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Glow by Raven Kennedy


Glow

by Raven Kennedy

Self-Published

Book 4 in the Plated Prisoner Series


"I was nothing but a road to Midas. A means to get to where he wanted to go, and I paved that path in gold."


My life has been made up of gilded lies. But death has been shaped from rot.


Like a phoenix caught fire, I will need to rise from the ashes and learn to wield my own power. Because my wings may have been clipped, but I am not in a cage, and I'm finally free to fly from the frozen kingdoms I've been kept in.


Yet the world doesn't want to let me.


That's the thing when you turn against a king—everyone else turns against you.


Good thing I have a different king in my corner.


But even with the dark threat of Slade Ravinger, the other monarchs are coming for me.


So I will fight for him and he will kill for me, and if we need to become the villains, then so be it.


Because so long as I live in this world, I won't be used again.


Please note: This is an adult fantasy series with dark elements that may be triggering, including past emotional and physical trauma, violence, adult language, and explicit romance. Read at your own discretion.

Genre:

Fantasy Romance

 

Glow is the fourth book in Raven Kennedy's hit series, The Plated Prisoner. It centers around a few characters, but mostly Aurin and Slade. It begins right where we left off in Gleam, with Aurin's life in danger and Slade and his wrath escaping after killing King Midas. With the kingdoms after Aurin, Slade is left with no choice but to take her to a secret hideaway for her to heal. But not all wounds are visible, and when Aurin wakes up, she finds the trauma is too much to bear. With Slade and her friends, she starts to find herself, but with the kingdoms on their doorstep demanding justice for King Midas, can Slade and Aurin find a way to be together in peace. Either way, one thing is for certain - Aurin will never be used again, and Slade and her don't care if they are the villains', they will do anything to protect each other.


It's finally here! After the cliffhanger we were left with in Gleam, I was excited to finally read this book! I really did enjoy it, but it wasn't what I was expecting at all. It's not a bad thing. I was expecting a book heavily centers on Slade and Aurin and their relationship, but we get something just as good, and important - Aurin's healing journey. By the end of the book, she is not wholly healed, but she is getting there, which is, I feel, a very realistic take on healing with trauma. It's not just working on her own thoughts and feelings, and learning to control her power, but building her relationship with Slade, and her friends. Trust herself and others. Forgiving herself for past decisions. I did feel like their time hiding away lasted a little too long, but once they got to the fourth Kingdom, things really picked up. The storyline continues to be great, unpredictable, and unique, and the romance ... woah. I read A LOT of romance, and with that, a lot of explicit sex scenes. There is a scene in Glow that is probably one of the sexiest I have read. And not because of any fancy tricks, but the dirty talk. Raven Kennedy, you made me blush! I loved it!


Glow ends much like the last book - with an epic cliffhanger that will leave you an emotional mess. And while I hate that we are all forced to wait a year before the conclusion, I am just glad that I came across a series like this. So very unique in what is fast becoming a very popular genre.




Ryatt: “Not to sound like a jackass, since I’m sure you’ve already done this, but you can’t just...get the rest of the rot out of her?”

Slade: “Unfortunately, you do sound like a jackass, because I fucking tried.” Lu: "If you hadn’t scraped me off that street and given me a sword, I would’ve died, Rip.”

I shake my head.

Slade: “I don’t believe that for a second. You were strong, even then.”

Her brown eyes are cast down, staring at the charred wood burning on the grate.

Lu: “I don’t mean die physically, but mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually.”

She presses a hand to her chest, thumping it twice.

Lu: “You can’t contemplate or settle or thrive when you’re living like that. I was dead and running, just trying to keep up with survival. Just making it one day. People don’t get that, you know? If they’ve never lived like that. It’s one day. A whole slew of one-day-at-a-times, just getting through, squeezing by. Always running, never expecting anything else. Never having anyone or anything but that running and fighting and dying through it.”

Slade: “You’re not that girl anymore. That’s not your life.”

Lu: “You’re right. Just like Osrik isn’t the mercenary, and Judd isn’t the thief. Because you picked us to fight at your side and showed us that it wasn’t just one day. It wasn’t just running and dying.”

Her gaze meets my own head-on.

Lu: “I’m the woman I am today because you tossed my ass in your army and let me make myself into a captain.”

Unexpected emotion tightens in my chest.

Slade: “You earned it every step of the way, Talula Gallerin.” Lu: “She’s gonna wake up, you know.”

