Reign (Marko Delacroix #5)(3)

By: Alaska Angelini

Aetas stood at the beginning of the aisle, closer than his previous place by the throne. He still appeared angry, yet there was an underlining of anxiousness. Almost as if he couldn’t keep in one place. He didn’t want her to leave. That was clear.

“Why now?”

“I’m not sure exactly.” Tessa tugged on my arm and I began to lead her back to him. The closer we got, the deeper Aetas’ breathing became. Warmth swirled in core, my powers surging as we neared.

I brought us to a stop a few feet away and we both bowed our heads as custom.

“I want my crown back.” The bitterness that fell from his lips accompanied with the volume had the vampires closest to us pausing to look over. Tessa’s head slowly rose and her arm dropped from me as she stood taller.

“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but I’m afraid that’s impossible. The crown has already chosen me. I can’t simply return it.”

“Of course you can. Take it off and hand it over.”

Tessa’s head cocked to the side the slightest amount. A laugh sounded in my mind regardless that her face was devoid of any expression.

“He can’t read my thoughts and he can’t stand it.”

Was that what it was? If I didn’t know better, I would have just assumed he was picking a fight.

“Master,” Tessa began, calmly. “We both know I can’t do that. Besides, it goes against your own law. Are you saying you’re doing away with it now?”

Aetas let out a growl. “Of course not.”

Casually, Tessa’s hands went behind her back while she looked up through her lashes. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give it back on one condition.”

“What’s that?” A flicker of unease came across Aetas’ young features.

“Trade me. Your crown for mine. It’s the only one I want besides my own.”

Rage registered. “Absurd! This is my crown. Besides, you’re not worthy enough to wear it.”

Silence played out as I looked between the two of them.

“If you say so, Your Highness. Then you see why I can’t give it back. Is that all? I really need to be returning to my city.”

“That is not all,” he ground out. “You requested council. I’m ready to meet with you now.”

“Are you? But I received your response just last night. If I remember correctly, I believe it said, and I quote…there’s nothing you have to say worth listening to. Truth be told, I really guess there’s not. What is done, is done. I was trying to prevent this exact thing, but it’s impossible now. Hunter is changed and he’s on the loose. Our fate is yet to be seen. In the meantime, I wish to focus on my city. The attacks continue to increase and it requires all of my attention right now.”

Aetas glanced at me, but went back to staring at her.

“More so than increasing your skills?”

I stiffened at his words. Tessa appeared calm, but I could feel her pulse hammering away in her chest. With the blood we shared, there was little I missed when it came to her moods or her body’s natural reactions.

“Are you offering to start teaching me again—to prepare me to rule in your passing?”

“I’m not dying,” Aetas snapped. “I may live for thousands of more years. Longer than you.” He sighed. “But I have considered teaching you again. You’re powerful, that’s not in question, but you’re too young to be ruling a city. You haven’t lived as a vampire long enough to know what is best to make decisions for a community. You need more experience. Let…Master Delacroix take over for you for now. You can have your old room back. You can start your lessons again.”

Tessa’s energy spiked and I wasn’t sure what to think about it. Did the lessons appeal? I knew for most vampires, they’d jump at the opportunity to grow stronger, and she would, working with Aetas. It made me feel sick. I couldn’t lose her again. To be separate after we’d bonded and gotten so much closer…the thought was inconceivable.

“What about Hunter? What happens with him?”

There was hesitation as he stared at her.

“I find him—he comes back. He can join you in discovering your gifts.”

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