Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5)

“Something’s up with those two,” said Felix, sidling up behind Jonas. “I don’t know what it is, but I’ll figure it out.”

The sour scent of seasickness hit Jonas like a slap, and instinctively he covered his nose with his sleeve and glared at his friend.

“You stink,” he said.

Felix shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Do you mean you’ll figure out what’s going on between Nic and Ashur?”

“Yeah.”

“Friendships can be confusing—especially when they involve royals.”

“Wouldn’t know. Never been friendly with a royal before.”

“What about Amara?” Jonas regretted his question the moment it left his lips. A stony look crept over Felix’s face, obliterating anything soft or lighthearted. “Apologies. Forget that I mentioned her.”

“Wish I could forget her.” A muscle in Felix’s right cheek twitched. He stroked his eye patch as his good eye glazed over with deep thoughtfulness.

It was that same unsettling, blank look again, one Jonas had seen several times on his friend’s face. It was the look Felix got just before he killed someone.

Olivia had healed Felix’s superficial wounds, but some injuries went deeper than skin and bone.

The young man Jonas had found in that dark dungeon was not the Felix he remembered. When he was rescued, there was relief in his gaze, but there was also a deep anguish there. And that anguish remained to this day.

“If you’re worried I still have a soft spot for her,” Felix finally said, “don’t be. I’ll be happy to tear her apart with my bare hands if I get the chance.”

Jonas put his hand on Felix’s shoulder. “You’ll get your vengeance.”

Felix laughed humorlessly. “Yeah, that’s the plan. If I can get her, then get this fire bastard too, well . . . that’s all I could hope for in what remains of this pathetic life of mine.”

“Kyan is dangerous.” Jonas hadn’t figured out how exactly to deal with the fire god yet. In fact, he had yet to fully come to terms with the idea of a Kindred transfigured into flesh and blood.

“Yeah? So am I.” Felix cracked his knuckles. “All I need is a few moments with him. If he looks like a man, walks and talks like a man, he might have a heart like a man that I can rip right out of his chest.”

“You’ll be killed before you have the chance to lay a finger on him.”

“Then I’ll be happy to meet up with Lys in the everafter much sooner than I thought.”

Jonas surprised himself by letting out a snort at that, which earned him a sharp, searing look from Felix. “She’d be surprised to know how much you cared about her.”

“I didn’t just care about Lys. I loved her.”

“Sure you did.” What happened to Lysandra was still an open wound to him. Even her name spoken by someone else made him flinch. “You barely knew her.”

“I know how I felt. You don’t believe me?”

Jonas knew it would be best not to lose his composure by engaging in an argument about Lys, but he feared he was too close to the edge to control himself. “If you really loved her, perhaps you should have been there to help protect her.”

Felix narrowed his eye, making his glare even more menacing. “You don’t want to start this with me right now.”

“Perhaps I do. After all, you suddenly claim that you were in love with her.” Jonas stared at him for a long, silent moment, his forehead growing hot. “But I’m the one who had to stand there and watch her die.”

“Yeah, you watched her die. If she’d been with me instead of you I know she’d still be alive.” Felix took one threatening step closer, and then Jonas saw his gaze go blank like the skilled assassin he was.

Jonas wasn’t afraid, though. This conversation had quickly made outrage flare up within him. “True love, huh? Were you thinking about Lys while bedding Amara? Or was it only after you heard she was dead?”

He saw Felix’s fist only after it had already connected with his nose. He heard a crunching sound, felt a wash of pain, and then a rush of hot blood trickling down his face.

“You know what the worst thing is? It’s that Lys didn’t love me, she loved you,” Felix snarled, “and you let her die, you useless shit.”

The splitting pain of his broken nose—of Felix’s accusations, of the memory of Lys’s final horrific moments—hit Jonas like a cannonball to his gut. Rather than drop to his knees in the face of this pain, he clenched his fists and threw a glare of sheer hatred at his accuser for making everything more painful than it already was.

