Home > Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(6)

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)(6)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

His jaw tightened as he glanced to where the amulet was hidden beneath her shirt and the dark leather jacket atop it. “Is the Wyrdkey bothering you?”

“No, it’s not that.” She’d taken to wearing the amulet after Evangeline had looted through her saddlebags and donned the necklace. They’d only discovered it because the child had returned from washing herself with the Amulet of Orynth proudly displayed over her traveling clothes. Thank the gods they’d been deep in Oakwald at the time, but—Aelin wasn’t taking any other chances.

Especially since Lorcan still believed he had the real thing.

They hadn’t heard from the immortal warrior since he’d left Rifthold, and Aelin often wondered how far south he’d gotten—if he’d yet realized he bore a fake Wyrdkey within an equally fake Amulet of Orynth. If he’d discovered where the other two had been hidden by the King of Adarlan and Duke Perrington.

Not Perrington—Erawan.

A chill snaked down her back, as if the shadow of Morath had taken form behind her and run a clawed finger along her spine.

“It’s just … this meeting,” Aelin said, waving a hand. “Should we have done it in Orynth? Out in the woods like this just seems so … cloak-and-dagger.”

Rowan’s eyes again drifted toward the northern horizon. At least another week lay between them and the city—the once-glorious heart of her kingdom. Of this continent. And when they got there, it would be an endless stream of councils and preparations and decisions that only she could make. This meeting Aedion had arranged would just be the start of it.

“Better to go into the city with established allies than to enter not knowing what you might find,” Rowan said at last. He gave her a wry smile and aimed a pointed look at Goldryn, sheathed across her back, and the various knives strapped to her. “And besides: I thought ‘cloak-and-dagger’ was your middle name.”

She offered him a vulgar gesture in return.

Aedion had been so careful with his messages while setting up the meeting—had selected this spot far from any possible casualties or spying eyes. And even though he trusted the lords, whom he’d familiarized her with these past weeks, Aedion still hadn’t informed them how many traveled in their party—what their talents were. Just in case.

No matter that Aelin was the bearer of a weapon capable of wiping out this entire valley, along with the gray Staghorn Mountains watching over it. And that was just her magic.

Rowan played with a strand of her hair—grown almost to her breasts again. “You’re worried because Erawan hasn’t made a move yet.”

She sucked on a tooth. “What is he waiting for? Are we fools for expecting an invitation to march on him? Or is he letting us gather our strength, letting me return with Aedion to get the Bane and raise a larger army around it, only so he can savor our utter despair when we fail?”

Rowan’s fingers stilled in her hair. “You heard Aedion’s messenger. That blast took out a good chunk of Morath. He might be rebuilding himself.”

“No one has claimed that blast as their doing. I don’t trust it.”

“You trust nothing.”

She met his eyes. “I trust you.”

Rowan brushed a finger along her cheek. The rain turned heavy again, its soft patter the only sound for miles.

Aelin lifted onto her toes. She felt Rowan’s eyes on her the whole time, felt his body go still with predatory focus, as she kissed the corner of his mouth, the bow of his lips, the other corner.

Soft, taunting kisses. Designed to see which one of them yielded first.

Rowan did.

With a sharp intake of breath, he gripped her hips, tugging her against him as he slanted his mouth over hers, deepening the kiss until her knees threatened to buckle. His tongue brushed hers—lazy, deft strokes that told her precisely what he was capable of doing elsewhere.

Embers sparked in her blood, and the moss beneath them hissed as rain turned to steam.

Aelin broke the kiss, breathing ragged, satisfied to find Rowan’s own chest rising and falling in an uneven rhythm. So new—this thing between them was still so new, so … raw. Utterly consuming. The desire was only the start of it.

Rowan made her magic sing. And maybe that was the carranam bond between them, but … her magic wanted to dance with his. And from the frost sparkling in his eyes, she knew his own demanded the same.

Rowan leaned forward until they were brow-to-brow. “Soon,” he promised, his voice rough and low. “Let’s get somewhere safe—somewhere defensible.”

Because her safety always would come first. For him, keeping her protected, keeping her alive, would always come first. He’d learned it the hard way.

Her heart strained, and she pulled back to lift a hand to his face. Rowan read the softness in her eyes, her body, and his own inherent fierceness slipped into a gentleness that so few would ever see. Her throat ached with the effort of keeping the words in.

She’d been in love with him for a while now. Longer than she wanted to admit.

She tried not to think about it, whether he felt the same. Those things—those wishes—were at the bottom of a very, very long and bloody priority list.

So Aelin kissed Rowan gently, his hands again locking around her hips.

“Fireheart,” he said onto her mouth.

“Buzzard,” she murmured onto his.

Rowan laughed, the rumble echoing in her chest.

From the camp, Evangeline’s sweet voice chirped through the rain, “Is it time for breakfast?”

Aelin snorted. Sure enough, Fleetfoot and Evangeline were now nudging at poor Lysandra, sprawled out as a ghost leopard by the immortal-burning fire. Aedion, across the fire, lay as unmoving as a boulder. Fleetfoot would likely leap on him next.

“This cannot end well,” Rowan muttered.

Evangeline howled, “Fooooood!” Fleetfoot’s answering howl followed a heartbeat later.

Then Lysandra’s snarl rippled toward them, silencing girl and hound.

Rowan laughed again—and Aelin thought she might never get sick of it, that laugh. That smile.

“We should make breakfast,” he said, turning toward the camp, “before Evangeline and Fleetfoot ransack the whole site.”

Aelin chuckled but glanced over her shoulder to the forest stretching toward the Staghorns. Toward the lords who were hopefully making their way southward—to decide how they would proceed with war … and rebuilding their broken kingdom.

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