The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 54

“I would never give you a reason to, Poppy.”

My heart melted in my chest and then froze. But what if I was immortal? It seemed utterly incomprehensible to think that I would outlive Casteel, but we really had no idea what I had Ascended into. And while it would take several lifetimes for Casteel to begin even showing signs of aging, he would. And I…I didn’t want to think about spending my future without him, no matter how much of one we shared together. There were the heartmate trials, but the gods slept. There was also the Joining, but I had no idea if that worked in the opposite direction, linking his lifespan to mine.

And I didn’t even know why I was thinking about any of this when we had no idea what I was or what kind of lifespan I would even have. What had Casteel told me once before?

Don’t borrow from tomorrow’s problems?

I needed to start living that way.

“But when Malik and I went to the caverns,” he continued, thankfully unaware of where my thoughts had gone, “we were able to pretend as if none of the conversations happened. The heaviness and sadness didn’t follow us there. Nothing outside of that place existed.”

“But you were young boys then.”

“That doesn’t matter. The feeling still remains, some hundred years later,” he said, and my stomach dipped at the reminder of how old he was—how old I would one day become. “This bed—this room—can become our version of the caverns. When we’re in here, nothing outside it matters. This will be our peace. We deserve that, don’t we?”

My breath caught, and I nodded. “We do.”

His gaze softened as he slid his thumb across my bottom lip. “I wish we could stay in here forever.”

I smiled faintly. “I do, too.”

But we wouldn’t—we couldn’t. Because a moment later, a knock sounded on the door. I rolled off him, standing.

Casteel sighed as he rose, too. He stopped to drop a kiss on my cheek. “Be right back.”

A moment later, I heard Kieran’s voice. Placing the journal on the nightstand, I roamed into the bathing chamber, quickly taking care of my personal needs but not bothering to do much with my hair. I checked my eyes in the mirror before I left, finding that they still had the silvery-white sheen behind the pupils. My stomach took a small tumble at the sight, but I reminded myself that I was still the same.


Casteel was entering the bedchamber when I returned, carrying a fresh platter of food and a new bottle of what appeared to be some sort of sweet wine. One look at the hard line of his jaw, and I immediately knew that whatever news Kieran had brought wasn’t good. I sat on the bed. “What happened?”

“Nothing major.”

“Really?” I watched him come to me.

“Yeah. It’s just my father. He apparently decided to change his mind when it came to waiting for us to come to him. He wants to talk with me.”

I relaxed as he popped the cork and poured a glass of wine. “Then you should talk to him. He’s probably just concerned.”

“Does it make me a bad son if I say I don’t care?” He handed the glass to me.

A wry grin formed as I pulled my legs up, crossing them. I took a sip. The wine tasted of sugared berries. “A little.”

“Oh well.”

I tipped toward him. “I know that you do care, though. You love your parents. You haven’t seen them in the gods know how long, and you haven’t had a chance to talk to either of them under any normal circumstances. Go talk to your father, Cas. I’m fine.”

“Cas.” He bit down on his bottom lip as he planted his fists on the bed and bent over. “I’ve changed my mind about you calling me that.”

“You have?” I lowered my glass.

He nodded as he leaned in, brushing his lips across mine. “Because hearing you say it makes me want to get my mouth between your thighs again, and that need is quite distracting.”

Heat flooded my veins. “Sounds like that’s your problem.” I grinned. “Cas.”

“Gods,” he said, the word rumbling out of him. He kissed me quickly, nipping at my bottom lip as he withdrew.

Kieran appeared in the archway as Casteel straightened. He’d changed since he left us, having donned fawn-colored breeches and a sleeveless, white dress shirt that he had tucked in. “Did you actually get some rest, or did you spend hours asking Cas question after question?”

“I slept,” I told him as I plucked a chocolate-glazed strawberry from the tray. “After asking a few questions.”

“A few?” Kieran snorted.

“Yes, only—” Words failed me as Casteel caught my wrist. He lifted my hand, closing his mouth over my finger.

A wicked trill flooded my veins. His tongue swirled over my skin, catching the melting chocolate. Air caught in my throat as the edge of his fang pricked my skin when he drew back. I felt the languid tug of his mouth all the way through me.

The gold of his eyes turned to a heated honey. “Tasty.”

Tension coiled deep inside me as I stared at him. A wolfish half-grin appeared.

“Did you two forget I was here?” Kieran asked. “Holding a conversation with you two? Or trying to.”

I sort of did.

“Not at all,” Casteel remarked. “Poppy did have a very relaxing evening. We did some light reading.”

Light reading?

“Is that so?” Kieran’s brows rose.


“Yes, from Poppy’s favorite journal, written by a Miss Willa—”

“He was reading that,” I cut in, picking up a piece of cheese. “I woke up, and he was reading—”

“You know, the one I found her with on that window ledge? The scene was about a very dark sort of wicked kiss on a very inappropriate area,” Casteel continued while Kieran stared at us blankly. “And foursomes.”

Slowly, I looked up at Casteel. Oh, my gods. My eyes narrowed as I debated throwing the cheese in his face. I didn’t. Instead, I ate it rather aggressively. He was lucky I loved cheese.

“Foursomes?” Kieran repeated, his gaze shifting to me. “I imagine you had a lot of questions about that.”

“I did not,” I snapped.

“I don’t believe that for one second,” Kieran stated, a half-grin forming. “You probably asked how it was possible.”

I had totally been wondering that, but those words never once passed my lips.

“Would you like to explain it to her?” Casteel asked.

“That won’t be necessary,” I cut in as Kieran opened his mouth. “I have a vivid enough imagination, thank you very much.”

He looked a little disappointed.

Casteel’s laugh teased the top of my head as he fished out another strawberry from the bowl of fruit and offered it to me. “I am very intrigued by this imagination of yours.”

“I’m sure you are,” I muttered, taking the berry. “Want to know what I’m imagining now? I’m currently entertaining myself with images of kicking both of you in the throats.”

Kieran’s gaze swept over me, and still only in Casteel’s shirt, I was sure I appeared as threatening as a sleepy kitten. “Now I’m also intrigued,” he commented.

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