Page 34

I had to get rid of Ash.


I stood behind Belladonna as she sat in Requiem’s private rooms. I was finally back in my vest and pants. They’d been thoroughly cleaned and I was grateful. The slave who’d brought them had been quiet and we’d given her some of our fruit. She’d turned it down without a word.

Belladonna shook her head. “She will die soon. It’s what she wants, I think.”

I couldn’t imagine a life so terrible you were willing to starve yourself to death.

Guts churning, I stared straight ahead at the genealogy chart on the wall as Belladonna spoke, spinning her tale. The story we came up with was simple, and yet I knew it had enough truth in it that we could make it work.

The chart fascinated me, and I found myself working through the families. Some names had been crossed off, others circled. It wasn’t just a chart of the families, there was something else going on; I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Well, as you can see, Larkspur does have a certain look to her that some men find appealing. You do realize that is why Ender Ash showed up on your doorstep? He’s pressing his advantage on her. Of course, he’s of no interest to her. He’s not her type. Weak. Pale.”

Requiem’s eyes narrowed. “Truly. And why would that concern me, exactly?”

Belladonna smiled and I had to give her credit. I would have faltered under that question. “You have the power here, do you not? Could you put him into your cells? He is not stable and I don’t feel safe with him running loose.”

His eyes didn’t even flicker as he leaned back in his chair. “You would have one of your own Enders put into our cells?”

“Until we’re ready to leave, of course. At which point we’ll have him moved to our own oubliette. As is fit.”

His eyes slipped to me. We had tightened the vest a couple of notches allowing for a bit more cleavage and Belladonna had stitched my pants so that they pulled tightly around my legs and butt. He stood and turned his back to us. “I can have him moved to the cells. But he can never leave. Once someone is put into the cells, there is no coming out.”

That was a bold-faced lie. Mako had been brought out. But did we call him on it?

Belladonna let out a sigh. “Well, it is best that for now he is put away from Larkspur. Do you not agree, Requiem?”

He spun, nodded, and scooped up her hand. He placed a kiss on the back of it, leaving a big wet mark. Gross. “Ambassador, if I do this, you will owe me a favor. Both of you will.”

“Protecting your guests, that is part of being a ruler. Perhaps you would like for me to school you on the proper etiquette?” Her tone dipped from genteel to icy in a split second.

He grinned at her. “You are the heir to your father’s throne, are you not?”

“I am.”

Something about his words niggled at me, and I glanced at the chart on the wall. Bella’s name was circled.

Requiem didn’t let go of her hand. “A beautiful, powerful woman. Unattached. Fertile if my healers are correct.”

Belladonna stiffened, as did I. She pulled her hand from his with some effort. “All true. Especially the first two. Something you’d best consider when you speak to me.”

“We will talk more of this favor you will owe me, Ambassador. But I do believe, I already know what I want from you. The Ender will be tossed into the cells per your request.”

“I want to see him go,” I said, startling them both. “I want to see with my own eyes that he is locked away.”

Requiem’s eyes softened as he took me in, almost as if he cared. “You truly are afraid of him, aren’t you?”

I swallowed hard, but said nothing.

“Then you shall see him sent to the cells, Larkspur.” He all but purred my name sending a very unpleasant shiver down my spine.

Belladonna and I left Requiem’s rooms. She kept her pace even, but under it I sensed her fear. This was a deadly game, one we played without truly knowing where we stood. Or if there was firm ground anywhere we stepped.

Instead of our rooms, I guided her to the docks.

“Where are we going?”

“Just somewhere I won’t have to see Ash’s face right now. We betrayed him, Bella.” The churning in my stomach brought me to my knees. She put a hand on my shoulder.

“He’s here to kill us. There are a lot of things I’d lie about, but not that.” She crouched beside me.

Who to believe, that was the question. One I had no answer to—not even with all the evidence I had at hand.

“I know you thought he was your friend. Ask him about the note. If he’s honest he’ll tell you. He should have told you in the first place.”

She was right, but I was concerned about more than Ash. “Bella, are you really in your yearly right now?”

A quick nod and a sly smile slid over her face. “I never did have cramps, not even when I was younger. But it’s of no concern. I won’t let him touch me.”

I knew the him she referred to was Requiem. “So all those times you had people waiting on you hand and foot?”

She waved her hand, her eyes sparkling. “Well, I could have been cramping, they didn’t have to know that I wasn’t.”

Damn, I didn’t want to think it was funny, not with everything going on with Ash and Requiem. Yet it was, maybe because it was so far away, and so ridiculous. Crouched there on the wooden slats beside me, I again saw the older sister I’d always wanted.

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