I swallow hard, all the light amusement draining back out of me.

Slade: “You sound sure.”

Lu: “That’s because I am. You took my belligerence and tossed a uniform in my face. You met Osrik’s kill drive and decided to give him your sword. You saw every jail cell that couldn’t hold Judd and, instead of tossing him in another one, let him keep the keys. This time, you found your goldfinch and watched her leave her cage. She’ll open her eyes, just like you got the rest of us to do.”

Slade: “This is a little more literal. I fucking rotted her.”

Lu just shrugs.

Lu: “We’ve all got a little rotten in us, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. It’s how we’ve survived.” When the last of the blood has been wiped away, my mother places her hands on my cheeks, forcing me to look at her.

Mom: “I want you to listen to me, Slade, and I want you to remember this, alright?”

My head nods slowly. Her eyes are fierce and full of love.

Mom: “You are my son, and you already make me proud. Every day.”

It feels like I’m going to bawl like a baby, but I swallow hard.

Slade: “But I’m weak. My magic only comes out when I’m feeling emotions, and Father says that’s wrong.”

Mom: “You are not weak. You don’t have to be cruel to be strong. You don’t have to be mean to seem brave. You don’t have to look down on others in order to stand tall. Having emotions does not mean you’re weak. It means you’re smart enough to let yourself feel.”

When my stinging eyes get too much to sniff away, her thumbs wipe along my cheeks.

Slade: “I don’t want to be like him,”

I whisper, and even though we’re shut away in my room, I still look to the door, afraid that he somehow will have heard me.

Slade: “I don’t want to break or rot or hurt things. I want to be good.”

My mother’s face turns sad.

Mom: “You are good, Slade. Every single day, I am proud of you. And it’s not because of these spikes on your arms or the magic in your veins. It’s not for the blood you are born from or the status you will one day have.”

She drops a hand and places it on my chest, right over my racing heart.

Mom: “I am proud of you for this. Not for what you can do, but for who I know you will be.”

Slade: “Who will I be?”

She leans forward and kisses my forehead, combing my damp hair away from my face.

Mom: “You will be completely yourself. And you will be proud.” I let out a sigh and drag a hand down my face.

Slade: “Does no one actually listen to my orders?”

Ryatt gives me a scowl and then stalks into the kitchen.

Judd: “Not when your orders are stupid,” With a laugh that comes out as a grunt, I keep walking until he stops in front of a tent. He holds the flap open expectantly, and I cock my head, stopping just in front of it.

Osrik: “If this is your way of propositioning me, you’re shit at it.”

Keg lets his head fall back as he laughs loudly.

Keg: “Captain, you wound me. I’m romantic as fuck. If I was propositioning you, I’d knock your Divine-damned socks off.”

Osrik: “Just so you know, my socks smell like shit.” The blonde stands up to face me, crossing her arms in front of her indignantly.

Rissa: “And just who are you?”

she demands. I blink at her, then at the second woman who’s lying on the pallet next to her, white as a sheet as she sleeps.

Osrik: “I’m captain of the whole damn army right now. Who the fuck are you?” Osrik: “Good news for both of us, Yellow Bell.”

She frowns.

Rissa: “Yellow Bell?”

I shrug.

Osrik: “It’s fitting. Flower’s yellow like your hair, and it tricks some people, because it might be pretty on the outside, but it’s pure poison.”

Her eyes go dark.

Rissa: “My hair is blonde, not yellow, you incompetent brute.”

I grin.

Osrik: “So you don’t deny the poison part? Interesting.” Rissa eyes me dubiously.

Rissa: “You’re going to give me all of that?”

Osrik: “I just said I was, didn’t I?”

Rissa: “And…you don’t want me to fuck you?”

she asks bluntly, as if she can’t quite believe it. A grumbled chuckle comes out of me.

Osrik: “I didn’t say that. I said I won’t take advantage of you,”

I reply, making the frown between her brows deepen. I give in to temptation for a second and lean in closer, and just like I suspected, she smells faintly of flowers.

Osrik: “When we fuck, it’ll happen because you want it to happen.”

There’s a spark of heat in her eyes right before she puts it out, and that petulant, pouting look comes back over her face.

Rissa: “What makes you think I’d ever want to?”

I give her a crooked smile before I turn and scoop up the bowls.

