The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 22

When we get to the gate there is chaos everywhere. There are hundreds of guards lined up, sirens are blaring and smoke is rising in the distance.

I inch closer to Phoenix , he notices and wraps his arms around me.

“Clear the way” he orders the guards before they step to the side, allowing the trolley to drive into the castle grounds.

“Take us to my wing, then go find Mercer” he tells Sloane, who nods and speeds up.

I bite my lip to keep from screaming, or asking a million questions, or maybe both. I can sense that he needs me to be calm right now, he needs me to be strong.

When we pull into the small courtyard he quickly picks me up and runs down the path and up the stairs. When we get into his house I don’t even have time to fully close the door before he falls to his knees. A sob rips from my throat as I run and kneel in front of him, wrapping my arms around him tightly.

“They said she was trying to escape, and they killed her,” he whispers, his voice cracking.

My chin wobbles and I can’t speak, I only run my hand through his hair.

“I know it’s a lie. She wouldn’t try to escape. She was sacrificing herself.”

His words shock me and I pull back to look at him. Before he can say more there is a knock at the door. Standing, he pulls me up with him, he straightens his shoulders before pulling the door open.

“Mercer, thank you for coming at this hour.”

“Of course, You Highness,” the man says with a bow before turning to me “Noelle.”

“I... yes. Hello...” I sputter awkwardly.

“Your majesty it is so good to meet you,” he bows his head before quickly taking my hand in his, “you are even more lovely than I anticipated.”

I look to Phoenix , confused, he has a small smile on his weary face. I can see his love for me in his sad eyes.

“What happened, Mercer? I don’t for one minute believe that she was trying to escape.”

“She wasn’t. They were afraid that she would say something, in front of the crowd, you know, a repeat of her famous closing arguments. They didn’t want her to have a chance to speak.”

A harsh breath leaves him, like the wind is being knocked out of him. “That makes sense. Fuck! We should have seen this coming!”

Phoenix begins to pace around the room, yanking at his hair. He stops suddenly, jerking his eyes to meet mine.

“She was sacrificing herself,” he says again, “she knew that the fastest way to get my father off the throne and me on it, was to die, so that he would have to step down.”

My jaw hits the floor. The Queen was not only a sympathizer, she was deeply involved. Now I’m the one pacing. I can’t believe this. Years of hopelessness and all the while, there was someone, several someones, fighting for us.

A lump burns in my throat, I’ll never get to thank her. I wasted so many days, hiding from my feelings, days I could have spent here, with her, with Phoenix . As if he could read my mind, because he sort of can, Phoenix pulls me into his arms.

“You’re allowed to be afraid, Love” he gently kisses my forehead, then my cheek, then my lips. Another knock at the door pulls us back to reality.

“Mercer,” I instantly recognize Celine’s voice. He steps aside and she comes into view, a sad smile on her slightly puffy face. “I have something for you,” she says pulling two envelopes from her bag.

Phoenix quickly takes them and pulls Celine into a tight embrace.

“She was my dearest friend. The world is lesser with the loss of her,” she says quietly to him, “she was so incredibly proud of you and so happy you found her,” she smiles toward me.

I let out a shaky breath, willing myself not to cry, again.

Celine crosses the room and kisses my cheeks “we are all so grateful for you. The spark that will start the wildfire” she whispers in my ear. I stand there, trying to process her words when she kisses Phoenix and Mercer and leaves.

Pulling me toward the couch, Phoenix and I sit, staring at the envelopes, unmoving. I take a deep breath and open the one addressed to me. Mercer quietly leaves the room, allowing us space to read and digest this.

Sweet Noelle.

My dear one, I wish we had more time together. Please, remember what I told you. Trust him. You’re everything to him, be open, be honest, he will not forsake you. I leave here knowing that he is in the arms of his most beloved, that he is happy and his heart is full. A mother can wish for no more. The road ahead is dark, and the journey is long, with many enemies but take heart, not as many enemies as you think.

Follow your heart, trust yourself, you will know who is true.

Hold on to one another, lean in, not away, during the difficult times.

With all my love, Helene.

I sob and reach for Phoenix . His eyes are rimmed with red but there is a smile on his face.

“I love you, Ellie.”

My heart aches and my wolf whimpers in my mind. I want to tell him that I’m a wolf. I want to tell him that he is my mate, that my feelings for him aren’t a small crush or a simple loving feeling. He is the other half to my soul. There is no other but him, there will never be another. My wolf wants to kiss him, to nug her face into his neck, to feel his hands in her fur.

Lying to him is eating away at me. I know Alex told me to wait but the lie is like acid in my soul, it’s crippling me.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” He gently rubs my cheek with his thumb.

Instead of answering verbally, I climb into his lap and kiss him with unabashed intensity. Willing my love to pour into him, my mate.

He wraps his hands into my hair, and growls into the kiss, a frenzy of love and emotion passing between us, the kiss saying everything I can’t.

“Wow” he whispers hoarsely “that was... Ellie, I love you so much.”

“I love you, beyond what I can explain.”

“I’m sorry that we are spending the beginning of our relationship surrounded by darkness. It won’t be like this forever, my love.”

“It’s only the beginning,” I nuzzle into his neck, suddenly panicking, my wolf is trying to take control. I feel my canines release. It takes every ounce of self control not to sink them into the soft flesh of his neck.

What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck.

I try to calm myself down before he notices but he can feel my tension.

“Love? What just happened? What’s the matter?”

I push my face into his chest, “it’s nothing, I’m fine” I squeak.

This has never happened before. My wolf is screaming in my head. She wants to mark our mate.

Mark our mate?! What does that even mean?

I need to regain control. Whatever it means, it is definitely not something humans do. I force my wolf back, she cowers in the corner of my mind, angry at me.

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