Home > Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(8)

Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(8)
Author: Amanda Bouchet

   “She’ll fight well for you wherever she goes.” Piers’s eyes connect with mine from across a space of cracked ground and palpable power. “She’s like a wild animal when she smells blood. Unstoppable.”

   I snort. I can’t help it. That’s probably the most insulting compliment I’ve ever heard.

   “Do you mean to say that you called me from Olympus for no reason?” Ares demands.

   Oh, he has a reason. Piers wants me permanently removed from Thalyria—and from his brother’s life—without having to kill me himself. He’d rather I become a slave to War and battle across the worlds until my inevitable, lonely, and possibly quick demise. Gah! What a prince.

   For the first time, Piers looks uncertain. “I’m giving her a chance to do what she does best—fight. She left me no choice. She’s vicious, power-hungry, and won’t see reason. She’s placing everyone I care about in danger.”

   I’m not any of those things! Well, I can be a little savage. And maybe I don’t always see reason…

   “Piers…” Griffin chokes out his brother’s name. I’ve never heard a sound like that come out of his mouth before, and it breaks my heart. A horrible pressure clamps down on my chest as what’s about to happen really sinks in, but it’s Griffin’s total devastation that nearly brings me to my knees.

   Piers glances over at us. We must look like a trio of ghosts. His chin lifts, and his shoulders go back. From his stiff, self-righteous body language alone, I know he’s utterly convinced he’s doing the right thing. Saving Griffin from me. Saving everyone.

   Does he really think that passing off the responsibility to Ares means passing off the guilt and blame? Griffin will never forgive him for this. And neither will I. When I die, I swear to the Gods I’ll haunt the banks of the Styx until Piers gets there. I’ll make him pay for ripping Griffin and me apart. He’ll pay forever, in this world, and in the next.

   Tucked behind Griffin with me, Kaia takes a shuddering breath. Visibly shaking, she looks at me with tears tracking down her face. “How could he?”

   Sudden heat bursts behind my eyes. “Be brave,” I whisper, for her sake as well as mine.

   Nodding, she presses her lips together and blinks her tears away. I force mine not to come.

   “You’re Hoi Polloi,” Ares states. He still hasn’t turned around. Our insignificance couldn’t be more obvious.

   Piers’s hands clench at his sides. “I may not have magic in my blood, but I knew what that chant did. I understood.”

   “You understood too much. And not enough.” Ares steps toward Piers. “Even Magoi don’t use that incantation anymore. And definitely not below the Ice Plains. Those scrolls were hidden centuries ago. There might have been a good reason for that, don’t you think?”

   Piers’s eyes flick toward us again, over his brother and sister. His throat bobs, and some of the certainty and color drain from his face. Does he finally comprehend the danger he’s put them in? Is he feeling some of our dread?

   Actually, I don’t care how he feels. My sympathy for Piers died a fiery death and became nonexistent the moment he decided to rip me from my husband and toss me from this world.

   “I don’t see a warmonger here.” The pervasive rumble of power in Ares’s almost cavernous voice seems to hold all the knowledge and secrets of shifting time and earth. For some reason, it strikes me as oddly familiar. “If anyone courts war, it’s your brother. Should I take him? Or your young sister? Shall I take her across the worlds and throw her into endless battles? See how long she lasts?”

   “No!” Piers’s denial is immediate and heartfelt. His eyes shoot wide open in alarm.

   Now he gets it. He summoned Ares, and a soul has to go with the God, but Piers doesn’t get to choose which one.

   “You want me to take Catalia Fisa?”

   Piers nods stiffly, and I can only imagine how deeply his actions cut into Griffin’s loyal heart. I can hardly believe Piers’s animosity toward me extends this far. He constantly rubs me the wrong way, but I never once thought about eliminating him. And he thinks I’m vicious and unreasonable?

   “You would deprive your brother of his wife?” Ares asks.

   Griffin’s hold slides to my wrist and then turns painful, as if the strength of his fingers alone could keep me from being torn away from him. I grip his forearm back with my free hand, anchoring myself to him. But if Ares decides to take me, there’ll be no stopping him.

   And it will be me. It has to be. I won’t let him take Griffin or Kaia.

   Trembling violently now, Kaia looks at me again. Her lips are white, her eyes huge. She’s monstrously frightened. I wonder if I look the same.

   Ares takes another step toward Piers, ignoring us completely. “You would deprive him of his unborn child, growing right now inside his wife’s womb?”

   Piers’s gaze snaps back to us. His nostrils flare on a sharp inhale, and his expression changes entirely, turning first blank with shock and then flooding with undisguised horror. He takes a step back, almost stumbling. His body language sends a whole new message now. Family does mean something to him, maybe everything. He can convince himself it’s okay to get rid of me, the Fisan Magoi warmonger, even if it hurts his brother, but he’d never banish someone of his own blood.

   I narrow my eyes, charging my expression with biting accusation. Thanks, Uncle Piers. You’re doing a fabulous job of welcoming little Eleni into the family.

   His mouth opens. Closes. His boots scrape backward through the dirt. “Perhaps I was…hasty.”

   You think? I want to scream at him. Words of disgust and blame almost detonate in my mouth, but I don’t want to draw Ares’s attention to us.

   In silence, Griffin and I hold on to each other desperately. I know he must be gripping Kaia just as hard. Despite Piers’s sudden turnaround, no hope lifts my leaden heart. You don’t cast the dice in a gambling game with the Gods and then hope to back out before play is done.

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