Osrik: “Because, Yellow Bell, you might be poisonous, but you’re not immune. There’s something here.”

Rissa: “Yeah, loathing.”

With a grin tucked behind my beard, I head for the tent’s opening, stopping to look over my shoulder at her one more time as I push back the flap.

Osrik: “What’s the fun in it if you don’t loathe each other just a little bit?” Slade: “How cold is it?”

Ryatt: “Been dumping snow for four days with no end in sight and a wind chill that can chap your ass cheeks in a second.” I tsk.

Slade: “That wasn’t very nice.”

Her face pulls together in a furious sneer.

Slade: “Oh, I see,”

I say casually as I take off my stained coat, letting it drop to the floor, before slowly rolling back the sleeves on my arms.

Slade: “You don’t want to be nice. You want to fight.” Slade: “You’re gorgeous when you’re unhinged,” Slade: “Come out to play, Goldfinch, and I’ll kiss you all you like.”

Slade: “I’m going to thumb your clit and make you scream, proving to you that you’re a goddess who takes her pleasure because that is what you deserve. Now ride me.” Slade: “I’ll tell you what you did. You finally broke free and you conquered.” Slade: “You’ll never give up like that again, will you, baby? You’ll never let your power overwhelm you.”

I thrust again, hips snapping up and making her gasp out my name.

Slade: “You’re going to remember who you are and how fucking powerful you are, and you will not—ever—fucking—give—in—again.” Slade: “Come, baby. Take your pleasure on my cock and fucking flood me with it.”

Her orgasm seems to implode. I feel her body clamp down on my cock, and my thrusts stutter. She calls out my name, shaking all over, her pussy surging with wet heat that sends me right over the edge with her.

Slade: “Good fucking girl.” Auren: “How? I felt my power leave me when the sun set. That shouldn’t have been possible, but I—”

Her words choke off.

Auren: “There was something inside of me that just snapped open.”

Slade: “And it was fucking glorious.”

She flinches.

Auren: “How can you say that? I became a monster.”

But I shake my head, brush my thumbs over her wet cheeks.

Slade: “No, baby. Not a monster. A fae.” Honestly, the green color was the least of our worries. Embarrassment floods my cheeks as the others all make faces.

Auren: “It’s bad,”

Ryatt: “It’s really—”

Ryatt jolts mid-sentence, and he scowls across the table at Slade.

Ryatt: “Good,”

he finishes before looking at me.

Ryatt: “It’s really good.”

Auren: “Really?”

Judd and Lu nod their heads in unison, but I notice they’re still chewing. Beside me, Slade swallows. It’s a testament to how sticky the slop really is, because I can hear the struggle of his throat to get it down.

Auren: “Try the eggs?”

Slade: “Mm-hmm,”

he replies, and everyone watches him scoop up a giant spoonful and stuff it into his mouth, their eyes widening slightly like he’s doing some amazing feat. I let out a sigh and set my fork down.

Auren: “Okay, you can all stop pretending for my sake.”

Judd: “Thank fuck,”

Judd says, just as he spits out his bite into the cloth napkin at his place setting.

Judd: “My tongue is so confused right now.”

Lu smirks.

Lu: “I’ve heard women give you that very same critique.”

Judd tosses his napkin at her, but she somehow bats it away with her fork before it can land on her. I clear my throat.

Auren: “I should probably confess that I don’t actually know how to cook…”

Ryatt snorts.

Ryatt: “You think?”

Auren: "Right. Who wants wine?” He flinches—so subtly that I barely catch it.

Slade: “I… You’re not angry?”

A frown plants itself between my brows.

Auren: “Why would I be angry?”

Now he looks positively bewildered.

Slade: “I fucking rotted you, Auren. Stole into your body and shut it down, putting you in a stasis of spoiled decay.”

My nose wrinkles.

Auren: “Well, I could do without the visual of stasis of spoiled decay,” Maybe none of us truly know our own strength. Not until the world has hacked away at us. But the point is, we aren’t strong because of our trauma. We were always strong to begin with. We just needed to figure it out for ourselves. Auren: “I want to be so strong that I never have to fear anyone else in this world. That if I need to, I can make them all fear me. And I want you to teach me.”

