Legendary (Caraval, #2): Chapter no 42

Legendary (Caraval, #2)

The steps beneath Tella were cold, but not nearly as icy as the heartless boy who’d left her there. She’d been left by boys before, but it had never hurt this much. She wanted to get up, to walk away with her head high, as if he mattered as little to her as she apparently mattered to him. But Tella’s limbs still felt like paper, weak and thin and pathetic.

A dramatic sigh cut through the chorus of fireworks still crackling above. Then Jacks was sauntering up the stairs, shaking his head as he walked. He looked as if he’d dressed up and then gotten into a scuffle. His fitted jacket was covered in swirls of frayed gold embroidery. The cream shirt beneath it might have looked fine if the lace hadn’t been ripped from the cuffs and the collar. Two of the buttons near his neck were missing as well. “I told you it was a bad idea to put yourself in a card.”

“How do you know that’s what happened?” Tella asked. “I’m a Fate. I know things.”

She tried to shove herself into a more dignified position, but her limbs remained firmly planted against the cold stone. “Did you know this would happen all along?”

“It was one possibility.” Jacks continued his lazy climb. If he was disappointed that he’d missed Legend, his voice gave no indication. His handsome face appeared unreadable. It looked perfectly indifferent, save for the tiny wrinkle in between his brows. “Pining doesn’t look good on you.”

“I’m not pining. I’m angry,” Tella said. Jacks was the last person she wanted to pour her heart out to, but given that he was the only one there and that her heart was already cracked wide open, it was impossible to hold the

words back. “Half the reason I put myself in that card was so you wouldn’t take his powers or kill him. And then he just left me here on these steps.”

“Did you honestly expect more from Legend?”

Maybe she hadn’t expected more from Legend, but she’d wanted more from Dante. How could someone who’d given up everything he’d worked for just abandon her? And why had he bothered to kiss her back? He should have let her go the minute she’d pressed her lips to his.

“You’re definitely pining.” Jacks’s mouth twisted in disgust.

“Stop judging me. It only looks that way because I can’t move. If I could, I wouldn’t be lying here. I’d be with my mother.”

“So you know where she is?” Jacks drawled.

Tella scowled. “Don’t you have something better to do? Shouldn’t you be off celebrating with all the other Fates that Legend just freed?”

“See how weak you are after being inside a card for a handful of minutes? The other Fates were trapped for centuries. They might be out of the cards, but, at the least, it will take weeks before any of them, or your mother, are strong enough to open their eyes. Once they do wake up, they still won’t be at their full powers because of Legend.”

“So then why aren’t you off plotting how to get the rest of your magic back from him?”

“Who says I’m not?” Jacks’s smile was all dimples, the sharp ones she’d seen the first time they’d met. She hated them now as much as she did then. Dimples were supposed to be charming and kind, but his always felt like a form of attack.

Tella’s arms and legs still weren’t working, but she managed to glare in return. “Leave.”

“Fine. But I’m taking you with me.” In one agile move Jacks scooped her up, lean arms far stronger than they looked.

“What are you doing?” Tella screeched.

“I’m taking you to your sister. Don’t waste your feeble energy fighting.”

If only Tella could have fought him. But she didn’t have the strength and she was so tired of fighting. Her battle had died on those steps the moment Legend walked away. All she wanted now was for the night to end and for the sun to return, so that when she looked up at the sky she’d no longer see

all the bleeding stars and think of Legend. Her one triumph was that her mother was free, but until Tella saw her in the flesh, it would still feel as if she was missing.

“Are you crying?” Jacks asked. “Don’t you dare criticize me for it.”

His hands tensed. A flash of cold kissed Tella, a reminder of Jacks before his heart had started beating again. “If you’re crying about Legend, don’t. He doesn’t deserve it. But if this is about the cards”—Jacks looked down on her, and for a lightning-brief moment all the indolence and carelessness left his expression—“I did the same thing. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t cry.”

“I thought you weren’t human.”

“I’m not. But there was a time when I was. Thankfully it didn’t last too long,” he added, but Tella thought she heard a hint of regret.

She craned her neck to look up at him. He met her gaze and she swore his softened with something akin to concern, his silver-blue eyes tipped down, teardrops about to fall.

“Why are you being so nice?” she asked.

“If you think I’m nice, you really need to spend time with better people.” “No, you’re being kind. You’re holding me all close and saying personal

things. Do you love me now?”

