked to be over a thousand pages named The Misadventures of Marsie Maroo; a biogrhaphy about one of our world`s most famous wizard, written by herself of course. But I wonder if Lis was a fan of Ms Maroo?

I found another I had read when I was a child. But it was by mortals, and the store had the completle serise. I remember delighting in it, reading about children who went through a magical world hidden behind an old wardobe. Though I also remember crying when I read the last book, and the horrible ending it had.

Maybe the princess had read it too, since it was popular with children here? But then again when the princess was a child it was long before this book was made.

I sighed and moved to another sector, where the books were meant for adult readers and weren`t about other wizards.

Perhaps Lis had a sense for romance?

There was certainly lots of it. There was a book with a cover that had two female elves, half naked if only for the colourful rippons streaked across their intimate parts, with one who had her head resting between the other woman`s thighs as they both laid on their backs. The title read; A Bliss in What`s Between Her Legs.

I blinked and put it back. Yeah, I don`t think the princess would be interested in that.

I went to grab another book, and this one had two male fairies, with their mouths inches away from each other as they intertwined their fingers, their blue and gold wings spread and curved to cover their manhoods, allowing only their dark-skinned powerful bodies to show. The title of this one was; To Drink Your Love.

Nope. Not that one either.

The next book made my cheeks heat because it brought a certain image to my mind –one that was recently, and by that I mean a couple of days ago, made true. It was of a male wizard and a female, their bodies entangled around eachother, as the woman had her hands fisted in his blond hair, slender legs wrapped around his hips, and her throat arched back as his lips hovered over it.

It was titled; To Writhe in Desire. And to top it all, they were all by the same author.

I had a feeling I was probably at a slightly different romance section.

“That`s an interesting choice, Lydia. Planning on practicing that on me? Or is it the other way around?” I almost dropped the damned book when the king whispered in my ear, a shiver twisting my spine.

I yelped and jumped back, putting a little distance between us.

He stood with a heavy cloak, a small smirk on those lips of his, which were redder than usual. In fact, both his nose and cheeks appeared bright red compared to the paleness of his skin.

I had to force my mouth shut and blink away the surprise before I said –half screamed – in his face, “Why are you here!?”

I expected him to frown at my not so polite tone. But on the contrary, he looked surprisingly amused at my flushed and blatant state, almost like he was glad he caught me in such a sitiuation.

“Shopping. And you?”

I rolled my eyes despite my embarrassment “Same.”

Why does he always appear in the most awkward times? I swear, it`s almost like as if he knew I was going to be here. Wait...maybe he did. Maybe he followed me or something?

He raised an eyebrow at the book that was still in my gods damn hand, so I quickly put it back on the shelf. “Rather an interesting choice. I`m guessing our time together has made you curious. You know, you don`t have to go looking in a book for that. I`ll be glad to share my experience.”

If possible, my face might have exploaded to bits. “It`s not that!” I tried to explain, realizing my voice sounded alarmed and most definitley guilty. “I was just trying to buy a book for Lis` birthday.”

I knew the bastard probably believed me, but the teasing tug of his lips refused to go away. “I doubt my sister reads these kind of books.”

“I was just browsing,” I mumbled, fidegting in my place. “And what got you in such a merry mood?”

Both his eyebrows lifted, as if he was surprised I even asked him.

“Well, as merry as you can get...” I added quietly, though he clearly heard it.

“I`m here because the book I ordered for Lis finally arrived,” he explained, lifting a gloved hand that held a large green-leathered book.

“What`s it about?”

Maybe that could give me an idea on what to buy.

“It`s about growing specific types of flowers with certain ingridents. She always wanted it as a manual to help her make the garden even more spectacular. It`s a rare one, there`s about only a hundered copies.”

He gave it to me to have a look. And indeed, the flowers in it were strange but beautiful, something that probably only Redmond can grow without the proper materials. I can just imagine the princess with a determination to collect the materials necessary as fast as possible. There were flowers that glowed, ones that changed shades, and ones that changed forms even.

“She would love it,” I said, realizing that any book I would buy her won`t amount to this.

