The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(20)By: Laura Thalassa
His monstrous eyes twinkle as he backs away. My nightmare won’t capture me today.
“Then get dressed,” he says, unbuttoning his shirt. “We have a war council in an hour.”
This shower might go on record as one of the fastest I’ve ever taken. I soap myself up, my skin quickly getting slick with it.
Day two with the awakened queen.
My heart beats fast, and for the first time in decades, I feel young again. Uncertain again. Of my feelings, of hers, of the situation we’ve now found ourselves in.
She can’t escape, I ensured that, but I still don’t want her out of my sight. My paranoia is a beast that could swallow me whole if I let it. And I have ample reason to feel this way. I thought Serenity would be safe below my palace. She hadn’t been.
And now she’s in my room. Our room. Ready to gut me alive. Everything that’s wicked in me thrills at her savage nature.
I rinse off the suds.
Life with Serenity begins again.
This time around, it will be different. I’m not a good man, and doing the right thing has never come naturally to me, especially when it concerns my wife, but I’m trying. That’s why I’ve decided to keep including her in my official decisions. I want her involved in this war, not only because I have made her a key player in it, but also because my queen thrives best on the front lines.
I turn the spigot off and step out of the shower stall. Grabbing a towel, I wrap it around my waist.
I remember the call I got when they found her. All those dead men. She’d been untouched. That’s what happens when you corner my wife. That’s what happens when you throw her into the fray.
I’m an idiot for trying to protect her this whole time. She was never the one who needed protecting.
Everyone else was.
Montes and I head back to the giant map room together. I cast him my fifth skeptical glance.
“What concerns my vicious little wife?” he asks. He looks down at me fondly. It’s so strange, how kind this man can be when he’s been so cruel.
“You’re wearing fatigues. And combat boots.”
I found my own standard issue clothes in his room almost immediately. Granted, these are more fitted than the pairs I’m used to, but otherwise they’re essentially the same.
That was my first shock—Montes stocking my dresser with fatigues.
The second and bigger shock was that he wore them himself.
“I am,” he says.
“I’ve never seen you in uniform.” Not like this. Outfitted like a soldier. He looks good in it.
He runs a hand down his shirt front. “Like I said, many things about me have changed.”
I’m finally starting to understand that.
He peers down at me. “You like this.” It’s not a question.
My eyes drop to his clothes. “It depends.”
“Depends?” He raises his eyebrows. “On what?”
“On whether or not it’s all for show.” Wearing military attire doesn’t make you a soldier. Battle does.
“I like what you’re wearing,” Montes says by way of answer, nodding to my outfit. “It’s a reminder that we will be sharing a bed tonight.”
My face heats at that. “We shared a bed last night.”
“Yes, but this time my willing queen will fall asleep in my arms. I wonder what else she will be willing to do …”
“Just because I agreed to your terms doesn’t mean I’m willing,” I say.
Montes gives me a knowing look. “Let’s save the lies for the politicians,” he says.
I thin my gaze. “You better get some custom armor to wear below your belt, my king,” I say. “You’re going to need it.”
That earns me a laugh. “I’ll look into it, nire bihotza.”
Inside the king’s enormous map room, a series of long tables have been brought in and arranged in a U-shaped pattern. More startling than the addition of tables is the addition of people. Dozens upon dozens of military officers sit at the thick oak tables, most wearing uniforms and medallions.
Several screens have been pulled down from the ceiling, covering much of the maps. More military officers watch from the other side of those screens.
And amongst them all, I see many women.
My heart beats faster. This is not the same king I remember. Not even close.
When the officers notice me, the noise dies down until room becomes ominously silent. Then, one by one, they stand and salute.
I lean into Montes, looking out at them all. “Did you pay them to do that?”
He places a gentle hand on my back. “No, Serenity. Money can’t buy you that kind of loyalty.”
Nor can fear, not with these types of men and women. I stare out at their stoic faces. If they’ve lived through enough battles, things like death and pain don’t scare them. That begs the question: how did Montes convince them to join his ranks?
I flash the king a questioning look. Rather than speaking, he urges me forward. I nod to the soldiers I make eye contact with, still confused by the man and situation I find myself in.
This is the first—being inside the king’s palace, surrounded by people that look just like me. It’s destabilizing.