The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 39

My hand squeezed Casteel’s as the muscle in his jaw ticked. “Beckett never left Spessa’s End, Quentyn. He was killed by those who conspired with his uncle.”

If the others had any reaction to the young wolven’s death, I wasn’t sure. All I could feel was the rising tide of sorrow as it quickly rose in the Atlantian, following a brutal punch of denial. His pain was so raw and potent that it exploded into the salty air around us, thickening as it settled on my skin. I heard Casteel telling him that he was sorry, and saw Quentyn shaking his head. His pain…it was extreme, and a distant part of me wondered if this was the first real loss he’d experienced. He was older than I was, even though he appeared younger. But by Atlantian years, he was still so very young. He struggled not to show his pain, pressing his lips together, his back stiffening unnaturally. He was trying to hold it together as his Prince spoke to him, and as the wolven, Atlantians, and Guardians surrounded him. Sadly, he was losing the battle as anguish pulsed in waves through him. If he lost it, Casteel wouldn’t hold it against him, but I could sense that he wanted to be seen as brave and strong. And I hated that. Hated those who were responsible even more for the pain they had inflicted on others and the lives they had stolen.

I reacted without thought, only instinct. Later, I would obsess over everything that could’ve possibly gone wrong since I had no idea what my touch would do now. I slipped my hand free from Casteel’s and placed it on the Atlantian’s arm. His wide eyes shot to mine. Tears clung to his lashes.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, wishing there was something better to say, something more helpful, more inspiring. But words were rarely good enough to ease the pain of loss. I did what I knew, pulling on my happy moments—warm and hopeful emotions. I thought of how I felt when Casteel told me he loved me, how I felt when I realized that he did in Spessa’s End. I took those emotions and I let them flow through my body into Quentyn’s.

He jerked as I felt his grief and disbelief pulse intensely and then rapidly fade. The skin around his mouth eased, and the tension in his shoulders relaxed. He exhaled heavily, and I felt no more sorrow. I released his arm, knowing the reprieve wouldn’t last forever. Hopefully, it could give him some time to come to terms with his friend’s death in private.

“Your eyes,” Quentyn whispered, blinking slowly. “They’re strange—” His cheeks flushed under the torchlight. “I mean, they’re really pretty. Strange in a pretty way.”

My brows rose as I looked at Casteel.

The lines and angles of his face had softened. “They’re glowing,” he murmured, leaning in slightly. “Actually, it’s not your entire eye that is.” His head tilted to the side. “There are wisps of light. Silvery light throughout your irises.”

Fractured eyes.

Casteel looked to where Kieran and Delano waited and saw what I did. Eyes a pale blue streaked with luminous silver-white.

Eyes like those of the woman I’d seen in a dream that I knew was no dream—the woman who had spoken to me. Every part of my being at that moment knew that what she had said was the answer to everything.

Chapter 13

Turning back to me, Casteel took my hand once more, lifting it to his mouth. “They’re no longer glowing.” He placed a kiss on my knuckles, and that single act eased a lot of the tension already creeping into me. He bowed his head, placing his mouth near my ear as he whispered, “Thank you for what you did for Quentyn.”

I shook my head, and he kissed the uneven line of skin along my cheek. Keeping his fingers threaded through mine, he motioned to the Guardians.

Two came forward, placing their hands over their hearts and bowing as they each grasped a handle of the black doors. Stone scraped as they pulled them open. Candlelight spilled out onto the colonnade as Jasper prowled inside, his silver fur gleaming in the light. His son and then Delano followed as Casteel and I walked forward, the wolven dagger still clutched in my grip, hidden by the cloak. The remaining wolven flanked us, streaming along the thick columns lining the four walls of the interior chamber—black stone columns as reflective as the Temples in Solis. I watched the wolven roam between those glossy pillars, their ears lowered and eyes a luminous winter blue as they stalked the chamber, circling the tall, broad-shouldered male sitting on one of the numerous stone benches lining the center of the Temple of Saion, his back to us. His back was rigid as his head followed the wolven’s path.

“Father,” Casteel called as the door closed behind us with a soft thud.

The King of Atlantia rose slowly, cautiously, and then turned, his hand drifting to his side where his sword would’ve been sheathed. The man had been hard to read at the Chambers of Nyktos, but now he didn’t have nearly as much control over his emotions as his gaze shifted from his son to me.

He jerked back a step, his legs bumping into the bench behind him. “You didn’t…” He trailed off as a blast of icy shock chilled my skin. His eyes were wide, pupils dilating so fast that only a thin strip of gold was visible as he stared at me, his lips parting.

My mouth dried as I fought the urge to close down my senses. I kept them open as he took a step forward. Kieran’s head snapped in his direction, and a low growl rumbled through the chamber, but Casteel’s father appeared beyond hearing as he said hoarsely, “You were dying.”

I shivered at the reminder. “I was.”

Strands of light hair fell against the rough growth of hair along his jaw and cheeks. “You were beyond saving,” he rasped as Kieran appeared to relax, inching back even though Casteel’s father took another tentative step toward us. “I saw you. I saw your wound and how much you bled. You were beyond saving unless—”

“I took what was left of her blood and gave her mine,” Casteel said. “That is how she stands here. I Ascended her.”

“But…” The King appeared at a loss for words.

I drew in a shallow breath and found my voice. “I can walk in the sun—we actually rode all day through it. I don’t feel cold to the touch, and I have emotions,” I told him. “And I don’t feel the need to tear out anyone’s throat.”

Casteel’s gaze slid to mine as a faint thrill of amusement reached me.

“What?” I whispered. “I feel that’s necessary to point out.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

I narrowed my eyes at him and then returned my attention to his father. “What I’m trying to say is that I’m not a vampry.”

King Valyn’s chest rose with a deep inhale, and with that breath, I felt his shock retreat with each passing second, becoming fainter. But I didn’t believe that he’d overcome his surprise that quickly. He was tucking his emotions away, hiding them where I couldn’t easily reach them—doing the same thing his son did when he didn’t want me to know his emotions. A part of me, in the center of my chest, hummed with energy and wanted to dig into those walls he’d built, find the fragile seams, and peel them apart, exposing—


I didn’t want that.

I didn’t want that for a multitude of reasons, namely for the fact that it would be a massive violation. If someone shut me out, that was their right. That was the only reason that mattered, but I wasn’t even sure I could do something like that.

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