I wanted to buy her something special. She had done so much for me, and I wanted to return the favor.

“Your Majesty,” I returned the book to him, oddly comfortable that there was no bitterness of what I was about to ask of him. “Can you help me pick out a gift? I have no idea what to give her.”

I knew he was busy, and he would probably refuse. He might have been somehow civil with me those past two months, and yes at times I found his company to be not as horrible as I had imagined. But he owed me nothing –outside of our deal.

Still, he was Lis` brother, and he knew her best.

And I was desperate.

Those silver orbs roamed over every inch of my face, deep in consideration. I honestly thought he wouldn`t even speak and just walk away, but I was a tad taken back when he nodded slowly.

“Fine,” he said, but paused to take me in. “However, only if you allow me to have your warmth. It`s freezing outside, and I hate the cold.”

He certainly looked like he did, with probably the thickest cloak I ever saw hung around his shoulders. Though his request was without a doubt...unpredictable.

And intimate.

More than I was prepared for...

But I didn`t think twice about it, didn`t allow myself to. Because if I did, I would probably push him away and run off. And I didn`t feel, nor wanted, to do that.

So without even answering him, I stepped closer and slid my hand under his arm, pressing it to me and walked with him outside.

***

I have to admit, walking arm to arm with a hooded king Gabriel through the streets of Imarnia was not how I imagined my evening to unfold.

We looked like we were lovers for gods` sake! And I wasn`t sure who was more embarrassed about it. He certainly didn`t appear to be fazed, but instead leaned further to my natural heat. I on the other hand, looked as if I was about to melt into a budle of liquid fire.

I could smell his strong musk scent more clearly than ever!

I don`t know what or why I was even mentally fuessing about.

He has been inside you, Lydia! That`s unmistakably closer to where he was now. So quit being such a wimp!

But this was...different. Not something I`ve forced myself to deal with. He looked normal to me. We looked normal.

This was a huge mistake.

“What is it that you have in mind for Lis?” he asked me, distracting my troubled mind.

“I want something unique, something only I could give her.”

“You`re certainly going the length for my sister.” He didn`t bother to mask the disbelief.

I shrugged. “She did a lot for me, healed my wounds and made me feel welcomed. I owe her.”

“Lis doesn`t do those things for gratitude, you know.” Something tightened in his jaw, a darkness flashing in those grey eyes. But he didn`t look offended.

“I know that,” I said, “I just want to thank her somehow. She...she sometimes makes me feel like I have an older sister.”

I didn`t know why I had admitted that part to him, but it was true enough.

“That`s kind of you,” he said it so quietly I almost didn`t hear it.

But I did, and I pretended to look somewhere else.

A part of me was half convinced I was hallucinating this entire thing. It seemed like the only plausible explaination.

“What about this?” he suggested as we stopped near a jewellery shop named Islas. “It`s one of the oldest shops here, and it`s affordable.”

I ignored the jab of annoynance at what may or not be an insult, but it was true nonetheless.

The shop was small, crammed between two large stores that sold hats, and it looked more like a house. But something about it was pleasant.

He led me inside, the little bell hung above the door chimming. And just a second after, a round-bodied female fairy stepped behind the counter. The woman, whom I guessed was Islas since these shops are mainly named after their owners, looked to be middle-aged, but her face was pretty otherwise.

Her wild bright orange hair was made into two braids, and her smile was just as bright the moment she saw the king sliding off the hood of his cloak.

“Your Majesty,” she grabbed the hem of her brown dress and bowed. “It`s been a while.”

“Indeed, Islas,” he said, a closed smile on his lips.

She caught me lingering by the door, and her tangerine-colored eyes widened, as well as her chubby-cheeked grin. I couldn`t help but smile at her too.

“And who is this beauty, my lord?” she asked, her eyes lit with eagerness.

He lifted the arm I previously held and put his hand on my shoulder, but did not bring me close to him. “She`s a...friend.”

I just hope she didn`t catch the slight pause there.

