The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 57

“I can’t say that’s evidence of anything when we have no idea what I’ve become,” I pointed out, but what he said made me think of what I’d told Casteel earlier. “I have another question for you.”

He leaned back. “Of course, you do.”

“When we were waiting outside the Temple of Saion and Emil was speaking to us, I thought something in response to what he said.”

“You wondered if Alastir’s plan had failed,” Kieran finished for me. My breath caught as I stared at him. “But you said that out loud, Poppy.”

I stilled. “No, I didn’t.”

The corners of his lips turned down. “Yes, you did.”

“I didn’t,” I insisted, my heart thumping. “I only thought that, Kieran. And I heard you respond.”

He didn’t move or speak for a moment, and then he drew his legs up as he leaned forward. “I was in my wolven form.”

“I know.”

“I didn’t speak that answer. I…”

“You thought it.” I sat up. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. And that wasn’t the only time that happened,” I said, and then I told him about Delano. “Somehow, we communicated…telepathically.”

“I…” The shock Kieran felt was like ice water. “Can you feel my imprint—my mark, like you did with Delano?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t tried.”

“Can you?” When I nodded, he sat up, his knee pressing against mine. “Then try it.”

Eager to figure out if I could, I inhaled deeply and focused on Kieran. The feel of his shock was still there, cool and slippery, but I pushed past that. The center of my chest hummed, and I felt it then, the invisible pathway that pushed past emotions and thoughts. It was like a cord connecting us, one invisible to the eye, and it fed back an earthy, woodsy sensation, one that reminded me of… “Cedar.”

“What?” Kieran blinked.

“You feel like cedar.”

He stared at me. “I feel like a tree?”

“Not really. I mean, that’s just what your…imprint or whatever feels like to me. Something rich and woodsy, connected to the land.” I shrugged. “That’s the only way I know how to explain it.”

“And what did Delano feel like? A featherlight sapling?”

A laugh burst from me. “No. Not a sapling. He felt like…I don’t know. Like spring.”

“And I feel woodsy.”

“I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t have said anything.”

One side of his lips kicked up. “I kind of like it, though—the rich and woodsy part.”

I rolled my eyes as I leaned back against the pillows. “I’ve never been able to feel any of that before. Or hear thoughts.”

“Before you ask, no, I cannot read your thoughts. Not then or now. I only heard that one,” he said, and I had been about to ask that. “It may have happened because you were experiencing a strong emotion.”

Just like when I had summoned the wolven without realizing it.

“To be quite honest, I’m glad I can’t. I imagine your mind to be a constant cyclone of questions, one fighting the other in a deathmatch to see which one has the honor of being asked.”

I frowned at him. “That was kind of rude.” Then I pitched forward, startling Kieran. “Can we try it now? See if I can do it on purpose?”

“Do you know how to do it?”

“No,” I admitted, holding the teal pillow to my chest again. “But I think it has to do with that imprint—the singular pathway. I think I just need to follow that. I mean, that’s something new, so it would make sense that it would be the way,” I explained while Kieran stared at me as if I spoke in a language he didn’t understand. “Okay. Just give me a second to concentrate.”

“You sure you only need a second?” he quipped.

“You sure you don’t want to find yourself staring down at the hilt of a dagger protruding from your chest?”

The wolven grinned at me. “That would make it hard to test out whether you can do this on purpose or not.”

I shot him a look.

He laughed softly. “Go ahead. See if you can do it.”

Drawing in a shallow breath, I opened my senses to read Kieran. I tasted the sugary sweetness of amusement on my tongue, and then I…I reached further, finding that earthy, woodsy sensation. I latched on to the cord. Kieran?


I jerked back, my eyes widening. “You heard me?”

He nodded. “It almost sounded like you spoke out loud, but I know you didn’t, and it…it sounded like a whisper. Try it again. See if I can respond to you.”

I focused on him, feeling the freshness of curiosity replacing the amusement. I connected to that pathway even quicker this time. Kieran?

The strangest thing happened, and I wasn’t sure if it had happened before and I hadn’t realized it, but I felt him—felt his mark brush against my mind like a woodsy, balsam-scented breeze. You have a healthy obsession with stabbing people.

Gasping, I gave a little jump. “I do not!”

A wide grin broke out over Kieran’s face. “You heard, then?”

“I did.” Dropping the pillow, I smacked his arm. “And I don’t have a healthy obsession with that. I’m just surrounded by people who have an unhealthy obsession with annoying me.”

He chuckled under his breath. “It must be the notam. It’s the only thing I can think of. It makes sense. Sort of.”

My brows lifted. “What does sort of mean? Could the deities communicate with the wolven like this?”

“Not that I know of,” he said, looking at me so intently that it felt like he was trying to see into my mind. “But how do you think Nyktos communicated with the kiyou? They wouldn’t have understood language. Not the spoken kind. He communicated directly with their minds.”

Chapter 18

My stomach tumbled as I stared at Kieran. “But then how can I…?” I trailed off. “None of this makes sense, Kieran. I get that I carry the blood of Nyktos in me, and even Malec’s if what Alastir said is true, but that doesn’t explain how my abilities are so strong when as far as I can remember, neither of my parents had these gifts. Neither did Ian. And, yes, I know he might not be my full-blooded brother,” I said before he could remind me of that fact. “But if I am the descendant of Malec and one of his mistresses, that had to be several generations ago. How did I end up with so much eather?”

“Good question,” he said after a moment. “Perhaps your ability to communicate with us like Nyktos did with the kiyou is because you were Ascended. All your mortal blood was replaced with Atlantian. That could’ve…I don’t know, unlocked something in you.”

“Like I’m a door?”

A wry grin formed. “A better analogy would be a chest unlocking inside you, but even before Casteel Ascended you, your gifts were far stronger than they should be, so—” Kieran’s head snapped around to the lattice doors, his eyes narrowing on the darkness beyond it.

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