He answered with a mocking laugh. “You’re really hung up on that, aren’t you?”

Tella gave him a saucy smirk. “I made your heart beat. That practically makes me a Fate.”

“No,” Jacks answered tightly, all hints of humor vanishing. “You’re still very human, and I do not love you.”

His hands went so cold she half expected him to drop her and leave her the same way Legend had. But for some reason Jacks kept her close. His arms stayed around her as he carried her into a sky carriage. It had buttery cushions laced with thick royal-blue trim that matched the curtains lining the oval windows. She wondered if it was the coach they’d first met in, the same tiny box he’d threatened to shove her out of just to see what would

happen. She went a little stiffer in his arms at the thought. Even though he was being gentle with her, he was far from kind or safe.

“Did you just remember how much you don’t like me?” he asked.

“I never forgot. I was thinking of the first time we met. Did you know who I was?”


“So, you’re just that charming to everyone you meet?”

His hand slowly stroked her arm; his fingers weren’t as icy as before his heart started beating, but they were still cool to the touch. “When I possessed my full powers, I could do the vilest of things. I could speak words far worse than what I said to you in the carriage, and people would still willingly betray their mother or their lover to please me. Although those powers are gone, being heir to a throne has a similar effect.” The eyes that met hers were the color of frost, and as dispassionate as they were unapologetic. “No one likes me, Donatella, but people go along with whatever I say. Sometimes my only form of entertainment is seeing how far I can take things before someone flinches.”

“You really have no feelings at all, do you?” “I feel.”

“But not like humans?”

“No. It takes far more for me to feel something, and when I do it’s infinitely stronger.” Jacks removed his hand from her arm, but for one splintering moment Tella felt his fingers harden like metal.

When the coach landed at the palace the air was thick with celebratory smoke. Jacks didn’t even ask if Tella’s limbs were working again. He scooped her listless body up once more and carried her from the carriage house as a final brilliant blue firework burst above, raining down sapphire shine over every inch of Elantine’s jeweled palace.

Jacks’s eyes flashed quicksilver in the light with something a little too inhuman to be called sorrow, and yet that was the only word Tella had for it.

“Why aren’t you watching the fireworks with the empress?” she asked. “Didn’t you hear? Her missing child returned, and Elantine has officially

recognized him, which means I’m no longer heir.”

Tella did not feel sorry for him. Jacks’s reign would have been a plague to the entire Meridian Empire. And yet something about the situation stirred up a sense of unease. When Elantine had talked of her lost child earlier that night, it hadn’t sounded as if a mother and child had been reunited. It made Tella think that Elantine’s new heir was an imposter, a pretender who only existed to keep Jacks from the throne.

It should have impressed Tella that the empress had done what she’d needed to protect the Empire from Jacks. But something about it didn’t feel right.

“Don’t faint on me,” Jacks said. “I’d rather not face the wrath of your sister.”

“I’m not faint,” Tella lied. “And, speaking of my sister, you still never told me what she was doing with you the other night in the carriage.”

“Kissing me passionately.” Tella choked on a breath.

The corner of Jacks’s mouth twitched. “Don’t die on me now. It was a joke. You told your sister that I found your mother, so she wanted me to help her find someone, too.”

This was much better but still disconcerting. “Who was she looking for?”

“Not the boy she’s sitting with right now.” Jacks pivoted slowly in the direction of the stone garden.

The air was warmer, as if this corner of the palace grounds was untouched by anything ill. Yet the statues appeared more distressed than the last time Tella had seen them. They all flinched and recoiled more than before. It was as if they knew that Legend had just released the Fates back into the world—the same Fates who’d long ago turned this garden full of human servants into unmoving stone because they’d wanted more lifelike decorations.

Tella shivered in Jacks’s arms.

Scarlett appeared oblivious to it all. She and Julian sat huddled on a bench in the center of the statues, looking gloriously back in love. Tella swore there were night-blooming butterflies frolicking around their heads.

At least one sister had found happiness that night.

“Did you two finally make up?” Tella mumbled.

Scarlett and Julian straightened abruptly. Then Scarlett was off of the bench, flying toward Jacks and Tella’s limp figure.

“What did you do to my sister?” Scarlett’s lacy white gloves turned to formidable black leather as she pointed at the Fate.