“Oh,” she seemed to inspcet every inch of me, from my hair to my eyes and down to my other assets. She didn`t even seem to question my nature, just how beautiful I was. She kind of reminded me of Lysa. “Is she a princess?”

A concubine, really.

King Gabriel almost seemed to read my mind, so he said, “She needs help with a gift. Anything you could provide?”

“Well, of course, sire, “ the woman gasped as she shuffled towards me, noticing just how short she was. She barely reached my chest.

She took my hands in her soft ones, her ringed-fingers guiding me to a glass display of the most breath taking jewelleries.

“Whose it for?” she asked.

“The princess.”

That earned me another gasp. “Well, then. We better make sure we get the perfect one. I had sold and made jewelles for the royal family for years. Put your faith in me, child.”

I smiled at her enthusiasm, and allowed her to present me with whatever beautiful things she offered.

After she had put before me a stunning jade necklace, pearl earrings, and ruby rings, as well as pure silver and gold diadems, I had half given up on finding the perfect gift for Lis.

“I`m sorry, Islas. They`re all beautiful, but I just can`t seem to find the one,” I told her, feeling guilty that I made her go through all that trouble.

“No, you`re right,” king Gabriel remarked from the seat behind me, “they are lovely, but not deserving of my sister.”

Islas didn`t seem to mind the search at all, but instead went in the back of a room behind the counter and emerged out seconds later holding a wooden case in her hands.

“These are the last things that I have to show you. They`re simple, but unique in a way,” she said and opened the case.

I took a look inside, and could feel the king standing behind me inspecting as well. There were four of what seemed to be shapes made from white crystals. They sparkled and almost blinded me, but otherwise there was nothing else.

Islas noticed our unimpressed expressions, and clarified, “These crystals can be opened and sealed back. And inside them, you can put whatever you want. They have a magic that can preserve whatever you put inside.”

The four shapes that were in the box were of a snow-flake, a bird, a butterfly, and a flower.

Something clicked in my head when seeing that flower.

“That one,” I picked the crystal flower and gave it to her. “I want that one.”

“Are you sure?” it was king Gabriel who asked.

“Yeah,” I nodded at him, then turned to Islas. “You said I could put anything inside? And it won`t fade or effect the crystal?”

“Yes.”

I grinned. “Perfect.”

***

The flames inside the crystal flower swirled and glowed, and I couldn`t stop smiling as I admired it.

“Putting your fire inside,” the king said, his face covered again now that we were back strolling in the streets. “Clever.”

“Thanks,” I nudged his rib, and he blinked at the gesture.

Then I remembered our sitiuation and closed my mouth shut, placing the princess`s gift back in its box then tucking it in my bag.

We strolled in silence for a couple of minutes, the people around us thankfully minding their own business and not minding the Slifer walking intimately with a cloaked man that may or may not be the king of this kingdom. Not that there were much people in this freezing weather to begin with.

“Are you hungry?” I heard him say, and almost instantly my stomach whined.

I blushed, but didn`t say anything.

“I`ll take that as a yes.”

Now that the sun was setting, less and less people crowded the streets and instead hurried to the warmth of their homes, or nearby cafes and resturants. The king headed towards what I could decribe as a tavern, but not the dirty smelly ones Grandpa used to go to.

This one was nice. A little dark and private, but didn`t smell like someone hadn`t bathed in weeks. It had a lovely atmosphere, and there weren`t a lot of customers there. Only a couple sitting by the bar and a group of young elves.

Although the tevern wasn`t filled, the king still didn`t taken his hood off. Instead, he led me to a booth by the window, away from the other customers since it looked to be a little darker here and more secluded.

“Aero and I used to come here in my days as a prince. After I was crowned, I only came here once or twice,” he mentioned. “Though it`s just as I remember it.”

“It`s nice,” I commented, admiring the little glowing pixie stones hung over the walls.

“What can I get you?” a server came and handed us the menus. Though his voice seemed familiar...

King Gabriel did not take the menu, but proceeded to order elven wine with extra honey and a glazed boar sandwich. I on the other hand squinted my eyes to be able to see clearly the face of the server.

I swear I know this person...

