Chapter no 23

A Dawn of Onyx

Shadowhold’s gardens were a welcome sight for my weakened eyes. Trellises of the expected gardenia and lilac surrounded pitch-black fountains with floating blossoms. Velvety purple roses bloomed alongside twisted black voodoo lilies, and ethereal violet and wisteria hung overhead. Flowers I now knew were called bat flower, dragon arum, and spider orchid flourished in abundance. It was a gothic display of beauty, but one I had come to love. I wondered if part of me always knew there was more to this

place than horror.

Kane strolled alongside me, but I kept my distance. I knew he wouldn’t hurt me—he had just saved my life.

But I was uneasy, to say the least. Confused, afraid—I felt like I was on the precipice of something that I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. But it was too late for that now. The Arwen that would rather stay in the dark, naively waiting for everyone to take care of her, make decisions for her…

The thought of that version of myself brought me to the brink of nausea.

We moved slowly, taking in the stillness and chirping birds. After bathing quickly and putting on a clean dress, I had met him out in the early evening air.

And he had yet to say a word.

“I need answers, Kane,” I said, not unkindly. But it was true. Enough was enough.

“I know,” he said, resolve fading from his eyes. “I just need to… think.” Fine. I could be patient.

We strolled through the garden in silence until we passed the same gloomy flowers, which reminded me of something. “The white lilies. In

your room.”

It wasn’t really a question, but he answered me anyway. “I thought they might remind you of home.”

My heart swelled. “They did. Thank you.” He hesitated. “Happy memories, I hope?”

I turned his question around in my head. “Mostly.”

When he didn’t respond I looked up. He was watching me with a strange intensity.

“What is it?”

“While you slept, you were calling out for someone to stop. I thought you might have been dreaming of the beast that attacked you, but then you kept saying this man’s name.” I could tell he was trying with all of his internal strength to be gentle, but his eyes were all pupil. “I never stopped thinking of those scars I saw on your back in your washroom. Arwen, did someone hurt you?”

Something about the kindness in his voice made me feel sick. I didn’t want to be saved anymore. Pitied.

“No. I mean, yes. A long time ago, when I was young. I’m fine now.” I watched him, watching me. “Obviously,” I added, dumbly.

Kane looked like he could topple mountains. “Who?” He gritted the word out.

I hadn’t told anyone this in a long time. Only Ryder, actually. Once I was old enough that the memories felt like someone else’s life. I had made him promise to never tell Leigh or our mother.

A truth for a truth, maybe. I steeled myself.

“My stepfather Powell would beat me. I don’t really know why. I think he hated me because I wasn’t his. It’s not a very good reason. But sometimes people are just looking to give their pain to someone else and will use any excuse they can find. My family never knew.”

“How?” He asked.

“My mother was always sick; I knew she couldn’t live without him. I couldn’t put that on her. Leigh was too young to burden. Ryder and Powell

were so close. I could heal my broken bones and welts pretty quickly.” “And where is that pathetic creature now? With your family?”

I shook my head. “He died years ago. A stroke.” “Shame.” Kane’s eyes simmered.

I gave him a questioning look.

“Bastard got off far too easily,” he said, looking down, jaw tight. When I didn’t respond he added, “I’m sorry you had to suffer alone. I’m sorry you had to suffer at all.” Again, with that pained gentleness.

“Thank you,” I said. And I meant it. “But now, it’s your turn. No more stalling.” I steeled myself. “What did I see?”

He crossed his arms over his chest, a gesture I’d never seen him do, and then uncrossed them just as quickly. He ran a hand through his raven hair.

I reined in the urge to physically choke the answers out of him. “In my defense,” he finally said. “You had been drinking.”

I waited for that to make any sense.

“It didn’t feel like the right time to tell you, in the wine cellar. And,” Kane sighed. “I didn’t want to scare you.”

His words had the opposite effect, as fear coiled in my gut, but I kept my gaze neutral.

“You remember the rebellion, led against The Fae King,” he said, and I nodded. “It was orchestrated by a small group that wished to save the realm. To bring down the impenetrable walls, and free those within them. The attempt… It was led by Lazarus’ son.”

“The Fae King’s son tried to overthrow his own father?”

“Both of his sons did, actually. But yes, the rebellion was led by his youngest.”

A tiny, spindly, talon of dread scraped gently down my spine. “And how does that relate to what I saw?”

Kane clenched his jaw, a flicker of shame in his eyes, “It was me. I’m Lazarus’s son, Arwen.”

But I couldn’t hear him over the roaring in my ears. “Arwen?” Kane said, studying me.

Kane was Fae?

