Fall of Ruin and Wrath
by Jennifer L Armentrout
Published by Tor Books
Book 1 in the Awakening Duology
Long ago, the world was destroyed by gods.
Only nine cities were spared. Separated by vast wilderness teeming with monsters and unimaginable dangers, each city is now ruled by a guardian―royalty who feed on mortal pleasure.
Born with an intuition that never fails, Calista knows her talents are of great value to the power-hungry of the world, so she lives hidden as a courtesan of the Baron of Archwood. In exchange for his protection, she grants him information.
When her intuition leads her to save a travelling prince in dire trouble, the voice inside her blazes with warning―and promise. Today he’ll bring her joy. One day he'll be her doom.
When the Baron takes an interest in the travelling prince and the prince takes an interest in Calista, she becomes the prince’s temporary companion. But the city simmers with rebellion, and with knights and monsters at her city gates and a hungry prince in her bed, intuition may not be enough to keep her safe.
Calista must choose: follow her intuition to safety or follow her heart to her downfall.
Violence, murder, sex work (consensual)
Well, this book was an adventure.
A great one!
But an adventure nonetheless. Because the way this book had my brain working overtime was a trip.
The thoughts! The theories! I had sooooo many reading this book.
Let me start out with the world building. I adored it. Fantasy is still a fairly new genre for Jennifer, as her past works center around contemporary romance, and urban fantasy. From Blood and Ash was her first true fantasy, and obviously, she has done very well with that. So I'm not surprised that she continued in the fantasy direction with this new series - or I guess I should say, duology - as well. While the setting is fairly similar (and I have a whole seperate POST on this coming up) in this book to From Blood and Ash, it's not exact. The setting has a historical feel to it, as they don't have electricity. There are classes in this society, very much centered on bloodlines. While hyhborn are considered gods, and Jennifer certainly is no stranger to having gods/goddesses in her books, the hyhborn felt very unique to her. Especially in their creation, and their physical anatomy. Honestly, it kind of reminded me of the Sookie Stackhouse series, where human's would try to kill vampires to drain them of their blood for the high. The different here being that Hyhborn are being hunted for more than their blood. It's interesting for a variety of different reasons.
The hyhborn in general are VERY interesting.
While the world was truly interesting, Jennifer's talent really shines in her characters, and it's no different in Fall of Ruin and Wrath. Obviously, her main characters shine. Individually, I enjoyed both Calista and Thorne. Both are strong, but in different ways. Thorne's strength is a part of him. He is created to be all-powerful. Calista's strength is completely seperate from the gift she was born with, and one Jennifer doesn't dive into too often with her characters - she is street smart. She isn't powerful physically. She didn't get the benefits of an education, or loving home. She is where she is because she took the risk, revealing her gift of foresight to the right person, and eventually accepted a concubine position, giving her and her best friend a home. Usually, I gravitate to the male love interest in these books, but Calista quickly took center stage for me. She was truly a joy to read.
While I loved these characters individually, I especially loved these characters together.
Say what you will about Jennifer L. Armentrout, but she is one of the best writers when it comes to chemistry and banter. Thorne and Calista's chemistry is SCORCHING, even in scenes that are not sexy. Their banter is wonderfully entertaining. I DEVOURED the scenes where these two characters were on page together. From the normal, getting to know each other scenes, to romantic scenes, to the sex, I couldn't get enough.
The. Sex. Holy shit.
I mean, when the Hyhborn literally feed off of pleasure, I knew it was going to be hot, but wow. Not only do we get intensely hot sex between Thorne and Calista, but sex in general in this world is normalized. There is no shame for loving who you love. There is no shame for enjoying yourself with another. Sexuality is very fluid, and not labeled, and I really liked that aspect of the story. I honestly can't remember Jennifer ever writing a sex scene between two characters of the same sex, and while it's not explicit, we get a scene with Calista and her female friend Naomi. I love that Jennifer is starting to get more comfortable writing same sex scenes, and hope to see more in the future.
It wasn't just Calista and Thorne that I enjoyed. I really liked the side characters in this book. I loved the direction Jennifer went with Grady's character. I assumed he would be like most male best friend characters, and would act as such. Jennifer defied my expections, and therefore made Calista and Grady's friendship refreshing. I liked the friendship between Calista and Naomi - friends, co-workers of a sort, sometimes lovers. I even found Claude interesting, and I was constantly questioning his knowledge and motives.
Obviously I loved the world Fall of Ruin and Wrath is set in. I love the characters. I also REALLY loved the story. From the prologue that immediently hooked me into the story, to the end, Fall of Ruin and Wrath had me in a chokehold that I didn't want to escape from. The story felt fresh. While very much a fantasy, it had elements that we deal with in the real world - mainly the utter destruction humans cause to the only home we have. I love when reality bleeds into fantasy. It gives the story so much more that the reader can relate to.
Before I end my review, I want to discuss some of the theories and predictions I have for the next book.
Obviously spoilers are ahead. You have been warned.
A part of me thinks she is a fate. Ironic, considering she doesn't believe in fate, but the fact that it is her voice in her head when she reads a person's future makes me think she is.
Another part of me thinks she is a very powerful, reincarnated dimenyen. And I know - she is a star born mortal, and is Thorne's ny'chora, BUT I just have a feeling she is more than that.
Whatever she is, it's connected to the earth, as she has an obvious affinity for it. Maybe she isn't imagining the weeds screaming as she pulls them. The fact that Claude putting a glass down on a wooden table, and leaving a ring on the wood bothers her because it's wood. She loves gardening, because she feels closest to home with earth. Although it would be kind of cool if she was a reincarnated ancient - like a mother nature type one? haha. But seriously. They destroyed the modern world as we know it because humans were killing the earth. They essentially "rebooted" the planet - wouldn't it make some sort of sense that the ancient responsible for nature would also "reboot"? ... I swear this book has fucked me up.