When he turned to take my order, he froze, and almost dropped his pen.

“Y-you`re that girl...” he exclaimed. “The one who caught me.”

It hit me. He was the theif I stopped on my first day here.

“You!” I pointed a finger at him, and he laughed. “You work here now?”

“Yes,” although it was dark, I could see his smile clearly. I could even notice that he didn`t look as tired or his face didn`t appear sunken anymore. “I`m making an honest man of myself now. And that`s thanks to you.”

I felt my cheeks redden, and I waved his words off. “Don`t say that. I`m glad for you, Mr...”

I realized I didn`t know his name.

He chuckled. “Marco,” he reached his hand to shake, and I took it. “And you?”

“Lydia.”

“Well, it was nice to see you again, Lydia. Anything you want to order?”

“And you too. Um, I`ll have what my...friend is having.”

“Right away.”

He then left, making me feel suddenly all giddy. I`m glad he took my advice and stopped stealing. I didn`t realize I had that effect on someone. Is it bad that I was also a little proud of myself?

“Care to explain?” king Gabriel said, clearly in the dark about what just happened.

“He`s the theif I caught the first day I came here. You know, when we first met.”

That seemed to be so long ago.

“Oh...it seems even my people are fond of you, Lydia.”

I didn`t know what that meant, so I decided not to dwell on it and just wait for my food. But the king had other plans apparently, because he wouldn`t stop staring at me. Like he was calculating something in his head, something he wasn`t sure how to approch.

But I grew annoyed.

“Is there something on my face, Your Majesty?”

“Call me Gabriel,” he said, and I wasn`t sure if I heard right.

“What?”

Am I hallucinating?

No. Because no matter how many times I blinked, he still said those words.

“You heard me.” He leaned forward, elbows on the wooden surface.

“Why?’ I asked again.

I shouldn`t be this surprised that he was asking that of me. It is his name, and he did call me Lydia, not Slifer anymore. But so far, calling him ‘Your Majesty’ was the only thing that helped me remember that I didn`t particulary like him. Because it was impersonal, it was formal. And I honestly don`t know what would happen to me if I started referring to him by his name.

I might not see the monster I had believed him to be anymore.

“Everyone calls me Gabriel. It`s odd to have you be the only one.” I wasn`t sure if he was trying to convince me or himself.

’Ayana and Redmond do,” I countered.

“That`s different. You`re different.”

“How so?”

I don`t know why my skin was starting to heat, whether from anger or not, I had no clue.

He took a pause before he answered that, “They don`t share my bed. You even call me that during our coupling. I dislike it.”

He must have known how many times I wanted to scream his name whenever he brought me to the edge of desire, but that still doesn`t change anything.

I leaned back into the cushion. “You can`t force me to.”

“I know that,” his lips thinned, “I`m only saying that you can if you wish.”

“Mhmm.”

I pretended to be distracted with the wine Mr Marco brought, finding myself taking large eager gulps. Perhaps if I let the wine get to me, I would forget about this conversation.

“I owe you an apology.”

I chocked on the damn drink.

A fit of coughs went out of me for what seemed to be a solid minute, and the king reached a hand to wipe the wine I spilled on the table with a napkin. Thankfully, Marco appeared back with the food. I quickly thanked him and stuffed my face with the delicious sandwich just so I wouldn`t be able to say or ask something stupid.

I kind of wished I could stuff the king`s mouth too so we would eat in peace.

But the bastard resumed, “I misjudged you greatly. I was...blinded by my own hatered for someone you resembled. The way you looked at me when I saved you from that werewolf, the hate and rage you possessed towards me when you didn`t even know me, it reminded me of her.”

Well, that explains why he compared me to this ‘her’ when he called me a whore.

Despite my vow to keep my mouth shut, I swallowed the bite and said, “Why are you telling me this? I mean, why now?”

For the first time since I`ve known him, the king of Imarnia sighed heavily, almost like he was tired of everything. “I`m trying to pull myself out of a darkness that has haunted me for hundreds of years, so I`m attempting to right my wrongs. Like I`ve said, I misjudged you. You hold no resemblance to her, and I don`t think you ever will.”