The beings I had feared as a child. The stories intended to scare and shock, told over a bonfire. The thing I had been sure—so sure—did not exist at all until two nights ago was now standing right in front of me?

The words fell out of my mouth, “You fought against your own father?” Kane’s eyes watched mine fiercely, searching for something. “I tried to.

But failed.”

His expression was unreadable. I twined my shaking hands in my loose skirt.

“It was the worst mistake of my life. It cost me, and those closest to me, everything they cared about. It cost most of them their lives.”

His bitterness, his rage, seeped out like ink in water.

He had said he hurt those he loved, but this… This was—

“I hate Lazarus more ardently than I fear you can even fathom. I will avenge those we lost and save this mortal continent, Arwen. I have to. It is not a question of if— only when.”

I dipped my head in a nod. I believed him—how could I not? I had never seen anyone more steadfast about anything.

But I was also still absolutely reeling.

“Do your men know what you are? Does your kingdom?”

He took a shuddering breath as if to calm himself, before shaking his head.

“So what I saw when I was…” I swallowed the word dying. “That was lighte?”

“Yes. Each Fae has a different variation of it, so it won’t always look like that. There is something… dark laced within mine. Something I inherited from my mother’s witch ancestry. I try to use the power as little as I can manage.” Kane’s face barely concealed his disgust.

“But you used it last night. On me,” I said.

“To silence your pain, your suffering. Yes.” He looked at me, eyes clear. “And I’d do it again. A hundred times over.”

“Thank you,” I whispered. He only nodded.

I rubbed at my temples and stared ahead at the sprawling hedges before

us. A slight summer wind blew my skirts around my ankles.

It was just dawning on me that Kane was probably over a hundred years old. The onslaught of information of the last few days mixed with my fragile physical state was teetering me toward a mental breakdown.

“You’re taking all of this surprisingly well,” he offered.

I turned to him, inspecting his youthful face, smooth skin, strong jaw. “How old are you?”

He covered a smile with his hand, rubbing his stubble. “About two hundred and fifteen.” My mouth fell open. “To be honest, I’ve lost track over the years.”

I shook my head, trying to rattle my thoughts around. “When was the rebellion? How long have you been ruling the Onyx Kingdom?”

“I left the Fae Realm with the few I could get out fifty years ago. I took over Onyx from the King at the time, an older monarch with no living heir. Part of the ‘persona’ as you had called it—the mystery, the foreboding— I’ve crafted with my closest advisors for that very reason.”

“So nobody will know how you look, or notice when you don’t age.” “Correct,” he said.

“What about your allies? King Eryx and Princess Amelia?”

“They know. Both of my lineage and Lazarus’s intent. They plan to fight against him. For Evendell.”

The reminder of the impending doom of the entire continent was like ice water running through my veins. There was truly nowhere to run. No way to save everyone.

No matter what happened, who won, so, so many were fated to die.

He grimaced, as if following my train of thought. “There’s not much time left. The mercenaries from the Fae realm are coming for me, while Lazarus prepares for war.” Kane swallowed once. “That’s who attacked you in the forest.”

I froze mid-step. “The wolf was a… Fae mercenary?” The thought that I had killed a Fae felt like a sick joke. “That’s not possible.”

“Very powerful Faeries have the ability to shapeshift into a creature form. It’s incredibly rare and uses a huge amount of lighte. I’d imagine Lazarus is

devastated to have lost one of such power. He can’t have more than a hundred left in his army.” I wondered if it was pride that glowed in Kane’s eyes.

“That’s what killed your man in the Shadow Woods. When you brought me with you?”

“Yes. Also what ‘took a bite out of me’, as you said that day in the infirmary.” He smiled at the memory. “My father’s mercenaries have been coming for me for months now.” All the mysterious injuries that nobody would explain to me… Lance’s bite, Barney’s wound that first night… “We’ve killed as many as we can to keep them from reporting my whereabouts, but we can only hold them at bay for so long.”

The thought of them coming after Kane forced the color from my face. “It gets worse, I’m afraid.”

I braced myself. “How did I know that was coming?” “The Kingdom of Amber has taken Garnet.”

The entire garden stilled along with my heart. My family—they were there.

“My family sailed for Garnet. At least, that’s where they planned to go.

You have to take me there. To find them.”

Kane’s expression softened. “My spies are close. As soon as I find your family, I’ll get you to them. But I fear Lazarus may be confident enough to attack now. He has two mortal armies.” Kane took hold of my upper arms. I didn’t flinch at his touch, and his eyes seemed to notice, growing warm. His broad hands radiated that heat throughout my body. “You can’t stay here a day longer, Arwen. The keep is no longer safe for you, or anyone. He is coming for me. Any day now, I’m sure of it.”