Silence reigns like a rigid monarch. For a moment, I wonder if I’ve crossed a line. If I’ve shocked him. Worry makes me want to gnaw on my bottom lip. But then, Slade grins. I can see it right there on his face—the pride. The excitement. It’s wholly fae too, something almost animalistic about it. As if his own vengeful beast is ready to rise up and roar alongside mine. It’s contagious, and maybe a little unhinged, and I feel my own lips tipping up too. He comes over, reaches up to grab hold of my chin, and then he leans down until his lips are skimming against mine so that I can feel his words when he murmurs.

Slade: “Oh, Goldfinch. I’d thought you’d never ask.” Rissa: “It won’t matter if I leave,”

Osrik: “It would matter to me, Yellow Bell.”

I swallow hard.

Rissa: “Why?”

Why would you care? Why do I keep watching you? Why are you trying to help me? Why does my heart quicken every time you’re near?

Osrik: “I like your peppery attitude. I’ve always enjoyed a little bite.” Auren: “My whole life, I have been a thing for other people. A thing for them to have, a thing for them to use. But I’m not a thing.”

Judd: “No, you’re not.”

Auren: “The next time someone wants to try and use me, control me, I want to be ready. I want to crush those who would keep me under their thumb.”

Judd: “That sounds good to me, Gildy.” You never notice what’s keeping you balanced until you realize you’re not standing straight anymore. I take the bottle, pouring more wine into his cup.

Auren: “So, what do you say we finally play that drinking game?”

He blinks at me, letting out a husk of a laugh as he drags his cup toward him.

Digby: “Alright, Lady Auren. You can have your drinking game.”

My lips curve up, and I hold up the bottle in a toast.

Auren: “No longer live the king.”

His mouth curves in a rare smile that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen.

Digby: “No longer live the fucking king. And may you kick anyone’s ass who ever tries to hurt you again.”

I think it’s the perfect way to start our game. I clink the bottle against his cup.

Auren: “My thoughts exactly.” Auren: “Where are we going?”

Slade: “Such impatience.”

I roll my eyes.

Auren: “Like you’d let me lead you somewhere without telling you where it was.”

Slade: “Oh, Goldfinch, I’d follow you to the end of the world and tip right off the edge, all because of a crook of your finger.” Then I see what looks like a dead end but is actually an enclave blocked by a short rock wall. As soon as Slade slips around it, there’s a...smell. My nose wrinkles.

Auren: “Did you just...”

Slade: “Did I just what?”

Great Divine. It’s strong. I have to suppress the urge to plug my nose. I clear my throat.

Auren: “I just can’t help but notice that it smells. Badly. All of a sudden.”

A startled laugh barks out of him.

Slade: “That smell isn’t coming from me, I assure you. Though I’m a bit worried that you think I could produce something so...pungent.”

Auren: “I was worried too, believe me.” Auren: "I had to be the one to save myself.” S

Slade: “And you did. You fucking did. But I hate that you feel guilty. Midas got what he deserved. He was the real fucking monster. Not you. If you want to blame anyone for his death, you can blame me, because I should’ve been the one to kill the bastard before he hurt you. But I can’t fucking stand that you regret—”

Auren: “Wait a minute. I want you to listen to me very carefully. Fuck Midas.”

He blinks in surprise.

Slade: “What?”

Auren: “You heard me. Fuck. Midas. My guilt is about the innocents who got caught up in my rampage. My uncertainty is about my magic. But Midas? No. I’m glad I killed him. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.”

Slade: “You’re truly glad?”

I nod.

Auren: “And relieved. I’ve never felt such relief before. It’s just...gone.”

Slade: “What is?”

Auren:“The cage.” Slade: “Anger can do a lot of things. It can drag you down, make you bitter. But if you wield it another way, it can be a stepping stone for your determination.”

Auren: “You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”

Slade: “I am. I learned to use my own rage to my advantage.”

Auren: “So you’re not going to tell me to live and let live? To work through my anger and move past it?”

Slade: “Absolutely fucking not. I’m going to teach you to use it.” Lu: “So, you feeling gold murdery yet? Have the urge to make gold start pissing down the walls?”

Auren: “Umm…no.”

Lu: “See? You’re doing great.” Auren: “Why do I get the impression that you’re not telling me something?”

Lu: “Probably because I’m not telling you something.” Auren: “It seems Slade and I still have a list of things to talk about.”

Lu: “Yeah, he likes to be dramatic about being the whole brooding, silent type. It’s become his whole personality.”