The sincerity in his voice knocked the sense from my head, and I dared to ask him, “Who was she?”

For a moment, I had thought I had asked the wrong thing, that I stepped over a line. But he took a quick swig of his wine, and set it down loudly.

“I...I was engaged before, to a childhood companion called Evine. She was Lady of Ansil, an Imarnian territory loyal to my father and his father before him. It was an arranged agreement, but I loved her, and she loved me. Or so I thought...”

He didn`t look at me as he told the story, but traced the rim of his glass with his finger. In history classes back in my school, I think it was mentioned that a young king Gabriel was engaged during the time of the war. But no details were given of the engagemnt.

He huffed a bitter laugh. “If you had seen the man I was before, Lydia, you would not believe it. I was a bright fool madely in love, and I wanted nothing but a queen and a kingdome and children to reign after me.”

He was right. It was hard to imagine that man, when only his shadow was left before me.

“What happened?” I asked, not caring that I sounded actually interested. I wanted to know what made the darkness he was trying to escape from.

“We were to be married the day I turned my 100th year, in which I would also be crowned. But the war stroke, and our wedding was delayed until after it was over. When my father died, I had taken over the throne and was restoring Imarnia.” He seemed to recall every detail, and looked like he hated that he could.

“Finally, we had decided on a date, and it was on my birthday as well. I remember my mother running around the palace, excited for the preparation. Everyone was. They all stressed about what kind of ceremony to be held, what cake and food to be made, the dress to be worn, the guests, the decorations. It was silly...”

Trying to picture the halls of that palace alive with joy was nearly impossible. The darkness and gloom that streaked around every corner overwhlemed whatever laughter and light anyone could bring. It wasn`t until recently, when everyone would gather for lunch or dinner that those shadows started to slowly fade away.

“Lydia,” his calm voice brought my attention back. “Have you ever heard what happened to Queen Isobel; my mother, and how she died?”

I shook my head, trying to dig my memory of anything useful. “Not really. In school, I believe they mentioned that she died in her sleep.”

“That`s only because it has been ordered that the true cause of her death remains within the walls of the palace. We were to have a very private wedding, so only a few people were there. Including your guardian,” he informed.

That surprised me. Grandpa was there? How come he didn`t mention it?

Well, there`s a lot of things he didn`t mention, Lydia.

“Everything was going as planned, and I was waiting for my bride to walk down the aisle, to become my wife and queen in the sight of my people and the gods.” He brought the glass up his lips again, emptying it completley.

When he set it down as he gritted his teeth, he disclosed, “And she did. She walked down that aisle. Not to me however, but to my mother. I still remember her confused but kind smile, asking Evine if she was alright. And Evine –she had this look, this strange distant look. I saw the dagger she concealed in her hand...”

My heartbeat strangely grew quicker, as if I could feel what everyone must have felt that day. My breath hitched. “She killed your mother?”

Those silver eyes, even in the dark, appeared shimmering. But his voice was steady, as if he was telling me no more of a bedtime story. “She killed herself, ran the blade across her throat. But the odd thing was, the cut she made againts her skin also appeared on my mother`s, and both women fell to the ground.”

“That...that doesn`t make any sense. How could she do that?”

His shoulders lifted then sank. “Evine had no magic, hers hadn`t developed yet. It`s not uncommon, especially with her family`s history. But she could have used a spell, or a curse. Either way, they were both dead.”

So the source of that empty darkness was this. To have witnessed that—something so horrible and cruel.

“Why did you tell me that?” I found myself asking.

Honestly, something so personal, so real. A part of me really wished he didn`t tell me all of this, because I knew now that it would be a lot harder to see a monster that was no longer there. Or perhaps never was.

“You`re the one who asked me.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, at the lame attempt. “You could have said no.”

He released another sigh, moving his plate closer and grabbing the sandwich. It`s odd seeing him eat with his hands, no refinement, with his shoulders relaxed. And it was even more disturbing to see the easy smile he wore. “I`m tired of saying no.”

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