The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(19)

By: Laura Thalassa

I raise an eyebrow.

“You wear the clothes I provide, you sleep in my bed. Willingly.”

My hold tightens on his shirt, wrinkling the material.

Everything with this man comes down to strategy and what he can take. Fortunately for him, I’ve made a habit of sleeping with the king even when I didn’t particularly like him. I have few qualms about repeating the process.

“Fine,” I say. “But when you wake up and your balls are missing, just remember that you asked for this.”

A slow, smoldering smile breaks out across his face. “And when you wake up with me between your thighs, just remember that you agreed to it.”

“You really do have a death wish.” The audacity of this man never fails to astound me.

I slide out of bed. Ignoring the shirt he offered me, I put yesterday’s dress back on. I can feel his eyes on me as I slide it over my hips.

“What?” I say, pulling the straps up.

His eyes pinch at the corners again, like I amuse him.

Rather than answering me, he grabs his shirt from the bed and pulls it on. I bid goodbye to his abs as he buttons it up.

I find myself watching him just as acutely as he watched me.

He doesn’t bother tucking in his shirt or slipping on socks and shoes before coming back to me and taking my hand.

Montes brings it to his lips, kissing the split knuckles that hit his flesh.

I take a deep breath. He’s going to keep doing this, whether or not I fight him. So I bear it and try to ignore the brush of his lips.

When he’s done, he tugs on my hands and leads me out of my room.

“I don’t know anything about you,” I say as we walk. “I don’t know who you are.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he says.

“It does,” I counter. “Do you have a wife?”

He’s quiet for a moment, and the only sound is the soft tread of our bare feet and the march of the soldiers that trail us. “She wants to know if I have a wife. I think she’s more interested than she lets on.”

All that time managed to go by, and yet he still remembers how much I hate it when he refers to me in the third person. “Montes.”

“No, my queen,” he says, his voice somewhat offended, “there are no others, save for you. There never have been.”

I am mortified at the relief I feel. Am I so ready to forgive this man who’s betrayed me at every stage of our relationship?

“Kids?” I ask.

He flashes me a skeptical look.

“Oh, don’t act like you’re a saint.”

That vein in his temple begins to pulse. “No wives. No children, Serenity.”

I take that all in stride, perversely enjoying the fact that I have upset my king. He has a hard look about him, the expression he wears before he damns someone to death.

My attention diverts from the king when I catch sight of the palace walls. Some of the cloths that covered large frames have now vanished. Now I realize why they were hidden in the first place.

My face stares back at me from half a dozen different places, the grandest of them is the photo from our wedding that once rested in my office. It’s an odd picture to be so grand; it’s not stiff and formal. But the tenderness captured in that moment—albeit, tenderness I distinctly wasn’t feeling at the time—is almost overwhelming on such a grand scale.

The other photos are an odd combination of shots I never saw.

“I couldn’t look at them until now,” the king admits next to me, noticing my interest.

“Why did you put them up in the first place?” I ask, distracted.

“I had hoped they would bring me happiness. But I was wrong.”

My gaze sweeps over the walls again. Not all of the frames have been unveiled. It all seems so very deliberate.

“What about the ones that are still covered?” What else is the king hiding?

Montes peers down at me. “Those are a story for a different day.”

A story I’m bound to not like, I think as I stare into his handsome face. The secrets the king keeps are both huge and terrible. At this point, however, I must be impervious to the king’s terrors. There’s not much more that can frighten me; I’ve already endured all my fears.

We stop outside a set of double doors. Montes opens one of them for me and we head inside.

His room.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’m not sure it’s this. His room looks essentially the same as the one I stayed in last night. Beautiful, but lacking personality.

This man keeps all those fathomless bits of himself locked tightly up. Not even in his room does he set his personality loose.

I shouldn’t be concerning myself with Montes, who I feel at my back even now. I should concern myself with my own fate.

I’m to stay here, in this beautiful, empty palace, full of these opulent, meaningless rooms alongside my terrible, tortured husband.

When I turn, I see Montes standing on the threshold.

He jerks his head to the side of the room. “Your clothes are in the closet. I’ll be in the shower. We’re in a drought, so if you want to conserve water, I’ll allow you to join me.”

I narrow my eyes on him. “I’ll pass.”