Chapter no 49 – DIAMOND

Lightlark (The Lightlark Saga Book 1)

Azul had poisoned Celeste. He wasn’t the jovial, haunted ruler who had charmed Isla with his music. He was a calculating ruler with a plan.

She remembered the conversation she had overheard, so many weeks before. Oro had been fighting with Azul over a strategy to end one of the realms. The king had assured Isla she was safe. She had assumed Azul had meant to destroy the Moonling realm.

Now she realized he must have been talking about Starling. Celeste. Worse—Isla hadn’t even told her friend about the overheard conversation. After her best friend had been paired with the Skyling, she should have at least warned her then, but she had been too focused on Oro’s betrayal. On herself—always herself.

How had she not considered the possibility that Azul might be targeting Starling?

But why?

What was his plan?

So many questions, pieces that didn’t make sense. Every time she thought she knew something for certain, the truth shifted and scattered. But not for long.

Isla remembered what the oracle had said.

You . . . have many questions. There are so many things I could tell you

. . . though I should not.

All will be revealed soon enough.

Isla stood in the Place of Mirrors, spine straight. Dead leaves blew lazily at her feet, wind peeking in from a fracture in the glass. She faced the grand staircase that led to rooms that once were full and now sat empty, cobwebs and cracked mirrors instead of laughter and music.

She could almost hear them, their voices just as honeyed as her own, as she reached up to her neck to the giant black diamond that sat against her throat and pulled.

A minute ticked by. His power didn’t work in the Place of Mirrors. He would have to appear at the edge of its forest on Wild Isle and get to her on foot.

The door slammed open so hard it seemed close to shattering, and she whirled around to see Grim, running, frantic.

His eyes were wide—filled with fear. His breath was wild. There was a sword by his side.

He was in front of her in an instant.

“Heart—are you hurt?” His giant hands cupped both sides of her face, thumbs at the corners of her lips, studying her for any damage. He looked down at her as if she was made not of blood and bone but of ice and mist, a moment from vanishing . . . panting from the run . . .

“I’m fine.”

Noting her tone, he dropped his hands.

No need to skirt around the reason she had called him here. “Why didn’t you tell me that Wildling created the island with Sunling and Nightshade?”

His expression did not change. Not the way she had thought it might.

For a moment, all he did was study her.

Finally, Grim said, “Some things are better uncovered ourselves.” His gaze was steady. “There are many things others told me that I would have preferred to have learned on my own. In time. When I could understand it all better . . .” What things? she wanted to ask. But she stayed focused.

“Were you ever going to tell me?”

“In time, of course. I brought you here . . . answered your questions . . . but I didn’t want to force everything onto you at once.” He shook his head. “You had just arrived somewhere new. Not knowing much. Forced to carry the burden of the curses, to represent your entire realm. Powerless. You were terrified. I couldn’t make it worse. I didn’t want to.”

Isla shouldn’t have been shocked he had been able to sense her terror throughout the Centennial. Her confusion. Still. That was no excuse.

“Is there anything else you’re hiding from me?” she demanded. She couldn’t trust anyone. Azul had poisoned Celeste. Cleo had tried to kill her on multiple occasions. Isla remembered the oracle’s warning.

There are lies and liars all around you, Isla Crown.

Was Grim one of them?

His eyes flashed with something. She knew him well enough now to recognize it.

She took a step back. “There is, isn’t there?” Grim tensed. Nodded.

“What is it?” Part of her was angry. The other half was scared. And he felt all of it.

Grim took a step closer. She stepped back and almost lost her footing. “There are a few things I haven’t told you,” he said. “Not explicitly.” Another step.

Just say it, Isla thought. She couldn’t take another moment of wondering.

He frowned. It was an unfamiliar expression on his face. He frowned at other people, a lot, but never at her. With her, he always grinned. “I haven’t told you what you do to me.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I haven’t told you that you’ve ruined me.” “Ruined?”

He nodded. “Ruined. Tortured. You haven’t stopped tormenting me since the first moment I saw you.”

Isla opened her mouth. Closed it. Considered apologizing, even.

Grim continued. “A few conversations with you, and I was ready to make the most disadvantageous trade—all of me in exchange for any part of you you’d be willing to spare.” He shook his head. “You have invaded my mind. I have questioned my sanity. I think about you all the time.”

