Home > Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(4)

Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(4)
Author: Amanda Bouchet

   “Cat…” Griffin’s voice holds a hint of warning, urging me to back down. I understand. Soldiers have an important role, and I shouldn’t forget it. Griffin knows what armies can do. He’s led them.

   “Leadership is making wise decisions based on rational thought,” Piers snaps.

   “Leadership is actually leading, not using others as a shield while you shout orders and hop around in the back.”

   Piers’s eyes widen in obvious shock. Ha!

   Griffin grips my arm above my elbow, squeezing lightly. “Piers fought alongside me. Alongside us.” By us, he means Carver, Kato, and Flynn. My friends. My team. “And there was no hopping around in the back.”

   His censorious tone rankles, but I guess I did just shoot my mouth off about something I wasn’t there for and didn’t really know about.

   Frowning slightly, I extract my arm from Griffin’s hold. “I know Piers rides out on patrol. I know he can fight.” And that’s as much of an apology as he’ll get.

   “How do you plan to hold on to Tarva?” Piers asks. “Taking over a realm isn’t the same thing as keeping it.”

   If you ask me, we’ve already done the hard part.

   “The army you’re building might come in useful.” There. Another concession.

   I hear the sarcasm that creeps into my voice, though. So does Griffin. He looks at me sharply, probably disapproving of my hostility.

   I almost roll my eyes. If Piers weren’t his brother, Griffin would have knocked him senseless by now for speaking to me the way he has.

   For Griffin’s sake, I attempt a more neutral tone. “Honestly? I don’t think it’ll be much of an issue if all the Tarvans cheering at the castle gate are any indication. Then again, their last Alpha was a mass-murdering megalomaniac, so it’s hard to do worse.”

   Piers laughs a little—dryly. Does he think I’m worse? Please. Galen Tarva leveled an entire neighborhood in his own backyard just to send a message to my mother. He scared her enough that she offered up my unique skills—and me—just to keep him off her back. And when one psychotic monster is frightened of the other… Well, that’s saying something.

   Piers breathes deeply, the long inhale making his chest expand. His slate-colored eyes meet mine. “Can I speak with you for a moment? Alone.”

   Wariness tingles up my spine and then sweeps down my arms, making my knife hand twitch. I glance at Griffin. His brow furrows, but he nods, not seeming overly worried about Piers’s request. I have no idea what Piers could have to say to me that he can’t say in front of Griffin and Kaia. Their presence hasn’t exactly been holding him back.

   “All right.” My reluctant agreement comes with a quick and automatic inventory of any magic I could use to defend myself—none. The magic I absorbed during the Agon Games was lost to injuries and exhaustion afterward, and Piers already knows I can detect lies and turn invisible, so popping out of sight won’t even surprise him.

   There are always physical weapons. I’ve got my knives, and a sword, but I doubt Griffin would appreciate my taking a blade to his brother, no matter how annoying Piers might get. Betrayal and backstabbing just aren’t done. Not in his family, anyway.




   Piers leads me fifty paces from the road. The distance seems excessive to me, but what do I know? I’ve never had a private argument with him before. I have to skirt tumble bumbles and low-lying scrub that he can just step over with his prowling, long-legged strides. The trek over uneven terrain leaves me winded, and I have to wonder how baby Eleni, who I wasn’t even feeling a week ago and who’s probably only the size of a little bean, could be so damn heavy all of a sudden.

   I’ll have to scold her when she comes out. Gently. Maybe. Or maybe not at all?

   “Far enough, Piers.” I try to mask my shortness of breath with a brusque tone. “What do you want?”

   “Give it up,” he says plainly. “Stop here.”

   “Stop here?” I look at my feet.

   He scowls, irritated by my deliberate obtuseness. “You’ve got two realms. Stop before anyone else dies. Anyone you care about.”

   That was low. And hit hard. “I’m not the one orchestrating this. This comes straight from Olympus.”

   “The Gods have decided that you should rule all of Thalyria?” Snide. Again.

   “Do you think I can’t?” Do I think I can? No choice, really. Not anymore.

   “I think you’re a hotheaded egomaniac, and I have no idea why Griffin puts up with you.”

   “A I’m blushing.” I fan myself because I need to. The little bean in my belly seems to be heating me from the inside out. “I like you, too.”

   Piers’s face contorts into something rather unattractive for an attractive man. Physically, at least. “You’re unbelievable.”

   I shrug. “I can’t help being special.”

   His face pinches even more. “Stop for a moment and think about what you’re doing. You could propel Thalyria into an endless war. It could go on for generations. Is that really the legacy you want?”

   “That’s already been going on for generations. It’s beyond ridiculous to blame me for it.”

   “The only wars I’ve seen in my lifetime have been started by you and Griffin.”

   Actually, that’s all Griffin. He took Sinta with an army. He fought battles and won. Then we took over Tarva together with our own blood, sweat, and agony.

   “That’s only because you hadn’t seen a Power Bid yet. And what went on in between realm wars wasn’t much better,” I point out. “Raids. Thievery. Abuse. There hasn’t been lasting peace in centuries.”

   “There might have been, at least for Sinta.”

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