Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5)

“I thought that we’d successfully put concerns like that aside.”

“Perhaps in part. But are you trying to convince me that you didn’t think I wasn’t going to obey my father’s command and end your life at the side of that cliff? Because there’s no way you can. I saw the look in your eyes—the fear, the disappointment. You believed I’d kill you just to get into his good graces again.”

The guards weren’t close enough to overhear, but it still felt like a discussion meant for a much more private moment.

Still, he’d asked for her to speak plainly. “I admit, you were very convincing.”

“I was trying to be convincing, given that both of our lives were in jeopardy. But didn’t you hear me? I called you Cleiona—I’d hoped you would take that as a sign not to doubt me.” He shook his head. “Then again, why wouldn’t you? I’ve given you little reason to trust me.”

He started to turn away from her, but then she took his hands in hers. “Wrong. You’ve given me countless reasons to trust you.”

Magnus stared at the ground, his forehead furrowed in a deep frown, before his gaze flicked up to meet hers. “You’re determined to come with me to see my grandmother.”

Cleo nodded. “She could be the answer to everything.”

His jaw tightened. “I can only hope you’re right.”

So this witch would find Lucia, and then they would go to her, and beg for her help to rid Mytica of Amara. She had to admit, she didn’t like the idea of relying on the assistance of the young sorceress. “Do you honestly think that your sister will help us?” she asked. “The last time we saw her . . .” She shuddered at the memory of Lucia and Kyan arriving unannounced at the Limerian palace. Kyan had nearly burned Magnus to death with his fire magic.

Lucia had stopped him, but then turned her back on her brother when he’d asked her to stay.

“I hope she will help,” Magnus replied tightly. “This darkness that has emerged along with Lucia’s magic . . . it’s not really her. The sister I know is kind and sweet. She does well in her studies—far better than I ever did—and devours every book she sees. And I know she cares about Mytica and its people. When she learns about all that Amara has been up to, she will use her elementia to put a stop to it.”

“Well,” Cleo said, trying very hard to ignore the trickle of poison that had leaked into her chest at the sound of such brotherly praise, “she sounds absolutely perfect, doesn’t she?”

“Of course she isn’t perfect. None of us are.” The edge of his mouth quirked up. “But Lucia Damora is extremely close.”

“How unfortunate, then, that she’s currently under Kyan’s influence.”

“Yes.” The edge of amusement that had been in his gaze faded away and was replaced by steel. “He possesses the fire Kindred. You have earth. Amara has water. My father has had air for quite some time.”

All of a sudden, Cleo’s mind emptied of all other concerns. “How long has he had it? Or should I ask, why didn’t I know about this before today?”

Magnus blinked. “I’m sure I mentioned it before.”

“No, you certainly didn’t.”

“Hmm. I know someone was present when I received this news. Nic, perhaps.”

She couldn’t believe her own ears. “Nic knows that the king has the air Kindred, and neither you nor he told me?”

“Jonas also knows.”

She gasped. “This is unacceptable!”

“Apologies, princess, but it’s only been less than a day since we agreed to share more than loathing and distrust.”

Memories of the cottage in the woods returned to her vividly: a night of fear and survival leading to a very unexpected encounter.

Cleo bit her bottom lip, her previous outrage all but forgotten. “My head’s still spinning from everything that’s happened.”

“Mine too.”

She glanced at the guards to see that one of them paced back and forth, as if in an agitated state.

“Let’s make our way to the meeting place,” she said firmly. She opened the front of her cloak to look at the crimson gown beneath. “I hope I can find new clothes in the village. This is the only thing I have to my name, and it’s torn.”

Magnus’s gaze traveled slowly down the length of her. “Yes. I remember tearing it.”

Cleo’s cheeks heated. “It should be burned.”

“No, this gown will never be destroyed. It will be displayed in great prominence for all eternity.” His lips curved into a smile. “But I agree, you are in need of better traveling garb. The color is rather . . . eye-catching.”

