But maybe that was just me.
The room Dolph took us to was not the one we’d stayed in before, though it might as well have been as the décor was the same. It felt like we’d stepped back in time.
Not something I wanted to do.
As soon as the door shut, Bella flopped onto the bed. “I could sleep for days. I’m exhausted.”
I lay beside her. “Might as well. We have to wait on Finley anyway.”
We were quiet for only a moment before Bella rolled to face me. “Do you love Cactus?”
I groaned. “Please, I do not want to—”
“Come on. Tell me.” She pushed me lightly with one hand. I drew in a deep breath but didn’t face her.
“I did once, before . . . before the oubliettes. I think I could have settled down with him.”
I scrunched my shoulders up. “He is not the one for me. Peta has known it all along, and I know it too. Now.”
“But he loves you.”
Bella leaned forward. “And you’re using that love. Lark, that is awful.”
Anger overcame fatigue and I sat up. “Listen. I’ve flat out told him off. He doesn’t want to listen. That’s not my fault. Surely you have suitors who won’t listen to you?”
Her lips parted. “Of course not.”
The lie was as thick as pudding in the air between us. “Spill it. Who is chasing you?”
I snorted. “Come on.”
Her lips twitched. “Maybe one or two.”
“And of course you told them off?”
Her eyes widened. “One is Fiametta’s son, so no, I have not told him off.”
Time for my eyes to widen. “A true merge of two families? Oooh, the drama.”
“I never said I was even going to—”
“Please, you don’t have to marry him to carry his child.” I lay back on the bed, instantly regretting my words. “Bella, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean . . .”
“Lark, don’t. Requiem was a long time ago, and I was a fool. I thought I was strong enough to face him on my own.” She sighed and lay beside me. “And as much of a monster as he was, he gave me the most amazing daughter.”
I wanted to reach over and take her hand, or hug her. But I couldn’t make myself move. I wasn’t sure I could ever be so forgiving of Requiem. Or the other monsters I’d faced.
“Go to sleep, Lark,” she said as though she were in charge.
I closed my eyes, knowing I should have been bothered by the fact that I did as she asked without question; old habits dying hard. Still, I fell asleep within seconds.
My mind, though, did not allow me any respite, as dreams haunted my rest. They battled for my attention, swinging from the war we’d fought against Orion and the demons, to the mother goddess laughing at me, to Blackbird trying to bed me as I lay tied down and unable to fight.
A violent shiver woke me at one point. The breeze coming in from the wide window cooled the sweat along my bare skin. I groped for a blanket and someone placed a thick duvet over me. Peta crept up in her snow leopard form, stretching out alongside my body, and sharing her warmth with me.
Bella dropped an arm around my waist. “Just dreams, Lark. They are just dreams. Let them go.”
Again, I obeyed her, and relaxed once more.
The fear left, the pain of all I’d lost slipped away. I fell asleep again, this time safe in knowing, if nothing else, I had my sister with me.
More the fool was I for believing my life would come together so smoothly.
he banging on the door jerked me out of a dead sleep. I scrambled out of bed, my spear in my hand even as I reached for the power of the earth before my eyes were even fully open.
Spirit and Earth rumbled through me, dangerous in their current state of unpredictability.
“Easy, Lark. We are not surrounded by enemies,” Peta soothed.
I shook myself, and quickly let go of my connection to the earth but not my spear.
I strode to the door and opened it with a jerk. In front of me was a petite woman, in all white, one of the Undine slaves. Usually they were human, captured when they ventured too close to the Deep.
She lifted clear blue eyes to me. Elemental power swirled along the edges of her arms as she tapped into the water around us. Obviously not a human, but worse was what I saw in her intention. The lines all but spelled out what she was going to do. Something so simple, and so effective, that no one would realize what had happened to me.
The slave was going to fill my lungs with water so I died without a sound, drowned on dry land.
I grabbed her around the throat and lifted her straight up so her feet dangled. “Not quick enough, assassin.”
Her eyes bulged, the color on her arms flared, and I clamped my mouth shut. I bore down until I felt her pulse slow under my fingers, frantic and then pausing between each beat. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and the lines of blue power faded from her arms. Only when I was sure she was out cold did I let go, letting her drop to the floor with a meaty thump.
“Lark, what is going on?” Bella ran across to me, her hair and skirts seriously rumpled, yet she still looked like a queen.
“Bella, stay here. I don’t want you in the middle of this.”
She put a hand on my arm, slowing me. “Lark, I am here to help you. What happened?”
My jaw ticked twice before I answered. “She tried to kill me.”