I think he knows who she is to him. Whether he truly went there to kill her, and ended up falling for her instead, or he always planned to reunite with her, I don't know. I think he always planned to. I think when he looked into her eyes when she was a child, he knew then, and protected her the only way he knew how. After all, Lord Samriel said Calista was Thorne's ny'seraph, and that they wouldn't get the chance to complete the bond for her to become his ny'chora. But Thorne said specifically that he lost his ny'chora. His everything. Meaning the bond was already complete.
Another meaning for na'laa ... my queen? Why else would Lord Bastian choke?
I have a whole other HUGE theory about Fall of Ruin and Wrath ... but that is going to be a whole seperate post. Yup it's that big of a theory - and I put several hours into researching my theory.
Fall of Ruin and Wrath was better than I thought it would be. I mean - I knew I would love this book. It's Jennifer L. Armentrout. I love everything she has written. But I was pleasently surprised by how much I loved this book. I think it's one of my favorites from Jennifer. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for the next book.
Lord Samriel: “Move away from her,”
Grady: “She ain’t nobody,”
Grady gnashed out, his body trembling against mine.
Thorne: “Everybody is somebody.”
Naomi: “There’s never a need to use the Long Night with a Hyhborn,”
she added, referencing a powder made from the seeds of a trumpet flower. The powerful herb, in the right dose, left one drowsy and without much memory of the time after ingesting it.
Naomi: “They are quite delightful.”
My brows rose.
she exclaimed with another robust, throaty laugh.
Naomi: “Did you know that the Hyhborn are known for climaxes that can last for hours—actual hours?”
Calista: “I’ve heard.”
I wasn’t sure if that was true or not, but hours-long orgasms sounded … intense. Possibly even a little painful.
Okay, what in the world was I doing, staring that intensely at a man while he lay unconscious, impaled to a wooden table? There was something wrong with me. There were lots of varied things wrong with me.
Instinct, that fickle bitch that had led me here, was telling me something else now. To move. To get the hell out. To run.
Before I could answer, he yanked down my hood and cursed.
Weber: “For fuck’s sake, you’re one of the Baron’s bitches.”
Calista: “I’m—Oh, fuck it.”
Thorne: “Attempting to capture … me was a bad choice to … make.”
His voice was so soft yet so cold, it sent a chill of dread down my spine.
Thorne: “But striking her?”
My blood-tinged lips parted as the Lord lifted the mortal off the floor, unperturbed as Weber beat at the arm holding him up.
Thorne: “That was a fatal mistake,”
the Hyhborn snarled.
Thorne: “Your intervention … was unnecessary,”
the Lord said, drawing my gaze to him. Kneeling, he wiped the gore from his hand on Weber’s shirt. He turned his head toward me, and I thought I could see the beginning of an actual eye in the right socket.
Thorne: “You should’ve … stayed back.”
It took me a moment to find words.
Calista: “You were injured. You’re still injured.”
And he was. His chest was moving in short, shallow pants. Even in the moonlight, I could see that his skin had lost a lot of its color. The violence had cost him.
Thorne: “And you are … a mortal barely able to defend yourself … or another.”
He rose, his movements shaky.
Thorne: “But you’re brave—braver than … many stronger than you.”
A laugh rattled out of me.
Calista: “I’m not brave.”
Thorne: “Then what … do you call your actions tonight?”
Thorne: “Well, there is such a thing as foolish bravery,”
He then looked down at himself, pressing his finger just below the wound on his chest.
Calista: “Does it hurt?”
I blurted out yet another incredibly pointless question. His head lifted, and now all I saw was the straight line of his nose.
Thorne: “It feels like a … hole was carved … through my chest cavity.”
Thorne: “Then there … are our cocks.”
Calista: “I’m sorry,”
Thorne: “Our cocks, na’laa. Being in possession … of one will ensure that the owner … has a very … fruitful union.”
I opened my mouth, but I was at an utter loss for words for several seconds.
Calista: “There is a part of me—a huge part of me—that regrets having this conversation.”
Thorne: “There is more,”
he said, and I thought his tone had lightened. Almost teasing.
Thorne: “I haven’t … even gotten to what our muscles—”
Calista: “Is the chamber still moving?”
Thank the gods. I reached for the straps on my nightgown.
Thorne: “Our come,”
he said, and I halted.
Thorne: “It’s known to be a … powerful aphrodisiac. Some mix it with herbs to rub … on themselves. Others drink—”
Calista: “I get it,”
I cut him off, having heard of potions that promised to increase the pleasure of those who used them.
Calista: “Just to make it clear, I’m not after your blood or…”
Thorne: “Or my come?”
Calista: “Definitely not that,”
Thorne: “What a shame.”
Calista: “I’m undressed, by the way.”
Thorne: “That sounded oddly … like a warning. As if knowing you’re naked would somehow prevent … me from looking.”
Calista: “It’s not a warning. It’s just to let you know so you can be polite and not look.”
Thorne: “I know we … don’t know … one another, but you … should know, I’m not known … to be polite.”
Calista: “You can try.”
Calista: “Hold still.”
Thorne: “I am holding still, but … you’re on your knees, your fingers are near my dick, and you’re currently gloriously nude, so…”
Undoing the final button, I rolled my eyes.
Calista: “You can’t even stand on your own two feet and you’re currently regrowing eyeballs. The last thing you need to be thinking about is me on my knees, your dick, or my nudity.”
Thorne: “I’ve regrown my eyes, na’laa.”
My chin jerked up. The mess of hair shielded his face, but his head was turned in my direction. My gaze dropped to his hands—to his long fingers pressing into the rim of the sink.
Thorne: “That’s how … I know you’re gloriously nude.”
My gods, I … I’d never really thought a man’s cock was all that attractive to look upon, but his was just like the rest of him. Stunning. Breathtaking. Brutally beautiful.
A rush of damp heat flooded my core.
Thorne: “You’re staring at me.”
My chest rose sharply. I so was. There was no denying it.
Thorne: “It’s okay.”
