Lie-la. How fitting a name.
As Sian sprinted through the farthest reaches of Pandemonia, winds gusted around him. Boiling rain hissed against fire tornadoes, and quakes devoured terrain.
Calliope’s dream had been just as chaotic, but he’d managed to piece together many of her secrets. . . .
He turned toward the shore, running for what felt like days. His mind was more disordered than when he’d learned of his mate’s death—more disordered than when he’d learned another male had impregnated and killed her.
The crimson haze had returned, coloring the entire world.
When he reached the Mercury Sea, the depths were murky, like his thoughts. Eddies swirled and huge breakers crashed, just as the truth had crashed upon him, pulverizing his idyll with his mate.
She was still a princess. Still a liar and a spy. Only Calliope spoke Sian’s tongue! She was not only King Saetth’s fiancée; she was his godsdamned cousin, part of the line Rune had vowed to stamp out.
One Møriør’s mate was another one’s prey. And Nïx and Saetth had delivered her into Sian’s home like a ticking bomb.
Calliope had vowed to Saetth, “I won’t rest until I discover a way to hurt Abyssian Infernas. I’ll figure out what his weaknesses are and how to exploit them. I’ll do anything I can to destroy him.”
Anything for Saetth, the male she adored. She considered him the epitome of masculine perfection and saw him as her ideal match. Socially, royally, sexually. All she’d ever wanted was to be his queen and have children with him.
I will gut that fuck so slowly.
Mist from the waves sprayed Sian’s face, reminding him of his own appearance. He pictured his recent reflection, ashamed that he’d believed a female like her could want him.
How she must have inwardly laughed at him! How he should be laughing now. Her fiancé had betrayed her. On this very night, the king of the fey would select a new bride.
In both of her lives, Sian’s mate had fooled him. He recalled the day of Kari’s surprise wedding, finally giving free rein to that harrowing memory.
She’d stood upon the dais, so lovely she’d stolen his breath. . . .
With zero emotion, she said, “I am marrying my fiancé because I want him. I have loved him since I was a little girl.”
Sian’s stomach lurched as if it’d been punched. “Do not do this, Kari. You love me!” Hadn’t she told him as much? The tender regard I feel for you . . .
“I do not—and could never—love an animal with horns.” She returned her attention to her reflection.
He gaped in disbelief. But their kiss . . . the way she’d responded . . . their plans . . .
Adjusting a lock of her shining hair, she asked, “Can I make it any plainer, prince of beasts?”
Guards entered, but he was too stunned to fight as they forced him outside.
Frantic to stop the wedding, Sian raced back to his quarters to determine his next move. Replaying her words again and again, he realized what he had to do.
With grim resolve, he collected his battle-ax. He took it into the forest she loved so much. Sweating, eyes watering, he rested his face on a tree stump. He raised his weapon above his head.
This is forever, Sian.
So will her marriage be.
There is no future without her.
He let fall the ax. Pain. Unimaginable. He silently screamed. Consciousness faded in and out.
But somehow he managed to amputate his own horns. In shock, he sheathed his bloodied ax and collected the remains.
He sneaked back into the castle, then slipped into her room once more. Uncaring of all the attendants, he offered Kari his once-noble horns. “You told me you could never love a male like me. These will not ever grow back. I will look as your kind do. I will live as your kind do.”
He thought he saw a flicker of emotion in her eyes, but then she glanced around at her scandalized attendants. Her expression was cold when she faced him again.
“Kari, I would do anything for you. I would take out my heart and give it to you if I could.”
“Demon, you will regret this deed for the rest of your life.”
He squared his shoulders. “I am proud of my pain. Of my loss.” He raised his sacrifice to her. “Proud that my actions are in the service of a cause so precious.”
She simply tilted her head. As if he’d presented her with an unknown variable. “You almost look like a person now. But I should have said: I do not—and could never—love you. In any guise. You are a fool if you ever thought otherwise.”
Bile rose in his throat. “Then why act as if you cared for me? Why lead me to believe . . . ?”
“Young lovers tell each other secrets, do they not?”
Comprehension: nothing between them had been true. “You . . . you spied for your parents.”
“Indeed. Come now, you had to know deep down that you are beneath me.” She was like all the other fey, able to turn off her emotions. She’d evaluated her involvement with a young demon prince and rationally—coldly—concluded he wasn’t worth the bother.
With a shrug, she picked up the skirt of her wedding gown and gave him her back as she traipsed away.
While blood ran down his face, he willed her to turn back and see him. To comprehend that he would do anything for her. Turn around, Kari. Look at me!
She never did.
Millennia later, Sian bellowed with rage. When would he learn? He tore at his hair, bashing his fists against his head.
His mate’s past and the present swirled together in his mind, her statements melding.
I do not—and could never—love you. . . . I won’t rest until I discover a way to hurt Abyssian Infernas. . . . You are beneath me. . . . I’ll do anything I can to destroy him. . . . You’re a fool. . . .
His legs buckled, his knees meeting the shore.
Before he’d left Calliope earlier, he’d stared down at her. Hating her. Loving her.
He’d fallen for her utterly. And now that he knew what love felt like, he realized he hadn’t yet been in love with Kari. Maybe he’d been too young, or he’d needed more time. Maybe Calliope’s passion had pushed him over into the brink.
I loved her.
He swiped at his face, surprised to find two humiliating tears running down his cheeks.
The last time he’d learned that she loved another, he’d disfigured himself and offered up the remains. Now he would spurn Calliope, behaving as coldly with her as Kari had with him. Never would he let his mate know he’d been stupid enough to fall for the same trick twice.
The more pain he felt when he confronted Calliope, the calmer he would be.
He envisioned his revenge. It was because he’d set aside his trickery that he’d left himself vulnerable. Now she would pay—as she should have from the beginning.
His wrath knew no bounds. So hot, it felt . . . freezing.
He held his breath, and the sea stilled. Ice formed around his knees. A sheet of it crept out from him.
Cold. Like his crumbling stone heart. . . .