She felt his warmth as he slid his hand down her arm, his gaze fixed upon the gown Nerissa had found in the palace for her to wear for her speech.

The closer Magnus got to her, the more her heart sped up. “Perhaps we can discuss this later, at the inn, in our . . . room?” she said softly.

Then, without warning, Magnus let go of her. She felt a sudden waft of cold air as he took a step away from her. “Actually, I’m going to make sure that you’re given separate quarters.”

She frowned. “Separate?”

“You and I will not be sharing a room for the foreseeable future.”

She stared at him blankly for a long moment, his words making no sense. “I don’t understand. Why not? After last night, I thought . . .”

“You thought wrong.” His face had gone very pale. “I won’t put your life at risk.”

Still, he spoke in riddles she couldn’t easily solve. “Why would my life be at risk if we were to share a room?” She watched as his expression turned tortured and he raked a hand through his hair. “Magnus, talk to me. What is it?”

“You don’t know?”

“Clearly I don’t. So tell me!”

Reluctantly, he did as she asked. “A witch’s curse is the reason your mother died in childbirth. And that curse is why you, too, will die if you become pregnant.”

All she could do is stare at him in absolute shock. “Your father told you this.”

He nodded once, his jaw tight.

“And you believed such a ridiculous tale, just like that?”

“Don’t make it sound so foolish. I’m not a fool—I know there’s a possibility he could be lying to me. But I still refuse to take such a chance.”

“What chance?” She frowned, feeling stupid that she didn’t follow.

He took her by her shoulders tightly, gazing intensely into her eyes. “The chance of losing you.”

Her confusion washed away, replaced by a swelling warmth in her heart. “Oh.”

“My grandmother is a witch. If there is truly a curse on you, she will break it.”

It seemed impossible that she’d never heard of something so serious before, but her father had always been secretive, especially when it came to magic. He’d never told Cleo that he’d had a witch put a protective spell upon the entrance of the Auranian palace, one only Lucia was powerful enough to break.

Perhaps this was similar.

Her thoughts went to her mother, and her heart broke to think of the woman she never knew, destined to die giving her life.

“If this is true,” she said after a moment, still refusing to fully believe such a far-fetched possibility, “I’ve heard of other methods to prevent a pregnancy.”

“I won’t risk your life until this curse is broken. And I don’t give a damn if my father is lying to me. I won’t take the chance that he’s right. Do you hear me?” Magnus’s voice had grown darker and quieter, sending a shiver down her spine.

She nodded. “I hear you.”

Could it be true? She hated to think it might even be a possibility. Why wouldn’t her father have mentioned such a horrible thing?

Now she needed answers every bit as much as Magnus did. All the more reason to see his witch grandmother.

Cleo noticed that the agitated guard who’d been pacing had suddenly drawn closer to them.

“Your highness . . .” the guard said.

Cleo tore her gaze from Magnus’s to look at the guard, shocked to see that he had withdrawn his sword and was now pointing it at them.

Magnus pushed Cleo roughly behind him. “What is this?” he hissed.

The guard shook his head, his expression strained and a bit frantic. “I find that I cannot abide by the king’s orders. The empress and her army are in control of Mytica now. Limerians have no say over their futures anymore. To continue to align myself with those who wish to deceive and oppose the empress would be committing treason. Therefore, I must turn you over to the empress.”

Cleo stared at him with shock. “You disgusting coward!”

He cast a withering look at her. “I am a Limerian. You are an enemy, no matter whom you’ve married. You,” he said, the word twisting with distaste, “are the reason everything we’ve cherished in Limeros for generations has been destroyed.”

“My, you give me much more power than I actually have.” She straightened her shoulders and narrowed her gaze. “Lower your weapon immediately and perhaps I won’t demand your execution.”

“I don’t take orders from any Auranian.”

“Do you take orders from me?” Magnus asked, his tone edged in acid.

“I would,” the guard replied. “If you still had any power here.”

previous 1.. 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 ..66 next