His breath danced over the top of my head, and my own snagged. Was he closer? He was.
Thorne: “I’m staring at you.”
Thorne: “It’s not so much hearing, but if we’re focused on an individual, tuned in to their essence, we can. It’s how we can feed.”
A hint of smile briefly appeared.
Thorne: “And I’m focused on you enough that I can tell exactly what causes that hitch in your breath—when it’s not fear that causes a change in your breathing and when it’s pleasure.”
I inhaled sharply.
Calista: “I’m not—”
Thorne: “Going to lie to me? Because I’d know better.”
Calista: “I don’t think you do,”
I countered as I scooted back, the shirt snagging around my thighs.
Thorne: “But please do lie. It amuses me.”
Calista: “We should be leaving before—”
Thorne: “I know,”
he said, and then the Lord moved so unbelievably fast. He was above me before I took another breath. His mere presence forced me onto my back. Our bodies didn’t touch, but he was caging me, his large frame blocking out the quarters—the entire realm—until it was only him. Only us. He brought his fingertips to my cheek. My entire body jerked at the touch. The blue swirled completely into the green of his eyes as he drew his fingers down my cheek, catching a strand of hair. He tucked it back, his gentleness shocking.
Thorne: “You’re not afraid of me now,”
I sucked in a small breath as the pads of his fingers made another pass over my bottom lip.
Calista: “Are you trying to make me afraid?”
Thorne: “I’m not sure.”
With all their medicinal benefits, the weeds wouldn’t go wasted, but I still felt bad for tearing them out for purely cosmetic reasons. It didn’t help that my mind conjured up woeful shrieks every time I yanked out a weed.
I tugged on his arm, guiding him so we were at eye level, and then leaned in.
Calista: “I have no interest in choking on your cock tonight,”
I whispered, my mouth inches from his.
Calista: “Or any night, Gregory.
Naomi: “I’m annoyed, though.”
I returned my attention to her, offering my glass of wine.
Calista: “With what?”
Naomi: “That Grady is here,”
she said, taking the glass and finishing it off before placing it on the small end table by the couch.
Naomi: “Which means unless I want to see him pass out from the horror of seeing you come, I won’t get to really play.”
A strangled laugh left me.
Calista: “He absolutely would pass out.”
Naomi: “This is recent too, but there was news—”
My breath caught as she toyed with the peak of my breast. My own fingers pressed into the cushion of the couch in front of me.
Calista: “You have a very skewed view of behaving yourself.”
Naomi: “I do?”
She winked at me.
Naomi: “Tell me something.”
Naomi’s lips curled against my cheek.
Naomi: “Exactly how wet are you right now?”
My face heating, my eyes narrowed on her.
Naomi: “If I wasn’t behaving myself out of respect for our poor Grady’s emotional and mental well-being, I bet I’d discover that you are.”
Her nose touched mine as she whispered,
Naomi: “Don’t even try to lie, because the way your hips keep squirming will tell a very different story.”
Calista: “It’s telling the story your fingers are writing.”
She made a throaty sound in the space between my lips.
Naomi: “Oh, I bet my teasing got you nice and warm,”
she said. Her gaze turned shrewd.
Naomi: “But I’m also willing to bet the fact that your thinking of magnificently endowed Hyhborn has got you soaked.”
A slice of moonlight cut across the lower half of my Hyhborn’s face—and gods, he wasn’t mine. His grin had deepened.
Thorne: “One moment, please.”
The “please” stopped me. Because a Hyhborn lord, even him, saying that? To me? A lowborn? That was … that was unheard of. He hadn’t even said that last night, when he asked for my help. Then everything happened so fast. The other Hyhborn cursed, darting backward as he withdrew the lunea dagger, but the other lord was faster. He caught the Hyhborn by the wrist and twisted. The crack of bone was like thunder. I smacked my hand over my mouth, silencing a scream. The Hyhborn hissed in pain as the blade fell to the ground.
Nathanial: “You do this”
—his lips peeled back—
Nathaniel: “you’ll regret it. With your very last breath, you will.”
Thorne: “No, Nathaniel,”
the Lord replied, and he sounded bored. Like Grady did whenever I started to talk about the different types of daisies.
Thorne: “I will not.”
I caught only a glimpse of the Lord’s fist. Just a second before it slammed against the Hyhborn’s chest—into his chest. The one called Nathaniel threw his head back, his body jerking as my hand fell from my mouth.
Thorne: “Just one more moment,”
the Lord said, rather casually.
Muriel growled, cutting me off. His grip on my throat tightened. Panic threatened to seize me.
Muriel: “Or I will snap her fucking neck.”
Thorne: “That neck is a pretty one,”
the Hyhborn lord responded.
Thorne: “But why, Muriel, would you think I’d care if you did snap it?”
I hissed before I could stop myself, disbelief having loosened my tongue. The Lord cocked his head.
Thorne: “That wasn’t very nice of you.”
Thorne: “I told you that na’laa means several things in my language.”
I blinked, pressing my hand into the grass. His unwillingness to answer my question didn’t pass by me.
Calista: “I remember. You said it means ‘brave one.’”
Thorne: “It does.”
One arm dropped to rest on his bent knee.
Thorne: “It can also mean ‘stubborn one.’”
There was a hint of a smile in his voice.
Thorne: “Which makes the nickname all the more fitting.”
My lips turned down at the corners.
Calista: “And why would you think that?”
His fingers began to tap against the air.
Thorne: “Is that a serious question?”
Calista: “I’m not stubborn.”
Thorne: “I beg to differ. I clearly remember telling you to come to me. You didn’t. Then I told you not to move and you then ran.”
I stiffened, indignant.
Calista: “I ran because I had just seen you put your hand into another’s chest and incinerate them.”
Thorne: “But it was not your chest my hand went into, was it?”
Calista: “No, but—”
Thorne: “But you ran anyway. Then when I told you to cease struggling since you would only harm yourself, you continued to do so.”