The way he said all the time had her cheeks burning with its insinuations. “All the time?” she repeated, voice breathless.

“Late at night, I ache for you. I ache for you all the time,” he said, face truly looking tortured. As if he had waited a long while to say those words. As if she had been a curse worse than all others.

Then he kissed her.

She gasped, just a little, and he pulled away. No. Before he could get far, she pressed herself against him, arms around his neck. She tilted her head back to meet his gaze. All anger was gone, replaced with emotions that made Grim’s eyes darken.

Before he could grin, she pressed her lips to his. He was cold as stone, and she became even colder as he pinned her against the glass. Their kiss

deepened, mouths opening, heat burning its way down her center. Her head fell back, and he kissed the length of her neck, teeth just slightly grazing her throat, below where her necklace sat.

He moved her cape aside and ran his lips along her bare shoulder. She made a sound, the cold making her skin prickle, and his hands gripped her waist, pressed her harder against the wall. She reached up to unbutton his cape, and it fell soundlessly to the floor.

His eyes snapped to hers. But she was already pulling at his shirt. He let her take it off in one quick movement. Then she paused. And stared at him.

Built for war. Toned completely. A ruthless warrior towering over her. A large scar marred the center of his chest. It sat inches from his heart. She pressed her hand against it, and he watched her movement, his breathing a bit unsteady, as if he was trying very hard to stand still.

“What is this from?” Her pulse was already racing. So was his.

Grim shivered as she traced the scar’s jagged mark. “Just someone trying to kill me.” He placed his hand over hers. “Hearteater,” he said, the ghost of a smile on his lips. The name was back. “Right now, you’re killing me.” His voice was deep as the dreams she’d had the last few weeks. The ones he had sent her. The ones she now wanted to make real.

She took his crown between her fingers. Let it drop to the ground with a loud clatter. She did the same to her own.

The ruler of darkness and the ruler of the wild, both breathing a little too quickly. She stepped over her crown, to him, and he took her into his arms. This time, his kiss was desperate, like the sun was setting and they only had a few more minutes left, like the glass room was just a moment from being blown to pieces. He held her tightly, as if afraid she might just float away, a bird uncaged.

Her legs locked around his center, and she could feel him—every inch of him against her, even through the fabric of their clothes. I haven’t told you what you do to me. His words echoed through her mind as she found their meaning. I ache for you all the time. He was aching for her now. She moved herself against him slowly, and a low growl escaped his lips. With a burst of unchecked desire, he gripped her by the backs of her thighs, fingers digging sharply into her skin, and ground himself even closer. Her eyes fluttered closed at the friction, her head falling back. He leaned her against the glass as his hands went to the front of her dress, making quick work of

the ties and straps. Before she knew it, the fabric was gone, and Grim’s mouth was on her chest.

The world could fall to pieces, and she wouldn’t notice. Her sole focus was on the path of his tongue and teeth. She was burning for him, for his taste, his touch, the way he made her skin feel like a path lightning had struck.

“More,” she said, or moaned, she didn’t know, all she knew was that she wanted every single thing he had to offer her. “Please.”

He held her close to him, and she gripped his arms, bit down against his shoulder to keep from making more sounds as he lifted her higher and his hand finally reached right where she wanted it. Over fabric. Then, under it. Isla groaned at the first press of his calloused fingers against her, and they quickly began to wander slowly, steadily.

More. He gave it to her, and she gasped against his mouth as he used them to explore her deeper. Deeper. Need overpowered everything else, and Grim cursed as she started to move against his hand. “That’s it.” His voice was barely above a growl, coaxing and strained, as if he was enjoying this just as much as she was.

Before she could wonder what she might do next, he angled her head back up at him and said, “Look at me, heart. I want to watch you come undone.”

She dug her nails into the back of his neck. Their foreheads pressed together, and she had never felt more alive, more bare, than she did in that moment, having him watch as endless sensations overcame her. Grim looked her right in the eyes as every feeling intensified, saturated, more than she had ever thought possible.

And something about it all was so familiar, like falling asleep, or humming to the rain, or breathing. Like she had already done it all a thousand times in her dreams.

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