The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(17)

By: Laura Thalassa

That is something I fear.

I don’t want to fall asleep.

Despite the guards’ promises, I’m still concerned that the king will change his mind and force me back into that Sleeper. I should be thankful for the leaked footage. Now that the world knows I’m alive, Montes can’t easily hide his little secret once again.

But it’s more than residual concern that keeps me awake. I don’t want to go back to sleep after sleeping for a century.

My wants don’t seem to matter; my eyes still begin to repeatedly drift close. I fight it until I can’t any longer, and then I decide to change for bed. I pad towards the closet, my skirts swishing around my feet.

I stare into the empty closet.

The room I’m staying in still has no clothes.

I mutter an oath beneath my breath and begin unzipping my dress. Just or unjust, the king is still a wily fucker.

The gown slips off of me, sliding to the ground, and I’m left in the lacy lingerie the king provided me with earlier. I step out of the gown pooled at my feet and head for the enormous bed.

Halfway there, I hear a dull thump from the side of the room. I twist around, my body instinctively tensing. My eyes find the source of the noise, my body stiffens.

The surface of the mirror is vibrating once more. As I watch, the vibrations slow, then eventually vanish altogether.

I walk over to the mirror. It’s unusually large, taking up a quarter of the wall. I wait for the noise to repeat itself, my eyes fixed on the smooth surface. When the seconds tick by and nothing happens, my exhaustion creeps back up on me.

Ghosts I’m not afraid of. Far too many already haunt my mind.

I pad over to the bed and slide in. It’s only once I’m amongst all those sheets made of fine fabrics that I notice how empty the bed feels. It’s about to swallow me up it’s so large. I’ve gotten used to the king’s body pressed against mine. I never realized that once something like that is gone, you feel its ache like a phantom limb.

I don’t want to think about him deep in the night, or pine for his presence the way I’m sure many ladies of the court have.

Monsters like the king don’t sleep in beds, they sleep under them. And I don’t yearn; I exact vengeance.

The King

I enter her room late that evening, long after I know she’s fallen asleep.

If I thought it would work, I’d wait for her to invite me herself. But I’m not a complete fool; another hundred years would go by before that would happen. Serenity is vindictive enough to deny both of us this for as long as she seeks to punish me.

I’m not a fool, and I’m not some chivalrous knight here to defend her honor.

I’m her morally depraved husband.

So I’m bending the rules of propriety.

I shrug off my button-down and slacks and round the bed.

Serenity stirs as I slip under the covers. The sheets are warm from her body heat. There were days long gone when I would’ve ruined entire cities for something as simple as this.

I’d gotten so used to her inhuman coldness as she slept in that sarcophagus. I’d nearly forgotten that Serenity has always been fire and heat and blood and ignited passions. My injuries are a testament to that. The excitement that thrums through my veins is a testament to that.

Those grave robbers resurrected more than an ancient queen when they took Serenity. My heart and my spirit slept with my wife, and those two have now woken. Just as I feared they would.

“Montes,” she murmurs in her sleep.

I still at my name.

No time has gone by for her. She hasn’t felt that century like I have. I forced myself to exist without her, the fates’ punishment for all those years I took from everyone else. Maybe I finally paid my penance.

She rolls against me, her body nestling into my side, her arm wrapping around my torso.

I close my eyes and swallow down what feels like a shard of glass in my throat. Her skin is all over me. I rasp out a pained breath. Nothing has ever felt so good.

My arms come around her hesitantly. I’m never this tentative, but tonight my mythic queen is in my arms, and I haven’t been a husband in a very long time.

I move my hand to her hair and stroke those golden locks. I have to breathe through my nose to control my emotions.

I’m not dreaming.

Nothing should feel this good.

I shouldn’t be here. I did this to her, to me, to us. And it’s not over. Even once she forgives me—and she will, that I’ll make sure of—there are my enemies. We’re back to square one, where she was my weakness. Only I, in my infinite stupidity, have made her more than my weakness. I have made her a vital player in this war.

My men have been alerted to look for and eliminate threats, and already they’ve taken care of dozens. But more will come, and I’m no longer smug enough to think I can neutralize all of them.

Even now with her cancer gone, death looms over Serenity. I’ve brought this upon her—just as I have every one of her other misfortunes.

“Nire bihotza, I’m sorry,” I whisper, my lips brushing the crown of her head, my shaky fingers running down her arm. “I know you’ll never believe it, but I’m so, so sorry.”