I couldn’t believe I had to explain any of this.
Calista: “That’s because he was crushing my neck.”
Thorne: “I wouldn’t have allowed that.”
Calista: “You had just said—”
Thorne: “That I didn’t care if he snapped your neck. I know what I said,”
he interrupted. Again.
Thorne: “And I didn’t care about what he claimed, because I knew I would not allow that.”
Calista: “How was I supposed to know that?”
Irritation loosened my tongue, but I caught myself, snapping my mouth shut. This was a Hyhborn lord I was speaking to and he wasn’t injured now. His head tilted again.
Thorne: “You were going to say something?”
Calista: “No, I—”
Thorne: “Yes, you were.”
Calista: “Oh, my gods. I was going to ask you to stop interrupting me; however, that would be impossible because you keep doing it, so I’m trying to be respectful.”
Those fingers still danced at the air.
Thorne: “Unlike me?”
Calista: “You know? I think I liked you better when you didn’t have the energy to speak.”
Thorne: “So, you liked me?”
Calista: “That’s not what I said.”
Thorne: “That’s exactly what you said.”
Calista: “For fuck’s sake,”
Calista: “That wasn’t what I meant.”
The Lord laughed—and the sound was deep and … and nice. Unexpected. He hadn’t laughed like that last night.
Thorne: “Did you know that na’laa has another use? For one who is … outspoken?”
Calista: “I think I prefer the ‘brave’ meaning.”
Thorne: “There is a fourth meaning,”
Calista: “This word of yours has a lot of meanings,”
Thorne: “Many. But the fourth is also used to describe someone who is ungrateful. That is also rather fitting, don’t you think? I saved your life, and yet, you find me impolite.”
I gaped at him.
Thorne: “And I also sat here and waited until you woke up, just to make sure you were okay. Watching over you. Even let you use my body as a pillow.”
There it was again—the hint of the teasing smile I couldn’t see but heard in his voice.
Thorne: “I think that was quite polite of me, especially since I didn’t get to use your body as one last night.”
Thorne: “You’re right, na’laa. I don’t need to be here,”
he said, almost as softly as when he had spoken to the Hyhborn in those mere seconds before he ended their existence.
Thorne: “I want to be here.”
I felt it then. His gaze. Even though I couldn’t see his eyes, I could feel his stare drifting over my features, then down. A tingling wave of warmth followed.
Thorne: “After all,”
he said, voice thicker, smoother.
Thorne: “The scenery is quite lovely.”
I glanced down, seeing that the midnight-blue robe had come unbelted at some point and the ivory nightgown was visible underneath. It was basically translucent in the moonlight, leaving much of my breasts clearly visible beneath the wispy gown.
Thorne: “I’m staring. I know,”
the Lord said.
Thorne: “And I’m also aware of how impolite I’m being now.”
Thorne: “I assume you were speaking of the sōls.”
I whispered, surprised enough to ask.
Thorne: “Not souls of mortals.”
That faint grin appeared again.
Thorne: “But sōls of all that is around you. The tree we sit beneath. The grass. The blooms of the wisteria currently in your hair.”
My hand lifted out of reflex. I ran my hand down my braid until I felt something soft and dewy. I pulled the petal free, cringing.
Calista: “I didn’t know that.”
He chuckled again. The sound was still nice, which seemed completely at odds with, well, everything.
Thorne: “I’m sure the blossom was pleased to find itself being attached to such a lovely mortal. Though, I can think of far more interesting places I would’ve attached myself to.”
I cleared my throat.
Calista: “I … I should probably be on my way.”
He inclined his head.
Relieved yet unnerved that he’d agreed, I rose.
Thorne: “But I would be bereft if you did,”
There was a moment of silence.
Thorne: “Once more, you’ve proven just how brave you are.”
Calista: “I just … I just did what I thought was right.”
Thorne: “And that often takes the most bravery, doesn’t it?”
Trembling, I backed away and then I turned—I turned and ran, unsure of what unsettled me more. If it was the sounds of heavy wings beating at the night sky or if it was the inexplicable feeling that I shouldn’t be running. That I should be standing at his side, facing what was coming.
Thorne: “Did I hurt you?”
Lord Thorne asked.
I withdrew my hand from his.
Thorne: “Did I hurt you just now? I was rough with you.”
He’d asked that question after grabbing me in the barn, but it still caught me off guard.
Calista: “You only startled me.”
I told the truth.
Calista: “If you knew it was me, why did you grab me? Or do you always grab women who enter your chambers?”
Thorne: “At one time, I welcomed soft and shapely women entering my chambers, expected or not, but that was before more than one had come into possession of a lunea blade and entered my chambers with the intentions of drawing my blood and enriching themselves.”
I supposed after what he recently experienced, I too would react first and ask questions later.
Calista: “At this point, you have to know that I have no interest in your blood, body parts, or—”
Thorne: “My come?”
Lord Thorne tacked on.
Thorne: “I think that has changed since we first spoke of it.”
I briefly closed my eyes.
Calista: “I understand.”
Thorne: “I’m relieved to hear that.”
His mouth touched my temple again.
Thorne: “I’d hate to have to end you when I’ve been quite … enthralled by you.”
He sounded like that surprised him, as it did me. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of enthralling anyone, let alone a Hyhborn who’d threatened my life.
Calista: “I think you’ve confused being enthralled with amusing yourself by irritating me.”
Thorne: “Possibly. I do find pleasure in that.”
Thorne: “You’re staring.”
One side of those full lips rose as he walked toward a narrow table by the entry to the bedchamber. Feeling my cheeks warm, I ordered myself to pull it together.
Calista: “You’re … nice to stare at, as I’m sure you’re well aware.”
Thorne: “I am,”
Calista: “How many weapons do you have on you?”
Thorne: “Just enough,”
Thorne: “The mortal weapons aren’t necessary. But sometimes it’s more interesting to fight the fairer way when it comes to mortals.”