Auren: “If you’re a villain...then I’ll be a villain with you.” Auren: “In my head, I’d pretty much narrowed the reason for your nickname down to having ripped abs. Or making women want to rip their clothes off. Something like that.”

He laughs beside me, the sound counteracting the awful hum and making my anxiety subside just a bit.

Slade: “Very good to know where your head has been. But to be extra clear, I have no desire for anyone to rip their clothes off except for you.”

Auren: “Clarity is really good. We should keep doing it.”

Slade: “We should keep doing it,”

he replies with a wicked grin. I have a feeling he’s talking about something different. Slade: “I see you, Goldfinch,”

Auren: “I see you too, Rip,” With the right person, there is power when you kneel. There is adoration with submission. There is balance with control. After a while, after the silence has become a comfort, the bubbling water nothing but a humming background noise, I look up at him, making him tilt his head down to look at me.

Auren: “This is it, isn’t it?”

I ask quietly, feeling so soft and secure in his arms.

Auren: “This is real love.”

That word. That huge, momentous, meaningful word just falls out of me, rippling the waters between us, but I know it’s true. Before, when I thought I had that, it was nothing like this. It was nothing like him. After tonight, I see with such clarity. I see what’s right in front of me. Slade’s arms tighten around me, and then he places a kiss on my forehead.

Slade: “Yes, Auren. This is love."

Lu: “Now that I have your Divine-damned attention... I need you all to tuck your dicks in for a second and try to think rationally. Like a woman.” Auren: “Look, I just had to walk a very long way to get here. Through the snow. Uphill. So I’m not leaving. I need this space to practice my magic because I can’t be in a populated kingdom without getting a hold of my power until I’m sure I won’t gild a whole castle. Again.”

The beast yawns.

Auren: “Oh, you’re bored? Fine, then. If you get gilded while I’m practicing, don’t come crying to me about it. It’ll be entirely your fault.”

It licks its lips and tucks its head back beneath its wing, like it’s bored of me and wants to return to its nap.

Auren: “Stubborn beast,” Slade: “Kiss me. You want to,”

he says, like the jerk is reading my mind. I immediately shake my head.

Auren: “No, I don’t. I don’t even like kissing you. It’s the worst.”

The corner of his mouth twitches.

Slade: “Is that so?”

Auren:“Yes. You have bad form. I should’ve told you before.”

A laugh escapes him just as he reaches down to trail a finger over my collarbone. Even though it’s covered in my shirt and coat, that simple touch makes me think of skin-to-skin, which I’m sure is exactly the point.

Slade: “Bad form? That sounds unfortunate.”

Auren: “It—it is.”

Slade: “Mm-hmm.”

Slade moves his finger lower until it grazes against my abdomen and then catches against the waist of my pants.

Slade: “Have I told you how much I enjoy watching your ass in these pants?”

Auren: “The sentiment is mutual.”

Another laugh escapes him, making my stomach tumble over itself. He leans back to look at me, the heat of his body like a warm blanket I want to dive beneath.

Slade: “Kiss me.”

My fingers dig into the stone, and I hear the soft patter of gold starting to drip onto the floor.

Auren: “My magic...”

Slade: “You have control of it,”

Auren: “I could slip—”

Slade: “You won’t.”

Auren: “Your timberwing is watching us.”

Slade: “He’s sleeping.”

Auren: “What if I—”

Slade: “Auren. Stop doubting yourself and fucking kiss me.” Auren: “One person’s pain doesn’t negate another’s. Our heartaches are not competition, but the bridge to empathy. So that we can look at one another and know that on some level, we understand. That’s one beautiful thing about grief, I think. That sometimes, we can find someone in the world to look at from the other side of the bridge of our torments and know that we are not alone.” Slade: “We’ll get you some proper clothing tomorrow, but for tonight, you can wear my shirt.”

Auren: “That seems a little intimate,”

I tease as I pluck the clothing from his fingers. Slade chuckles.

Slade: “If you consider that intimate, then I’m in great need of making some things up to you.”

He reaches one arm behind him and strips the shirt from his body in one smooth motion that makes my mouth water, gaze pivoting to his abs.

Slade: “Eyes up here.”

They snap up on command, and heat catches in my cheeks.

Auren: “I wasn’t checking you out,”

Slade: “No, I seem to remember it was my ass you liked to do that with.”

I narrow my eyes on him, and even though he’s right, I will never admit it.

Auren: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Slade: “Mm-hmm. Come to bed, Goldfinch.”

