Home > Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(5)

Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(5)
Author: Kresley Cole

“You killed the Priestess in past games.” I’ve warned the Water Witch, but she swears the Empress is different this time.

“Circe knows this. She has memories from previous games. But I am changed from how I was before.” She assesses my face. “I must have hurt you as well.”

“You betrayed me.”


“You tried . . . to kill me on our wedding night.” Reminded, I rise, my spurs clinking as I head toward the door.

She sits up, calling, “Where are you going, Reaper?”

Over my shoulder, I say, “To contemplate my next move.”


“How long will you be wary of me, my love?” she asks. She is reclining among the pillows on her large bed, sipping wine. Her shift is gauzy, concealing little.

We have been meeting for the last month. She has sent away her disapproving Tarasova, one of many concessions the Empress has made. Slowly this female seduces me to trust her. After my centuries-long solitude, I am helpless not to seek her out. She smiles whenever she first sees me, and excitement lights her glyphs.

Unless it is all a ruse.

She pats the bed beside her. “Will you not sit? Remove your armor, and be comfortable. Have a goblet of wine with me.”

I do go to her bed, but I keep my armor on and my sword nearby. Though she is beguiling, I have learned a harsh lesson.

She sits up and reaches for me. Her delicate fingers caress my face. I steel myself, remembering our wedding night, how she sank her claws into my back to inject her poison.

“It is time, Death.”

Something in her tone makes my body stir. “Time for what?” She couldn’t be speaking of . . .

“For you to claim your wife in truth. I want to be yours. Fully. You’ve waited centuries; wait no longer.”

I know better than to hope, but gods, maybe I could finally know contentment—the kind other men take for granted. I have with me an heirloom wedding ring, have considered giving it to her this night, but I hesitate. “Perhaps I don’t yet trust you.”

“You know how horrified I am that I hurt you.” Her eyes glint. “I would give anything to go back and relive that night.”

And I would give anything to know her true thoughts.

“But I can’t go back. I can never appease your suspicions.” She turns from me. “How can a proud woman offer her body to a male who won’t accept it? When he insists on substituting cold metal for warm skin? How can I be with a man who must hate me deep down?”

I lay my hand on her shoulder—the contact is a heady indulgence—but she stiffens at my touch. My brows draw together. I know little of women, have no experience with their ways. But even I know I’m losing her regard.

She’s right: if she is different, then I have misjudged her and am unfairly hurting her. “Empress.” I cup her cheek. When she faces me again, I say, “Let us start anew with a kiss.”

Before I take her lips, she murmurs, “I could love you so easily.”

Though I desire her, I do not—and could not—love this creature. Yes, she has been made for me, but perhaps I’m unable to love.

My lips meet hers. My head swims, my senses overloaded. Who needs love when there is this? Contact, warmth, softness, her intoxicating scent. She smells like the meadow flowers that used to bloom near my childhood home.

As I deepen the kiss, I grow drunk on her, on happiness. A future with her spreads out before me. Tonight I will know a woman’s flesh, my woman’s, and tomorrow we will plan a life together, an existence away from this game.

I take her mouth harder. When she moans for me, the anguish of all those miserable centuries begins to fade.

Over and over I kiss her. Lost in the dizzying sweetness of her lips.

But something needles my mind. Some detail . . .

Roses. Her scent has changed, as it did when she last struck. Pain shoots through my body. Comprehension dawns.


She is poisoning me with her lips! Even as I grasp for my sword, part of me is tempted to allow it. To die in her arms. Why live, alone and cursed, forever?

She clutches me harder, wanting the kill. Fury engulfs me, the heat of battle rising. I struggle to draw back, but she has weakened me. In a rage, I shove her away, and my sword flashes out.

Blood arcs across the room.

A flick of my wrist. An instant of action. She is . . . dead.

All my hope dies with her. I had believed her. I had prayed to the gods that this time would be different. That she would at last be mine.

I’ve waited more than a thousand years for this night—only to be betrayed. I gaze at all the blood. Tonight I have been cursed to several more centuries of waiting for her to return.

“Nooo!” In the next game, I will not be seduced. I will mete vengeance upon her. She will pay for each moment of pain!

The poison lingers. The Empress’s sweet taste lingers. I will replay the feel of her lips every night for eternity. I tear apart the room with grief. I tear at my hated armor.

A wave of pain overwhelms me, and I collapse to my knees. She may have delivered enough poison to kill me.

Why live? Why fight?

For retribution. . . .

I’ve endured all these mind-numbing years just to make her pay. Yet still, I burn for her.

My wife. Maybe I should try one last time.

And maybe you’re an idiot, Reaper.

When I’d finally risen on that last fateful night and struggled past the Empress’s remains to get to my horse, I’d heard sounds in the cellar. I’d found Circe in chains, drying out, dying of thirst. I’d freed her, then spared her life.

Most Popular
» Nothing But Trouble (Malibu University #1)
» Kill Switch (Devil's Night #3)
» Hold Me Today (Put A Ring On It #1)
» Spinning Silver
» Birthday Girl
» A Nordic King (Royal Romance #3)
» The Wild Heir (Royal Romance #2)
» The Swedish Prince (Royal Romance #1)
» Nothing Personal (Karina Halle)
» My Life in Shambles
» The Warrior Queen (The Hundredth Queen #4)
» The Rogue Queen (The Hundredth Queen #3)
zombies.readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2023