Calista: “Versus ripping their throats out?”
Thorne: “That is also interesting.”
He straightened, now barefoot.
… He twisted his tongue around my name in a way I’d never heard before. He took a drink.
Thorne: “It too is fitting.”
Calista: “It is?”
I murmured, utterly confounded by the fact that I’d shared that piece of information—something that I’d kept to myself because it was the only thing that was purely mine, as silly as that sounded.
Thorne: “Yes. Do you know what it means?”
Calista: “The name has a meaning?”
Thorne: “All names do.”
A faint smile appeared.
Thorne: “Calista means ‘most beautiful.’”
Calista: “I’m curious, my—”
I caught myself.
Calista: “I’m curious, Your Grace.”
Thorne: “And I’m sure you are.”
I arched a brow at that.
Calista: “What could your needs be if they cannot be met within Primvera?”
Thorne: “Right now? I wouldn’t have your hands on me if I were there, would I?”
Calista: “As I said before, flattery is not necessary.”
Thorne: “But appreciated?”
I cracked a grin.
Thorne: “Have you ever done this?”
Calista: “Done what?”
His finger made another pass.
Thorne: “Serviced another.”
Calista: “Of course,”
Thorne: “Then how long have you been servicing others?”
Calista: “Long enough.”
That faint smile returned as more specks of white crowded his pupils. The effect was startling enough that I found it difficult to look away from.
Thorne: “You know what I think?”
My hips jerked again as his hand cupped me between the thighs.
His palm pressed against me, and my body reacted without thought, rubbing against him.
Thorne: “I think you’re lying to me.”
Calista: “Perhaps the Baron believed you would not want one so experienced?”
One single brow rose.
Thorne: “Are you suggesting that your baron thought I would prefer debauching an unpracticed potential virgin who one day wants to become a botanist?”
A wave of prickly warmth hit my skin, loosening my hold on my tongue and common sense, but tightening my grip on his cock, just above that knot of flesh. He was even harder there than the rest of his body.
Calista: “You don’t?”
I asked, watching him as I moved my hand along his length just as he said he liked it. Tight. Hard. Those tiny sparks of light appeared in his pupils.
Calista: “I’m no virgin, Your Highness, but truth is not nearly as important as perception. So, if you believe me to be an unpracticed virgin, it didn’t stop you from engaging in said debauchery, did it?”
The corners of his lips twitched as if he wished to smile.
Thorne: “It did not.”
He lowered the towel, his stare piercing straight through me.
Calista: “I do not like that nickname.”
Thorne: “You would if you knew all the meanings.”
Hymel: “I asked you a question.”
Calista: “I know,”
I seethed, watching his eyes widen in response to me actually speaking to him.
Calista: “And I’m ignoring you, so let me go.”
His lips peeled back.
Hymel: “You think you’re so special, don’t you? Yet you’re—”
Calista: “Nothing more than a whore. I know. I heard you the first five hundred times you said that. At least I’m getting off.”
I held his stare, knowing I was about to deliver a low, mean blow that was as cruel as he was.
Calista: “Can’t say the same about you though.”
Calista: “You seem not to be aware of this, but you appear to have lost your way to your own chambers.”
Thorne: “I’m exactly where I intend to be.”
I could practically hear the smile in his voice, and it made me bristle.
Calista: “Then what are you doing here?”
And how long had he been sitting there? My gaze swung back to the glass he’d taken a drink from, then lowered to the arm of the settee, then narrowed.
Calista: “Did you help yourself to my whiskey?”
Thorne: “I’m sightseeing. And I needed refreshment while doing so.”
Calista: “I’m not … working right now.”
His head tilted to one side.
Thorne: “It pleases me greatly to hear that.”
My mouth puckered.
Calista: “And why would it please you?”
Thorne: “Because I’d rather our interactions going forward be between you and me, and not dictated by a third party.”
Calista: “There will be no interactions between us going forward,”
I said, which was a lie since there would be, but his uninvited presence irked me … and thrilled me, which also served to really irritate me.
Thorne: “I wouldn’t count on that.”
Calista: “Why are you here? Honestly?”
Those long … devilish fingers of his tapped along the arm of the settee.
Thorne: “Would you believe me if I said I missed you and wanted to see you?”
Thorne: “Your lack of faith in my intentions wounds me, na’laa.”
Thorne: “Do you think a simple lock can prevent me from being where I want to be?”
My stomach dipped.
Calista: “Well, that is somewhat … creepy.”
He was clearly unbothered by that fact.
Thorne: “As to how I knew which quarters were yours, I have my ways.”
I stared at him.
Calista: “At the risk of sounding repetitive—”
Thorne: “What I just said was also somewhat…”
The tilt to his lips was now daring.
My fingers went to the little red bow at the neckline of my chemise.
Calista: “But I can see that even though you’re aware of being creepy, that hasn’t stopped you.”
Thorne: “It hasn’t.”
Calista: “Well, I suppose being aware of your troublesome behavior is one half of the battle.”
Thorne: “It would only be a battle if I found my behavior to be troublesome.”
Calista: “At least you’re honest,”
I muttered, twisting the ribbon.
Thorne: “One of us has to be.”
Thorne: “I see you helped yourself to something that doesn’t belong to you.”
I frowned; then he glanced pointedly at the dagger resting on the nightstand, beside the sheath and harness Grady had found for me.
Calista: “Are you going to take it?”
Thorne: “Should I?”
Calista: “I don’t know. Aren’t you worried about me using it against you?”
Thorne: “Not particularly,”
he replied, and irritation flared.
Thorne: “That bothers you.”
Calista: “It’s kind of insulting.”
Thorne: “It’s insulting that I don’t fear you trying to harm me?”
I thought that over.
Calista: “Kind of.”
Prince Thorne laughed then, deep and smoky, and I decided I also found those kinds of laughs to be insulting due to how nice they were.
Calista: “I think you’re wrong.”
That tight smile resurfaced.
Thorne: “And why do you think this?”