All of a sudden, without Jonas making a single move, Felix gasped. His smug look vanished, and then—as if an invisible giant had scooped him up off the ship’s wooden deck and tossed him like a rag doll—he flew backward twenty paces. Felix had to grab onto the railing to keep from falling off the side of the ship and into the sea.

“What the hell—?” Taran’s voice called out from behind Jonas. “What just happened?”

Jonas couldn’t find the words to reply. He could only look down at his tightly clenched fists. In the fading light of dusk, he realized with stunned disbelief that they were glowing.

He turned to Taran with wide eyes. Taran, his sword held loosely at his side, stared at Felix, slack-jawed.

He hadn’t noticed Jonas’s glowing fists.

Felix gingerly pushed himself up from the deck, his attention fixed on Jonas, a thousand unspoken questions harbored within his confused expression.

Without uttering another word, Jonas turned and hurriedly made his way to his cabin, stumbling over his own feet to get there. He swung the door open and went immediately to the tarnished mirror in the corner, by the small porthole.

His hands, though no longer glowing, trembled violently.

Jonas’s chest burned and roiled, felt as if there was a swarm of maggots trying to bore directly into his heart. He grabbed his shirt and tore it open, not bothering to unbutton it first, to expose the creatures that tormented him.

But they weren’t there.

Instead, there was a mark. A mark that hadn’t been there until now. A black swirl, the size of a man’s fist, in the center of his chest.

The mark of a Watcher.

The sharp sound of a gasp wrenched his attention away from his reflection and to the open door. There stood Olivia, now in mortal form and wrapped in a dark gray robe.

“What is happening to me, Olivia?” he managed to blurt out.

Olivia’s emerald-green eyes were wide and glossy as her gaze moved from his bare chest up to his face.

“Oh, Jonas,” she whispered. “Timotheus was right.”

“What is this mark on me?”

She drew in a shaky breath, then closed her eyes with forced calmness. She raised her chin slightly and looked him directly in the eyes. “I’m sorry.”

He was about to say “For what?” when the image of Olivia blurred and darkened at the edges.

Jonas didn’t remember falling, but he felt the rough floor against his face for a brief moment before unconsciousness claimed him.





CHAPTER 7


    LUCIA


   THE SANCTUARY



Before Timotheus’s large and shining image vanished from the tower, he asked Mia to accompany Lucia inside. While all other immortals kneeled before her, their heads bowed, she nervously followed the Watcher to the base of the elder’s residence. A door in the surface of the tower, invisible to her until she was only an arm’s reach away, opened before her.

The tower itself was fifty paces in circumference and bare of any furnishings on the ground floor. Bare of anything except smooth white walls and a mirrored floor that matched the ground outside. She followed Mia into a room so small that she knew she could nearly touch each wall if she stretched her arms out to either side of her. Lucia eyed the opaque crystal doors uneasily as they slid shut.

“Can you speak now?” Lucia ventured. “Or are you still under Timotheus’s spell?”

“I can speak,” Mia said, her voice hushed. “And in the short time we have together, I must urge you to be careful.”

Lucia searched the immortal’s face, frowning at her troubled tone. “What do you mean?”

“We needed the prophecy to be true, to be proven, and you’ve finally arrived. Yet I now worry that what happened to Melenia, whatever Timotheus did to her, the same could happen to you. Be careful with him. No matter what he might tell us, we no longer trust him.”

Lucia grappled to find the words to speak, to ease Mia’s mind that Timotheus didn’t harm Melenia, that the elder had chosen her own fate by being greedy, malicious, and bloodthirsty, but the crystal doors slid open before she could say anything at all.

They were no longer on the ground floor. Lucia stepped past the doors into another white room, this one easily the size of all her palace chambers combined. From the floor-to-ceiling windows at the far end of the room, Lucia could see the entire city—the mirrored square, the intricate maze of crystal buildings, and the rolling green hills beyond the gates.

Lucia turned only to see the barest glimpse of the girl before the doors shut behind her. She rushed back to them, pressing her hands against the smooth surface and trying to pry the doors open again.

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