I swallowed hard. Lazarus couldn’t have Kane—all other thoughts had slipped from my mind but that. He could not have him.

“But as you know, Peridot and Onyx have struck an alliance. You need to leave tonight for the Peridot capital of Siren’s Cove, where you’ll be safe. Griffin will take you.”

“Griffin?” My stomach sank. “What about you?” “I will join you when I can.”

Then he let go of me, and I missed his touch like warmth in the dead of winter. “Where are you going?”

“That’s enough honesty for today, I think.” He tried for a smile, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“But you’ve told me everything now? No more secrets? I can’t live like this anymore, Kane. Especially now. I need to know this is everything.”

He pressed a soft kiss to my forehead. Cedarwood and crisp mint flooded my senses.


A weight I hadn’t anticipated rose off my chest. He had told me weeks ago that he didn’t indulge in trusting others, and that he couldn’t trust me. Yet slowly, torturously slowly, he’d let me in. Knowing he had changed his mind, for me alone—allowed me to share these burdens with him—cracked me open completely.

I sighed so deeply my lungs hurt.

As we rounded the same hedge as before, I noticed a handful of soldiers had lined up to meet us. Griffin stood chief among them, his face stoic.

“Now?” The familiar rise of panic turned my stomach. I was terrified to leave him. The enormity of my feelings for Kane drenched me like a torrent. I nearly fell to the ground—all this time I had thought I wasn’t capable of such feelings at all. I thought Powell had so thoroughly ruined me, that I would never feel anything close to this. And yet—

Kane’s brows knit together in pain at my pleading. “Yes, now.”

“Wait,” I had to get my racing heart under control. “Please, can Mari come with me?” I couldn’t leave her here if the castle was likely to fall.

“I’ll have Griffin send for her.”

He watched me closely, brows pulling together, something warring in his expression.

I didn’t care anymore how pathetic I sounded, how weak, how afraid. How ridiculous it was to have fallen for a lethal, breathtaking Fae king. “Will I see you again?” I said.

I felt like I might cry.

Kane looked like he could hear my heart splitting open. “I hope so, bird.”

I reached up to touch the dark scruff that had grown across his jaw and neck. The slight bags under his eyes. I realized, belatedly, that he was a wreck.

Carefully, as if I was a wild animal, he brushed a hand against my cheek. I was vaguely aware of the handful of soldiers who suddenly found their shoes exceedingly interesting.

“I must tell you one last thing.” His eyes didn’t leave my face.

“I was wrong that day, to say you thought you were worth less than your brother. You made a heroic choice the night you came here. It took tremendous courage. I have been king a long time, and rarely, if ever, do I see that even from my greatest warriors.”

My eyes found his through a cloud of tears.

“You showed bravery when you had no hope it would save you. Whether you know it or not, Arwen, there is a wild strength inside of you. You don’t need Ryder, or Dagan, or me, or anyone else to take care of you. Remember that. You are enough.”

His words were a prayer, devastating and empowering at once. We were mere inches away, and I could feel the tickle of his breath across my lips, his fingers weaving through my still-damp hair. Kane studied me closely, brows pulling together, and tentatively wrapped his other hand around my waist. His eyes searched mine once more as if to make sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted this too. I hoped he could see that I had never wanted anything in my life more than this man.

He let out a shaky breath, and with unexpected tenderness brought his mouth to mine.

As my lips brushed his, he released a guttural sigh into my mouth, as if he had been holding his breath for days. Years, maybe. Waiting for this very moment. I could relate—feeling his mouth envelop mine, held inside his arms, knowing he somehow felt the same—it was better than anything I could have dreamed.

His lips were soft and wet and searching. He took his time with me, savoring and gently caressing my lips with his, sending shivers into every

nerve ending in my body. When his grip tightened in my hair just enough to pull me closer, I lit up and moaned into him. My fingers slid delicately, softly, achingly against his neck, and a groan fell out of his mouth into mine. I caught his bottom lip between my teeth and sucked—I wanted another one of those low, rumbling, male noises. I wanted it more than air in my lungs.

As if he could feel my need, he deepened the kiss, his restraint slipping from gentle into something hungrier, something far more desperate. He brought his hand from my waist to the side of my face, angling my jaw closer, and sweeping my mouth with his tongue until I couldn’t help a gasp and I swore I felt a wicked chuckle rumble through his chest against mine.

And then, it was over.

He pulled back, lips bruised and parted, chest heaving, and looked at me only once with enough longing to weaken my already shaking knees. I felt the absence of him like a chair being pulled out from under me. I swayed with the loss of contact and watched as he walked away all too quickly.

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