The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(15)By: Laura Thalassa
“Well then,” she says, breaking my reverie, “that makes this simple: you and I are going to end this war.”
The vein in the king’s temple begins to throb.
It’s pretty blasé of me to just announce this like Montes hasn’t been trying to do the very thing for the last century. I also don’t mention that ending the war and winning it are two very different things.
The bastard obviously doesn’t like my idea. But just when I think he’s going to put up some sort of fight, he nods slowly.
Those dark eyes of his gleam, and I worry that whatever he’s agreed to is somehow different from what I’ve proposed. That terrible mouth curls up into a terrible smile the longer we lock eyes, and that terrible face I feared for so long—I’m going to have to deal with it until this is finished.
I’m seriously concerned that I’m getting played at this very moment.
“Tomorrow, we’ll begin,” he says, picking his words carefully.
I stare at him a beat longer, then it’s my turn to nod. “Alright.”
The tension between us evaporates when Montes extends an elbow. “Dinner?”
I huff out a laugh and shake my head. I walk away from the king and his elbow. We are so far beyond chivalry.
In a few long strides he’s caught up with me.
He places a hand on the small my back as we exit the room.
“You will lose that hand if you keep touching me,” I say, not looking over at him.
“You’ve always liked my hands too much to do them any harm,” he says, but drops his hold anyway.
“I don’t like much of anything about you right now,” I say.
As of today, I finally, truly begin to understand my father’s lessons on diplomacy. Sometimes you have to ally with your enemies for a higher cause. That means not throttling Montes, despite the almost overwhelming urge to do so.
“We’ll see how long you say that,” he says.
You know what? Fuck diplomacy, and fuck this.
Even as I swivel towards Montes my arm snaps out. My knuckles slam into his jaw, and even though they’re already ripped up and even though his face is already bruised and swollen, the hit is incredibly satisfying.
He stumbles back, clutching his jaw.
“You can wait another hundred and four years for me to like you, asshole. It still won’t be long enough. Just be happy I didn’t kill you when I had a chance.”
That dangerous glint enters his eyes as he rubs his jaw. He closes the distance between us until chest brushes mine.
“Yes, about that,” he says, his head dipping low. “You didn’t kill me when you could’ve. I wonder why that is,” he muses, his gaze searching mine.
“One massacre was enough for the day,” I say.
He leans in even closer, bending his head so his lips brush my ear. “You can say it or not, but you and I both know the truth.” He straightens enough to look me in the eye. “You can’t kill me, even now, even though I deserve it—and I do deserve it.”
I pull back enough to get a good look at him.
The king I knew took, and took, and took because he felt it was his right. And now, what he is essentially saying is that what he did wasn’t his right.
I narrow my eyes at him. “Have you grown a conscience?” It’s an almost preposterous thing to consider.
“Age gives you wisdom, not a conscience,” he says as we wind our way through his halls.
“And where was that wisdom when it came to me?” I ask.
His eyes look anguished when he says, “It was wisdom that kept me from waking you, nire bihotza, not the other way around.”
Montes leads us outside, where a small table overlooking the sea waits for us. Oil lamps hang from poles around us, already giving the area a warm glow as the sun finishes setting.
I glance over at the king. This Montes … he isn’t exactly the same man I knew. And the change has me confused.
Confused and intrigued.
He pulls my chair out. I ignore the proffered seat and take the one across from it.
He smiles at the sight, though I swear his eyes carry a touch of sadness.
Someone’s already set out a bottle of wine.
The setting, the table, the wine—it all harkens back to those instances when the king tried to seduce me and I was unwilling. Or maybe this is just how the king eats, beholding the sea and the sky and everything that he hasn’t managed to ruin yet.
“Re-creating our previous dates will not win me back.”
He grabs the wine bottle and begins to open it, appraising me as he does so. “So you admit that I can win you back?” The cork pops.
“That’s not what I said.”
He begins filling my glass with wine, his eyes pinched at the corners like he finds is whole thing very humorous. “It’s what you don’t say that interests me most.”
I pick up my glass. “I’d prefer it if nothing about me interested you.” God, it’s such a lie.
Montes meets my eyes. “Serenity, the sun would sooner fall from the sky. Even when you slept, I couldn’t stay away from you.”
The ocean breeze stirs his hair, and I have to look away.