The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 52

My brows rose. “They are?” When he nodded, a sleepy frown pulled at my lips. “Why can’t I feel them, and you can?”

“Because I’m special,” he replied with a smirk.

I rolled my eyes.

He chuckled. “I can’t feel them. I can hear them. Still makes me special,” he added, and I sighed.

I thought about what I’d thought had happened with Kieran and Delano. “Do you think that Primal bond thing means that I can feel them in a different way?”

“I think you mean Primal notam.”


“But what do you mean feel them in a different way?”

“I don’t know.” I gave a half-shrug. “A couple of times since I woke up in the cabin, I thought I heard Delano and Kieran in my mind.”

One eyebrow rose. “What?”

“Yeah, I heard their voices in my head.” I sighed. “When I was in the Skotos, having that dream? I heard Delano answer something in that nightmare, and I heard him say that I was their…Liessa,” I told him. “And then I swore I heard Kieran’s voice when we waited outside the Temple of Saion. I didn’t get a chance to ask either of them, but with Delano I also felt more than his emotions when I focused on him in the mountains. I felt, like…I don’t know how to explain it, but it was like his unique imprint. His mark. I’ve never felt that before. I know it sounds unreal—”

“I don’t think it sounds unreal,” Casteel said, his brows knitting. “I think anything is possible. We should definitely ask Kieran if he heard you or if he even knows if it’s possible. I know it wasn’t for us when we were bonded.”

Pressing my lips together, I nodded.

Casteel stared down at me for a moment. “You’re utterly unique, Poppy. You know that, right?”

I gave another lazy, one-shouldered shrug.

A faint smile appeared and then disappeared. “You’re safe here,” he told me as he placed the dagger beside my hand. “But just in case, if anyone comes in here, stab first and ask questions later. You should be familiar with that mentality.”

“Why does everyone act like I run around stabbing people?”

Casteel stared back at me and then looked pointedly at his chest.

“Whatever,” I muttered. “You deserved it.”

“I did.” He grinned as he placed a knee on the bed and lowered the upper half of his body over mine. “I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be here.” I picked up the dagger. “Hopefully, not stabbing anyone.”

The dimple in his right cheek appeared, and he dipped his head, kissing just above my brow and then lower, over the scar. “Princess?”

My lips curved up. What had started as a nickname had become a reality. “Yes?”

His mouth moved over mine. “I love you.”

The smile on my face grew as my heart did a little skip in my chest. “I love you.”

He made that rough, rumbling sound. “I will never get tired of hearing that. Say it over and over, a hundred thousand times, and it will feel like I’m hearing it for the first time.”

I tipped my head up, kissing him. He was slow to leave, but he finally did, and my tired gaze moved to the lattice doors. Night had fallen outside, and I strained to hear what had been so obvious to Casteel. I heard nothing but the low hum of insects and the melody of nightbirds. My grip tightened on the cool bone handle of my dagger.

Casteel didn’t have to worry. If anyone came into this room, I would be ready.

Chapter 17

Upon his return, I figured Casteel was relieved to learn that I hadn’t needed to stab anyone.

Or maybe not.

I think he liked it when I stabbed people.

Especially him.

He’d returned with a bottle of wine and a platter of sliced meats and cubed cheeses. There were also small blocks of milk chocolate, and I might’ve shoved three chunks into my mouth all at once. I’d changed into one of Casteel’s old cream-colored tunic shirts, much like the one he wore now. He’d helped me roll up the too-long sleeves. The tunic covered more than a slip would or that indecent nightgown had. Even though there was much to discuss, the full stomach, wine, and what he’d done in that shower all worked against that. I ended up falling asleep as Casteel took the platter into the sitting room, and was only half-aware when he rejoined me in bed, curling his long body around mine and gathering me close.

I slept the kind of deep sleep where even dreams didn’t follow. I woke at some point, the gray light of dawn beginning to find its way into the room, and sleepily made use of the bathing chamber. When I returned to the bed, Casteel immediately wrapped his body around mine. I didn’t know how long I slept that time before I woke again, my eyes fluttering open to soft lamplight. Shifting under the light blanket, I brushed up against a leg.

“Good evening,” Casteel drawled.

I rolled onto my back and looked up.

Casteel was sitting propped against the headboard, dressed in black breeches and a white shirt similar to the one I wore. He was thumbing through a leather-bound book. “I took it upon myself to unpack the bags we brought with us and hang your clothing in the wardrobe. Kirha—Kieran and Netta’s mother—dropped off some additional clothing she believed would fit you and recommended a seamstress, even though I like the idea of you having limited clothing options.”

I wasn’t even remotely surprised to hear the last part. “What time is it?”

“It’s close to eight at night.” He glanced over at me. “You’ve slept for almost twenty-four hours.”

Dear gods, it’d been a long time since I’d slept that long. “I’m sorry—”

“Don’t apologize. You needed the rest. So did I,” he said. “Though I was starting to get a bit lonely over here.”

“How long have you been…?” My eyes started to narrow as I stared at the book he held. It looked awfully familiar. “What are you reading?”

“Your favorite book.” His eyes slid to mine knowingly, and I jerked upright. “You know, I have this theory about Miss Willa Colyns.”

“I can’t believe you still have that damn journal.”

“She mentions something here, in chapter twenty-three, that got me thinking.” He cleared his throat. “‘Andre was the most uninhibited of all my lovers—’”

“You do not need to read it to tell me your theory.”

“I disagree,” he replied. “‘He was quite shameless in his search of pleasure as he was with his willingness to give, but his most impressive seduction was not his manhood.’” He looked over at me. “You do remember what manhood means?”

“Yes, Casteel. I remember.”

He smirked as he returned to that damnable journal. “Where was I? Oh, yes. Something about his manhood.”

“Why do you like saying that word so much?”

“Because you like hearing it.”

“I do not.” I shoved my hair back from my face.

“Stop interrupting me. This is a very important observation,” he replied. “‘But his most impressive seduction was not his manhood. It was the dark, wicked kiss of our kind, one he was all too eager to bestow in the most scandalous locations.’”

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