The Darkest Craving (Page 34)

The Darkest Craving (Lords of the Underworld #10)(34)
Author: Gena Showalter

“Do you want an enemy you can’t afford to have? Because you’re walking the line with me,” Kane snapped. “You’ve got Phoenix running wild out there, and your men will never be able to take them down. You’ve allowed the army to become lazy, living off of the triumph of past conquests.”

“How dare you! My men are as strong as ever.”

Kane smiled, but it wasn’t a nice one. “If I were to walk out there right now, I could slay every single male under your command and not break a sweat. Want me to prove it?”

What was he doing? She wanted to jump in front of him and shield him from the curses and punishments about to start flying, but it was no longer her place to protect him. She returned to her spot against the wall.

Tiberius leaped to his feet, planted his palms on the tabletop and peered down at Kane with undiluted rage. “A dead man can’t prove anything.”

Kane stood, too, refusing to back down from the mighty king of the Fae—something very few had tried and none had survived. His chair toppled over, one of the legs poking him in the back of the knee. He didn’t seem to notice.

“I have some experience with the Phoenix, and I know they’ll play with your men these next few weeks, testing their abilities. Then, the Phoenix will seem to vanish for a few weeks more and you’ll relax. Then, the warriors will return with a vengeance and torch the palace and everyone in it.”

Crystal eyes narrowed. “If that’s the case, the problem will be yours as much as mine. Your engagement ball is set for eight days from now, and your wedding nine days from now.”

Just enough time to plan a feast but not so long the bulk of Synda’s personality flaws couldn’t be hidden.

I can’t watch their courtship. I just can’t. And she couldn’t allow herself to be drawn in and spit out by Kane anymore. From now on, it would be better for her if she kept her distance from him.

Maybe she should run away. She’d done it before. Of course, she’d been captured swiftly and disciplined severely, and had later vowed never to take such a risk again.

A silly vow, she realized now.

Leopold strolled into the room, and Synda skipped in behind him, branching off to close in on Kane.

Tiberius sat. Kane righted his chair and settled down.

“Good morning, warrior.” The princess tried to kiss him on the cheek, but he reared back, stopping her.

Perhaps he hadn’t gotten over his aversion, after all.

“What are you doing?” he gritted.

“Making your morning even better, of course,” she said, unperturbed as she smoothed her skirt around her chair.

Gag.

“Next time wait for permission.”

The queen was the last to enter. She spotted the king’s mistress and stiffened.

Trembling, Josephina filled her goblet with juice.

The queen sipped—and spit the liquid out on Josephina’s shoes. “This is horrid swill. How dare you ruin the start of my day with it!”

“I’ll get you something else,” she muttered, her cheeks burning hotly.

“You’ll stay here,” Kane growled. “The juice is fine.”

Penelope looked to the king, expecting him to side with her. Tiberius nodded to Josephina to continue with her duties.

Josephina’s stomach threatened to rebel. The queen would make her suffer for this.

Her trembling increased as she moved to Leopold’s side and poured his measure of juice. He pressed his hand against the small of her back, as if holding her steady. Meanwhile, he spread his fingers to cover as much ground as possible, even daring to delve between the cheeks of her bottom.

She tried to shift out of the way.

Kane unleashed a stream of dark curses, and all eyes swung to him.

His gaze was locked on Leopold, and slitted.

Her brother shifted uncomfortably, lowered his arm.

What had that been about? Kane hadn’t been able to see her brother’s hand, had he? And if he had, he hadn’t cared about it. Had he? He’d simply wanted to…what? Confused, she flittered away to the kitchen to gather the food.

“Hurry up, you lazy cow,” Cook snipped.

She stuck her tongue out at him before returning to the dining room.

“—take me shopping tomorrow? Please!” Synda was saying to Kane.

“An excellent idea,” King Tiberius replied, as if the question had been directed at him.

“Josephina will go with us,” Kane said firmly.

Her birth name on his lips just seemed wrong. She wasn’t fond of Tinker Bell or Tink, but she also kind of loved them. They were special, meant just for her. He’d never used a nickname with Synda.

The king opened his mouth to reply—probably a refusal, considering the glint of anger in his eyes. But Synda clapped happily, and said, “Of course she can come. We’re going to have the best time ever!” so he remained quiet.

“What about the Phoenix?” Leopold asked tightly. “A woman of royal blood shouldn’t be wandering about town with such a threat on the loose.”

“The king has assured me your men can contain the threat. Besides, the ladies will be with me,” Kane said. “They’ll be protected.”

Tiberius thought for a moment, nodded. “You will accompany the pair, Prince Leopold, and ensure nothing happens to Warrior Kane and Princess Synda.”

The pair, he’d said, rather than the threesome. As if Josephina didn’t count.

The truth was, she didn’t.

The prince looked ready to argue, but quickly thought better of it. “As you wish, Majesty.”

Kane grinned without humor. “Until tomorrow.”

* * *

KANE SPENT THE rest of the day doing a bit of investigative work, questioning every servant he came across. The moment he learned the cook had been the one to put the mark on Tink’s cheek, he locked the kitchen, preventing anyone from escaping, and beat the man senseless.

He whistled with satisfaction as he went in search of Tink.

CHAPTER TWELVE

A HAZE OF early-morning sunlight filled Kane’s bedroom, chasing away the shadows.

As he shook off the horrors of another nightmare, a sense of excitement rose.

Last night, his attempts to talk to Tink had failed. He’d spied her in the throne room—but she’d disappeared behind a door the moment he’d approached her. He’d found her in the weaving room—but she’d pulled another disappearing act. He’d snuck up on her in the garden—but she’d wiggled from his hold and run away.

Today, though, she couldn’t do any running. According to the king, she had to stay by her sister’s side. Which meant she would be within Kane’s reach at all times.