Calista: “Because you said you would’ve been disappointed if you had destroyed Archwood,”
I pointed out.
Calista: “And it’s not like our city represents all of mankind.”
Thorne: “And I also said that wouldn’t have stopped me from doing so.”
My stomach dipped.
Calista: “Yes, but you also said that you thought turning a soul into a Rae was unfair. If you were incapable of feeling compassion, wouldn’t you also be incapable of feeling remorse or guilt or even fairness?”
Prince Thorne opened his mouth, but he said nothing as he stared at me. Seconds ticked by, and I thought … I thought he paled a little.
Thorne: “You’re right,”
he said hoarsely. Then he turned and left the chambers without saying another word, leaving me to wonder why the idea of him having compassion would cause him such obvious unease.
Prince Thorne queried softly. The back of my neck tingled, and it had nothing to do with intuition.
Thorne: “Is there an animal in the hall that I’m unaware of? A hound or even a cat?”
A snort came from the general direction of Hymel, and I found myself suddenly staring at my knife. Oh, how badly I would enjoy stabbing Hymel with it.
Claude: “Goodness no.”
Claude laughed, tipping his head back.
Claude: “It’s a term of endearment for Lis.”
Thorne: “Is that so?”
murmured Prince Thorne.
Thorne: “What a … fitting endearment.” Muscles along my spine tensed as my gaze collided with the Prince’s. There was no mistaking the derision in his tone. One needed only an ear to hear it.
Calista: “Far more fitting than other endearments,”
The corners of his mouth twitched.
Thorne: “I can think of at least one that is better suited.”
Claude: “You can?”
Claude leaned forward, far too eager.
Claude: “I am dying to hear what you’d think would be more fitting after spending such a short time with her.”
Prince Thorne opened his mouth.
Calista: “How have you all been enjoying the late-spring Midlands weather?”
I jumped in, glancing among the Hyhborn.
Calista: “I hear the weather of the Highlands is quite temperamental.”
Lord Bastian: “One could say that.”
Lord Bastian leaned back in his seat, that grin of his having returned at some point.
Lord Bastian: “It is far cooler than here.”
He glanced at Prince Thorne.
Lord Bastian: “What other terms of endearment are you thinking of?”
Oh, my gods.… Prince Thorne’s lips curved up in a slow, smoky smile.
The Commander sounded like he choked.
Claude: “What does that mean?”
Lord Bastian: “It has many meanings,”
Lord Bastian answered.
Lord Bastian: “I am curious as to which is meant in this case.”
Calista: “He thinks I’m stubborn,”
I said, meeting the Prince’s gaze.
Claude: “That I can agree with.”
Calista: “And ungrateful,” I added before Prince Thorne could. Claude frowned.
Thorne: “I was going to say brave,”
Prince Thorne said instead.
Claude: “I haven’t picked up a sword since I came into my title.”
Nothing about the Hyhborn’s expressions said that surprised them.
Thorne: “Then I would suggest you do that as soon as possible. After all, one cannot ask others to fight for their homes and lives if one is not willing to fight oneself.”
Thorne: “I do believe that is the third thing…”
Prince Thorne’s finger thrust, his thumb swirled, and it was … it was too much. The pleasure building bordered on pain. I started to push away. The arm around my waist prevented that.
Thorne: “That we agree on.”
The tension erupted without warning. I came, crying out— Prince Thorne’s hand covered my mouth, muffling the moan of release.
Thorne: “Not here,”
he whispered in my ear.
Thorne: “Not for anyone else’s ears but mine.”
I was panting as I settled in his lap, body limp and relaxed completely into his. I watched through half-opened eyes as he slid his palm over my thigh and lifted his hand. Prince Thorne’s eyes snagged mine as he brought his glistening finger to his mouth and … and sucked deep. Oh gods, my entire body tensed once more.
Thorne: “Thank you,”
he said, then his gaze flicked to the Baron.
Thorne: “I do enjoy dessert.”
Claude laughed deeply, finishing off his glass of brandy.
Claude: “Don’t we all?”
Thorne: “There is something I require from you, Baron,”
Prince Thorne said after a moment, his other hand returning to my waist while I focused on slowing my breathing and my heart.
Thorne: “I want her.”
I went stiff.
Thorne: “I want her. For the duration of my time here, she is mine.”
Calista: “I don’t know why you’re smiling, Your Grace. What you ask for, you cannot have.”
he corrected. He picked up his whiskey.
Thorne: “This should come as a surprise to no one, but just so we all are clear, what I want? I get. And what I want is for you to keep me company during my stay here.”
I inhaled sharply.
Calista: “Well, I suppose this will be a first for you then.”
He took a drink as he looked up at me.
Thorne: “I already had a first. Just once when I didn’t get what I wanted. There will not be a second time.”
Anger welled up inside me so quickly that I forgot what he was and who I was.
Calista: “You are out of your mind if you think you can just demand to have me.”
I snapped, chest rising and falling heavily.
Calista: “It will be over my dead body.”
The Prince only raised a brow.
Thorne: “That’s a bit dramatic, na’laa."
Claude: “I have no problem with your request,”
the Baron announced.
I gasped, twisting toward him.
The Prince nodded at Claude, then rose, turning to me. He smiled.
Thorne: “Our arrangement is agreed upon then.”
Having not agreed to anything, I took a step back, bumping into the table. His smile deepened.
Thorne: “You have an hour to ready yourself.”
He prowled past me, stopping as his arm brushed mine. He looked down, lashes lowered.
Thorne: “I so look forward to seeing you later.”
Calista: “I don’t want to go with him and be—be under his mercy, his command.”
Claude: “I have a feeling that being under his command and at his mercy will only involve being under him,”
Claude replied. A sharp twist of desire pulsed through me despite my anger, and that made me really want to smack myself.
Calista: “I want to throw this bottle at you.”
Claude: “You should rest your throwing arm for when you’re with the Prince. I have this distinct impression that such an act will arouse him.”
