Home > Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(7)

Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(7)
Author: Amanda Bouchet

   Griffin shouts my name again, and every protective instinct in me rebels. Don’t come back!

   Footsteps thunder in my direction. Piers is as heavy and solid as a Centaur. He’s somehow still chanting as he pushes me into the hard-packed earth. Fright chokes off what little air I have left. He’s almost done, and I can’t let this happen. Griffin and Kaia are too close.

   I free an elbow and swing back wildly, hitting somewhere that makes Piers grunt the last word of the final repetition, sealing our fates forever. Ares.

   He just summoned the God of War.

 

 

CHAPTER 3


   Piers springs off me, spitting a curse as he backs away. I flip over and surge to my feet. Air flows more freely into my lungs again, but I still feel like I can’t breathe.

   “What in the name of the Gods is going on?” Griffin bellows, charging the last few feet to me. He came back. He’ll always come for me, and Kaia is right behind.

   I throw out my hands. “No, Griffin! Stop!”

   A deafening roar sets off a series of explosions in my head, painful, like magic punches to the brain. Then the ground shakes as a man—no, Ares—drops from the sky like a meteorite, hitting the ground with a colossal boom.

   The earth cracks all around him. Fissures branch out in an enormous web that tangles beneath our feet. We lurch, trying to steady ourselves as the ground rattles with the force of Olympus itself.

   Griffin grabs my arm, keeping me upright. With his other hand, he latches on to Kaia. I gasp, reeling from the staggering amount of power suddenly saturating the air around us. This is no ethereal, regal entrance like Artemis made on the Ice Plains. The stealthy and light-footed Goddess of the Hunt wove through our senses like moonbeams on a melody. This is the God of War landing like a thunderclap in our midst.

   Griffin’s eyes widen, turning frantic with growing comprehension. He shoves both Kaia and me behind him with such a hard thrust that we bang together like two hands clapping. Then Griffin backpedals, forcing us to move back with him.

   I twist enough to peer around my husband’s arm. Piers is on the far side of Ares, facing him in awe—and apparent satisfaction. The God is looking back at him, at the person who did the summoning, and all we see is the broad and muscled back of the most enormous male I’ve ever laid eyes on. He’s bare from the waist up and wearing a wide, bronze-studded belt that’s fully loaded with weapons of all shapes and sizes. The flat sides of multiple blades, each one more lethal-looking than the previous, brush his thick, leather-clad legs.

   “No one has summoned me in an age.” Ares’s voice is rich and deep. So is the chuckle that washes over me like a warm wave. It reminds me of a dangerous ocean swell, the kind with an unpredictable undertow. It’ll drag you under and dash you against the rocks if you don’t know how to swim the waters.

   And this right here? I don’t think any of us knows how to navigate this.

   Ares speaks again. “This promises to be interesting.”

   I wince. Or heartbreaking.

   I tap Griffin’s arm, and he angles his head enough that our eyes catch for a split second while I hold a finger to my lips. If we’re silent and still, maybe Ares won’t notice us?

   Before Griffin’s gaze turns back around, I see the same haunted fear I’m feeling building in his eyes. He knows what his brother did.

   Call a God, lose a soul. One of us isn’t leaving here with the others.

   Ares dips his head, and hair the color of polished olive wood glints in the sun. It brushes his massive shoulders, the thick locks a tawny blond liberally streaked with darker tones. “I see. This is about the woman you call a warmonger.”

   An explosive jolt of adrenaline sends my heart slamming against my ribs. My pulse leaps in response to the accelerated beat. The Gods aren’t joking when they say they know everything.

   My lower belly tightens again, suddenly feeling like lead.

   Piers nods and then jerks his head at me. The ratter. So much for staying quiet and hidden. “She’s violent and a brute. She’ll fit right in with you.”

   Violent and a brute? Fit right in with you? Did he just insult an enormous God? He certainly offended me.

   The muscles across Ares’s back stiffen. “That’s your only request? To take her away?”

   Terror beats through me. I can’t leave Griffin. There’s baby Eleni on the way!

   But if it’s not me, then it’s Griffin or Kaia. That simply can’t happen. I won’t let it.

   Griffin’s grip digs into my arm as he goes impossibly rigid. I feel more than hear his breath hitch and know the sickening whoosh of betrayal is sweeping through his body like an ax cleaving him in two.

   “Only request?” The slightly baffled look on Piers’s face makes me think he translated the old parchments wrong. You don’t call a God just to get rid of someone. There are weapons for that, sometimes bare hands, and if you’re a sneak and a cheat, there’s always poison. You don’t call a God to do that kind of dirty work. You call a God to request something epic, something you can’t possibly accomplish on your own. Losing a soul close to you is the consequence, a payment of sorts—one people finally caught on to. That’s why they eventually hid the scrolls, burying them deep in the archives of the knowledge temples.

   Clearly, they should have buried them even deeper.

   “Believe me, she’s enough,” Piers finally says with enough acidity to practically slap me in the face.

   I stare, horrified on so many levels. He’s unbelievable. And criminally shortsighted. Piers has done the unthinkable, so he might as well at least help the brother whose heart he’s tearing out. I can hardly believe it; it’s so unconscionable. He doesn’t even want the God of War’s assistance to help Griffin conquer Fisa?

   Ares folds his arms across his chest, making his monstrous biceps bulge. Something in the Olympian’s expression must make Piers think the God needs some convincing.

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