ashes and snow

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twenty-two


“Are you alright?”

Eira quickly composed herself and looked up into blue eyes. Arkyn’s focus was on her only, and something shone brightly behind his eyes. If she hadn’t known better, she would have confused it for worry.

She breathed in deeply. “I’m fine,” she whispered.

She looked away, but the king caught her chin in his fingers. “Look at me,” he said and forced her to look at him again, “and tell me what happened.”

“Arkyn, I don’t want-”

He shook his head and stroked his thumb over her bottom lip. “Tell me.”

She had to keep herself from biting off his finger. Her eyes wandered to his chest as she sighed.

She burrowed her nails into her forearm, digging hard enough to cause bruising. In case there were any questions, she would have this to prove. “I already told you that I hadn’t been feeling well,” she started slowly.

Her face fell, and she placed her hand on his chest. All of this would have been so much easier if she could use her magic on him. Now, this was a play of mouse and cat, and she needed to make the right decisions to keep it going.

“He helped me get into the room and...” her breath hitched, and she pinched her eyes close. Despite his grip on her chin, she moved her head down.

“And what?” Arkyn asked, his voice rough and tense.

“He started to touch me and then tried to drag me to our bed,” she shuddered, and let her shoulders tense. “I did everything I could to get him to stop.”

Arkyn’s head tilted to the side as he took her in. “So, that’s where the marks on his neck came from? You did this?”

Where else should they have come from? Sometimes men like him weren’t using their heads as they should. How could he rule over a whole kingdom if that was going through his head?

Eira only nodded her head. She wasn’t trusting herself to not voice out her thoughts at this moment. She wouldn’t be able to make everything undone.

Arkyn moved his hand down and stroked over her neck with a light touch. Eira swallowed and let it happen. It wasn’t the first time he’d touched her. And it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

“Something like this will never happen again,” he promised quietly, stealing a kiss from her lips. Eira laid her hand over his and looked deep into his eyes. The ice blue abyss pulled her in, and she almost got lost within.

She swallowed and tried to ignore the tingling feeling in her stomach. It was a strange sensation, something she had forgotten to have existed. She felt like she was about to throw up in her mouth.

Something was definitely wrong with her.

“What is about to happen next?” she croaked out quietly, trying to change the subject. Her voice sounded strange to her own ears.

The king stroked her hair behind her ear with his left hand, keeping the other on her neck. His breath warmed her lips. “I will have to assign more guards to you,” he sighed.

Eira opened her mouth to protest, but he shook his head.

“This is to keep you safe, Eira.”

A chill went down her spine.

Was this the first time he had addressed her by her name?

By the way, she reacted, it had to be. She felt disgusted by herself but kept her face straight. Her eyes fluttered close, and she tilted her head downwards. There was no way she could disagree with him on this. Not while playing her submissive character.

Arkyn caught her chin between his fingers again, tilting her head up. Blue eyes met golden ones. “Tell me you understand,” he whispered. She couldn’t understand what he was feeling, couldn’t put words into his deep eyes.

Usually, she understood the way humans worked, but with him, it was a bit different. There was nothing she could unfold with her magic, no mind to trawl through.

She had to deal with him in the old ways.

“I do,” she whispered.

Her hand shook as she lifted it to his cheek. “I do understand that you just want to make sure I am safe, Arkyn.” She felt him tense as she whispered out his name. A feeling of triumph settled in her stomach. She had finally caused a reaction.

“I owe you everything,” she murmured, reaching up, now the one to steal a kiss from his lips. Her magic crawled through her veins, daring to reveal her lie. She breathed in his warm breath and let his smell settle in her nose. There was so much she still needed to do. So much she needed to stay calm for.

She just needed to be patient a while longer.

And so, she let ice run through her veins to freeze the traces of her searing magic. It objected, wildly trashing against her will. She grunted but remained standing as pain ran through her entire body.

“Eira?”

Again, her name. Her head tilted down. “I’m not feeling that well,” she spoke. Her thoughts rattled through her mind. There was heat everywhere. “Could you accompany me on a walk outside? To get some fresh air?” Her hands were shaking.

His hand moved from her neck to her shoulder. He took a step away from her. “What’s wrong?”

She shook her head. She clenched her hands and pinched her eyes close as a wave of heat ran through her legs, making its way upwards. Her magic was fighting, but she refused to let it win something she had won eons ago.

She would never lose control again.

“It’s too hot,” she breathed out. The fire inside of her prickled against her skin like needles. She needed the cold, snow. She could bear the pain, but she feared that she wouldn’t be able to contain her magic. “Help me get out.”

She stumbled a step forward, right into his open arms. He caught her and started to help her to the door. He wasn’t even asking questions anymore. All the guards and maids they passed stared and paused with their work.

Eira only noticed it only along the way. The burning was too hot, the heat roaring in her ears.

“Get a doctor!” Arkyn bellowed.

She flinched. There were only a few meters between her and her sweet heaven. The door opened, and if it hadn’t been for Arkyn, she would have fallen to her knees.

The cold greeted her heated skin. She let out a weak grunt and forced her feet to walk further. Only the snow could help her now.


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