Page 14

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, 7)

Children. His children. Their children.

With another mere weeks from being born.

His family.

The family he might have, the future he might have. The most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.


Their children pressed closer to her, the eldest girl peering up to Aelin in warning.

Rowan felt it then. A lethal, mighty black wind sweeping for them.

He tried to scream. Tried to get off his knees, to find some way to them.

But the black wind roared in, ripping and tearing everything in its path.

They were still staring at him as it swept them away, too.

Until only dust and shadow remained.


Rowan jerked awake, his heart a frantic beat as his body bellowed to move, to fight.

But there was nothing and no one to fight here, in this dusty field beneath the stars.

A dream. That same dream.

He rubbed at his face, sitting up on his bedroll. The horses dozed, no sign of distress. Gavriel kept watch in mountain-lion form just beyond the light of the fire, his eyes gleaming in the dark. Elide and Lorcan didn’t stir from their heavy slumber.

Rowan scanned the position of the stars. Only a few hours until dawn.

And then to Akkadia—to that land of scrub and sand.

While Elide and Lorcan had debated where to go, he’d weighed it himself. Whether to fly to Doranelle alone and risk losing precious days in what might be a fool’s search.

Had Vaughan been with them, had Vaughan been freed, he might have dispatched the warrior in his osprey form to Doranelle while they continued on to Akkadia.

Rowan again considered it. If he pushed his magic, harnessed the winds to him, the two weeks it would take to reach Doranelle could be done in days. But if he somehow did find Aelin … He’d waged enough battles to know he’d need Lorcan and Gavriel’s strength before things were over. That he might jeopardize Aelin in trying to free her without their help. Which would mean flying back to them, then making the agonizingly slow trip northward.

And with Akkadia so close, the wiser choice was to search there first. In case the commander today had spoken true. And if what they learned in Akkadia led them to Doranelle, then to Doranelle they would go. Together.

Even if it went against every instinct as her mate. Her husband. Even if every day, every hour, that Aelin spent in Maeve’s clutches was likely bringing her more suffering than he could stand to consider.

So they’d travel to Akkadia. Within a few days, they’d enter the flat plains, and then the distant dried hills beyond. Once the winter rains began, the plain would be green, lush—but after the scorching summer, the lands were still brown and wheat-colored, water scarce.

He’d ensure they stocked up at the next river. Enough for the horses, too. Food might be in short supply, but there was game to be found on the plains. Scrawny rabbits and small, furred things that burrowed in the cracked earth. Precisely the sort of food Aelin would cringe to eat.

Gavriel noticed the movement at their camp and padded over, massive paws silent even on the bone-dry grass. Tawny, inquisitive eyes blinked at him.

Rowan shook his head at the unspoken question. “Get some sleep. I’ll take over.”

Gavriel angled his head in a gesture Rowan knew meant, Are you all right?

Strange—it was still strange to work with the Lion, with Lorcan, without the bonds of Maeve’s oath binding them to do so. To know that they were here by choice.

What it now made them, Rowan wasn’t entirely certain.

Rowan ignored Gavriel’s silent inquiry and stared into the dwindling fire. “Get some rest while you can.”

Gavriel didn’t object as he prowled to his bedroll, and plopped onto it with a feline sigh.

Rowan suppressed the twinge of guilt. He’d been pushing them hard. They hadn’t complained, hadn’t asked him to slow the grueling pace he’d set.

He’d felt nothing in the bond since that day on the beach. Nothing.

She wasn’t dead, because the bond still existed, yet … it was silent.

He’d puzzled over it during the long hours they’d traveled, during his hours on watch. Even the hours when he should have been sleeping.

He hadn’t felt pain in the bond that day in Eyllwe. He’d felt it when Dorian Havilliard had stabbed her in the glass castle, had felt the bond—what he’d so stupidly thought was the carranam bond between them—stretching to the breaking point as she’d come so, so close to death.

Yet that day on the beach, when Maeve had attacked her, then had Cairn whip her—

Rowan clenched his jaw hard enough to hurt, even as his stomach roiled. He glanced to Goldryn, lying beside him on the bedroll.

Gently, he set the blade before him, staring into the ruby in the center of its hilt, the stone smoldering in the firelight.

Aelin had felt the arrow he’d received during the fight with Manon at Temis’s temple. Or enough of a jolt that she’d known, in that moment, that they were mates.

Yet he hadn’t felt anything at all that day on the beach.

He had a feeling he knew the answer. Knew that Maeve was likely the cause of it, the damper on what was between them. She’d gone into his head to trick him into thinking Lyria was his mate, had fooled the very instincts that made him a Fae male. It wouldn’t be beyond her powers to find a way to stifle what was between him and Aelin, to keep him from knowing that she’d been in such danger, and now to keep him from finding her.

But he should have known. About Aelin. Shouldn’t have waited to get the wyverns and the others. Should have flown right to the beach, and not wasted those precious minutes.

Mate. His mate.

He should have known about that, too. Even if rage and grief had turned him into a miserable bastard, he should have known who she was, what she was, from the moment he’d bitten her at Mistward, unable to stop the urge to claim her. The moment her blood had landed on his tongue and it had sung to him, and then refused to leave him alone, its taste lingering for months.

Instead, they’d brawled. He’d let them brawl, so lost in his anger and ice. She’d been just as raging as he, and had spat such a hateful, unspeakable thing that he’d treated her like any of the males and females who had been under his command and mouthed off, but those early days still haunted him. Though Rowan knew that if he ever mentioned the brawling they’d done with a lick of shame, Aelin would curse him for a fool.

He didn’t know what to do about the tattoo down his face, his neck and arm. The lie it told of his loss, and the truth it revealed of his blindness.

He’d come to love Lyria—that had been true. And the guilt of it ate him alive whenever he thought of it, but he could understand now. Why Lyria had been so frightened of him for those initial months, why it had been so damn hard to court her, even with that mating bond, its truth unknown to Lyria as well. She had been gentle, and quiet, and kind. A different sort of strength, yes, but not what he might have chosen for himself.

He hated himself for thinking it.

Even as the rage consumed him at the thought, at what had been stolen from him. From Lyria, too. Aelin had been his, and he had been hers, from the start. Longer than that. And Maeve had thought to break them, break her to get what she wanted.

He wouldn’t let that go unpunished. Just as he could not forget that Lyria, regardless of what truly existed between them, had been carrying their child when Maeve had sent those enemy forces to his mountain home. He would never forgive that.

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