Home > Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(5)

Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #3)(5)
Author: Amanda Bouchet

   I shake my head. “All our sources say Sinta was about to get invaded by Acantha Tarva and her endless supply of snakes, and we wouldn’t have been able to stop her without the Ipotane.”

   “Ipotane you risked your lives to ensnare and then didn’t even use. Now we have horse-people crawling all over our border for no reason because you took it a step farther before anyone even attacked.”

   “Isn’t that the goal in life?” I ask. “People don’t generally say, ‘Good job! You took a step back.’ We took care of the Tarvan threat and gained a realm in the process. I have no idea why you’re being such a prick about it instead of patting us on the backs.”

   Piers’s evil eye turns epic. “The army isn’t fully trained or equipped yet, but it’s big enough to deter an invasion. Instead, you went ahead with a half-cocked plan that risked my family’s safety. And before that, you traded Cassandra’s life on a what-if.”

   No one means more to me than my husband and my team, and if Piers throws Cassandra’s death in my face one more time, I swear I’ll throw something back.

   “Since you were at the Games,” I say through gritted teeth, “I’m sure you know she’s not the only one who paid in blood.”

   “She’s the only one who’s dead.” Piers’s livid stare cuts straight through me. “And you could have stopped it.”

   I take a slow, deep breath, striving to control my baser impulses. “What is this really about? Your family? Thalyria? Me? The fact that you don’t agree with my choices but other people do?” I scoff. “Pick something and stick to it. Or let’s just agree to disagree. I don’t have all day.”

   His eyes narrow. “Too busy being a queen?”

   “Yes, actually. And I’m not a queen. I’m the Queen.” I wave my hands around. “There’s a lot to do.”

   “Like invade Fisa?”

   His hostile tone is really starting to grate on me, and my patience is far from legendary. That’s something I’ll have to work on before Little Bean makes her grand appearance.

   “Among other things,” I answer dryly. Here I am, defending something I don’t even want to do. If I never see Mother again, it’ll still be too soon. “Are you with us, or against us?” In the end, that’s all that really matters.

   Piers stiffens all over. “I’m never against my family.”

   My Kingmaker Magic flares to life with a blast of scorching heat. I feel the exclusion in his words, the truth pummeling me almost as hard as a lie would. To Piers, I’m not part of his family.

   Even coming from someone I’ve never gotten along with, being so clearly set apart stings.

   “Griffin wants to unite the three realms. That was his idea. You know that, and it was Poseidon who pushed him in my direction. Zeus, Hades, Athena, and Artemis have all helped us in some way. They’re backing us, and all we want is to make Thalyria a place worth living in again, like it used to be before the kingdom split and the Alphas turned all greedy and demented. Working against me means working against Griffin and everything he hopes to accomplish.” I study Piers, looking for some sign of the reason and intelligence on which he prides himself. “You must see that.”

   “Then why did he crown you? Why is he putting the power in your hands instead of his own?”

   Frankly, I wish he wasn’t. Griffin knows that. So does everyone we’re close to—I thought. But I’ve learned the hard way that the Fates don’t just go away. They dog your heels and bite you in the back. Destiny isn’t something you can ignore, and in my case, Griffin made sure of it.

   Piers wasn’t there when we told the rest of Griffin’s family about our time on the Ice Plains. They must have filled him in, but I say it again. “Artemis told us I’m the Origin. In essence, the new beginning. That means whatever we construct—hopefully a unified Thalyria where people aren’t living in fear of their royals most of the time—somehow starts with me. But Griffin and I will rule together. Of course we will.”

   “Until you decide you want all the power for yourself.”

   I look at him, completely taken aback. Is Piers blind? Deaf? “When have I ever given any indication of wanting that?”

   “It’s in your blood,” he says flatly. “You won’t be able to stop yourself.”

   “Oh, that’s fair.” I toss up my hands. “If your father was a murderer, I should just assume you’re one, too?”

   His eyes narrow. “You are a murderer.”

   My jaw drops in outrage. “I am not my mother.”

   “Yet. And you’re still a murderer.”

   He’s completely convinced. My magic only used to detect lies, except on very rare occasions. Truths mainly came to me as a natural by-product of falsehoods. Since I met Griffin, my magic can also flare hot and painful for truly strong, heartfelt honesty. Right now, the burn in my bones is telling me that Piers means every word.

   “I’ve only ever killed in self-defense. Or in the defense of others,” I say past the knot forming in my chest. “You’ve fought in a war. How is that any different from what I’ve done?”

   “I saw you in the Games. That’s killing for sport.”

   “We didn’t go there for fun. Or glory.” Anger and emotion are starting to get the upper hand and staying calm takes a real effort. “We went hoping to win the opportunity to confront Galen and Acantha Tarva without putting anyone in danger but ourselves. And we spared anyone we reasonably could in the arena, even the creatures. More people made it out of those Agon Games alive than they have in centuries.”

   Piers sneers. “Oh, yes. Elpis. I forgot.”

   That’s it. Fury heats my blood to the boiling point, and if it were possible to actually see red, I would. “I’ve had enough. Go home. Don’t help. Be impartial if you want to, just don’t get in my way.”

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