“Servant Josephina will be shunned for one month. Anyone who speaks to her will be killed.”
Better than he could have hoped. Still, Kane squared his shoulders and braced his legs apart, preparing for battle. “Well, then, we’ve got our first real problem. I’m going to talk to her, and that’s non-negotiable.”
Crystal eyes narrowed. “Very well,” the king said after a few moments of thought, “but you will be lashed for every word.”
“What?” someone in the crowd gasped out.
“No. Not Lord Kane!” another cried.
“No,” Tinker Bell croaked.
Kane cut her a sharp glance. Silence.
She shook her head, dark hair wisping over her shoulders, saying, “Don’t do this.”
Still looking out for him, even after he’d failed her so miserably. His determination intensified. To the king, he said, “I will never willingly submit to such a punishment.” It would weaken him, and he needed every bit of strength he could summon. “I doubt you can force me—” except for Evil Overload, and his ability, but then, Kane could remove his tongue and that problem would be settled, too “—and the men that try will pay a very dear price.”
Behind him, a female fainted.
The princess flattened her hand over her heart and grinned. “He’s so wonderfully fierce. How soon can the wedding be planned?”
“Excellent question. We’ll make sure it’s done by the end of the month. That gives us ten days.” The king slammed his scepter into the marble floor so forcefully cracks formed in both. “Now. Everyone will return to their duties. And you,” he snarled at Kane. “You will join me in my chambers.”
JOSEPHINA SCRUBBED A rag back and forth over the already-clean upper staircase banister, surprised she hadn’t dimmed…whatever the material was. It looked like starlight and clouds. A chandelier hovered just above her, the rotating streams of opals, sapphires and emeralds attached to nothing but air, casting rainbow flecks in every direction, even the floor many stories below.
I wish I could jump.
Stupid Kane. He should have killed her when he’d had the chance. Now, she was going to make him wish he had. Yes. She liked that plan.
How dare he agree to wed Princess Synda?
Synda would lie to him, and cheat on him. The girl’s desire always burned white-hot, but died quickly. She would chew Kane up and spit him out, and there would be nothing left of him but bones. Bones Josephina had risked her life to save.
How could he want that girl? How could he not see beyond her pretty face?
Stupid, stupid, stupid man! Josephina stomped her foot. Anger was easier than hurt over yet another rejection.
The moment he’d agreed to the wedding, something inside her had cracked. Dark emotions had spilled out. She’d nearly broken down and sobbed. She’d nearly shouted, “He’s mine! All mine!”
But he wasn’t hers, and he never would be.
She, however, might become his.
Would Tiberius give her to Kane, thinking the warrior would punish her rather than his beautiful new wife when she misbehaved? Would Kane actually punish her? If he did…her nails scraped against the rag.
I won’t just make him wish I’d died. I’ll make him wish he had.
Her chin trembled, and she sniffled.
“I want to talk to you, Tinker Bell,” a masculine voice announced.
Jolting out of her wrathful thoughts, Josephina realized Kane stood just beside her. There were two guards behind him, careful to look away from her, shunning her properly, all while keeping watch over their charge and listening unabashedly.
Kane had just spoken eight words to her. Meaning, he’d just bought himself eight lashes of the whip. Josephina wanted him to suffer, but not that way.
“Go away,” she said, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand, just in case.
“Give us some privacy,” he said to the guards.
“Anything for you, Lord Kane.” The pair raced to the other side of the hallway.
“You know you’re not allowed to talk to me,” she said. “No one is.”
“You want me to waste a few words telling you I do what I want, when I want? Because I will. I don’t mind.”
Thirty-two lashes. All for nothing! “Shut up, you stupid man.”
His lips twitched at the corners, the bout of amusement confusing her. She’d just insulted him, yet he was battling a laugh? I’ll never understand him.
“Your eyes are back to normal, at least,” she said.
He patted the skin underneath. “They are?”
Thirty-four. She nodded, hoping her silence would encourage his own.
That hazel gaze raked the length of her body, burning her everywhere it touched. Whatever he saw must have angered him, because he ran his tongue over his teeth. “The blood slave thing is the reason you want to die, isn’t it?”
She gave up trying to count his words, and simply replied. It was his back, his agonizing pain; if he wasn’t going to help himself, she wasn’t going to try and do it for him. “Yeah. So? Why do you care?” You’re an engaged man!
“I have no desire to see you hurt.”
And yet, in the past few hours, he’d managed to hurt her worse than all of her whippings combined. “Just leave me alone, all right? You’re not the rock star I thought you were.”
He flinched. “I’m sorry I disappointed you, but everything I’ve done since finding you in the forest, I’ve done for you.”
Pretty words, nothing more. He’d seen Synda and wanted her, just like every other man, and it had had nothing to do with Josephina.
They stared at each other, quiet. He towered over her, as intense and savage as a man could be, and she felt small in comparison…surrounded by his utter maleness. Trapped.
But what a beautiful cage.
Her limbs began to tremble. Her breathing quickened, and she noticed he smelled of the forest he’d found her in. Pine and dewdrops, clean and untainted by the cloying fragrances the Opulens preferred. There was no longer any hint of the roses she’d scented in the motel room.
While on the run, she’d done a little research. Apparently, when an immortal closed in on death, he began to smell like roses.
How close had Kane come?
And why did she long to reach out, to flatten her palms on his chest, to feel his warmth and his strength, to assure herself he was here and he was real and oh, sweet mercy, her blood was heating, and her lips tingling, as if preparing for his seduction. He wasn’t her friend or her boyfriend or even a suitor.