The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(10)By: Laura Thalassa
It takes me almost five minutes to dress, due largely to the number of holes and straps the deep crimson gown has. I ignore the heels altogether.
A thud at my back has me spinning around. My eyes lock on the gilded mirror that takes up a good portion of one of the walls. The surface of it trembles ever so slightly.
I walk up to the mirror and press my palm against its surface. The tremors die down, and eventually vanish altogether.
This eerie place.
Someone raps on the door. “Your Majesty,” they say, “The king will see you now.”
More cavernous halls, more empty corridors. Everything is pristine, but there are no signs of life.
For the first time since I woke, I feel the stirrings of trepidation. I’ve been angry at the man who put me in the Sleeper, not the one who refused to let me out.
I don’t know this man.
The guards that surround me carry no weapons. I was so confident that I could steal one off of them, but there are none to steal.
They take me to a room I assume is used for extravagant parties, judging by how large the double doors are.
We stop in front of it, and one of my guards knocks.
No one answers the door and no one responds.
I cast a side glance at the soldiers. They don’t appear surprised about this.
What is waiting for me on the other side?
They pause for several more seconds, then reach for the doors.
As soon as they swing open, my breath catches.
If parties were once held in this room, they are no longer. A world map covers the far wall. The same hated strings and blacked out faces are pinned to it. But the two adjacent walls, those are filled from floor to ceiling with photographs and reports.
Conquering has become Montes’s obsession, though obsession is not nearly a strong enough word for this.
A century to transform a man into whatever thing he wishes to become …
Right in the middle of the room, staring up at his enormous map, his hands clasped behind him, is the one man I hate more than any other.
My tormentor. My lover.
My pulse pounds in my ears as my eyes land on his back.
There is no word for what I feel. It’s too big, the pain too acute. It burns up my throat and pricks my eyes.
In my mind, I held this man yesterday, felt him move inside me yesterday, heard him whisper that he loved me yesterday.
But my yesterday was 104 years ago.
“Your Majesty, the queen.”
The king’s body is just as still as ever; he gives no signs that he even heard the guard.
The moment stretches on.
Finally, “Leave us.”
That same smooth as Scotch voice echoes through the room, and it sounds grander than I’ve ever heard it.
Now, now I feel the weight of all the lost years. It might’ve seemed as though I went to sleep yesterday, but my ears know they haven’t heard that voice in an eternity.
Montes doesn’t turn around as the guards retreat. The door closes with a resounding thud behind them, and then it’s just me and the undying king.
I don’t move. I barely even breathe.
I’m falling apart.
From hate to love to hate once more. My hardened heart was not made to withstand such vast and ever-changing emotions. It’s cleaving me to pieces.
Why did he do this?
“You bastard,” I whisper.
The king’s entire body flinches at the sound of my voice.
“Are you even going to face me?” You fucking coward.
I hear the scrape of his heel, and then he’s turning.
I thought I’d be ready to face him, I thought that this pain-laced fury churning inside me would obliterate any other feelings the sight of him would bring.
God, was I wrong.
Our gazes lock, and it’s all right there—the love, the hate, the sorrow and happiness we hold for one another. All that time can go by, yet everything between us is just as raw and intense as it’s always been.
My monster. My husband. He’s utterly unchanged. He still has the same olive skin, the same dark hair, the same seductive lips and dark, dying eyes. And judging by the way he stares at me, that obsessive love he once harbored might not be completely gone.
He takes a step forward and nearly goes down to one knee, his legs are so unstable. At first I think something’s wrong with him. It takes a moment to realize it’s the sight of me.
“Serenity,” he says, straightening.
My chest rises and falls faster and faster.
He takes another step towards me. And then another. He doesn’t tear his gaze away from me. Not for a second. His face is impassive—all but his eyes. Those depthless eyes that have witnessed so many of his terrible deeds, they devour me. They move over my outfit, and then my face.
Here they linger, touching each one of my features. But it’s my scar they finally rest on.
I swore I wouldn’t shed another tear for this man, and yet I feel one slip out anyway.
Damn my heart. Even after everything, I love him, and it’s ripping me apart.
“You came here to kill me.” There’s such resignation his voice.
“You motherfucker,” I say. “You left me to rot.” My entire body trembles. Had I once thought I was the colder of the two of us? I’ve gotten no reaction out of him, and here I am breaking apart in his midst.