Calista: “Oh my gods.”
Claude: “This is a good thing, Lis. I hope you come to understand that. Because the Prince of Vytrus will be able to provide you with what I cannot.”
Calista: “And what is that?”
Calista: “I don’t think a lot of what has been said about him is the truth.”
Naomi: “For real?”
Calista: “Yes. I promise.”
She relaxed, unfolding her arms.
Naomi: “I would’ve hated having to get myself killed in the process of chopping off a Hyhborn prince’s dick.”
Calista: “I … I, uh, have a headache.”
Lord Bastian: “Ah, I see.”
Straight white teeth appeared as the Lord smiled more broadly.
Lord Bastian: “I’m guessing that headache is a rather large one? Perhaps if you had to describe it, you’d say that it came in a six-foot-and-seven-inch frame?”
I snapped my mouth shut. Lord Bastian chuckled.
Lord Bastian: “I will let him know that you are … feeling under the weather.”
His hand slid off the door.
Lord Bastian: “I do hope you don’t find yourself plagued by an even larger headache.”
He stepped back, clasping his hands behind his back once more.
Lord Bastian: “Good evening.”
Calista: “Good evening.”
I closed the door, going rigid when I heard his muffled laugh from the hall.
Thorne: “You have a very good arm on you. Though, I would’ve preferred to discover that in a way that didn’t involve an object being thrown at my head.”
My heart thumped so fast I feared I might be sick.
Calista: “I … I didn’t mean to do that.”
he drawled. Swallowing, I nodded.
Calista: “The glass slipped from my fingers.”
An eyebrow rose.
Thorne: “Slipped all the way across the room?”
Calista: “You startled me,”
Thorne: “We have an arrangement.”
Calista: “We do not, but that’s not the point. I have a headache.”
Thorne: “Yes, one that is six feet and seven inches in shape?”
Calista: “It was not I who said that.”
Thorne: “I know. Those were Lord Bastian’s words.”
Thorne: “We have an arrangement. Are you going to honor it?”
I lifted my chin.
Calista: “Because there is no arrangement for me to honor.”
I stepped back an inch. That was as far as I made it. Prince Thorne was on me before I could take another breath. One of his arms went around my waist as he bent, and a second later I was hoisted up, onto his shoulder. For a moment, I was so shocked I could do nothing as I dangled there, my hair streaming over my face and the woodsy scent of his overwhelming me. Then he turned.
Calista: “Oh, my gods,”
I shrieked, grabbing a fistful of his tunic. Calista: “Put me down!”
Thorne: “I would, but I have a feeling you’re going to want to argue.”
Prince Thorne strode into the bedchamber, passing the bed.
Thorne: “And I prefer to do that while I’m close to the bed I plan to sleep in.”
Calista: “You can’t do this!”
Fury erupted, erasing all common sense. I pounded my fists against his back, kicking my legs—completely forgetting what I was hitting.
Calista: “Put me—”
I hissed as pain radiated across my balled fists and up my arms.
Thorne: “You should stop,”
he said, amusement clear in his tone.
Thorne: “I really don’t want you to break your hands. We may have need of them later.”
Calista: “Oh my gods.”
My eyes widened as the chamber door swung open. He was truly going to carry me to his quarters? He was out of his mind.
Calista: “You can put me down.”
Thorne: “I don’t trust you.”
Calista: “You don’t trust me?”
I sputtered as my chamber doors closed behind us.
Thorne: “You’re going to make a scene.”
Calista: “It’s not me who is making a scene.”
Prince Thorne’s head turned, his chin grazing my hip.
Thorne: “It is your shrieking that will wake anyone who has gone to bed and alarm those who have not yet done so.”
Calista: “I’m not shrieking!”
I, well, shrieked.
Thorne: “I don’t prefer any of this.”
I tried to lift myself off his shoulder, but his arm clamped down over my back.
Calista: “This is ridiculous.”
Thorne: “I know.”
Disbelief roared through me.
Calista: “Then put me down or…”
Thorne: “Or what?”
Calista: “I may vomit all over your back.”
Prince Thorne chuckled.
Thorne: “Please try not to do that, but if you do, it would be a good enough excuse for you to aid me in my bath.”
Calista: “You would be correct—”
I yelped as he bounced me.
Calista: “That was highly unnecessary, Your Grace.”
he corrected with a laugh.
Thorne: “I apologize. My shoulder … slipped.”
I saw red.
Calista: “Oh, I’m sure it slipped, Thor.”
The Prince came to a complete stop.
Thorne: “I see I’m going to have to kill Bas.”
He started walking again. My lips parted as my already tumbling stomach dipped.
Lord Bastian: “He’s only half kidding,”
another, whom I recognized as Lord Bastian himself, said. I lifted my head, catching only a glimpse of his chest and the opening doors of his quarters and the Lord who waited in the hall outside of them.
Lord Bastian: “He’d miss me terribly if he killed me.”
Thorne: “I wouldn’t count on that,”
Prince Thorne warned.
Lord Bastian: “May I ask why you’re carrying your guest like a sack of potatoes?”
Warmth hit my cheeks, but before I could speak, Prince Thorne said,
Thorne: “She was proving to be rather difficult.”
Lord Bastian: “Must be that six-foot-six-inch headache of hers,”
the Hyhborn lord remarked.
Thorne: “Now I’ve lost two inches?”
Prince Thorne muttered.
Lord Bastian: “I’m just stating facts.”
Frustration boiled over.
Calista: “He’s kidnapping me, and you two are arguing over how much taller he is?”
Prince Thorne squeezed me.
Thorne: “Even she knows I’m taller.”
Lord Bastian: “Traitor,”
Calista: “Then if that is the case, there are many within this manor and city who would be willing to take my place.”
He glanced over his shoulder at me.
Thorne: "But would any of them throw a glass at me?”
I drew a short breath through my nose.
Calista: “Likely not, which should relieve you.”
