Home > Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(6)

Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(6)
Author: Amanda Bouchet

   “My way?” Piers loads enough scorn into his voice to sink a ship. “See? It’s starting already.”

   The urge to pummel him rocks me hard. I curl my hands into fists, but I turn on my heel and walk away before I do something I’ll regret.

   “Bloody sanctimonious bastard,” I mutter as I start back toward Griffin and Kaia. Being moved to physical violence is the easy and natural path for me, and my whole body almost vibrates with the need to pounce and pound. I’m trying to control myself and learn better habits, but Piers is making it hard.

   He suddenly grabs my wrist from behind and jerks me to a stop. I swing around, just barely stopping myself from punching him with my free hand. My lips draw back in a snarl, baring my teeth, and I have to hold on to my thigh to keep my fist from flying up. I’m too filled with rage to hear what he’s saying at first, but then I realize the pattern is a chant, and the words are familiar.

   No! Dread slams into me, replacing my fury with fear. I’ve heard those ancient words before, on the Ice Plains. Only there, different rules applied. Here…

   “Stop!” I cry, trying to break his grip on my wrist. “You don’t know what you’re doing!”

   Piers talks faster, louder. He’s Hoi Polloi, but that doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be Magoi to make this work.

   His stone-cold eyes glint with determination, and I let my fist fly, trying to punch him in the throat. I get him, but not hard enough to shut him up. His next words come out hoarse but still too distinct to break the flow of the chant. He starts a new, treacherous repetition, bringing us all closer to terrible danger.

   Jerking hard on the wrist he’s holding, I pull him closer and plant my foot in his groin. Or try to. He’s quick and pivots. I hit his hip, jarring the bones in my foot and ankle. Piers hardly moves, absorbing the blow in the same way Griffin would have. He keeps chanting.

   “Cat!” Griffin shouts my name from the road. Panic wells up, making my heart pump double time. He can’t be here for this.

   I shift my stance and send a quick and powerful knee toward Piers’s gut. He swipes his free arm down and blocks me with his forearm, throwing me off-balance. Before I can recover, he spins me around and pulls me up against his chest, limiting my mobility.

   “Cat!”

   I look up and see Griffin coming for me at a dead sprint. Piers wraps both his arms around my torso, squeezing and lifting me to my toes. My leverage is gone, and I can hardly breathe with my chest flattened under muscles that are thicker and stronger than I ever thought. I grab for my knives, but I have to reach over Piers’s arms, and my fingers just barely graze the hilts. There’s no way I’ll get them out of my belt loops like this.

   “Stop chanting!” I claw at his arms, digging my fingernails into his skin. Blood slicks the backs of his forearms and coats my palms. “It’s not too late!”

   The old words keep tumbling into my ears, fast and low. I bang him in the shins with my boot heels, but Piers ignores me, my thumping feet, and my scraping nails. He begins another repetition.

   Part of me knows I’m not fighting him as hard as I could. Respect and affection for Griffin’s family hold me back. And Piers will stop. This is just to scare me, to get me to back off. Isn’t it?

   I use my head to crack him in the jaw. His chant stumbles, but only for a moment, and I see stars.

   Griffin is almost on top of us now, a look of absolute fury twisting his face. Kaia isn’t far behind.

   “Run!” I shout to him. “Take Kaia and run!”

   My voice holds enough of the panic I’m feeling to make him hesitate. He slows, his near-wild eyes swinging back and forth between his sister and me.

   “Get her out of here!” I scream with the last of my breath.

   Piers’s grip tightens painfully, and he starts backing away from them, dragging me with him. He shows no sign of abandoning his folly, forcing me to trade his safety for ours. I stop hesitating and try to muster the lightning that would definitely—and possibly permanently—shut him up.

   Nothing happens. No lightning. Not even a spark. The Olympian magic in my blood has a fickle mind of its own, and it fails me yet again. Only panic leaps through my veins, along with an icy current of dread.

   “Let. Cat. Go.” Griffin’s demand is low and furious. He stalks forward in a rage.

   Horror floods me anew. Why doesn’t anyone listen to me? When I say run, you run!

   Piers continues to drag me back. One step. Two. Crushing my lungs. I struggle to breathe.

   “What are you chanting?” Griffin keeps advancing on us, but he holds out a hand to keep Kaia back. “What’s going on?”

   I try in vain to reach my lightning again. Even though he doesn’t fully understand what’s happening, I know from Griffin’s expression that he’ll fight his own brother down to blood and bone in order to set me free.

   As a last, desperate resort, I twist furiously in Piers’s arms and scream like a lunatic. It stops Griffin in his tracks and seems to startle Piers into loosening his grip. Feeling the change in pressure around my ribs, I stop thrashing and drop. My deadweight breaks his hold. I land in a crouch and then take off at a sprint, yelling for Griffin and Kaia to run!

   Thank the Gods, they spin and run without question, knowing I’m not far behind. I’m fast, but Griffin and Kaia quickly outdistance me. Griffin looks back, hesitating, and I gesture frantically for him to keep going. I don’t look back, and I don’t slow down, even when my lower belly tightens, and the muscles there feel like they’re turning to stone. Piers is chasing me, and I’m guessing he’s as swift as the rest of his family. I run faster than I ever have in my life, my legs flying and my chest burning.

   I’m halfway to the road when Piers hits my back. Everything tilts, I go weightless for a sickening second, and then we both hit the ground with a bone-jarring thud. I just barely keep my head up, and the ground scrapes my bare arms raw from palms to elbows as we skid across the dirt. Piers ends up sprawled flat-out across my back, and I wheeze a frightened sound, terrified of having knocked little Eleni loose, even though I know she’s been through worse.

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