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

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

   “As the person recruiting your army, I feel useless. You don’t even need it,” Piers spits out, glaring at me as if I’ve single-handedly undermined his life’s work.

   “We do,” Griffin counters. “There’s no taking Fisa without a huge fighting force.”

   “Fisa.” Piers huffs a bitter laugh. “So this is all about Cat and her mother? You’ll drag all of Thalyria into a war to settle your wife’s family squabble? To feed her need for power?”

   My jaw drops. Acid coats his every word, and Piers makes everything about me, when I never initiated any of this. Without Griffin, and apparently a few meddling Gods to push me along, I’d still be telling fortunes at the circus, occasionally filling in for the acrobats, lying about my past, ignoring my future, and living as far away from my cruel tyrant of a mother as humanly possible.

   “This has nothing to do with a family squabble or anyone’s need for power,” Griffin answers harshly. “And you know it.”

   Piers doesn’t meet Griffin’s eyes. Instead, he and I glare daggers at each other. I have a lot to say, but I somehow keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to make things worse.

   Kaia slides to the ground between Griffin and me. I back Panotii up a few steps to give her more room. There’s the added benefit of putting some distance between Piers and myself without looking like I’m backing down. Because I’m not.

   “Why are you out here alone?” Kaia looks around, as if half expecting the rest of Beta Team to come galloping down the road.

   Alpha Team?

   Nope. I’ll never get used to that.

   “Where’s everyone else?” she asks.

   “Back at the castle,” Griffin answers. “They’re fine. Cat’s friend Selena told us to go see what was on the West Road.”

   Griffin and I exchange a look. Apparently, we found it.

   “We’re on the West Road,” Kaia says, brightening. “Piers finally gave up. We were leaving for Sinta City, but I convinced him to turn around and try again. I had this…feeling.” She wrinkles her nose, scrunching together the few sun-induced freckles she must have picked up over the last couple of weeks.

   A feeling? Like the sight? Or a nudge from a God?

   With Griffin’s immunity to harmful magic, Carver’s incredible skill with a sword, and Kaia’s “feeling,” I have to wonder if this family is as Hoi Polloi as I’ve always believed. Sometimes magic is a sort of intuition, and their instincts are usually spot-on.

   I dismount next to Kaia, feeling stiff and heavy and kind of out of breath, even though I wasn’t really moving. All that seems to be a permanent condition at the moment. It started a few days ago, along with the copious vomiting.

   “You did the right thing,” I tell her. “You should always listen to your gut.” I loop my arm around Kaia’s waist and squeeze, attempting a casual display of affection. It goes well, I think.

   Joining us on the ground, Griffin plants his hands on his hips and gives Kaia a stern look from under lowered brows. She immediately starts shifting from foot to foot. I squeeze her again in encouragement and then drop my arm, stepping back.

   “And what, exactly, are you doing here?” Griffin demands, his eyes narrowing on his sister. “And why in the name of the Gods were you at the Agon Games?”

   Griffin is nearly old enough to be Kaia’s father and just as authoritative. She moves closer to me and hangs her head, duly intimidated and apparently mute.

   “She followed me,” Piers says tightly, dismounting as well. “I don’t know how she got out of Castle Sinta—dressed like that and with a horse—and I only realized she was on my trail when I was nearly to Kitros.”

   Resourceful girl. I nudge her arm, smiling a little. And good for her for not giving Piers her secrets.

   With a quick flash of a grin, Kaia smiles back, her head still ducked.

   If Piers could kill me with the evil eye alone, he would. Griffin doesn’t look happy, either, but I don’t know if it’s because of my nudge and smile, or because Kaia spent time on the road alone.

   “I didn’t have time to take her back,” Piers says in grudging explanation, “so I took her with me.”

   “To the bloody Agon Games? What were you thinking!” Griffin explodes.

   “I didn’t know what they’d be like!”

   I snort, and Piers has the good sense to try again.

   “I didn’t know they’d be quite like that. It was more horrible and violent than I ever imagined.”

   I stare at him in disbelief, the fear and pain still fresh in my mind and muscles. Horrible and violent doesn’t even begin to describe it.

   Piers swings his gaze back to me again. “And then there was your victory visit to Castle Tarva. That worked out well for you, didn’t it?”

   There’s a snide undercurrent in Piers’s words again, as if confronting dangerous enemy royals and taking over Tarva were just to satisfy some little whim of mine.

   I cross my arms, mainly to keep from reaching out and smacking him. “Would you rather it hadn’t worked out, and we’d all died?”

   His jaw clenches hard, a muscle bouncing out on one side. “That’s not what I said.”

   “Just what you implied.”

   He shakes his head, his features tightening in anger once again. “There were other, less dangerous ways to go about it.”

   “Like what? Throwing nameless, faceless soldiers at Galen Tarva instead of ourselves? He would have opened up a chasm in the ground that swallowed them whole, which is exactly what he tried to do to me in his own throne room. Who’s expendable, then? Anyone you don’t know?” I glare at Piers, disgusted now. “That’s leadership for you.”

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