Thorne: “But it doesn’t.”
Thorne: “He was touching you. I didn’t like it.”
Calista: “What? Are you saying you were jealous?”
My laugh shattered the silence that followed.
Calista: “You cannot be serious.”
Slowly churning eyes met mine.
Thorne: “Do I appear as if I am teasing?”
No, he did not. I gaped at him.
Calista: “Why in the world would you be jealous?”
Thorne: “I don’t know.”
He brushed a strand of hair back behind his ear.
Thorne: “Not knowing has become quite commonplace when you’re concerned. I’m not sure if it annoys me or excites me.”
Calista: “Well, it confuses me.”
Thorne: “Your reluctance in this confuses me.”
Calista: “Whether or not I will doesn’t matter. You should always ask.”
Calista: “Why what?”
Thorne: “Why when we both already know what is wanted?”
Blowing out an aggravated breath, I desperately clung to my waning patience.
Calista: “Because you shouldn’t assume that will never change. It can. It can change at any second for various reasons.”
The sound hummed from him as his gaze flicked over me.
Thorne: “I suppose then I must endeavor to ensure that doesn’t change.”
My lips pursed.
Calista: “That wasn’t the point I was getting at.”
I opened my eyes, lifting my gaze to the rigid, thick length jutting out from his hips.
Calista: “You’re beautiful,”
I whispered. His head tilted slightly, exposing one … deeper-hued cheek to the lamplight. My lips parted.
Calista: “Are you … blushing?”
Thorne: “Am I?”
He sounded genuinely uncertain. There was something wholly charming in that faint stain to his cheeks—that someone as powerful and otherworldly as a Deminyen could blush.
Calista: “Yes, Your Grace.”
Thorne: “I don’t think I’ve ever blushed before.”
Calista: “Perhaps you have and no one has told you.”
Thorne: “Many wouldn’t have the courage to do so,”
he remarked, head straightening.
Thorne: “But I think this is a … first.”
His laugh was dark and sinful.
Thorne: “Touch yourself,”
he ordered, folding his hand along the back of my head once more.
Thorne: “Fuck your fingers while I fuck your mouth.”
Thorne: “That’s my girl."
Thorne: “Next time—and there will be a next time,”
he swore, dragging the cloth between my legs. The blue of his eyes turned luminous as I moaned, lifting my hips weakly against his touch. One side of his lips curled up.
Thorne: “You’re going to come on my dick, and you’re going to stay right there until the last bit of pleasure leaves you.”
He paused, head tilting.
Thorne: “Do you agree?”
My brows lifted at his attempt at asking, and I would’ve laughed if I weren’t so tired.
Calista: “Yes, Your Grace.”
Calista: “Did your heart beat like a mortal’s once before?”
He yawned. I curled a finger against his skin.
Calista: “Why doesn’t it beat like that now?”
Thorne: “Because I…”
His hand moved idly over my lower back.
Thorne: “I lost the ny’chora.”
Calista: “And what is that?”
He didn’t answer for so long that I thought he might have fallen asleep on me.
Maven: “Good and evil are real. They always have been. Yet the weight of the realm has always fallen on those in between, ones neither good nor bad. That’s what my pa always said.”
She lifted her drink again.
Maven: “But he was also a drunk, so…”
Maven: “There are Deminyens moving about this town, these walls, right?”
Calista: “Yes. A prince and two lords.”
Maven: “A prince.”
Maven: “It was bound to happen.”
Calista: “What was?”
Maven: “That he came.”
Her head turned to me.
Maven: “For what is his.”
Thorne: “I’ve wondered about you,”
he said in the silence.
Thorne: “I’m wondering right now.”
Thorne: “I’ve told no mortal that I have a brother nor shared that I enjoy reading.”
Calista: “Well, I’ve never told anyone I wanted to be a botanist, so…”
Thorne: “Not even your baron?”
I shook my head no.
Thorne: “That pleases me.”
Thorne: “That is also what I wonder. Why. Why I would share anything with you, but you already know that,”
he said, and the way he said it was as vaguely insulting as it was before.
Thorne: “Even today, when I should be fully focused on those before me, I caught myself wondering what it is about you. It’s still incredibly perplexing and annoying.”
Oookay. I pulled my hand from his arm.
Calista: “Well, then, perhaps I should leave so I don’t continue to add to this perplexing annoyance.”
The Prince chuckled.
Thorne: “It’s more like I’m a perplexing annoyance to myself. And if you left, I would have to follow and I feel like that would lead to an argument when there are far more entertaining things we can do.”
Thorne: “I don’t have to find release to feel pleasure.”
The hand resting on my stomach glided up, folding over the swell of my breast.
Thorne: “The most exquisite kind of pleasure is derived from bestowing it upon another.”
Calista: “You … you really aren’t a mortal man then,”
Lord Samriel: “Prince Thorne is unaware of your abilities, isn’t he? He’s unaware of what you are to him?”
Calista: “No, he doesn’t know about my abilities.”
My throat tightened.
Calista: “And I’m nothing to him.”
Lord Samriel: “That’s not true at all, Calista,”
he said, and my skin chilled at the sound of my name.
Lord Samriel: “He may not yet be aware of what you mean to him on a conscious level, but on a primal one? I’m confident he does. He’s drawn to you, whether he understands why or not.”
I jolted, recalling Thorne’s own confusion as he admitted as much.
Calista: “I … I don’t understand.”
Lord Samriel: “Well, it’s quite simple,”
Lord Samriel said.
Lord Samriel: “You are everything to him.”
I thought of Vayne Beylen.
Calista: “There are others like me.”
Lord Samriel: “There used to be many ny’seraphs,”
he said, and my breath caught.
Lord Samriel: “One for every Deminyen. You see, the ny’seraph is bonded to a Deminyen at birth, becoming their ny’chora.”
Why doesn’t it beat like that now?
Because I lost the ny’chora.
Thorne: "You should have known better than to run. I will always catch you. "