The Queen of All That Lives (The Fallen World Book 3)(4)By: Laura Thalassa
An entire century went by, and I saw none of it. The king had kept me in a coffin, not dead but not alive.
I recognize the moment the truth settles on my shoulders.
Loss so big my body can’t hold it is expanding, expanding. It tries to crawl up my throat.
Had I thought before I was the loneliest girl in the world? If what these men are telling me is true, and I’m beginning to believe it is, I have nothing left.
The world has passed me by, and the people and time I belong to are now long gone. I haven’t seen anything beyond the metal walls of this car, but would I recognize the world outside? The people? A hundred years before I was put in the Sleeper, the world was a far different place from the one I lived in. I have every reason to believe that same logic applies to the future—present.
I rub my forehead agitatedly. Everything and everyone I’ve ever known is gone. Everyone except for the man I love, the man who did this to me.
My surroundings blur as my eyes water. But I will not shed another tear for that abomination. Not now, in front of these men, and not when I’m alone.
He deserves nothing but my wrath.
And what has he been doing this whole time while I rotted away?
I already know the answer.
He’s been killing, screwing, ruling.
Betrayal is giving way to rage. Everything I have ever cherished the king has taken from me, either directly or indirectly. My family, my land, my freedom, my life. And I gave him everything. My body, my heart, my soul.
I’m taking them back. I hope he’s enjoyed my stone cold heart for the century he’s owned it. Next time I see him, I’m going to carve it right out of his chest.
I level my gaze on Jace. “You said you wanted me to end your war?”
He must see the mayhem in my eyes, because he hesitates. Then, slowly, he nods.
There is nowhere Montes can hide where I won’t find him. And when I do find him—
“I’ll end it.”
I sit down heavily on the edge of my bed and loosen my tie. The flight was long, the day even longer, but I can’t go to bed. Not yet.
I shrug off my jacket and roll up my sleeves.
Someone knocks on my door.
“Tomorrow,” I call. The world is going to have just as many problems then as it does now.
When the footsteps retreat, I move to the back of the room, right to the garish painting of Cupid and Psyche. I grab the edge of the frame and pull it away from the wall. It swings back with ease, and behind it is a door, barred to all, save for me.
I press my thumb into the scanner embedded next to it.
The light blinks green, and then the sealed off entrance hisses open.
I step into the narrow hallway sandwiched between the rooms of the palace, the cold air already settling into my bones. Above me the overhead lights flick on.
I used to believe that secret passageways were the things of spy novels, but during the course of my long reign, these hidden features have saved my life and land a time or two.
My shoes click against the stone floor, and I slide my hands into my pockets as I pass room after room on either side of the hall. One-way mirrors expertly camouflaged as decorations allow me to catch glimpses of my guests.
All those years ago, Serenity taught me a valuable lesson: trust will earn you a knife in the back and a shallow grave. This is my insurance policy against that.
Tonight, the rooms are all empty. I’ve been gone for a while.
I’m drawn down the passageway like a moth to a flame. Even in sleep, Serenity calls to me.
The lights flicker on, one after another, as I gradually descend into the lowest levels of the palace.
It’s when I get to the entrance of her mausoleum that I feel the first stirrings of unease. One of the doors hangs slightly open.
I stop, my eyes studying the inconsistency.
This has happened before. There have been times in the past when I’ve forgotten to close the door tightly. A bad habit borne from the fact that no one but me accesses this place.
I push it open, all senses on alert.
More than a hundred marble steps lie between me and my wife. I take each one slowly, letting the peace of this place soothe my nerves.
The lights here are already on; they’re always on. I can’t bear the thought of Serenity laying here, alone in the darkness.
As I head down the stairs, the rest of the room unfolds before me. Grotesquely large marble columns hold up the cavernous ceiling, a domed roof at its pinnacle. Gold and indigo tiles are embedded into the walls of this place. And finally, the pool of water, the walkway, and Serenity’s golden—
All my breath slips out of me when I catch sight of her sarcophagus.
The lid sits askew.
I can’t move for a second; all I can do is stare. I’ve come here a thousand times, laid my eyes on that Sleeper a thousand more. Never once has the image changed.
I begin to move again. First I walk, then I run.
I reach her sarcophagus, her empty sarcophagus, and my worst fears are confirmed.
“So what are you planning to do with me?” I say, assessing the six soldiers from my bed.
As far as I can tell, these men didn’t wake me to let me go. The camera is proof of that, the weapons are proof of that. Hell, the way this situation is unfolding is proof of that. No one’s treating me like I’m a victim. They’re treating me like I’m an acquisition.