I point a finger at him.

Auren: “No ravishing, Ravinger. We’re both tired and you’re still recuperating from a power drain. We need to sleep.”

His eyes skate up my body as if it’s something to relish, when really, I probably look like a wind troll with tangled hair and three-day-old clothing.

Slade: “Fine. But I’ll be ravaging you tomorrow. I’ll wear tight pants to set the scene.” Auren: “Can you hear it?”

Slade: “Hear what?”

And she smiles, through the tears dried on her cheeks, through the glassiness of her eyes. The sight is so damn beautiful that it’s hard to breathe.

Auren: “The sun,”

Auren answers quietly, tone filled with a tentative, innocent joy. One that you’re afraid of saying too loud in case it breaks.

Auren: “She’s singing to me.”

Emotion clogs in my throat as I watch her tip her head back again. Watch her eyes close. I draw a knuckle down her soft cheek.

Slade: “And what does she sing, Goldfinch?”

I murmur. Her smile breaks through like the sunlight above us.

Auren: “The song of home. The sun is singing the song of home.”

My chest swells, and when she reaches a hand up and tugs at my arm, I lie back with her, situating until we’re arm to arm, leg to leg.

Auren: “Listen,”

she whispers. So I do. I thread my fingers through her own, and I listen. But my song of home doesn’t come from the sun. Mine comes from her.


Slade: “Eyes up, gentleman,”

Auren: “I probably need some clothes, huh?”

Slade: “It would be preferable so I don’t feel like stabbing daggers into my loyal guards’ eyes.”

One of the said guards lets out a choked cough.

Auren: “I’m going to frown upon eye stabbing, for the record.”

Slade: “I’ll make a note of it.” Auren: “I’m surprised you both wanted to come,”

Judd: “Of course we do. We haven’t done anything fun in ages. King Rot is always dragging us around the world and making us destroy his enemies.”

Slade rolls his eyes.

Slade: “Last I checked, you haven’t destroyed anyone this trip.”

Judd: “That’s true. No wonder I’m so bored.” Auren: “Well. We have a lot of things to still talk about. Like why everyone here wears such tight pants. Not that I’m complaining.”

Slade cocks a brow, but the last of the anger seems to edge out from his eyes.

Slade: “The only ass I want you checking out is mine.”

I give off a lazy shrug.

Auren: “I can’t make any promises,”

I say breezily before I nock my foot into the stirrup and start to mount the horse. As I swing my other leg over, there’s a sharp pinch on my butt. I sit down in surprise, jolting the horse a little as I shoot Slade an incredulous look over my shoulder.

Auren: “Ow!”

He gives me a shrug as he walks to his stallion.

Slade: “We’ll discuss that more later as well.” Auren: “Thank you for taking me to the clothing shop—you didn’t have to buy me all of that, by the way.”

Slade: “You need clothes. Plus, it’s purely selfish.”

Auren: “How so?”

Slade: “I get to rip every single piece off you. It’s like getting to decide on the wrapping paper for my own gift.” Auren: “Women in this world have to be more careful. Perceived reputations can be life or death.”

Slade: “That’s true. Reputations can also mean power.”

Auren: “Says the king.”

He leans in close, lips almost brushing my ear.

Slade: “Says the king to the fae female who’s conquered him completely.”

Auren: “I’ve conquered no one.”

Slade: “Goldfinch, you could conquer the entire world with a single look, if only you’d open your eyes.” Auren: “I think I’m starting to learn that you’re just as unhinged as some of the Orean rumors have claimed.”

Slade: “Oh, love, I’m worse.” Slade: “Oh, Goldfinch. You haven’t been paying attention. Not at all. This isn’t going to be some casual dalliance. This isn’t going to be temporary. I get your soul. Your mind. Your body. I get your past. Your present. Your future.” Auren: “Bossy.”

Slade: “King,” Auren: “I shouldn’t have even let you do what you already did. What if someone sees? Hears?”

Slade: “Yes, what if?”

I didn’t think he could be any more scandalous than he already was, but Slade does nothing by halves. And when it comes to the heat between us? He always magnifies it, always catches me off guard with the way he can make my mind swim with lust and my body bend to hunger.

Slade: “We’re in the busiest part of the city. These streets are packed with people. Yet here you were, on my lap, writhing when I fingered your wet pussy.”

My hands tighten around the hard tones of his muscles.

