His father cleared his throat, snapping my attention back to him. “I can’t believe you did it, Casteel.” He backed up and then sat on the bench, stretching out one leg. I didn’t attempt to read him. “You knew what could’ve happened.”
“I knew exactly what could’ve happened,” Casteel returned. “I knew the risks, and I’d do it all over again even if she had Ascended.”
My heart gave a happy little wiggle, but Casteel’s father looked less than impressed. “You know what that act did to our kingdom—to our people—and you were willing to risk that again?”
“If you think that what I did was a shock, then you need to understand that I will do anything and everything for my wife.” Casteel’s gaze latched on to his father’s. “No risk is too great, nor is anything too sacred. Because she is my everything. There is nothing greater than her, and I do mean nothing.”
My lips parted on a breathy inhale as I stared at Casteel. A messy, little ball of emotions climbed its way up my throat.
“I do not doubt that, son. I was there when you came to and realized that she was gone. I saw you, and I have never seen you like that. I will never forget it,” his father said, and my head snapped in his direction. That was twice now that someone had said that. “And I can even understand your need to protect her. Gods, do I understand that.” He dragged a hand over his face, stopping to scratch at the beard. “But as the King, I cannot approve of what you did.”
Casteel’s hand slipped from mine as several of the wolven looked at the King. A cold, utterly frightening sort of anger brewed inside the Prince—the kind of rage I knew had been one of the reasons he had come to be known as the Dark One. “I wasn’t aware that I asked for your approval.”
My heart stuttered as his father snorted. “I think that’s obvious, considering that the deed is already done.”
“And?” Casteel challenged in a voice that was too soft. Too calm.
Tiny hairs rose all over my body as my palm became damp around the hilt of the wolven dagger. A great sense of wariness rose from the wolven. They became eerily still. “Wait,” I said, unsure if I was speaking to them or if I spoke to every living creature in the room. “Casteel took a huge risk, one that many would agree he shouldn’t have taken, but he did. It’s over. I’m not a vampry.” I thought of the blood hunger I’d experienced upon awakening. “Or at the very least, I am not like the others. And while he may be deserving of the lecture—”
His father arched a brow while Casteel frowned at me. “It feels a little irrelevant right now,” I stressed.
“You’re right,” King Valyn said after a moment. “He’s lucky. Or you are. Or I and the entire kingdom are because you’re not an Ascended. That much I know. If you were, my son knows what I would be obligated to do.” His gaze met mine. “And I say that knowing it is highly unlikely that I would even reach you before these wolven—those I have known for hundreds of years—ripped into me.” His gaze flicked to his son’s. “You would’ve started a war, one that would’ve weakened us to the real threat that lies in the west. You just need to know that.”
One side of Casteel’s lips curled up, and I tensed at the sight of the smirk. “I know what my actions would’ve caused.”
“Here we stand,” he replied.
I inhaled sharply as I felt the hot burn of anger break through the walls that his father had built. “Yes, here we all stand, apparently determined to irritate the hell out of one another. Not me. I don’t want to irritate anyone—you know, the person who was attacked not once but twice and then shot in the chest with a crossbow,” I snapped, and both their gazes shot to me. “And yet, I’m the one who has to tell you two to knock it the hell off.”
The King blinked at me. “Why am I reminded of your mother, Cas?”
“Because that sounds like something she’d say,” he replied. “Or probably has said, minus the being shot part.”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay, well, as I said, I’m not an Ascended, or at least not like the others. We all can agree on that, right? So, would you happen to know what I am?” I asked, and then an awkward laugh escaped me. The sound earned a few curious stares from the wolven. “That sounded extremely weird to say out loud.”
“I’ve heard far stranger things,” Casteel commented, and that earned him a curious glance from me. “She does not feel like anything I’ve felt before,” Casteel said to his father, his tone shifting from that deadly calm that was always a warning of very bad things to come. “But she’s not mortal any longer.”
It was very bizarre to hear that, despite already knowing it.
“No, she is not.” His father studied me so intently that it was hard to stand there and not react. Especially since that kind of scrutiny had only ever accompanied someone staring at my scars. I didn’t think he even saw them at the moment. “And you’re not a vampry. None of them can walk in the sun or be among our kind so soon after the change and be so calm.”
“I didn’t think so,” Casteel said. “Can you explain what happened?”
His father didn’t answer for a long moment, and as I focused on him, I truly felt nothing from him. “It has to be her heritage. Her bloodline,” he said. “Somehow, it played a role in this. She feels…I don’t understand how she feels.”
Warning bells went off, and it had everything to do with the sudden biting taste of conflict filling my mouth. Did he know more than he was saying? Instinct told me that he did. I glanced around the chamber, seeing only the wolven among us. I took a deep breath. “Alastir told me who I’m related to—”
“I can only imagine what Alastir has told you,” King Valyn cut in. “Some of it may be true. Some of it might not be. And there are things my wife and I may be able to confirm for you.”
There was a skip in my chest, and the warmth of Casteel’s body pressed against my side as he shifted closer to me. “But?”
“But this is a conversation I won’t have without Eloana present,” he said, and I felt another jolt in my chest. His gaze met mine. “I know it’s a lot for me to ask you to wait, but she needs to be a part of that conversation.”
I was being asked to wait to find out if I was truly related to King Malec—to delay possibly discovering why I didn’t become a vampry when Casteel Ascended me. Of course, I didn’t want to, but I looked at Casteel. His eyes briefly met mine, and then he looked at his father. “That is asking a lot, Father.”
“I know, but just like you will do anything for your wife, I will do anything to protect mine.”
“What does she have to be protected from?” Casteel asked.
“A history that has haunted us for centuries,” his father answered, and I shivered. He stood slowly. “So, you can push this, but I won’t speak about any of it until Eloana is present. You can summon her now if you want, but I figure you have other pressing matters to deal with.”
“And I also think you want me to talk to your mother before she finds out that you’ve held me here,” his father continued, a wry sense of humor creeping into his tone. “Plus, it gives you time to rest—both of you. You’ve been traveling nonstop and dealing with a lot. But it’s up to you.”