She might have done more than point if Julian had not wrapped a restraining arm around her waist. He was costumed as Chaos, dressed in heavy armor and a pair of spiked gauntlets that made him look as if he were ready to jump into battle. But Tella saw genuine fear simmering beneath the surface of his rugged features. Unlike Scarlett, he must have known that Jacks was the Prince of Hearts. And if Julian was truly Legend’s brother, he must have wondered why the Fate was still alive.

Jacks merely sighed. “Does no one in this family say thank you?” “Every time I see you, my sister is hurt,” Scarlett said.

“Not every time.” Jacks flashed his teeth as his eyes quickly cut from Julian back to Scarlett. Tella didn’t know what Jacks was silently saying, but whatever it was it made Scarlett’s mouth snap shut.

“And this really wasn’t my fault,” Jacks continued. “Your sister won the game. But it took a lot out of her. She collapsed in the Temple District and Legend, being the gentleman that he’s not, just left her there.”

“You met Legend?” Scarlett asked, her tone both curious and suspicious. It matched the fractured expression on Julian’s face, as if he, too, was both surprised and nervous. Whenever Scarlett was in a room his eyes were always on her, but now he watched Tella, as if he was afraid of what she might say next.

“I—” Tella’s tongue grew suddenly thick and Jacks’s arms became instantly tense. This must have been why’d he’d been playing at being so concerned; he still wanted Legend’s identity to get his full power back, so that he could do more than just kill with a kiss. But even if Tella had been willing to share Legend’s secret with him, the weight of her tongue and the press of magic against her throat made her feel as if she wouldn’t be able to reveal it no matter how hard she tried.

“I don’t remember much of it,” Tella hedged. Then she spared a glance for Julian. “As soon as I won the game, Legend walked away.”

A flash of relief lit Julian’s eyes. Scarlett’s expression turned more wary.

Jacks took a heavy breath, his chest slowly moving up and down against Tella’s back. “I think it’s time I go. Your mother still needs finding.”

“No!” Tella said.

Scarlett went stiff.

Jacks’s brows danced up. “After all this, you don’t want to see her?” “Of course I want to see her. I don’t want you touching her.”

“I’ll put some gloves on,” Jacks said. Then, more softly in Tella’s ear, “People know it’s never a good idea to make a bargain with a Fate, but they do it anyway, because we always keep our word. I told you that if you won the game I’d reunite you with your mother, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Jacks carefully placed Tella in the cold hold of a statue with outstretched arms.

For a moment she felt a perverted urge to thank him. But he was the last being she would ever thank. “I still hate you,” she said.

“It’s probably for the best.”

His footfalls made no sound as he exited the garden. As soon as he was gone, Scarlett helped Tella down from the statue’s stiff embrace.

Tella’s legs still felt watery but she could stand as long as Scarlett kept an arm around her. She leaned into her sister’s softness. The air in the garden remained warm, but cold was seeping in. Frost was forming on the forlorn statues and the night butterflies were gone.

“Can we go back to the palace?” Tella mumbled. “Of course,” Scarlett said.

“Do you need any help?” Julian asked.

Scarlett gave a quick shake of her head and something unspoken passed between them. Julian pressed a quick kiss to her cheek, and then he turned back to Tella. Something like sympathy filled his amber eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he said. He didn’t mention his name, but Tella knew he was talking about Legend. “He can make someone the center of his world when they’re a part of his game. But when the game ends, he always walks away and he never looks back.”

Tella sensed Julian was trying to be helpful, but somehow he made it a little worse.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m just glad the game’s over.”

Julian pulled at the back of his neck. Tella feared he was going to say something else, something that would be harder to dismiss without a show of emotion. But she imagined he was more eager to find his brother than continue a conversation with her. Julian must have known things hadn’t gone as planned the moment she’d shown up in Jacks’s arms.

Without another word he left the garden and disappeared into the night.

The minute he was gone, Scarlett turned back to Tella with eyes full of her own questions. Tella didn’t know if her sister wanted to ask about her mother, or the game, or what Tella had done that had put her in such a weakened state.

All Tella knew was that she didn’t want to fight or argue or see any disappointment on her sister’s face. Scarlett deserved answers, but Tella wasn’t ready to get into the entirety of her story. She just wanted someone to comfort her and take care of her until the dawn.

Scarlett held her fiercely. “I’m ready to listen whenever you want to talk.”

“I’d rather forget.” Tella sagged against her sister. She didn’t mean to say anything, but once she started speaking the rest slipped out. “I made a mistake, Scar. I never wanted to fall for anyone, but I think I’ve fallen in love with Legend.”

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