Chapter no 76

The Ashes & the Star-Cursed King

I did not dream of Vincent.

I dreamt of nothing at all.



OPENED my eyes to a blue cerulean ceiling. It was the same ceiling that I had awoken to every day for nearly twenty years. But this time, from that first moment, everything felt different. As if my innermost self had been rearranged.

I felt… stronger. Like my blood thrummed through my veins with greater force.


I laid my hand over my chest. Over my heart. And… weaker.

Like a piece of my soul, the most vulnerable part of me, was now outside my body.

My mind pieced together the events of the battle, not quite in order, and then I shot bolt upright.

Every thought disintegrated except for his name.


My room was empty. An unoccupied chair sat beside my bed, and a few empty cups and plates on my nightstand, like someone had been here but

had just left.


I threw back the covers and stood, only to immediately topple back to the bed with a dizzy spell that had my stomach lurching. An odd tug on my awareness disoriented me, like I was seeing something out of the corner of my eye that wasn’t there, or witnessing this room from another angle.

Mother. I must’ve really hit my head.

I got to my feet again and went out into my living room, then threw open my apartment door.


I wasn’t sure how I knew exactly where he was. Only that, without thinking, I was walking over to his chambers and—

The door swung open just as my fingertips brushed the knob. He was alive.

He was alive.

I didn’t take in anything else about him, only that he was here and alive and standing right before me and alive and smiling and alive.

And then his arms were around me, and mine around him, and the two of us held each other for a minute and an eternity, like two halves reunited. I buried my face against the bare skin of his chest and squeezed my eyes shut against the tears.

For a long time, we stayed like that.

And then eventually, he murmured against my hair, “So you missed me.”

Arrogant prick, I thought.

But aloud I said, “I love you.”

I felt his shock at those words—actually felt it, like it was my own. And then, the wave of contentment that followed, like the sun falling over my face.

His arms tightened. “Good. Because now you’re really stuck with me.”

I scoffed, but the sound was muffled against his skin, and it sounded much weaker than I’d intended.

His lips pressed to the top of my head.

And he whispered, “I love you too, Oraya. Goddess fucking help me, I do.”



HE PULLED me into his apartment, though it was more of a stumble, the two of us not wanting to let go of each other long enough to properly close the door, let alone walk. The need to be physically close to him was disorienting—like our very essences had been united, leaving us with an innate need to get our flesh as close as possible. It wasn’t sexual—or at least, it wasn’t sexual right now. It went deeper than that. More intimate.

I realized, after a few moments, that our heartbeats had aligned—his quickening slightly, mine slowing. And I knew this because I could feel his, the same way I could feel my own.

He noticed it the same time as I did. “Strange,” he murmured. “Isn’t it?”

Strange was an understatement. And yet it also seemed like… too negative of a word. It didn’t feel wrong. It didn’t feel unnatural. It didn’t even feel frightening, which shocked me, because I would have thought that having my soul linked to another person’s would be utterly terrifying.

Linked. Bonded.

Goddess, we had actually done that. We had a Coriatis bond.

The realization hit me so hard that I pulled away from Raihn abruptly, nearly sending myself toppling over until he caught me.


I stopped short. My brow furrowed.

I grabbed his shoulders, not to steady myself, but to hold him straight.

I’d been so relieved to see him that I hadn’t even stopped to really look at him. He was shirtless, wearing a pair of low-slung cotton trousers, his torso covered with the fading remnants of his injuries and the bandages that had treated them.

But my eyes fell to his chest—his throat. And the Heir Mark that now covered it. “Ix’s tits,” I whispered.

He frowned, looking down at himself, but I dragged him to the mirror instead.

When he saw himself, his eyes bulged.

“Ix’s tits,” he agreed.

The Mark was nearly identical to mine, albeit slightly modified to match the shape of his body. I was wearing a loose camisole that exposed my neck and shoulders, leaving our two Marks visible side-by-side. The resemblance was uncanny. He had the same layered phases of the moon over his throat, and the smoky rendering of wings over his clavicle and shoulders—except his were the feathered wings of the Rishan.

We stared at each other in the mirror, and then had the same idea at the same time. Raihn turned me around, sliding the straps of my camisole off my shoulders, letting the garment pool around my waist and leaving my torso exposed.

He positioned me, my back was to the mirror, and I peered over my shoulder into it.

Sun fucking take me.

Beside me, Raihn turned around and matched my pose.

The Heir Mark on his back was nearly identical to the one I now bore on mine. The phases of the moon spread across the top of my back, spears of smoke running down my spine.

We looked at each other. The reality of what we’d done—of what had changed—settled over us both.

Nyaxia and Acaeja had both warned us that a Coriatis bond would mean the end of the Rishan and Hiaj Heir lines, combining them into one.

We’d altered the course of the House of Night forever. I felt a little dizzy, and not from my injuries.

A wrinkle formed between Raihn’s brows. The corner of his mouth twitched in an uncertain almost-smirk. “Regrets, princess?”


The answer was easy and immediate. “Fuck, no.”

The smirk became a full-on smile, and if I’d had any regrets, that smile would have erased them, anyway.

“Good,” he said. “It looks better on you than it does on me, anyway.” I glanced at Raihn’s muscled back and wasn’t sure that I agreed.

I jumped a little as the door burst open. “Gods!”

I looked up to see Mische whirling around, nearly dropping the tray in her hands in her hasty effort to cover her eyes.

“I leave you two alone, unconscious, for five minutes and you’re already in here tearing each other’s clothes off? At least lock the damned door!”

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