Auren: “Slade.”

He grinds up into me, his rigid length hitting my sensitive spot and making me jolt. Simply the thought of him sinking into me makes my pulse race. The thought of him doing that while just a thin carriage wall separates us from everyone else. Even now, I can hear an ensemble of unintelligible shouts and speech, of hooves and creaks, doors slamming open, dozens of feet shuffling against the paths. It makes my heart gallop. As if he can read my mind, one side of his mouth tips up.

Slade: “You want to experience things, so let’s experience them. We’ll start with seeing if your pussy gets wetter with a hint of exhibitionism.” Slade: “When I say you’re mine, it’s not cheap ownership. I don’t see you as a figure to lock to my arm like a toy to keep away from all others.”

That was the only mine I knew.

Auren: “So what are you saying exactly?”

Slade: “I mean you’re mine to please. To pleasure.” The motive in his eyes matches with the drag of his hand, the curl of his palm as he presses against my throbbing clit and makes me see sparks of light behind my eyes.

Slade: “You’re mine to protect. To adore. To hear. To see. To experience. To love.”

A pitted lump burns in my throat.

Slade: “You’re mine, Auren. As wholly as I am yours. If there’s something you crave, if there’s some freedom you want to try the taste of, then you will do it, and I will be right there with you. Watching you devour your wants. And then I will devour you.” Slade: “Yes. Look at that,. Naughty tongue. Profanely plush lips. And you here, willing to kneel between my legs with your eyes on my dick. Such a perfectly wicked girl you are.” And I realize right then, that those men back at the market? They weren’t wrong. I did jump from one king to another—from one male to another. But the difference? This time, I actually chose right. Rissa: “You are the worst bad mistake I’m glad I never made,”

Osrik: “And you’re still the best mistake I can’t wait to make. When you’re ready to admit it.” Auren: “We’re powerful,”

Slade: “That’s right. With gold and rot, we will protect what is ours. We will be our worst when we need to and be our best together. And at the end of the day, we will fucking destroy our enemies.”

His hips punch down, finally—finally—giving me that friction I need, and I moan, shuddering all over.

Slade: “Because why, Auren?”

Auren: “Because...”

I pant, eyes locking on him as I reach toward the ties of his pants, pulling them loose. Instead of being afraid of the whole damn world, I could make the whole damn world afraid of me. I sink my hand in and grab his cock at the same time that I say,

Auren: “Because. We will be the villains for each other.”

He grins. Slow, emphatic, licentious.

Slade:“That’s exactly right.” Auren: “Fuck. Me. Now. If you don’t give me what I want, I’m going to knee you in the balls so hard all that cum you want to paint on my body will be choked up for a week.” It’s just...that male. He does the smirk and the chuckle and the lines of power with his scruffy jaw and his dirty words, and I just melt. Every time. It’s also his cock.

He has a really good one. When she sees the smile creep up my face, she scowls at me.

Rissa: “No.”

Auren:“No, what?” I

Rissa: “I know you’re thinking we’re great friends now. It was a squeeze of comfort, nothing more.”

Auren: “I don’t know,. It felt like a friendship squeeze.” Osrik: “No. Fucking no! You will wake up, you stubborn woman. You can’t be fucking dead. Hear me, Yellow Bell? You can’t be fucking dead because we have mistakes to make.” Auren: “I don’t want the Temperance to save me.” S

Queen Isolte: “Then what, pray tell, do you think will?”

I smile. More teeth, more bite to add to my answer.

Auren: “I’ll save myself,. And even if I don’t, King Rot will.”

Despite her colorless face, she somehow pales even more, and a telling hush falls over the room.

Queen Isolte: “Did you forget about him? Because when he gets here, not even your gods will be able to save you.” Slade: “Look at me. You have to go in. You’re strong. So keep your rage to fuel your courage and save yourself again.”

Sobs wrench from my soul, anguish suffocating me.

Auren: “But—”

Slade: “I will find you. I will find you in that life. I fucking promise you that. But you have to go.”

Two wet tears split down his cheek, and the sight makes anguish split through my soul.

Slade: “Please, baby.”

His beg bleeds through the cracks of his voice. Stabs straight through my heart.

Auren: “Slade…”

He gives me a nod. Tries to give me his strength. His dark eyes and darker aura bore into me, surround me.

Slade: “I’ll find you, Goldfinch. I swear to you. Now fly.”

 

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